Tag Archives: techsoup

Happy 10th Anniversary!

Cyber-cafeJust a quick post to commemorate ten years of blogging here at Techcafeteria. ¬†That’s 268 entries, averaging to 22 posts per year, or damn close to two posts a month, which is not too shabby for a guy with a family and a demanding day job. The most popular stuff all now lives in my Recommended Posts section.

The goal here has never been much more than to share what I hope is useful and insightful knowledge on how nonprofits can make good use of technology, peppered with the occasional political commentary or rant, but I try to restrain myself from posting too many of those. After my recent reformat, I think I’ve made it much easier for visitors to find the content that interests them, so if you’re one of my many RSS subscribers, and you haven’t actually visited the site for some time, you should take a look.

I’m ever thankful to Idealware, NTEN, Techsoup, CommunityIT, and many others in the nptech community for giving me the opportunity to write for their blogs and republish here (about two thirds of the content, I suspect). And I’m happy to be part of this global, giving community.

Here’s to the next ten years!

What’s Up With The TechSoup Global/GuideStar International Merger?

This article was first published on the Idealware Blog in April of 2010.

TechSoup/GuideStar Int'l Logos

TechSoup Global (TSG) mergedwith GuideStar International (GSI) last week. Idealware readers are likely well-familiar with TechSoup, formerly CompuMentor, a nonprofit that supports other nonprofits, most notably through their TechSoup Stock software (and hardware) donation program, but also via countless projects and initiatives over the last 24 years. GuideStar International is an organization based in London that also works to support nonprofits by reporting on their efforts and promoting their missions to potential donors and supporters.

I spoke with Rebecca Masisak and Marnie Webb, two of the three CEOs of TechSoup Global (Daniel Ben-Horin is the founder and third CEO), in hopes of making this merger easier for all of us to understand. What I walked away with was not only context for the merger, but also a greater understanding of TechSoup’s expanded mission.

Which GuideStar was that?

One of the confusing things about the merger is that, if you digested the news quickly, you might be under the impression that TechSoup is merging with the GuideStar that we in the U. S. are well acquainted with. That isn’t the case. GuideStar International is a completely separate entity from GuideStar US, but with some mutual characteristics:

  • Both organizations were originally founded by Buzz Schmidt, the current President of GuideStar International;
  • They share a name and some agreements as to branding;
  • They both report on the efforts of charitable organizations, commonly referred to as nonprofits (NPOs) in the U.S.; Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the U.K.; or Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) across the world.

Will this merger change the mission of TechSoup?

TechSoup Global’s mission is working toward a time when every nonprofit and NGO on the planet has the technology resources and knowledge they need to operate at their full potential.

GuideStar International seeks to illuminate the work of every civil society organisation (CSO) in the world.

Per Rebecca, TechSoup’s mission has been evolving internally for some time. The recent name change from TechSoup to TechSoup Global is a clear indicator of their ambition to expand their effectiveness beyond the U.S. borders, and efforts like¬†NGOSource, which helps U.S. Foundations identify worthy organizations across the globe to fund, show a broadening of their traditional model of coordinating corporate donors with nonprofits.

Unlikely Alliances

TechSoup opened their Fundacja TechSoup office in Warsaw, Poland two years ago, in order to better support their European partners and the NGO’s there. They currently work with 32 partners outside of the United States. The incorporation of GSI’s London headquarters strengthens their European base of operations, as well as their ties to CSOs, as both TechSoup and GSI have many established relationships. GSI maintains an extensive database, and TechSoup sees great potential in merging their strength, as builders of relationships between entities both inside and outside of the nonprofit community, with a comprehensive database of organization and missions.

This will allow them, as Rebecca puts it, to leverage an “unlikely alliance” of partners from the nonprofit/non-governmental groups, corporate world, funders and donors, and collaborative partners (such as Idealware) to educate and provide resources to worthwhile organizations.

Repeatable Practices

After Rebecca provided this context of TSG’s mission and GSI’s suitability as an integrated partner, Marnie unleashed the real potential payload. The goal, right in line with TSG’s mission, is to assist CSOs across the globe in the task of mastering technology in service to their missions. But it’s also to take the practices that work and recreate them. With a knowledge base of organizations and technology strategies, TechSoup is looking to grow external support for the organizations they serve by increasing and reporting on their effectiveness. Identify the organizations, get them resources, and expose what works.

All in all, I’m inspired by TSG’s expanded and ambitious goals, and look forward to seeing the great things that are likely to come out of this merger.

RSS Article is up

I spent a good chunk of December and January writing what I hope is a very complete guide to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and how you (whomever you might be) can use it. The article takes on the ambitious goal of identifying the types of information available in RSS format, the types of programs that can be used to read RSS feeds, and the best ones for different types of use, from tickers to email add-ons to full fledged RSS readers. I’m proud of this one – I think it’s a new approach to the topic that should be helpful for anyone who’s tired of hearing that they should be using RSS and, instead, would like to know why and how. Choose your portal, as it’s at Idealware and Techsoup.

NTENsity

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It’s T minus 67 days and counting to the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, which has risen to THE social and professional peak event in any given year for me. The conference runs from Sunday, April 26th through Tuesday, the 28th this year, and it’s at the Hilton in downtown SF, quite convenient to Bay Area based Techcafeteria. Let me tell you how excited I am, then share a couple of recommendations on how you can have a great time and support the work that NTEN does.

This will be my fifth year attending, and, working my way up to the conference, I co-hosted a pre-conference event at Techsoup last week; I’m doing two NTEN Webinars on Personal and Server virtualiation next month; I’m celebrating the release of my first chapter in a book next month, when NTEN’s Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission comes out; and I’m hosting another pre-conference meetup the night before at a great brewpub in Berkeley. If you’re going, be prepared to meet a lot of really interesting people and to soak up a lot of challenging and helpful thinking about nonprofits and the web, all at one of the best-run tech conferences that you could hope to attend. If NTEN’s CEO and perennial party planner Holly Ross knows one thing (and she knows a lot of things, including how to play the trombone!), it’s how to plan a conference.

Those two things: First, if you’re going, do what you can to participate in the Day of Service. What’s that? I put together a slide show to tell you:

You can sign up and choose a Bay Area charity to advise or help out at NTEN’s site. This is what it’s all about – not just talking, sharing and socializing with peers, but practicing what we preach while we’re at it. I can’t recommend this enough.

Second, if you are or aren’t going, but you recognize, as I do, the value that the most web-savvy group of socially minded techies can bring to nonprofits who are struggling to keep up in this economy, support the NTEN Scholarship fund. Holly is going as far as one foolis–er, brave woman can to inspire us to help her raise $10,000 by the end of the month. Convio will match what we give and send 57 people who can’t otherwise afford it to the event. Give right here!

Let me know if you plan to attend, and/or you want to party with us beforehand. I hope to see you there!

Random Identity

I took a brief trip to Second Life the other night, yet another web 2.0 trend that, like Facebook, sends my normally open-minded and curious instincts running for shelter. I’ve never been into gaming, and I obviously don’t use the internet in order to do things anonymously – my username is based on my real name just about everywhere. But I’m looking for any means possible to improve communication at my geographically diverse company, and to do it while reducing our carbon footprint. So that’s quite a challenge – how do we improve communication while cutting down on flying, when we have offices in Honolulu, Juneau and D.C., among other places?

So it struck me that Second Life, as a virtual meeting place, has, at the very least, potential that should be vetted. I have yet to do that vetting – I plan to give it a shot tonight by attending a virtual meeting with the Techsoup virtual community. On Wednesday, I created an account and figured out just enough about how Second Life works in order to get to the meeting later. Reactions:

Good:

  • Second Life supports voice, if you have a microphone and stereo speakers, and does it well enough that, if you’re conversing with someone who is, in the Virtual Reality, standing to your left, their voice will come from the left speaker.
  • It was easier than I thought it would be to move around and figure it all out. Your mileage might vary. It is, necessarily, a somewhat busy interface.

Bad:

  • You are not only advised to not use your real name, you can’t. The account creation process lets you create a first name (text input box) ad select a last name from about 25 in a drop down list. After being advised to “pick my name carefuly, it’s permanent, and can’t be changed”, I had little option to actually pick a name that I identified with or took seriously.
  • Big roots in the gaming community, obviously. The account creation process offers you ten avatars to choose from (avatars being the cartoon images that will represent you in the virtual world). Five female, five male – I was not going for the female impersonation thing, so that left me five. Of those, one (“Boy Next Door”) was fairly innocuous, although it looked about as much like me as Fred from “Scooby Doo” does. If I didn’t want to be Fred, my choices ranged from anthropomorphic fox people to what must be villains from the old “He-man, Master of the Universe” Saturday morning cartoon. Mind you, I was able to customize Fred’s appearance, and while I was shooting to make him look like me (I know, completely unclear on the concept here), as close as I could get resembled my punk rock days in the late seventies.

So, I’ll do a follow up post after I get to do what I set out to do, and evaluate Second Life as a virtual meeting place. But, already, I’m trying to imagine how I explain to the eighty or so Earthjustice Attorneys that step one is to pick a name like “John Vigaromney” that you’ll be known as, and step two is to decide whether you want to look like a furry animal or a grim reaper. Then determine whether the avatars will reduce any serious meeting on global warming or mountaintop protection strategies to jokes and hysterical laughter.

I’m really not looking for Second Life, but there’s a huge — and maybe critical — application for Supplemental Life, which lets online collaboration more intuitively replace travel.