Archive for October, 2008

Office therapy in a putting green

Putting in DCHealth care costs are rising. Fall season brings changing weather and cooler temperatures. Stress from what is supposed to be a joyous holiday season brings headaches. Where can one go to get away from it all? How about the putting green at PICnet DC.

One of the most therapuetic tools we have at PICnet is a 6 foot long artificial turf putting green with three holes. This putting green, along with our trusty left-handed putter for an extra challenge and a pitching wedge for the long shots from the sand, is the perfect therapy tool for my tough days.

I’m not a great golfer by any stretch of the imagination; however, there’s something about focusing intently on hitting that hole-in-one that seems to let the day’s worries slip away into the fog of obscurity. When I hop off a tough phone call, or finish a marathon of proposal writing, the folks in the “big room” next to me can hear my foot steps as I make my way to the putting green.

A few missed putts later, and the occasional chip, I’m relaxed and my shoulders seem to move back down into their comfortable position.  I’m ready to get back to work after a few minutes of putting.

The green also works as a nice discussion zone. Rather than plopping down a conference table, that separates individuals from each other, a nice 6 foot patch of turf seems to go a long way to promote water cooler-ish discussion.

My recommendation: if you’re having the mid-day blues, picking up a putter and focusing on something simple, like sinking a hole-in-one, might be a better stress relief than turning on the cable TV news.


PICnetters migrate to DC for our semi-annual

With three offices and multiple PICnetters working from home offices, it’s not too often that our team gets face-time together. On October 14-15, PICnetters from across the country will do their semi-annual migration to the PICnet DC office for our end of the year meetings. During this time, we’ll be exchanging ideas for new services for our community most of day, but available to help extinguish emergencies.

A little background. When the company was starting to grow, it was clear that there were three cities we were going to focus on: Washington, San Francisco, and New York. This setup was obviously going to spread our team thin across the country. With my belief that the water cooler (virtual or otherwise) are where great ideas start, I knew that we needed at least a few times a year that our team physically met in person.

Each year, we have at least two major events that help facilitate in-person meetings among PICnetters. The annual retreat provides a remote location for idea generation from the year’s vision and goals as set in January. The semi-annual meeting in October is an opportunity for us to review our year’s work, provide course corrections where necessary before the end of the year, and to have a good time over food and drink.

We’re looking forward to meeting up and discussing new ways to serve our sector!


Non-profit software developers to unite in Oakland, November 17

Back in 2003, a small group of non-profit and advocacy developers met in San Francisco for a three day event to share ideas and build energy in the budding non-profit technology world. The result was an amazing success of knowledge sharing and the building of new technology for the sector.

Fast forward to 2008. Our friends at Aspiration will be hosting the Non-Profit Software Developers Summit on November 17-19 at Oakland’s Preservation Park. This is a must-attend event (register now).

Non-Profit Developers Summit 2007

I have been lucky enough to attend every Non-Profit Software Developers Summit, and I’m always amazed by the powerful take-aways I retain from each event. Many conferences are about 50 people sitting in a room and watching someone lecture. Aspiration’s Dev Summits require participation from all attendees, allowing for a powerful connections to be made between attendees.

So if you’re looking to share code, discuss the state of our non-profit tech world, and build a better technology future for the non-profit community, you should be at the Dev Summit on November 17.

Here’s a short video of the 2007 Dev Summit, to help you get a feel for the event.


NOSI finds a new home inside Aspiration

My time sitting on the steering committee for the Non-Profit Open Source Initiative has been a great opportunity to learn more about how a tech advocacy group within the non-profit community can be effective in spreading its message. In an effort to allow the NOSI message to grow further, Aspiration has agreed to make NOSI a project under the Aspiration umbrella.

The merger will allow the two organizations to focus their collective energies on growing free and open source capacity in the nonprofit sector, working with developers, integrators, and end users. A number of open source tools, including the Firefox web browser, the CiviCRM platform, and a range of open source web publishing systems, have reached a state of maturity that makes them excellent options for nonprofits. But much work remains to be done in supporting the creation and sustainability of FOSS options in a number of other mission-critical software categories. Aspiration and NOSI welcome the challenge.

I’m excited to see what will blossom from this unique connection of minds!


Capitol Hill to constituents: stop it with all the email (just for now, thanks)

We’ve been working on the Hill for quite a few years now, and we’ve seen first-hand the amazing impact the Internet has had on the way congressional offices operate. It seems today that this powerful connectivity has certainly been well utilized by constituents during the current fiscal crisis.

A local newspaper, The Hill, published a story on September 30 that said the House had disabled the email forms on the main Web site from processing messages sent by constituents to House offices.  Without this intervention:  the anticipated crash of the Web site.

The CAO issued a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday morning informing offices that it had placed a limit on the number of e-mails sent via the “Write Your Representative” function of the House website. It said the limit would be imposed during peak e-mail traffic hours.

“This measure has become temporarily necessary to ensure that Congressional websites are not completely disabled by the millions of e-mails flowing into the system,” the letter reads.

While I want to do my best not to wade into the debate on the “logic puzzles” on offices’ Web sites, I am surprised that there wasn’t a better way for the Chief Administrative Office to manage the flood of information from concerned citizens.