Archive for December, 2010

Gazing from the cloud toward the horizon

Not long ago, I stood on a hill that rose above Berkeley’s campus on the East Bay, gazing out at an utterly arresting sunset transforming downtown San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge with a dramatic mix of color and shadow. It was an entirely unexpected sight, a vista that sprung out of nowhere, a short twisting drive from the campus below.

Sunset over San Francisco, (c) Fertile Photography

Sunset over San Francisco, © Fertile Photography

One minute, my vision was confined to a few yards here and there amongst buildings and trees. The next, it was embracing a kaleidoscope whose horizon reached across the mighty Pacific Ocean with wisps of cloud eventually making their way from scenic tableau to my feet on the hill as the sun sunk below the horizon.

It was an appropriate setting. I had come with Ryan and Melanie for Dreamforce, a conference put on by Salesforce. Salesforce is the world’s leading cloud-based customer relationship management tool as well as PICnet’s current development obsession as we build connections between it and Non-Profit Soapbox and Joomla! We had come for knowledge and inspiration on how to continue transforming that obsession into truly innovative and powerful tools for nonprofits. And sitting on the cloud gave some welcome perspective.

As I write this, I sit thousands of feet above the earth, carried along through the clouds on my flight to the Pacific Northwest to enjoy the holidays with family as PICnet closes shop for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Soon I will see the Space Needle from the window of the plane and, not far from its base, the rim of Elliott Bay where I last worked for a great nonprofit organization, cobbling together bits of technical knowledge and tools as an accidental techie to serve our mission the best I could.

As I reflect on PICnet’s purpose making nonprofits more effective, and the former nonprofits I worked for, and the conference, and the progress we’ve made during the closing year, and the promise of the year to come, my eyes again glimpse the horizon stretching out ahead and I am cheered by the vista of the possible.

May this holiday season find your heart filled with warmth and peace and may it grant you a bit of height above the daily grind to glimpse the horizon of the possible for the coming year. For our nonprofit clients, we’re excited to help you get there! launches

Coming to work for PICnet, I figured I would learn all kinds of geeky computer-terms like php, SQL and Cufon. Little did I Know that one of the coolest terms I would learn came from a client: charismatic mega-fauna.

What do charismatic mega-fauna – large animal species with widespread popular appeal – have to do with my job as a project manager? A lot, it turns out, when it came to creating a new site for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC).


ASOC, as you’re probably imagining, has some incredibly compelling images, so we wanted a site that captured the visitor’s attention visually. This manifested itself in a stylish background image of Antarctica, as well as a prominent soapbox slideshow and embedded Flickr images module.

Don’t let the eye-candy fool you though, this site is deep with tons of resources on a number of key issues related to nature in the Antarctic as well as a fantastic archive of news articles and policy papers. To make sure the site felt fresh despite having so much content, we created a series of dynamic modules on all of the issue pages that are set to display the three most recent news articles and three most recent publications related to that specific issue area. This provides the site with a great mix of depth – you can read reports on the Antarctic that go back decades – as well as relevancy when looking for what’s happening right this minute.

But alongside all of the rich content and deep information, the charismatic megafauna still continue to find a place. I mean just look at the adorable penguin favicon for the site (say it aloud: “awwww.”)

Congratulations to ASOC on their beautiful new site!


Chronicles from Dreamforce 2010

I’ve been to more than a few conferences this year. Most conferences I attend are squarely focused on either the Joomla! or non-profit technology communities.  That tends to be my comfort zone.  So when I decided to join Melanie and Tim to do some crosstraining and Joomla! evangelism at Dreamforce 2010 conference, I had no idea what to expect.

The result:  after four days at Dreamforce I was completely exhausted, my mind was swirling with possibilities, and I’d shaken more hands than a politician walking a rope line.  Thank goodness for the “cloud” beanbag areas in San Francisco’s Moscone West.

PICnetters and SaaSy at Dreamforce 2010

PICnetters and SaaSy at Dreamforce 2010

There were more than a few times I asked myself, “is this a rock concert, or am I at a technology conference?”  DJs were spinning in the lobbies of all the conference halls (Dreamforce took over all three of the Moscone conference halls in San Francisco), SaaSy and Chatty (Saleforce’s mascots) roamed the halls with big smiles, and the rain didn’t keep anyone from staying to see Stevie Wonder, and, and President Bill Clinton make appearances.

But seriously, it wasn’t a rock conference.

Read more »


‘Tis the Season: For Happy Hours

As some of you may know, I am now in charge of the NTEN happy hours. NTEN is an organization that focuses on connecting technology to non-profits.  Even though they are headquartered on the west coast, they have chapters all over the U.S. who gather for educational activities, professional development, and social functions.  Our next monthly happy hour will be on Thursday, December 9 at Mad Hatter on Connecticut Ave.  As a bonus to get into the holiday giving spirit, we’re having a winter weather clothing drive. Please participate!  For more details, see below.

Please Join Us for an NTEN Winter Wonderland Happy Hour

What: NTEN’s December Happy Hour
When: Thursday, December 9, 2010
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Where: Mad Hatter – 1321 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
BONUS – PLEASE HELP: We’re having a WINTER WEATHER CLOTHING DRIVE - bring your scarves, gloves, and hats to help the homeless! The first 30 people to donate will receive a free happy hour drink on NTEN.

Want to check out the happy hour specials? Click here.

I hope to see you there!


New Site Launch: The Hitachi Foundation — Non-Profit Soapbox goes bilingual

When I applied for a job at PICnet I proudly listed that I am semi-fluent in German  (please don’t ask my high school German teacher though; she might highlight the “semi” aspect of it).  So, obviously when PICnet assigned me my first site to work on as a newly-hired project manager the site was in…Japanese.

I had the pleasure of working with the Hitachi Foundation to help launch a brand-new site that highlights how business practices can be applied to improve communities and create new economic opportunities.  One of the exciting aspects of creating the site was that it really became two-in-one: one in English as well as one in Japanese.

Once we had developed a great template and design for the English side, the challenge of adjusting it to fit for the Japanese language began.  All sorts of interesting issues arose as we began filling the site with Japanese characters.  For example, while English has no problem with arbitrary line breaks, these are crucially important in Japanese, which meant that the <br> html tag became a good friend of ours in order to make sure everything displayed correctly.  Thankfully, I found that the Non-Profit Soapbox platform was flexible enough to handle almost any challenge we threw at it — as long as we could think creatively.

It was a pleasure working with the Hitachi Foundation team as we launched PICnet’s first ever bi-lingual site.  Now only one question remains: do I dare add to my resume that I’m semi-fluent in Japanese?