CNVC IT Committee

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Document collaboration "article" area for CNVC Information Technology (IT) Committee. Welcome to the discussion. Please also check out the newer NVC IT Status area on this wiki, started by Jacob. Click here for a description of free and open software that can support the NVC community.


NOTE: To keep spammers from trashing this page only registered users (free) can comment here. To reduce the chance of inadvertent deletions please edit only the section you'd like to comment on by clicking "edit" in the right margin at the top of that section rather than on "edit" at top of the entire page. Anyone unregistered wanting to comment can still post to the "Talk" page that's associated with this one - just click on "discussion" at the top of this "Article" page. If you have Firefox with Chatzilla you can also click on this link to see if anyone's on the international NVC live chat IRC forum: irc://irc.freenode.net#nvc.

Draft Mission
To research technical solutions to problems identified by members of the IT committee, staff, contributors to the Board/GCC and members in the NVC network; and to formulate strategies in support of the acquisition, implementation and distribution of these technical solutions to those who require them.

ITC Questions & Discussion

Click on the title of this ITC Q&D section to visit the "Talk" page CNVC Information Technology (IT) page on NVCwiki. Clicking on this section's link takes you to the same page as clicking on the "discussion" link at the very top of the page. In that Talk area is where we can discuss and ask questions, while this "article" area you are viewing right now is best suited to building documents and lists.

ITC Call Agenda

Click on the title of the ITC Call Agenda page to visit that area for planning an agenda for ITC calls.


Needs Assessments

Click on a color/bold word in this section to see the item.



IT Priorities

Initial Priorities

  • we start with integrating the office data to improve functionality there
  • we include building of the person data through the input of interested people in the network who contact our website
  • whatever we start with has the capacity to build community services/connections like the yahoo groups with registration to personal data files

Fundraising

IT Needs specific to fundraising for CNVC:

  • Database with most or all of the features found in Blackbaud.
  • Reporting mechanism so donors can track their money.
  • Means of tracking who's giving.
  • Communication w/donors via newsletter.
  • Ticklers for donor contact reminders (on screen at morning boot, not via email).
  • Online signup for IITs, including even room assignments.


See also Talk:CNVC_IT_Committee#Donor_contact_info.

Other IT Priorities

  1. Database combining online and CNVC office information.
    1. Variable levels of strong security.
    2. Trainer contact info.
    3. Donor contact info.
    4. Local and Regional NVC group contact info.
  2. Online tools integrating various CNVC and other online resources.
    1. The cnvc.org website.
    2. The NVCwiki website.
    3. The Yahoo Groups and other email lists.
    4. Blogs
      1. Email interface to blogs for those who prefer that medium.
      2. Email digest daily, by discussion volume or weekly.
      3. Auto-trim of "quoted" prior messages in emails.
      4. Archive option for email interface?
      5. Live "push" technologies like RSS.
    5. File sharing capability.
    6. Audio and Video streaming and file download capability; free, restricted and paid.
      1. Photos of IITs and other events.
      2. Handouts and other documents from IITs and other events.
      3. Maps and directions for IITs and other events.
      4. FTP and/or Bitorrent/peer network capability for sharing other files.
  3. Free IT package on CD or DVD data set, for distribution to NVC groups.
    1. Client applications.
      1. Pre-configured Linux installation for low-end computer and net access for low-income use.
      2. Firefox browser and Thuderbird email application for security and compatibility.
      3. OpenOffice for complete MS Office compatible application suite.
    2. Server applications.
      1. CivicSpace or equivalent integrated suite.
      2. Apache server for those wanting to set up and run their own server.
  4. Free computers with pre-installed IT package, for distribution to NVC groups.
    1. Donated computers could be pre-configured by volunteers for shipment to NVC groups.
    2. Using the IT package CD/DVD, local and regional volunteers could do the work.
    3. Locations with access to suitable donated computers could do the work for shipment to groups nearest their location (e.g. North America for shipment to S. America, Europe for Africa).



Database Selection Criteria

The following database qualities are offered for consideration by the IT Committee:

  1. Open source preferred (see description of [Open Source]) because of:
    1. Low cost. Funds invested in the database reduce funds for CNVC training and scholarships.
    2. No extra cost for distribution to NVC individuals and groups. Most commercial software charges more for each user, computer, or site using the package. GCC individuals and groups around the world could benefit from tools used by CNVC, and content generated would more likely be compatible between GCCs and CNVC.
    3. Well documented open document formats ensure the ability to extract data if another system is chosen in the future, few commercial packages use open standards.
    4. Robust multicultural, multinational and multilingual support.
    5. Extremely reliable and robust with rapid bug fixes, updates and security patches.
    6. Additional modules (e.g. Payroll, Donors, online features) at little or no cost.
    7. Skills learned by IT staff and volunteers on one project would be applicable to other projects, rather than needing to learn different commercial packages.
    8. Easy modification of features, functions, reports and screens. Commercial packages often lack the ability to modify some aspects of features, functions, reports and screens.
    9. Easy creation of new features, functions, reports and screens. Commercial packages generally limit the ability to create new features and functions.
    10. Free online support, with fee-based telephone support often available.
    11. Inexpensive and volunteer IT support is sometimes available for open source applications, because many of these applications are developed by altruists and college students actively seeking projects.
  2. Payroll, Contact Management, and online integration capabilities.
  3. Maximum compatibility with CNVC needs in an integrated package.
  4. User friendly.
  5. Secure, to prevent hackers from unauthorized access or damage to the system.
  6. Reliable and fast long-term support.
  7. Simple to maintain data.
  8. Solid long-term prognosis for commercial developer or open source project. In addition to content, many hours of labor typically go into learning and customizing a system and all that could be lost if the developer or open source project were to be shut down. Note that even very strong corporations are sometimes bought and shut down by larger companies who view them as competition, and open source projects sometimes lose the support and interest of their contributors.
  9. Robust email and web interactivity (mailing lists, etc.).
  10. Many levels of security, ranging from top system administrator through project manager and down to anonymous user. This enables a diverse community of people to create and access content with the level of security chosen for each type of user and content.



Information Technology (IT) Needs

The following overall Needs are offered for consideration in planning an update of CNVC computer systems:

  1. Open source preferred (see description of Open Source) because of:
    1. Low cost. Funds invested in the database reduce funds for CNVC training and scholarships.
    2. No extra cost for distribution to NVC individuals and groups. Most commercial software charges more for each user, computer, or site using the package. GCC individuals and groups around the world could benefit from tools used by CNVC, and content generated would more likely be compatible between GCCs and CNVC.
    3. Robust multicultural, multinational and multilingual support.
    4. Extremely reliable and robust with rapid bug fixes, updates and security patches.
    5. Additional modules (e.g. Email Lists similar to Yahoo Groups) at little or no cost.
    6. Skills learned by IT staff and volunteers on one project would be applicable to other projects, rather than needing to learn different commercial packages.
    7. Easy modification of features, functions, reports and screens. Commercial packages generally limit the ability to create new features and functions.
    8. Easy creation of new features, functions, reports and screens.
    9. Round the clock tech support. Free online support, with fee-based telephone support often available.
    10. Inexpensive and volunteer IT support is sometimes available for open source applications, because many of these applications are developed by altruists and college students actively seeking projects.
  2. Contact management tools for fundraising and other community interactions.
  3. Blog for easy creation and moderation of discussion groups and forums, with email publishing option including Digest function for the convenience of users who prefer that medium.
  4. Email lists with automatic trimming of quoted prior messages to a pre-set number of first and last lines.
  5. Wiki or similar for collaborative document generation and editing, with some areas having limited read and/or write access (e.g. Board, Certified Trainers, etc.).
  6. RSS capability.
  7. Online and offline mass mailing tools, with restricted access to prevent spamming our contact lists.
  8. Integration of online and offline content with robust security.
  9. Widely available free and paid technical support.
  10. File sharing with variable access and security levels to enable activities such as publishing IIT photos for participant sharing.
  11. Audio and video storage and streaming.
  12. Policies to invite, seek and utilize IT volunteers from the NVC community.
  13. Cooperation, collaboration and standardization whenever possible on technology efforts and projects within the whole NVC community.
  14. Online participation tools like Surveys and Polls to engage the NVC community in dialog.
  15. Online contact tools to enable people to share their personal information for networking.
  16. Online and offline tools to help in publishing event information.



Products for Consideration

Blackbaud commercial database package for non-profits

Features

  • NetCommunity: A Complete Website Management Solution
  • The Information Edge: Business Intelligence for Nonprofits -

Cost

Support options

Additional advantages

  • Proven favorite of non-profits.
  • Possibly easy to install and set up.
  • Over 150 programmers, 170 support analysts, and 150 trainers and consultants to ensure a smooth transition.
  • With The Raiser’s Edge, you’re not limited to using the software as it comes “out-of-the-box”; customization capabilities that are built in to the software.
  • is specifically designed for professional fund-raising and contact management incorporates over 25 years of user suggestions from more than 13,000 non-profit organizations.

Potential drawbacks

  • Base system does not include online features. NOT TRUE! Blackbaud's NetCommunity
  • Proprietary system might be more vulnerable to hackers, and data might be less portable.
  • Can not be shared with other NVC locations or affiliates without significant additional expense.
  • Additional features would probably be expensive if provided by the publisher and difficult or impossible to add otherwise.



CivicSpace integrated free Open Source software package for non-profits

Features

Integrated package includes Drupal web software, MySQL database, CiviCRM Contact Resource Management software, blogs, file sharing, website, photo publishing, audio files, FTP and other features.

Cost

Complete package is downloadable at no charge. Development is supported by open source developer community (especially Drupal) and grants.

Support options

  • Free online support
  • Paid consultants
  • Fee-based support

Additional advantages

  • Can be installed and running within a few hours, although configuration and customization can be done over time to provide a wealth of additional features.
  • New features can be added relatively easily due to the underlying computer code being written in Open Source.
  • Many programmers are available who have the skills to modify open source software.
  • Some programmers, consultants and support might be found at no cost or relatively cheaply at technical schools and in the global open source community.
  • Any customization work done can be offered free to other non-profits.
  • All work done on CNVC implementation can be shared at no cost with other NVC affiliates.

Potential drawbacks

  • Concerns about the long-term availability of quality fee-based support from a specific vendor.
  • While the underlying MySQL Drupal and CiviCRM code is mature, CivicSpace package not yet at 1.0 release.
  • Questions & Answers:
  • Will there be ongoing support for the system?

Yes, all indications are that all of the underlying projects have an excellent long-term development and support path. The CivicSpace package is merely a collection of very advanced and well-supported open source products like MySQL and Drupal, with an automated interface. Even if the large CivicSpace project were to end today, the products and modules it is based on will certainly continue to be developed and supported. As CivicSpace nears 1.0 release, interest is growing rapidly in the user community which is likely to bring considerable media coverage.


  • Who will the users call when there's a problem?

In general the open source community support model is free online support 24/7. Users with insufficient technical skills or facing urgent problems not quickly solved online can pay for telephone or on-site support from a wide variety of high quality vendors.


  • Will bugs be fixed, how often?

Yes, in general bugs and security risks are found and addressed more quickly in open source software than in commercial equivalents. This is partly due to the fact that commercial vendors have a vested interest in concealing flaws, and partly because the open source community is comprised of thousands of users and programmers in every time zone. An example of this may be seen in the free open source Firefox web browser which most experts report is more advanced, robust and secure than the latest Microsoft Internet Explorer.


  • Will new reports get written?

Yes, because customization of open source is generally easier than with commercial software, new features and modules are added daily and shared openly.


  • How long will these things take?

Any critical needs CNVC may have which are not already built into CivicSpace could be added by professional programmers at our expense and then shared with the NVC and open source community. Commercial vendors must not only identify a needed feature, but evaluate in advance whether the expense of adding it will produce enough added income to pay the programmers plus profit. It is rare for a commercial vendor to allow a customer to dictate or pay for the development of new features.


  • Is a custom software dynamic enough to continually take advantage of the latest technologies and development trends?

It may be impossible to determine in advance whether any software package can adapt to technological advances. Still, open source products often incorporate new technologies more quickly than commercial products because the latter must amortize their investments. Even if a package is unable to incorporate needed new technologies, commercial products tend to lock users in with proprietary data formats while open source products use published standards that make it easier to migrate existing work to a new open source or commercial platform.