Session Notes: Integrating Toolsets - Technology That Works Nice

Raven House, Hollyhock Retreat Center, Cortes Island
Conference: Web of Change 2006, woc2006
Presenters: Michael Silberman & Steve Anderson
Opening: Presenter's self-introduction

Frame: Changes in the technology landscape over the last few years have given us new choices when it comes to software. The era of plugging and playing functionality into our software systems is upon us. Get up to speed on the discussion of modern software. Develop a shared definition of integration.

Narrative from Presenters: There is a flood of new services and tools that are free/open source but limited in the scope of effectiveness. The majority of these tools are developed independently and don’t play nice together. Raises the question, ”How do we pull in the right tools and help them to work together to create an effective online strategy?”

What is Integration: Most non-profis utilize software for three functions; email, donors and the web. These functions exist in limited silos that aren’t well-integrated.

Monolith. - The goal is to move to a monolith that manages all three core activities. A challenge is that there are more than three things you want a piece of software to do. Clients must know what they want from a monolith before it’s built.

Smaller Pieces Loosely Joined – Loosely combining a number of pieces of functional software into a web of functionality that’s malleable to be the changing needs of the organization.

A brief discussion started concerning the integration of the two models (i.e. A monolith with many barnacles of loosely joined pieces that offer additional functionality).

Web Services and Service Oriented Architecture – Web services are providing the motive power for many of the loosely joined services being developed. In a web-based model, integrated functions can be automated. An example was given of being able to query a donor database by e-mail, receive an e-mail response to your query and allow the individual to communicate based on the hits.

The group was queried about their issues and how they come at the integration issues:

  1. I feel that it is already quick and efficient to perform functions, even if I, as a technologist, am the only one who can do it. I see the existing systems as a house of cards built on a chouse of cards.
  2. This is the holy grail for non-profits, I want to know why it doesn’t work
  3. We have a number of platforms, some open source and one commercial. We want to move completely into open source but we need to figure out how to make our campaign and fundraising pieces work together across multiple websites.
  4. The more important things is not develop new tools but training people and putting good methodologies out there.
  5. We would like to see a web services hub be developed that is a babel fish.
  6. How can web services be used to integrate discreet online communities.
  7. I’m looking for a tech solution to support my vision for decentralized fundraising.
  8. The tools exist. What is the barrier to it happening?
  9. How does the monolith address how people are working together? We are addressing the root of the problem of disconnection.
  10. There are a lot of false starts and bad ideas in the web services arena. There aren’t solutions out there that exist as functional models of integration.
  11. A hallmark of loosely joined and web services are that they can be dumped fairly easily. I want to hear what we’re not providing. If we could standardize the medium programs talk to one another, it would bring down the cost because programmers would not be needed to build those connections
  12. I think of our scenarios as many little pieces, tightly joined.
  13. Everyone has a specific set of needs that require
  14. There are so many tools out there that are created for mostly white men. When you are dealing with communities that aren’t white people there is a difference in thought process. What can be developed that can be used by the biggest number of people in the easiest possible way?
  15. Organizations don’t have in-house people that know what pieces to take. Why not have an organization that takes the best pieces and joins them in various way to meet the needs of multiple groups. Why are people choosing pieces of software that don’t have good API’s?
  16. Interested in stories of failure.
  17. We have a dynamic field program with multiple sites and no one in the field who can help maintain the software. We are just trying to stay on top of the work we’ve got and don’t have time to