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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The "neigh"sayers take the floor again

So let's beat that dead horse one more time... because Jeffrey Zeldman said it so well in his A List Apart blog last month. You know which dead horse I mean - is Web 2.0 some exciting new wave non-profits need to catch, or is it just a bunch of marketing hype? That old debate. Zeldman's posting comes down right where I am. Of course technology is developing rapidly and there are new tools and techniques you'd be a fool not to explore -- in fact there are quite a few I will urge you to take a look at. But the fact that a product is built using a tool that has been associated with the web 2.0 phenomenon means absolutely nothing about that product's usefulness or value. The fact that it is "collaborative" or "read-write" means nothing unless it is adding real functionality you and your users did not have before.

Zeldman wields a full dose of sarcasm and hyperbole in this article- but he says it with absolute clarity when he writes:

Consider this scenario:

Steven, a young web wiz, has just celebrated his bar mitzvah. He received a dozen gifts and must write a dozen thank-you notes. Being webbish, he creates an on-line “Thank-You Note Generator.” Steven shows the site to his friends, who show it to their friends, and soon the site is getting traffic from recipients of all sorts of gifts, not just bar mitzvah stuff.

If Steven created the site with CGI and Perl and used tables for layout, this is the story of a boy who made a website for his own amusement, perhaps gaining social points in the process....

But if Steven used AJAX and Ruby on Rails, Yahoo will pay millions and Tim O’Reilly will beg him to keynote.

Now, this doesn't mean you should sit smugly with your static website you had a consultant build for you in FrontPage three years ago. It just means to avoid the hype as you look at the new web technology - and keep your focus on how each tool might further your mission by improving communication with your community.

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