The headline take away for the NTEN NTC09 conference for me was the compelling degree to which non-profits of all sizes were embracing leading edge technology solutions. Of course the conference was abuzz with the ubiquitous and omnipresent examples of how to use Facebook and Twitter, but the technology focus did go deeper into substantial development efforts too. Non-profits of all sizes are embracing open data concepts, using APIs, and understanding how to make use of the data they collect in some exciting ways. Many non-profits are doing a great job these days of integrating AMS/CRM solutions with web content management and creating integrated online user communities. I was struck to the degree to which the community as a whole has evolved in this regard from just a few years ago when major proprietary vendors kept these organization locked on a platform. It was encouraging to see things opening up and again, going more open - both in terms of licensing and architecture.
There were many highlights to the conference itself in terms of speakers, but I really enjoyed finally seeing a href="http://www.shirky.com/" target="_blank"> Clay Shirky speak in person. His popularity is well deserved based upon his oratory skills. Following him on Twitter doesnt really do his brand of "big picture - meets common sense - meets actual insight" type speaking. Usually I roll my eyes when someone (yet again) takes me on a journey from the evolution of the printing press through the rise of the Internet and tries to convince me I am living in "one of those unique moments in history". But Shirky makes it amusing, relevant and concludes with original ideas. Shirky highlights why online communities are the silver bullet for advocacy and uniting distributed groups around a shared purpose.
On Tuesday I sat on a panel discussion entitled "Comparing Open Source CMSs: Joomla, Drupal and Plone" with some great people including Laura Quinn, the Director of Idealware, John Stahl, Director of Web Solutions at ONE/Northwest and Ryan Ozimek, the CEO of PICnet. I really enjoyed getting to know others running companies similar to our own specializing in other open source platforms (Plone and Joomla respectively). It was amazing the degree to which these three CMS solutions are driving in the same directions and coming closer and closer together. Of course I am biased towards the ulimate flexibility and extensibility of Drupal, but Plone in particular is doing some cool things. One thing I took away from my time with many Plone developers at the conference was that they really get CRM integration. The community has fantastic unity around some integration projects for Plone as the WCM and using SalesForce's non-profit version for CRM.
On Wednesday, I concluded my visit with a presentation to the San Fransico Semantic Web and Drupal User's Groups on our work with Open Calais and the development of the OpenPublish tool. It was a great crowd with good questions and enthusiasm but I have to admit I was a bit outgunned technically and worried I would be stumped by one of the semantic web gurus. When we did introductions, every other person was writing a book, working as a "researcher" in Silicon Valley or experimenting with something crazy technical. So I played the "just the CEO" card early and they spared me. My slides (borrowed almost exclusively from Frank's slides from Drupalcon are here on the Meetup site for the event.
It is good to be home, but just a few days later, I left for New Orleans for the Editor & Publisher Interactive Media show . Tiffany or I will post on that shortly.