Reflections from Community Media Workshop's CommuniCamp, '09.

A couple of weeks ago, I volunteered at Community Media Workshop's first CommuniCamp, an open space conference for nonprofit communications staff. The event offered a chance to catch up with old friends in the nonprofit technology and communications space, as well as to hear from (non-technical!) organization staff.

Initial Thoughts

The event was incredible, as expected from CMW. My initial thoughts:

  • Nonprofiteers are interested in emerging technologies, like Facebook, but range from enthusiastic to skeptical about the potential benefits.
  • Technology actually figured in a large number of conversations. It's clear that tech is driving a lot of the communications models we're seeing today, ranging from online social networking to content management systems. This makes non-techie communications folks nervous sometimes.
  • "My CMS is better than your CMS." We had a couple of quick conversations on Drupal vs. Wordpress, Drupal vs. Joomla, and questions from an org using Plone. The group consensus seems to be that tools like Wordpress may be end-user friendly for DIY web development by non-techies, but building a more sophisticated web presence on a platform like Drupal requires technical skill. Once built, however, these systems allow non-techie users to manage and administer powerful websites, databases, and web applications without forcing them to learn "tech" skills. Maybe we should consider architecting and developing a content management solution and managing a web presence using that solution to be two separate stages of web development?
  • Organizations should focus on developing relationships with trusted vendors, rather than having non-techies select a technology platform. I pointed out that when we quoted "typical" nonprofit website specifications with some of the folks from the Joomla! project, the cost to develop a particular site (measured in hours of work) was very comparable between the two. The leading applications in the open source CMS space are all fairly powerful these days.
  • My friends around Chicago are doing amazing, empowering work.