[drupal-devel] OT: Chronicle of Philanthropy: Events Seek to 'Demystify' Open-Source Software

Chris Messina chris.messina at gmail.com
Thu Apr 14 19:31:43 UTC 2005

There was a nice write-up in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about the
Bay Area PenguinDay. It can be found at
http://philanthropy.com/premium/articles/v17/i12/12004801.htm, and for
those without a subscription, it's posted below.

During the SpeedGeek session
I presented CivicSpace and talked up Drupal to non-profits who were
very excited about its potential for their organizations.

I also wrote up a brief blog entry about this:


Events Seek to 'Demystify' Open-Source Software
By Nicole Wallace

A series of events this spring will bring together charity technology
employees, consultants, and software developers to discuss the
potential -- and the challenges -- of developing open-source software.

"We want to demystify open-source software for nonprofit
organizations," says Katrin Verclas, co-director of Aspiration, an
Amherst, Mass., nonprofit group that seeks to create a software
landscape in which charities have access to good-quality, low-cost
tools that help them do their work.

Open-source software gives users access to the "source code" of an
application, which allows organizations to make changes or
enhancements to fit their needs. Developers of such software encourage
users to modify the programs and to share them with others.

Aspiration is working with local technology charities to sponsor the
gatherings, called Penguin Days after the mascot of the open-source
giant Linux. Penguin Day Chicago took place on March 26, and events
are scheduled in the San Francisco Bay Area on April 12, and in New
York on May 7.

Many nonprofit organizations have very specific software needs, but
the market of potential customers that share those needs is too small
for commercial software companies to build those products, says Ms.
Verclas. She says charities that need to develop such specialized
tools can cut their costs by adapting open-source software, rather
than starting from scratch.

The transparency of open-source software code can also be vital to
organizations that handle sensitive information, such as international
groups investigating human-rights abuses. "With open source, you can
look at the code and see if there are any back doors someone could use
to try to get in," says Ms. Verclas.

But significant barriers keep nonprofit organizations from widely
adopting open-source software.

Charities' limited capacity to develop software and open-source
software's tendency to be less well-documented and user-friendly than
proprietary software have combined to make open source a daunting
choice for nonprofit organizations, says Ms. Verclas. For nonprofit
groups to be able to take advantage of the promise of open-source
software, she says, technology organizations will have to develop,
enhance, and support open-source tools for charities.

For more information: Go to http://www.penguinday.org.

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