Many Pies

Many Pies

Friday, July 28, 2006

Blackbaud getting more open

Hot rumours about Blackbaud getting more open.
"I’m hearing that Blackbaud has a semi-secret project that will blow the lid off the competition in terms of its online and offline accessibility and in its forthright approach in dealing with the above criticisms."



Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Joy of Unicode

I've started work on a project to put samples from the Bible in many languages on our Vision 2025 website. So I've got to get to grips with some Unicode issues. Working out what browsers will display what you want is a bit of a minefield. It's also a question of which fonts your website visitors have installed, which partly depends on which Microsoft products they have installed, which you can't autodetect.

The wisdom seems to also be that people won't install fonts just to read something, though we'll offer them that choice.

Apache Server Side Include (SSI) files only import ASCII. I think someone needs to read Joel on Software The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!).


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Review of the Long Tail

I've finished The Long Tail now. There are lots of reviews out there summarising it, so I'll say some personal things about it. Unlike the previous book I was sent a review copy of, this one wasn't pre-released via the author's blog. He discussed some of the thinking that went into the book, but didn't show us chapters as he was writing them.

Before I started I wondered what else can you say once you've explained the initial long tail thing. The answer is that he goes into more detail about how niches work, finds long tail examples back in history (mail order catalogues), as well as covering how people find stuff when there's so much choice. The latter was another question I had, which was fairly well answered.

His examples of Long Tail businesses was pretty limited to a few: Amazon, Ebay, Netflix and a couple of others, and to a US perspective. The former is probably because of where he could get stats from, and the fact that it's early days still. The latter is probably because its so much harder to write a world book, but then the internet is in most countries, so I think its worth making the effort.

As for the subject of long tail and charities which I covered in my previous post on the book, I found a few more things to think on, like reducing your costs, and building findable niches.

Disclosure: I got this book for free.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The long tail of charities

I've just got a review copy of The Long Tail. I've been following the blog for a while so I thought I'd share some relevant thoughts as it applies to charities before I dive into the book.

The Long Tail premise is, in the subtitle of the book "Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More". A non-profit IT director writes on the subject, but I'll speculate further.

Small charities need to make themselves findable. Guidestar in the UK is a start (also available in the US). A Dutch student is working on, "a website that makes every charity findable". That's a one person effort though.

If I were in a small charity rather than the medium one I'm in now, I'd be wondering how I could create a web presence without too much work (I'm not aware of some easy options), how I could take donations (CAF looks simple, but we've struggled with the paperwork they send you to tell you about the gifts), and how I could get found on the Internet.

So far there's no iTunes for charity, unless you know about it...


Solution to reporting on the cheap

I've got a solution to my reporting problem that I discussed previously. What you do is save your Word document as WordML, then rename it to an .xslt file. Put in some magic XSL statements, combine it with your XML data using msxsl and then you've got a Word document with your data in. You can save as RTF, or convert to PDF using any one of a number of utilities. You can do the same with Excel if you want a more tabular format.

The clever bit is to automate the putting in of the XSL statements so that your end user can put pseudo field codes (as you do with mailmerge) into a Word document and some sort of parser spots them and puts in the corresponding XSL to fill in the data.

That's the bit I've got to work on next.


Microsoft listens

I get a mention on an Office 2007 blog. It's good to know this feature is back in, though they probably didn't add it just because I said.

tags: msoffice

Monday, July 03, 2006

Catching the interested

We've started a new strategy recently for handling people who are thinking of working for us. The previous strategy, which was developed a few years ago, was a four part online form. We get a number of enquiries from people, but it can take a lot of time to respond to each one, particularly when you are asking and and answering the same questions. Quite a lot of people decide they'd like to be a missionary and then email ten mission agencies asking for more information. The online form was designed to make these people realise some key things - such as "we don't pay salaries (in general)" and "we need your church approval". So there are some boxes you have to tick to say you understand that. It also gathers useful information to save you having to go back and ask the person later: what skills do you have, what is your Christian experience and so on.

The other thing the form does is allow us to pass information around other parts of the organisation. (I say "us", but it's not really me, I didn't design this system, I just the caretaker of it.) People come to the Wycliffe UK website from all over the world, and we can automatically send the results of the form to the appropriate person in a country near where they are, because we ask them for their country.

That's the old way. The new way is to offer a couple of other options - a one to one IM session with one of our recruitment people, or a quicker form, which doesn't ask so much. The old option is still there. We have had people start using the new methods, so we're just waiting to see if this will help us catch more people by providing a quicker, easier response, or if it will take up too much time responding to people who aren't that keen anyway.

You can get to these new ways of responding via our Latest Vacancies page.


(Photo from blakefacey