Many Pies

Many Pies

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What was Tim Berners Lee thinking of?

With Tim Berners Lee winning the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering along with some other people, some I'd heard of, and some I'd not, it's worth rereading Tim's original proposal for what became the World Wide Web. He was trying to solve the problems that CERN was facing, but envisioned it being useful to the rest of the world as well. He was right.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Logica and me

Logica was the company I joined after University - in 1988. In the early days I went on a training course which aimed to let me know about the company values. There were 10 of them and I can't remember 9, but one of them was "having fun".

In 1993 Dr Martin Read (Wikipedia article pending) took over and shook the place up a bit, as I think we were a bit flabby and complacent. One of the changes he made was to get rid of the plants. I sent him an email asking him why he got rid of the plants, when we had modern art on the walls that I'd rather get rid of. He contacted my line manager who asked me what it was all about. I said that I thought he ought to get rid of the art rather than the plants. I've learnt since that this is a very "Generation Y" thing to have done.

The last project I worked on at Logica was called RMS and the client was Anglian Water. It was a great project. So much so that one of the people on it took it upon themselves to write to everyone on the project after it was over each Christmas and ask for our news. He then collated the news and sent it out to everyone. That was 18 years ago, and it's still happening! One of the things that made the project run smoothly was that it had two project managers. One was the external one who related to the client. The other was the internal one (sadly she's died recently) who kept us all on course. When the project was over I left the company and I wasn't the only one to feel that any other project wouldn't be as good.

When I was there Logica was proud that it hadn't been taken over, but since then it has merged with CMG and been taken over by CGI. According to one of my contacts the branding on the offices is being changed to CMG so Logica will effectively be no more. Goodbye Logica.

Press coverage

Monday, March 18, 2013

MailChimp and Blackbaud NetCommunity - pros and cons

When we got the bill for sending out emails through Blackbaud NetCommunity I did the maths and worked out it cost us 35p for each email we sent. We pay a certain amount for up to a certain amount of emails in the year. Because we didn't use that much of the allowance, that's what the cost worked out at. So not that much cheaper than sending by post. If we'd sent up to the limit it would have cost us 7p per email. So cheaper, but not free.

So I did a comparison of MailChimp versus NetCommunity. If we went with MailChimp we'd use the Chimpegration plugin from Zeldman Development. Here's what I came up with.

Blackbaud NetCommunity


You can see who gives as a result of a clickthrough from an email.
No need to manually export lists.
You can run email campaigns (a feature we don't currently use).
You can share images with the main BBNC site (which we don't do much in practise).


Cost, as mentioned above.
Composing emails with the HTML editor is tricky and it's easy to lose formatting.



Cheap - $10/month for 500 subscribers (free option available too)
You can use a template language to restrict the places where people writing the emails can fill in text.
You can use a dropdown to pick up a predefined style.
Nice image upload/edit facility.
You can show archives on your site.


You need a manual step to import the email list.
If you don't have the Blackbaud email service then you will need to write some custom software to acknowledge donations by email.

In the end it was the last point that meant we stuck with Blackbaud NetCommunity, at least for another year.

Update: had I started to write something for gift acknowledgement I would soon have discovered that MailChimp's newsletters weren't suitable, as David Zeidman has already, though there is another possibility:

Update 2: We're thinking of going with Blackbaud Online Express when it can handle UK Direct Debits.

Update 3: Here's the first of my posts on Online Express.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ceramic Raspberry Pi case

Last year my wife brought some clay home and we all had a go at building something. I chose to make a Raspberry Pi case. Mine hadn't arrived by then so I worked from the schematic on the website. Clay shrinks a bit when it's fired, so I made it 10% bigger. Unfortunately when my Pi arrived it didn't fit in the case as one of the side pieces leans a bit far over and prevents it going down in. One day I'll get my drill out and see if I can (carefully) cut away a bit at the clay.

Update: the clay was too hard to cut. Also here's a much better ceramic case