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Posts Tagged ‘getpaid’

For the last month, I’ve had a chance to extend the thought/work I started two years by organizing the GetPaid project to a new Plone product project, eduCommons (ifPeople‘s team is also working on Selenium tests and unit tests in the project too). GetPaid organizing led me to what I call “social sourcing”, or finding collaborative design processes for an open community, which became my way of conceptualizing open source organizing (for a non-developer). That was a topic of real interest for eduCommons, who is in the process of shifting from a centrally funded and developed project to a community supported project.

Background: eduCommons leverages Plone content management system to make an OpenCourseWare (OCW) system. If you don’t know OCW, you are missing out on a ton of free knowledge, made famous by MIT’s effort to put all its courses online, freely available and followed by many other institutions. So many institutions, there’s actually a consortium of over 200 universities around the world (of which about 80 use educommons!). A while back, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation recognized this was a big deal and stepped up to support a re-usable, open source platform for OCW. Thus was born educommons, which originally lived at Utah State’s Center for Open and Sustainable Learning. Personally, I was trying to collect all the (playing) cards of the COSL staff and am sad I won’t be able to complete my set now! Maybe enPraxis will do something similar…? Plonistas, note that these are the folks who brough us the Content Licensing product and other goodies!

Anyway, the current situation is that eduCommons, while having a substantial user base and a solid history of development, is now going social sourced. That is, the community will now need to step up to fill the needed roles to keep the project going, fund new work, and ensure the well-being of the project going forward. This means a whole new strategy of communication with all the users, and with it more tools (yes, more mailing lists!  I also prodded them into registering the #educommons irc channel in open source style).

The project has got some great tools, and now even uses a buildout to make it even easier to check out (also check out the demo). There will be some more changes getting organized over the next couple months, so keep your eye on educommons.com for the latest. Seriously…check it out!

Speaking of which…that’s what I need to be working on now. I am presenting about social sourcing at the Connexions/OpenCourseWare Consortium conference in Houston, TX on Friday (Feb 6 @11am) along with Tom Caswell, who is a project manager for the OCWC. Since it’s exciting work, I wanted to share it.

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At this year’s Plone Conference in Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to share the story of where GetPaid has gone since birth. In preparing the presentation, with the help of the GetPaid community, we created new reference material, a new way to feature sites using GetPaid, and a presentation that can serve as reference material. About 40 people came (not bad since I was up against Alex Limi’s session!), almost all of whom were new to GetPaid.

A brief history of GetPaid

GetPaid was “born” at Google in summer of 2007, complete with birth certificate after conception at the BBQ Sprint that TriZPUG organized in North Carolina. The father was Kapil and we had a bunch of midwives and godparents to help with the delivery amidst the multicolor chairs at the Googleplex. About 4 months later, GetPaid reached it’s first release, called Red Ochre (v 0.3). Right away it went into production in several sites. The young product had a growth spurt that led to another release (0.6) six months later that included a lot of new features. Since then, the product has been inching closer to a new release, helped on by new developers who are tackling some existing bugs.

As a unique part of GetPaid’s story, it was organized through a collaborative design process that I call “social sourcing“. The social sourcing model involves engaging the stakeholders (end users, integrators, developers, etc) at the beginning of the project so they are all involved in both designing the solution and in providing the resources to make it happen. This process will be used again in moving GetPaid towards 1.0 as well.

Look – it works!

My presentation’s titled “Plone ecommerce: Surveying the state of the art”, was in large part a reference to the ecommerce Birds of a Feather (BOF) I convened at the Seattle conference 2 years ago. When I asked the 20+ people why they had come, many said “to find out what the state of the art of ecommerce in Plone is.” The sad truth, and reason for actually convening the BOF, was that there wasn’t any. Just 2 years later, though, we have a dozen sites to show off. Used by mostly non-profits as well as some companies, GetPaid has proven useful for processing donations, store orders, and automating some business processes.

How about the delivery?

I usually have a lot of fun presenting, and this one was no different. I got to tell stories, be honest about where things are at, and also be proud that we actually created a quality product that is being adopted around the world and attracted a great community. I focused on the stories of how GetPaid is being used in live sites to satisfy real world use cases and business needs. I presented what the use case is, a site that is using GetPaid for it, and then how it is done (with links to the docs about it).

I got several complements on the presentation, including a couple from Joyce, who “laughed the entire time.” I imagine it is a mix of realism with sarcasm thrown in that delights, given her high marks for mine and Martin’s presentations. Joyce is also the one who got the projector working for me when Ubuntu decided it didn’t want to work, so I am grateful for both her comments and the help! Hopefully the video will be up sooner than later, though my understanding was around New Year’s they would be ready.

One thing I have to confess though about the presentation is that I probably gave a load of meanless technobabble about the state of the PayPal processor integration. The PayPal API is so rediculous and multifaceted that it makes my head spin. While Ken and Lee sprinted on that after the conference, I learned that I basically don’t know what all there letters (IPN, etc) mean. So best to ignore that part :).

Reflections on an Open Source Organizer’s Journey

I kinda stepped off a cliff with GetPaid, not really knowing where this would take me. It has been a great learning experience and allowed me to apply my real passion – how to get effective collaboration to happen leveraging the Internet.

Preparing the presentation, I put myself in the “beginner’s mind” to see how someone approaching GetPaid for the first time would experience trying to be productive with this tool. Since I am not a developer, I was a pretty good test case and tried to figure out how each of the implementations was done with GetPaid. Though we answered several questions in that regard, I realized after the presentation and talking with others interested in GetPaid that what is still lacking is the “elevator pitch” for GetPaid. In other words, what is the concise explanation of what it is and why you should use it. Last year at the Naples Plone Conference, I got a hand from Nicolas and Xavier at ZEA Partners in helping define GetPaid better (see article they made), though it has evolved a fair bit and deserves a revisit!

While it has been a bit more absorbing than I had imagined, I am glad to have been able to contribute a needed tool to the Plone community…without being a developer! The social sourcing process itself has been one of my richest nuggets of wisdom taken from the experience, and I hope to apply it in other collaborative, open source project settings in the future.

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