…as told by Matt Rajkowski, Chief Software Architect at Concursive.
Last weekend I was able to put Concursive's Open City Platform to the test. I showed up in Greensboro, North Carolina at HQ Greensboro without a plan… I was attending Code for Greensboro and the City of Greensboro's Civicon15 – a hackathon to use the city's newly available Open Data datasets. For $20 I could end up winning $1,000! The weekend was less about the prize money though, I knew that going in. I wanted to prove something.
The CIO of Greensboro, Jane Nickles, introduced the datasets: Fire Incidents, Building Inspection Permits, Local Ordinance Enforcement Inspections, Violations, History and Cases. Then the welcome party went on.
During the meet and greet, I heard "I haven't seen you before", actually more than once. The truth was I had heard of the event from folks in Raleigh and Cary, I have family in Greensboro, and I didn't have anything scheduled for the weekend. The locals were very receptive and conversed about what they were up to – next door, The Forge, Greensboro's Makerspace, blew me away as Forge president Joey Adams gave several of us a tour… think 3D printers, CNCs and industrial sewing machines.
I listened to Red Hat's Jason Hibbets talk about what it means to be an open data city (his book here: The Foundation for an Open Source City). Hearing this just adds fuel to some fire burning inside me to be a part of all of this. Fortunately I came across Ian Henshaw, someone I had met at Code for Cary. He said his team didn't show (other hackathons and obligations). So we teamed up.
The next morning, Saturday at 8am, I met with Ian and his son from Wake Tech, Stephen. We brainstormed around the data and decided to build a social web site for researching and reviewing contractors – based around the Building Inspections Permits data. We decided to call our project and team "DIW Greensboro", a play on DIY, because you would be doing projects with contractors and you would be able to look at how the permit process is being used… So "Do It With Greensboro" made sense. Yes, we know that DIW can also mean "Do It Wrong" or more bluntly "Dead In The Water" – we figured DIY projects can be both.
The goal was to bring up a website (i.e. build something), so citizens could find out information about contractors (i.e. have an impact on the community), and finally to rate and share experiences about them (i.e. be innovative). That was how we were going to be judged.
Ian was responsible for taking the data and grouping it, filtering it, and making charts, graphs and interactive tables – he works for OpenDataSoft and has some great software to work with. Stephen was responsible for cleaning and transforming the data since there were some inconsistencies – he used Google's OpenRefine which I learned is pretty awesome. I was responsible for setting up Concursive's ConcourseConnect and embedding the data.
It took a day and half (actually 14 hours) to create a nice looking and functional website, and to submit our code. Using Concursive's platform, which takes care of things like user logins, permissions, emails, and content management, we settled on building out a directory of contractors. Based on the Greensboro data, we defined what a contractor is: a company name, address, contact details, and related permits. We then used the Ratings, Reviews and Photos modules. With that, citizens would be able to review the contractors and submit photos from actual projects. Finally we embedded charts, graphs and tables using OpenDataSoft's tools and software. It's all sortable and searchable. The next time I need a contractor I would definitely want this information available. The nice thing is, decades of data is there, you just need a platform which takes advantage of it.
The most stressful part of a hackathon, at least for me, is the presentation to the judges. You have 5 minutes to tell a story and demo the product. I was pleasantly surprised to see 8 other teams present. Their ideas and products were interesting. I would use almost all of them if they brought them to market. Who wouldn't want to know the average fire department response time to their house? or what kinds of law enforcement violations and complaints are going on around your neighborhood? and best of all, who wouldn't want to have a random suggestion for top-rated places and events to go to? I especially liked the option to 're-roll' as if life is a game.
So we had until Sunday at 1pm to finish, then presentations started at 3pm. Judges had made their decision by 4:30pm. Team "DIW Greensboro" came in 3rd place, "Girl Code" came in 2nd, and "Flying Turtles" came in 1st (Congratulations!).
Everything we did is available in Github. It's a repeatable idea so we look forward to sharing what we did and expanding it to other cities and projects.
Over the years, organizations have chosen Concursive's social software to enable learning, collaborating, and the sharing of ideas on both web and mobile.
Connecting neighborhoods to city programs
Connecting businesses to government programs
Connecting professionals to associations
Connecting those in need and those who care to non-profit organizations
Connecting attendees to conferences and events
Connecting students to entrepreneurial resources
Connecting employees, partners and customers to your business
Connecting investors to opportunities
Connecting participants to environmental efforts
Connecting people to their interests… like health and wellness, lifestyle choices, bands and concert venues, festivals, restaurants, fraternities and sororities, science, technology, sports and politics.
Concursive's software has been used to launch hundreds of public and private social networks with over 40 apps on Apple's App Store and Google Play. The one thread in common is that these apps use Concursive's ConcourseConnect and were all built in a matter of days or weeks. Bringing up collaborative social networks quickly is what we do.
Concursive's ConcourseConnect is a robust social business software platform with user profiles, configurable directories, collaboration spaces, and a light-weight API. With ConcourseConnect you never start from scratch – there's an array of features with templates to bring your ideas to the world.
Chat directly with Concursive's CEO and our technical team by contacting us and we'll get back to you promptly.
Earlier this year SWLA Connected was launched with one of our partners. SWLA Connected is a citywide private community for residents, city officials and law enforcement representatives of Southwest Louisiana. Residents sign up through a verification process and based on their home address they are auto-subscribed into one of the 50+ private areas within Southwest Louisiana. City officials and law enforcement representatives are invited into separate collaborative areas which push data into the residential communities.
Residents can share events, blogs, classified ads and issues across their broad area or within their own neighborhood. Residents can also form ad-hoc collaborative social groups which can be discovered and joined by other residents.
City officials and law enforcement representatives broadcast announcements into areas and neighborhoods to share information as it becomes available. Residents in these areas and neighborhoods can receive these updates as push notifications.
From an application perspective, similar functionality is available whether you use the iOS and Android mobile apps, or the website. The backend uses a customized edition of Concursive's ConcourseConnect. In this case the partner provided geographic shape files of all the areas in Southwest Louisiana, and a resident's geolocation is used to identify the particular shape area in which the resident lives.
As for the business model, there is a lot of technology and most organizations don't want to jump in on their own from scratch, so Concursive does partnerships with media companies, cities, churches, fraternal organizations and chambers to quickly pilot and deploy custom communities.
Concursive has an extensive platform for deploying community software, while the partner has a genuine interest and leadership in promoting and managing the community.
First a few product plugs… if you're not using social software in your business or organization, then you've got to give it a try!
ConnectElements.com is the simplest way to get started. Setup an account, then collaborate with groups of people which make sense to you. You can easily share private updates with your colleagues. ConnectElements also has a mobile app with push notifications for urgent messages. Upgrade to Projects and then you've really got a streamlined collaboration system around all of your short and long-term projects.
For those who need more, ConcourseCloud.com is an inexpensive and private social network for your business, department or organization. It is hosted at Rackspace and runs on your own private slice. ConcourseCloud gives you a truly private social network. Pricing is very competitive.
If you're looking for a Java CRM, look no further than ConcourseSuite CRM. ConcourseSuite CRM is an all-in-one sales force automation and account database for your organization. Concursive offers untimed trials for up to 5 users, and our pricing can't be beat for unlimited users and full source code. Download the trial edition or contact us and we'll host your own CRM at Rackspace.
Finally, if you're looking for your own branded community, with features ranging from collaboration, to information directories, to GIS integration, to mobile apps, then you'll want to explore our Communities and Hubs products. ConcourseConnect is a white-label platform which allows you to build your own product or community with just the right features, and quickly.
Concursive has worked with Wetlands Watch of Norfolk, Virginia to bring a new app to Apple's App Store called Sea Level Rise. The premise of the app is to record sea-level data in Hampton Roads, Virginia around certain events (like tides and rainfall) and visualize the points on a map. The data will be used for various analysis and alerts over time.
To accomplish data capture, the Sea Level Rise app has a 'Tools' tab which combines several of Concursive's ConcourseConnect platform features to allow participants to capture data.
The goal is to accurately capture a user's location with some user provided details and store it around the context of a profile, in this case a sea-level rise event. Volunteer users can add notes and photos which get stored along with the app's coordinates (latitude, longitude, altitude, and GPS accuracy).
Starting with a typical top-level 'Event' profile in Connect, users can perform multiple 'check-ins' into this Event profile on their device. The user sees their location on the map where they are checking in, and the user has an option of adding a note and photo along with their coordinates.
Since accuracy is important, the GPS signal level is displayed. From experience with testing the coordinates, iPhones have been just as accurate as a dedicated Garmin GPS made for the outdoors – with nearly identical results. While the GPS is nearly spot-on (reporting within 5 meters of accuracy), the Apple and Google maps do have some offset when the coordinates are plugged into the maps so the assumption is that the coordinates are correct but the mapping imagery is offset a little, or vice-versa. Regardless, the points have been very helpful as they can be captured very quickly.
Sea Level Rise uses the ConcourseConnect mobile platform and backend. Contact Concursive for more information about the platform.
Concursive has begun upgrading customers with ConcourseConnect 6. What's new is a focus on building modern web pages, easier customization and more options for mobile.
First off, we've redesigned our rendering engine with ZURB Foundation in mind. HTML output is now much simpler and cleaner. Our portal technology nests rows and columns, and uses the Foundation grid system to create powerful multi-device layouts quickly and easily. Foundation gives our sites a responsive framework so that web pages look good on desktop, tablets and phones. Implementing Foundation also allowed us to refresh our templates with a new, modern look. Under the covers there's Foundation web components and JQuery. We've updated the HTML content editor to TinyMCE's HTML5 editor. The Concursive image library plugin for TinyMCE has been redesigned with thumbnails and enhanced capabilities for colors, fonts and sizes. All of Connect's modules and portlets have been updated for Foundation.
Next, we wanted customers and partners to be able to customize Connect using configuration packs and plug-ins. Connect achieves this through run-time discovery of configuration files, components and portlets. Adding your own functionality has never been easier.
Finally, with ConcourseConnect 6 you can launch Apps, mobile-first. User registrations, user settings, push notifications and module functionality are all accessible via the restful API.
You may have heard about Concursive's community, social, and e-commerce feature-set which includes user profiles, activity streams, blogs, calendar events, wikis, forums, tagging, bookmarks, and more, but did you know that when when users interact with a Concursive-based app or site, they are interacting with a service? Concursive has made substantial progress in the web world in the last 7 years to make essential app functionality a part of its customizable platform.
Whether you are going mobile-first, web-first, or launching both, the Concursive platform at a high level solves common problems easily via configuration. Developers concentrate on the parts that make their app unique, while still using APIs and design patterns encouraged by the Concursive framework which work on both mobile and web.
There are many out-of-the-box examples which would otherwise range from easy to difficult to implement on your own:
A user account system which handles usernames, passwords, invitations, settings and password reset functionality across mobile and web, optionally integrating with Facebook.
Managing user permissions. Through a badge system users can be identified with multiple roles and responsibilities.
Managing user groups and whether those groups are private, public, or publicly visible but with authorization by a user manager for additional access.
Setting up your own spaces. We include spaces for groups, ideas, projects, accounts, businesses, organizations and programs. Create anything, even spaces for trees or stock quotes. Any topic you want your users to collaborate around.
Geolocation services which easily access Google, MapQuest, and Open Street Maps to geocode locations and display them on devices or web maps. The Concursive API can order all locations by nearest-to-you.
Storing user generated images in the right size and format to the device or browser needing them.
Interfacing with video services like YouTube to obtain meta-data, thumbnails and embed codes for videos.
Importing data from RSS feeds is as easy as entering the feed's URL. The connectivity is scheduled, queued and downloaded into the database. RSS feeds can be integrated into blogs, activity streams or displayed on their own.
Indexing all data is done immediately so that it's easy to query, search, sort, geolocate and filter user-generated content, photos, and text captured from uploaded documents.
Sending a push notification is as easy as providing the user IDs and the message to send. The platform uses the right mechanisms for the right platforms for those users.
The platform has its own order processing system which integrates with Authorize.net, Chargify and iOS in-app purchases to track and verify purchases.
The services are location aware, based on the user's context, and accesses the data the user is allowed to access.
Those are just several examples which are transparently used on every Concursive installation. Once the platform is installed, your enhancements go into a configuration directory for customizing the user experience, email messages, background jobs, additional APIs, automated workflows, page layouts, CSS, and code.
Concursive is pleased to announce the latest version of ConcourseSuite CRM. Our award-winning CRM has been improved with new features and performance enhancements. Working with customers has allowed us to incorporate new functionality around account management, mailing lists integration, rental products and order management.
ConnectElements is for creating private groups and projects in a flash! The ConnectElements app helps businesses, organizations, teams, or even individuals better connect and collaborate with colleagues, clients, partners and friends.
The app has features within each group and project space for posting activity updates, creating calendar events, sharing photos, and managing tasks. Once a group is created, the founder of that group can invite others – an email is generated and the recipients follow the instructions to join in. Users can use either the mobile app or the web site to participate. Download the app to get started or head over to ConnectElements.com to learn more.
fratsoro is for fraternities and sororities wanting a mobile app that goes way beyond the brochureware most have or the sprawl of Facebook. It helps greek organizations better connect, communicate and collaborate with their broad network of stakeholders in an approachable, easy-to-use, cohesive environment entirely optimized to their specific needs.
The app has public-facing features whereby houses can share a range of information. From the basics of who they are, to ever changing updates on social activities, to promoting upcoming house activities.
But fraternity and sorority life is also greatly about private communications, activities and working together. Accordingly, the fratsoro app provides private spaces that support house officers in their duties as well as areas for the broader house membership. These spaces are by invitation only, are easily managed, and provide tools including calendars, activity streams, photos, member lists, and alerts.
fratsoro is built on ConcourseConnect. The app is the first app to use Connect's team management, profile space creation, and user settings APIs for mobile. The feature-complete APIs enable any app to take advantage of mobile collaboration and social networking.