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What Constitutes an "Open" Platform

Posted by Dave Richards on December 28, 2018 12:25 PM EST
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There is no rigid, hard and fast definition for what constitutes an open platform.  Rather, arriving at an answer for whether a solution is open versus proprietary/closed is somewhat akin to the adage penned by SCOTUS Justice Potter Stewart when remarking as to what constitutes pornography — "[You] know it when [you] see it”. 

The same is true here. "Openness" is not a binary determination; it's found along a continuum.  The way we think about it is the more open the approach, the more it incorporates amounts of the following six elements:  

Open Standards:  Technology standards that are publicly available and have associated use rights.  The IETF’s SMTP and TCP/IP are examples of global open standards. In most cases open standards are much narrower in scope/impact though no less important.

Open Source Software:  This is software that falls under an OSI license and is generally free, always modifiable at the source code level, and can be broadly re-distributed.  Linux is perhaps the poster child for such products.

Open Code Software:  This is a less prescribed class of software.  It’s characterized as free or inexpensive and modifiable at the source code level and redistributable under agreed upon parameters.

Open Programming Languages:  The popular PHP and Python languages are entirely open source while Java, one of the world's most influential programming languages, is mostly open source. As contrast, a language like Salesforce’s Apex is proprietary. 

Open APIs:  Often referred to as public APIs, these are publicly available application programming interfaces that provide developers with programmatic access to proprietary software applications or web services.

“Open-Shoring”:   This is a term we use internally.  It's relevant because the cost, availability and quality of technology talent varies greatly across the globe. Open-Shoring (also referred to as "Right-Shoring") balances the use of domestic/onshore resources with offshore assets

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Evaluating Trade-Offs and ROI of an Open Approach

Posted by Dave Richards on December 28, 2018 10:20 AM EST
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When making important capital or strategic decisions any manager worth their salt immediately tries to get a handle on the fundamental tradeoffs presented by the various options.  Discipline of this nature should be applied to technology investment decisions.  But adding to their challenge is their normally complex and even iterative nature, leading to a process that generally looks as much like art as it does science.  For example, grappling with questions like “What happens to our positioning vis a vis competitors if we build X, versus Y, versus nothing?” can lead to paralysis.  With the exception of large enterprises that have analysts aplenty, answers are generally incomplete at best or inactionable at worst.

We coach organizations that while they must struggle with those types of questions, in parallel and to keep the organization moving forward, to consider as a predicate that something will be done.  This simple technique keeps the strategic dimension on the table while making tactical analysis much more straight-forward and actionable.  The decision becomes how and what.  Less why.   

Below is an outline pulled together for a client and used to faciliate just such a discussion.  It identifies, at a very high level, the pro's and con's of using open components like Magenta and Concursive versus a leading proprietary technology like Salesforce.com to implement a customer facing solution.

The table shouldn't be interpretted to suggest that Open is the best approach.  It is in some cases, not in others.  “Best” depends upon a thorough consideration of the company’s unique circumstances and how management weighs the costs, advantages and different risks at play.

 

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Where "Open Solutions" Fit Well

Posted by Dave Richards on December 28, 2018 8:20 AM EST
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The size of the organization in which a solution is being considered is usually a key determinant of fit.  Large enterprises, highly invested in a single or few platforms like SAP or Oracle, generally apply open strategies to narrower areas within their development roadmaps.  Which is how Linux penetrated the enterprise; it was first used in projects deemed less than mission critical and once found to be robust, safe and cost-effective spread more broadly.

For the vast range of smaller and mid-sized organizations, and specifically with respect to Concursive technologies, open strategies are most applicable where some combination of the following conditions apply:

Uncertainty:  The organization faces significant growth or change yet the particulars and paths forward are uncertain.  Thus, the need to retain flexibility and maneuverability are high.

Control:  A high degree of control of the technical environment is desirable so as to mitigate the risk of being held hostage by a proprietary vendor or non-standard technology in a particularly important area. Most organizations don't want to deal at the source code level; but it's a valuable insurance policy and back door knowing that you can.

Legacy systems:  The business aims to get more out of its legacy data, administrative and operational environments as jettisoning them isn't an option.

Nimbleness:  The business or organization is moving fast and processes, systems and tactics are being developed almost on the fly.  

Must move:  The organization’s leadership knows that sitting still isn’t the answer, but it lacks clarity on a range of strategic issues and is (rightly) hesitant to bet the ranch on a single technology approach or vendor.

Collaboration:  Connecting people, information, best practices and implementing team-based strategies are specific, desired outcomes.

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Apps for Your Health and Helping Others

Posted by Matt Rajkowski on December 20, 2016 5:00 PM EST
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In this post we're highlighting apps with a focus on health and helping others. Please check out our other apps for cities, organizations, education, business, family and fun.

The My Health Group app and its accompanying and integrated web portal applies many of the same concepts to healing patient populations that great sports teams, companies, and other organizations use to drive performance and positive outcomes. Central to our approach is surrounding patients with the people, tools, processes and knowledge they need to flourish.

Accordingly, the My Health Group app advances patient care by empowering them and their teams with capabilities like personalized drug lists, centralized calendars, event reminders, shared photos, issue tracking, Fitbit sharing, and therapist reviews.

See the MyHealth.Group Website for more information

Through the "We Feed US" app donating food to those in need or leading a food pickup effort has never been easier. For donors, you download the app, it alerts and tells you about upcoming pickup events, you push the “check-in” button, then volunteers are notified of your donation. We also show special drop-off locations which are nearby on the interactive calendar. Volunteer pickup teams then deliver it directly to neighborhood food programs like the Foodbank who have expertise in getting it to those in need.

It’s that easy – and if you want to run such a program in your neighborhood, the We Feed US app makes it possible.

In total, the numbers are meaningful: if only 5%-10% of neighbors participate over a large enough area and just a few times per year, it’s many, many extra tons of food for those in need.

See the WeFeed.US Website for more information

Concursive is a leading provider of open technologies in the social, collaborative and mobile software domains. We've published more than 50 apps – for cities and organizations, for health and wellness, for yearly events, and for family and fun. Concursive brings technology and technical involvement, and our customers bring ideas, resources, subject matter expertise and promotion.

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I've been wanting to write about Autism Village for some time. The story is interesting… Topher Wurts, father of the proclaimed “founder” Kirby his autistic son, conceived the idea of Autism Village as "an initiative to produce practical, useful, and helpful management tools and services for those living life on the autism spectrum."

Starting with a Facebook page to engage parents of autistic children with his concept, the support was overwhelming. What followed next was a successful Kickstarter campaign with 1,236 backers pledging $75,393 to help bring their project to life – the Autism Village app for iOS and Android.

The Autism Village app runs on Concursive's Connect platform and features a directory of autism-friendly places crowdsourced by users. The places are categorized and searchable by the user's location. Each place has information and user modules for posting reviews and sharing photos. Users can submit places and reviews directly from the app by choosing from nearby businesses and organizations.

To get started, the Autism Village team presented Concursive with web and app mockups, functional requirements, and supporting artwork. A beta version for web was created, then the mobile apps were developed and plugged right in.

To learn more about Autism Village, I encourage you to check out their website and download the app on either iOS or Android.

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…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.

You can see the site here: http://greensboro.onsocialcloud.com

 

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Over the years, organizations have chosen Concursive's social software to enable learning, collaborating, and the sharing of ideas on both web and mobile.

In particular:

  • 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.

Learn more about our products.

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Behind the Scenes of a Citywide Social Community

Posted by Matt Rajkowski on March 23, 2015 2:00 PM EDT
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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.

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Wow, it's 2015!

Posted by Matt Rajkowski on January 9, 2015 5:15 PM EST
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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 in the cloud 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 setup your own CRM.

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.

Here's to 2015 and “Communities That Matter!”

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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.

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