Non-Profit Organizations and Open Source: Penguin Day 2004

Yesterday I attended the first ever “Penguin Day” in Philadelphia. This one-day conference, piggy-backing on the larger NTEN Non-Profit Technology Conference, discussed issues (mostly) surrounding non-profit organizations’ use of open source software and the future of FOSS in the NPO world. One of our main mods developers was also on hand both to represent phpCollab at this conference and see how phpC might function better for non-traditional clients.

I think that the misconceptions and myths surrounding open source application development and the animosity directed at developers suprised us both a little. I did my best to dispel the stereotype that open source projects are a lot of low level pieces of software, like compilers, on which a few super geeks work in their spare time. And I believe that I received a positive response to my remarks on the nature of new open source business applications like phpCollab that have enterprise-level applicability and a higher degree of development team organization.

What I have taken away from the conference is that the number one reason that NPO’s have not widely adopted open source software is not because they do not understand technology but because we have not sufficiently evangelized open source to them and made the wide panoply of applications available in a transparent manner. Also, something I had not really considered much in the past, phpCollab has a use in the non-profit world and with some modifications, could work for many organizations doing significant projects that require management tracking, scheduling, and project collaboration.

Although the phpCollab team will be working on finishing and releasing 2.5, updating the documentation for the new release, and moving our forum and information to a new host in the next few weeks, I encourage those of you who do work for NPO/NGO’s to discuss how phpC can work in this arena. The alliance between NPO’s and open source is both natural and, I think, paramount for both sides of the equation.

If you are interested in this topic, please post your comments here.

For more information on the conference, see the official site.