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We're People People Too
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status : party (good) major downtime (bad)

Mon Jul 14 23:25:52 EDT 2008

 PARTY is the official party invitation tool of 
 the CSL. It sucks much less than evite. For example it isn't 
 annoyingly slow.
 For those who didn't get the official punchbowl invite...
 We're having a party for EB, our first non-technical VISTA. We 
 really are loving him as he is walking out the door.
 The party is this 7pm Friday 07/18/2008. Please come, if you RSVP 
 there  will be food for you. Bring your own beverages.
 EB's many accomplishments include but are not limited to  a few 
 dozen grants, payroll calculations, 990s, expansion into 
 Lawrence, intern supervision and training.
 I think he's a closet tech, because for weekend fun he wrote a
 Perl script to generate some URLs that the existing mvhub
 software doesn't do easily.
 We didn't replace EB.
 I've tested the conventional wisdom that "no hire" is better than 
 "bad hire" a couple times and confirmed it is correct.
 People I've hired in the hopes that they will grow to
 competence have cost us time and drama. From painful experience 
 zero is better than negative. Another great VISTA would be ideal, 
 but no VISTA is better than a bad VISTA.
 Officially, all the CTC VISTA spots are full and there won't be 
 another recruiting round until next spring. Since there have been 
 two recruiting rounds each year for the past 7 years, it is not 
 wildly optimistic to hope for another shot in January.
 For the summer at least, we have 35 hours per week of good
 volunteer / intern time in the office and probably a good bit
 more of people working at home. It's (yet) not as good as EB but
 I won't be lonely for at least the summer.
 More about these new good people in the next report.
 We were down the entire holiday weekend.
 Thursday night some power sags took down some university network
 equipment. At least on this holiday there were no university 
 network people working.
 The email standard is to keep re-trying to send email to a down 
 server for 48 hours.  I assumed that the university network 
 people would fix their network once they knew we were going to 
 lose email. It took me 36 hours to realize that we weren't 
 getting a fix until after the holiday. (my bad)
 We setup a backup server off the university network to queue our 
 email until the main email server came back online. Theoretically 
 we made it with 12 hours to spare.
 Not every system follows the rules. We lost at least one email 
 sent by one of our customer's funders.
 It took until late Tuesday for the queued mail to get delivered. 
 This was mostly because I was making some effort to limit 
 backscatter from SPAM.
 We're probably going to move at least some services to a $100 
 month co-located server at a company ranked well by Netcraft 
 ( as reliable.  We can't provide good service 
 if we are powerless to improve the quality of our network.
 These are facts, I'm still grateful for the rest of the help the
 University gives us.
 Despite several re-readings of the words of the prophet Joel on 
 painless bug tracking:
 ...I'd not realized how much easier life was with a bug tracker.
 We're not losing track of bugs / feature requests and the 
 conversation about our bugs is organized very nicely for us.
 Our mvhub bug tracker is at:
 A big plus with google's free bug tracker is that we didn't have 
 to install it. We'd probably still be without a bug tracker if we 
 had to wait for somebody to find the time.
 Another big plus is the way Google pays attention to the Pareto 
 ...the default bug priorities and tags are just right. Everything 
 is simple. There is no learning curve.
 I was initially worried that we were entering a walled garden:
 but came across a screen scraper, so we can get our data out if 
 we want.
 The big downsides are that google doesn't let you choose the 
 Affero GPL license:
 and as I realize as I research this status upate, that means we 
 can't host our bugs at google.
 In our next attempt,  I promise to consider our requirements 
 before picking a bug tracker.
 Other issues are that it google's issue tracker is (relatively) 
 slow, doesn't let you interact with bugs via email and doesn't 
 seem to  match subversion  commits to bugs.
 We sensitive artists need speed: The prophet Jakob described the 
 situation pretty well 11 years ago.
 It is tedious to get a bug update via email, click the link 
 (wait) login (wait), type into a web form (wait) click submit 
 (wait), shift back to email (wait)
 We were invited to a few meetings with the computer people at the 
 city of Lowell.  The idea was that they'd use MVHub data in their 
 new website instead re-creating mvhub. After a bit of discussion 
 they decided to do their own thing.
 They've got a tight deadline and they want every Lowell 
 non-profit agency to be a user of and be 
 part of their username/password system. They also like their own 
 system of program and agency categories better than ours.
 We've agreed to swap updates and I've added a feature request to 
 the bug tracking database.
 We got some other good bugs out of the discussion.
 The most exciting part of the discussion was the brief flirtation 
 with openID. OpenID lests people keep the same username and 
 password across multiple systems administered by many different 
 The talks with the city have helped develop the mvhub vision a bit.
 	We want to share almost all our data.
 	We want to make it easy for people
 	to use our data without talking to us.
 Why ?
 You can't copyright a collection of data. We can't stop people 
 from screen scraping if we wanted to.
 If we can tell agencies that updating their data with us will 
 also update their records with other directories, we'll get 
 better compliance.
 Our mvhub goal is to make it easier for people to find the 
 services they need. According to Millard Fullar:
 ...There is enough poverty and ignorance to go around. We don't 
 have to be greedy about our share. If somebody else can build on 
 our work to solve the problem, that's a good thing.
 The free software money making model is to give away the source 
 code and sell consulting.  We get to sell consulting because 
 we're better than other people at what we do not because we are 
 As lame as we are sometimes, we've got better software and better 
 data (in the Merrimack valley) than anyone else. --Better even 
 than agencies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. (really).
 We (might) get more resources as people come to depend on our data.
 It's not all sweetness and light, When we signed agencies up for 
 mvhub, we promised not to share the private emails of contact 
 people with ANYONE. The original goal was respect for privacy, 
 but since these email addresses are **NOT** published, copyright 
 isn't an issue. With this secret contact info, we have a bit of 
 an edge.
 [the CSL board might want to check in on this policy thing...]
 I've not yet dug through the grubby stack of receipts and deposit
 slips on my desk, but most of the FY 2007/2008 details are at:
 For those who don't click links, we took in about $40,000 this
 year, spent about $45,000 and have about $3,000 in the bank.
 We have a reasonable shot of expanding MVHub into the north shore 
 and getting paid $10,000 for setup and $5,000K a year for for 
 maintenance which is (probably) enough to cover costs.
 It is all very preliminary, but the people involved have had good
 experiences with us in other contexts, there is a huge demand and 
 they haven't found anything that sucks less than
 We're rationalizing lack of progress on the grounds that we're 
 waiting for our friends at  to 
 get back with us with a volunteer consultant.
 A big part of the plan is likely to be asking businesses to 
 sponsor in exchange for a big banner and link on 
 the site.
 The goal is to have the plan done by August 14.
 August 14 gives us a reasonable amount of time to recycle bits of 
 our plan for our Parker Foundation application and (ideally) make 
 a couple successful sponsorship pitches.
 Worst comes to worst, we'll narrow the august 14th goal down to 
 rehearsing the pitch for sponsorship.
 I can do this with help from one of our new teen-age volunteers. 
 I'm not kidding, Having a kid help make the pitch, works for lots 
 of agencies.  (I'd not turn down continued board help either)
 One of EB's accomplishments was making friends with R, the
 cleaning guy. R and his machines polished a couple years of scum 
 off the floor. We threw a bunch of stuff out. It was time to 
 accept that we were never going to use that stack of floppy 
 drives and 4X CD drives.
 More important we moved two very loud servers into the closet. 
 Now that we don't have to shout to hear each other, I'm inclined 
 to spend less time working with the laptop at Andy's:
 As a nice side effect, since the place isn't a noisy hog hole any 
 more, we can entertain visitors without shame.
 Last week I implied that one of our dogs ate a wireless router. 
 While the dog has eaten, puked up and re-eaten things that would 
 make a Cthulhu himself scream in terror, the dog has never eaten 
 a router.
 Also, the bachelor weekend mentioned in the previous message was
 entirely routine. It signified no great domestic drama between 
 Laura & I.
 I suppose it is a small domestic drama in that I prefer the 
 company of the previously libeled dog to that of some of my in-laws.