Its no secret that I felt that Seth Godin’s 59 Smartest Orgs Online was a little biased and lacked a wide enough perspective. One of the things that I remember mentioning at a morning meeting discussing the list was the almost lack of projects using Google Earth and KML, a really amazing tool to give a global context to phenomena. Since Google Earth launched its Google Earth Outreach Program yesterday, I though I’d present my Top 5 Smartest Orgs on Google Earth. In no particular order.

Appalachian Voices Mountaintop Removal in Google Earth

Declan Butler’s Avian Flu Outbreaks in Google Earth

Earthwatch – Sweetwater’s Rhinos in Google Earth

UNEP – Amazon Deforestation in Google Earth

USHMM Crisis in Darfur in Google Earth

The one thing I would like to see is a way to integrate a donation management system into the Google Earth solution which would allow the user to donate to a project, and maybe even specifically to sponsor a particular rhino, just as an example.

UPDATE: The fact that the users as well as the grant program is heavily biased towards US based orgs is a bit annoying, but is something that we have come to expect from Google.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Forgot to add BrightEarth who are doing some pretty cool things with Google Earth, ESRI ArcGIS Explorer and NASA’s World Wind.


Web app without makeup: iterations of TeamSnap – personally I prefer paper prototyping, that way when everything is laid out on the table and the client says how do I get from point G to point H and there isn’t a viable way, you know you’ve made a mistake somewhere. The client also gets a feel for the flow. Each to their own though.

Human-to-Human Design – Normally a design function, but still relevant if you’re putting together software.

How to write a Google Gadget – an excellent introduction. There isn’t an online product that couldn’t use a Google Gadget (or a Facebook one for that matter)

htsh: http shell – kind of geeky, but I love it. An HTTP shell using PHP on the backend and jQuery for the front end.

Firebug for the iPhone – I kid you not. Essential if you’re going to be developing web apps for the iPhone.

Top Spots for Hip Sugar Mommas – and they say that technology hasn’t improved our quality of life!

I am possibly moving to Dallas, Texas, in the next couple of months, and I have been looking around at the real estate market on that side. I’ve been really impressed by quite a few APIs, applications and search engines that have sprung around the real estate market. It seems to be a very exciting area in terms of APIs, visualizations and software, I suspect because the data has always been there and has been captured and analyzed to death, now its time to rework the interface.

Anyway, I came across this very interesting visualization called Hindsite by an real estate search engine called Trulia. It is based on public property assessor records for properties in Trulia’s database and typically includes the date that a house was built. Check out this amazing visualization of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, specifically Plano. It is certainely making searching for a house a whole lot more interesting.

Real Estate information and mapping are ideal partners for a mashup, and besides using Microsoft Virtual Earth for Hindsight, Trulia has a very strong integration with Google Maps for their search engine. All around a very nice application. And they even have an API.

Yesterday eBay made a series of announcements regarding new APIs and developer tools, calling for the company to rebuild the technical guts of its site as a series of modular services, rather than a single, unified application. Today, David Berlind chipped in with an interesting analysis of web based APIs from Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and eBay becoming the new platform providers in the way that in the desktop era it was the operating systems of Windows, Mac and Unix that provided the primary platforms for applications.

In a sense what he is saying is that if we compare the API providers to Windows, or Mac, then the next step in application development is the user interfaces that are being built on top of those APIs. Microsoftware.

the Holy Grail for companies like Salesforce, eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, Google, et alia: to be in the infrastructure business but to let developers be the ones that drive adoption through innovation. Sure, if you’re one of those or other API providers, it helps to provide prototypes or something that’s minimally functional to get new users started. But when I look at where Google is going with Google Apps (of which Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets are only a part), my sense is that there are innovators out there that will come along and build user interfaces on top of Google’s APIs that are far more compelling than Google’s native interfaces.

So where does that leave the nonprofit looking to leverage current trends and forthcoming trends? For a second stop thinking of the organisation as single unfied organisation based on a single platform. Start thinking of it as a technological enabler for a cause. The tools to enable that cause are developed and then the constituents are given these tools to develop their own version of the tools on top of them. In the way that Excel allows you to develop your own spreadsheets, rather than in the way that eBay releases a new API. If your constituents are savvy enough, you can always give them an API as well.

btw if you read through to the end of David Berlind’s article one can not help but think that he is arguing that the business to be in is the business of creating a better UI. I think Joel may agree.

Haven’t had much of a chance to look at this in depth, but what I have seen looks really promising. Etelos CRM Developer Edition allows developers to create customized CRM modules that cater to the specific needs of a business. Its designed to rapidly accelerate the time-to-market development and distribution of a CRM application and/or other add-on modules.

A very nice example of how the microsoftware approach can be utilized on an enterprise level. Developers who sign up for the program receive a solution for customizing, repackaging and deploying their application to a niche vertical or industry. A developer can also create add on modules that can then be marketed through the Etelos Store and distributed through Google Gadget Catalog, Netvibes and Pageflakes. I don’t think they will be attacking Salesforce anytime soon, but a really interesting model that takes software distribution off the shoulders of ISVs.

A couple of years ago we were developing an offline Learning Management System (LMS) for the The Dinaledi Maths and Science Initiative, the main problem was that of connectivity. In South Africa the telecom costs are were so high, that although we managed to get all of the computer equipment donated, a week online would cost the equivelant of a teacher’s monthly salary.

The solution we came up with was to develop a CD based LMS, the LMS stored all data locally in a flash shared object (.sol) which is a type of cookie with a lot of storage space. Everytime the LMS was launched it would check whether it was connected and if it was it would send its data to the central LMS located in Johannesburg. In this way we hoped to keep down the connectivity costs, all of the uploading would occur whenever the school went online to pick up its email, which would happen once a week and at the same time it would allow the test and usage results to be aggregated in a central place. In other words, we developed a sometimes connected LMS.

Not an easy task back in 2003. Yesteday however, Google announced the release of Google Gears “… an open source browser extension that lets developers create web applications that can run offline. Google Gears consists of three modules that address the core challenges in making web applications work offline. LocalServer: Cache and serve application resources (HTML, JavaScript, images, etc.) locally. Database: Store data locally in a fully-searchable relational database. WorkerPool: Make your web applications more responsive by performing resource-intensive operations asynchronously … ” Now that would have made our lives a lot easier.

My hope is that offline capabilities will be used to develop sometimes connected applications for those who do not have the kind of fulltime connectivity that most of us take for granted. I am looking forward to the first forum with offline connectivity. Something that would allow learners in schools without full-time connectivity to still participate in global discussions and debates.