Tuesday, October 16

Convio practices what they preach

What's more impressive - that Convio is announcing their own Open API today OR that they reached out to fundraising bloggers last week and gave them advanced notice that an announcement was coming?

Word first leaked out on A View from Home yesterday afternoon. Beth Kantor read the post and shared that she too had been tipped in advance:

I received an embargoed press release in my email about Convio's Open Initiative. Blogger's angst. Do you post first and scoop all? Have to be pretty confident about your opinion. Or do you sit back and read what others are saying and add to the conversation? I tend to do the latter if I'm jet lagged. I tend to the former if I've had lots of sleep, know a lot about the topic, and a strong reaction.
Within hours, blogs like Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology, the NTEN blog, Acceleration Agent, and the Nonprofit Matrix were all lighting up Technorati with posts about Convio's Open Initiative.

If it's true that Convio has, seemingly, gotten some serious Web 2.0 religion... what better way to prove it than to create buzz on the network of nonprofit fundraising blogs in a coordinated fashion. At least they practice what they preach.

The coordination with bloggers not only gave Convio widespread coverage, it also allowed them better control of the message. While Kintera might have been beaten them to the announcement, Convio is stressing some significant differences in the product.

The Convio Open Initiative is a combination of applications, integration tools, APIs (application programming interfaces) and partnerships. It is more than just APIs, but extensions and "database connectors." In the end, it will come down to execution... and at least for now, it appears Convio's approach is more focused on an outward, community approach.

One of the first products launched as part of Convio Open is a client-ready Facebook application that will help nonprofits leverage the personal networks of Facebook’s 40M+ subscribers to virally market on behalf of organizations they support, providing nonprofits with a major channel for new supporter acquisition. The extension will allow organizations to present personalized content to Facebook users, who can complete actions on behalf of an organization without leaving the Facebook site. Organizations can track both activities they facilitate and the origin of any new supporter from Facebook.. This data is stored in the organization’s Convio online constituent relationship management (eCRM) system. The application is available to users in on a limited basis in beta format at http://open.convio.com/.
The folks in Austin will be demonstrating Convio APIs at the Annual Convio Client Summit on Thursday. The changes should allow integration between Convio and custom Web applications, extensions that allow integration with open platforms such as Facebook, Flickr and Plaxo, and database connectors for popular donor/constituent databases such as Salesforce.com.

We'd love to hear feedback from users of both systems.


Mike H. said...

I wonder if they would have received the same level of cooperation from the blogosphere if they didn't make some writers feel special with the advanced info...

Sally Ann said...

it sure sounds cheaper than paying to have your PR put out on press release wire services

Beth Kanter said...

Here's another post from a blogger

Non-Profits Online said...

My experiences are that Convio doesn't know how to practice what they preach. I've been completeley dissapointed with the knowlege base over at Convio. They have soooooo many bugs in their systems and seem unable to fix any of them. Their customer service is also very bad. I wouldn't tell anyone to go with their platform until they deal with their serious technical and management issues.

abenamer said...

I don't give a crap about scooping other bloggers, especially when in this case the stakes are so high. Open APIs are something that the nptech community have been behind for more than a year so we really need to get it right. I've been somewhat disappointed with the quality of the coverage so far since very few of the bloggers who had the early posts even bothered to look at the API documentation for both Kintera and Convio. In the haste to post, I feel that good judgement was left behind. In the final analysis, do not let a vendor's charm offensive move you to post. It turns out that Kintera's API is superior to Convio's API but you can't tell that until you read the API docs. I think this is where IT director experience comes in very handy. You end up being somewhat leery of vendor claims until you see the product at hand. When I realized that I would only have a few hours before the availability of open.convio.com and the actual embargoed time (which Judi should have respected -- sigh) then I realized it would be a no-go for me. And this is where programmer experience comes in handy as well because as a coder you judge an API 's worth mostly by the methods that are available in it to invoke. It's simply not a good idea to make sweeping judgments about the relative worth of a vendor's open API strategy if you either don't take the time to look at their product or don't have the chops to evaluate their API. I know Tad (Convio's Communications Director) is a great guy but the Convio API is lacking a lot of functionality that the Kintera API provides.