Impact Chains, Content and eCommerce

Christina Kirabo Jordan said:

Important to note is that every product has it’s own cause-related impact split, so it’s a multi-faceted system on both ends (income and earnings distribution) that we need to manage over the long haul.

Lars Hasselblad Torres said:

So the important piece is the CMS that will drive all of this. I don’t know of any eCommerce platforms that are also good CMS (but then, I’ve never built for eCommerce).

There is one Content Management System (CMS) and eCommerce platform that fits both these requirements; Drupal enhanced with Matt Westgate’s eCommerce module. (Tech comment: Matt’s contribution is much more than a module, it is what developers call a framework; that is, a collection of modules that provide a data architecture and application programming interface that work like pliable clay to be molded to whatever you need.)

One of Sohodojo’s applied research goals is to develop a story-driven and game-oriented eCommerce platform to support microenterprise and small producer supply/impact chains and their alternative markets. To this end, we have installed, tested, and examined the source code of all the most popular and well-supported Open Source CMS and eCommerce platforms.

It is a Matter of What You Don’t See

Virtually any mature, full-featured CMS and eCommerce plaform will have easy-to-see “sexy” features that attract your interest. If all you wanted to do was throw up an Internet store and sell basic products, making your plaform selection based on these visible features would be reasonable.

But when you know that what is special about your business model is that it is different than the run-of-the-mill business, it is what is unseen that is more important than what is seen. That is, your business model will only be realized by custom programming. In this context, it is the unseen source code that is most important, not the platform’s visible features that will determine how successful you will be creating a web environment that brings your business model to life.

We have selected Drupal and eCommerce for two primary reasons:

  • Our interest in story-driven eCommerce requires, precisely as Lars has specified, that we have an ultra-tight integration between the content management aspects of the platform and the eCommerce aspects. Matt’s eCommerce framework is not an independent add-on “world of its own” like virtually all eCommerce add-ons. This means there are virtually no limits to how you can design the shopping/investing experience.
  • To support inprosuming (investing, producing, consuming), our candidate CMS/eCommerce platform had to be both architecturally expressive as well as modular and extensible. This means that when you find something that you just have to have in your design and it is not there, it has to be easy to design the missing piece and seamlessly integrate it into the whole of the system. Conventional eCommerce systems cover consuming well, but they are largely blind to the investing and producing aspects of our interest. Drupal with Matt’s eCommerce is a singular exception to this blindspot.

One of the biggest challenges to achieving Christina’s vision for cause-related impact splits has to do with the design assumptions that virtually every eCommerce platform makes about their solution domains. That is, virtually every eCommerce package assumes that the finest-grained element in the purchase transaction is a product. They handle this requirement admirably well. But cause-related impact splits mean that the product is just one end-bit of a combination of elements (impact points) that are motivating the purchaser’s decision. (We’ve written before about compositional impact points here.)

We know of no other CMS/eCommerce platform than Drupal with Matt’s eCommerce framework that is capable of the deign flexibility required to build the LiA/WE/I4C web portal/presence.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 27th, 2006

Square Pegs and Round Holes

Mark Grimes said:

The other side of this is working with 1,000 global co-ops each with 25 artisans making one different thing each sounds like a merchandising nightmare…to me. That might all do well on Ebay, but it seems like from the outset to incorporate limited resource items into and online and nascent real world chain of stores could be very problematic.

The answer here may not be so clear-cut, especially in the context of the Square Pegs and Round Holes Dilemma. If the idea is to leverage off-the-shelf supply chain software infrastructure (whether physical retail or eCommerce), then this might very well be a nightmare. But if a design-point of the business model is to tap previously untapped consumer dynamics and small producer supply characteristics, then the issue is more a matter of developing system requirements (the round hole) and whittling (extending) a software platform (square peg) to fit it.

This may be more work than going with a canned solution, but if this difference is essential to the business model/brand differentiation strategy, then it is essential to do early and effectively. When it comes to selecting a core system platform, this is an early “make or break” (as opposed to “make or buy”) decision.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 25th, 2006

Tech Talk about the Life In Africa Web Platform

Lars Hasselblad Torres said:

oomph! alot to chew on :) all i can say right now is, “good thing joomla is php cos down the road you can buy some programmers to build you custom modules!”

We hope things are not so far along that the LiA/WE/I4C web platform is committed to Joombla. It is nice, but it is hardly the only modular, extensible, Open Source content management and eCommerce platform that should be considered as candidate solution frameworks for this project.

Framework choice is, unfortunately, one of the most important implementation decisions that will be made in the course of a development project. Like it or not, this decision which is made relatively early in the project lifecycle will have profound repercussions on what can and cannot be done as the platform design evolves.

The technical capabilites of the platform also have to be measured against human factors such as who the initial development team will be and what frameworks do they know and how well do they know them. Also, will maintenance and extension be eventually handed over to a less skilled and less experienced team? Answers to these questions mitigate “better mousetrap” decisions based solely on technical framework design issues.

Quick edit as Lars has posted a further comment prior to this going on-line: Yes, Drupal should be on the short list for solution frameworks. Sohodojo has identified Drupal as our platform of choice for doing applied R&D to support entrepreneurial community ecosystems. This decision was made primarily on the strength of the architectural vision and implementation by Matt Westgate of his Drupal eCommerce framework.

Another nice thing about this selection is that Sohodojo is located in southeast Iowa and Matt (and fellow Drupalist John ‘Workflow’ VanDyk) live in Ames, Iowa north of here. We recently visited with Matt and John when we were in Ames presenting an entrepreneurial community ecosystem paper at a rural economic development conference.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 25th, 2006

Role-based Authentication and the A-Z Profile Spec

Christina Kirabo Jordan said:

Member profile content - a-z

Our first quick reaction is that the a-z profile specification is a good, comprehensive list of the whole “landscape” of a member’s profile. In software development modeling terms, this list would be part of the domain or system boundary model.

In practical terms, that is the world of identity theft and cyber-harassment, we’d recommend that the a-z content of member profiles be wrapped with a role-based permission system where you could have two levels of control:

  • First, LiA should have an overall policy about who gets to see what no matter what the member decides.
  • And the second layer is a degree of latitude that each member would have to further tighten or perhaps loosen (within limits of LiA liability to protect its members) such role-based information access.

While this level of functionality may sound complex to incorporate into the LiA web platform, it is not as hard as it sounds. You start by selecting the right (hopefully Open Source) framework for content management and eCommerce that has flexible and extensible role-based authentication built into it. Many such platforms do have this feature. Setting up content creation, deletion, update, and view rights under such systems is a browser-based admin function, not a matter of programming.

Some Next Steps for A-Z

From a software development consulting standpoint — with you as the client and subject matter expert — our next questions/exercises would be to ask you:

  • How would you logically cluster the a-z list from the point of view of its role-based viewers?
  • What process-based linkage do you you see between items on the a-z list?

The first question gets as the next step of prototyping the user interface and information architecture of the to-be LiA web platform.

The second question begins to address the workflow aspects of how the a-z information relates to role-based use cases of “What is a typical day or task for someone performing X role?” For example, certain of the a-z information is known and member-person specific, so every new member would be know and need to provide this information at the first step of member account creation.

Other bits of the a-z specification are dynamic and can be generated from the member’s activity, such as the list of blogs the member is active on. The same with info about loan servicing activity, etc. In other words, some of the profile is explicitly created and maintained by the member, and some is gathered by examining the state of data in the overall system. This is the kind of information and understanding that is needed to begin building the to-be LiA web platform.

Building the Software Infrastructure for Globalization 3.0

Christina, this is just scratching the surface of what a business process-oriented software designer/developer would do with you in a working relationship to build the LiA web platform. In this sense, the software design and development process for an organization/business is very much like the process of psychological therapy. It is a rigorous and detailed process of self-reflection and values-surfacing that is uniquely valuable to the evolution of the business or organization.

The most interesting thing about the LiA/WE/I4C network is that it is an ideal and real example of what Sohodojo describes as an entrepreneurial community ecosystem. The web-based software platform required to create and sustain such an ecosystem is one of the most important and valuable things that needs to be done in order to unleash the alternative market-creating potential of what Tom Friedman calls Globalization 3.0, that is the Flat World of Empowered Individuals. The LiA/WE/I4C ecosystem is, in other words, a First Mover in Globalization 3.0.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 25th, 2006

ONetizens Growing Interest in Blogging

Ted Ernst said:

When I first started my blog, I posted a How-To for getting started. I never went back to follow-up on the changes I made since the, but maybe it’s useful anyway? http://tedernst.com/wp/?p=32

Hi Ted!

Thanks for posting, especially for the pointer to your how-to article. We encourage you to list your blog, Humanize the Earth!, in the ONet Bloggers Network directory.

By all means share your experience, especially what works best. We didn’t start this group because we are blogging experts but rather because we realize how much we need to learn and learn quickly. We figure that an ONet self-help group process will be a learning multiplier for ourselves as well as other ONetizens.

We also agree with you that Christina and the active Lia/WE/I4C community members are ripe for raising their voices in the blogosphere! :-) Creating sustainable eCommerce-enabled alternative markets will not just be a matter or creating a compelling and efficient web site. It will be a matter or how widely the network marketplace participants can speak out and be heard. So blogging is not just a value for ONet community outreach, blogging will be a vital means of marketplace customer recruitment,

–Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim–

The above post was followed almost immediately with member comments that stimulated us to contribute another bit:

nmw said:

SJT,

could you explain what you mean by “casting a wide net”?

Sure, Norbert… If being marginalized could be reduced to graph theoretical terms it would mean being non-connected, a node with few links. To be non-marginalized in the Network Society (see also Castells book, summary) and its associated Network Economy means having many socioeconomic connections.

Blogging is an excellent means for individuals to connect and to become visible to each other in what Tom Friedman in The World Is Flat calls the domain of Globalization 3.0, that is the world of Empowered Individuals. In this sense, blogging is an excellent way, metaphorically and literally, to cast a wide net(work).

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 24th, 2006

Cast a Wide Net, Literally

Christina Kirabo Jordan said:

I wanna learn how to blog!

Absolutely, Christina. Blogging (AKA weblogging, personal publishing) is a potent empowerment tool. Its ‘ripple effect’ of giving a voice to individuals is amazing.

It is not only important for you to get blogging, it is an essential Flat World life skill for Monica, Kiwanuka, Teopista, and other LiA, WE Center, and I4C folks to learn and use.

While it is great to have a standard web site, web sites are like “content islands”. They are great and a powerful way to have a presence in the world. But you have to get folks to your site. And that is not a trivial challenge.

Blogging is different. Blogging is not just a style of piecemeal, personal diary-style content authoring. Blogging has evolved into a combination of web inter-communication protocols — that is, standardized inter-linkage cross-referencing that creates the blogosphere. Now, with specialized blog content search engines, and specialized tagging systems, blogging is more than just about personal journalism. Blogging is a potent means to become less, or to keep from becoming, marginalized as an individual in the increasingly Flat World of Globalization 3.0.

One of our goals with this group is to create a kind of self-support learning center where ONetizens can learn and share what they know about blogging. So, by all means, we invite and encourage all LiA, WE Center, and I4C folks to join this group and have fun learning how to reach out and have a voice in the world.

–Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim–

Add comment January 24th, 2006

Toto… We’re not in Kansas (Kampala or Kanpur) anymore!

Following the Yellow Brick Road, courtesy of MPTV.net Dorothy uttered these now famous words, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. She and her pet dog were swept up in the whirlwind of a tornado that magically transported them to the imaginary Utopian world of Oz.

Were Dorothy to comment on the emerging cyclonic world that Tom Friedman characterizes as Globalization 3.0 in The World Is Flat, she might have included the other lo-K-tions in this post’s title. In the emerging world of globally connected, Empowered Individuals, geographic location is no longer the overwhelming determiner of opportunity and quality of life that it has been throughout history.

We’re making this point in response to comments by Jeff Mowatt and Wendy Kelly in the ned: philanthropic franchise conversation on Omidyar.net:

Jeff Mowatt said (our emphasis [context] added):

…I’m trying to ascertain whether NED [Networked Enterprise Development] aims to achieve this [financial and market sustainability] externally by virtue of being a franchised version of something like an OXFAM shop, offering fair trade goods from developing countries to Western markets and thereby opening markets for micro-enterprises in the developing world. [snip]

On the other hand, could this franchise be deployable in developing world locations on the ground? In this way engaging local people to produce competitively with a free market system and earn at least a living wage, at the same time setting aside funds committed to development of new enterprises.

The former would in my mind be sustained philanthropy and the latter sustained self-determination. Is NED both of these things?

Along similar lines, Wendy Kelly said (our emphasis [context] added):

I am in Nelson BC (shangrila [British Columbia, Canada]) we are the perfect size (10,000) progressive small town. Small Walmart, but vibrant downtown. TONS of fair trade here. Our own coffee (organic, fair trade, excellent) [snip]

Thoughts are that it is necessary; we should be careful about expecting people to buy stuff just because they should (mentioned above); also, do we need to go overseas? Could we not buy and sell small town local stuff at NED? [snip…] if we are there to connect small communities, wouldn’t it be more on target to sell stuff made by other small towns (or small city neighbourhoods) that don’t have access to large exposure?

All good to have the African/Asian, etc stuff as well, but just thinkging that there are tons of local artists here (and in other artsy small towns) that could benefit from having the exposure of NED. As David Suzuki said, it’s time to think local, act local.

Jeff and Wendy, as we have replied before within the Ned conversation, these are all excellent and timely questions. They are, in fact, profound questions when taken in light of the emergence of Globalization 3.0. (See this recent post for Flat World globalization era context.)

When Nations and Corporations Become Background Noise

As the world flattens throughout the emerging era of Globalization 3.0, nations and multinational corporations increasingly become background noise. This is not to say that nations and giant corporations are not powerful and influential anymore. Rather, and this is a vital undercurrent message in Friedman’s book, today’s ICT (Information, Communication, and Transportation) technologies empower the Individual to imagine and then realize his or her own place in the world.

And, thanks to these ICT technologies, our Individual place in the world is no longer strictly bounded by geography nor by the organizations with which we are affiliated.

To say that Globalization 3.0 is the era of the Empowered Individual is not glib hyperbole. This is a challenge to revolutionize the way each of us looks at and behaves in the world.

Paradigm Shift: From Developing Nations to Developing Individuals

The World Is Flat in a Nutshell Globalization 1.0 and 2.0 were about developed countries and developing countries. International aid was about exchange between nations and insurgency (benevolent and otherwise) by multinational corporations as they set up and/or moved their operations for market access and economic advantage.

Globalization 3.0 is about developed individuals and developing individuals.

In Globalization 1.0 and 2.0, developing countries struggled to overcome the devastating impact of being marginalized. That is, they struggled to overcome the impact of being denied access and participation in the world’s political and economic systems.

During Globalization 3.0, our challenge as Individuals is to work our way out of, or to work to keep from becoming, marginalized as Individuals. In the 21st century, there are hundreds of millions of marginalized Individuals. These masses are struggling in New York just as sure are they are struggling in New Delhi. You’ll find them in rural Kansas just as sure as you will find them in urbanized Kampala.

Sure, there has always been poverty everywhere. But marginalization in the era of Globalization 3.0 is not a unidimensional, socioeconomic phenomena that can be reduced to a matter of money. Marginalization in Globalization 3.0 will have many faces and many battlefronts. It is as likely to be found in the home of a forced-retirement IT worker in suburban Minneapolis as it is to be found in a hut in a rural village of Banda Aceh. It will be found in the farmhouses of rural Iowa as well as in the urban ghettos of Rio de Janeiro.

The reality for each of us is this: In the hyper-competitive world of Globalization 3.0, nation-states and giant corporations are going to have their hands full just taking care of themselves and their already enfranchised citizenry and customers. We will have a very long wait if we expect our lives as Empowered Individuals to be handed to us on silver platters from the governments where we live, or from the corporations from which we buy things or where we work.

The Globalization 3.0 Challenge: Wealthshifting from the Big Three

Becoming an Empowered Individual in the Flat World of Globalization 3.0 is exciting and, let’s be honest, a bit scary. It can be scary to know that we are quite literally on our own. But paradoxically, what makes our Globalization 3.0 lives scary is what makes them exciting as well.

As Empowered Individuals of Globalization 3.0, we all share the same fundamental goal. Our shared goal is to shift wealth from the Big Three to the rest of us. The Big Three are nation-states, multinational corporations, and the world’s wealthiest individuals who have more money than most of us can imagine.

Our means to achieving this shift of wealth is not through violent revolution nor any other form of replacing an existing One Right Way with yet another, different One Right Way.

Our means to empowering Individuals in the Globalization 3.0 world will be to envision alternatives in how we organize to do work and create economic and social value, and in how we envision and create markets. Nothing short of a revolutionary alternative — an alternative, not a replacement — of our understanding of, and strategies for, investment, production, and consumption will achieve the scale of social and economic change that is possible in the Globalization 3.0 era.

When enough of us make this shift in how we think about ourselves and how we think about our world and the power of our place in it, the full potential of Globalization 3.0 will begin to be realized. The cyclone of change of Globalization 3.0 will pluck each of us from our homes in Kansas, Kampala, and Kanpur and we will find ourselves networked, hand-in-hand, in the Flat World of Empowered Individuals.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 9th, 2006

Are You Experienced?

John Berger said (our emphasis added):

[snip] But is it reasonable or creditworthy to set up an e-commerce model without significant marketing or other component (ned) that will drive people to the site?

Do you have any idea how many billions of dollars have been spent on ecommerce sites that never worked. [snip] Basically she did everything right absent being able to spend a lot of money on marketing. End result ?? she is lucky to get a handful of sales every month.

E-commerce sites only seem like they are cheap to set up, but they need a ton of capital, luck, or a really unique product to succeed.

This is why ned could be really cool. A distribution platform that people go into for a core product and experience but which can be used to market products at a lower cost. Perhaps the sneaker-net beats the internet?

The World Is Flat in a Nutshell Absolutely, John! And we detect a growing Globalization 3.0 Small Is Good World insight creeping into your thoughtful contributions. Your comments above and the recent lively thread of discussion relevant to the financial implications for Ned partnering and distribution strategy further support our point most recently addressed in this reply to Mark. We were responding to Mark’s concern that ‘reinventing consumerism’ might be too limiting a vision for Ned. In our reply we noted that Ned would be both “the obvious plus something more,” and that this meant Ned needs to ultimately differentiate itself on an “unstuff (non-product) dimension” of the emerging Globalization 3.0 Flat World.

In the Big Is Good World of Globalization 2.0, price-sensitive market/brand differentiation was pretty much tied to offering options based on perceived quality and/or service and/or support.

Globalization 3.0’s emerging Flat World of Empowered Networked Individuals creates a new, truly revolutionary opportunity to reinvent consumerism — that is, to shift (some, not all) consumer/market dynamics from a stuff/product focus to an experience/community focus.

A screenshot of Fast Company's cover story issue, Your Job Is Change Using distribution partnerships, such as TTV and WoG channels, is a form of change insurgency strategy that is not just good business but a necessary extension of the recruitment network needed to expose folks to Ned’s secret sauce — that is, as John referred to it above, Ned’s experience, its community/commerce-platform that will distinguish it in the marketplace now and, more importantly, into the future.

As you read or reread Tom Friedman’s The World Is Flat, notice how frequently he keeps reminding us that flattening is an ongoing process. As flat as the world is now, it will become hyper-flat in the years ahead. Using a diversified distribution and partnering strategy is how Ned rides the ebbing wave of Globalization 2.0. Having a radically innovative vision to be the first-mover in an experience-based, “unstuff”, inprosuming, Globalization 3.0 marketplace… this is what will ultimately leverage Ned into being the Next Big Thing.

In this context, it is not so much that sneaker-net beats the internet as it is that in the ever-flattening Flat World, Globalization 3.0 nets (AKA network marketplaces) will sustainably compete with (and in time on their own terms, beat) Globalization 2.0 nets.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 6th, 2006

Reinventing Consumerism: No One Right Way

Mark Grimes said (our emphasis added):

Jim and Timlynn…I dig the new blog, very cool. WRT to reinventing consumerism, while I agree personally, I also think there needs to include all levels of engagement. Some people just want their coffee for the day, and that’s okay too.

Absolutely agreed. Reinventing does not mean replacing. We don’t want to throw out the old One Right Way for a new One Right Way. It’s about alternatives and choice. There are certainly both deep and surface shoppers in our vision of the Flat World’s expanded marketplace of Globalization 3.0.

What will ‘hook’ the surface shopper is the “gravity” of the underlying deep shoppers’ experience-based community. These surface-folks will be thinking, “Hey, there’s something different and interesting going on here,” and “I may just grab a cuppa joe today, but I know I feel good about being even a small part of what is going on here.” Over time some non-trivial number of surface folks will dive deeper.

If we don’t shoot for something radically innovative and seductively compelling, Ned could end up being just another exercise in stretching the do-good/feel-good strategy of traditional retailing and marketing. “Fair trade” is fast becoming just two ubiquitous words on packaging akin to “New, Improved.”

This doesn’t mean that you have to bet the Ned farm on an “all or nothing” innovation strategy. But it does mean that you have to have a deep and compelling mission/vision from the start. That mission has to set the bar very high for what will be the Next Big Thing. Being just a tweak on 10,000 Villages or OXFAM isn’t good enough.

The Hungry Consumer isn’t yearning to fill him or herself with yet more stuff. They want something that the Big Is Good World hasn’t delivered and isn’t capable of producing.

Ned will be wildly successful to the extent that it deeply understands and delivers the “unstuff” dimension of the Globalization 3.0 marketplace of empowered Individuals.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 4th, 2006

If ‘Second Life’ can do it, so can Ned

Norman Rockwell's idyllic Tom Sawyer Painting the Fence Christina, this is a vital and most interesting topic. We are ruminating on your specific ideas and provocative questions and will respond accordingly.In the meantime, we’d like to bring folks’ attention to this piece, What Tom Sawyer Knew, our recent contribution to the MicroFinance Marketplace conversation. This piece is probably more appropriate to this conversation than the MFM project-specific conversation where it was originally posted.

In particular, consider closely this referenced article, ‘Second Life’ membership now free. The last paragraph is particularly suggestive (see sidebar, our emphasis added).

Heck, if we can’t get creative and provide an community-rich on-line experience that rivals or surpasses an imaginary virtual world, then we should hang up our social entreprenurial shoes and head for the Old Folks Home.

In other words, forget about ROI, sell experience!

This discussion fits squarely in Sohodojo’s interest in the reinvention of consumerism to what we’ve called inprosumerism, that is, the experience-based involvement of the empowered Individual to participate in the full cycle of investment, production and consumption rather than being a bottomless sucking ashcan at the end of a product-pushing supply chain.

Here’s a link to our ONet blog’s Inprosumer category page where the individual blog posts contain links back to their source ONet conversations.

–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–

Add comment January 4th, 2006

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