Phew! That was a sigh of happiness, relief, excitement, and wonder; if such a sigh can be expressed in text.

Why such emotions all wrapped in a sigh? Yesterday afternoon was the public launch of connec+ipedia. I have been fortunate to be part of the team developing this free, open-source tool designed for those working for the common good—it is a wiki tool with database functionality, allowing you to create content for people, places and things and all the connections between them.

I learned a lot during the last 18 months of work and think many of those lessons apply to many other projects, wikis, and start-ups.

  1. Wikis are for what you don’t know. We were in a unique position: A private foundation was exploring ways to store and share knowledge for use in program work, priority was set on open source and changing the pattern from developing high cost internal tools to something open to the community at large, and it was something many people said no one had really done yet. So, the foundation found two wonderful developers and a contractor (me!) to start building it out and populating it. There was a constant battle between the rigid, established taxonomy originally used to create the topic structure and the fact that wikis are for what you don’t yet know. We needed to develop a way to connect and populate the topic areas we wanted in a way that made possible the creation and growth of all the topics yet to be needed.
  2. Nothing is a secret on the web. We tried to avoid talking about the project.  And we certainly weren’t trying to make a bunch of noise online, but the site did exist live as we were working on it. It was fun and interesting to get emails from folks coming across it on their own and looking around, sending in questions or suggestions, and requesting to be part of the community.
  3. Reaching the launch can be the easiest part. All of the late nights, early mornings, to-do lists, and headaches may seem to indicate that preparing for the public launch is the hardest part of developing a new tool. It is Day 2, and I beg to differ! It is terrific to have the community growing and people excited for this new resource; but our work is certainly not over. The suggestions, the questions, and the bug reports start coming in as fast as we can address them. It is no longer limited to our eyes and ideas but can finally take shape and move into all of those places that we don’t yet know.
    imageAmy Sample Ward’s passion for nonprofit technology has lead her to involvement with NTEN, NetSquared, and a host of other organizations. She shares many of her thoughts on nonprofit technology news and evolutions on her blog.