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Sakai and Moodle Comparison and Project ReDuplication in General

Project re-Duplication? Well that's a crazy idea that people would not only duplicate a project, but re-duplicate on top of that. Except that it happens all the freaking time!

Project Cooperation vs. Competition

Zack from CivicSpaceLabs has done a comparison of Moodle and Sakai.

Either one of those projects could/should easily be integrated/absorbed into other Content Management Frameworks which is his kind of his point today.

It's interesting to me in terms of how/why people make decisions and why the various big funders he mentions threw so much money at what seems from his description as the wrong solution.

a personal non-profit experience

I went to a meeting a few months ago with a neighborhood organization that was just starting up. They are taking a $180,000 grant from the federal government and providing services that are largely already provided by other organizations. One person at the meeting said "this is not a big enough amount of money to actually start a group and actually do any good, we should just give the money to some of the organizations that already do similar things and ask them to expand into this area." The response he got ended my involvement with that group. Various people said things like "it's small, but hopefully we can grow it" and then another woman said "I've started over 25 non-profits in my life and they all start out small and then do some good work, get more money, and grow bigger."

hey, let's waste some (more) money!

In case you don't have my same thought process, that comment disturbed me. I can't imagine that all or even most of those 25 non-profits actually provided a new benefit, nor that they actually served a new population or a new need in the world. So, I can only assume that much like the meeting I was in that day, she had started 25 non profits to do the same thing as many other organizations drastically increasing the cost of providing the services without improving community benefits.

I believe in competition (even for non profits) and I believe in diversity of providers/suppliers to ensure that under served populations can get a benefit, that new solutions can be tested out in one system and then implemented in other areas if their is a benefit. But...this diversity comes at a cost of duplicated effort. In the world of non-profits and software projects, there is an enormous desire to decide to "build your own" rather than work within an existing system. For businesses, there is an economic Darwin effect where a business that doesn't provide a good enough service or provides a duplicate service just fails. In the case of non-profits and software projects, the slow, old, and sickly animals just limp along with the herd and provide confusion, misallocation of resources, and wasted effort.

reducing search costs - the "solution"

Fortunately, the "solution" to these problems (at least in my mind) is a reduction of "search costs" in comparing the offerings. If you knew the non-profit was wasting your money, would you give them the money? For charities, you can figure that out by going to places like Charity Watch or the BBB wise giving alliance or the Charity Navigator . It's like the SEC for non profits. Ironically, there's almost too many "charity watchdog" sites! For software (and specifically content management frameworks, the stuff I care about) - the "watchdog" sites aren't nearly as clear. Plus, it's a pretty complex and dynamic field. Places like CMS Review and
OSCOM and CMS Watch provide information, but there are claims of bias, funding "irregularities", and incompetence on those sites. I have used maybe 3 or 4 of these kinds of sites, but am I really qualified to provide input comparing those? I would ideally want a couple of weeks with each system to really get an idea of how good they are before I provided that input...and I just don't have that.

What the heck am I trying to say?

So, basically, there are plenty of projects out there that are worthy of people joining and donating money/time. However, at least in the fields of Non-Profits and Software, it seems to be more fun to reinvent the wheel even though that can be really wasteful. It's fine to create a new project if it serves a new purpose, but people should be really thorough in their due diligence and, if possible, work within an existing organization to change it and move it towards the new needs. It can be harder and less fun to work within an existing organizations, it's the better thing to do.

People Involved: