Disappointed at Blackbaud

For those who don’t know, Commonground is a donor management system, formerly owned by a company called Convio. Convio was acquired by another (larger) company called Blackbaud earlier this year. At the end of August, Blackbaud announced their decision to retire Commonground…

It wasn’t only their business decision to pull the plug (here’s an excellent post about this), but the way it was handled, that makes me so deeply dissapointed at Blackbaund (and by extension at Convio) for showing so little care about the customers they had on this platform… indeed, for continuing to cultivate new customers for the platform at conferences earlier this year (read: we, at the Diabetes Hands Foundation) while not being certain of the future of the product.

As of today, there’s no searchable way to find information about their decision on the Blackbaud web site. Someone got an email from them and has made this link to the announcement from that email communication public… shameful that they don’t own their decision in a visible way and face the criticism it deserves from the 700+ customers that use the product. A streamlined version of this email found its way to the Commonground page of the Convio web site after we heard the news early last week:

It’s not just me, criticizing this decision (I am just a customer, and certainly not an expert at these kinds of software product). Robert Weiner, one of the world’s most knowledgeable people about donor management systems, wrote a very insightful post on Blackbaud’s decision to kill Commonground.

For what it’s worth, I as you to please sign this petition:

and I share below, the email I sent out to Melanie Matos, Senior PR person at Blackbaud. I know she cares, so I know she will pass this along to the right people. What will they do? We can only hope they think a bit more about their customers and this decision will do to them…

Hello Melanie,
I am reaching out to you as the Senior PR person at Blackbaud.

I was very disappointed at the way the announcement of the discontinuation of support for CommonGround was handled:
1) At the NTC event in SF, we were told by people at the booth, when I specifically asked about the future of CommonGround that there was no overlap with existing BB products, and CG was indeed one of the main reasons why Convio was being acquired by BB.
2) The way we learned about the discontinuation of the product was not directly but by way of the consultant we worked with in the implementation, several days after some people (who knows who) received a communication from Blackbaud about the decision… how about involving the customers and informing them first? You know who were are and we deserved at least that courtesy.
3) Last, although I copied BlackBaud in a recent tweet about this, I received absolutely no acknowledgement from the company.

We spent $4,000+ in the implementation of CG and dozens of staff hours in researching systems, finding that CG was the best option, getting the system up and running… and now we will have to budget for changing to a new system. Most likely, given this experience, it won’t be a Blackbaud solution.

I will be blogging about this. The way the decision was made and he announcement was handled shows very little care for the customer on the part of Blackbaud. Indeed, if you try to find information on the announcement through the web site… there’s none!

I am profoundly disappointed at Blackbaud and hope you can convey this to the higher ups.

Science 2.0 Catching Up?

I have apologized so many times about my absence from this blog, that I figured I’d stop doing it and just post whenever I can and… so be it! 🙂

A friend of mine shared a NY Times article tonight with a group of us that brought me out of my blogging withdrawal, a piece titled “Cracking Open the Scientific Process” that questions the process of peer-reviews in medicine and scientific journals.

This article is more than just on to something: it’s in line with the future… mash-ups, crowdsourcing, social sharing, web 2.0… call it what you want… As a matter of fact, in many areas this is not the future but rather the way the present is lived and breathed. But the world of scientific research has been slow to adopt Web 2.0 trends.

The truth is information wants to be free and be shared and it will be! A few years ago who would have given ANY credibility to what a bunch of patients living with a chronic disease had to say about the disease they live with 24/7. Today, the Diabetes Online Community is a force that influences legislation, research, product development, you name it…

Researchers that are closed and not willing to share in their approach may be able to “run” but they can’t hide. Funders are realizing more and more that this kind of “my precious!” type of research has produced very slow progress in many fronts. They are seeing promising trends like the partnership between Innocentive and JDRF around a $100,000 challenge for innovative ways to approach the discovery and development of a glucose-responsive insulin drug as a means to treat insulin-dependent diabetes…

Another great example of this trend can be seen in Boston-based nonprofit T1D Exchange. They developed Glu, a new portal for people with type 1 diabetes, as a means to communicate with the community and to advance diabetes research through surveys and studies. You can read more about this initiative in this recent interview with Jen Block, their Clinical Content Manager.

Could a cure for type 1 emerge from the information voluntarily-shared by people living with type 1 diabetes? Perhaps. Could we as a community (of patients and researchers) learn more from it? You bet! I know we have done so through TuDiabetes and TuAnalyze, with a universe of participants of just over 3,000 people touched by diabetes. Imagine the potential!

So, the flood-gates of information sharing in the scientific world are opening. Who is ready for what is coming?

Disclaimer: Diabetes Hands Foundation (where I serve as President) has collaborated with T1D Exchange in the development of Glu.

Networked: How Much is Too Much?

Update: I was prompted to revisit this post, originally written in June of 2007, after I read a great entry written by Dr. Casado, titled “El Que Segmenta, Gana” (The person who segments, wins).

Also relevant to this topic, the post from earlier in 2011 “10 ways to clean up your Twitter feed“.



(Design: Mat Giordano)

“Each of us will belong to between 12 and 24 online and/or mobile communities by 2010, and our power to do good things and disrupt old industries will be unique and radiant.” – David Silver, Smart Start-Ups

Reading this phrase recently made me wonder how many communities am I currently a part of? This was the tally I arrived at:

  • Propeller: the Student Portal I manage at Full Sail. (2011 Update: no longer working there)
  • Last.FM: to share the music I listen, so can find
 more new music to listen (2011 Update: left it in 2009, when Last.FM sold out)
  • Twitter: to share what I do in a micro-blog fashion (2011 Update: I share but I also listen a lot… it’s a great tool to stay on top of topics you care about by NOT following a ton of people)
  • Flickr: where I share my photos and comment on friends’ photos (2011 Update: still use it but gradually less and less)
  • YouTube: I mean, who doesn’t know YouTube? (2011 Update: fairly active member, mostly contributing content and featuring other people’s content)
  • LinkedIn: for business purposes. (2011 Update: one of the top networking resources I use)
  • Del.icio.us: to share interesting web sites I run into (2011 Update: very rarely use it. Have found Evernote to be just as useful)
  • Digg: allows me to “vote” on links, though at times it gets a little annoying (2011 Update: I still have an account or two, but I almost never go there)
  • MySpace: to listen to music, once in a while (2011 Update: … rings a bell…)
  • Facebook: starting to warm up to it, but really not something I am on constantly (2011 Update: I have warmed up to it… and use it daily, so do nearly 700 million people around the world)
  • TuDiabetes: the social network for people touched by diabetes in English that we founded in 2007. Now it has  more than 20,000 members.
  • Amazon.com: people can now comment on other people’s reviews (2011 Update: I continue to occasionally write a review, but I can no longer dedicate much time to it, as I used to a few years ago)
  • Kinzin: a social network for families (2011 Update: no longer a member + they are no longer a family-oriented, but a group-oriented photo-sharing site)

New communities, from June 2007 until June 2011:

  • EsTuDiabetes: when I wrote this article, we still hadn’t started EsTuDiabetes, our social network for people touched by diabetes in Spanish, now with almost 14,000 members.
  • Quora: I was VERY excited about it at the beginning of the year. I still think it has potential, but I haven’t found it to be useful for a lot of the things I would use it for. This is to say I have gotten very little value out of it so far.
  • Yelp: since I moved to the Bay Area, it has become a must-use resource to help choose places to eat, car shops, you name it!
  • SlideShare: a fantastic resource for sharing and embedding documents and presentations.
  • UStream: a monthly user in connection with Video-Chat sessions we host on EsTuDiabetes. Now it integrates beautifully into networks on Ning.
  • Wikipedia: I know it may sound like an odd “community” to list, but behind the troves of articles there is a vibrant community that I have made an effort to contribute to as part of the lessons I learned las year.
  • Ping: Apple’s half-rear-ended approach to do what LaLa used to do. I basically just “Like” songs once in a while to share them via Twitter here and there…

In 2007, I was a member of 13 communities where I participated in on a regular basis! Fast forward to 2012, the number is… (drumroll)… 13! Not much as changed, huh? I guess the level of engagement has changed and having a clear idea of what each community/network is for, realizing that you get what you put into it.


(from this point on, the post is the same as in 2007)

So, I begin to wonder: how much is too much? After all, all of these online communities do add something to my life in one way or another, don’t they? Or is it possible I may be letting other things pass by the side by spending too much time online?

Social Networking Fatigue and Other Online Ailments
A while back, I was filling up my tank at a nearby gas station and noticed an ad above the pump that said: “Has ‘Pay at the pump’ made us lonelier people?” and went on to invite you to hop in to talk to the cashier once in a while, instead of always using your card to pay outside.

That little message stuck with me. In today’s social media environment, we claim to have more “friends”, yet how many people do we really get to talk to, how many folks could we claim we really know. Not too many: like a comment on this post said, “… having friends is about not just sharing information, but responding uniquely and interacting with said friend.”

Is the solution to unplug ourselves in order to deal with the Social Networking Fatigue that comes from dealing with hundreds of people? Should we go cold turkey and erase our names from the Social Networks of the world (good luck with getting Google to wipe you out!)?

That may be a bit extreme, because we’d loose the real opportunity that these tools give us to connect or reconnect with the people we can’t physically stay in touch with. But, in general, we have lost some of that “touch” that things used to have.

Remember the movie Cars? The whole organic experience that Route 66 used to bring to the lives of travelers was substituted by the speed that the Interstate brought to their trips, getting them quicker to where they were going to, but loosing them the chance to really connect with others during their trip through the Southwest desert.

I don’t think there’s any going to go back to our pre-online times (nor does it make sense), but next time you realize it’s been hours since you last spoke to someone, turn off the monitor, grab your keys and go pump gas somewhere. Just remember to say “Hi!” to the guy inside when you do! 😉