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Want to offer something on a membership basis? MemberMan wants to help

(TECH NEWS) MemberMan is not just a member directory and event calendar, but a robust and streamlined interface that encourages social networking between members.

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Simplify your membership

As a member and event leader for an outdoor social organization ten years ago, one of the club features that kept me engaged was the organization of its members and events. A co-founder had created a membership and event database that made it fairly easy to sign up as a member as well as for events. For the technology available at that time, it seemed quite innovative.

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Now members expect more – not just a member directory and event calendar, but a robust and streamlined interface that encourages social networking between members. Currently in beta, MemberMan is a membership database software that seems quite capable of meeting and exceeding those expectations.

One platform to rule them all

MemberMan allows administrators to customize the membership application, payment, and renewal processes, as well as contact management. Users can log in and use a CRM style interface to connect to and engage with other members within their group. The monthly pricing seems quite reasonable compared to other member tracking software, and is based on the number of admins as well as a generous number of members.

MemberMan promises to be a robust solution supported on Heroku with its web application built with Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL database backend integrated with other systems.

The origin story

What impressed me on my first visit to the MemberMan website itself was the blog. I expected the posts to consist of hard pitches for the software as is the case with other product and service sites’ blogs. I was quite pleased to be proven wrong, as each article was informative, relevant, and of great value to the target audience – and not a single self-reference or redirect to “buy this product.”

I was then intrigued by a mildly inconspicuous chat icon in the lower corner of the screen. I decided to test the MemberMan team’s responsiveness during their beta phase through their live chat which was supported by Intercom.

Their chat program uses the Intercom, and in under two minutes I was engaged in a pleasant conversation with founder and creator Ryan Heneise, an entrepreneur with a passion for charities.

With an educational background in organizational leadership, Heneise has worked with nonprofits for most of his career. He grew up in Haiti where his parents and grandparents were missionaries. His grandparents founded the Haiti Hope Fund which supports education, health clinics and the arts, in a country where eighty percent of people live in poverty. Heneise carried on his grandparent’s legacy after they passed away by working with the Haiti Hope Fund.

Heneise has since become a software developer and entrepreneur, and in 2008 created Donortools, a database tool for donor management. In regards to his development of MemberMan, Heneise stated, “I’m thrilled to be working on another app that helps organizations be even better at serving their members.”

The future of MemberMan

After noticing that organizations of which he was a member would let his membership lapse without reminder of renewals, he began researching what membership tracking software was available and found very little. “I realized why,” Heneise stated, “It was time for someone to build something better.”

Heneise’s main goals for MemberMan are to increase member engagement by providing a private online community and self-service portal for members, decrease member “churn,” and increase member retention by preventing members from accidentally lapsing.

“I wanted a tool that would help me to become more engaged in the organizations that I’m involved in. I wanted to be able to connect with fellow members in a meaningful way online. And I wanted it to be fun, unlike the drudgery of using an ordinary database.”

In my role as an event volunteer coordinator, I have used and been unsatisfied with various tools including spreadsheets, Microsoft Access, VolunteerHub, and Shiftboard. I am quite interested in the applicability of MemberMan to organize and retain volunteers for events throughout the year, and foster a more robust and engaged volunteer community.

#MemberMan

Debbie Cerda is a seasoned writer and consultant, running Debra Cerda Consulting as well as handling business development at data-driven app development company, Blue Treble Solutions. She's a proud and active member of Austin Film Critics Association and the American Homebrewers Association, and Outreach Director for science fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin. She has been very involved in the tech scene in Austin for over 15 years, so whether you meet her at Sundance Film Festival, SXSWi, Austin Women in Technology, or BASHH, she'll have a connection or idea to help you achieve business success. At the very least, she can recommend a film to watch and a great local craft beer to drink.

Tech News

Microsoft acquires powerful AI language processor GPT-3, to what end?

(TECH NEWS) This powerful AI language processor sounds surprisingly human, and Microsoft has acquired rights to the code. How much should we worry?

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Code on screen, powering AI technology

The newly-released GPT-3 is the most insane language model in the NLP (natural language processor) field of machine learning. Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 can generate strikingly human-like text for a vast range of purposes like bots and advertising, to poetry and creative writing.

While GPT-3 is accessible to everyone, OpenAI has expressed concerns over using this AI tech for insidious purposes. For this reason, Microsoft’s new exclusive license on the GPT-3 language model may be a tad worrisome.

First of all, for those unfamiliar with the NPL field, software engineer, and Youtuber, Aaron Jack, provides a detailed overview of GPT-3’s capabilities and why everyone should be paying attention.

Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI should come as little surprise since OpenAI uses the Azure cloud platform to access enough information to train their models.

Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott announced the deal on the company blog this week: “We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at Scale,” said Scott.

“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, so we want to make sure that this AI platform is available to everyone – researchers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, businesses – to empower their ambitions to create something new and interesting.”

OpenAI has assured that Microsoft’s exclusive license does not affect the general public’s access to the GPT-3 model. The difference is Microsoft will be able to use the source code to combine with their products.

While OpenAI needs Azure to train these models, handing over the source code to another party is, to put it mildly, tricky. With the earlier GPT-2 model, OpenAI initially refused publishing the research out of fear it could be used to generate fake news and propaganda.

Though the company found there was no evidence to suggest the GPT-2 was utilized this way and later released the information, handing the key of the exponentially more powerful iteration to one company will undoubtedly hold ramifications in the tech world.

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Tech News

What is UI/UX? Take a little time to learn for free!

(TECH NEWS) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.

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Woman browsing web, made easy with UI/UX

There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.

Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.

The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.

According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.

UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.

Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.

The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.

2020 probably isn’t the year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.

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Tech News

Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller

(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.

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Google Meet Series One is a new meeting kit that puts people first.

Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.

Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”

The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.

The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”

The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”

These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”

According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”

Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.

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