CCMA09: IS4C!

— Tak Tang, Wedge Community Co-op & Joel Brock, People’s Food Co-op

FOSS_coops

The final workshop of the conference.  An IS4C demonstration, including its history and its evolution, leading all the way up to the latest releases of Fannie.  I got to co-present this workshop with the esteemed Tak Tang, who i have had the pleasure of working with many times in the past.  Tak gave a quick walkthrough of the steps that led up to the Wedge Co-op deciding to build their own POS system.

  1. Can i see a list of what we sell?
  2. Can i see just this one item and what it costs?
  3. Can i see a few items and get their total?
  4. Uh.  This is almost a POS already…

Of course, 10,000 lines of code later, IS4C is running successfully in production at 5 co-ops in the US.  These range in size from ~$2M to ~$30M in annual sales.  But even once the software was ready, it wasn’t going to do anyone else any good because there was no back end to the program.  You couldn’t create, edit or destroy any info in the POS without knowing your way through byzantine back channels of the system.

Enter Fannie.

One of my contributions to the overall project has been the creation of a unified backend that we call Fannie, which fits directly on top of IS4Cs existing databases.  The missing piece was in place.

I gave a brief demo of Fannie’s features.  Then a not-so-brief explanation of why i feel it is so important that co-ops be looking at open-source solutions to common problems, such as POS.  In a nutshell:  Values-based businesses such as cooperatives, need to address every business decision from the perspective of, “How will the outcome of this decision further or hinder the achievement of our ends?”  We do this with produce-bying, we do this with office supplies, but we almost never consider the social impact of our software choices.  Is it because we don’t fel like we have a choice?  Is it because Microsoft really is in line with our mission, vision, and values?  Given the choice (and we do have a choice) shouldn’t co-ops be opting for the software that encourages community, voluntary participation, active democracy, and cooperation?  Rhetorical question.  Yes, a thousand times yes.  Open source software is this values-based solution.  And co-ops need to stop drawing imaginary lines in the sand across which their ethics no longer need apply.  IS4C is one such open source, cooperative solution.

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