The long tail of applications is inevitably going to include a good number of oddball examples, but my blog posting yesterday may have missed the mark in mocking Evacuee Management, one of several dozen internally developed contributions to Salesforce.com's AppExchange marketplace, which launched on Monday.
It turns out that there's a compelling real-world example of this particular application making a contribution to relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: katrinalist.net. As of Wednesday, the database contained names of 537,180 Katrina missing and found, all entered through a combination of volunteer data entry and data-scraping of other sources such as news reports and online classified listings. According to David Geilhufe, the driving force behind the project, katrinalist.net isn't the first port of call for tracking down people displaced by the emergency — he recommends starting with the American Red Cross "Katrina Safe" database, as well as Yahoo People Finder.
But katrinalist.net has more names and was up first, thanks to its on-demand architecture, whereas, according to Geilhufe's blog, Microsoft (which donated software and resources for Katrina Safe) and Yahoo each had to send teams of engineers out to Houston to get their database projects under way.
When Marc Benioff set up Salesforce.com, he made a commitment that's all too rare in the corporate world: he put one percent of the equity into a separate charity, the Salesforce.com Foundation, and determined to donate one percent of profits and one percent of employee time to non-profit and volunteer work. Through the foundation (which because of its equity stake had $15 million worth of stock options vested when Salesforce.com went public), several hundred non-profits use salesforce.com's CRM application for free.
With that background, it's perhaps not so odd that three of the 70 AppExchange applications at launch happen to target non-profits. If anyone knows of any other interesting or heartwarming examples where these applications have been put to productive use (especially Appforce Pet Finder), I'd love to hear about them. Seriously.