GiveCamp

Indy GiveCamp 2012 Recap

Between building a new phone app, playing with a new Surface, and attending exciting development community events, I almost completely forgot to write about this year’s Indy GiveCamp. A few weeks have passed since the event and my memory is a bit fuzzy so this will be a little sparse but I better capture what I can remember.

Indy GiveCamp was held October 5-7. Once again MID Technologies was kind enough to allow our group of more than 40 software professionals to use their facility for the weekend so we could help five organizations achieve their goals through better use of technology. As a bonus, we had enough unregistered volunteers to offset the number of no-show volunteers so we were able to assign a few people to work on the Indy GiveCamp site too.

This year’s non-profits were:

Indy Irish Fest's Old Home Page

Indy Irish Fest’s Old Home Page

I was the lead for the Indy Irish Fest project. Indy Irish Fest is an all-volunteer organization whose mission is to preserve, promote, and nurture Irish culture, arts, music and history. 2012 marked their 17th annual festival.

The organization has been living for years with a site that was becoming dated and increasingly difficult to maintain. It was cluttered and information was often hard to locate. Additionally, the site was static HTML built and modified with FrontPage. To make matters worse, sometime shortly before GiveCamp the FrontPage visual editor started choking on some HTML and forcing them to make changes to the HTML directly.

After a lot of discussion with Mary and Terry from Irish Fest about their goals for the site and with the help of the two volunteer designers we were able to modernize their site and transform it into one that they could use to better spread their message without the friction of FrontPage.

Indy Irish Fest's New Home Page

Indy Irish Fest’s New Home Page

We reorganized most of the content, promoting the most important things, and demoting some of the less important things. We made it easy for visitors to locate cultural events in the cultural calendar, to sign up for the mailing list, and find content through a search. We also made it easy for visitors to connect with the festival through various social media outlets with focus on Facebook and Twitter.

GiveCamp is one of the few outlets for software professionals to use their talents to give something back to their local community. I was excited to work with such talented people on the Irish Fest site and once again proud to be part of a larger effort where five organizations were given the help they needed to enter their next chapter.

I’m already planning on volunteering next year. If you can spare a weekend I really recommend joining in on the action. You won’t be disappointed.

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Indy GiveCamp: October 5 – 7

Many non-profit organizations struggle to carry out their mission effectively because they don’t have the IT resources to get the software tools that will support them. At the same time, there aren’t many outlets where software professionals can utilize their specialized skills to contribute something meaningful back to the communities in which they live.

GiveCamp events across the country are filling this gap one weekend at a time by bringing non-profit organizations together with small teams of developers, designers, DBAs, and other software related roles to build something that will help the organization carry out its mission more effectively.  GiveCamp can’t do it without your help though.

This year’s Indy GiveCamp is being held October 5-7 and volunteers are still needed to maximize the number of organizations we can serve.  I understand that an entire weekend is a major time commitment but given that this is my second year participating I can personally attest to how rewarding the experience is.

Last year my team changed how Heart in Education Teacher Outreach (HETO), an Indianapolis-based organization that connects Indiana teachers with teachers in Honduras, promotes its mission, recruits teachers, and accepts donations.  We built a new WordPress-based site that was easier for the organization’s leadership to maintain, organized the site in a manner that focused on their objectives, and extended volunteer involvement by placing the HETO Facebook feed on the homepage.  The site is now the go-to resource for all things HETO.

If you’re in the Indianapolis area and can spare the time for a great cause I highly recommend that you volunteer.  Don’t worry if Indianapolis isn’t convenient for you though since there are GiveCamp events all over the country – just check the upcoming events calendar on the national site.

I Survived My First GiveCamp!

I did it!  I made it through my first GiveCamp!  For the benefit of those not familiar with GiveCamp it’s a weekend-long event where technologists donate their time to provide software solutions to non-profit organizations that otherwise could not afford them.

When we say “weekend-long” we mean it.  This was a caffeine-fueled 48 hour marathon of requirements gathering, design, code, CSS, collaboration, and stand-ups.  The only thing missing was sleep!  The lack of sleep was a small price to pay though to see how our work was going to breathe new life into these organizations.

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Giving Back

This post marks a milestone for me.  When I started this site nearly seven years ago I had no idea what I was doing.  Before I got serious about blogging in about a year and a half ago I had only posted 29 times!  Since then I’ve stepped it up a bit.  I’ve written 70 articles and watched my traffic steadily rise.

Back in March of 2010 I had a whopping 151 visitors.  Last month finished with 2,300 visitors and some of them were even human!  I realize that my traffic is still virtually nothing in the grand scheme of things but it’s a bit humbling when I think about how people from around the world are finding and reading my articles.  With that in mind I’m dedicating this 100th post to a good cause and hoping that it will reach a few people.

Across the United States GiveCamp events are being planned.  If you’re not familiar with GiveCamp this paragraph from the national site’s About page sums it up nicely:

GiveCamp is a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations. This custom software could be a new website for the nonprofit organization, a small data-collection application to keep track of members, or an application for the Red Cross that automatically emails a blood donor three months after they’ve donated blood to remind them that they are now eligible to donate again. The only limitation is that the project should be scoped to be able to be completed in a weekend.

If you’re a developer looking for a way to give back to your community I highly encourage you to find an event near you and volunteer.  If there aren’t any events near you, organize one.

There are events all over the country.  Here are some for my region:

Ann Arbor, Michigan: Sept. 16 – 18
Indianapolis, Indiana: Oct. 14 – 16
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Oct. 21 – 23
Southwest Ohio: Oct 21 – 23

I understand that a full weekend is quite a time commitment but if you can spare the time please join me and support this worthy cause.