Ann Arbor Give Camp 2012

Last weekend I had the privilege of volunteering, along with about
60 other people, at Ann Arbor Give Camp[0]. Essentially, a Give Camp
is a weekend hackathon where non-profits with a technical need
(website, analytics tool, donation tracking, etc.) that they do not
have the budget for, get volunteer developers to fill that need with
some awesomely cool project. The project that I worked on was updating
the design of the website and implementing a membership directory for
a contractors association.

Give Camp is different than any other hackathon that I have ever
been too. First, you aren’t building a project just because it has
cool technical merit or because it might be a viable business. You
are building some project because some do-good organization needs
it to do more/better good works. Also, Give Camp is different in
that you are building a technical project for a group that
(probably) isn’t very technically savvy. This fact tested both my
patience when teaching our non-profit representative how to use
the new system, and my design skills. I was challenged to come up
with simpler wording on administration options, a more intuitive
layout, and a streamlined workflow for the most common use case.

Give Camp also got me out of my personal tech bubble. I was
unaware that there where people who self-identified as “.NET
Developers” – Based on the make-up of my group, they are orders of
magnitude more plentiful than I thought! That same revelation also
made me see that a person could in fact do serious development on
a windows machine. I guess that I knew that these things existed,
I just never encounter them in my days as a web developer/embedded
systems developer.

My weekend at Give Camp was an amazing experience. It felt good to
do good, and I got out of my tech bubble. I would recommend that
anybody in the Ann Arbor area volunteer at next years Give Camp,
and for those elsewhere, I would absolutely advocate that you look
for a Give Camp near you.

[0] http://annarborgivecamp.org

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