Tuesday, July 20, 2010

GiveCamp 2010

This past weekend I had the opportunity to be part of something the likes of which I had not yet seen in the Cleveland area. From Friday until Sunday the folks at Lean Dog Software in collaboration with a handful of organizers and sponsors hosted Cleveland's first GiveCamp.

GiveCamp is a national program that pairs up talented software developers, designers and other technical specialists with local non-profit organizations to complete technical projects that the non-profits would otherwise be unable to afford. This past weekend was the first time Cleveland has hosted one of these events and I think we did our geek brethren in other, much larger, cities proud. When it was all said and done over 20 charities were helped by over 100 volunteer making GiveCamp Cleveland the largest first GiveCamp ever. it wasn't quite the largest of all time, but maybe we'll take that record next year.

For those curious the weekend runs like this.

Friday night we were paired up with our charities and sat down with a sponsor from the charity to talk about their needs and what our goals for the weekend were. In most cases the plan for the weekend was mapped out in advance by a business analyst that was pre-assigned to each team. However, in the case of my charity, The League of Women Voters of the Cleveland Area, we came it knowing virtually nothing. You see the organizers had anticipated having enough people to help roughly 15 charities, but come the week of the event they had enough to add 7 more. The LWV Cleveland was one of the late additions so we had to scope and plan the project on day one instead of in advance.

Our sponsor Sherece was amazing. She understood our limited time frame and was willing to compromise when needed but also did a great job of explaining the purpose of her organization so we could build out the best site for her that the time and resources allowed.

From Friday night through all day Saturday the teams went to work, in most cases this meant building out and customizing a Wordpress installation for each charity. Something like 15 of the teams used Wordpress which is really a testament to the product and how flexible it is.

Throughout the weekend stand-ups were held to make sure the teams were on track. Also breakfast lunch and dinner were provided both Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday evening we trained out charities, presented the final projects and handed over the keys so to speak. The charities all seemed quite grateful for the work that was done, but in reality it was the volunteers who seemed most upbeat. I think I speak for all of us when I say we had an absolute blast using our abilities and skills in a way that we very rarely get to. I told some friends in advance of this weekend that I don't know how to build a house, but I know how to build a website, so getting a chance to do that for a great organization like the LWV was not only fun but an honor.

Just in case anyone is curious the site we built can be found at http://www.lwvdev.com. We had some issues connecting with their hosting provider so itll be switched over to their main site, lwvcef.org in the next week or so.

Some thanks to hand out. First off to all of the organizers especially Mark Schumann who acted as MC and leader of the organizers, Andrew Craze who served as the developer lead and Jon Stahl who's company Lean Dog hosted the event on their amazing workspace (the old Hornblowers boat on lake erie.) Also thanks to the IEEE for acting as a non-profit sponsor of the event and Burke Lakefront Airport for offering up the entire terminal to be used by the campers when the number of volunteers overflowed the boat.

On a personal note I moved to Cleveland Ohio 5 years ago because of a job offer after college. When you think of Cleveland you don't really expect to find a vibrant and exciting community of software developers and tech enthusiasts. This isn't Silicon Valley or Boston or Austin. Let me just say, if you believe that like I did you couldn't be more wrong. Over 100 people showed up this weekend from dozens of companies all over Northeast Ohio. There was a range of expertise that ranged from SQL to .NET and Ruby, Coldfusion, PHP you name it and it was represented. This is a great city to live in, with great people and one hell of a technical community, and that friends is why I'm #happyincle.

Anyway Thanks again to all those involved and I can't wait to do it all again next year.