This past weekend was the Ann Arbor GiveCamp 2008. The idea is Geeks Giving Back. The GiveCamp organized a number of charities(15) and a number of developers (over a hundred signed up and 90ish showed – I don’t have exact numbers). We showed up on Friday night at 5:00 and started work. At 3:00 on Sunday afternoon, we showed what we had accomplished. In many cases, the charities just needed a web site or a better web site. In some cases, they needed real programming work done.
It was an amazing experience. I was involved in the first one in Dallas. I worked remote and contributed to the St. Vincent DePaul Society volunteer scheduling application with J Sawyer and Chris Koenig. I don’t remember how many charities and developers contributed to that one but it was a huge way to begin. Since then there was one in Kansas City and now Ann Arbor.
While at the event, I, like a ton of other people, wore many hats. I was assigned to a charity (Center Stage Drama – separate post on them coming at some point soon). I also was helping with some of the organization, running the break room for a couple of shifts, technical helper for many of the groups, photographer, videographer, errand boy and anything else that could be done.
One of my favorite things was that I tossed the ideas around of doing a short standup 2-4 times a day and I got to run those. It was fantastic to get all 80+ devs in a circle and be able to run through all of the groups and do a 1 minute status to find out how the project was going and what blocking issues where up. More than once we got a resolution or found the person that had the immediate answer to follow up right after the standup. On Sunday we did 3 quick standups about 2 hours apart. Those really helped everyone quickly find resolutions and gave everyone a sense that we were going to finish on time. All good stuff.
The last hat that I wore was a little surprising, even to me. On Friday night, we started chatting and realized that we have 5 remote developers down in Knoxville, TN headed up by Nathan Blevins. As I’m tying this – I’m realizing that I really need to just do a separate post for that group. Briefly, it was Ben Farmer, Dylan Wolf, Jenny Farmer, Joe Simpson, and Nathan Blevins. They did great work for several of our charities and even took on one completely. That’s my next post about Wonder Puzzle.
The only issue with GiveCamp is that we can’t realistically do it in a geography more than once a year because of the massive time commitment, organizational efforts and sleep depravation. I’ve got some more sustainable ideas floating around that I’ll surface when they’re a little more baked. Let me know if you want to be in on those early and we’ll start some conversations.
The reality here is that I can’t even come close to doing the whole experience justice. The best I can hope for is to inspire you to come next time…
*update* Carey Payette called me out – there were two satellite groups, Columbus, OH and Knoxville, TN. Sorry that I didn’t mention the Columbus crew in the original post.