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Tech-Related Volunteer Gigs

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the open-source-hacking-counts dept.

United States 252

jeffomatic writes "Here's a question for Service Day: what kind of volunteer opportunities are available out there for the technologically-inclined? I'm a software developer and I'm wondering if there's anyone in the field engaged in pro-bono work, like IT or teaching or web design or whatnot. I'm not at all above rolling my sleeves up and working at shelters or the local park, but it occurs to me that my professional skills might be usefully applied in the service context as well. I'd like to hear about what other people are doing, in terms of projects, time commitments, organizations, etc." Or just commit a patch to your favorite project.

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252 comments

Your local free/reduced medical clinic.. (4, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518473)

...i bet could really use some simple PHP+xSQL database for scheduling and stuff.

Most small non-profits keep records in a smattering of paper and undocumented excel sheets, they could really use your IT expertise.

Re:Your local free/reduced medical clinic.. (4, Informative)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518489)

That's a great idea, and it's also true for many charities. Pick your favorite, call them up, and talk to them. I volunteered to do database stuff for the local Habitat for Humanity.

Re:Your local free/reduced medical clinic.. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518599)

How about you volunteer to suck my cock, sound good faggot?

Re:Your local free/reduced medical clinic.. (2, Insightful)

rtconner (544309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518899)

Well I'd say websites in general. There are many non-profits who I'm sure could use a good website and/or hosting and maintenance. That is probably the number one way us nerds can donate our skills.

Re:Your local free/reduced medical clinic.. (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519097)

Most non-profits are already using some local webhosting business for free. Probably one that totally ignores them because they aren't real customers, but whatever.

Re:Your local free/reduced medical clinic.. (5, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518941)

It's definitely a nice idea, and I don't want to be discouraging, but keep continuing support in mind - both generally (can you commit to keeping it patched and secure for the next x amount of time?) and in emergencies (they're relying on the system, it goes down, how much of a problem is that going to cause them and how are they going to get it fixed?).

Or (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518483)

haxors without borders.

Re:Or (5, Funny)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518691)

Johnny's village was too poor to afford basic necessities like clean water, food, and medicine. Thanks to h4x0rz without borders, they were able to set up a 10k client botnet which they used to run Nigerian-style scams. Now they have the things they need to live like water, food, medicine, and satellite TV. You can help a village just like Johnny's, join h4x0rz without borders today!

Re:Or (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518925)

I joined the international division of h4x0rz without borders, known as H4ckerz Sans (serif) Frontieres!

A few things come to mind (5, Interesting)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518485)

A few things come to mind. You could volunteer and show a few elderly individuals how to use a computer. That sort of thing can be very frustrating or very rewarding depending on who you teach and how patient you are. You could also work on open source projects that aid the disabled. Then there is things like helping an old lady sell her stuff on ebay instead of say a garage sale. I know a lot of elderly folks have many things just laying around collecting dust and could use the extra income. Just a few ideas, I'm sure others will come up with some more inventive things.

Re:A few things come to mind (5, Informative)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518641)

You could volunteer and show a few elderly individuals how to use a computer.

If you want to do this, the place to get in contact with is your local library. They'll either do the classes themselves, or know who to contact at the local school system's 'continuing education', which is the other place that might be doing it.

Re:A few things come to mind (-1, Offtopic)

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Re:A few things come to mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518653)

As good-hearted as this sounds, I don't think it's a great idea. You will exert all of this effort to teach an individual who is really past their learning stage a skill that requires a huge amount of infrastructure. Furthermore, it opens them up to all kinds of online scams.

I definitely would go for teaching young children, who would benefit (and need it) more and also be more receptive to technology. If every child learned some basic programming (say, Python or some shell scripting), they would grow up into much more savvy end users.

Re:A few things come to mind (2, Funny)

vortex2.71 (802986) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518751)

"You will exert all of this effort to teach an individual who is really past their learning stage a skill that requires a huge amount of infrastructure...I definitely would go for teaching young children, who would benefit (and need it) more and also be more receptive to technology. "

Yes but there is always the chance that the person you teach to use the computer will reward you handsomely in their will. Young kids are much less likely to die before you and to acquire a lot of wealth to leave you if they die before you. Hee hee.

Re:A few things come to mind (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518777)

I definitely would go for teaching young children, who would benefit (and need it) more and also be more receptive to technology. If every child learned some basic programming (say, Python or some shell scripting), they would grow up into much more savvy end users.

For younger kids, things like LittleWizard [sourceforge.net] and EToys [squeakland.org] are a good way to introduce the concept of programming without worrying about syntax.

I have both of these, and some good Python-based games, as part of a Linux distro for kids at:
http://www.quinncoincorporated.org/ [quinncoincorporated.org]

Re:A few things come to mind (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519003)

Scratch [mit.edu] is good too. Variables, loops, iterators, etc. Along with cute cartoon characters. My boy started at 2 and is learning well.

Re:A few things come to mind (1)

Zsub (1365549) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519091)

Alas, I wish your point were true. I know of a woman who has recieved a course in Pascal, using punchcards on some old mainframe of the university she was attending.

She is my mother and one of the most technologically-challenged people I know of.

Re:A few things come to mind (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518743)

Plus, handicapped and/or older ladies are good in bed. Just be sure to first remove the colostomy bag as there will be enough sloshing around without it.

Pffft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518495)

So called "volunteers" don't even get paid

no shit sherlock !! (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518627)

you would make a great volunteer with that smarts of yours.

Re:no shit sherlock !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518759)

YHBT

Re:no shit sherlock !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518851)

YHBT should be a moderation option

non profits (4, Informative)

lucifuge31337 (529072) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518497)

All small non profits (women's shelters, food banks, volunteer fire departments, etc) always need someone who can do basic PC maintenance, install software, generally help them USE their computers with a little bit of training, and fix things. I used to do the service work on the PCs, network, and copier at a local woman's shelter when I was in the repair business. It was one of my freebies that I did simply because I was asked.

Service Day? WTF? (0, Flamebait)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518503)

Since when do you need a specific day to perform community service/volunteer work? It's not really volunteering then is it? What's next, "Charity Day"? Oh wait, the feds have that one too, it's some time in the middle of April if I recall correctly.

Re:Service Day? WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518881)

I don't know why parent was modded Flamebait. I recall a story a while ago about requiring community service for a passing grade in school or something like that. It was universally criticized because it was corrupting the entire idea of community service. It should be something that you want to do (out of the kindness of your heart or whatever), NOT something that you are compelled or forced to do (otherwise it ceases to be voluntary). Also, if your volunteers don't really want to be there then it will show up in their work; it's best for all involved to only bring in people who truly want to be there.

Re:Service Day? WTF? (4, Insightful)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519129)

You make a very valid point. Forcing people to do "volunteer" work is ridiculous. It has the opposite effect that is desired. It makes people hate to help others because it is forced. It is counter-productive to force high-school kids to do menial tasks and call it volunteer work.

However, when you have a certain skill set, such as programming or fixing computers, etc... and you help out people who genuinely need it it is extremely rewarding.

I found this out when tutoring people in college. Of course I did it for money, but I found out that I genuinely enjoyed helping people and now do it for free.

I find this call by Obama and Rahm Emanuel towards "national service" very troubling. His constant call for "sacrifice" and "serving" gets me worried. Instead of holding the people accountable for creating this financial mess we're just expected to become wards of the state. Was Aldous Huxley right when he said people will love their servitude? I sure hope not.

Small Open Source project (3, Insightful)

tomtomtom777 (1148633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518517)

CmdrTaco gave you the answer.

If you want to work pro-bono, why don't you just start working on an open source project, that's not big enough to pay you yet?

Simple question. Simple answer.

Re:Small Open Source project (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518855)

You make a good point. Although people use open source programs and OSs for many different reasons poverty is one reason that some folks use open source materials. Any contributions to open source do somebody good whether it be for economic or other reasons. I am reminded of my neighbor who uses Windows smashing his laptop to small pieces after Windows locked up on him as he was just about done with a complicated schedule that had taken him several hours to build.

There are many choices (3, Interesting)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518519)

Depends. I prefer education so it is volunteering for a regional science fair as a judge and giving classroom presentations for National Engineering and Technitians Month (NET Month)out here.
I actually prefer donating labor to the environment through the local park & rec. department. Gives me a chance to get out in the big blue room and move some dirt around through tree planting, landscape maintenance and other things I don't do on a regular basis but are actually kinda fun for a day project.

Re:There are many choices (1, Troll)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518893)

If you like open air projects of great public benefit have you considered stalking and killing drug dealers? You do the world a favor and you get to rip off their cash as well. Please be certain you aren't bumping off under cover cops by accident.

Re:There are many choices (1)

alta (1263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518987)

I'm all for this. A note to all law enforcement, take the day off on Service day. Now, when the hell is Service day? I've never heard of it. I'm much prefer sysadmin day and talk like a pirate day.

School (1)

EvilIntelligence (1339913) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518521)

I believe that the best thing by far would be to teach computers to underprivileged children. I have to believe that if you take kids that have not had the chance to even see what's out there, once you put some of today's technology in their hands, their imaginations would take off. Nothing is more powerful than establishing hope and instilling a simple sense of accomplishment.

Re:School (5, Interesting)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518677)

Anybody interested in going this route, as I have, can get a Linux distro targeted towards children (3yrs and up) that runs well on donated second hand PCs.

http://www.quinncoincorporated.org/ [quinncoincorporated.org]

We are currently helping others across the country setup their own local initiatives.

Re:School (2, Informative)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518687)

As an aside, anybody with experience customizing Ubuntu Live/Install CDs, we can use your help. Contact email is on the website.

Re:School (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518943)

You know what I'd like. The opposite.

Specifically, I want a Linux distro for my grandmother. She retired about two decades ago, and used the computer all the time.

The catch is that the computer she used was a simple dumb terminal.

There are lots of people out there, parents of baby boomers, who used that, or a DOS menu shell and TUI apps, their last decade of work before retirement. They don't really know how to use a mouse, perhaps their coordination isn't very good. They don't understand that 'pointing' stuff.

However, they can type just fine.

So what I've been constantly tempted to do is find a text-based distro, with pine and lynx and some sort of text menu to run them, for her.

Although I'd really like a graphical one that just mimics a text-one, where everything is doable via keystrokes (Which are shown on screen.), and all apps are full screen. (Possibly this would be best done using command line framebuffer programs, like Links.)

Re:School (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519025)

Oh, and I'd like a rough version I can set up on my laptop, either live boot or via VMWare, that I can use to demonstrate roughly how it would look, because she thinks modern computers are very complicated

But if I can show up with an interface that she could easily use to do email and read the news on, she'd love it.

If you're interested, there are (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518537)

I do have a web related project (that I haven't found time for) for someone to work on for a Charity providing free education to brilliant kids in Haiti. Basically the web site is always out of date, because I'm pretty busy. But if it were to be converted to drupal/joomla/wordpress or some other content management system we could train existing staff to update it. Let me know if your interested. If someone is interested, just reply then we'll explore it min more detail.

Re:If you're interested, there are (2, Funny)

Zsub (1365549) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519205)

You have time to post on /. so get working on the conversion, you lazy clod!

tech related, but not necessarily software related (3, Informative)

tloh (451585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518541)

Perhaps not directly relevent to your career background, but amateur radio operators (HAMs) have played a time honored role in coordinating communication for marathons and other very spread out public events. If you happen to have some back ground in anything related to communication technology, I'm sure the local HAM club would be glad to have you, regardless of your morse coding speed (or lack thereof).

Re:tech related, but not necessarily software rela (1)

LittleRunningGag (1124519) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518967)

In the same kind of vein, there are plenty of events out there that you could pick up as a project.

World Skills, for instance is coming to North America this year.

http://www.worldskills2009.com/

The traditional thing for nerds to do... (2, Informative)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518557)

...is to volunteer to do tech for local theatres and music venues.

But if you want to actually do computer work, all your local non-profits could stand to have someone come in and work on their computers. Seriously. Half their security software will be expired, their systems will be loaded with spyware, it's a mess, even worse than a random individual computer's. They have no IT, they do not train their workers, and they have a large amount of people using each computer. It's a recipe for disaster.

They almost always already have someone doing their website, which is usually a local webdesign firm doing it for free for PR and it's always somewhat half-assed because the non-profit isn't a 'real' customer. So it's hard to convince them to use you instead.

As for teaching, contact your local library. They hold classes on basic computer usage, although only do this if you're incredibly patient. These are essentially people with no computer skills at all who want to know how to do 'email'.

Call your local churches (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518569)

See if they want websites thrown together, with photo albums and such.

Commetment? (5, Informative)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518573)

I had a similar urge some years back, so I volunteered at the local Habitat for Humanity office. They had some need for simple IT work, and I probably could have done just fine.

But... then I got busy with other stuff. And I found my passion for helping people wasn't consistent. Before long I handed back my office key. They probably put more effort into getting me up to speed than they ever recouped from my help.

I think this makes it hard to do good volunteer IT work. Much IT work benefits greatly from low turnover, as opposed to picking up garbage in a park, where turnover rate probably is irrelevant.

So I guess my advice is to avoid talking up your usefulness to the people you're trying to help, until you're sure you'll have the interest and free time to really stick with it. On the other hand, even IT people can still pick up garbage in the park.

Re:Commetment? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518735)

Perfectly stated. I was in that same position, but I was able to convince my "real job" to let me work hours that allowed me to dedicate 2 hours a day to volunteer or charity work. Some days I work on personal software projects, some days I just go home early... but if anyone at my charity needs me, I have a couple of hours each day set aside to help them out.

Public Libraries (1)

sean_nestor (781844) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518577)

Many library systems run free-to-the-public classes in basic computer usage. From my experience, these tend to be geared toward the elderly and others on the other side of the learning curve who have fallen into possession of a PC and still aren't quite sure what they are doing. Volunteering to teach one of these courses at a local library might be a good place to start.

I should note that some library systems can afford to pay the instructors of these classes and some can't. In the case of where I live, some of the more rural libraries surrounding the city don't have budgets to afford being able to pay an instructor much to come in and teach some classes, so they operate on a largely volunteer basis.

tons of opportunities out there (4, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518597)

I've posted a number of times on this topic. It's a good way to get tech skills and references if you are in school or just out of school and need experience.

Start googling groups in you community.

No kill animal shelters need people to maintain donor databases and websites. As do public radio stations. Non-profit recycling centers/thrift stores often need people to wipe and reload computers (and make sure they have the right licenses). Low income schools need tech instructors.

I've done the tech instructor gig and the thrift store gig over the years. As far as time goes, volunteers are often given large amounts of flexibility. After all, you are not getting paid.

You should check out the organization carefully, interview them per se. Make sure they are serious and high quality. Don't let them dump all their work on you.

If you are doing it for the resume avoid anything too closely tied with political, religous or controversial topics. As the joke goes, explaining why you did volunteer work for the North American Marlon Brando Look-alikes Association may be embarrassing.

HTH

refurb and donate computers (2, Interesting)

suzuri (1166249) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518645)

My brother used to collect peoples old and rejected computers, make sure they worked, clean of the hard drives, set up an operating system, and then give them to a kind of "after school help kids with their homework" place. Computers get recycled, Kids get tools they need.

Re:refurb and donate computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518813)

Our LUG does does for a local United Way. We gather for 1 evening a month, (usually, it's a little ad-hoc) and assemble computers from donated discards.. We're now getting way more donated stuff than we really have time to refurb. (And some older hardware that doesn't meet what we decided to be the group standard for desktops is being given away as recycled systems on Freecycle)

Service Day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518647)

What the crap is service day, and why does it coincide with MLK day?

Help people with data collection/reporting setups (4, Interesting)

spasm (79260) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518673)

My local needle exchange [homelessyo...liance.org] (don't start flaming, they're people volunteering their time to improve the health of their fellow citizens, regardless of what you think of drug use or how best to respond to it) has a couple of contracts with City and State health departments that they need to do a lot of data reporting for (how many clients, how many referrals, etc) which they were collecting slowly and tediously using paper records, then wasting even more time on every three months collating the data to send to the funder. I wrote them a simple php frontend to a mysql database to let them enter data as they go, which then automatically generates the quarterly data files they need to submit to funders, freeing them up to concentrate more on service delivery (and giving them a better sense of how their service was running as a nice side effect).

Most non-profits I've seen in the past five years are using woeful data collection methods; almost any of them would be eternally grateful if someone would spend a few days or weeks to set something up and then maintained it on a volunteer basis.

On a shameless plug note, the abovementioned non-profit needs a new home for its 1U server - if you're in the San Francisco bay area and can donate rackspace & connectivity, drop me a line.

Re:Help people with data collection/reporting setu (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519211)

Drop a line to bill at thclinic dot org and I will see what I can do.

Old People (2, Insightful)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518697)

I have noticed that a lot of old folks are thrilled with the internet because they can keep in touch with their kids and grand kids - they just love it! Some do have an issue with the technology and some are just intimidated by it. Anyway, volunteering at your local senior center and help them set up an email account or set up a video camera. And maybe instructing them on the hazards: both real and phony.

Culture Shock (2, Informative)

Punk CPA (1075871) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518705)

You don't even need to deploy the most advanced technology. A medical student I know created an Access database for a clinic in Zambia that brought huge efficiencies and may have saved lives. The staff there learned to use it because he modeled the input screens on the paper forms they were used to.

Also, think about installing (and maintaining!) QuickBooks or some other accounting package. The key to helping them is to always keep in mind that you are not dealing with computer specialists. Keep it simple. Make yourself available to set up new machines, install software, and answer questions. How about volunteering for their board of trustees?

Just be aware that the not-for-profit world is significantly different from one where there is the intention and hope of making money. Things happen slowly and progress takes unanticipated routes. War stories available upon request.

Computers for classrooms (2, Informative)

Raconteur (1132577) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518707)

My community operates a Computers For Classrooms program, a recycling effort driven by an all-volunteer force. They're partnered with the Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher program and others, including the IRS (for tax-exempt status). It is a very successful program, providing not only the hardware to schools but it also serves as a revenue stream for the school district by providing a recycling outlet for tech parts. http://www.computersforclassrooms.org/Whatdo.htm [computersf...srooms.org] I work there a few hours a week, as do many of my peers. I think it is a great model for other communities.

In UK... (2, Informative)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518727)

I'm volunteering (in between contracts) at my local Citizens Advice Bureau. Mixed Win 2003/SUSE servers, Win XP desktops, 8-10 permanent staff, 50+ volunteers. I recently achieved Linux Professional certification and wanted somewhere to gain rela-life experience. This is working out fine for me - fun, some challenges, and satisfying.

Oblig Joker Quote (2, Insightful)

Coraon (1080675) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518745)

"If your good at something never do it for free." Personally I will freely give my time to things like collecting items for a shelter but I would not do programing for free.

Re:Oblig Joker Quote (4, Interesting)

Rary (566291) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518947)

If your good at something never do it for free.

I can't even begin to comprehend that idea.

Seriously. If I'm good at something, it's likely because I've put a lot of time and effort into perfecting it. If I've put a lot of time and effort into perfecting it, it's likely because I enjoy doing it. If I enjoy doing it, then I will do it every chance I can get.

I'm a software developer because I love doing it. I get paid to do it, but I also do it in some of my spare time for free, and I'll happily do it for others who want me to do it for them.

I also play guitar for free, fly planes for free, and have sex for free.

Re:Oblig Joker Quote (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26519015)

And that is why sometimes you shouldn't take advice from comic book villains.

I hope you never need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518981)

the services of a pro bono attorney. ;)

Re:Oblig Joker Quote (1)

vishbar (862440) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519011)

Some of us enjoy programming but hate picking up trash. If it goes to benefit someone else and it's worth it to you, why not do it for free?

Re:Oblig Joker Quote (0)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519235)

When you donate your time to something like this, you can claim your time as a tax deduction for the market value of your skills (disclaimer, check with your tax professional before actually doing this, if you take tax advice from someone Slashdot you deserve the interest and penalties that the IRS or other tax agency will hit you with). So if the going rate for a contract programmer is $100 per hour and you donate 10 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, you just got a $50,000 "donation" you can put on your 1040A.

Why not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518753)

help figure out how to get us out of work IT folk a job? I think that our industry needs its own charity right now.

Company Sponsored Pro-bono work (1)

olddotter (638430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518795)

My company is starting to sponsor 1 to 6 months paid breaks to do your regular work for NGO non-profits. For me that would be IT work. Normally if I donate labor it would be habitat for humanity as a worker drone. But do they or others need volunteer IT support?

Your local animal shelter is a good spot (4, Informative)

stokessd (89903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518815)

I helped the local Humane Society get their records modernized using Animal Shelter Manager (http://sheltermanager.sourceforge.net/home.php). The sysadmin there was feeling a bit out of his depth with setting up the SQL database and such. It was easy work, and made a real tangible difference. I love these sort of freebies too, where there is a task with a clear end.

1) I installed the software.
2) Installed and configured the mySQL on their little server.
3) Got the tables setup
4) Trained the sysadmin on what I'd done and how to maintain/backup the system
5) Got the software installed on the desktops with his help
6) Backed out of the picture
7) No Profit

Sheldon

Check out small NPOs (1)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518821)

Check out small non-profit organizations. Many would benefit from technology help, but often do not have budget funds to make it happen. Sometimes, there will be funds for hardware or software, but not both. Every little bit helps.

No SERVICE from me! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518823)

I'm sorry folks but I can't handle any more "service" for my government.

I pay taxes and will continue to pay them to pay for the bail outs, the handouts, the social programs that I'm not entitled to, the paychecks of people who make far more than I do and the new President's inauguration.

Mr. Obama wants my service even though I'm in college 1/2 time, work full time (paying taxes) and a community activist (various websites, church activities) and yet I'm still "called on" to SERVE by the government!

http://change.gov/americaserves/ [change.gov]

I am expected to put in 100 hours of community service, of which, any hours I contribute at my church or non-government affiliated group, will not count.

I'm done. Sorry. I want Mr. Obama, when he is President Obama, to hold to the US Constitution and respect the 13th Amendment.

Re:No SERVICE from me! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26519181)

That's 100 hours over the span of your education - 4 years for most, that's 25 hours per year, just over 2 per month. And nowhere does it say that service to a church doesn't count, and it doesn't require you to do so - he's just planning to offer a tax credit if you do. This is by no means slavery, and making that comparison is on par with reducto ad Nazium.

Personally I probably do more than that without realizing how many hours I am putting in.

MatchIT (1)

Rary (566291) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518841)

If you're in Canada, check out MatchIT [imaginecanada.ca] . If you're in the UK, try IT4Communities [it4communities.org.uk] .

I don't know if there are similar sites for other countries.

Re:MatchIT -- Addendum (2, Insightful)

Rary (566291) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518877)

Actually, if you're in another country, why not put your time into organizing something similar to MatchIT and IT4Communities.

You have time to volunteer?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518869)

If you have any time or energy left for volunteer work, then all your non-tech-savvy friends, relatives and neighbors must have Macintoshes. I envy you.

Yeah. Donate your old computers to Namibian kids (1)

azav (469988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26518919)

I'm trying to get old computers for kids in Namibia high schools and a friend and myself bought a kindergarden over there. I should be going back in 2 months to check on them. If you're interested in helping, send me a note.

Here are some photos of the preschool and the computers sent off to the high school.

Kids in preschool:
http://web.mac.com/zav/iWeb/Zav-O-Matic/Namibia%202008/D3A0AB87-8276-4741-8F1B-9225C7F23CF7.html [mac.com]

Computers:
http://web.mac.com/zav/iWeb/Zav-O-Matic/Off%20to%20Africa.html [mac.com]

Uh, lots of things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518929)

Not sure about other parts of the country, but I've been able to find lots of community IT projects, most situations are where non-profits cannot afford IT people's hourly rates. There are also code camps around the country where groups of people get together to build a software package over a weekend for organizations. The last one I worked on was some accounting software for a consumer credit counseling service.....it's pretty impressive to see a group of 100-200 programmers crank out an entire full featured accounting app over a few days.

Sahana (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26518983)

Check out the Sahana disaster management system (http://sahana.lk) that came out of volunteer efforts during the 2005 Tsunami. It has now been deployed all around the world and has a very robust volunteer developer community. If you search the web for humanitarian-ict you can also find some great links.

volunteering (1)

voxner (1217902) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519017)

Take a look at Doctors without borders. They have got a new york field office. More info here [doctorswit...orders.org]
I offered to volunteer for web-design work and I got a mail stating that they will get in touch with me if they require one in the future.

Vietnam Opportunities Exist Right Now (2, Informative)

whataburger (1456579) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519031)

I am helping lead an initiative for a non-profit to install computer labs in 60 schools in Vietnam starting this year. This will impact about 10,000 kids and 1,200 teachers.

As of two weeks ago, Vietnam has announced that they will be going 100% open source by next year. I am looking for anybody who has interest and experience in Linux/BSD/FOSS who can build machines, train, help develop curricula, build infrastructure (Web, Mail, DNS, VPN, file sharing (NFS, Samba), etc.) and even do some software development for student management.

I also need hardware. We have not been able to get any funds yet for the equipment save the one guy who has donated an entire lab (10 PCs, network printer and server). Anyone who is willing to donate equipment or money for equipment would be a big help.

The sky's the limit. We are hoping to take our first trip out around May or June to install the prototype lab. We have the complete cooperation of the Vietnamese government, and they are waiting for us to do something.

If you are interested in helping, send mail to whataburgermeister@gmail.com.

Re:Vietnam Opportunities Exist Right Now (2, Informative)

Atheose (932144) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519095)

I have a lot of older P4 machines that aren't special but they run fine. I'm located in Virginia; would you pay for shipping? If you're located within a reasonable distance I wouldn't mind driving them to you.

Website Design for charities (1)

Atheose (932144) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519033)

My fledgling Website Design company [spotswooddesign.com] recently did free design work for Banana Leaf Project [blproject.org] . It's nothing fancy, but a simple website like that can go a long way for a charity organization that's looking for small donations and government sponsorship.

FIRST -Robotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26519053)

As listed on Slashdot a few days ago, There's FIRST robotics.

You can volunteer with a high school group, it's a semi-short commitment (1 or 2 meetings a week), where you can help high schools get a robot up and running. I'm doing this year, and I've really enjoyed it so far.

They seem to be in great need of software people. (At least the school near me are).

Main Website: http://www.usfirst.org/
Interactive map of local groups: http://www.usfirst.org/whatsgoingon.aspx

Christmas Future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26519065)

I've been working for these guys for a few years now.

Their goal is to redirect Christmas spending towards international development initiatives. They have a strong focus on transparency, and cash throughput. Also they have an open source project called DonorTrust which could eventually be used by other charities to run their donation systems.

http://www.christmasfuture.org

Always looking for more developers :P

so many opportunities. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26519103)

There are a bazillion nonprofits who need help -- from writing a web page that doesn't suck, to helping them create a backup system, to cabling a simple network in the office. Most of these gigs will require a longer relationship than one day; you need to build trust with them and really evaluate their needs. But a tiny bit of tech help goes a long way. Just try keep in mind their *actual* needs, and not shove bizarre tech at them that they won't use when you're not there; whatever you give them has to still function and be useful if you never show up again.

Pick a local org whose work you like and ask what they need. Or put an ad on craigslist and offer help. Every nonprofit needs help, and many of them can't even enunciate their problems.

Or just commit a patch to your favorite project. -- oh, how lame. There's so much need out there -- get out and do something.

maintain the network at SO's church (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26519125)

+ make sure all the ports are closed in the Fibre/Cable/DSL router
+ run Windoze update everywhere, it never seems to happen otherwise, even if you turn on auto update
+ install Firefox everywhere, remove IE shortcut from the desktop
+ install Spybot everywhere and run it periodically
+ install a hosts file everywhere that blackholes known bad domains/sites, update it periodically
+ install a FreeBSD or Linux SAMBA server on a donated PC, configure every desktop to use the share, configure cron backups of the share
+ run Cat5 to the youth center and install a Wireless AP, beat the kids at GH3 as needed

earn undying gratitude of staff, someday maybe even get paying gigs from clued-in members

Big Brothers/Sisters or equivalent (1)

mordred99 (895063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519131)

They all have computer hardware and software, which is usually misconfigured. I spend a lot of time there fixing environments since they usually have internet access, so setting up a proxy, and patching, etc. A few hours makes things go a long way.

Work + donate (1)

axlrosen (88070) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519133)

I hope this doesn't come across as cynical, because it's not meant to be. But one very reasonable strategy is to work hard at your regular job, and donate money to charitable causes.

I've often thought about how to put my software engineering skills to good use, and that's the best I've been able to come up with. If you can't find a great outlet to directly put your skills to use at a charitable organization, this is a pretty reasonable proxy. It lets you do what you do best, for the people that find it most helpful (i.e. a company that's willing to pay you for it), rather than having to shoehorn your skills where there may not be a great match.

If there's an volunteer opportunity that's actually a good fit, that's obviously a good mechanism (and probably more psychically rewarding). But if not, I think this is an efficient alternative.

Busylabs in Ghana (1)

dbase4 (1074555) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519141)

Hi, This one sees a small software development company in Africa take the next step: www.busylab.com/jobs/ It is a longer term gig with accommodation and spending money included. Its a combination of mentor, hands on senior and process improvement.

How about a volunteer-oriented social network? (1)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519149)

I like volunteering. A while back I started a group (friend/friend's friends/etc.) that would go out on Saturdays and help out.

A major problem, though, was finding places to volunteer. Really the only place we found to reliably volunteer was at a couple of foodbanks (always happy to have people sort cans, etc.). Which is great, but quite dull to be doing every weekend.

Obviously, there are lots of other places/people who could use some help, but since they only need it sporadically there is no way to find out about it. We did manage to get a few other jobs by calling well-known charities, like, we did yard work for Ronald McDonald house. Or played baseball with some kids at an orphanage. However, generally speaking, it is hard for an unaffiliated group of people in my city to find somewhere to volunteer on a weekend.

So what I would propose is building a website with these features:
*Let organizations post volunteer opportunities.
*Allow creation of volunteer groups which allow a group of friends/associates/etc. to plan on working together.
*Filter opportunities based on personal preference. (religion/working with homeless/etc.)

Idealist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26519165)

Try idealist.org

Look no farther then... (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519167)

Your local public School. Leave your FOOS/Closed Source prejudices at the door and just help.

My son is in elementary school, and let me tell you these people need all the help they can get. Even if is nothing more then cracking open a printer to clear some scotch tape out of the works or making sure some teachers machine is connected to the correct printer, every little bit helps.

If you can commit to even a few hours a week head to the local middle school or high school and be a proctor, trust me the teachers will take all the help they can get.

You have to go through a little BS to be a volunteer, but once you do in your local school district it will come back to you 10 fold, even if that payback is nothing more then the satisfaction that you are contributing to your community.

Why not roll up your sleeves? (1)

Jaro (4361) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519169)

Why not roll up your sleeves? I work at my desk all day (programming) and sometimes take small manual labor jobs or volunteer where I actually get outside. It's really good for a change sometimes.

I've also volunteered my time developing software for non-profit organizations (closed source) but that's always a never ending story. At some point they need new features, need something changed and you'll be the person to speak to at all times. It really pulls you in. Working on open source is a different story, I appreciate doing that.

The Most Important Thing You Can Do (1)

David Greene (463) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519223)

If you really want to change things and make technology more accessible, go do some work up at your state capitol. We need technologically-savvy people in the political realm to advocate for systemic change so we don't have pockets of people left behind the technology wave.

Find a local organization already working on social justice issues, whether racial or economic. Organize a campaign to address some need in your area. Perhaps it's affordable access to broadband. Or maybe it's sufficient funding for urban schools to upgrade technology and create computing curricula.

Remember that the real issue is not technology. It's justice. All of the technology in the world will do no good unless people have access to transportation, education and health. Technology is important. Just remind yourself that getting people engaged in and comfortable with technology is going to take a lot more than some tutoring sessions.

Create a public life for yourself. Get involved in politics. You'll find that the relationships you create will allow you to move beyond your initial campaign and into making real change in all sorts of areas.

And recognize that in the work you will be changed as well.

Basic Stuff (1)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 5 years ago | (#26519237)

Really basic stuff--certainly far beneath your capabilities and/or interests, but so important:

1) If a group has computers, volunteer to keep them patched, updated, and malware-free. Teach someone to do the same.
2) If a group needs a Web presence, offer to set them up with a blog or simple CMS. Commit to keep it updated and invader-free. Teach someone to do the same. Teach someone to update it/post to it.
3) Teach some office-related skills--word processor, spreadsheet, yadda--in a friendly, non-judgmental way. Consider people trying to find jobs or improve their situations. Your local women's shelter is another possibility.
4) Use your contacts--and you have more than you know--to keep an eye out for reasonably up-to-date hardware that can be slotted in for old, creaky hardware.
5) Find out who in your area is fostering small-scale entrepreneurs. Offer to give a class or two on best practices.

The opportunities are endless. I've done each one of them at some point over a long-ish career. The one I'm into now is #2. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour of my time each week.

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