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Code For America: 'The Peace Corps For Geeks'

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the with-moderately-less-malaria dept.

Programming 58

rjmarvin writes "Cities are taking coding to the streets through projects like Code for America and CityNext, working with governments on multiple levels to better serve constituents with mobile and cloud technologies. The 'Peace Corps for geeks' is using technology to make everyday life in cities run more smoothly, providing a way to 'connect technologists and designers with their government to solve important problems and reimagine how government could work.'"

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Here's a better idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725383)

Just go work for the Peace Corps instead of sitting behind a keyboard.

No amount of programming is going to feed the hungry or build shelter for the refugees.

Re:Here's a better idea (1, Interesting)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year ago | (#44725417)

No, you're missing the point. The Government is supposed to provide all of those things. The Government takes a little more of our money, and in exchange we don't have to worry about those needy people.

Just think about it... one day we won't need charities or shelters. The Government will do it all.

Re:Here's a better idea (2)

artor3 (1344997) | about a year ago | (#44725513)

Who do you think pays for the Peace Corps? Or more accurately, AmeriCorps?

Re:Here's a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725639)

Not to mention that the troll is overlooking the fact that a lot of Peace Corps jobs in more developed countries (Eastern Europe etc.) include setting up I.T. infrastructure. Not all peace corps members are sleeping in the dirt and being raped by filthy savages.

But it looks like even Domestic Geek programs won't see any funding, as America is too busy starting illegal wars for Israel. Forward, MARCH!

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Here's a better idea (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#44725679)

I spent a LOT of time helping needy people. While there are a LOT of people that need out of real reasons and want the help, there are a LOT more that are just sponges looking for a handout. And we are to ignore the fact that the single mom with 3 kids that really needs 2 loaves of bread, but instead hand out one loaf to each even the ones that are obvious not in need. Back in the 80's over HALF of what we did to help went to the local military either directly, or they just stole it from the people we gave it to.

Want to help people really in need? Send in special assassination teams with silenced guns (to hell with nato and the Geneva convention) to quietly kill most small country military leaders and warlords. THAT will solve their problems.

Re:Here's a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725875)

Just open it up for someone else to pick up the gun from the dead bodies and fill the power vacuum. Shit holes will be shit holes. You kill one asshole and a new one takes his place.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#44726061)

Just keep on killing assholes. Give our servicemen a cash bounty for each one killed.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#44726135)

You're forgetting that those "assholes" carry the support of their followers, often because of promises that they'll wipe out the Other Guys (Jews, Communists, Taliban, homosexuals, Republicans) who are the ones really causing the problems. In the locals' eyes, those warlords are legitimate leaders, and now America's just killing them off to further its own oppressive regime.

Pretty soon, our well-compensated servicemen have just exterminated half a country for the capital crime of wanting to be free from the influence of the Other Guys. At least then we'll know who the real assholes are.

Re: Here's a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44733203)

But if the Government supplants charities and eliminates shelters, how long before it says, "We know all about taking care of people... we'll just start caring for you too...

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#44725575)

Shhhhh, this is Slashdot, not Sparta

Re: Here's a better idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725605)

You're an asshole.

Re:Here's a better idea (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#44725649)

Or let you enjoy a bout of Cholera or bring Amoebic dysentery [] home as wonderful reminders of digging latrines for people who look at you funny and still just squat and shit in the street.

Peace Corps is not all roses and feel good happy. A LOT of the people you help resent your help and continue to live in unsanitary ways because they are used to squatting in a bowl and throwing it out the window at the neighbors. You cant bring civilization to people that do not want it.

Re:Here's a better idea (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#44726083)

Absolutely true, but what's your point?

Peace Corps specifically does a long pre-volunteer process to get local support for the work. The people may not care about the volunteers' work, but the local chief does, and they'll listen to him. The locals understand that the volunteers are trying to help, and they're bound by the local customs to accept it. Sure, there are some funny looks, but once that granary protects the crops from rodents and other thieves, it's appreciated. Finally, starvation is less of a problem in the village, and the locals accept help.

No, it's not all roses and happiness. Nobody ever said it was. It's usually hard work in some of the harshest climates on Earth, trying to work through corrupt governments and isolationist locals. Sometimes, it outright sucks. You see people mistreated or dying, and you can't do anything about it because the customs demand it. Then other days, you see someone benefiting from your work, and they have a better future because of it. That's the moment that makes it worthwhile.

You have to realize that volunteering isn't about solving the world's problems. Giving a village a granary or teaching better farming techniques isn't going to magically make everything better. Once your project's complete, you know it might be destroyed by a civil war next year. Ultimately, you can't bring civilization to people who don't want it. That's not the real point of the project, though.

The locals aren't uncivilized. They aren't savages who need Western technology to save them from their heathen ways. They're people. They're people who, for various people-related reasons, have a harder life than they could. The Peace Corps and other volunteer organizations exist not to mold them to our ways, but to offer them a better life, and hopefully inspire a peaceful search for a brighter future. If that one granary inspires a local to learn about safer food handling, they might be able to promote using a new latrine, or even convince street vendors to wash their hands before preparing food. With less disease and starvation, they can move up Maslow's Hierarchy, and worry less about whether they'll die tomorrow or not.

Volunteers don't bring civilization to the world. They bring the world to civilization.

Re:Here's a better idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44731843)

Ultimately, you can't bring civilization to people who don't want it.

Anyone who has looked at what the Republicans do for the conservative leaning US states can confirm this.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year ago | (#44725711)

okay lets try this we have

KONG: good with breaking things and glaring at other things (plus hes good with heavy lifting)
MIKE: carpenter/general contractor
JOHN: electrician
SAUL: hes a talker and good with arranging "things"
BOB: pure geek and can throw together networks that are "bullet proof"

what you do is put them and some supplies in C-130 and fly them out to Randomstan. When they land

KONG can help with digging trenches and moving stuff around (until he is needed for "other" things. SAUL can talk with the local Important Folks to try to ensure KONG is not needed for "other" things. MIKE and JOHN can do the building stuff. After the Power situation is sorted out BOB can get busy finding out how Bullet Proof his Skillz are (and be tool monkey for MIKE and JOHN).

(note for those playing KONG: your coworkers don't need any bullet holes)

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

nr (27070) | about a year ago | (#44725739)

I disagree, people should do what they are good at. It's not the best thing to ask a surgeon to go out on the fields to work as a farmer just to "feed the hungry". Programmers should write programs and Linux/UNIX engineers should design, architect and construct systems.

That the poor people need is knowledge, trade, business and markets. IT can provide this, like auction markets where farmers and shopowners can put bid and ask prices on grains, meats, etc. Where people with useful skills can market their services to those who need the services, mechanics, metalworkers, woodworkers, carpenters, plumbers, construction, trucktransporters, etc. Via IT you can also teach usefull skills to these poor people.

Re:Here's a better idea (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44726335)

People forget about that. Despite popular belief, the internet isn't just a source of ultra-porn, it also has information about how to grow crops more efficiently and fix your own equipment.

"reimagine if government could work" (1, Interesting)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about a year ago | (#44725385)

Fixed that for you.

Although I don't believe it.

Re:"reimagine if government could work" (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44725577)

I know you're being sarcastic here, and let me say -- I Approve. But, beneath sarcasm is usually a helping of truth and what you say is no different.

We laughed our collective asses off so hard we pissed ourselves when Gen Y tried Kony 2012 [] on Facebook and Youtube as a way to solve the problems of mass genocide in a third world country. Yup. They actually believed that copy-pasting a video clip and some crappy mspaint-edited bitmaps was going to lick that whole 'world peace' thing.

And now we're having "Code for America"... and suddenly everyone's acting all serious about it. The government doesn't need to be "reimagined". It needs to be rebuilt. It's got way too many defective components -- corrupt politicians, rich people who build massive computer networks for the sole purpose of targeted advertising (Obama and Romney both did. Obama succeeded; Romney imploded on the launch pad -- so I don't wanna hear anything about conservatives or liberals blah blah. They both did it. Deal.), we've got a bill under consideration in Congress where the only way anyone feels comfortable voting for it is if they're promised their vote will be anonymous until after they're dead, because it could affect the interests of the people who fund campaigns. I mean, guys, if this isn't a red flag, I don't know what is.

At all levels of government, there is stark and obvious signs of corruption -- your vote is largely meaningless. You're being asked to choose between Candidate A; "I am for those things which Candidate B is only slightly less enthusiastic about", and Candidate B; "I am in favor of things slightly different than that of Candidate A!" ... It's like choosing between coffee dispensed from the left pot, or coffee dispensed from the right pot. It's the same. Fucking. Coffee.

And everyone knows this. No amount of "reimagining" or "clouding the intarwebs" is going to fix this. In fact, the only way to achieve the ambitious goals these people think a few ipads will accomplish is mass armed insurrection. I'm talking bullets, bodies, military tanks crushing people's houses, fire, looting... all that shit. But peacefully talking about it over (wait for it)... the internet? Please.

I don't know how much clearer I can be on this point:

You can't solve people problems with technology.

You solve people problems with people.

The end.

Re:"reimagine if government could work" (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about a year ago | (#44725687)

I don't disagree with anything you say.

The whole "thing" reminds me of how the children in the old "Our Gang" film shorts (this is the 30s and 40s kids!) would "solve" problems. They would get together after they learned Miss Crabtree (the antecedent for Mrs. Crabapple in the Simpsons) was losing her job or some such thing. They could never figure out what to do BUT they ultimately decided they could put on a variety show to raise money for... whatever. They think by doing anything they are doing something.

Re:"reimagine if government could work" (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about a year ago | (#44725701)

And in fact my daughter and I have been having this same conversation lately. I'm actually happy she's a philosophy major.

Re:"reimagine if government could work" (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44725801)

And in fact my daughter and I have been having this same conversation lately. I'm actually happy she's a philosophy major.

Your daughter, probably the same age as my sister. I wrote this to her, and by extension, her generation, not long ago. I'm reposting it here as free to share, provided you properly attribute it to me;

Dear Younger Generation,
I'm from the generation that created your ipads, and your internet, and your webpages. I was around before the internet (which to you, is probably the same as saying I was around before the last dinosaurs died out), before cell phones, and I know that the "save icon" used to be a real thing -- they were called floppies. They were like pen drives, only flatter, and easier to break.
So when I talk about technology, I hope you listen. I know you won't, like I didn't listen to my parents, and my parents didn't listen to /their/ parents, and so on. I know the majority of you haven't matured to the point to see the continuity between generations, that you are just one link in a very long chain. But that's okay. This message isn't for you today. This is a message for you to seal up in a bottle and forget about it for a few years... until it's time.
The message is this:
You cannot solve people problems with technology. If you have a problem with the world, you have to get out there, with other people, and do something about it. Not on the internet. Not on Facebook. Not on Twitter. In the street. In people's homes. At the grocery store. Wherever the problem is you want to fix, that's where you need to be, not in this abstract world my generation has created for you.
We made this to be a tool to help you understand the world you're living in. To give it context and meaning, because we spent our lives confused and awestruck by how fast humanity was moving. It really is the dawn of a new era, and we have provided the first tools for the generations to come to orientate themselves in it. We know you're going to do more than any generation has. That's a given. That is the benefit of youth -- and this was our contribution, our link in the chain. Someday, it'll be a footnote just the same as the invention of the printing press was. And that's okay. We don't know what your link will be, your contribution; That is your journey. Every generation is born anew with the same potentialities, unjaded, fresh.
But don't let this marvelous new invention, this new reality we have created, blind you to the deeper universal truths. Do not let them dampen and absorb your creative energies, and thereby weaken the case for further change. This was meant to be a tool to better understand the world we live in, not as an escape from it, or a substitution. You are still needed out there. This is a place to share your dreams, but it cannot fulfill them.
You are not meant to live here.

Re:"reimagine if government could work" (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725715)

The only solution to bad government is NO goverment. We need to shrink the size of government till it fits in a bathtub and then DROWN whats left. Only by freeing the true power of the free market can mankind truly be saved.

Re:"reimagine if government could work" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44728129)

Can I hear an AMEN and HALLELUJIAH!

Yay, Central Planning (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725393)

Some small things will get done if they take money from people who would do better stuff and use it to do stuff that these central planners think of, but really the reason the Peace Corps can do some good is that most of the work requires minimal training; if they get a bunch of post-high-school kids who think they can code but don't have any ideas for their own better projects, they're not going to get a very good product out of it.

Sure... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725407)

"Coding Corps?"

Sure! Solve the worlds problems and feed the poor, unshackle the chains of oppression!

With some code!


The whole problem with programming is..programmers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725447)

Yes, i'm the one that has taken a course on Python, did Codecademy,, etc person. Why did i give up at it? Because code is not written for humans, its written for obsessive compulsive people, programmers it seems.

All these sites are find and dandy if you are already young and learning is awesome to you, but for the average person in the world, they just won't get it.

Programming is not going to change the world, or make governments better. Thats people you have to change, that is not something even a program will ever fix.

Who wants government to work!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725465)

The current predominate sentiment is that government is the enemy and needs to fail. Serving constituents is another word for socialism. What we need is massive cutbacks to government IT budgets and malware targeted towards the government to aid its collapse. Call it the Grover Norquist Pledge for geeks.

Re:Who wants government to work!?! (1)

cookYourDog (3030961) | about a year ago | (#44725573)

Nearly 1 trillion in budgets (public and not public) for all flavors of "State security". With that in mind, I can't argue with that "predominate sentiment".

Reimagining government with cheap labor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725505)

Yes, there's lots of things Code for America could do with free coding labor. "Do it for America! Do it for Free!"

what could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725545)

young amateur coders, poorly supervised, critical infrastructure on the back end...

Turf War (1)

cookYourDog (3030961) | about a year ago | (#44725553)

And you think the horde of government IT contractors making millions off this line of work are just going to abide by this?

Welcome to Bureaucracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725561)

>>working with governments on multiple levels to better serve constituents

Ah, youth.
Young, idealistic, naive, and easily duped.

lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725563)

America & Peace in the same sentence.

Work for free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725615)

As if lowball wages and race to the bottom aren't enough, now the USA wants coders to work for free.

Misnomer (1)

Alotau (714890) | about a year ago | (#44725657)

At best it's AmeriCorps for geeks. Peace Corps is a much different level of commitment. There are geeks in the Peace Corps, so really, Peace Corps is already "Peace Corps for geeks".

Gimmie an issue tracker... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725681)

where I can snap a photo of bump in a road, a sprayed wall or broken city light, and post it there to create a ticket that I will see assigned to specific administrative person and can see the whole progress until it is resolved. This one, simple thing would be transformational enough in terms of increased accountability that I cannot fathom any government deciding to implement such a thing.

Re: Gimmie an issue tracker... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726283)

SeeClickFix, PublicStuff, or the Code for America built Open311.

Re: Gimmie an issue tracker... (1)

pweidema (1736066) | about a year ago | (#44741499)

Cool - thanks!

Patent Trolls (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year ago | (#44725697)

And even if it produced useful stuff that worked well, it would stop dead when the patent trolls got involved.

Re:Patent Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726717)

not is the patent trolls are the ones running it.

Peace Corps? WTF (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#44725785)

Yeah, we all like to pretend the the Peace Corps is some sort of egalitarian organization, but it's not. They don't just accept anyone. You have to have a sterling resume and be a graduate of a good Eastern university to even have a chance. If you have FFA, 4-H Club, or ROTC in your high school extracurriculars, you need not apply. These are dead giveaways for the wrong kind of politics, the kind the Peace Corps doesn't support. Having a Peace Corps for Geeks is just more resume-polishing for the 1%. Seriously, fuck those people.

Re:Peace Corps? WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44725893)

Source to cite that they don't accept "FFA, 4-H Club, or ROTC in your high school extracurriculars". Or does belief in that just make you feel good?


Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726157)


$35k for 11 months in Silicon Valley? (1)

akume325 (1397865) | about a year ago | (#44726249)

I fail to understand how anyone could live in downtown san francisco on $35K for 11 months. Additionally are they doing some type of student loan forgiveness for participating in this program? Why would any programmer want to do this?

It's a trap (2)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | about a year ago | (#44726389)

Why? Because:

1) "cloud", it's usually nothing but a vendor lock in
2) executed by companies with no interested in empowering the community

The people will not get better by these projects. Remember: the government is there to serve the people.

Re:It's a trap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727573)

Government is there to serve vocal and generous constituencies.
The more power we give it, the move the vocal or the rich get.

The rest of us have to get what we need for ourselves.

Code for the world instead (1)

epSos-de (2741969) | about a year ago | (#44726393)

The self-imposed American government of the (The North) is not very respected among the people with more than half a brain. No money, no free work. I guess that smart coders would rather code for the world in an open source way, instead of coding for one corrupt system that is breaking their lives in numerous ways. Why Shouldn't I Work for the NSA? (Good Will Hunting) []

"the Peace Corps for geeks!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726465)

Whoever wrote "Peace Corps for geeks!" simultaneously fails to understand what the Peace Corps does and perpetuates the off-handed insult of technology professionals. Incidentally, based upon my time spent visiting a friend in the Peace Corps, I would say the Peace Corps is already "the Peace Corps for geeks!".

H-1B's aren't enough ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726633)

now you want it for free, after screwing us over for 25 years ?

good luck with that.


Peace Corps Is International (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726885)

Peace Corps volunteers do not work inside the US.

Re:Peace Corps Is International (1)

formfeed (703859) | about a year ago | (#44728333)

Peace Corps volunteers do not work inside the US.

Good point. The Peace Corps works outside the US, trying to improve life for people who are unfortunate enough to live in some other "country".

Code for America shouldn't be called 'Peace Corps for geeks' then, but rather
Something like Teach for America...
...for people who can't teach
...for people who aren't people persons
... for guys

Anything I missed?

ban it now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727179)

This type of activity should be highly regulated if not outright banned. It is clearly a type of COMMERCE that is acting in collusion to drive down prices for skilled labor wages.

It is attempting to circumvent established law regulating COMMERCE and is therefore clearly a criminal act.

Could be a nice idea, but....... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727273)

Reading the site was like attending the worst kind of corporate marketing powerpoint presentation imaginable - the buzzword bingo buzzer went haywire within seconds.......

Maybe, offering some technical detail on standard platforms, open source frameworks, specific projects that could be useful everywhere (and maybe not just in the USA) would be a lot faster at generating enthusiasm and the sort of critical mass necessary for something like this to succeed?

Just a thought (or 2)

Umm... (1)

EuclideanSilence (1968630) | about a year ago | (#44727533)

taking coding to the streets

Most of us call that "getting fired".

Free - as in puppy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44733003)

So who is going to maintain this? This sounds like a great idea until you start to look at the entire lifecycle of a custom product ...

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