Jeff Kreeftmeijer

Giving back to the community: the start of The Social Charity Collective@joshkalderimis

Please show your support for Movember by going to The Daily Mo and becoming a MO Poser!

Just over a year ago @pat, of Thinking Sphinx fame, came to Amsterdam and gave a talk at the Amsterdam.rb meeting about how we should all be giving back to the community.

From Pat’s presentation:

“ As (Ruby) developers, we’re quite good at learning and improving ourselves. Sometimes, though, we should direct that energy to helping others learn and improve – across different levels of community/society. ”

Apart from being a great developer, Pat is also a wise man with a heart of gold, and the presentation and what it was saying stuck with me. How could I give back to the community? What could I do? Which community? Starting with OSS contributions was good, but it is also self serving as the contributions are in my name. There must be a better greater cause which might need some love.

If you haven’t heard of Movember, here’s a quick description stolen directly from their website :

“ What started out in Australia back in 2003 with 30 guys for a bit of a laugh has evolved into a worldwide campaign raising millions of euros and involving thousands of Mo Bros and Sistas from all corners of the globe, all coming together with the aim of changing the face of men’s health

Having taken part in Movember three times, growing Mo’s (mustaches) and raising money for the New Zealand Movember run charity, when the opportunity came by to help the Movember Netherlands charity with a little web page to sit in-between their site and the donation form I jumped at the chance. In the end it was 10-ish hours of work, which included creating the page and exporting the information daily. Knowing the organiser of the charity was a plus as that is how he thought to get in touch with me.

Well, a year later Movember was kicking into gear again, this time Charin had grander plans. We sat down and planned out a full registration system which would use a third party for donations, along with Facebook and Twitter for letting your friends know about updates on your Mo progress. TTY came to the party and donated some of my time and I convinced some others in the local Ruby community to join the cause. Sadly due to legal issues surrounding privacy we could not do a registration system as it needed to pass through Movember Foundation HQ, and with only three weeks to go they were not able to give the a-ok so quickly.

It was a set back, but we weren’t prepared to give up. @spif from Soocial had also shown interest in helping out and suggested we copy the fun viral aspects of Snoranje, a charity event setup during the Football World Cup, also mustache related, and allow supporters to add a Mo to their Facebook and Twitter profile pics, as well as providing a place for Mo growers to do a daily update. Although this wasn’t a direct help to Movember, it was in support of Movember, and provided a space for Dutch Movember participants to update on their daily growth, and hopefully the fun viral element would allow others who might not have heard of the cause to get involved.

So we jumped into action, TTY would provide food, beer, and cover hosting costs, while we would code code code. Initially we had five ruby devs take part, but this grew by another 4-5, and also shrunk after a bit of dev burnout and personal commitments.

Thus TheSocialCharityCollective on GitHub was born. Ruby, Rails 3.1, Monogid + Mongodb + MongoHQ, Heroku for deployment, Carrierwave + S3 for uploads, and Devise + Omniauth (fork) for social network integrations, oh, and Jupiler beer for sustenance. All the code is open source and can be forked, hacked, and played around with, if we are going to give some time to Movember, why not also give our code to the community?

After two weeks of 3-4 days of overtime and weekend work, The Daily Mo was ready, as well as The Museum of Mo Art for a locally competition.

And as I write this article we are still adding features, changing text, including and updating links, and trying to spread the word, which is the hardest part of all.

Now, this story might seem like a 1-2-3 of events, its underlying point is giving back to a local community or charity might involve a lot of time, but it’s fantastic! We created a fun site which aims to be a bit of fun, we got to work and pair program with other great developers, we all learnt a lot, and we got to create while also helping a good cause out.

TheSocialCharityCollective will not be disappearing after Movember, if anything it has given us all a taste of helping out a local charity in a fun viral way. Just like the hackfests you see taking place online and in cities all around us, this was what The Daily Mo was for us, a hackfest for a good cause. Maybe it would be great to see more of these, or have charities and good causes take heed of this concept and organize a few themselves, in fact, maybe thats what TheSocialCharityCollective could do and could become?

So what can we do as a community? We all talk about devoting some time to open source, if it be a patch here or a blog post there, but I think we need to go an extra step further and give/donate some of our time and expertise to organizations / charities / causes which could benefit from some tech advice, a viral site, or maybe some improvements to their backoffice. We also need to talk to companies which can help with costs, maybe some hosting fees, maybe some beer or thank you gifts to the developers who lent a hand. Every little bit goes a very long way.

Hopefully after you read this you will take the plunge and email a local charity, church group, school, sports team, or us, showing your interest, hell, maybe you have an idea already! But at the very least, keep what I have said at the back of your mind, who knows when the opportunity to help out will present itself.

It would be great to hear your comments and thoughts on this topic, so please don’t hesitate to leave a message below. And if you have some time, show your support for Movember and for us by going to The Daily Mo and becoming a MO Poser.