Of Learning And Farts and Fun: GiveCamp

Why am I a GiveCamper? First, I get to volunteer – I get to help an NPO with something that normally they wouldn’t know I could help them with, and probably don’t know many others that could help them either. Second, it’s a strange kind of awesome spending an entire weekend working on a project for someone, getting little to no sleep, and getting nothing but a few words spoken about my efforts in the end for payment.Third, you learn a helluva lot and meet some great people!

My first GiveCamp was Lansing in March 2010. Then Ann Arbor in Sept. 2010 (my NPO did an awesome blog post about the experience here), Lansing again this past March and Ann Arbor will be again this September. I was honored to be asked to be on the board for the Ann Arbor GiveCamp this year.

One question I get a lot is “I only know how to code in X” or “I don’t know how to do web stuff” etc. but “how would I be able to help?”. Yeah, we do a lot of websites, but there are often a completely custom app or two. That’s why you put your language proficiencies in your application! So we know where you’d be the best fit! Let me run down the projects I’ve worked on at the past 3 GiveCamps, so you can see the variety of skills we needed:

  • Lansing, March 2010 – DotNetNuke site
    • Going through client requirements, and weeding out what we thought could be accomplished in the weekend
    • Creating a sitemap and delineating tasks to each team member
    • Each person or mini-team decided what would work best for their part, and brought it to the team
    • Configure DotNetNuke to our specs
    • Some custom code (just a tiny little widget)
    • Data/content entry
    • Testing the completed site, and making tweaks
    • Demo the site to much rejoicing!
  • Ann Arbor, September 2010 – Ruby backend database and entry system
    • Going through client requirements, and weeding out what we thought could be accomplished in the weekend (see a theme here?)
    • Planning, normalizing, and re-normalizing database structure
    • Working through some complex-as-hell database queries (with lots of help! There’s always someone that knows!)
    • Learn some Ruby (my first real-world exposure to working with Ruby)
    • Learn some Git (ditto)
    • Testing the completed project, and making tweaks
    • Demo the project to much rejoicing!
  • Lansing, March 2011 – Drupal site
    • Again with the requirements! Project planning is key!
    • Creating a sitemap and delineating tasks to each team member
    • Configure Drupal (argh!)
    • Get crop-dusted on burrito night
    • Lots and lots of content entry
    • Testing the completed site, and making tweaks
    • Demo the site to much rejoicing!
    • I did absolutely no coding on this project…

So to recap, other than potential coding (or design, depending on your role):

  • Project planning
  • Delineating tasks
  • Data or content entry
  • Working as a team
  • Learn something you didn’t know
  • Smelling peoples farts on the day they serve burritos (which is a cruel trick the organizers play!)
  • Sleep a bit
  • Get sugar-high and caffeinated
  • MUCH REJOICING!

It really is something that must be experienced. If you’re familiar with the software development process, it would be beneficial to you to jump in with people with a variety of experience and just do it.

Dave Giard put a great video on his Technology and Friends site from last year’s Ann Arbor GiveCamp – I recommend it if you want to see what it’s all about, from the inside.

Anyway, we want to help as many, if not more, of the NPOs that we helped last year. We need more volunteers to do that! Please, sign up now!

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Posted on September 2, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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