Reflections on GiveCamp
I participated in the Seattle GiveCamp over the weekend, and am entirely impressed. GiveCamp is a great event – I especially like how rewarding it is for everybody involved. I strongly encourage any and all developers to watch for future GiveCamp events, and consider participating, for many reasons…
- GiveCamp provides real value to organizations that truly need help.
The Seattle event alone succeeded in helping sixteen non-profit organizations in many different ways. The projects involved varied dramatically, including website redesigns, SEO, reworking data management workflows, and even game development.
Many non-profits have a strong need for good, quality technical help. However, nearly every non-profit organization has an incredibly limited budget. GiveCamp is a way to really give back, and provide incredibly valuable help to organizations that truly benefit.
My experience has shown many developers to be incredibly generous – this is a chance to dedicate your energy to helping others in a way that really takes advantage of your expertise. Your time as a developer is incredibly valuable, and this puts something of incredible value directly into the hands of places its needed.
First, and foremost, GiveCamp is about providing technical help to non-profit organizations in need.
- GiveCamp can make you a better developer.
This is a fantastic opportunity for us, as developers, to work with new people, in a new setting. The incredibly short time frame (one weekend for a deliverable project) and intense motivation to succeed provides a huge opportunity for learning from peers.
I’d personally like to thank off the developers with whom I worked – I learned something from each and every one of you. I hope to see and work with all of you again someday.
- GiveCamp provides an opportunity for you to work outside of your comfort zone.
While it’s always nice to be an expert, it’s also valuable to work on a project where you have little or no direct experience. My team focused on a complete reworking of our organizations message and a complete new website redesign and deployment using WordPress.
While I’d used WordPress for my blog, and had some experience, this is completely unrelated to my professional work. In fact, nobody on our team normally worked directly with the technologies involved – yet together we managed to succeed in delivering our goals.
As developers, it’s easy to want to stay abreast of new technology surrounding our expertise, but its rare that we get a chance to sit down and work on something practical that is completely outside of our normal realm of work. I’m a desktop developer by trade, and spent much of the weekend working with CSS and Photoshop. Many of the projects organizations need don’t match perfectly with the skill set in the room – yet all of the software professionals rose to the occasion and delivered practical, usable applications.
- GiveCamp is a short term, known commitment.
While this seems obvious, I think it’s an important aspect to remember. This is a huge part of what makes it successful – you can work, completely focused, on a project, then walk away completely when you’re done. There is no expectation of continued involvement. While many of the professionals I’ve talked to are willing to contribute some amount of their time beyond the camp, this is not expected.
The freedom this provides is immense. In addition, the motivation this brings is incredibly valuable. Every developer in the room was very focused on delivering in time – you have one shot to get it as good as possible, and leave it with the organization in a way that can be maintained by them. This is a rare experience – and excellent practice at time management for everyone involved.
- GiveCamp provides a great way to meet and network with your peers.
Not only do you get to network with other software professionals in your area – you get to network with amazing people. Every single person in the room is there to try to help people. The balance of altruism, intelligence, and expertise in the room is something I’ve never before experienced.
During the presentations of what was accomplished, I felt blessed to participate. I know many people in the room were incredibly touched by the level of dedication and accomplishment over the weekend.
- GiveCamp is fun.
At the end of the experience, I would have signed up again, even if it was a painful, tedious weekend – merely due to the amazing accomplishments achieved throughout the event. However, the event is fun.
Everybody I talked to, the entire weekend, was having a good time. While there were many faces focused into a near grimace at times (including mine, I’ll admit), this was always in response to a particularly challenging problem or task. The challenges just added to the overall enjoyment of the weekend – part of why I became a developer in the first place is my love for challenge and puzzles, and a short deadline using unfamiliar technology provided plenty of opportunity for puzzles. As soon as people would stand up, it was another smile.
If you’re a developer, I’d recommend looking at GiveCamp more closely. Watch for an event in your area. If there isn’t one, consider building a team and organizing an event. The experience is worth the commitment.