Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Coding for a Cause and Florida DrupalCamp in the Orlando Sentinel

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 19:58 -- rprice

Our charity Drupal coding event, Coding for a Cause, made it to the local paper earlier this month. It's always nice to be worthy of a picture in the paper.


Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda, Orlando Sentinel

"Sometimes 'hacking' gets misconstrued as being something bad," said Ryan Price, a 29-year-old consultant and trainer for Drupal, a content-management system that can be used to build websites and blogs. "But it literally means tinkering, and there are all sorts of different hacking events. … We wanted to set aside a day and work with nonprofits."

I have to say, for the handful of times I've been mentioned or quoted in the press, this is probably my favorite. Kate Santich writes about social services and volunteerism for the Orlando Sentinel, so she was a great person to help us get the story out about our 3rd annual Coding for a Cause event at Florida DrupalCamp 2012. This year, Lisa Thorell and Diane Court have been assisting us with some marketing, publicity and programming tasks in the camp, and they are certainly responsible for getting us in touch with the Sentinel. All I had to do was answer a few questions.

the Drupal community — united by the idea of sharing computer code for free — believes in helping people to help themselves, rather than charging even a small fee.

"All you have to do is show up and put on your thinking cap. You have to want to be there," Price said. "The No. 1 thing for us is actually to be able to get inexperienced people in an environment where they can sit down and work next to someone who is very experienced and work on the same project."

It's not just knowledge for knowledge's sake either. Mike Anello, principal partner at Anello Consulting and one of the camp organizers, said he hopes volunteers who want to learn how to use Drupal — employed on websites from WhiteHouse.gov to Sony — might be able to pick up job skills from it. Already, the Merritt Island resident has trained laid-off aerospace workers looking for a new career path. So far, 14 of the 18 students in his recently completed 10-week course have landed internships.

"With unemployment so high," Price said, "we're just trying to create opportunities for people."

For me, this event is really about growing the pool of talented Drupal developers, and the people who see Drupal (or any open source project) as a viable option for solving their problems. It's a bit of a catch 22, though, you kind of need one to get the other, hence the game-changing nature of Coding for a Cause.

Some organizations see websites like the ones we're building as prohibitively expensive - that's money they could be spending on other things. Then there are the developers saying "I need to eat". This way, everybody wins. We also hope that experienced people working along side inexperienced people creates all kinds of new opportunities and experiences we can't even predict. New best practices get shared, partnerships get formed, whatever.

It's a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to the challenge, and hopefully launching three sites in the next month or two.

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