Skip to main content

Charities and Hackathons

Someone asked an interesting question at a charity-focused hackathon I was at last year - along the lines of "This is the third year we've held this event to help Charities, why aren't more of them here with projects?". From what I've seen of (medium to large) charities, the answer would be along the lines of "the technology problems that charities have to deal with can't easily be tackled by a hackathon". Technology problems in charities tend to be things like:

  • Needing to modify existing systems to handle new initiatives
  • Correctly piping data from one system to the other
  • Bringing order to ad-hoc systems that have evolved in Excel
Those sorts of problems are hard to take to a hackathon setting because so much knowledge of existing systems, processes and data is needed to handle them properly. Whereas a good hackathon project is generally one that mashes data from X with APIs from Y and Z to make a new self contained app.

Hackathons are great for generating experimental new apps, but Charities are not well placed to take advantage of experimental initiatives. I've seen some great prototypes get built, but they rarely seem to be picked up by charities. I think its probably because decision makers in large charities can't generally divert time and funds from established programmes at short notice to plough them into experimental ventures.This is compounded by the 'post hackathon dispersion' effect - once the hackathon is over and the pizza boxes are cleared away, the teams tend to disperse and its hard to keep up momentum.

Hence, despite Hackathons (bunch of smart people with effort to donate) and Charities (worthy causes in need of help) being - on paper - a great thing to combine together, I havent seen it done in a really integrated way yet. Charity hackathons are great for sharing ideas and trying things out, but there's still some figuring out to do, about how can we can harness that effort for maximum lasting benefit.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Copying data to Salesforce Sandboxes using TalenD

A common problem with Salesforce Developer Sandboxes is that they are blank. Really you're going to want some data in there, so there are various strategies for copying data from your live instance to the Sandbox. There are some paid-for solutions - SFXOrgData , Salesforce Partial Data Sandboxes - but if you've got a decent ETL tool you can build your own. There are a bunch of free ETL tools for Salesforce: JitterBit Data Loader is good for quick ad-hoc tasks but the free version makes it difficult to manage specific ETL projects or share projects with other users Pentaho Community Edition - an open source edition of the enterprise version Apatar was a free open source Salesforce ETL which still works but development seems to have stopped since 2011 TalenD Open Studio is an open source ETL tool For the task of copying data from live to a Sandbox, either Pentaho or TalenD Open Studio could be used, depending on preference. Here's a good comparison of the dif

SSRS multi-value parameters with less fail

SSRS supports multi-value parameters, which is nice, but there are a few issues with them. This is how I deal with them. Two of the problems with SSRS multi-value parameters are: You have to jump through a few hoops to get them to work with stored procedures The (Select All) option, as shown above The reason the (Select All) option is a problem is that it is a really inelegant way of saying 'this parameter does not matter to me'. If you have a list with hundreds of values, passing all of them as a default option just seems wrong. Also, if your report shows the user which items they selected, printing the whole list when they choose (Select All) is excessive. So in this post I'm going to show my particular way of: Jumping through the hoops to get Multi-Value params in a stored procedure Adding a single '--All--' value that the report interprets as meaning all the options. Getting Multi-Value params to work with Stored Procedures This is

Remote Desktop on High DPI screens

Scott Hanselman wrote a nice blog post back in January about some of the issues you might face running Windows on a High DPI screen like that of a Surface Pro or Lenova Yoga. I'm kindof mystified that he didn't mention Remote Desktop though because thats been the number one problem for me on High DPI screens. That said, if you remote into very recent Server OS's like Windows Server 2012 R2, then apparently Remote Desktop will sort out the DPI scaling automatically. Perhaps Scott hadn't noticed the Remote Desktop issue because he only remotes into Server 2012 R2. Certainly if I was Scott, I wouldn't remote into anything less than that. But, in practice, I regularly have to remote into Server 2008 machines and yes even Server 2003. If you do that from a high DPI screen, the remote desktop is rendered at regular pixel size, which makes everything tiny. Its hard to show screenshots of High DPI screens that correctly convey the pixel size, so I've photoshoppe