give-camp-snow

Friday Night

GiveCamp Memphis got off to a great start tonight, with yums from Moe’s and enthusiastic volunteers and nonprofits. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. This year’s event is being held at Cowork Memphis, a new coworking space in the Cooper-Young area that is rapidly gaining popularity as a great place to work and network.

Cowork Memphis chalkboardGiveCamp brings together local nonprofits who need technology solutions, and volunteers who are willing to lend their expertise to help at no charge. This year, eight nonprofits were accepted, and a record number of volunteers showed up to work on their projects.

The team I’m on is doing a website refresh for Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services. There are three super-smart developers and one excellent designer/UX person. It’s gratifying to work with high-level professionals who are willing to work an entire weekend to give back to the community.

Saturday

It snowed today — we probably got a total of about one inch. But an inch of snow in Memphis is like six anywhere else. It took us far longer than it should have to get to Cowork for the second day of GiveCamp.

Every few hours at GiveCamp, we have what are called standup meetings. A standup meeting is just that — a meeting held while standing. The reasoning is that if the participants are standing up, the meeting will go faster and be more efficient. Everyone is required to be at these meetings, and the purpose is to report on each team’s progress. A spokesperson from each team answers three questions:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you expect to be by the next meeting?
  3. What, if anything, is blocking your progress?

Though standup meetings are quick and efficient, there’s lots of fun and laughter. There’s a great sense of community as 40 – 50 professionals are packed into a common space for the better part of 72 hours. Some diehard geeks even sleep there. We get to know each other pretty well.

Projects range from websites (mostly WordPress) to mobile apps, database solutions, and custom Facebook applications.

One of the principles of GiveCamp is to free volunteers from concerns about food and drink; to that end, we’re all very well fed. In addition to Moe’s, we had delicious food all weekend long, including breakfast muffins and pastries from Brittney’s Bites in Mississippi, pizza from Papa John’s, a fabulous dinner including shrimp & grits from Blue Daze Bistro in Hernando, Mississippi, and, of course, great BBQ from One and Only BBQ. Co-organizer Brian Swanson said, “Whether anything gets done or not, we’ll all eat very well.” Or something like that.

Actually we did both — ate great and got a lot done.

Sadly, by the time we left to go home — about 10:30 — there was not a trace of snow left. Lame.

Sunday

Sunday at GiveCamp is always a little more subdued; there’s a time limit on our work, in this case, 3:00 p.m., and the pressure is on to finish it all on time. Walk into the workspace and you’ll see lots of folks wearing headphones with eyes focused on the screen in front of them.

This year’s teams were the best yet; not only did all projects get completed on time, but most, if not all, even completed their “stretch” or low-priority goals.

It’s always a delicate balance between delivering a quality product and delivering a workable product in a weekend’s time. Friday nights are full of lofty goals and bells and whistles, while Saturday brings reality, and, by Sunday, the focus is expediency.

WordPress

We had several nonprofits who got new and/or updated WordPress sites, so Brian Swanson asked me to do a brief WordPress orientation for the nonprofits who are new to it. I had to talk way too fast, as we didn’t have much time, but these folks catch on quickly, so it was all good.  It was easy as we were blessed with smart nonprofit leaders.

That's me on the far right, talking with my hands.

That’s me on the far right, talking with my hands.

Demo

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Organizers Adam Robertson (left), and Brian Swanson (right) kick off demo time.

This year’s Demo Day was the best yet. Everyone presented their work on a 70-inch TV, and each project was impressive. It’s great to see what other teams have been working on and inspiring to watch things get done in a weekend that usually take weeks or months to develop.

demo-audience

Supportive audience digging the new stuff

Why GiveCamp?

You’ll never have a better opportunity to stretch your abilities, learn new things, and meet new people who share your interests while doing something good just because. Just because you make your living in Memphis, you want to make it an even better place to live and work, and you care about those less fortunate. Empowering nonprofits to do their work more efficiently helps everyone.

Why not GiveCamp?

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