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Volunteer Programming

I’m an out of work programmer.  I spend about 1 to 2 hours a day looking for work, but I have a lot of free time.  I want to do some charity work as a programmer.  Does anyone know of an organization that would match programmers with charities who need programs written?

Dan P
Sunday, October 06, 2002

Look at www.sourceforge.net maybe you will find an open source project that might interest you.

Anonymous
Sunday, October 06, 2002

try rentacoder dude!

http://www.rentacoder.com

Prakash S
Sunday, October 06, 2002

RentaCoder looks more like EnslaveACoder.

Simon P. Lucy
Monday, October 07, 2002

NetAid have an online volunteering scheme, which includes computer stuff http://www.netaid.org/ov

Better though is to get out the house in your local area, and find an organisation that needs your help. There should be a volunteer bureau in your nearest large town who can help you find work, even small organisations can need help coding things like databases. I find I'm quite happy just installing computers and helping people to use them.

I'd love to find a good clearing house for specifically programming, but don't know anything.  Non-profit Open Source Initiative could do it, you should check them out anyway http://www.nosi.net/

Francis Irving
Monday, October 07, 2002

I'll play Devil's Advocate, but I think 1-2 hours a day is not enough if you really want to get re-employed... especially if you are planning on moving a rung up the ladder in your next job.

True, working on a volunteer programming project can add to your network of contacts, but looking for a job is a fulltime activity.

Spend the extra time refactoring your CV (or resume), and selling yourself.

if you do take on a volunteer project, I would pick something that allows you break new ground, and add to your marketability. If you have been a coder all your life, go out and teach programming to kids, go out and MANAGE a project .... ...

tapiwa
Monday, October 07, 2002

Ditto to tapiwa's comment... if you *really* want to find a job, you need to make looking for it a 9-5 position.  If, after that 8 hours you have more time you want to devote to it, try to come up with a project on your own, something you might need only for yourself or your friends.  This will both keep your skills active in your mind, and serve as something you can show persective employers when they ask about what you've done since you last had a paying job.

Use this time for growth, not for getting better with NFL 2003. :)

Greg Hurlman
Monday, October 07, 2002

> if you *really* want to find a job, you need to make looking for it a 9-5 position. 

Oh please.  Spending 8 hours a day looking for a job is ludicrous.  Use this time off to enjoy yourself,  you will be back at the grind soon enough. 

Bella
Monday, October 07, 2002

Bella, looking for a job involves not only trawling the ads, and sending off the CV, but networking as well.

Speaking to people in the industry. Speaking to people who may know someone who is looking for your skills. Attending events where people looking for your skills are likely to be....

Eight hours a day is nothing if you really want a good job. If all you want is the first thing that the agency, or jobserve sends you, then an hour a day is more than enough.

For most industries, the days when you got five or six headhunter's calls a day are over.

tapiwa
Monday, October 07, 2002

If you can network in the 9-5 (i.e. while everyone else with a job is at work) you're a better man than I.  Spending a couple hours sifting for new places to send resumes, after checking e-mail and going through the "places already contacted and what's up there" list to do any necessary follow-ups...  If it's a morning's work that's about all it is.  I was out of work 3 months, though I quit by choice I had no idea where I was going next. 

Personally, I spent about $100 on used books and learned a bit on topics I knew little about during the afternoon, then called friends / met people / networked in the evenings.  And no one, when I finally did start getting interviews, asked me what I'd been doing for three months.  So you may never have to face that after all; do what you have to do to keep sane and put the good spin on it later.  As long as you do something you consider productive and exciting, it'll help with that show of enthusiasm that interviewers like to see.

As long as you don't volunteer like this:
http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/4227035.htm

Or at least, I don't think I would.

Mikayla
Monday, October 07, 2002

"rent-a-coder"

wait a minute. let's back up here. I looked at that site.

Very alarming.

A typical project -- a college student has posted the exact file he has received from his university professor -- a little project that will probably take 20-30 hours of work.

The student will accept no bid greater than $35.

35 programmers clamor to take the assignment -- many agreeing to do it for far less than $35.

So that's the fair market value for skilled engineering labor -- 10 cents to a dollar an hour.

Seems kind of... depressing.

The other issue is to wonder what the student is learning for the $20k/annually that either his parents or we the taxpayers are fronting.

Maybe he's learning the right thing -- don't waste time learning how to dig a hole when you can hire someone to dig a very fine hole for you for a mere pittance.

X. J. Scott
Monday, October 07, 2002

"As long as you don't volunteer like this:
http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/4227035.htm"

Thanks Mikayla for this article showing how lots of silicon valley programmers are now so desparate that they are working for free. I guess they are better off than the folks I read about in a recent article who are PAYING for the privledge to do programming, with the usual dewey eyed testimonials about how they are gaining valuable exerience they can put on their resumes, etc. Even so...

I don't know if anyone here is in that situation but if they are, let me offer some friendly advise: Don't do it. I'm serious -- you are being taken advantage of. Unless you had a lawyer draw up papers giving you ownership of their company, all their promises of stock and paid work later on are total lies. You can trust me on this. Really. They are lying to you. No joke.

Instead, take advantage of this time onder which you are not under some BS contact that makes you someone's slave to develop IP which you yourself own.

So you talk to some company startup that has a great idea and they've convinced you and you are willing to work for free, eh?

OK, fine. Go ahead and work for free developing that great idea. But not for them. Should they get the fruits of your labor while you get diddley-squat? No way, San Jose! Build that killer app and keep it for yourself. Let THEM be the ones to go down to the soup/line and living under the bridges. Remember the story of the little hen that grew the wheat and harvested it and baked the bread and after all the work she did all the lazy good for nothing other barnyard animals wanted a taste of that hot fresh tasty bread. she told them to go take a dunk in the lake and ate the bread herself.

Don't give your work away for free!

Really! You'll just end up getting all teed off at yourself and depressed.

If you have the guts and the confidence to work without pay - work for yourself! Be the CEO of the startup yourself! Seriously.

X. J. Scott
Monday, October 07, 2002

X.J,  most students cheat these days, its almost expected.  I was absolutely shocked at the amount and openness of cheating in my days at university.  The powers that be turned a blind eye unless someone specificly raised the issue.

I would like to think that these people are only hurting themselves in the long run, especially in a technical field, but I think I'd be kidding myself.  We've all seen people "get ahead" by cheating.

Bob
Monday, October 07, 2002

re: rentacoder... The most depressing part is the number of people that will work for so cheap.  I would be interested in seeing the quality of some of this work.

no, really
Monday, October 07, 2002

Hi no, really,

Don't be too depressed, A lot of them use the service to get contacts.  Rentacoder makes it pretty clear there's nothing they can do to stop further Collab outside the system.

I like the current topcoder Michael Sharp, he seems to be doing this because he likes helping people on simple things.

It must be really useful if you want to gain confidence in things you haven't done before like Win programming.  Or even communicating, which a few nerds have troubles with.

(I don't know about volunteer programs, and if I were a charity I'd be afraid about hiring coders.  Opensource projects are probably the best ways to contribute to charities, helping them get usable cheap systems.)

Sammy
Monday, October 07, 2002

On the subject of RentaCoder:
Does anyone else have a problem with people expecting a full-fledged application for $50, including the source code and all rights? Companies can sell their product for $50 or $199 or whatever because they will make it up on volume. I assume most of these buyers are just clueless about what goes into developing a useful product.

Tim Faust
Tuesday, October 08, 2002

If you really want to help people that badly go and give the druggies in the park hot soup, or work in a needle exchange program, or do something that actually involves people who are not going so well with life.

Coding something for somebody will help nobody. You are being taken advantage off, basically as a convenience, nothing you do will be urgent or effect the life of a single individual in any positive way.

Rentacoder is taking advantage of peoples inate desire to work and to be considered as worthwhile. People would rather be doing 'something' than 'nothing', if you feel this happenning to you, you need to re-evaluate your life, possibly get rid of your PC for a couple of months until you are whole again.

I agree with Bella, if you are spending 8 hours a day looking for a job, you have a problem. And, I wouldn't want you working for/with me because you spend too much time achieving nothing, or something that can be done with less effort.

Alberto
Tuesday, October 08, 2002

If you program in Perl check http://jobs.perl.org there are at least 2 or 3 postings a day by companies looking for projects to be completed pr programmers to hire.

Matthew Lock
Tuesday, October 08, 2002

> Does anyone else have a problem with people expecting a
> full-fledged application for $50, including the source code
> and all rights?

Yes.  Those are absurd contracts, fueled by ignorance.  Sellers are unlikely to get anything useful on those terms.  In the comments many sellers recount how they were burnt by picking the low-bid.  Decent coders are rational enough to pick only those contracts which they can trivially complete, especially with preexisting libs, and not get all their work from this site.

Also, Americans can't justify this pricing.  But there's only 1 American in the top 10 list, and another from the UK; those two pick sporadically, perhaps when they have a slow day at work or see an efficient deal.

Hmm, they already have a Sammy there...

Sammy
Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Alberto wrote:
"Coding something for somebody will help nobody. You are being taken advantage off, basically as a convenience, nothing you do will be urgent or effect the life of a single individual in any positive way."

What a lot of horse s**t!  Why is coding as volunteer work any different than other work?  The "urgency" and "effectiveness" are completely dependent on what project you choose.

I was a volunteer assistant therapist for a special needs aquatics program (water therapy and swimming for kids with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, etc) for 2 years, getting in the pool once a week.  The head therapist -- extremely computer phobic -- was managing and networking with parents and helpers via phone and snail mail, spending hours a month.  When I built her a simple web site, with phone lists, schedules, etc., she practically cried with happiness.

If you take a utilitarian outlook, I'd say the 3 hours I spent putting together the web site were more "positive" than any 3 hours I spent in the pool, because the coding benefited the entire group while the pool work only helped 1 kid at a time.

Volunteer coder in SF
Thursday, October 10, 2002

Oh, I forgot to answer the original post:

http://www.volunteermatch.org/

You can search by zip code, and they have a category specifically called "Computers and Technology".

Volunteer coder in SF
Thursday, October 10, 2002

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