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PerlMonks as do gooders- or, MonkCorps

by Hero Zzyzzx (Curate)
on Apr 26, 2001 at 18:30 UTC ( #75806=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Extending the monk philosophy a little bit- what about a "volunteer" section? Monks are known to practice good deeds- heal the sick, brew excellent beer, make loaves and fishes, etc. etc. Seriously though, I think this would be a great way to build the PerlMonks community and work on some interesting projects.

The idea- non-profits are incredibly technologically challenged in many cases. They can't afford to pay coders of PerlMonk caliber in many cases, and may have simple projects that they just don't have resources for.

The idea is that we'd set up a section where a non-profit could put specs up for a project (web or non-web based), and Monks could then review and get involved if they were interested. Some of the projects are bound to be pretty damn cool, and maybe even cutting edge.

This idea arose partially because I work for non-profits, and partially because I have another non-profit web designer friend who needs a simple project done. It would take me 20 minutes to do, but it's taking her hours and hours. In this case, she's trying to learn perl, but in many cases people just have projects they need to get done.

Of course we're all strapped for time, but I think PerlMonk skills are too valuable to be used only for for-profits. Look, most people volunteer at some point, we can either slop food on a plate (still important!) or use our highest and best skills.

Obviously this is still a pretty rough idea. Thoughts?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: PerlMonks as do gooders- or, MonkCorps
by Albannach (Prior) on Apr 26, 2001 at 20:42 UTC
    Some monks may be interested in the Tetra Society. Most of their projects are more along the lines of mechanical engineering, but I can definitely see a need for software too. Jouke provides an excellent example of the good that can be done by imaginative and capable monks!

    I'd like to be able to assign to an luser

Re: PerlMonks as do gooders- or, MonkCorps
by Mission (Hermit) on Apr 26, 2001 at 18:43 UTC
    As long as there is a stipulation that this must be a not for profit organization submition only. I'd hate to see a lot of 'business' people try to pawn off their work without paying for it.
    I'd be happy to assist in some manner. If there are small projects, it might be nice for me to cut my teeth on, or even some of my web staff.
    Nice idea Hero Zzyzzx... as long as it doesn't get abused.

    - Mission
    "Heck I don't know how to do it either, but do you think that's going to stop me?!!"

      Avoiding abuse is very important, obviously.

      My idea was that this would just be a "match-making" service, with most of the traffic taking place out of the Monastery.

      The section would be moderated, with the moderator eliminating requests that are clearly not from non-profits. This would be pretty easy to do in most cases.

      It would then be up to individual monks from there to choose their projects and verify the status of the agency.

        I think this is a great idea - I know many technically inclined people who might like to donate their time and skills but see no way to do so that wouldn't take up way more time than they have.

        I would therefore suggest some way that people can get recognition for the hours they put into these community projects - perhaps a web page listing contributions. Mainly for those people who want to demonstrate their charitable time contribution (the self-employed, college applicants, etc.)

Re: PerlMonks as do gooders- or, MonkCorps
by OzzyOsbourne (Chaplain) on Apr 26, 2001 at 18:43 UTC

    I was just going to post an almost identical idea. Mine was more of a "group projects" or "ideas" section. I tend to have ideas for scripts that are WAY over my head. I spend weeks trying to put them together, and sometimes they never see completion. Sometimes they get done, but they could be more efficient or better written.

    I would like to work on different projects to improve my skills, and I'm a little ashamed to say, I code for fun quite a bit.

    The only drawback of this section would be the preponderance of homework postings...


      Wouldn't SourceForge fit the "shared projects" profile?

      I'm think strictly a "match up civic-minded monks with non-profits needing help" section, with a focus on projects of varying length. Quick hits to larger scope projects.

Re: PerlMonks as do gooders- or, MonkCorps
by Jouke (Curate) on Apr 26, 2001 at 18:46 UTC
    Nice idea, I ++ed it, but where do we find the monks with spare time?

    Jouke Visser, Perl 'Adept'
      Probably browsing :)
Re: PerlMonks as do gooders- or, MonkCorps
by arashi (Priest) on Apr 27, 2001 at 08:14 UTC
    I think that would be a really good idea. It would be great to learn new things about Perl by doing useful applications that might help someone out. As long as it isn't abused, and people realize that we have jobs, or school, or both, that come first.

    As for brewing beer, hell yeah, lets do that too! :)


    I'm sure Edison turned himself a lot of colors before he invented the lightbulb. - H.S.
Re: PerlMonks as do gooders- or, MonkCorps
by scottstef (Curate) on Apr 27, 2001 at 17:13 UTC
    Your idea is VERY noble, however I have a few problems with this idea.:
    1. The potential for abuse- this has already been mentioned.
    2. The fact that many non-profits have people making a lot more than me getting paid for doing what they do has always been a big problem for me. I no longer support non-profits that have professional telemarketers do their "begging". Why should I donate to a cause that can afford to send some outrageous % of my to a telemarketing firm?
    3. Determining the "cause"- How do we determine whom to help? There are several non-profits that i have a hard time supporting because of their views, actions, or messages.
    4. What about if someone posts a project and noone works on it? Do we need a non-profit to become irrate because we didn't help them or didn't finish in time?
    5. What happens when something gets written that wonks out their system, code crashes, etc. What do we have to prevent us from getting slammed?

    Please don't get me wrong, I am all for donating time, i work with several different forums that are a bit obscure. I am starting an on-line club for the high school near me to help some of the kids there get into computers. I work with the non-profit my sister works for to help them with computer needs. I follow a few mailing lists that are non-profits and read posts and send snippets that way- (kinda like PM). There are plenty of opportunites to be a do gooder in our own everday lives, I don't think we at PM should try to play project manager for non-profits. I don't and don't think most of us here need anymore meetings/conference calls/deadlines. I much prefer the small work that picking up a side job(donated) here or there offers.

      Thanks for your personal thoughts and concerns on the idea. I think I need to clarify what I'm proposing.

      Our system would just match-make, providing a forum for non-profits and monks to connect. A non-profit would post a proposal, a moderator would decide if it's truly from a non-profit, and it would go into a section of the site. During the request process, all sorts of disclaimers could be put out- a couple obvious ones are "We don't guarantee anyone will help you, PerlMonks isn't liable, the work and it's security, functionality, and useability isn't the responsibility of PerlMonks, etc."

      Monks could then visit the section and browse through. If a monk is particularly interested in helping an environmental organization, they could look for that type of project. If they don't like the project, they don't have to do it. If a monk wants to help a pro-choice group, great. If they want to help a children's advocacy group, great. Again, it's up the individual monk what they want to get involved in.

      Having worked for non-profits for the last six years, I can answer some of your questions:

      1. Abuse: I think it's up to the individual monk to determine the validity of an organization and it's project.
      2. Non-Profit integrity: I've always worked for the poor, "scrappy" non-profits, mostly environmental organizations. I can't comment on how the well funded ones operate. However, we ran our own telephone calling centers, didn't call anyone but our members, and only 20% of a telephone donation went to administrative costs. I was the DBA for the membership department, so I was intimately involved with the fundraising. It's actually rather economical to run a phone project.

        Regardless of the above, a monk could choose the organization they want to help, and not help those they don't agree with.
      3. Who to help: This would be up to the monk. They could poke around 'til they found a project that interested them.
      4. No-one helping: It would be articulated to the non-profit among the disclaimers that we can't guarantee that anyone is going to pick up their project.
      5. Getting slammed for crappy code: This would be the monks fault. Again, the PerlMonks site would just match-make. The monk would handle everything, including responsibility, after making the initial connection.

      Most of the concerns about this idea has been from people who wouldn't have the time to get involved, or folks who don't really seem to trust non-profits. That's fine, and all valid issues. Don't work on any of the projects. I still think having this opportunity available to the monastery would be a good one. Maybe even something a foundation would throw some money at.

Re: PerlMonks as do gooders- or, MonkCorps
by Hero Zzyzzx (Curate) on Apr 26, 2001 at 23:31 UTC

    One thing that's distressing me about this thread is that none of the higher-level monks have weighed in on this.

    Is this an idiotic idea, or something that would build the monastery?

    Doing volunteer scripts could even have an experience factor to it. Complete a project and get points.

      The main reason that I never weighed in is that I only just read the node.

      Personally I am at best lukewarm on it. I don't like people looking at the talent arrayed here and drooling over how it can be used. This section of the talent already is fully utilized. I work for a for profit company, sure. However I also view time and energy spent on Perlmonks as donated time. And I have other things that I like to do, both with and without a computer in front of me.

      So I wouldn't be involved. I suspect many others would likewise be unavailable. And monks who are inclined to volunteer have no shortage of ways to do that already. Off of the top of my head, worthy projects include SEUL, The FSF, plus virtually any large volunteer organization has data infrastructure needs. Do as Larry Wall does, volunteer to help at your churches website!

      In fact looking through the comments, I see a lot of people who can think of things they want resources thrown at. I don't see a lot of people saying that they cannot find places to put their energy. Until we get that, I have to wonder how well it would work.


        That's fine, I don't expect that every monk has the time to spare to do perl coding for free. However, It's not that easy to find "volunteer organizations with data infrastructure needs." Most non-profits are so far removed from technology (besides being consumers of it) that to even talk in those terms is to lose them. However, they often have some idea of what they want to do, but absolutely no way of knowing even where to start.

        A couple of examples: I know a non-profit in Boston that contacted me about building a job board for homeless African-Americans. Involved project, sounds perfect for a college student, but way too time intensive for me. I could post this on a volunteer section, and someone would get involved, or wouldn't.

        Another one: an environmental organization is running a boycott campaign and would like to set up a way for visitors to sign up for action alert lists and send emails to political targets. Far easier project, maybe a couple of simple scripts. A good weekend project for a monk.

        Hopefully the projects would vary enough in time and intensity that a monk could find something to fit in with the time they have available.

        I know this idea is warm-and-fuzzy. I think there's a need, and I really feel that if I do volunteer work now, I want to code. It's too valuable a skill to waste.

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