Saturday, May 28, 2011

dev4good - who what where why?

I have been asked quite a few times why I am organising dev4good and every time I answer that questions it seems there is a different reason.


The initial idea came to me while watching a short film a friend Dave Hawes made, while taking part in the PayPal charity hack last year. I thought ‘hey I could do that, but just not with a single platform/API’.
I had no time so the idea was filed into my “great idea, no time folder”
R.I.P Build bunny

Time flew by and we had our first codefest evening at Devevening where we (Matt Lacey usually) writes a player app (noughts and crosses) that everyone attending had to compete against with there own self written player. Everyone had 2 hours to work on it, at the end we had a play off and the winner got - bugger all actually.

But the point was it was quite impressive what you can achieve in under 2 hours, some of the guys paired up and worked as a team to build their player and even though it was a competitive event, everyone was happy to help those needing a point in the right direction.
We have had a few of these events now and they are by far the most enjoyable code events I have taken part in.
Fast forward to early 2011 and I find myself brainstorming exactly what this hack day will be.
It had to be a simple format, otherwise I would never get it sorted in time. And it had to be based around solving problems, I wanted people from different backgrounds involved, there must be a competitive edge in there, a time constraint, sleep will be optional and we will need a tonne of coffee.

We also needed something to work on, something that we would not work on during the normal 9 to 5 slog.
Lets face it if you work in IT, normally your job is to make something that does stuff that makes money for someone. Or you end up developing something to remove the need for human interaction.

I though that charities always have problems they need solving and most don’t have the funds to realise their dreams or the technical staff to help them do it.

ideas + skills = results

 Developer stereotypes

Personally I think developers (of the software variety) tend to have the reputation for working late, in the dark, illuminated by their multi screen setups hunched over their wireless keyboards, sipping on a cup of coffee mere mortals would have tipped out hours ago – or is this just me?
Joking aside, for a lot of us isn’t too far from the truth, at least a few night a week anyway.
Saying that I really like working with other people, however as a freelance developer up until very recently anyway, its usually just me, myself and I writing code and solving problems and trust me, never listen to I and myself can be a little flaky at 2 in the morning.
So having an event that forces developers to work with people they would never normally work with on projects that they would probably never work on – it’s got to be a good thing right?
So the question was “What would happen if we took our codefest idea, but this time threw in 30 developers. The problems would be real world ones form people who really need the help.
Most importantly if we solved any of these problems we would be directly helping a person somewhere.
It seemed like a win win situation to me.

Enter dev4good

In march I was lucky enough to meet a man who had a building in London that basically cried out ‘hack day’, it had a bar!
He was happy for us to use the place for an entire weekend (including overnight, which for most corporate venues as this is not allowed due to something called insurance).

That pretty much set the ball rolling, dates were set, websites were knocked up (literally), then the social network wheels started turning.
3 months later we have 30 registered developers, over £5000 worth of prizes (thanks to them all), people coming from all over the UK (plus one form Holland) and a tonne of free coffee (hmmmmmm).
Also we have (so far) 2 fantastic charities that really need our help;
Dev4good is a social experiment of sorts, lock 30 developers in building with some serious problems and see how they work their computer sorcery to solve them.


During the last few months while organising dev4good, I have met some amazing people along the way and we haven’t even had the event yet!
It is so refreshing to work on a project that a) isn’t IT based for a change and b) allows you to meet and talk to really cool people.

So come on, why?

To make a difference (cheesy I know), but I really do believe that we  (that’s all 30 of us) can make a difference over the course of a single weekend and if we can help 1 person then all the hard work will be well worth it.
I am also fairly sure that everyone attending will gain a lot from just working with the other people there. It’s an awesome team of people who are coming.

Right I want to join in the fun

You can register over at
There is a load of info on out wemoot portal, feel free to look around

If you cant come, but would like to be involved?

We are still on the lookout for sponsors contact dev4good (or  if you can help financially or have a product you think could help our team out.
Spread the word, we will be running these events every year in London, or if you would like to run one in your region/area/town/country get in touch.
You can also follow the event on twitter @devfourgood and the hash tag is #dev4good

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