Freelancing Gods 2015

21 Jun 2009

Link: All for Good

"All for Good helps you find and share ways to do good." US-only, though.

08 Jun 2008

The End of Charity

As I’m travelling, I’m reading more – so that means it’s time for another impromptu book-review/idea-sharing post.

The book in question this time around is Nic Frances’ ominously titled The End of Charity. The points of the book aren’t that scary though – I find them to be pretty spot-on with what’s needed.

A quick overview:

  • Society’s siloed approach isn’t working: Leaving businesses to focus on making money, and charities to making the world better isn’t really getting anywhere.
  • Value needs to represent more than financial worth: Goods and services need to be given more accurate values which incorporate social and environmental worth.
  • Businesses need to incorporate social and environmental mindsets into their operations: Remove the silos. Don’t leave the ‘doing good’ to a separate organisation (examples: Google Inc and, Microsoft and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, McDonalds and Ronald McDonald House Charities).
  • The market will make it all work: Okay, that’s a little simplistic, but the market does a decent job at helping the best value goods and services come to the fore.

Now the book itself is far more detailed – Frances draws a lot from his own experiences, both in charities and in socially-minded businesses, so there’s no end of real world examples. It’s also extremely easy to digest, so I highly recommend reading it, even if you don’t have much of a business-focused mind.

Granted, some of these ideas can take some getting used to, especially on the left side of politics where broad strokes paint businesses (particularly corporations) as Bad, and charities and other non-profits as Good. A lot of what’s discussed in this book isn’t particularly new to me – I was introduced to the concepts while working at MBO (now Ergo Consulting) (which, perhaps not so surprisingly, had an awesome culture non unlike what Frances outlines for his own Cool nrg). I remember bristling at the idea put forward by our then CEO Paul Steele (who is currently COO at World Vision Australia) that business is the best way to enact social improvement.

A few years have passed since then, though, and I’ve come around to agreeing that the combined approach is far more likely to succeed than the old, siloed way.

Now, this hasn’t led to any dramatic chances in my freelancing lifestyle – but it’s got my brain ticking away, so you’ll just have to wait and see what comes of it. That said, what do you you think about all this? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have some suggestions on how to make the organisation you work for take a more holistic approach?

21 Feb 2008

Link: The End of Charity

"a challenging, thought provoking and inspiring exploration of how we should rethink the idea of charity"

30 Nov 2007

Link: The Footprints Network - The Power of Many

"The footprints network is an alliance of e-commerce businesses and their customers who fund community projects from many tiny donations collected with every online transaction."

27 Nov 2007

So you're a kick-arse coder

This is the written version of a talk I did at RailsCamp – it is pretty close to what I actually said on the day, minus the heckling, discussions and answers to rhetorical questions.

So, you’re a kick-arse coder…

XKCD Regular Expressions Comic

Over this weekend, you’ve created awesome Rails apps – or perhaps you’re such a code ninja that you’re using merb, Camping, Sinatra or Hack. Well done. You rock. Honestly.

Perhaps you’ve been doing this for years – maybe you’ve fought off Java or .NET in a previous life. You’ve made sense of XML, and twisted Internet Explorer into looking somewhat decent without too many CSS hacks.

And that’s cool. Really.

But it’s only code, right?

Alright wise guy. What’s next?

XKCD My (Geek) Generation Comic

So where to from here, then? What’s next? What’s better than code?

To put it simply, although it may sound trite: Make a difference! Give something back!


And I could finish now – my message was blunt enough. You all got the point, right?

Ah, but examples would be nice. I don’t want to just lecture you with broad dreams and ideals – let me see if I can give you something to work with.

Let’s start with the basics. Release code! Let others learn from your mistakes. Let them save time using your plugins and gems. And this is also a subtle way of teaching about code.

There are less subtle ways to teach, though.

What, teaching? Like, in a classroom?

You can’t just type away on your blog and expect everyone to read it and become enlightened. You need to seek others, instead of waiting for them to seek out you.

Do people who use b, i and font tags make you sad? Well, go teach kids how to write semantic HTML. Get them while they’re young.

Contact your old Uni or TAFE and offer to do a guest lecture or two on unobtrusive javascript. Or some basic pointers on freelancing. Tell them how important it is to find a good accountant. Encourage them to be part of user groups and communities like our Oceania group. Give them some idea of what a reasonable hourly rate is – you know, the kind of things you needed to know back when you began freelancing.

Do the same at your old high school – drop in on the IT classes, and give the kids a lesson from someone who actually knows their shit. Run through the basics of firewalls. Regale them with your networking war stories (without the geek speak, though).

Be rewarded with glory, recognition, and warm fuzzy feelings.

“Well, that’s nice and all, Pat,” I hear you say. “But surely it’s still just tech. Even semantic HTML is important, sure, but it’s not really important now, is it?”

“That’s a good point,” is my reply.

So let’s think a little bigger

Mark Pesce at WDS07 with slide saying 'People are the network'

The world can always use some help. But it’s so big, and you’re so small, yeah?

Bullshit. Don’t give me any of those cop-out excuses. To paraphrase Mark Pesce: “We have been blessed with the biggest and best networking gear of all the hominids, and we all share the same capability.”

Did you know that all of Delicious Library’s Amazon referral income goes straight to charity?

Simple, yet effective. I think they’d be cool with you imitating that.

Perhaps you could donate that old hardware you’re not using to a school. Or, you could push 1% of your income to the NGO of your choice. It ain’t much, and it ain’t hard.

If you’re looking for a something a little different: Dean Kamen, who created the Segway, is providing electricity for villages in Bangladesh with boxes running off cow dung, and pure water for communities in Honduras. I’m sure he’d love some support.

It can be nice to get a feel for how you’re helping, though – random donations of money can seem like lip service. One suggestion of an alternative: Oxfam is an NGO that you can ‘buy’ specific items (cows, wells, mosquito nets and so on) for communities in third world countries.

So, take your slick Web 2.0 app, and build these donations into it. Perhaps as a small part of the account fees. And give your users the ability to donate more through your app if they wish. They’ll feel warm and fuzzy, and you will feel warm and fuzzy. And it’s all thanks to Rails! Or, well, something like that.

But wait! There’s more!

If you’ve got a bit of time up your sleeve (or are willing to make the time), you could donate a few months to organisations like Engineers Without Borders, or Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development if you’re under 31. Sure, it may mean you have to put up with Windows, or poke around with PHP – but it’ll be while helping out people in countries like East Timor, or Nepal, or rural Australia.

Let’s blow this taco stand!

Now, what I’ve just gone through – it isn’t the answer. There is no silver bullet, no one approach that will always work. But they’re just a starting point, a few suggestions – and if we put our heads together, I’m sure we can come up with some better ones.

Gandhi said something like “be the change you want to see in the world” – and yes, it sounds clichéd, but it’s fucking true.

Don’t sit on your arse waiting for things to be better, or people to be smarter, or code to be DRYer.

Get out there!

XKCD Interesting Times Comic

(Photo above was taken by Rowen Atkinson at Web Directions South 2007. Comics from XKCD. Inspiration from Mark Pesce, John Allsopp, Mike Lee and Dean Kamen. Massive thanks to all who provided feedback.)

12 Nov 2007

Link: The Power of Charity

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About Freelancing Gods

Freelancing Gods is written by , who works on the web as a web developer in Melbourne, Australia, specialising in Ruby on Rails.

In case you're wondering what the likely content here will be about (besides code), keep in mind that Pat is passionate about the internet, music, politics, comedy, bringing people together, and making a difference. And pancakes.

His ego isn't as bad as you may think. Honest.

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