I’m a novice member of the Elixir community and a novice programmer more generally, and for some time now I’ve been thinking of helping to establish an online community around “Elixir for Good”, modelled closely on Ruby for Good. I ran this basic idea past José, and he agreed that this forum was a good place to kick the idea around a bit…
I would like to make a golden bridge between the Ruby for Good and Elixir for Good communities, which I think could be great for Elixir adoption also. Anyhow, I have no clear idea on how to proceed with any of the above, or whether there’s much interest in such a thing among the Elixir community at present, but I think it warrants some form of brainstorm.
I have purchased the elixirforgood.org domain with a 1 year renewal, and will be happy to transfer this at no cost to any suitable not-for-profit structure (such as the Erlang Ecosystem Foundation or similar) so that it can be held and governed as a community resource into the future.
At this stage, I invite your thoughts and comments…
I tried to understand what Ruby for Good is, but failed. Could you please provide a short description of how it works.
- do they take money from the non-profits?
- is there a paid core-team?
- the volunteers are not paid I assume?
- essentially as a volunteer I work on open-source projects and do some good but on the other hand can’t do exactly the project I want (but then again have a higher chance that what I do is useful for someone)
While I’m not sure of many of the finer details of how Ruby for Good is structured and operates (and I suspect that there’s some room to tweak things), I can point towards an episode of the “Ruby Rogues” podcast featuring an interview with Sean Marcia, who organises Ruby for Good:
I don’t have the time to watch a 50min interview.
Hello and welcome,
This might resume what Ruby for good is doing…
From Ruby for good site
Our mission at Ruby for Good is to deliver specialized software development solutions to nonprofit organizations to bolster their critical missions, build an inclusive technology community, and provide technology-focused educational opportunities to underserved communities.
It started in 2013… and now it’s a big project.
You might find many talented people in this forum, I hope You find some willing to start/help Elixir for good
I think that this could be a wonderful project!
Rather than having this be run by the Elixir core team or the EEF I think it would be great for a new team of people to spearhead this one. That way they will have enough time to make this as impactful as possible, while the core team can focus on the language.
Would be good to form a community of projects and people who are working in the “elixir for good” sector. From some blog posts, I know that change.org is using Elixir a bit. Glific is also specifically focussed on the NGO / social impact sector. So would be great to see more folks doing work in this space, so we can benefit from each others strengths and build on our collective work
Wow - at the outset, I’m really heartened to find so much goodwill for such an idea so quickly! Thanks to everyone for useful suggestions, etc. This could be a very fun project to be part of, I reckon…
Regarding lpil’s comments, I’d personally be fine with that - and I’m willing to play an active part in such a group. I’ve no idea what kind of time commitment it might entail (that’s probably a “how long is a piece of string?” kind of question), but I’m open to discussing that topic in due course.
Lobo, what you’re suggesting sounds good. I’d be keen to hear you unpack those ideas some more…
For now, I guess one of the first questions would be, how best to get the word out among the Elixir community? This forum post is obviously a start, and I suspect that Mark and the folks at Thinking Elixir might be happy to give the idea a quick plug on their podcast…
Seems to me that this project has got some fine potential. Who knows, I might even improve my own Elixir skills along the way
I had another look at their page.
I think they work like this:
- a (paid?) core-team that coordinates with the stakeholders
- volunteers that implement the requirements created by (1) see Ruby for Good · GitHub
(1) is hard and something you do not have in a normal open-source project. You need experienced people for this and I do not see how this could be possible without payment.
(2) the smaller problem
Just to throw in a cautionary note (and only that). I don’t really know Ruby for Good, but from a glance at the web site it seems like their main emphasis is facilitating volunteer labour for NGOs. As someone who’s all but left the tech industry in part because it’s so hard to find work within it I consider socially or environmentally constructive, I wonder if that is the most ethically productive direction for developers, who tend to be more flush with money than with time.
I like the notion of an ‘Elixir for Good’ community, so I’m (truly) not trying to be negative. But I’m wondering whether ‘closely modeling’ it on Ruby for Good (if my gist of its purpose is correct) is a useful initial constraint.
Hi Sebb, I don’t have enough knowledge of this kind of project to have much of an opinion yet about the funding side of things, and I agree with you that funding (and more broadly, the sustainability of the project) is a very important consideration. I hope that by putting our heads together (in a COVID-appropriate fashion, of course ) we can find ways to get point 1) addressed, regardless of exactly how it can be made to work.
Crispinb: I think you make some fair and valid points. I guess my intention is to use Ruby for Good’s model as a starting point or launching-off point for EfG and some form of inspiration for it, rather than slavishly following their lead. Anyhow, I suspect that the unique selling points of Elixir / BEAM will naturally lend themselves to addressing classes of problems / challenges that Ruby may not have been a great fit for. Assuming this to be the case, EfG would create and occupy a complementary yet somewhat different niche to RfG, even in terms of the type of projects undertaken.If I put on my Walt Disney-style “dreamer” hat (which I do quite a bit ) I could see Elixir’s prowess in processing data streams being useful in projects for folks like seti.org , environmental and climate monitoring, data science and machine learning competitions, etc etc etc.
Anyhow, the questions you’re asking, and especially the ones about ethics, are the kinds of questions that I think that the steering group and the broader EfG community will do well to consider, if this idea gets up - and I’m optimistic that it will. In my view, lpil’s earlier comment rightly pointed towards the idea that we should consider as a guiding criteria the opportunity to make genuinely impactful contributions to whichever group EfG serves / works with, and I think it’s a point well worth highlighting.
As far as i can see, it has to be a leader, who starts to do the first steps and takes all burden, at least at the beginnings. But it’s a lot of work. After that, “volunteers” may be join to help. I can’t see other successful paths without payments, as Sebb mentioned. I don’t think that it’s possible to do something like RfG from scratch with forum(or other public platforms) collective effort. Somebody with strong hand must decide where project should go.
Forum can give many ideas though
And personally, I would be happy to join it as one of “volunteers”
I have to start by saying that I applaud those who want to help others. The world needs more of y’all.
But, at the same time, I don’t think that “«mylanguage» For Good” is a useful vehicle for that.
First, there’s the concept of a charitable organization organized around a tool. It sounds a bit like Habitat For Humanity only allowing people who use hammers to build houses, or Médecins Sans Frontières only working with neurosurgeons. When giving is tied to conditions, it both limits its scope and it leads to waste.
Second, I feel that the idea as a whole is inefficient. As you all have been discussing, there’d need to be a core of full time people. You talk about these being techies, but you’d also need someone to do outreach, and access to both a lawyer and an accountant. Suddenly you’re spending more time administering than coding. (I’ve seen this happen with a couple of charities I’ve been involved with.)
Third, where’s the benefit to you? You already spend your days working with Elixir developers. If you decide to give up some of your time for charitable purposes, and my hat is off to those who do, wouldn’t you want to work alongside different kinds of people? You’d bring a new perspective to them, and them to you.
If you want to volunteer your time, you are a hero. But you don’t need to form a brand new silo in which to do it. Reach out to others who already have organizations, and offer your skills. I suspect most charities could benefit from some help. Offer them programming, or UI design, or devops, if you want. Or offer them whatever else you have to give. Make a difference. But do it for them, and on their terms, not yours.
I was about to drop in a link to your work!
Elixir/BEAM has very broad scope, don’t see a problem here. Maybe the community is not big enough to produce enough volunteers.
I agree. Would be interesting to know how the Ruby team handles this.
The thing is not completely selfless. It’s also marketing for Elixir.
Adding a bit on the points that @pragdave makes, and taking off from the point by @tejpochiraju, especially in the social sector context:
- Tech is not the solution, tech can potentially be an enabler
- Solve their core problems and scratch their itch not yours
- Do it in a way that will outlive your engagement with them (and this will happen)
We’ve attempted to address and answer some of these questions with Project Tech4Dev, and Glific is one such example. We are still learning and improving over time, but it will always be a work in progress
I used to run and recently sold a for-profit org focused entirely on tech solutions for social impact. So, bias is potentially unavoidable. With that caveat…
My learnings were that you have to distinguish between:
- organisations where tech can help improve operational efficiencies, and
- organisations that are tech/product-centric where operations support adoption of that product.
The first type of organisations would benefit from, e.g. migrating to ERPNext or CiviCRM from spreadsheets. As a tech community, we could do worse than build products for common use cases and help the organisations adopt these and adapt their operations. I would put Glific in this grouping too. Failures (including some of ours) arise from trying to build something too specific to a single organisation’s use case instead of helping them adopt a slightly more generic tool.
The second set of organisations want custom applications which naturally themselves to service contracts. However, more often than not these organisations don’t have strong product owners and very few have any previous experience releasing products. Everything is a project in the impact world - from funding to these developments. So you have a bunch of stakeholders applying myopic project vision to what should be an iterative product development in, usually, greenfield areas.
As you can probably tell, I would recommend staying away from the latter until that custom application becomes a common enough use case that it can be productised and no one organisation owns it.
+1 on pretty much everything that tej mentioned
I am interested in this idea and I’d like to help out if possible, and I am glad @professorsnapper brought it up. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and this thread even inspired me to put some of my thoughts in writing in an article. TL;DR: the ideas of Effective Altruism might be relevant here for helping gage the most effective use of time/efforts/donations, so I want to mention it here for consideration.
I’d be more than happy to contribute and help organise this org as well. How do you propose we get together for a first meeting? Maybe we can organise ourselves in a new channel in the Elixir Slack?