New England GiveCamp 2015 Update

We wanted to provide our New England GiveCamp alumni with an update on this year’s event (with apologies in advance to those of you who will receive copies of this note due to participation in multiple events).

Due to conflicts in both venue and dates, we’ve opted to postpone the event to the fall, with an October target (avoiding Columbus Day weekend and Halloween). We hope to have the venue and dates determined by mid-spring, and more specifics on non-profit and volunteer registration should be posted in early June.

If you have any specific questions before then, please feel free to respond to this note. Likewise, we’re always looking for financial sponsors, so if your organization would be interested in supporting this event, let us know!

New England GiveCamp



The Life Cycle of a GiveCamp Project

This infographic outlines a typical GiveCamp project and how it is accomplished in the course of one weekend.

Lifecycle-GiveCamp Project

2014 Team Assignments

Team Assignments are up! See the full post to find out who you will be working with.

New England GiveCamp Is Tomorrow!

In less than 48 hours, we’ll all be gathering for the 5th annual New England GiveCamp! As you’re gearing up for an absolutely memorable and rewarding weekend, we wanted to provide some tips and answer a few questions about the event. This isn’t exactly a quick read, but please do take a moment to review the information below before you arrive.

What can I do to prepare? Rachel Morris, a perennial camper, put together a fantastic post that’s a great read for newbie and repeaters alike!

What project am I on? Project assignments will be posted (soon) on the New England GiveCamp site. We are actually short on project managers, so if you’re willing to step up (or know a friend that would be interested), please contact Kelley ( ASAP – a non-profit organization waiting in the wings will be eternally grateful!

When does it start? Dinner (pizza) will be there about 5:30, so you’re welcome to come by any time after 5 p.m. Our opening session/orientation doesn’t typically begin until 6:30 or 7:00, so don’t stress out getting there.

Where do I park? Through the generosity of the building manager, you can park free for the entire weekend (or any part thereof) in the NERD garage (1 Memorial Drive), provided you enter after 4 p.m. on Friday. Just retain the blue ticket upon entry, and we’ll explain the rest at the event.

Where is the event? The address is 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA, and we’ll be on the 1st floor Conference Center (which is actually the 2nd floor for the non-Europeans J). When you enter the lobby, proceed to the guard desk; they’ll have a sign-in sheet, request an ID, and direct you upstairs.

Do I have to stay overnight? No, you can come and go as you like throughout the event. If you are staying the night, bring your sleeping bag, cot, tent, pillow, bunny slippers, and whatever other nocturnal accoutrement you require. There are showers in the building, but be sure to bring your own towel.

Are you driving? If so, be aware that the Longfellow Bridge is undergoing construction and there is a detour for traffic travelling to Cambridge. The map here (PDF) will provide some guidance on the detour. you’re en route and need help getting here (or have any other urgent questions), you can call Jim O’Neil at 508.517.3668.

Lastly, if you can’t make it to the event after all, please let us know via e-mail so we can quickly adjust resource assignments with minimal impact to the projects. Likewise, if you know you’ll be late (after 8 p.m. or so on Friday), let us know so we don’t assume you’re a ‘no-show’!!



How to Give and Get the Most Out of GiveCamp – Volunteers

Written by Rachel Morris

To give the most at GiveCamp as a volunteer, we ultimately need to get the most ourselves. In the adrenaline rush of the event, it’s easy to forget some of the most obvious things:

SLEEP! Even those of us who have a few GiveCamps under our belts can forget just how easy it is to go overboard in an effort to give our all to our charities. But we’ll do more for them if we pace ourselves, at least a little. First and foremost, no matter how the project is going, try to get some sleep each night. Even if it’s only four hours, it’ll ensure you’re (relatively) alert again on day two or three.

EAT! The next to do is easy, given all the incredibly generous donations GiveCamp brings in – eat regularly! No matter how many hard coding nights you’ve done on nothing but Dew and Doritos, this is not the time for that. Not only will it get you up and moving for a few moments, but it also lets you wander past the freebies table to see if any new tech geek books or other cool items have been put out for you.

DRINK! Along with “don’t just Do the Dew,” there’s hydrating properly. We spend a lot of time talking to our teammates, and we’re up longer hours than usual. The building may be a little dry. All these things add up. For every caffeinated beverage you slurp down, have an equivalent amount of water. Remember, caffeine dehydrates you further.

TAKE BREAKS! Sometimes what a team needs to get moving again is to actually get moving – outside, on a nice quick walk around the MIT campus, to get some fresh air, or anything off site for a few minutes away from the controlled chaos. Don’t be afraid to suggest a break to your team when you need one.

Next we come to more project-specific ways to support the goals – all of which come down to one thing: COMMUNICATION.

SCHEDULING: Before the event if possible, but if not, at the outset of the event when you meet your project lead, communicate your scheduling needs. Do you plan to be there from “game on!” to game end? Do you need to cut out for part of Saturday? Are you bound by the Transit schedule? If your team is counting on you for certain deliverables and don’t know you won’t be there, you can singlehandedly grind a project to a halt.

ABILITIES: Be realistic, for both the good and the bad of your abilities. Don’t be overly modest about your skills, but also don’t over hype yourself. If you can singlehandedly install a CMS from scratch in a matter of hours, great — Say so! Not so sure about the security modeling? Ask your Project Lead to find someone who specializes in security.  If there’s something happening on your project or a neighboring one that you’ve always wanted to learn more about, make sure your lead knows that, too. So long as you’re not deserting your assigned team, there’s often time to kibbutz on something else.

GETTING UNSTUCK: Abilities or no, we all hit walls sometimes, either from exhaustion or lack of experience or even just because there’s an obscure bug in the tool we’re using. At work, you might have time to spend half a day getting yourself unstuck. Here, we’re short on time – don’t be afraid to ask for a kickstart. If you’re jammed up for more than 45 minutes or an hour and no one else on your team has the answer for you, find Kelley or Rachel and ask for assistance.

LOCAL EXPERTISE: The flip side of getting stuck is that you may be the answer to someone else’s sticky situation. If you’ve got skills and experiences and the time to be a local expert for a few minutes (again, without deserting your project), let us know. Always make sure your lead knows where you’re headed, so they don’t panic to find you gone, and so they can coax you back if the “quick” fix turns out to be dragging on.

Next, preparing for and arriving at GiveCamp:

PACKING: Pack your computer, cables, and an extension cord and/or power strip if you’ve got one. Pack any phone chargers, etc, that you may need. Bring headphones if you like to listen to music while developing. A pad of paper and pens can be handy. If you’re staying over, you’ll want to pack clothes, a toothbrush, towel and shower supplies (remember, you’re in close quarters – be kind to those around you!), and bedding. The floor is cement, so a pad or blow up mattress is recommended. Some people pitch small tents in the corners. If you’re a light sleeper, you’ll want earplugs and possibly some kind of eye covering.

This event is a great networking event for many attendees – you’ll meet people who may have career opportunities for you down the road, or who may be someone your company wants to hire. You’ll also just be meeting a whole bunch of cool people who you may want to keep in touch with down the road. Bring business cards and don’t be afraid to share your email address, twitter account, etc., with the people you meet.

PARKING: If you’re driving in, you can park under the N.E.R.D. building – just be sure to pay attention to the directions when you arrive on how to get validated for the free parking.

CHECKING IN:  When you get on site, sign in at the front desk and then come up to the conference floor (the desk guard can point the way). You’ll come in to the main hallway and pick up a bag and your nametag…then you’re kind of on your own for a while as things get moving. Check out the space. Grab some food or something to drink. Find the main conference room (can’t miss it – big glass walled space taking up most of the floor) and find your team assignment’s table. Introduce yourself. Find your team lead (hopefully there before you, but not always). A little while in, the program coordinators will kick off the event, we’ll hear a bit about each charity we’re helping this year, and then the rollercoaster ride begins.

Finally, dealing with concerns during GiveCamp:

NOT SURE WHAT TO DO? It’s 9 pm and your team lead still isn’t there? Take some initiative and touch base with Kelley or Rachel and see what can be done to get or keep your project moving.

NOT ENOUGH TO DO? Bored because your team is so good they’re ahead of schedule? Check in with Kelley or Rachel and see if any other projects need some help.

WORRIED ABOUT THE PROJECT? Your team lead is required to attend check ins a few times a day, giving us a “Green”, “Yellow”, or “Red” status report (Green = all systems go and on schedule, Yellow = we’re keeping an eye out for possible concerns, Red = we need help right away). The event staff acts like the chess masters, moving resources (aka you guys) around occasionally to help red and yellow teams get back to green as quickly as possible. We all want all the projects to end green, green, green!

If you feel the project is really off track – say, desperately in need of a third developer, stuck without answers about SEO, whatever – your first attempt to remedy it should be to talk with your Lead and ask him or her about your concerns. If you don’t feel like that’s working, you can talk to Kelley or Rachel, but please don’t go around your Lead lightly – in such a rushed project cycle, there are often moments of panic before you get to the shore! Trust them to be looking out for the charity you’re helping. We all have the same end goals in sight.

FEELING OVERWHELMED BY THE AWESOMENESS AROUND YOU? There is some serious brainpower and talent jammed into the N.E.R.D. building this weekend. You may look around and think “Whoa, I thought *I* knew how to program…look at these other guys!” Remember, you’re a part of that awesomeness. You are here firstly, because you’re generous enough to give your time to these great causes, and secondly, because you have useful skills. They may or may not end up being the ones you thought were important coming in, but you’re helping. When you see the end results of all our efforts on Sunday afternoon, you’ll know…you made it possible. Thank you for being here with us!