There is a lot to be said for running a small software business (just me, with my wife doing some of the admin). For a start it gives me a great deal of flexibility, which I used to spend 2 months travelling abroad with my family last year. It is also low in stress, as I don’t have any employees to manage (my wife manages herself!). But even with some consulting work, going to the occasional conference and running some face-to-face training courses, I was starting to feel a little bit isolated after 13 years working mostly on my own. At that time the news was full of heart-rending stories of the suffering of refugees trying to flee war and repression. I don’t like the way the world is heading at present and wanted to do something to help these people in whatever small way I could. So I started volunteering at a charity for refugees and asylum seekers in my home town.
I initially tried to avoid doing computer things for the charity. But it quickly became clear that my IT skills were much more useful to them than anything else I could offer. Consequently I have been sorting out various IT issues, teaching people basic IT skills and have built them a simple CRM and reporting system, based on Airtable. Replacing the previous paper system with an electronic one is saving the staff and volunteers a lot of busy-work, which frees up their time to do more useful things. It is also giving the charity a lot more insight into how they are doing. And it has got me out from office and meeting some really great people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Win-win. Sometimes I feel spread a bit thin with my various work, charity and personal commitments (which is partly why the blog has been a bit quiet recently) but overall I am very glad I started volunteering.
So, if you are feeling a bit isolated, consider volunteering for a local charity. I suspect many small charities are desperate for volunteers with IT skills. Even if you are a programmer with quite specialist skills (like me), it is easy to forget that you are still an IT systems god compared with 99% of the population.
David Trump of the ASP is offering free software licences to people who contribute to Haiti disaster relief. This seems like a great idea to me, so I am copying it for PerfectTablePlan. I am going to try it for 24 hours and see how it goes. I am blogging about it here in case other software vendors are inspired to try it.
I’ve have just made the first payout of royalties from T-shirt sales. $106.20 of Zazzle royalties were split evenly between Sightsavers and JaipurFoot. Patrick McKenzie has also made a very generous additional donation as he promised on his blog.
Sales dropped off rapidly after Xmas, so I am probably going to leave programmer-tshirts.com ticking over until Xmas 2009. Thanks again to everyone that bought T-shirts or helped with the publicity. Special thanks to Patrick for setting up the programmer-tshirts.com site on his server.
NB/ You can still buy T-shirts!
Many thanks to all the bloggers who linked to my programmer T-shirts for charity project. Patrick McKenzie has very generously donated his time and some space on his server to set-up a dedicated website at programmer-tshirts.com. If any of you feel like promoting the new website you could put a small ad on the side of your blog (see right) or display the flash panel shown on the new website (wordpress.com apparently doesn’t allow embedded flash).
The HTML for the ad is:
border="1" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0">
border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2">
T-shirts for programmers</a></big>
<img style="border:0 solid;width:172px;height:175px;"
<td>All proceeds to charity</td>
In WordPress you can just add it as a text widget (Dashboard>Appearance>Widgets).
The source for the flash panel is:
width="450" height="300" TYPE="application/x-shockwave-flash">
Even if you just run it for a week or two before Xmas that would be great.
A resource in short supply for a salaryman in Japan. Especially one that commutes in from a rice field and runs his own microISV.