Michael Eaton slumped in his chair and allowed his arms to fall to his side. Ten minutes earlier, he had been rushing up the stairs to find a designer to help out a team in need. But now, relaxing in a quiet room with the door closed, the lack of rest began to catch up to him. Two hours sleep Friday night on a classroom floor with a coat for a pillow seemed an appropriate way to cap off months of preparation for the 2009 Ann Arbor Give Camp.
It was Saturday afternoon and the 3-day camp was about half over, but every indication pointed to a successful event. Sixty developers descended on Washtenaw Community College (WCC) and were huddled together in teams - furiously designing and writing code for charities. Many representatives of these charities were on hand, providing clarification of requirements or content or moral support. In all, the teams were supporting eighteen charities. They wrote web sites and contact management systems and various pieces of software that the charities would be unlikely to afford on their own. They donated their weekend because they believed in this cause.
It was going well.
So, of course, I asked Mike about next year.
"Fifty charities", he insisted. Fifty is nearly triple the number of charities helped this year, but Mike was determined to make it happen.
As he spoke about this, his energy returned. He talked of lessons learned and how to handle the scale for next year. One key is to get started planning earlier - within the next few weeks. The goal is to get the charities and developers lined up early next year in order to be ready for the Give Camp in July. Bringing back the same planning team is important, he said. This year, Mike drew heavily on the knowledge of Jennifer Marsman, who organized last year's Give Camp.
He had already spoken with WCC and reserved their conference center - a building with facilities and rooms large enough to accommodate the hundreds of developers needed to support 50 charities.
Mike talked about the challenge of picking teams. Identifying appropriate skill sets was difficult, given that there were a lot of people unknown by the planning team. Next year, he plans to gather more specific information from each developer in order to better evaluate their experience and place them on the correct team.
Mike stopped short of committing to take charge of next year's Give Camp, but it was clear from his enthusiasm that he wanted to be heavily involved. He did not hide his passion for what everyone was doing this weekend.
The energy of this event was infectious. A developer in Phoenix, AZ plans to put on a Give Camp in his area, so he flew to Michigan to experience one for himself and learn what worked. WCC donated the facilities and accommodated the numerous requests they had over the weekend.
In the end, the 2009 Ann Arbor Give Camp was a great success. Sixty developers joined together to write code to help out eighteen charities. People worked hard and slept little and learned a lot and had fun and made the world a better place. Charities came away excited by their new software and inspired by the time committed by the development community in Michigan.
This can only increase excitement for next year.