Grassroots bootcamp/Schedule/postlunch6908

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Grassroots - 6/9/08 (sorry, my transcription is less comprehensive that those Mel usually types up... I'm learning!)

Running a Jam

m- Jam is great - but how? No guide - send out these sorts of emails, make sure you have pizza. Make how-to guidebook. People who have run jams before to help? Materials?

b- GameJam kit, for example.

m- algorithm - input, get Jam as output


f- Semantic MediaWiki - be organized. Paths (as Seth suggested) - who will come to page? Facilitate where they go, following - rehashing. When MediaWiki is installed, can have data.

Update Participate, process - overall structure!

sj- Draft today will resemble...

f- overall structure - template for different kind of participation. Combination of things in some excel worksheet

s- Template. Input [person type]. Output: This is how you can participate. Here are contacts.

f- I have a list in my head of 12 tasks, each of which can be done in about an hour and a half.

Community Contrib.

s- No good way to say, "hey, I found this link" and share it - submitting materials

what workflows would exist? what teams? - use cases and roles

University chapters

cd- Good in Austria about getting students, professors to support OLPC efforts - talk how we can scale. Proposed output - giude on things to consider

m- fix university chapter wiki page

f- different from people not knowing how to get involved

a- I got involved through a class/seminar with 10 XOs - no one knew what to do, nothing really happened - I ended up starting my own project. No direction at all, project proposal page doesn't show anything. I think it'd be good to have something concrete. It'd be nice if people said, "i haven't done this x task, it'd help me if..."

s- is there anything on the wiki for, "so, you want to learn how to use Python?" -- link to "thinking like a computer scientist, etc.


c- more specific - looking at potential contributors to OLPC, what kind of questions might they have in order to get involved themselves, and sort of prioritizing those groups - well, how do we do outreach? how to we answer these basic questions? what are the best means?

s- half of that is basically the same question as, no ad-hoc structure - outreach should be part of this structure

sj- what outreach, then? you're covering the set of use cases from audience to audience (re: Francesca's 12 use cases - unspecified)

No Grassroots contact point

t- creating a specific team - able to identify, keep relationships with grassroots organizations. Easier to market and demonstrate organization at a grassroots level. Outreach team can also touch base.

s- would this be unidirectional? Serving grassroots? would this be trying to garner information from the trials for OLPC, or some bidirectional? how much of each to you forsee?

t- I think it should be something to provide info to OLPC - how organizations use the XO, if they're interested in the laptop, how they apply to get computers...

sj- update and merge different role descriptions on the Wiki (community ambassador, community communications manager, etc)

j- thinking about outreach - I think that really all depends on what the missoin of OLPC is - if you wanted or actually needed an outreach person - that person or position would have to tie back to the overall mission.

sj- good concrete task - draft potential extensions to the mission to include this goal. Push OLPC internally, or do these things elsewhere?

Duplication of Grassroots work

sj- here's what an overall group structure might look like. (create example) - encourage others to follow that structure ---> more general chapter process. (can tie in with cd, alex)


Two problems: either duplicating work, or not doing constructive work

Gives us 4 big things:

  1. Jam kit
  2. Contribution/content use cases
  3. Chapter process and duplication (all other groups)
  4. Grassroots Org. Org. (may be merged with Jams)

Consensus reached:

  • Outreach - running a Jam, what an OLPC person might suggest to people
  • Chapter development - university in particular, but also country/regional
  • Volunteer Contribution Process - how you assign tasks, etc

sj- everything we're talking about this week is related to how we satisfy this need (grassroots organization) - how do you do this internally? Keep this in mind, maybe it's a little larger.

sj- Jam = outreach. What's the unit of outreach campaign? For OLPC, for a long time, it's been jams. Maybe not just a Jam kit, but how to think up a jam. (Rename topic to Outreach Effort)

m- invitation letters

sj- how to get basic OLPC support kit, t-shirts, etc

(discussion about what a Jam is. 2 days-ish in length)

sj- for those of you who haven't been following the full week, there will be a subset of people going to NY to run a Jam. This takes place at Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Most will be planned by people here this week - support from UNICEF for school-on-a-box project. Main focus is what is going into the library (curation of materials) and target audience

(intro of Tim, World Computer Exchange, and Mako)

f- to answer Jonathan's question (re: What's a Jam?)- the other side of Jams that SJ didn't say was that this past Saturday was our second Open Jam that I started at 1cc - oepn to the public for anyone interested in anything. Everyday, we've had a theoretical project, but if they have something else to work on, we'll give them some direction. idea is to overcome entry barrier - combination of office hours/jam.

seth- the more we start doing this, the more varied the field of interests become. we have to be careful not to replicate systems.

sj- advising/visiting other projects is suggested - share your wisdom!

World Computer Exchange Overview/Discussion/Q&A

Tim- I'm with World Computer Exchange. We've got 700 volunteers organized in 25 different chapters - mostly in US, Canada. Each of the chapters has a university or two that they're relating with. We have some volunteers that do nothing but hold the hands of partner organizations. A formal partner could be a ministry of education, a team of peace corp volunteers, etc connected around world vision.

Primary thing we do is get used computers into public spaces. It's not new technology, but this is primarily to get technology placed in locations where youth will congregate. We've been doing this about 8 years - what motivates people to come to our jams is testing, seeing these primitive Pentium IIIs... We ship about 200-400 in a container.

b- big containers?

t- like a semi - sometimes, we go to 20 different schools. Sometimes people say we need patch cores, servers... depending on what they say, we gather this stuff and throw them in containers. If a place doesn't have a capacity for the networking, we send a team of 12 people or so to do so - unpaid, but they get to do techie stuff, explore new cultures, etc. Ages of people who go are 17-45. We also have individuals who go, just because they were planning to go anyway, and they find out about us - we connect them with specific projects and problems that they might have the skills to solve. The aim is to leave the organization with a stronger connection - they have to fundraise, do program development. A lot of this is consulting - very specific to identified needs.

The jobs of our chapters usually fall within five different areas - get press, get connections

b- sounds like what we're doing

j- how do you get your computers? people send them do you?

t- A lot of people bring their vehicles, take them to a central location, test them, set them up. We only accept working material.

j- do you recycle the ones you don't use?

t- the ones that are dead? We mostly take specific parts. We have a box of extra things. Computer labs on a palette is a way of thinking about these things. A lot of times, we just measure these by sets.

s- I envy your ability to use volunteers in countries. It's something we're only just barely talking about - it's really, really awesome that you've gotten this going.

t- thank you. We have global strategic allies - we listen to them, talk to them a lot. our volunteers are in the middle of that. Our partner organizations have volunteers like you wouldn't believe - it's the parents in community that want these for their kids.

s- two questions. one- do you want some content? educational materials?

t- we always work through our partners - we ask them, they always say yes. We do ship, some times, e-granary, digital library. Fantastic, used in some university settings. It's okay, but not a great thing for elementary schools. Their focus when developing this was Africa, so there's a lot of information about formation and independence of those nations.

s- I'd like to keep in touch with you as our content library grows - maybe even vet some of our material by passing it through you to see if the partners can use it

t- they seldom say anything negative - they very much want to treat your positively. Sometimes, it's hard to get critical feedback. The function of giving away stuff is a debilitating thing in some of these countries - we want a plan, we will help - they have to take the first step.

s- we would be pretty happy, even if we only got positives and silence. If they don't say anything, given content, we can make assumptions.

t- peace corp volunteer could watch reactions and return feedback to you honestly.

s- I've heard a lot about getting cargo trailers and their reuse. Here in the states, there's a surplus since it's easier to make them than ship them back.

t- not so much. things change so much - crash of dollar, exports increased. Now, it's much harder to come by containers. We have to beg weeks ahead, instead of three days notice like before.

f- what kind of support do you provide? Do you just give them laptops? a lot of questions we're addressing --- how do you use them? how do you turn them on, etc.

t- we ask you some questions - who are you, what are you going to use them for, etc. Money? Linux/microsoft? (on website - 25 implementation questions)

Some people come back instantly with answers (40 pages, 2 pages) - either is just fine. others come back with, "I am the server of the lord" - and you realize that they have a different definition.

Usually, when peace corp people are involved or a technical consulting company, there isn't a problem. We're definitely working at the bottom of everything - we're dealing with old, cheap computers. People often have little experience.

f- we're dealing with new computers, but we have similar problems. even in US deployments, people don't really know how to support them.

sj- oh yeah, computers never break!

j- yeah, right. that never happens.

f- people get these computers and ask, "how to we run word?"

t- the chapters with us are kind of interesting - everyone wanting to do their own thing, their own direction. We try to divide it geographically, so it kind of makes sense. Oh, you want to be involved in Bangladesh. Or Linux systems. (a set of materials related) We try to get one chapter more focused on one area. DC, for example, focuses on management. We had to put together an organizational chart with models - we went with a traditional heirarchal model (regional managers, program officers, etc). Our whole goal was to do this as much with volunteer and virutally as possible.

f- can you talk about initial infrastructure, how you came to where you are now?

t- well, the main thing we started with was a group that kind of said, okay, we'll trust each other. We don't care if we make a lot of mistakes in the beginning, we'll learn from it. We embraced mistake making - we had no idea what we were doing. Luckily, we got ripped off a minimum number of times. We came in doing some things the same way a predecessor organization did, and talked to them about what they would have done differently. We avoided those things. A lot of it was supply chain logisitics.

Volunteers - at the beginning, we said everyone could go their own direction, enjoy. It was difficult to - we figured out that there were five things wanted from a chapter. (money, press, computers, volunteers, univ./college) This resulted in a large management shift. Materials had to come together with these 5. PR came with a set of materials, etc. We were starting all this without Wikis. Slowly, people started asking, "why aren't you doing this in a way we can all work on together?" -- take it and run.

The main thing is getting as quickly as possible to a defined way of going forward. This is what we're really trying to do. Then, we started writing job descriptions for each of those five areas. Now, a chapter has a coordinator for each of those areas. In the countries, we started with those 25 questions, and we still have those. We emphasized brief answers - people were afraid we'd say no, so they'd get held up on a question.

f- there are a lot of cultural reasons why people don't want to be negative, say "i don't know".

t- it gets easier when we have people show up. We have meetings around the travel - we visit people in the application process. No cost to us - these are volunteers who'd be going there anyway (for example, to visit a spouse). It actually helps break through that, you can have a simple conversation about, "relax, it's perfectly okay to be wrong about this stuff". They can also sit through and do a workshop kind of thing.

f- as far as on site things in countries: deployment,

t- usually, in almost all cases, the partner does that.

t- people who aren't really familiar with these things need techie teams (bored with their regular jobs), go where people really want to learn this stuff.

s- project cost: $67. What is your expected life expentancy?

t- it really depends on sophistication, resiliancy, creativity of the group? We've only been around 8 years, though in India, they're all still working. In Guatemala, it's been three years - they're all still working. We send parts, a lot of the groups we work with multiple times - we put all sorts of extra items in each container. The people in Nepal say, we would like 50 extra cd rom drives. 40 extra hard drives. Could you put in some motherboards for this... It costs nothing here to put in the extra stuff as long as the container is already going. Laptops, it's always the power adaptor, etc. They swap out parts pretty readily. They have things waiting for the next container, pop in what they have on their "shopping list"

s- that's really cool. I really like that.

sj- what's the average lag?

t- we can send within a month (on the way to a ship). We just say it's a month. It can sit on a ship, sometimes, or at the dock. It depends. Never as bad as six months! (5% of the time, over two-three months - generally, only when some problem occurs such as people wanting kickpacks)

sj- you hear back if say, 15% of inventory is missing?

t- it does happen, and yes, people do get very upset. Example - The container got dropped on its side! Or, a flood came in to the warehouse. How do these things happen? And then, everybody's angry. We can ship you parts. We ship those, and the people who have the capacity to help have left. But usually, you're dealing with people with some capacity and some ability to stay with the project for some time, and learn real fast.

(brief interlude, introduction of Alex Keybl, Duke University Chapter)

sj- help with the "what should a chapter do" interface - that's really great. If you could sit with that group, that'd be really valuable.

t- please aim me towards that group once it forms!