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Volunteerism, Collaboration, and the Importance of Someone Who Cares

I just came back from the OLPC Community Summit 2010 in not-so-sunny San Francisco.

"OLPC SF Community Summit 2010 is a community event that brings together educators, technologists, anthropologists, enthusiasts, champions, and volunteers. We share stories, exchange ideas, solve problems, foster community and build collaboration around the One Laptop per Child project and its mission worldwide."

That's the description from the Summit page, and it doesn't do enough to describe the great things that happened last weekend. Roughly 120 people came to this event from all over the world, making this the biggest One Laptop Per Child community gathering I've ever heard of.  Sameer Verma, Adam Holt, the Kleider family, and many more people all created a wonderful environment for collaboration.

I have been involved in the OLPC project for 3 years now, and I felt pretty fortunate that I could take time off to attend this event. If everyone had the option, there would have been even more people there.  During the Summit, I worked on Nick Doiron's olpcMAP project that shows markers on a world map to indicate the various community-driven deployment projects and volunteers around the world. Volunteers will undertake to keep the map up to date in order to enable easier communication channels.

"Many OLPC deployment projects operate in locations with little or no access to the internet."

Communication is a pretty common problem as many deployment projects operate in locations with little or no access to the internet.  One group spent quite a bit of time working on a deployment in Southeast Asia before they discovered there was another deployment very near them. In another village in Asia, school kids load their search queries on a server that a teacher takes weekly to a bigger village with internet access. There the teacher saves the search results (from, for example, Wikipedia) and brings them back.  To make this easier for non-technical people to enable, the people behind this deployment wrote software that made the process more or less transparent to the children. Imagine your world if there were a seven-day turnaround on a Google search.

It was great to meet with people spearheading deployments all over the planet and I'm glad I have the opportunity to help them.  For the past three years, I've spent what time I could support the OLPC Community by helping to manage their support queue along with more than a hundred other volunteers.  As a Systems Administrator at Six Feet Up, I know very well what is important when someone is seeking help: you need a knowledgeable and passionate person who will see the issue through to completion.  Whether you're one of the ever-growing community of teachers using the XO laptops to help educate your students or you're one of the hundreds of clients we support at Six Feet Up, you need someone who cares. That's what I do at work, and it's great to be a part of a company that supports my passions outside the office as well.

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