FAQ

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Building a Volunteer friendly Technical Not-for-Profit System

What is Code Alliance?

Code Alliance is a high-tech volunteerism platform connecting skilled technical volunteers to nonprofits that develop open source software for social impact.

Who are other players in the space?

  • OpenHatch
  • Code For America and CFA Brigades
  • Taproot Foundation
  • Catchafire
  • Volunteer Match

What does open source mean in the nonprofit world?

Open source refers to technology that is built and provided for free to the public. The code is open source in that anyone can take the core code and make changes to it. Open source software can be used to create products for monetary gain, but the code itself must be open (cannot be copyrighted). Open source is also an ethos that involves a learning community, inclusion, free speech, ability to engage corporations in technical volunteerism, crowd-sourced information and workability, and an understanding of web development and cloud computing technologies.

What is the Open Source Tech4Good movement about?

The opportunity to contribute to an open source code base is enlightening and can create lasting impact for the user. Open source is a way of thinking, as much as it is a way of contributing to the tech ecosystem. Many open source contributors go on to define a new branch, framework, or library of an existing programming language, and this can often bring with it financial reward, notoriety, and a lifelong sense of accomplishment. In Tech4Good, it’s an ecosystem as much as anything else. You meet groups that work in the cutting-edge intersection between economic development, public policy, academia, government, web development and cloud computing. Moreso, you learn how to work with people using universal frameworks and tools to build and iterate on technologies with teams around the world.

The Tech4Good community is inherently welcoming and you will find your social passion and be celebrated for bringing your skills to the table. These skills last a lifetime.

Your engineers get a chance to build something new, using frameworks they’ve never used, in a documented, but open-ended way. They’ll get to be creative, ask questions, create new branches of code, and walk away knowing they were part of making an impact for a real community on the ground. SC4G and our partners provide this opportunity like no other!

Open Source Tech4Good Technologies

  • Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Problem-Solving Opportunities
  • Social Impact Feel Good Environment
  • Creative Thinking Encouraged
  • Technical Chops, Code, UX, Project Management
  • Diverse and Unique Communities
  • Connected Through the World
  • Open Source Tools are Highly Transferrable
  • Skills-Based Volunteering with Impact Reports

What will we learn?

Experienced open source coders know how to setup their code environment with Heroku Toolbelt, install Node.JS with Homebrew, get their Bootstrap UI template up, connect API endpoints, plugin Javascript libraries, allow others to make changes on the code (at the same time) using GitHub, and deploy the product to the cloud – all in less than 8 hours.

A huge part of open source is learning how cloud technology and web development have advanced – and how they work together. There are numerous companies testing out cloud technologies – just look up the Amazon Loft in San Francisco. These companies provide free training because they know the open source community is growing exponentially. SC4G can teach the common frameworks for open source, and help teams create impact quickly.

Open Source Technologies include:

HTML5 |
CSS3 |
Python |
Django |
RubyOnRails |
PHP |
MySQL |
JQuery |
Heroku |
GitHub |
MongoDB |
Node.js |
Angular.js |
Meteor |
Homebrew |

Why Open Source?

While not every program that exists in the world has a clear need to be open source, software that is open source has a few very important advantages over proprietary and closed systems. Open source software is built so that the entire code base is publicly available and anyone with the right skill set has the right to make edits to the program. This allows for thousands of developers from all around the world to contribute to the continuous improvement of the product. This also means that thousands of people (not just a small in-house technical team ) can QA the code, provide bug fixes, suggestions, and updates for improvement.

While software that is built on top of open source technology can be sold for profit, the core code must remain open to anyone that wants to use it, making open source software essentially no cost or low-cost for an organization to adopt. This means that rather than having to buy a new version or license for the software every year (like you do with Microsoft Office), you can instead, rely on the community to provide edits and improvements to the product, and you can download these changes anytime the administrators release a new copy. This makes open source an extremely affordable way to build and manage software.

Why Learn Open Source?

Web Development lives in the open source community. Most of the technologies that built the web are now open source and many of the improvements to those technologies continue to be made by a large community of developers that have been committed to technological improvements for years. Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, are all open source web programming methodologies that have built and continue to serve large portions of the web. In fact, Apache’s HTTP server is the world’ most used web server software, and MySQL databases remain the most popular among startups.

Today, web development has inherited the Open Source ethos. Web languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Ruby continue to evolve through large open source communities. JavaScript and Ruby both benefit from the development of new frameworks and new ways to use the programming languages – and they do so because hundreds of thousands of people around the world are taught how to work with these languages with other people to make changes and improvements for the entire web community. JavaScript in particular has an aggressively active open source community and continues to quickly build modern web frameworks like Node.js, Angular.js, Ember.js, Meteor.js, and JQuery. Another very popular open source community is Twitter’s Bootstrap used to quickly build responsive websites and apps. Cloud computing companies (Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Heroku, Google Cloud) especially look to the open source community for trends in application development.

Finally, Google just open sourced Tensorflow, the software that sits at the heart of its empire. Google is hoping that thousands of developers around the world will be able to provide improvements to Machine Intelligence technology.

Summary:

Open source software is generally free, and has a world of free support through the vibrant communities surrounding each piece of software. Open source software is much less resource-intensive, and gets updated by the community itself, thus you’re not required to buy new versions of the software every year, like you do with Microsoft Office. Open source software allows people to build powerful web companies and applications at low cost, and today, is responsible for thousands of startups and the millions of individuals that use them. The entire web is built on top of open source technology.

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