A life of service

I wanted to pose a question to the community. I recently spoke of this in a blog post and on other social sites.

I am looking for a direction in my life. In my early 40’s and still don’t have a career goal so to speak. But I am interested in the concept of a life of service. And I am looking at peoples opinions on how you would envision different ways to serve humanity through code.

I am truly interested in programming, if not facinated by it. To be honest I am trying to convince myself it is a good course of action.

Again…I need to buckle down, pick a goal, go to school and on and on… Again, service is the key. …well enough babble, looking to hear your ideas and opinions.

I wish you good luck in whatever project you will start.

It looks like you are fascinated by code, but you don’t actually code yourself, is that correct? If it is the case, be careful of the disillusions you may get when starting a job as a coder. It’s a bit like seeing a professional pianist on stage, saying “it’s awesome, I want to be a pianist!” and realizing how painful it is once you actually have to seat at a piano for 10 hours everyday to practice scales and arpeggios.

That said, it looks like you are trying to achieve something that would be meaningful for a given category of people (I didn’t use the word “Community”, I leave that for @jonobacon). You should look into NGO and projects such as the OLPC or things like that… I know from previous threads you wrote that you have children, would you be ready to travel abroad for extended periods of time? (say, to deploy a solution in Africa or something like that)

You say you want to become a coder and I would encourage everyone to learn some coding, it’s a useful tool for getting a job done, but it’s not an end in it’s self. It’s also not a skill that’s easy to pick up.

I have been writing code for a significant part of the last 30 years; meaning 30 years ago I was coding, today I am coding but I have spent time doing other things in between. I am still learning.

You need to decide what group of people you want to help and go for it using the skills you already have. If writing software helps you achieve those goals there is plenty of help available to help you learn and if you can convince others of the need you can get help in writing the software you need.

I know back in 2006 @jonobacon saw a need for better multi track music editing software. The result was Jokosher. Jono did not have the necessary programming skills at the time but was able to build a community (sorry Jono for stealing your word) which did have the necessary skills to build it.

That is a possibility. My wife is from Ethiopia, still has family there. It is very much a country in need itself. If I did service abroad, chances are high the whole family would go. My wifes skill set is much more useful than mine for that matter.

Very good ideas.

Part of this is the desire to seek higher education. I’m blessed in the fact that my wife is a doctor, and once here residency is complete, I will be free to follow my own path. But as of now my experience in life comprises of two things really, 10 years in the infantry and pulling cable. With some general IT skills thrown in.

So I am really looking to develop skills in something I am interesteted in. I know getting into resivoir engineering is very useful in a third world perspective especially. But it doesnt interest me so to speak.

Maybe I am looking to deep into things. Going for the grail so to speak “A job I actually love that is beneficial to others in a life changing way”. It really is a tall order.

Again, my aptitude is with computers it seems. I’ve been a hobbyist for years. I just never have buckled down and focused on a direction or use for that aptitude.

i’m so confused…lol[quote=“WarrenHill, post:3, topic:8176”]
I know back in 2006 @jonobacon saw a need for better multi track music editing software. The result was Jokosher. Jono did not have the necessary programming skills at the time but was able to build a community (sorry Jono for stealing your word) which did have the necessary skills to build it.
[/quote]

This is very cool…and a great point.

In my mind, code in itself is not all that interesting, but writing code that seeks to bring good to others is a wonderful and honorable contribution to the world. This is something I have been thinking of a lot recently with XPRIZE…how do we help programmers to perform the most good in the world…in other words…how do we connect good coders to worthy challenges that need good code?

I didn’t get into programming really until I was in my 30s. I just kinda fell into it out of boredom. Turns out I loved it. I’d recommend taking a course in a basic language like Python. There will be little exercises and projects for you to do. You might find that you’re a natural. You might find you hate it.

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This is exactly the type of thing I am looking at…the Global Learning Xprize is exactly the type of contribution I would love to be involved in some day. If the results of this one don’t give you just the greatest feeling of accomplishment I don’t know what would…by the way, good job on pushing the awareness of this one @jonobacon

I think I would start with Python or Ruby…for self learning until I could get into school. I also thing a heavy focus on web development would be good…the web is the best way to reach the most people no matter what there platform is.

Interesting problem. First, the cynical bit. At 40+ conventional wisdom says you aren’t going to become an ace programmer. I’ve been “programming” since I was 16 and am now 58 and I still pretty much suck. That’s me. Nevertheless, I think there is some truth in the conventional view having more to do with the willingness/ability to focus intensively (and almost exclusively) on a project; I don’t think it’s a question of age per say, more of the fact that life seems to get a bit more complicated as we get older. Second, there are plenty of very competent programmers in the developing world, you’d have to be a real cracker-jack programmer and visionary to make a really sizable contribution to what those folks can do … remember they are in the “problem”.

On the other hand, there is a huge gap between FOSS solutions to “third world” (not be used in polite company) problems existing and being implemented. Governments, NGOs and communities could benefit substantially from a host of FOSS software. Governments are a nut too hard to crack (and with huge entrenched interests). NGOs and communities are however almost always underfunded. THE problem with say NGO X (or Farmer’s Marketing Assoc. Y) adopting an open source non-commercial solution for any IT related issue is support. It does no good whatsoever to parachute in, set up a system, and exit stage left feeling good but having accomplished nothing of lasting value. (Picture hundreds of donkey pumps installed by various well meaning governments which were intended to pump water for communities but which no longer operate for the sake of a seal or some other small component.) If you want to make a contribution, identify a specific project whose first commandment is to provide long-term support, and figure out how to help (eg, continuous on-line consulting with clients, repeated in-country visits, a dedication to making yourself redundant via knowledge transfer). Oh, and accept that you will not make a living wage, and may even occasionally be out of pocket.

Once you’ve kicked around a while you may be struck by a flash of genius and come up with a scratch the itch solution that takes off. Some semi-such efforts are listed below (there are 100s). Good luck!

Cheers,

Ken

PS FWIW, when I lived in Zimbabwe and Botswana I did pro-bono programming for WWF and SADC and my wife has spent 25 years in the international development field which has given me some perspective (quite often negative).

http://www.elearning-africa.com/index.php

http://www.ushahidi.com/

I can understand the point. I did not plan on being super coder, just good enough to help…but just helping with implemantation could be good also…which goes back to more administrative role… much to chew on.

Thanks, @parzzix, I really appreciate the kind words!

Fortunately, there are lots of great areas in which you can contribute towards making the world a better place, and kudos for wanting to apply your talents and skills to making things better. :slight_smile:

Agreed and you don’t always need be particularly technical to help but if you are even better. You can help an open source project by testing it and reporting bugs for example or by helping the users of a project by answering support questions.

If you are a total non programmer I would start with Python, there is a tutorial here.

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