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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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Global Scope Discussion (Jan 31)

This is a discussion thread for issues that are important to the developer community but not necessarily code-related. If you have thoughts or issues, or are working on a big project and want feedback/help, please share. If you have questions about anything going on, please ask.

The thread is an experiment, but if people find it helpful, I think this chat should regularly. Don't feel like we need to cover everything in each thread, as it could act as an ongoing check-in on some important issues. As always, please be positive, constructive and helpful. In difficult times, we must treat one another with respect.

Discussion (19)

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jayrav13 profile image
Jay Ravaliya

Excited to join this convo! As a developer, I'm most excited about this because I've been wanting to use my skills for civic projects, and it seems that it may be more important than ever to get involved now. I may not be at every rally, but it would be great to use my skillset in any helpful way possible.

So to kick off, any advice or resources for me? For example: best ways to approach these problems, resources for advice, currently ongoing projects, etc.

This is a bit high level of a question, but aiming to get a conversation going for us less familiar to get started!

Thanks!!

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

I think so much of it is about drawing positive energy from the community and trying to capture it for long term gain, not just one-off projects that instantly lose momentum. Here in New York, we started a civic-minded tech group called Make A Diff and we do various events surrounding education, and getting down to work.

Last Saturday we did a sort of mini-conference on personal and organizational privacy and security and this Saturday we are having our second Workathon. The workathon vs hackathon difference in our mind is focusing on contributing to great long-term projects with leadership and momentum, rather than spreading ourselves too thin.

Not to say the hackathon model doesn't also work. I helped mentor the Debug Politics NYC hackathon earlier this month. The energy was great and so were the projects. I hope they grow to really become great tools.

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jayrav13 profile image
Jay Ravaliya

This is awesome feedback, thank you! Yes, I was at one of the initial Make A Diff meetings and intend to get more involved. Let me check it RSVP for this weekend is still open, would be great to join in and see how I can help.

As someone that has been to more hackathons than I can remember, it'll be nice to switch gears and take this approach, especially when it matters the most.

Thanks!

Thread Thread
ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Yeah, I think what we always need to remember is that we're in this for the long haul in most of what we do. Peter Thiel makes the point in his book Zero to One that the value of a startup is realized years or decades in the future, and not right away. Great book. Definitely not an endorsement of Thiel himself. I feel I need to say that every time I bring up that book. 😊

I think it's important to be steady and committed to projects even if that means less frenzied excitement on the initial push.

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letmelol2001 profile image
let mut guess

I just found this today, looks promising:
progcode.co/

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

Have you checked out their slack channel? Mostly curious about how active it is...suppose I could download it myself though :D

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

That also brings to mind codecorps.org/. It's a good initiative and also a very well-run open source project.

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jesslynnrose profile image
Jessica Rose

This conversation seems especially timely with some gentle pushback against non-technical conversations dominating social media and content channels over the past weeks. Recognizing that technologists are people with full ranges of experiences and more to share than their professional outlook seems like a wonderful way to humanize our industry and better connect with each other

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Absolutely. And I feel where folks are coming from. I sometimes have to mute people for a while even if I want to keep in touch with them long term. It's a personal thing, we need to find our ways to focus.

But that's really a personal thing, nobody's forcing anyone onto Twitter. But I think Twitter is not necessarily the ideal place for connection in the first place. Filling Twitter's conversational voids for the technical community where it makes sense to do so is a big consideration in the ongoing development of dev.to.

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rubynista profile image
Theresa Luu

What I've been struggling with is expressing my own views but also making it apparent to those that do not agree with me that I would love some civil conversation about this. Like a safe space. Not only for LGBTQ but also for isolationist/nationalists who want to be in a dialogue, too.

It's starting to get so bad that I bet we can find more and more things we can agree on and work on those. I just don't know how to cut through that rage (including my own) to get this started. This thread is a great seed. Thanks for making it!

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lindsaylee13 profile image
Lindsay Siovaila

Something that I've been thinking about is how to make it easier for people to take action when they want to get in contact with a local official or someone in DC, especially now with everything being so turbulent in our government. So much of this information is disconnected and/or hard to find on government websites.

How can we make this data easily accessible so people can write their representatives a letter, email, or call them?

@mysociety on Twitter posted this interesting site that is used in the UK, and is pretty similar to what I'm thinking the USA needs (if it doesn't exist already):
writetothem.com/

I've always thought physical letters could carry more weight (literally and figuratively, since letters take up space in someone's actual mailbox as opposed to emails where their inbox may be huge and never run out of space...). A lot of people want to write letters, but don't know who to send them to...so again, how to get that info in front of people so they can make informed decisions about making their voice heard. Is there a way that an online web app could process someone's letter and format it for printing, as well as print an address label, buy postage, etc?

For example - something like this: postinoapp.com/

Also, where can we find a database of civic organizations that we can donate money or time to? Is there a website or database somewhere that someone could browse to find causes that are important to them? And also add new organizations or groups? I feel like this has to exist already...

There's also the whole conversation about education and media bias. What if there was a Chrome extension or something that could somehow flag certain media as biased or potentially biased? I feel like that would be a pretty subjective process but with the media being under such scrutiny right now, how do we continue to stay informed while at the same time being aware of sources that are potentially biased?

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tra profile image
Tariq Ali

What if there was a Chrome extension or something that could somehow flag certain media as biased or potentially biased?

I think it's not only doable, but can be done fairly objectively. Use sentiment analysis to understand how positive or negative the article is towards certain topics. If the extension points out Article XYZ is very anti-Trump, well, there's your bias. I think AlchemyAPI would be a good choice for this type of sentiment analysis challenge, and I might even try to make such a program, just as a proof of concept.

There are three problems with my idea.

  • First, I'm assuming that every article is biased, and the goal is to identify what bias the article has. While I do agree with this assumption, it is, ahem, biased.
  • Second, I'm not sure whether disclosure will meaningfully help people deal with bias. It's possible that someone could use my extension to dismiss articles because "Oh, it has a 68% bias towards the word 'conservatism'", when the bias doesn't mean that the article is wrong.
  • Third, like all algorithms powered by machine learning, you may see rather strange and surpious results, pointing out biases about topics you might not even realize or care about ("This author is very biased towards dogs and against cats"). Could people be able to shift through the noise and only look at the biases on the topics that they care about?
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peter profile image
Peter Kim Frank

Re: contacting representatives, Zack Shapiro and some fellow developers created Call to Action which makes it easy to find your Congressperson's phone number. It seems like phone calls are a highly recommended form of contact vs. physical letters (though I'm sure every little bit helps).

There's also DailyAction.org which sends a daily reminder to resist. Today's alert urged me to call my Senator to oppose Steve Bannon -- they provided a phone number and link with more information.

I'm excited for more products that leverage political energy to help us all effectively resist.

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maxart2501 profile image
Massimo Artizzu

Well the first thing on my mind right now is kinda code related, but... I'd really like to take part in those #DevDiscuss chats but it's always quite late here in Europe.
Another one is about to begin but I have to going to bed :/ or tomorrow morning I'll be zombie at work.

Well I guess Australian and Far-East developers would be fine but... I don't know, varying the time every now and then?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

Ah! Thanks for this great piece of feedback -- I'll start thinking about what a varying schedule could potentially look like.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Yeah. This is something that has been in my mind for a while and we are just now getting around to having the bandwidth to expand our operation. Thanks for reminding us to prioritize this.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

I'm hosting a Super Bowl party for software folks who live in New York at my place in Brooklyn this Sunday. No interest in football required for attendance. I'm calling the event Nerd Bowl. If you're interested in coming, DM me on Twitter, I'd love to meet you.

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lachlanjc profile image
Lachlan Campbell

Thanks for mentioning Call to Action, @peter :)

I've been thinking recently about a(n open source, like Call to Action platform for finding/organizing protests. Anyone could post an upcoming protest, share a link, and people could leave their email addresses when they RSVP so they could be notified about more protests as they're planned in the future.

Open question: do you think this would be viable?

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soundstruck profile image
Dina Gathe

Hello, hello, hello.....is there anybody out there? :-)

Did this continue somewhere else?