Open Thread: How do you Give Back?


Those of us who work on the web are often keenly aware of the volunteer efforts that make our lives easier. Need a CSS tutorial? A quick search will find dozens, none of which cost you a dime. Have a thorny development question? Take your pick of groups and discussion boards, where someone will spend time and effort to get you an answer. Need to know what the capital of Andorra is? Wikipedia is your friend.

It’s easy to consume this wealth of free support – but do you produce any of it? What activities are you involved in that pay back some of what you’ve gotten from the web – or that pay forward good deeds without any particular sense of obligation? Are you an author, contributor, answerer, supporter? Or is this an itch that you don’t feel the need to scratch at all?


Alana Post

I volunteer for ArtVan, a mobile art therapy unit designed to bring “hope through creativity and community” to low-income and at-risk youth in areas that typically do not receive school funding for artwork and arts education. I volunteer with a few other organizations, and donate to some causes, but ArtVan is probably the most relevant to what I do for a living.

Also: most of the time, I prefer to spend my give-back time away from computers. I need a lot of diversity in my life’s activities!

@Jenn S.: what a wonderful concept. (Makes me reconsider my above statement!) Reminds me of ArtVan, but with computers instead of crayons (:

Thejesh GN

– I will answer on many email lists.
-Recently started donating money for coffee to favorite projects.


– I have a blog,, where I write about my programming challenges and how I solved them

– I answer (and post) questions on forums such as the Sun’s Developer Forum, JavaRanch, Google Groups, Yahoo! Answers etc.

– I post comments on websites such as this one, Slashdot, Digg etc.

– I update Wikipedia if I find I have something valuable to add to an article I’ve read.


Another good idea is translation open source software to your own language. It makes it more accessible for others and you have a copy in your own language if you prefer.


I certainly feel it itching and try to give back by:

– writing articles on my own webste
– writing free, small and open source Mac OS X apps
– adding data to OpenStreetMaps, Freebase and Wikipedia
– giving tons of feedback for beta (web)apps

Love to add data to “open” systems with an API. OpenStreetMaps for example is a good example as I can pull data out of it with an API the next time I need a map without Google logo so adding data helps other while at the same time I may benefit as well.

Jenn S.

I volunteer in the evenings one day a week for a “computer clubhouse” in my neighborhood – its a drop-in center for teens to keep them away from the gangs, but a free-for-all creative space. They can learn web design, blogging, video game design, music recording, movie making – whatever the kids want to learn. And I volunteer to teach them.

And it truly is fascinating to see how kids use the tools we use for work in totally different ways to create very cool stuff. I may learn more from them, than they from me.

Check and see if there’s a computer clubhouse near you:

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