Technologists Volunteer to Combat Cyberstalking and Intimate Partner Abuse

by @SarahCortes-Over 120 technologists gathered at host Microsoft Cambridge this weekend to volunteer 48 consecutive hours of help for 24 nonprofits. Over 30 projects were accomplished for free for for organizations that otherwise cold not afford them. Projects included website implementations, database reverse engineering, and porting nonprofits' applications to more stable platforms. Jim O'Neil of Microsoft, who organized the event, said, "this is our fourth year, and we have seen that flexibility is the key to successful implementations and a fun, smooth weekend for volunteers."

Paul Grenier was one of the coders who travelled from the land of Connecticut and camped overnight at Microsoft, which provided shower facilities and space for tents and sleeping bags, where volunteers caught a few hours of sleep over the weekend. @AutoSponge Grenier, worked on http://www.fuerza.is, an online application to help combat cyberstalking, a project inspired by a consortium that includes Emerge, http://www.emergedv.com, a Cambridge Abuser Education program, Transition House, http://www.transitionhouse.org, which provides shelter and services for victims of Domestic Violence, and https://www.torproject.org, which provides free anonymity and privacy tools including Tor Browser, which is used by victims of domestic violence.

For Carmine Zinni, a graphic designer with BlueMetal, Inc. and Adam @Shadman Howell of Florida and Salem, MA, this was their first GiveCamp experience. Kelley Muir, an organizer, explained the team approach to volunteers and representatives of the nonprofits: "The goal of this weekend is not the success of your project, but the success of all projects and we will all work together to achieve it."

According to its website, "New England GiveCamp is a charitable, community-run event at which software developers, designers, and other technical volunteers will donate their skills and expertise to support area non-profit organizations. During GiveCamp weekend about 120 software and technical professionals from around New England will converge to develop pro bono custom software solutions, including web sites, content management systems, databases, and other projects for about two dozen New England charities. Participants are welcome to bunk for the duration at the fabulous Microsoft New England Research & Development Center (aka NERD) - bring your sleeping bag and teddy bear..."

Andrew Lewman, Executive Director of the Tor Project, volunteered his time and expertise to collaborate with a team of nine coders and a graphic designer to implement projet for local nonprofits. He worked to reverse engineer case management database software for domestic violence advocates, and deliver a cyberstalking application, among other projects. "Tor tools are widely recommended and used by victims of domestic violence around the world, to protect their online activity and privacy from abusers," said Lewman.

Naked Pizza, Sensational Foods and Whole Foods provided breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, fruit and make-your-own sundaes throughout the weekend. Keurig, Green Mountain Coffee, Kindle, GitHub, BlueMetal, and OOmph sponsored the event and donated gifts or service as prizes which went to volunteers at the end of the weekend.