244 RR Program Like You Give a Damn with Ara T. Howard at Rails Remote Conf 2015

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This episode is from Ara T. Howard’s talk at Rails Remote Conf 2015. You can watch the full, unedited presentation, Program Like You Give a Damn, on YouTube at your convenience.


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[This episode is sponsored by Hired.com. Every week on hired they run an auction where over a thousand tech companies in San Francisco, New York, and L.A. bid on Ruby developers providing them with salary and equity upfront. The average Ruby developer gets an average of 5 to 15 introductory offers and an average salary offer of $130,000 a year. Users can either accept an offer and go right into interviewing with a company or deny them without any continuing obligations. It's totally free for users. And when you're hired, they give you a $2,000 signing bonus as a thank you for using them. But if you use the Ruby Rogues link, you'll get a $4,000 instead. Finally, if you're not looking for a job but know someone who is, you can refer them to Hired and get a $1,337 bonus if they accept the job. Go sign up at Hired.com/RubyRogues.]**[Snap is a hosted CI and continuous delivery that is simple and intuitive. Snap's deployment pipelines deliver fast feedback and can push healthy builds to multiple environments automatically or on demand. Snap integrates deeply with GitHub and has great support for different languages, data stores, and testing frameworks. Snap deploys you application to cloud services like Heroku, DigitalOcean, AWS, and many more. Try Snap for free. Sign up at SnapCI.com/RubyRogues.]****[This episode is sponsored by DigitalOcean. DigitalOcean is the provider I use to host all of my creations. All the shows are hosted there along with any other projects I come up with. Their user interface is simple and easy to use. Their support is excellent. And their VPS's are backed on solid-state drives and are fast and responsive. Check them out at DigitalOcean.com. If you use the code RubyRogues, you'll get a $10 credit.]****CHUCK:  This week we had another little scheduling snafu. And so, I'm going to bring you another talk from Rails Remote Conf. This one is Ara T. Howard. He spoke about programming like you give a damn. And while we're at it and we're talking about a conference talk, really quickly I just want to let you know that Ruby Remote Conf is going to be in March, the end of March. So, if you're looking to speak at the conference the Call for Proposals is open. You can also get early bird tickets through the end of February. And we are going to be pulling together an awesome conference. Just like the one that this talk came from. So, if you're interested at all in that, go check it out. RubyRemoteConf.com. And here's Ara. Ara is an earliest adopter, minimalist architect, and prolific problem solver. His background includes designing large-scale 24/7 satellite processing systems studying greenhouse gas emissions, analyzing poverty and population growth from space, building lean technology stressing startups, and contributing countless solutions to budding developers. Ara was recently recognized as a Ruby Hero during the 2014 RailsConf ceremony and enjoys giving back to the coding culture that formed him whenever possible. His work and opinions can be mined on the intertubes by googling 'Ara.T.Howard' but might be better discussed in person on an excursion high above the Rocky Mountain tree line where he, his wife Jennifer, children Axel and Nova and border collies Zipper and Olive do their finest work. I'm going to go ahead and turn it over to Ara T. Howard and let him tell you about programming like you give a damn. ARA: **Thanks, Chuck. That little snippet about me, I'm going to continue this in this talk, but I'm going to just start out by saying this is not a technical talk. It's a talk that I've been giving all over the world. I've given this talk in France. I've given this talk in the Ukraine. I've given this talk in California and in Colorado. And it's part of my current company's mission to expound these ideas and talk about these ideas with other engineers. But I just want to call out that it's definitely a discussion and a dialogue. I'm going to start out with where I'm at now and then we're going to go back in time and come all the way back around to where we're sitting today, which happens to be in Boulder, Colorado. And it's sleeting and snowing outside. So, I run a software company. CTO and founder of a company called Dojo4. Our focus is to work with impact companies to make the world a better place. That may sound a little bit warm and fuzzy. People, investors in particular, very often have questions about where our motives and our alignments are and do we really like to make money? Like, what kind of engineers are you? And I just want to say that when we say impact and we're trying to affect the world in a better way, we've co-opted. We've done a lot of work with the Unreasonable Group and we've co-opted this definition that they created that I particularly like and I hope it's something that you all will take away from this talk. So, when we say having impact, of course everything has impact. Positive impact, negative impact. But when we say impact we mean that we're trying to create a world where no one is limited through circumstance. What does that mean? It doesn't necessarily mean we're trying to save the whales or solve global warming. It doesn't necessarily mean that it might. What that means is we want to create a world where say people on every continent and every place have access to water, education, ability to communicate. So just sort of the basic fundamental things that we all take for granted. And I think, especially in the tech community, especially for those of us living in San Francisco, living in New York, working for these incredible companies doing amazing things, launching rockets to the moon, we sometimes forget how far we really need to go to bring everyone to that level. So, I want to talk to you about that and I want to talk to why I think that we as engineers, as developers in particular have an ethical, perhaps even moral obligation to be focused on doing that kind of work. Like I said, Dojo4, we're a semi-open workspace/agency in the heart of Boulder, Colorado in what's known as affectionately Startup Valley. We have been working since before the word startup was on the scene. We probably worked with over 30 of the startups in Boulder. And we've watched that scene grow from its infancy to what is now has been a complete economic overhaul of our city. Google is around the corner. Oracle's around the corner. Twitter is around the corner. It's been a super exciting, super exciting thing to be part of. But we are trying to push on the startup community locally and at large to do a little better. So, Chuck read this little bio and the only reason I'm bringing it up is not because I want to look at like two pictures of myself. In fact, let's just look at the flowers here because they're better at my deck. But what I wanted to start out now talking about is my history and how I got to being where I'm at now. So, I was a professional bike racer and ski racer for a long time until I shattered my body into a million pieces. And I'm full of metal now, [bionic man]. And I went back to school. I actually was in a body cast for three weeks laying there thinking, “Man, what can I do if I can't use my body?” I had never touched a computer before at all. Avoided them like the plague. Didn't even have an email account. I was laying there in that body cast and I was thinking, “Well, you know my hands work. I could use my hands if I was in a wheelchair.” And I was always really good at math and science. So, I went back to school. I went back to CU into a Master's Program, double majoring in CS and EE. So, that happened at an incredibly pivotal moment. It was before the first tech bubble and bust. And so, I went to school at a time when people were leaving school, this was the first startup craze, they were leaving school, dropping out of school to get these six-figure jobs with companies I had never heard of. I had no idea what they were doing. At the time I was a Research Intern at Forecast Systems Laboratories. So, I worked in large-scale weather modeling. And I was working to port those systems from Cray supercomputers to what we would now call cluster of commodity machines onto what was the biggest supercomputer in the world at the time, JET. So, that was a really good first use case of it. So, I was doing really cool work. And that really cool work at my internship, it was much more interesting than what I was doing in school. And that kept me in school. I was lucky because the bottom fell out in, when was that? 2000… I forget now. 8? Anyways, and suddenly there were no jobs. So, I ended up becoming Research faculty for the University of Colorado at Boulder. I worked in weather modeling and eventually transitioned into a national geophysical data center where I worked with the Nighttime Lights group. And the nighttime lights group, if you have ever seen a picture of the world at night from space, you look down there, my name will be on it. It's a very small group. It's only three engineers. So, we worked with that. And I'll talk more about that product later. But it was very satisfying in that we were able to do work that impacted people in a positive way. And I was coming out of school. I'll rewind this a little bit. When I had gone to school this was right at sort of the apex. Nobody was on a Mac then. We were all Linux hackers and we were all using GNU tools. And we all read those manifestos. And so, I was in school at a time where there was a subversive, revolutionary zeitgeist around being a developer. There was actually a belief that, “Wow, this thing is digitally reproducible. It's the first thing like that really ever, something of a high dollar value that has no cost to reproduce. So, why don't we codify and create a culture where instead of everybody competing to make the same thing we can share it and lift all boats?” That really came out of Stallman's manifestos. And it infected me through the period in which I went to school and through the work that I was doing in my internship there. Having said that, if the bottom wouldn't have fallen out I probably would have taken a job in the industry like everyone else and not continue to do that work. But as it turned out, I did. And that brings us to RubyConf 2006. I was a very early adopter in Ruby. I was using Ruby at 1.4. I was able to do some really cool projects in the scientific community with it that I won't go into here. But I went to RubyConf 2006. I believe that was the second RubyConf. And I remember I was still on a Linux machine at that time so I couldn't get on the Wi-Fi of the bloody conference. And I remember one guy had the first Mac laptop. Austin Ziegler. He's still in the Ruby community. Some of you may know him. He's a little bit of a kook. But he had been a Windows guy before and there was this shiny laptop. And that was the first time listening… DHH spoke at that RubyConf, not RailsConf, RubyConf, about this thing that he was making called Rails. Some of you may have heard of it. And there was this shiny Mac laptop. And it was the first time where instead of being a group where I felt like a bunch of guys in Linux laptops, where I felt like I was truly in a group of hackers, a group of nerds, a group of engineers, there was something cool about programming. That thing was shiny. And I didn't really know why, but I kind of wanted one. So, I stayed at NGDC and continued to do my research work. And at that time was some of the coolest work that I had done. And this is where I really, really, really was married to the idea of trying to do something better with code. This is one of the last big projects I did which was… so, an interesting characteristic about the nighttime lights, people don't think about it. Everyone knows that we have these crazy satellites and they can see literally the color of the baseball hat that you're wearing from space. But they have to be programmed to acquire that data. In other words you have to say, “Tomorrow get data over Iraq.” And it's not that the instruments can't be sensing the information. It's one… some of them are stationary so you have to move the satellite. Or their orbit doesn't happen to cover it. But it also can be because, and is because in today's hyperspectral satellites most of the data is just dropped on the floor. There's so much information in science. People like to throw the word big data around in startups which is hysterical to me. But the amount of data that is being acquired, most of it is just dropped on the floor in science right now. We can't actually store it fast enough. We don't have the volume of tape actually, which is what's used to even keep the data. The DMSP satellites are interesting. They're polar-orbiting. That means North Pole to South Pole. And the orbits overlap, so it's kind of visualized as spiral. And so, they cover the world. There's usually two or three of them up at any given time. So, they cover the world about every hundred and four minutes. And they have the property… these satellites are used to make real-time tactical air decisions. They're military satellites. But my boss who's a little bit of a Robin Hood offered so kindly to the Air Force that if you would only give us all the data because it's classified, we will provide an archive for you. And this is an enormous volume of data. This image we're looking at actually took petabytes of data to make. It's an enormous volume of data. The reason he said that is even though this data measures cloud tops and it's used to make real-time tactical military decisions, it was maybe not intended for anything other than nefarious purposes, it has a cool property that you can see lights on the dark side. That's data the Air Force doesn't care about. So, why does that matter? That matters because this is the only globally acquired, it's always acquired over the globe not at every instant but every day, every hundred and four minutes every spot gets covered, that measures man. No other satellite dataset… actually a new [bird was just][inaudible] test this property. And so, what's cool about that is light is the only proxy in remotely sensed data where you can say that is almost certainly people. That's only certainly mankind. So, in situations like this which is hurricane Katrina, natural disasters, it's really the only way to measure what's going on. Because a natural disaster is a black hole. No information gets out. There's no electricity, alright? And so, this image was one that we were preparing for the White House. Great backstory behind that. This is when W was in office. We had been publishing these images and they're still on NGDC's website, for a solid three days when the mainstream media had picked them up. And so, we could say: what is the current extent of the power outage? That's what the red in this image is showing you. When three days later, the White House contacted us and they say, “Can you help us detect where the power outage is?” And we told those guys, “You know, it's been on our website and CNN for three days,” which says something about how interested the government was in the suffering of those people at that time. And it also says something about how engineers can be making a difference. So, that was sort of the last really interesting project I did at NGDC before I went to RubyConf 2007 and I noticed a big trend. There were so many Mac laptops and people were working for these new companies. And the Linux zeitgeist, open source zeitgeist, it was talked about less and less. And the conversation changed more and more to making money, which isn't a bad thing. But it was really a profound change. And it really just came down to these two guys, right? Mac versus Windows. And those are the ideologies that people were really discussing. So, at that point I started drinking the Kool-Aid. I had a conversation with a friend of mine, David Clements who actually was one of the founders at Dojo4 as well. He was playing with Rails. And I was still in the scientific world. And I certainly did a lot of web programming, CGI programming if anyone remembers that. Perl CGI programming provided data products on the internet. And I remember telling him, “Why would you want to be a web programmer? That's not real programming, you know? You need to do something serious. That's like for kids.” So, let history note that I was pretty much wrong on that. So, I started doing it. And not deliberately. I started doing it because people started contacting me. I had a reputation in the Ruby environment and they had problems related to these Rails projects, these web applications, these startups that they were making. So, it wasn't long before I was moonlighting. And then it wasn't long before I quit my job. And I was drinking the Kool-Aid. I was making a ton of money, skiing a lot, and working to build what I thought was really cool stuff. Those two kind of go together. So, I started getting the [inaudible] and this is sometime even after Dojo4 was created. We were still doing this work. We were doing what I like to call a lot of zero to sixty work. Like you have an idea and you have $60,000 or whatever in order to get it off the ground. But we started getting this feeling like we've done all this stuff before. Every person has really the same stupid ideas. Like it's a CMS and it's a two-sided marketplace and you need messaging and we'll just use Rails and we'll use somebody's APIs. We'll make a shit-ton of money. I started feeling that over and over and over. And it just started to feel pretty stale. And we used to joke around the office. It's like, “If the next guy that walks in the door,” because we have an open door policy, “says the word app, I'm going to smack him.” So, we really started questioning, why are we doing this? And I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth. But we have built many companies which have gone through to various accelerators, Techstars, et cetera, and have become successes. They're making money now. They have gone past Series B, Series C, and they have revenue. And so, it was a good thing seeing that an economy was built and jobs are being created and things were working. But what were these things? What are people building? Is it a service that helps you get liquor delivered to your door faster? Is getting a ride faster a problem that the world needs? Like, do cabs work? Do buses work? I started really questioning that. [Chuckles] So, all of you remember Snowden and the NSA scandals and I think that a little backstory that I didn't hear talked about, and I think this is because programmers again have forgotten this, it's very fascinating, is there was a guy. Okay, let's put a poll. How many… and then can we get the results? Let's see. How many people know who this is? That's the poll. Yes, no. I know who this is. Okay. So, when I did this, when I gave this in a room of young engineers, graduate students at CU, 500 people in a room, about maybe 10 hands went up. [Chuckles] And I thought, “Whoa that's a big problem.” The reason it's a big problem is rewinding now to this Linux zeitgeist and ideas behind open source and what that really means pre-software and what engineers can do and how they can change the world, it turns out that giving control of things like cryptographic methods, say having the RSA Foundation help you with OpenSSL, it may have been a bad idea. It turns out that software is very important for maintaining control by government. It's important for facilitating business. And we're the only ones that make it. We gave that control away. People have forgotten that. And we know now that everything this guy said was right. He may have been a little crazy. He may not have been the best steward of this idea to popularize it. But this is Richard Stallman by the way, who wrote all the free software… he stared the Free Software Foundation and wrote many of the manifestos that actually hold the internet together still. If those manifestos didn't exist, if those licenses didn't exist the internet would be even more corporate than it is. And the reason I'm calling it out is we make those decisions. We write that software. We contribute to those projects. And we decide what licenses to release software under. Now, it's been demonized. Some of the ideas that he put forth have been demonized. But you only have to look back and see what he predicted would happen to know that it all happened. And we were complicit in allowing that to happen. Really, what I'm saying there, and this is a call to action, is to ask engineers to realize that there are basically battles being fought right now. There are wars being fought between companies. There are wars being fought between, literal wars between countries, and financial wars between these big companies. And we're the foot soldiers, really. But we're powerful foot soldiers. Every one of us has at least an AK-47 and maybe a bazooka. And that may change. In 20 years we may not be able to exercise that power. And we may have already stupidly given up our ability to exert control over what people are doing in the world and how they're doing it. We may have given that up already. I don't think so, and I'll get to that in a minute. But certainly with open source and licensing, that ship has sailed. We all use OpenSSL and I think we can say for certainty there's a back door and that it doesn't work if your name happens to be the US government. You know, the NSA. So, consider that you are armed with an AK-47 and you decide who you go and fight for. You make that decision. You make the decisions of how you fight. What software do you work on? What software do you champion? What projects do you contribute to that are very important? And how are those being managed? What is the licensing around that? What does that mean for governments and businesses that want to take advantage of that software? Are we actually working to collectively produce huge bodies of open source work that people are just taking to make a lot of money and not giving back, to listen to our communication and taking away our freedoms? And the answer is yes. That's what we're doing. So again, that ship may have sailed, but there is… why Africa on this slide? There's a new opportunity that I see right now to really manifest positive, to manifest and exert positive impact on the world. And it comes down to this. And not just Africa but also South African continents, the Indian continents, most of the world. Developers have forgotten, I think, when I give this walk and I've talked to many engineers about this and when I give this talk people say, “Great idea. I would love to make a dent,” the very next question is, well I say three things. One, “Oh my gosh, thanks for doing that. I am so fucking tired of building stupid shit.” Two, “I would love to make a dent.” And three, “How can I do that? Where does that exist?” And I can tell you right now, it's not in the Bay Area. It may not even be in Boulder. But this is important, right? The internet access through… even a few years ago in Africa most people were on feature phones. So, although they had internet access, remember those little LCD drop-down menus and how you made apps on those, they really didn't have a massive impact. But now, now as in just in the last few years, you have this situation where mobile phone ownership… we should take another poll here. What's the per… the per capita US mobile phone ownership is around 1. About 1 per person. A little less, actually. Not everyone has one. On the African continent, it's 2.5 per capita. Say that out loud. It's 2.5, more than 2. Like most people, many people have multiple phones. Some people have five phones. Why is this? That is how technology and access to the internet is manifesting there. And it's because no fast… no landlines, right? No cables that are being run. So, everything's run through cellular. It's because the total cost of ownership for this small device, access to the internet, is much less than say for those shiny Mac laptops. And so, what's happening is you suddenly have some raw ingredients to make a huge difference as an engineer. You have people, large bodies of people, with very real problems, right? You have problems like… I mentored at an event last year called the Girl Effect Accelerator where we, not we but the Nike Foundation and Unreasonable chose 10 companies based on their impact on adolescent women. And we were working with these companies. Everything from political to marketing issues, but also technical issues. And the breadth of companies, I don't think you would, anybody would guess what these companies were. They were companies like Paga, Africa. They're a financial transaction company. So, think PayPal, right? They're the largest money transfer company in Nigeria. What the hell does that have to do with adolescent women, right? We don't get it. So, in Nigeria and most of Africa very few people have access to banking. Less than 10%. So, they don't have a bank account. So, just doing that basic, remember this definition I said of the word impact, where no one is limited through circumstance. Say you want to send some money to your daughter who's in university and she's 600 kilometers away. How are you going to do that? You're going to send a bag of cash with your kid, maybe your younger daughter, and she's going to ride the bus and she's going to take that money there. It turns out, that's a dangerous job. And that is not a good way to move money around. But that is how money is being moved around. And so, you can have a huge impact through technology, right? Mobile money transfer. Now people can safely move money around and not get robbed. It's a huge impact. Another example. Let's just say you run a company called Soco. And Soco, they're holding your whole company together through mobile phone apps like so many other companies. And you build a two-sided marketplace where you go to these artisans that live in these villages. Their grandmothers, their mothers, and their daughters who have time on their hands. But the way the culture works there and economy works, you probably don't have a job where you make money. You're in the home. But you have a few hours and you have these amazing skills. You can make these beautiful things. And so, you can create a supply and demand system all held together where fulfillment, supply, demand, product curation, is all done on a phone where a grandmother, you can ask that grandma, “Listen, can you make two of these a week? It's okay if you can only make one a month. Tell us what you can do. We'll take these beautiful things and we'll sell them in Macy's, New York.” And so, you can add economic power and these women are able to build these groups of other women. And suddenly, transform from being the poorest person in town to the wealthiest person in town. So, you have these ingredients in growing markets where just now, like just within the last 18 months, suddenly everybody can use an app. They can use the internet to solve a real problem. And this is a real nut that engineers need to think about how to crack, and entrepreneurs. Everybody is trying to build the next big thing. They're trying to build the next cool thing. We're going to build it and then we're going to figure out how to sell it, how to market it, who to sell it to, who's the customer. We'll figure that out later after we make it. Well, in engineering school which many of you may have gone to, a lot of us have learned that the first thing you need to create a good solution is to understand the problem. And to understand the problem, you have to have a real problem. You can't manufacture a problem and then have a great solution to that problem. And this is what startups do now. We invent a problem, we create solutions to them, and then we figure out how to sell them, how to get an exit on this manufactured reality. And that would be okay if this is year 3000, all of our problems are solved. There are no wars. People have access to education and food and water and democracy. But that's not the case now. There are plenty of good problems. We don't have to manufacture problems to solve. And another way to think about this for the entrepreneurs who are listening is this is just a business. My definition of impact is my own personal definition, is not the one that I normally say on our website. It's not the one that the Unreasonable instant uses, which is to create a world where no one is limited through circumstance. My definition is you have a real fucking problem and I solve it. And we exchange that at a fair price. It's otherwise known as good business. So, think about the problems that we're solving. Are they real problems? Where are we exerting our expertise? Which as you all know, the demand is only going up and up and up for, for a variety of reasons which are deep and outside the scope of this talk. But this supply and demand issue and therefore the power that we're able to exert, the decisions that we're able to make, the impact to other people, is not going away. It's not lessening. It's increasing, at least over the next 10 to 20 years. So, wrapping up, where we are at today. We've become a B corporation. And for those of you that don't know what that is, it's similar to say getting organic certification or fair trade certification. It doesn't yet have financial implications. It doesn't mean we're a non-profit. It doesn't mean we don't make money. But it means we've taken a big commitment. And it's a big commitment. We had to change a lot of things in the company. It was a nine-month process to get to. It's a 57-page application to simply say we're aligning with people who want to do business. They want to make money. It's great to feed your kids. It's great to support your community through economic growth. But we also want to make the world a better place. We want to be moving the needle the right direction. So, that's where we're at now. And that's how we got there. And I hope that I've encouraged you to consider that although those opportunities may not be right in your face right now, they may not be in your company, they may not be in your city, we're developers. We use the internet. So, the world is really our playground. That is the playground for our work. That is the reach of our work, is the world now because of these. And there are a huge number of problems that remain unsolved. And so, that opportunity to build something small that has a massive positive impact on people's lives exists in a way that has never existed in history. That's the end of my talk, I guess. I'm not really sure technically how we take questions or anything now. But this would be the point at which we should do that.**CHUCK: **I have put a question in there myself. You can also vote up and down the questions. So, if there's a question that you want to ask, you can go ahead and ask that. I'm going to start with my question because there aren't any others in there. And then we'll move through from there. So, [inaudible]ARA:  Great question. CHUCK:  Question is: what are the best ways to start contributing to a cause or movement in code that doesn't have technical activism yet? In other words let's say that I want to contribute to a cause. I'm really passionate about something. And they don't really have people contributing to code that's going to help this yet. So, how do I get that started there? ARA:  Great question. And this question gets asked often. So, this is a tricky one. So, some people say, “Should I start volunteering on open source projects? Should I go to some local group that's working on some local issue?” A friend of mine built a Rails app for, I can't remember the name of the organization but they're one of these organizations that take donations for kids that don't have coats. And they distribute those coats to the kids in need. It's a very simple program. It was done all manually so he built an app so that they can know where the need is. And you can make a map of it so that we know where to focus our issues. So, he was able to make them 10 times more effective, just through a little Rails app. Very simple. So, one idea is to connect with people who are already doing this. Like engineers, no offense guys, but we like to think we're really creative and we are. We are. But I mean, code is a creative endeavor. Creating those solutions, massive kind of creativity. But it doesn't necessarily mean that we have the connection to: what problems do real people who aren't other engineers have? Right? It may not be an easier way to deploy to Heroku or something like that. Does this matter? So, connecting with local groups who are solving problems, right? Just pick one. And seeing what they're doing and like, how are they doing it? And like, what do you mean you do this all manually? This is what computers are for. So, computers are in my opinion not that good at solving problems. They're really good at taking things that people do well and scaling them, making them more repeatable and more efficient, right? It's a calculator at the end of the day. It doesn't think. And so, when you can codify and take solutions that people are already doing, that's a great way to help. You don't even have the problem, it just comes for free. So, volunteering with some of these groups is a great way to discover these problems. Now having said that, and I do want to underscore this idea. I'm not… and it's a very common pattern now, like a company or a person, individual makes a lot of money and now they give back. That mentality I think is pretty messed up. The reason it's pretty messed up is if you are solving the right problem, and by 'the right problem' and ‘a right problem', I mean a real problem that somebody has, they will pay you for it. And so, although I think it is a very good way to get started to look at some of the non-profits, just pick a 5013c. What are they doing? That's a great way to identify a real problem. They have been able to raise money to solve this problem and that is market validation that their solution works and that the problem exists. So, you don't have to think too hard there. However, what's happening outside the United States and outside the western world where the idea is not “We'll make money. We'll take it away and then we'll give it back to the things we care about,” the new thing… and people are calling this by the way the leapfrog effect. It's a leapfrog effect. What's happening say in Africa with education is, you know what? Having state-mandated education, right, no child left behind and what's happening in the United States and why Obama is freaking out over what's happening with the amount of time spent preparing for tests and our education system, we can just say that doesn't work. But changing that here is really challenging. Changing it in a place where the system is decentralized, where people are getting their education, so Bridge Academy for example, through tablets, the most successful education platform in Africa, people will pay for that because they actually have the problem. So, I just want to encourage people to consider that helping people and making a lot of money are by no means mutually exclusive. And in fact, market validation and somebody willing to pay for something is a great way to know that it's a real problem, that it has real value, and that you're on the right path. CHUCK:  You said that we should be talking to other people who are out there solving these problems that we care about. How can we phrase those questions so that we can get the information we need to know how to augment that effort? ARA:  Maybe this isn't the best answer, but I think, I wonder how many developers when they're working, say going to a job interview or working on a project, think about the mission of that organization. What are they trying to do? So, and I'll give you an example of why that matters. One of our clients is Off Grid Electric. And Off Grid Electric, very cool company. They just raised a ton of money. They have a variety of backers and they are experiencing exponentially explosive growth. Every city they go to tips towards everyone using their technology in Africa. And then they go to the next city and it tips and everyone's using it. And what they do is they have these hardware units. They're deliverable by bicycle. They're very small. And they're little solar energy units. And they're designed to supply power, enough power for light and charging these things. Remember I was saying how important those are. And charging phones for a collection of homes. Two to three huts. It's a little bit bigger than a single hut. And so, they're delivering these and providing people. There's a whole business now where people take their phones, take everyone else's phones to the city to get them charged. And now you can do that at home. Plus you have light. This is very important if you're a child and you're trying to do homework in the evening. And now you have incandescent or whatever type lighting. And so, you can do your homework after dark. Their mission though is very interesting. And they've recognized that because they really want to help the economies where they're operating, Tanzania being one of them, because they're really trying to help, their mission is that everybody who's not from there designs their own job so that they're replaced. So, they're hiring local and training people up. So, maybe the skill or the talent to do particular things isn't there yet. But it's part of their company mission to faze those people out. Your job is to figure out how to make that institutionalized knowledge, how to transfer it into those cultures, into those people so that you can leave and it's all sustaining. So, that's a very different, very different mission than extracting money from advertisements on a massive social network. It's a very different mission statement. So I think… so, mission matters. And I tell people, like if I ask you, let's see, who's listening right here? Mike. If I say, “Mike, do you want to come over to my house and shovel shit tomorrow?” “Stuart, do you want to shovel some raw sewage out of my basement?” The answer is unequivocally no. And then I'm going to ask you, “Well listen, I'll pay you $15 an hour.” You're like, “Dude, I'm a developer. I'm not going to come shovel shit for $15 an hour.” “How about $50 dollars an hour?” Still not going to come shovel shit out of my basement. CHUCK: [Chuckles]ARA:  But if I tell you, and this is a true story, Boulder was hit by massive flooding two years ago. If I say, “Listen. Our house is dry. Our neighbor's house is flooded with raw sewage four feet deep in the basement. Everything they own, all their kids' rooms are down there. Their house is ruined. All their belongings are ruined and they're living at a friend's house. We're going to have beer and pizza and we're going to have a work party and we're going to have 30 people and we're going to haul sewage out in buckets, in water up to our chests. Will you come over?” The answer is, “Dude, I'll be there.” So, the mission matters. And people, engineers in particular are very… I mean, they're introverts. The kind of work I think requires very much focusing on what's in front of you and not thinking about the big picture, right? I mean otherwise you just don't get anything done. Shut your email off, write some code. But why you're writing it and what people are doing with it, it does matter. And that's very actually enlightening. In other words, who cares if this tool sucks? Who cares what this fucking deployment technology is? If it's doing something really good, eh, maybe I'll just deal with it. Shovel some shit. Get it done, you know? Yeah, engineers are people, too. I'd like to help them out by making their lives easier. But let's keep our eye on the big picture and what we're doing with the work. So, the mission matters. CHUCK: [Inaudible] so many activism projects are looking for help for little or no money. This makes it hard to give much time. Is there a way to find groups that can keep food on my table but also be helping?**ARA: **Yeah, great question. This is by far the biggest barrier I think. And this is something that… so, this is why I'm giving this talk, actually. So, we recognize this is a problem. And I think the first step is to realize that you may have to look, what work? Work is a great way to make money. [Chuckles] You spend a lot of time doing it. So, it's great if it has positive impact. And I joke a little bit. I'm not this angry or subversive or anything. But I like to say that what we're trying to do at Dojo4 now and we're doing in a very small way in our own company what we're talking to people about, is I would like to say something like, “If you get into Techstars with a company that delivers alcohol to people's doors faster, drizzly, right, and you raise money to do that, I would like to create a world where no one will work for those companies.” So, part of it I think is recognizing that there is a sickness in the startup world who are a lot of our employers. There is a sickness in the corporate world. So that is, at first you're like, “Oh man, so that means I have to volunteer time.” It doesn't necessarily mean that. But it may mean looking outside your own country or your own town. And that's not to say there aren't a million problems in the United States either. But it means looking for new companies. It may mean even approaching some people and be willing to take a leadership opportunity where it's like, “I see the work that you're doing. It's crazy that you do all this by hand. Let's put a megaphone on your message by bringing this to the internet, bringing this to the Android platform, bringing it…” I mean, who knows, right? That's the power of the internet. So, creating your own role, defining that, having the willingness to say that. And then really just looking around the internet. And so, there are companies, Zoona in South Africa, Paga in Nigeria, Off Grid in Tanzania. There's a whole list. And if you start, say Unreasonable is a really great resource there. Unreasonable.is is a good… it's a content site. And the content is aimed at entrepreneurs that are working in the impact space. So, it's not going to help you directly. But it will give you… that's a great resource to try to discover some of those companies. And so, that's part of the reason I'm giving this talk, is to say the work is there. It's technical. It's interesting. They pay the same. Developers cost pretty much the same. They get paid pretty much the same amount of money no matter what country they're in, more or less. It's not an order of magnitude different. And that those companies are there, so just start looking for them. Start at Unreasonable and go from there. That's a great resource. Or just google Social Impact. There's Social Impact. MindfulInvestors.com is a huge venture fund that has been investing in the impact space for 20 years out of the Bay Area. Their portfolio probably has 30 companies. Some of them are incredible technology, like an EKG, no that's your heart. Whatever measures your brainwaves. Real-time brainwave measurement that cooperates with this, with an app to actually tell you when you're meditating correctly. Like it actually measures your brainwaves in real-time. Super cool technology. There's an SDK. You can put it on and type code and see what's happening in your head. What? Crazy, you know? So, the cool stuff is there. And I think raising awareness around it is the next challenge. And that's the answer to that question.**CHUCK:  I don't see any other questions coming in. ARA:  Cool. CHUCK:  We got about 10 minutes 'til the next talk. Is there anything else that you want to bring up before we wrap this up? ARA: No, not really. I just, I really want people to start thinking about… I mean, open source is important. This thing that happened with the NSA and crypto libs, that's crazy. And we let that happen. And so, I'm a person as some of you may know. I have a couple of hundred gems and I am not fantastic about maintaining the licenses. I always say the same as Ruby's. And the reason I say the same as Ruby's is because I think Matz has put a lot of thought into it. But I've started to reconsider that. Like, you know people say GNU licensing is… it's like a disease. And you're like, well, it is but the intention there, the intention to say that things should be open and transparent and you shouldn't build to just take them and do whatever you want with them without giving back, that intention, that was good. That was a really good intention. So, we need to think about that. How is our code shared? Who are we sharing it with? For what purposes are they using that code? I've never seen a license that says anything like that. Like, you can use this for free as long as you're doing one of these kinds of things with it. I mean, people talk about that in the sense of like making money or not. But not in terms of what's the intention behind what you're doing. Are you working… are you a for-profit company but you're working to reduce greenhouse emissions? Okay, great. You can use the code. That's fine. Maybe you're not a non-profit. It has nothing to do with making money, per se. So, I think thinking about that is something that we need another revolution there. We need somebody like Stallman to have modern ideas, I think, about how we share our code. GitHub is amazing but if you think about how much value and power exists out there that we are just giving away with zero concern around what's done with it, that's a big problem. So, I think thinking about our code, that's really a very good starting point. And then thinking about the companies that we work for. And it doesn't even necessarily mean working for another company. It means that, and I like to take this poll, I'm like how many people think the world economy would not collapse if every programmer in the world stopped going to work? And that's like, we'd collapse in 24 hours, right? The world is held together, the stock market's held together with programmers right now. And what do we do with that power? Nothing. We do nothing. So, realizing that even in a small organization, if there's 10 engineers and you guys have five business people and you're not really into what they're doing, it doesn't mean you mutiny. It doesn't mean that you should all go work for another company. But it may mean having a conversation with them. Like, “Okay, how can we keep doing what we're doing? We need to make money but how can we do something good with the business? Not just with our code. With our product, with what we're doing.” So, because they need you. [Chuckles] And programmers should not forget that. They need all of you desperately. And you're very hard to replace.CHUCK:  Alright. Very cool. Thank you, Ara. I know you can't hear us applauding but we're all… ARA: [Laughs]CHUCK:  We're all very grateful for that talk. And I think it really, hopefully we inspired some people, or you inspired some people to go out there and make a difference in the ways that we can. [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net.]**[Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world's fastest CDN. Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit C-A-C-H-E-F-L-Y dot com to learn more.]**[Would you like to join a conversation with the Rogues and their guests? Want to support the show? We have a forum that allows you to join the conversation and support the show at the same time. You can sign up at RubyRogues.com/Parley.]**

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