2015 so far and looking ahead

2015 hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.


I began the year with a strong plan in place for personal development and skills building. That plan was derailed when the New England snowpocalypse happened. I became homebound for nearly two months, and depression set in. (It’s amazing how losing access to infrastructure impacts mental health. There’s something to be said for the interrelated nature of personal metabolism and community metabolism.)

Once the snow finally began to melt, I reemerged with a serious case of general anxiety the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years. I suffered from anxiety most of my life up until 2010 when I found help and subsequently beat it. This Winter brought it back, and combined with my executive dysfunction issues from my 2002 head injury, there was no way I was in any condition to find a productive groove nor work towards goals with any consistency. So my number one priority became to seek help!

Medical Agency

Since I moved to Boston, I hadn’t actually taken the time to establish relationships with new doctors, so I’ve spent the past few months doing just that. The act of engaging the healthcare system with all its quirks has been its own brand of therapy. So far I’ve seen a dentist (and it didn’t work out, so I’m looking for another), found a PCP I like as well as an ENT specialist, and finally found a psychologist I can work with! Hooray! Progress!

I’ll probably be writing more about my health in future posts. There’s a project brewing here that combines my personal health with my professional/activist interests around personal data ownership infrastructure, and I can’t wait to start sharing!

Focusing on my health hasn’t been the only thing I’ve been working on however.

Code for Boston

At the beginning of the year, I had a chat with Harlan Weber to say that I’d be stepping back a bit from my responsibilities as Community Lead to focus on my personal goals. At that point I was feeling a bit burnt out. At the end of April, we had a day long core team retreat to figure out the future of our brigade, streamline our collaborative processes, etc. By the conclusion of the retreat, I felt re-energized and ready to take on new responsabilites that we’d defined that weekend. In addition to many of the same community management activities I’d been doing, I also took on the role of ‘Scribe’, responsible for core team documentation. I immediately took over our collaborative Trello boards and have since discovered I have a knack for project management.

I’m really excited about what the rest of the year holds. After putting on two big events, and losing two of our core team members to life happening, we’ve decided we need to focus the rest of this year on the long-term sustainability of Code for Boston. We’re engaged in conversation with Code for America around the idea of ‘Institutionalization’ which is all about taking our brigade to the next level by figuring out how we can offload many of our logistical activities to paid staff. We’re not sure if this means we’re turning Code for Boston into its own non-profit, finding local partners, or starting a new organization that supports Code for Boston, but we’re heavily leaning towards the latter and looking to existing models in other cities for inspiration. In the mean time, we’re also going to begin working on leadership succession planning, diversity and inclusion efforts, and streamlining our documentation+processes so our members are better supported.

More on all this in future posts.


After six months off, I’ve become active again at Mozilla! I’d been hanging back since December to see how things would progress, and this thread started by Emma Irwin on the Participation Team’s collaborative process finally motivated me to dive back in. Since then, I’ve started working with Jonathan Wilde on a project called Gossamer, and next week I’m going to be in Mexico to work with the Mozilla Wiki Team at Wikimania.

Because many of my contributions to Mozilla have been invisible in the past (and because I have a terrible memory for most of it), I’ve started a blog specifically to track my daily/weekly activity. If you’d like to keep track of what I’m up to at Mozilla, check out http://mozillatracks.captaincalliope.net/

Working Open

One of the through-lines this year with all of the above has been documentation. I’ve spent a lot of time keeping and maintaining health records, making sure collaborative documentation is accurate and up to date, and documenting my own activities. While I haven’t been doing this all out in the open yet, I’ve been developing good record keeping habits, learning what works and what doesn’t in terms of practices and tooling, and as a side effect leveling up in my ability to work with others.

I haven’t yet revisited/renegotiated the goals I set at the beginning of the year, but I am working towards being more open in my goal setting processes. For the past two years I’ve run my life off of a private Trello board that I’ve recently refactored into a public one: https://trello.com/b/GrOdToFy/captaincalliope-overview

This is a big step for one of my major goals for the year: putting together a support network of peers and mentors. I consult this Trello board frequently as part of my overall GTD process. By making it open, I invite others to join me in my personal and professional development at a deep level with clarity around how it might intersect with theirs.

Expect to see me publishing more frequently in all areas of my work!

Join me at CrisisCamp Boston on January 19-20

I’m working on reinvigorating CrisisCamp Boston by organizing a series of 2013 hackathons! The first will be next weekend at the MIT Media Lab. Click here for more info and registration.

I’ll be continuing work with the InnCrisis team on the donation collection app we started at the last CrisisCampBoston as well as the meta-project of organizing more CrisisCamps.

Even if you’re not able to join us, you can follow our activity online. Connect with us on Twitter @CrisisCampBOS, Facebook, and our Google Group.

If you know anyone in Boston with experience in web development, crisis response, or who are just rockstars in general, pass this information along and let them know we could use their help!

CrisisCamp Boston and developing an app: InnCrisis

Last weekend I attended CrisisCamp Boston organized by the Hurricane Hackers out of the MIT Media Lab. I went primarily to work on the meta-community organizing stuff (as is my custom) but also ended up working on a crisis response app with some really cool peeps.

Before I get to that, a few links.

Many of you know that I use Evernote for absolutely everything.. but this was the first event where I experimented with publishing my personal notes as a means of public engagement. I found this really helpful for both communicating with collaborators as well as keeping my head on straight. My notes: http://j.mp/sandyboston

I ended up on video for this blog post. (I still find it awkward seeing myself on video.)

I was asked to follow up with a blog post on the Hurricane Hackers blog talking about how havingĀ  CrisisCamp events can help build disaster preparedness. I found the Occupy movement’s Occupy Sandy efforts to be especially inspiring, so I used them as a case study.

And now, onto the app!

Last weekend the NYC Office of Emergency Management put in a request for a hotel availability platform to streamline the process of sheltering people displaced by disasters like hurricane Sandy. A bunch of us naturally gravitated toward this project, and off we went!

We encountered a number of challenges (technical, legal, etc) along the way, and a few conceptual shifts.. but we ultimately decided on an app that:

  1. collects donations
  2. searches for hotel room availability with filters such as low cost
  3. enables hotel room booking using donations

We call it InnCrisis. Rather than deploying this app ourselves, we intend for InnCrisis to be a white label application that can be deployed by aid organizations to augment their existing placement efforts for people suddenly in need of shelter.

This app will be made possible by mashing up a few 3rd party API’s:

  • Kinvey as the app’s backbone
  • WePay for collecting donations
  • A hotel search and booking API. We’re currently looking at Cleartrip and Expedia‘s API offerings.

Over the course of the day, we were able to prototype the donation portion of the app. Here’s a video of Ryan Kahn presenting InnCrisis at the end of CrisisCamp Boston.

BlogĀ  post with this video and additional notes at the Hurricane Hackers blog.

Ryan Kahn, Jonathan Wilde and I decided we want to continue working on this project, so we’re getting together today to discuss next steps.

If you’d like to track the progress of InnCrisis development, check out this google doc. And if you’re interested in helping out shoot me a tweet, or just start hacking away out our code on github.