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Random Hacks of Kindness 69

Elizabeth Sabet writes "Google, Microsoft, NASA, The World Bank, and Yahoo! are unlikely partners, but they are bringing together the best and brightest in disaster relief management and the ever-growing hacker community in a progressive initiative called Random Hacks of Kindness. Its mission is to mobilize a world-wide community of technologists to solve real-world problems through technology. RHoK is gearing up for its first world-wide 'hackathon for humanity' on June 4-6, 2010. Following last year's inaugural event in Mountain View, California, which produced software solutions that were used on the ground during the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the partners have decided to take the effort global. RHoK engages volunteer software engineers, independent hackers, and students from around the world in a marathon weekend of hacking events and coding competitions to develop software solutions for problems posed by subject-matter experts. This first global Hackathon will feature sponsored events in Washington, DC, Sydney, Nairobi, Jakarta, and Sao Paulo." Here's where to go for more details or to register for the DC event.
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Random Hacks of Kindness

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  • in other words (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mxh83 ( 1607017 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:03AM (#32332058)

    They're gonna take the use the event as a front to get ideas...

    • Like what? Hack all the Window's XP boxes attached to an ISP, and install Ubuntu on them instead?

    • How the hell is this modded Flaimbait?! They did it under a non AC name and the poster just after this one said the same thing only posed as a question and was modded +4 Insightful.

      Aside from the housekeeping, it's a coder's prerogative to add to their own library.

    • Ideas are cheap, it's execution that matters: []

      I can assure that these organizations are rife with ideas, bringing the ideas "to market" is the problem.

    • by grcumb ( 781340 )

      They're gonna take the use the event as a front to get ideas...

      Who fucking cares?

      If they're good ideas, and they enable people to act quickly and efficiently in times of crisis, who cares about attribution?

      I've spent the last 7 years living and working in what the UN classifies as a Least Developed Country. I've read through the specific challenges being presented to hackers at these events and, truth be told, I'd be hard pressed to come up with a better list.

      There are shortcomings, to be sure. One of the biggest is that communications is one of the first things to s

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:04AM (#32332060)
    How is the code used though? Do you still own the code? Is it licensed under the GPL? BSD? Apache? Or is it just given to the companies or placed in the public domain?
  • that none of these people can claim copyright on your work.. or any patents...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Jeeze! First three comments... effectively saying, "Don't feed the bears"

      • Re:Just make sure (Score:5, Informative)

        by deniable ( 76198 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:16AM (#32332122)
        Exactly, from the site linked:

        At a RHoK Hackathon, benevolently-inclined hackers will listen to a keynote speech presenting the challenges we are facing. Then they’ll churn out some of the most important open source code on the planet

        Emphasis mine. I'd love to see someone try to close-source this stuff with the major players. Let's see a four-way fight between Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and the US Government. Popcorn anyone.

        • Like RMS said, even if your code is open, they can choose just not to redistribute it and it would end up "closed", especially if they tangle it with NDAs and "national security".

          Just about everything dealing with space gets lumped in with "national security" and thus may never be viewable by the public.
      • Well, it does make some sense. If either Microsoft or Google are trying to be nice, I check what I am being robbed of or forced to now. So it is more of a "Don't trust the bears."
  • So what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Who cares if they're using this awesome idea to make money after they help millions of people?

    Just because someone is going to make money off of it doesn't mean it's suddenly an evil idea.

    • Re:So what? (Score:4, Funny)

      by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:49AM (#32332296) Journal
      Uhm.. it's good versus evil- you're supposed to fight the evil. Why would anyone care about something as mundane as helping millions when you can fight evil?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      No, the problem is they could conceivably stop you from using it []... Making money is not the issue...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)


      Random Hacks of Kindness


      Is it licensed under the GPL? BSD? Apache?


      Who cares...?

      A voice of reason, thankfully.

      "The very first Crisis Camp bar camp was held in Washington, D.C. in May 2009. During one of the opening sessions of the camp an industry panel spoke, and clearly stated that some issues of global importance take precedence over competitive business concerns."
      - RHoK.Org

  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:45AM (#32332272)

    I was centrally involved in the Haiti earthquake relief effort. One interesting open source app we, the State Department, the UN, Red Cross, US Marines, and others used was called Ushahidi, which is a crowd-sourced news & mapping tool. Within hours of the quake the good people at Ushahidi had set up an instance to track reports and direct relief efforts at []

    You could watch, real-time, as reports funneled into the map of people texting from inside collapsed buildings requesting evac, and see first-responders picking up on them. Once Digicel, Haiti's cellphone company, started pushing official messages about which shortcode to text help requests to, and also to distribute the locations of medical help, food, water, etc., then it really picked up steam.

    It was the first time we had all seen anything like it. The Marines told us they were using it almost like a trouble-ticket system to route their emergency teams because it was the only actionable information they could get.

  • Regardless of how they'll license the code that comes out, this is the type of thing that is worth applauding. I'm a fan of big business(es) trying to do the right thing and give back to those in need.
  • Hack for Life (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @01:27AM (#32332474)

    I most heartily approve.

    And I hope there are many interesting results, other than buncha nerdy half-assed bullshit software projects. There are a lot more out there in life in need and want.

    Build a better water pump. Build a better wiring harness. Things people in need can use.

    And for god's sake, stop wasting your good brains cooking up another social network bullshit. You young people can do way way better than that.

    • Re:If You Build It (Score:4, Informative)

      by value_added ( 719364 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @03:40AM (#32333018)

      And I hope there are many interesting results, other than buncha nerdy half-assed bullshit software projects. There are a lot more out there in life in need and want. Build a better water pump. Build a better wiring harness. Things people in need can use.

      Like this pump []?

      Here's an excerpt:

      For 15 years, Kevin Costner has been overseeing the construction of oil separation machines to prepare for the possibility of another disaster of the magnitude of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

      Disturbed by the effects of the Valdez spill in Alaska, Mr. Costner bought the nascent technology from the government in 1995 and put $24 million of his own money into developing it for the private sector.

      Kevin saw the Exxon Valdez spill, and as a fisherman and an environmentalist, it just stuck in his craw, the fact that we didn't have separation technology, said John Houghtaling, Mr. Costner's lawyer and business partner as chief executive with Ocean Therapy Solutions, which developed the technology.

      On Wednesday, BP's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, said that the company had approved six of Ocean Therapy's 32 machines for testing. All boast centrifuge processing technology giant vacuum-like machines that suck oil from water, separate the oil, store it in a tanker and send the water, 99.9 percent purified, back into the gulf.

      The technology was available for use 10 years ago, Mr. Houghtaling said. "These machines have been very robust, but nobody's been interested in them until now," he added.

      He said that the largest four machines have the capability of separating 210,000 gallons of oil from water a day, 200 gallons a minute.

      Sounds like the quintessential hacker.

      And for god's sake, stop wasting your good brains cooking up another social network bullshit. You young people can do way way better than that.

      Kostner's efforts are the product of fifteen years work and $24 spare cash. And on a somewhat related note, the special submarines [] that James Cameron wants to contribute, those were financed courtesy of the movie studios. The point here is that it's hard to avoid the fact that the alternative (working on some possibly useless social networking thing) looks a lot more attractive. And do-able.

    • other than buncha nerdy half-assed bullshit software projects. There are a lot more out there in life in need and want.

      That's the idea. Check out this list of problem definitions: [] - these aren't pie-in-the-sky ideas that we came up with, these are real needs as described by real crisis responders.

  • Like RHoS? (Score:3, Funny)

    by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:43AM (#32333318)
    Random Hacks of Sedition. RHoS is so masterful I see they've hacked most printing companies that make labels for consumer electronics!
  • The same thing we do every weekend Pinky - try to take over the world!

  • Google, Microsoft, NASA, The World Bank, and Yahoo! are unlikely partners...

    Not at all, especially if you believe in the Illuminati-Bilderberg-FakeMoonLanding-YahooGoogleSoftMonopoly Conspiracy Theory. What's perplexing is why they left out the Rand Corporation, the Mafia and the CIA/NSA/FBI/JPL/DEA/EPA/NRA/FDA (AKA the TLA [] Group).

    • Ha ha ha!

      Yes, corruption doesn't exist, especially if you laugh at it and include genuine bits of silliness nobody really thinks is true in your broad stroke accusations.

      Do you feel content once more?

      Good for you. The world, however, doesn't share your delusion of fluffy happy safety from people who want make sure you work all of your good hours in some idiotic slave job while you let your mind and spirit atrophy, while of course, preventing you from ever sharing in any of the real power which IS highly co

      • Aaah! They might be evil! I should keep doing nothing! Yes, back in my happy place. Now to click on XKCD and feel even more accomplished in my inaction.
  • I don't know if this counts as a hacking, but internet kiosks in airports; sometimes I can kill the metering program and leave it open for free use to anyone who passes by w/o having to have it activated by a merchant or inserting cash
  • 850 million people in India do not have any bank a/c []
    Are you interested in starting a no-frills net-bank in India.

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.