>>= Scratching your own itch vs. Volunteering

More than once I’ve come across hackers advocating a scratch your own itch approach to identifying worthwhile projects. The idea is that if you build something you yourself would like to use, it will naturally tend to help others.

Yeah, maybe.

Working on such projects has helped me learn new skills and given me some tools I personally found useful. When I was a systems administrator working on a small team, it sometimes showed me where I could build things to help the whole team out. But that’s about as far as they ever went. You might have better luck trying to help someone else.

Right now I’ve got a couple of side projects running:

Podcasting is a huge deal right now, and I wasn’t able to find a lot in the way of single purpose, Libre solutions. It’s tempting to expect that the podcasting project would be the one to catch some interest. But so far, it hasn’t been. The work I’ve been doing as a volunteer to help out the small legal team has made a much bigger impact.

If my experience so far is a good indicator, I’d say a quicker way to make an difference is to find someone who needs your help, and help them.

Want a quick way to start that process? Check out the Code for America brigades, or search for something similar in your area if the US is out of range.