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What do these all have in common?  They all care about helping others in times of need, they all converged on Toronto in the end of May 2013, and they are all (combined as well as individually) AWESOME

The Players

Before I get into the meat of the event, let me bring you up to speed on the players….

Humanitarian Toolbox

Give Camps have been going on for a long time, and they are a wonderful thing.  A group of passionate people (developers, designers, project managers, testers, etc.) all get together for a non-stop weekend of coding to put together a software project for some well deserving charity. 

The Humanitarian Toolbox also brings a  group of people together to donate their time and talent to build software for a very deserving need.  The major difference from a code camp is that the Humanitarian Toolbox efforts are designed to continue when the weekend hack-a-thon is over.  The infrastructure has been created so volunteers can continue to work on the software as time permits.

“When Disaster Strikes, Code Saves Lives”

The projects are very focused on creating software to help when disaster strikes.  From the Humanitarian Toolbox Blog:

“Over the past few years, this effort has culminated in the organization of hack-a-thons and code camps that focus on working on problem statements defined by humanitarian organizations.”

By focusing our collective skills to focus on the needs of organizations that rally from all over the world to help save lives and restore living conditions in the wake of disasters, we can truly make a difference in this world.


If you’re reading this blog post, you probably know something about Telerik Smile.  Founded in 2002, Telerik has consistently grown year over year.  We are now over 700 employees strong, have 12 full offices in 8 countries, and a product line too lengthy to mention here. Please check us out at

In addition to a long list of CSR efforts supported by Telerik,  including the Telerik Academy (which has literally trained thousands of people for free), corporate matching, and many other charitable support and activities, Telerik is fully committed to supporting the Humanitarian Toolbox projects.  Telerik has made volunteers at hack-a-thons eligible for free licenses for our DevCraft Collection for personal use, my time and T&E to run on-premise events (such as at the upcoming THAT Conference), as well as food and other material assistance at hack-a-thons are just a few methods of support. For details on eligibility for free licenses or to have me come out and run an event please fell free to contact me.

Telerik was kind enough to supply food and coffee for all of the participants in the hack-a-thon at DevTeach Toronto.


If you aren’t familiar with DevTeach, you should be!  DevTeach is an awesome conference that just celebrated its 10th anniversary!  For any show to last 10 years is quite the feat – I run a show in Cincinnati (the Cincinnati Day of Agile), and I can tell you first hand how hard it is to run even a small show like mine.  DevTeach is much larger, and it is one of those conferences where some of the best speakers in the industry gather to share their knowledge. The conference is run by Jean-Rene Roy, who in addition to being a Microsoft MVP, Conference Organizer, and wicked smart, is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.  If you care about your craft, you should catch one of his shows.

DevTeach is also a huge supporter of the Humanitarian Toolbox.  At the most recent event in Toronto, Jean-Rene and DevTeach supplied a conference room, A/V equipment, and beverages to the volunteers.  If you have ever been involved in running a show at a hotel conference center, you know this isn’t cheap.  His donation cleared the way for us to work unimpeded and get a *lot* completed.

Passionate Members of the Development Community

Richard Campbell (of DotNetRocks as well as many other ventures) and Tony Surma (CTO, Disaster Response as Microsoft) are two of the driving forces in making the Humanitarian Toolbox a reality.  Both graced us with their presence on site for this hack-a-thon, which really helped me, as it was my first project with the Humanitarian Toolbox.

I addition to Richard and Tony, we had great support from SELA Canada (who provided us some GIT-> TFS conversion resources as well as key team members Erez and Eran the night of the hack-a-thon).

For the hack-a-thon itself, we had myself, Tom, Eden, Mark, Hugues, Eran, and Erez dedicate their evening to coding and coffee while everyone else from the conference were out drinking and celebrating the close of another successful show.

The Project

Our project that we worked on is for Mobile Based Emergency Training. When resources are mobilized to help in a disaster, they will often be required to use equipment that is not part of their usual routine.  Satellite phones are a great example.  While they look cool on TV, I’m pretty sure I would need some help to figure out how to use them effectively.

The Mobile Based Emergency Training project is designed to fill that exact need.  The long term goal is that videos can be categorized for a specific event, and the responders can then go to their mobile device of choice to download the videos for offline viewing.  So while they are en route to the rally point, they can get themselves up to speed on the equipment without having to be connected to the grid.

The Event

We had four hours to get the team up to speed on the project, create an environment, decide things like technologies and processes, and hopefully get something created.  We organized the evening into 4 one hour sprints.  The kick off was of course explaining the project, gathering high level requirements, and a discussion about how we would develop it (at least conceptually). 


Every hour we stopped for a stand up to determine if we were still on the correct path, how our decisions were holding up under pressure, and if we needed to reallocate people to other tasks. 


For four hours into the evening, the attendees pair programmed their way to an initial delivery.


At the end of the evening, the team had produced the following website:

While far from finished, it’s a great start for a short event!


It doesn’t do much at all on the surface, but we managed to get a group of people into a room (most whom had never met each other before), build a database as well as an azure website, and configure it to play videos.  Yes, it’s far from the vision of creating a mobile training tool, but it’s also very far from nothing.

I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished in very little time.  Any software project needs a solid foundation, and that is what we delivered. 

Look for this and other projects at a local hack-a-thon near you. Write some code.  Save some lives.  Get involved.

About the Author

Phil Japikse

is an international speaker, a Microsoft MVP, ASPInsider, INETA Community Champion, MCSD, CSM/ CSP, and a passionate member of the developer community. Phil has been working with .Net since the first betas, developing software for over 20 years, and heavily involved in the agile community since 2005. Phil also hosts the Hallway Conversations podcast ( and serves as the Lead Director for the Cincinnati .Net User’s Group ( You can follow Phil on twitter via, or read his personal blog at



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