Mozilla Service Week – making a difference in your community

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Mozilla just announced Mozilla Service Week which will be held September 14 – 21, 2009. This week is a push to connect people who can help make the web work better for someone in the community with people and organization who need that help.

Coming from the non-profit arts sector prior to my job at Mozilla, I will be spreading the word with many arts organizations in Toronto who would be wise to sign up for help from such a talented pool of volunteers. Of course I will also donate my time that week even though it’s the kind of work I do all the time already. I can’t even count the amount of time I’ve spent setting up routers and networks for less technical folks in my life, or helping them set up their new computers and teaching them basic skills (all teaching sessions include installing and setting up the latest Firefox of course).

The best part of this week, in my opinion, is that it’s an opportunity to get hands-on with local users in the community. The library is a great place to start. It wasn’t that long ago (around 2003) when I was using the library computers as my primary access to the internet. I’d love to go in now and make sure that their computers are up to date, and write up how-to manuals and helpful hints for beginners. Even better, get some folks to translate those manuals or tip sheets. At my local library I’m certain that there are many folks who would appreciate localized information sheets.

Two areas that are of particular interest to me with regards to the organizations I know in Toronto:

  1. Bring their websites over to an open-source CMS like Drupal. Many of the sites are hand-coded php (or god forbid Dreamweaver-created sites) with no administrative back-end and keeping the site’s information up to date is a difficult/dangerous task for non-technical staff.
  2. Take their FileMaker Pro databases over to MySQL or PostgreSQL so that they are no longer locked in to expensive, proprietary database software that requires additional hosting costs. Three organizations I have worked with are on three different versions of FMP and none of them the latest. Upgrading is painful for them and their hosting costs are ridiculous (especially the ones who are on older versions).

If you’re technically inclined, go to the site and sign up. If you’ve got an organization in mind, tell them to sign up. Let’s make this event a success so it will inspire more weeks like this in the future.

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