HELP PEOPLE BY LEARNING TO CODE
“I think if someone had told me that software is really about humanity… that it’s really about helping people by using computer technology… it would have changed my outlook a lot earlier.” — Vanessa Hurst, creator of “Girl Develop It”
Many people get into coding for the money; either to make easy money online, to get a great job, or to make millions as a coder-preneur. Others find themselves coding just for the heck of it, as a fun way to pass the time and play with their computers. There is, however, another breed of coders out there, with more altruistic intentions; those who code for humanity, to help people, to relieve suffering and to make others just a little bit happier.
Traditionally, those kind-hearted souls who wanted to help people, relieve suffering, and make people happy tended to go into fields like healthcare, social work, and the life sciences. Now, however, with the rapid proliferation of computers (everywhere from hospitals to laboratories to teenagers’ pockets), a new kind of kindness is beginning to emerge: the path of the compassionate coder.
When Tyler Skluzacek was in sixth grade, his father (Patrick Skluzacek) was sent to the front lines of the war in Iraq, and returned with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Patrick found himself unable to sleep through the night, repeatedly awakened by night terrors. Tyler was disturbed to see the way his father had changed, and wanted to do something about it.
Last month, Tyler and his team of fellow students attended a coding competition called “HackDC,” where they spent 36 hours writing an ingenious smart-watch app that they called “myBivy” (“bivy” is short for “bivouac,” a military term for a place to sleep). myBivy monitors the wearer’s heart rate and movement, and, over time, it can “figure out” when he or she is beginning to enter a night terror. It then uses vibrations and/or sounds carefully calibrated to bring the wearer out of his nightmare without waking him up. Tyler and his team (who entered the contest under the name “The Cure”) won the $1500 first-prize at HackDC. Their plan is to get this technology on the wrists of all PTSD sufferers. Moving forward, their unofficial motto is: “we won’t sleep until the veterans can.”
Tyler’s story is just one example of compassionate coding; in fact, there are many other coders currently developing apps and websites that help people, relieve suffering, and make others happier, right now.
Pager.com is a new website / app that connects doctors and patients in a way that was never really possible before. Only a few years ago, in the dark ages of the early 2010s, a worried mother with an ill infant would have to make an appointment with a doctor, bundle the kid up, and take her suffering baby to the doctor’s office or emergency room. Now, using pager.com, she can easily browse through doctors that are immediately available in her area, their areas of specialty, ratings and reviews, etc — and order a doctor to come right to her living room — all from the convenience of her smartphone.
Calm.com and betterhelp.com are also both great compassionate uses of software, focusing on mental healthcare; the former is a great resource for mindfulness meditation, and the latter allows people to connect with traditional counselors in non-traditional, much more efficient ways (through convenient mobile & web apps).
While we’ve highlighted a few examples here today, there are far, far too many compassionate coding projects to even begin to discuss in a single article. To learn more, check out this BuzzFeed list of “25 Free Apps That Are Making The World A Better Place,” this TriplePundit list of “5 Apps to Help People Live a More Sustainable Life,” this Mashable list of “5 iPhone Apps To Help Fight Poverty,” and this fascinating Goodnet list of “7 of the Best Apps for People with Disabilities.”
If you’re looking for a fulfilling career where you can help people and really make a difference in their lives (and maybe even make money, have fun, and change the world in the process), consider learning to read and write code. This world is full of problems, and, increasingly, coders are the ones developing the solutions.