Crisis Checkin Application approaching Beta

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I'm very excited with the progress we've made in the crisis checkin application in the last year. A gropu of volunteers, donating their own time, built the first version of the web-based crisis checkin application.

We're ready to start having disaster organizations start working with the application and give us feedback. 

This is a great milestone for us. We've built our first app, and we're putting real bits in front of the people that respond to disaster events. All of you that have spent time on the application have helped us reach this important goal. There's more that we need to do. The beta is just the first time that disaster workers will use the app. We'll get feedback and address it. We'll be ready to launch more apps.We've had a lot of support from partners, disaster experts,developers, sponsor organizations, and other volunteers. Thank you!

If you want to pitch in, please join us.

You can read more in our news section.

Salt Lake City Hackathon recap

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Last weekend, we were in Salt Lake City for a Humanitarian Toolbox hackathon, sponsored by our great friends at Pluralsight. We spent our time working on the crisis checkin application. 

Salt Lake City has a great developer community. I was impressed with the turnout, the skills, and the progress we made.

Everyone had the app installed and running on their machine by mid-morning. The team helped us find and diagnose some challenges for new contributors. We've updated the getting started page on the project wiki, and it should be easier for new developers to join in.

After that, the group formed four different feature teams. We added quite a few features:

  • We created a new Cluster Coordinator role. This is an important milestone for our partners in relief organizations.
  • We created the ability for an administrator or cluster coordinator to email all volunteers that are present on a given day.
  • We added a feature test project and framework. We also created some tests for the main scenarios.
  • We made lots of progress on Xamarin based mobile apps for iOS and Android
  • We made lots of progress on a WIndows phone mobile app.
  • We made significant progress on upgrading to ASP.NET MVC version 5. This will make it much easier for us to integrate OAuth into the application, and enable volunteers to register using facebook or linked in.

Richard Campbell and I had a great time with everyone. It was great to spend some time developing with old friends that we've known from conferences over the years. It was equally great to meet new friends and spend time developing our application.

Most of all, I'm thrilled that the folks who attended have continued to work on the application after the event. I've been receiving pull requests from several of the attendees that wanted to finish features they were working on at the end of day.

Thanks again to Pluralsight for helping us organize the event, feeding all of us, and having some of their development team join us and drive our application forward.

Agile Development East Test-a-Thon

Friday, December 6, 2013

A couple weeks ago, I was at Boston for Agile Development East, along with Microsoft people for a Visual Studio 2013 Launch Event. While there, we hosted another volunteer hackathon for the Humanitarian Toolbox.

I continue to be happy with the response we're getting.  Agile Development East is a testing and project management conference, although it's growing a more developer centered audience.  We had a great response from all those communities. Some project managers approached us about running projects for us. We had testers spend some time on the apps doing exploratory testing.  Our release is getting closer.  They found a few, but far fewer than at the earlier StarWest event.

We had a number of new developers approach us and talk to us about contributing. That's helping us get these first applications ready for use by humanitarian organizations. 

We also had a few community leaders from the Boston community approach us about running projects.  We've got enough of a backlog to do that. We've also learned enough that we're getting close to scaling Humanitarian Toolbox out to local community groups worldwide.  We've learned quite a bit about keeping ongoing development happening after our in person events. To be fair, we've made some mistakes, but we have learned from them.  We're getting more organized, and we're growing the skills to run these distributed projects that are moved forward in volunteer efforts.

I also recorded a new .NET Rocks show, talking about Humanitarian Toolbox, and the new support for Typescript in Visual Studio 2013.

StarWest Test-a-thon

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to work with the dedicated Testing professionals at StarWest. The organizers invited us to bring some of our in-progress apps to a test-a-thon. Conference attendees gave their time to work through the scenarios we've completed and give us feedback.

This was our first chance to have a set of testing professionals do a thorough round of exploratory testing. Unlike all our testing to date that has been developer-authored unit tests and integration tests, the StarWest volunteers brought a different perspective, that of a testing professional.

They found many issues, they gave us several enhancement requests by approaching the app from a different perspective and suggested some new workflows. We'll take those new suggestions to our subject matter experts and see what they think. They also spent quite a bit of time doing negative testing, trying to exploit areas of the app to do things that shouldn't be allowed. Sometimes they were probing for authorization errors, sometimes probing for data exploits.

We feel good about where we are because the list is manageable given that this was the first time anyone had probed the app. Most of the items represent new features, not broken features, and there are only a small set of security issues. Overall, the test professionals made a great contribution to the application. They have given us a set of issues and a set of enhancement ideas that will make the final application much better. It's a strong and important contribution.

Many thanks to StarWest attendees, to the TechWell team for all of their support and to Microsoft for sponsoring the Humanitarian Toolbox at Star West. We should also mention the efforts by volunteers from Neusdesic who participted in the testathon for the duration. It was a worthwhile and valuable experience; we will definitely do this again.

Thanks to everyone at the Grace Hopper Open Source Day

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

We want to recognize and thank the attendees of the Grace Hopper Open Source Day who supported our project this last Saturday for the awe inspiring amount of focus and dedication they gave to building out mobile clients for our Crisis Checkin solution.

As David Washington summarizes in his blog post, the attendees built common data model specs, user scenario documents and starter apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.  3 apps in 6 hours!

The team far exceeded our expectations and we look forward to how these will be carried forward and in the future deployed for use by response organizations in the field.  You can see the results yourself (as well as contribute if you like) at the project repository on github - https://github.com/HTBox/crisischeckin.

 

Thanks again to those who were part of Grace Hopper Open Source day and to David Washington for representing the Humanitarian Toolbox at the event!

Hackathon at the Grace Hopper Conference

Sunday, October 6, 2013

We at the Humanitarian Toolbox are thrilled to participate in the Grace Hopper Conference Open Source Hackathon Day.  We’ll have a team adding mobile support to the crisis checkin app. I’m really excited about this for several reasons. I can’t be at the event, but David Washington will be on site and acting as the project lead.  He’s done a fantastic job already by organizing the volunteers and making sure that everyone that attends will be able to contribute as soon as they arrive.

Based on early registrations, we’ll have up to 20 people or more participating.  We’re hoping to get a great kick start on the three main mobile platforms we want to support (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone).  This is great because it adds a lot of diversity to our application. In addition to the web, we’ll have native mobile support for our users.  I also like the symbolism of adding platform diversity for the crisis checkin app at the Grace Hopper Conference. The Grace Hopper conference celebrates women in computing, and we’ve had a low percentage of women joining our Humanitarian Toolbox hackathons so far. We want to have more participation, and the Grace Hopper conference is a great way to start.

I’m also thrilled that there’s at least 20 people signed up. That’s a great crowd, and a great group to add features to the crisis checkin app. I’d love to see everyone that helps this weekend continue to stay involved.

Have fun this weekend, and know that we appreciate everyone’s involvement.

-Bill Wagner

New website live at www.htbox.org

Sunday, September 1, 2013

We're live with our new website today at http://www.htbox.org rebuilt on a new platform with a new visual design and support for mobile access.

Started at the hackathon at That Conference, the new website is built upon N2CMS, an ASP.Net MVC based content management system, that allows us to keep the content up to date and build new features with less development effort.  Some of the upcoming new features for the website including listings for projects, contributors and response organization requests as well as a full featured blog with rss feeds and syndication of blogs from project leads onto our website.

We've moved to the new address at www.htbox.org which we will use for all links and materials going forward as www.humanitariantoolbox.net was always a spelling challenge - even for those of us who typed it a lot!

Just like the projects in the toolbox, our website is being developed openly and the source can be found at http://github.com/htbox/htbox-website.  If you see something that isn't working or have ideas for new features please add an issue to the repository and we will prioritize it for development - or of course you could help us build it if you like as well!

Introducing the Humanitarian Toolbox

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Today we at NetHope, CrisisCommons and GeeksWithoutBounds are proud to announce, in partnership with Microsoft and DotNetRocks the launch of the Humanitarian Toolbox.

The Humanitarian Toolbox is an initiative intended to help bring the expertise and good will of the software development community to the humanitarian world. Ever since the devastating images of the East Asia Tsunami in 2004, developers around the world have helped humanitarian organizations address some of the most complex problems through the power of technology.

Over the past few years, this effort has culminated in the organization of hackathons and code camps that focus on working on problem statements defined by humanitarian organizations. Those of us from the humanitarian community have seen the potential these efforts hold, but sadly often these efforts have not been sustainable and little happens in-between the hackathon weekends.  One of the main reasons for this has been a lack of infrastructure to coordinate these efforts, which often are distributed around the world.

This is the reason we have teamed up with Microsoft, which has generously offered their Team Foundation Services as the infrastructure backbone for the Humanitarian Toolbox. By being able to break the problem statements into individual chunks of work and to clearly define each of them through storyboards, larger problems can now be addressed by this volunteer community of software developers. By having an infrastructure that also enables distributed software development also means that people can continue to work on problems even after they participate in a hackathon.

We are therefore reaching out to the broad software development community, looking for developers, designers, testers, database administrators, project managers, scrum masters and UX masters who want to give some of their time to share their expertise in software development to create solutions that will help save lives and reduce suffering. It is your chance to leave a footprint on this earth and a legacy of good.

We from the humanitarian community are very excited to bring some of our complex problems and get you to help us solve them leveraging your valuable software development expertise. Visit our website, sign up to be notified when new problems get defined, follow us on Twitter and help us bring the humanitarian community into the information age.