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Community, Feedback, and Software

When I wake up and go to work, I bring people and ideas together, write software, and do what I can to make people’s lives easier. When I think about what I get to do for a living, I have to stop and realize I stand on the shoulders of giants.

I can attribute some of the greatest impact to my career and skills to the open source software movement and the people committed to the ideals it represents over the decades.

In particular, the idea that communication should be open, shared, and reinvested in the community has helped my learning and inspired a commitment to give back to the community.

Last month, we decided to ship an early version of our new Communities Map.

Borrowing a page from the hacker “ship early, and ship often” mentality, we put the software out in the world, opened up a means for public contribution, and waited for the feedback to come in.

I’m happy to announce the release of “v2” of this map.

updated-events-map

The new map address two major threads of feedback:

  • “I want a list of upcoming events so I can find which one I can attend”
  • “I want a way to filter the map to events happening this upcoming weekend”

Given this feedback, we were able to add two major features.

Upcoming Events Filter

The first is a custom control area to activate special features on the map. While many facilitators use the map for specific activities, this is useful because the general public might not be as interested in specialized filtering.

So instead, we have a control area that opens and closes to reveal a checkbox for active city filtering. Here’s how it works:

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When the active city filter is checked, the map determines the current day and hides any cities that don’t have an active event in the most immediate weekend. Unfortunately, at time of writing, there aren’t Startup Weekend events happening this weekend so there isn’t much to show.

However, this should prove useful to facilitators who want to save time creating “Also Happening This Weekend” slides in their intro deck.

Upcoming Events List

Other users told us the old map helped them find events through time to attend or to make their plans as facilitators. For these use cases, we built a dynamically generated scrolling list of events for quick searching through time.

It starts by loading all Good or Working events in the next 30 days. Here is how that looks:

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As you can see from the screenshot, events are grouped by their start date. We can see in this example that the “15 February” group has only one event, but the weekend of February 17th has quite a few.

Keeping the initial list to events within the next 30 days keeps the experience fast and snappy for the majority of our users. However, if you want to look further out in time, you can click the “Load More…” link to pull the next 30 days’ worth of events into the list.

Collaboration and Open Source

The UP Global Tech team decided early on to open source this map plugin so that others can use, learn from, and contribute back to it.

In fact, if you want to download the code right now, you just need to create a free account on GitHub and find the cities-map project.

The coolest thing about this release is that our most active contributors weren’t developers.

That’s right: you don’t need to be a developer to make an impact on an open source project. Sharing ideas, reporting bugs, helping with documentation, and guiding direction are all as important as actually writing the code itself.

UP Global and Open Source

We’ve leveraged the power of open source software to build our internal tools and give back to the community. We’ve also contributed patches and feature ideas to projects like Mongoose and LocomotiveCMS.

However, we’re also exploring ways we can honor our innovative, driven, and creative community.

We want to commit this year to opening up the efforts of our development team and release more software for public consumption and collaboration. Be on the lookout for more open projects as we dive in to 2014!

How to Get Involved

If you’re a developer, then you can keep an eye out for projects as we open them up on our organization page.

If you have a new idea or see something you don’t like, file an issue or fork and submit a pull request.

But what if you’re not a developer? That doesn’t have to stop you! You can create a free account on GitHub and file issues to report bugs, request features, and carry on discussions. For an example to see what I mean, you can see how we interacted with an active member of the UP Global community to iterate and refine on one of the new map features here.

Finally, if you’re still not excited about collaborating on GitHub, you can always leave feedback to our customer support team and they will make their way to the Tech team.

Thanks for reading, and happy hacking!


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David Pierce