Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The "Joy" of Volunteering

I often find that I'm offering up my time for all sorts of things. I'm unemployed - have been for a little while. But this post isn't about that. It's about what I do with that free time.

So there's the Manaiakalani project - I've got a post on that already. There's also OLPC (One Laptop Per Child), AuckLUG, Tangleball etc.

At the last AuckLUG meeting someone had said "you don't do it for the gratitude". And if I did, I would starve. Okay, that's not completely fair but there are at least a couple of thankless groups.

AuckLUG, I organise the monthly meeting and organise or help organise any special events (Software Freedom Day, the Auckland December Open Source BBQ etc.). But I'm normally the one thanking people.

Tangleball (An Auckland based Hackerspace), for whatever reason, I'm still paying for the website as well as administrating it. So if things are a little out of date, it's because I haven't updated the website (usually there's a reason for this - they haven't decided on their next meeting or haven't let me know what to put into the updates section). I stopped attending the meetings a little while ago. There's occasionally talk about re-compensating me for the hosting but all I'm really after is for it to be moved so that the burden is no longer on me.

I don't really do much for OLPC - in fact I've pulled right back only attending the occasional Saturday testing session.

And Manaiakalani - this is probably the more interesting one. They're thankful. Every meeting I get thanked. I get thanked via email. And here I am wondering if I would ask for a bottle of whiskey as a thanks.

It's not that I don't have other things to do. I'm working on my own piece of software that I'm calling CIMS - Customizable Information Management System (I'll talk about this and my unemployment in another post). I'd like to spend some time writing fiction. It's not something I've ever been particularly good at but after a session at a pub of passing a pad around writing a couple of sentences each, I realised just how much fun it is.

So, where is the value in volunteering? It's certainly not in the gratitude because otherwise I would've stopped volunteering a long time ago and I wouldn't be thinking that a bottle of whiskey would be great when I am getting thanked. I recently said to a friend "we only stress about what we're passionate about". This was in the context of a crisis of purpose - that is: "Why am I still doing this job?"

Any reasoning would be greatly appreciated here.

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