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The Man With The Violin April 30, 2012

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Watch video of the performance Pearls Before Breakfast.

From Washington Post by Gene Weingarten.


Why Volunteer on Your Career Break? February 23, 2012

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Volunteering on your career break is the act of giving your time in order to help others. But have you thought about how it is helping you, your re-entry, and your career? Most career break itineraries include some sort of volunteering. It’s a great feeling to help others around the world build their knowledge, community, or infrastructure. However, volunteering on a career break goes way beyond simply feeling good about yourself; it can be a key element to building your career when you return.

Volunteering on my career break changed the trajectory of my career and life. It was through my volunteering assignment in India that introduced me to Michaela Potter, who worked for the volunteercompany I was volunteering with. Through that friendship we discovered our passion of career break travel and were determined to bring career breaks to American society in the form of Meet, Plan, Go! When seaching for a volunteer opportunity, keep in mind that it is a two way street – don’t forget that you should be getting something out of the experience too.

You need to look for opportunities that are consistent with your skills, interests, and career.When you return, you will need to consider the best way to highlight those experiences to enhance your job search or career. Volunteering can demonstrate a commitment to character, signal your ability to accomplish a goal, or show that you are a well rounded person. It will most definitely make you stand out among other applicants.

A recent LinkedIn survey found that 41 percent of the professionals surveyed stated that when they are evaluating candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience. Twenty percent of the hiring managers surveyed agree they have made a hiring decision based on a candidate’s volunteer work experience. Over the next two months at casual Meet, Plan, Go! meetups around the country, we will focus discussions around volunteering as part of your career break. In addition, we are providing resources for you to research programs further, prepare for volunteering, and how to account for it on your resume.

We want to make sure you are making good volunteering choices and harnessing that experience back into your career hunt when you return from your break. We kicked off this volunteering meetup theme last night in San Francisco where we heard stories of other career breakers who have volunteered and introduced people to resources such as Groundwork Opportunities, who offers free volunteering opportunities to utilize your skills. Check out our upcoming schedule of free meetups or consider hosting your own Meet, Plan, Go! meetup in your city.

Sherry Ott Meet, Plan, Go! Co-Founder

Has volunteering played an important role in your career re-entry? Share your story over on our Facebook Page“.

Re-posted from Meet, Plan, Go February 8, 2012 Newsletter


Good Faith Collaboration (Part One) December 29, 2011

I recently finished reading Good Faith Collaboration book by Joseph Reagle. I was very curious about this book as not only it describes Wikipedia’s culture but also talks about its historical roots and contemporary criticism. Wikipedia is around for almost 11 years. So what is it?

First, there are actual Wikipedia pages and edits to them, as well as the meta pages documenting the policies and norms of Wikipedia itself. Second there is the talk/discussion page associated with each article. Third, there are mailing lists on which most abstract and difficult issues are often discussed. There are Wikipedia Signpost and Wikizine newsletter, other community forums such as popular “Village Pump”, and various Wikipedia related blogs, aggregators and podcasts. Fifth and finally, there are physical spaces in which some community members interact.

But mainly, Wikipedia is a snapshot of the community’s continuing conversation. Wikipedia culture encourages contributors to treat and think of others well, hence the name of the book. There are awards for best contributors like a “barnstar” (image placed on another’s user page to recognize merit). These awards are part of the Kindness Campaign and are meant to promote civility and WikiLove. There are more than 200 laws/norms by which Wikipedia contributors abide, including the guidelines of “Assume Good Faith” (AGF), “Please Do Not Bite the Newcomers” and “Neutral Point of View”.

This idea could be traced back to the beginning of the twentieth century, in particular Paul Otlet’s Universal Repertory and H.G. Wells’s proposal for a World Brain. Wells proposed the reference work compilers would be joined by world scholars and international technocrats to produce a resource that every student might easily access, in a personal, inexpensive, and portable format. This collection of the world’s intellect was envisioned to yield a greater sense of unity: wells hoped that such an encyclopedia could solve the “jig-saw puzzle” of global problems by bringing all the “mental wealth of our world into something like a common understanding”; this would be more than an education al resource, it would be an institution of global mediation.

As Wells said, “Without a World Encyclopedia to hold men’s minds together in a common interpretation of reality, there is no hope whatever of anything but an accidental and transitory alleviation to any of our world troubles.” I completely agree with the way Wells stated the problem. Additionally I question the transitory life cycle of one person’s knowledge. That knowledge must be reused even if the person is gone, as he/she may have insight into some solutions that are not easily generated, but the mankind desperately needs them.

One of the topics discussed in the book is who can really contribute. In Wikipedia’s predecessor Nupedia only educated and reasonable people were able to make final edits. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we often confuse formal school education and life experience, as one can be a PhD but uneducated in the matters of humanity. I am also not fond of the neutral point of view, as to be politically correct is not the same as being sincere and true. I would personally be more interested in hearing polar opinions to understand other people’s perspective and how they come to their conclusion.  Only when people know of completely opposite opinions on the same topic then can they start a conversation to reconcile their differences.  Having several versions of the most arguable topics is better than one bland version. Maybe views from the haters, the lovers and the neutrals.  People need to learn Dalai Lama’s realistic approach, value every person’s input and become compassionate. Only then we will be able to understand our humanity.

It seems to me that the primary goal of Wikipedia is compiling knowledge, while finding compassion is somehow secondary.

I agree about verifiability policy that “the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth”. If the material has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true. Even when it comes to voting, majority has more power over minority. Majority usually represents the most convenient opinion of the culture it represents. There should be international SMEs participating or at least rating the content in terms of trust ability. Otherwise there will always be an issue of quality due to the lack of expertise and diversity.

Here we come to another problem I see here – how globally disconnected are different language Wikipedia sites from each other. Language barrier is still present in the Wikipedia structure, which leads both to duplicated efforts (when the same articles are written separately in different languages) and the lack of content in one language when it truly exists in another language. It would add diversity if articles from different languages were swapped and became international. We would create a better version of reality if people of all nations worked on the content together, not separately. During search, there should be instant translation of all related content from other languages.

Finally, it feels that Wikipedia is not a hub of innovative views limited by its “no original content” norm, which means inclusion of referenced work only. Wikipedia is a repetition of what others said. Most importantly, it results in the loss of individuality and creativity both for their contributors and readers.

Today contributors appear to be simply compilers and hunters for good content. They are assemblers, not the creators. Everyone should be able to speak up and come up with new knowledge and solutions to the world problems. Only then will Wells’ statement become reality:  “Our world has complex and urgent problems that need to be addressed. We believe there are innovative ways for solving them together online.”

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer


April olpcMAP update April 10, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 9:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

April news from olpcMAP:

1. The demo of olpcMAP will be presented at the Boston New Tech Meetup on Tuesday, April 12, at 7:30PM.

2. Social enterprise venture: olpcMAP presentation will be given on Wednesday, April 13, at 7:30PM, at OLPC office:

   1 Cambridge Center, 10th Floor
    One Laptop per Child
    Kendall Square
    Cambridge, MA  02142.

Join us and 20+ others from Tufts/MIT at the OLPC Foundation’s headquarters this Wedn evening 7:30PM led by me and Adam.  Questions for discussion:

    * Why should we volunteer, and for what, over the course of our lives?
    * What makes volunteering around ICT4D / ICT4E (*) so incredibly challenging?
    * Is “DIY Foreign Aide” a voluntourist joke, or a material change in 3G intl development?
    * Where can community tools like unleash grassroots power in this decade?
    * What volunteers have managed funds+community to unlock their global volunteer experience?
    * What’s behind trendy corporate social responsibility / service learning leadership buzzwords?
    * With 2 million XO laptops distributed, how do volunteers actually engage to prove themselves?
    * What differentiates our social movements from yet another Twitter/Facebook marketing campaign?
    * How did Mike Lee (in attendance from DC!) build far beyond so many others cities?
    * What can the Mideast’s Arab Spring teach US–conquering our own fears–converting self-organized aspirations to proven opportunity?

We will raffle off a RED XO Laptop to the person who asks the most genuinely eye-opening question.  By popular vote when our Wedn April 13 event ends by 9PM!  But you MUST arrive on-time at 7:30PM as the 1st floor security desk will in fact close after that time.  Hosted in conjunction with Tuft Univ’s

3. The latest thing is the news page, that was just launched by Nick, and we already added some events and updates to it, including Linuxtag event by Christoph D. The main idea is to have one stop shop for all events, meeting, news, jobs, internships, for OLPC/Sugar community, and edutech community.

How it works now: you need to type your topic in the box next to post word and then create your name and message with the link to the main page or how to contact if applicable along with the main theme (from drop down menu). We will enhance it by sorting events in chronological and geo order. Add your event/opportunity now :

4. olpcMAP will turn 6 months old on April 22, 2011. It looks more mature, check it for yourself: 🙂

5. Finally, Nick Doiron is in Uruguay doing an internship for Plan Ceibal in Montevideo. He is working on getting an open mapping program called gvSIG onto the blue XO for 7th grade and above.  “It goes beyond the Map activity.  You can highlight all schools with <1000 students, or color each state in Uruguay to show the population density, or see how firefighters and farmers can use maps to make decisions.  The project has the support of the national Department of Transportation”.

Nick will be meeting others in Uruguay for Conozco School Tour from April 30- May 5,  and then the Summit May 6-8,  Already more than 30 people signed up and it is going to be a great opportunity to witness nation-wide OLPC deployment. Christoph D will  be reporting daily about the upcoming events in Uruguay.

PS Mike Lee and Christoph D are finalizing their own map jams in coming weeks, check for updates on


OLPC DC Club:Power of Volunteers (Part Four) March 30, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 8:00 am
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polyachka: So you mentioned how DC Sugarlabs was started

curiouslee: Jeff Elkner was successful in gathering high school students to code Sugar Activities, so we asked to be granted official Sugar Labs status.

polyachka: what are the main milestones of the group over the years?

curiouslee: Sugar Labs DC produced the TimeLapse photography activity. They, among other projects, ported TurtleArt to Ubuntu. There was also some development on Sugar for Ubuntu.

curiouslee: Enabling TurtleArt project upload capability was start to developing an online community for TurtleArt.

curiouslee: Sugar Labs DC also maintains a product called SchoolTool for classroom management.

polyachka: Great

polyachka: And it is all done by volunteers, right? No one is really getting paid?

curiouslee: All volunteer with people putting in their own money.

polyachka: why do people do it? they still belive in OLPC’s idea?

curiouslee: People volunteer because they like the original vision and have a desire to meet some other interesting volunteers.

polyachka: You are a volunteer yourself!

curiouslee: Yes. I am an uber volunteer.

polyachka: What do you think is OLPC’s policy about volunteers?

curiouslee: I don’t think there is an official policy beyond how Adam Holt conducts business.

polyachka: I think there should be and volunteers should get acknowledged.

curiouslee: I agree

polyachka: So what is your mission in regards to OLPC?

curiouslee: I stick with OLPC because of the interesting people I meet.

curiouslee: Also, I do believe that  the world will continue towards “ubiquitous computing,” and OLPC is an experiment along the way.

polyachka: so which part do you care the most – making education more interactive and fun by using technology or giving computers to the developing countries so that they can connect to the world and improve their well-being?

curiouslee: I guess I am closer to the second, but as my daughter gets older (age 7 now) I understand education more.


Translation Sprint in Hanoi March 12, 2011

Congratulations, OLPC Vietnam!

Today, March 12, 2011, at 9AM (12 hours ahead of Boston) OLPC Vietnam group met for Translation Sprint in Hanoi. Here are more details from Vu Do Quynh:

CNF center (inside the Institut de la Francophonie pour l’informatique, aka IFI), ngõ 42 Tạ Quang Bửu (Hai Bà Trưng district), Hanoi.

To see the location of IFI on the map :,105.847896&spn=0.00338,0.004823&t=h&z=18


We were four this morning to work on translating the remaining 15 (not counting 2 chapters not translatable, one empty chapter and a false chapter) chapters of the XO Vietnamese manual.

First 12 out of total 29 chapters had already been published in Vietnamese, and the remaining XO_vi manual chapters to finish the translation can be seen here:

Two persons couldn’t show up as scheduled.

We started at 09:15 and finished translating all 15 chapters around 12:00. There was coffee, tea and biscuits. We are now in the process of reviewing and publishing the chapters.

Then we will have to ask Flossmanuals to publish the Vietnamese version of the XO Manual. As soon as it is accepted by Flossmanuals for publication, we will let it know.

Attached is one snapshot where you can see Phương (sitting in front of the computer), Dương and Minh standing behind him.

I think it was a very good and efficient translation experience.
Best regards
Vu Do Quynh (M.)
Hanoi, Vietnam

Thank you, OLPC Vietnam! We are so proud of you.


Open Source Educator (Part Four: Grassroots) March 2, 2011

<mchua> But the community stuff was always where my heart was.

<mchua> I love working with open source communities because they’re where the passion is – these are people who are in a project for the love of it, for the most part – not because they’re being forced to do it for a living; it’s wonderful to work with people who love what they do and really believe in it.

<polyachka> and how long did you work for OLPC?

<mchua> … complicated question. 🙂 As a full-timer, just under 4 months. Combined full-timer and intern, maybe… 8-9 months? It wasn’t continuous.

<polyachka> and after that?

<mchua> I think I still hold the record for “person who’s held the most number of official titles at OLPC.” I was a content intern, then a grassroots intern, then a QA/Support engineer…(but I also worked other places in-between my OLPC internships – I wanted to see more of the world.)

<polyachka> did you go to Red Hast right after?

<mchua> My next job after OLPC was Red Hat, yes.

<polyachka> what is grassroots intern?

<mchua> Grassroots was community-building, basically. Encouraging groups in different areas of the world to start their own little OLPC projects. You’re a student? Great, start a campus club and get some classmates to help you repair broken XO’s, that sort of thing.

<polyachka> was it hard?

<mchua> Oh, it was hard work – but again, easiest thing in the world to get people who want to do work, to do work.

<mchua> Getting things out of their way so they could do that work – that’s challenging sometimes, but everyone’s always so excited that it always feels worthwhile.

<polyachka> in what cities/countries did you do it?

<mchua> For OLPC… let’s see. A lot more happened remotely than I was able to travel to in person – I did almost all of it online.

<mchua> But physically, within the US… Bellingham and Seattle, WA – Aurora and Chicago, IL (where myself and a number of other students started up an actual office downtown – that was an adventure)

<mchua> was the Chicago office, and if you imagine a bunch of 13-22 year old kids getting together an office on their own, running community events from it, and such – that’s what we did all summer.

<mchua> Washington DC, New York, Rochester, and of course Boston. Taipei, Manila… I really didn’t go to places specifically to do Sugar/OLPC stuff, I just did stuff wherever I happened to be.

<mchua> ILXO was fun; that was myself and Nikki Lee, Andrea Lai, Chris Carrick, Melanie Kim, and Mia Kato. It was a real learning experience. For us and for the local community.

<polyachka> what was it?

<mchua> That was the Chicago grassroots office.

<mchua> Well, there were all these teachers and parents who were interested – all these adults who wanted to learn about OLPC and Sugar and the XO …and we’d show up, and – for instance, once we were asked to do a workshop at a library, and Mia and Melanie volunteered to do that. So I dropped them off at the library, and they walked into the middle of this room of parents, and they started presenting.

<mchua> “Wait, how old are you?”

<mchua> “I’m 13, she’s 12.”

<mchua> It was a big role reversal for most of us, since we were used to being students taught by adults like that.

<polyachka> so right now your connection to OLPC/Sugar is projects that you get professors involved into, right?

<mchua> And yes, right now my main contribution to these projects is getting professors and their students involved in them.


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