Quick Update – New FREE Book!

One of my goals has been to try out some free books, gathering former columns or interesting publications or just cool ideas together for useful Free books!

The first one is out – Activities For The Civic Geek!  From my past posts, it’s a guide to civic geekery and great resources for citizen geeks!  From gaming marathons to cosplay for charity, it’s packed with ideas.  Give it a look!

– Steve

Activities For The Civic Geek: Technology Refurb And Access

Technology is critical to people’s lives these days.  Not everyone has access to computers and computer knowledge.  Technical geeks can make sure people have access to technology – and teach people along the way.

If you don’t have internet and computer access, you’re at a disadvantage in the modern world.  A lot of people have trouble getting computers.

Ironically, a lot of people are also throwing equipment away.

These are two causes that can come together – refurbishing computers and getting them to people that need them.  After all, why throw it away when you can fix it, update it, maybe teach a few lessons – and then get them to people who need them.

There’s a few ways to do this:

  • First, you have to collect equipment and get it to people that can fix it. Just the collecting alone can keep you busy – as long as there’s someone to fix it up.
  • Then there’s fixing up and refurbing the equipment.  Any kind of technical geek can probably rally people to do this – or find people that do.
  • Finally, get it to people who need it.  If you can combine this with the fixing, it becomes extra educational.

You can do one or all of these parts of the process to help people out.  But there’s also many ways to do this:

  • Your local club/group/con can do one or all of the parts above.
  • Your can ally with other groups like hackerspaces and schools to do the work.  It might build great alliances.
  • You could combine this with other events – what if you have a fix-it workshop at a convention?  With a hackerspace fix-it session?
  • You could combine this with other educational activities in computer literacy or fix-it skills?  People could make their own computer from old parts.

People need technology.  You can make sure they get it – while learning and make electronics recycling easier.


  • Close The Gap – Takes computer donations from european countries and refurbishes them for emerging nations. Also works to recycle unusable equipment safely.
  • Computers With Causes – Takes donated computers and either gets them to charitable programs, or sells them for funds used to go to programs.
  • Free Geek (Portland) – A Portland nonprofit that recycles used computers and parts to provide computers and job training to those in need.
  • Free Geek Chicago – A Chicago nonprofit that recycles used computers and parts to provide computers and job training to those in need.
  • Little Geeks – A Canadian charity that refurbishes donated computers, and gets them to children in need.
  • Motor City Free Geek – A Detroit nonprofit that repairs and recycles computers, teaches and educates, and works on Open Source.
  • PCS For Schools – Refurbishes and upgrades donated computer equipment and uses it to bridge the technology gap in schools
  • World Computer Exchange – A US and Canadian non-profit that reduces the digital divide with education, donated computers, and more.

Activities For The Civic Geek: Teach Writing Skills

Good writing is the key to many things in one’s life and career – and for many it can become their life and their career.  We geeks are literary types, so why not pass on the skills to others?

If you’re a geek, you’re probably a reader.  However, I’d give it a pretty good chance that you do at least some writing as a geek, and a very good chance that someone in your sphere of geeky friends is a writer of some kind, if semi-professionally.  In turn almost all of us depend on some writing skills in our lives and careers – or would have better lives and careers with writing skills.

A lot of us writing and trying to write.  A good way to be a civic geek?  Share that writing ability with people.

  • First, we can share it among ourselves, people teaching each other and editing.  Wether it’s publishing that RPG, writing that novel, or documenting that bit of history we can train or be trained in our own geeky communities.
  • We can also rally our writing-inclined fellows to teach in the larger community.  There’s doubtlessly local writing programs that, along with literacy programs, help improve people’s skills.  I’m sure any of them would welcome a larger group of participants.

There’s also many, many ways to help improve people’s writing skills.

  • Training.  Experienced people can teach writing in classes, panels, seminars, online feedback, as part of formal education, and more.
  • Critique.  Nothing like helping people get better at writing.  But why not formalize it, from having regular reviews among your club or group to having triage or portfolio reviews at conventions.
  • Writing jams.  Regular times to sit down, socialize, and write are great for writers.
  • Bringing in the pros.  Maybe your local group of writers isn’t as professional as some – but you doubtlessly know people who can help you and others improve with seminars, speaking, and volunteering.
  • Programs.  As noted there’s plenty of literacy and writing programs out there – just a few are below – so go support them!
  • Donations.  No time to teach, rally, or otherwise do hands-on-help?  Or maybe you just want to raise money for a good cause?  Try rallying donations for good causes for writers and writing skills.

Plenty of options.  Which are you going to try?



  • Alaska Literacy Program – An Alaska-based literacy charity with an emphasis on training and certifying teachers and tutors to impart reading, writing, and speaking skills.
  • Girls Write Now – Supports future female writers with mentoring, advice, and more.
  • Mighty Writers – A Philadelphia organization that supports writing and literacy by providing free classes and teaching.
  • NaNoWriMo – Everyone knows National Novel Writing Month, but they’re an organization that relies on organizers, donations, and more – and that’s your chance to get involved!
  • Wonder Writers – A charity that promotes writing and writing skills for young people from grades K-12.