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iCanProgram.com--A Story of Success, Sadness, and the Spirit of Open Source - page 3

Making a Gift

  • August 23, 2002
  • By Rob Reilly

iCanProgram.com's first Tcl/TK class taught students how to program and run a cartoon that could be displayed on a PC.

"My nephew's Tcl/Tk tutorial was revised substantially to include sound with the cartoon because Linda believed that it would appeal more to the 10-13 age group", Findlay commented.

The course was piloted to several schools in the suburban Toronto area.

The Intro to Linux course was built and deployed in the early summer of 2001 while Phillips was still alive. "The first Intro to Linux was actually offered on a for fee basis and attracted six students. I remember that Linda was more excited when that first cheque arrived", Findlay said.

The class model followed the layout of how an Open Source project was generally run. A mailing list was initiated with the course conceptual ideas, then the students would collaborate and help each other learn and refine the material. Findlay, Phillips, and volunteer instructors were available, via email, when questions arose or discussions were needed.

Phillips's educational background and Findlay's programming expertise proved to be a great combination.

Findlay related Phillips's role, "Linda initially was a course content editor. Her inexperience with computers was perfect for the target audience that we originally set out to service ... 10 - 13 year olds. She figured if it was too difficult for her to understand or do something it would probably bore the kids to distraction. She learned Tcl and became pretty good at loading apps, running programs and getting around in Windows".

"I remember when we had to switch our mailing list from a service owned by MSN to eGroups (which later was absorbed by Yahoo) and we suddenly had chat capability built in ... she became really excited. She had never used a chat room before but knew that would appeal to the kids." he said.

Ironically, the only time Phillips was able to participate in the chat room was during the pilot session of the new adult Tcl/Tk course.

"Linda sat in on all the mailing lists for all the courses up until her final battle later in the summer of 2001 ... even the original Intro to Linux course. She was completely amazed when our original Intro to Linux course attracted a young woman from Saskatchewan", Findlay said.

After Phillips' untimely passing, things changed for iCanProgram.com. The original business bank account for iCanProgram.com was closed in October of 2001, roughly two months after Phillips' death. Findlay donated the revenues generated by the business to the Canadian Cancer Society, in memory of Phillips.

"That action may have been the seed which utimately grew into the current formula of offering iCanProgram courses without fees in return for a cancer donation. But, it was several months later in December of 2001 when that idea was born", Findlay commented.

Near the end of 2001 Findlay was feeling especially sad about Phillips and her untimely death. He came up with the idea that it might be fitting to offer programming classes, for no fee, to people that would make a donation to their local cancer charity. That would honor the spirit of the work started when Linda was still living.

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