Covid response for programmers and technologists.
March 23, 2020 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I have skills in programming, data science. I also have plenty of free time at the moment. How and where can I apply my skills?

1/ Is there organized programmer response to the COVID-19 pandemic happening somewhere? If so, where? (If Twitter / discord / whatever, please point me there).

2/ Is there a symptom tracker for self report covid and general cold / flu symptoms? If not, is there value in it, or barriers to implementation? Given that testing is… uneven… in the US, this would have value for knowing when de-escalate. Seems like an easy build for any at-scale tech org. What am I missing? Low value data? Hipaa? Liability fear? Privacy risk?


One hard lesson I learned at Mozilla: most of the time, if I was tempted to build it myself, it was because I wasn’t understanding something about the problem, and underestimating the value or the complexity, or I couldn’t find it.

Once in a blue moon, I was actually having a novel thought. I hate those times, because then I have to actually do the work?

I would rather join an existing thing if it exists.
posted by gregglind to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check out this site for some potential ways to get involved. They have a few avenues that you may be able to contribute to.

You can let your computers work on folding@home, they are doing a specific drive on stuff relevant to COVID-19.

More frankly, we don't have a shortage of programmers, and you can't become an epidemiologist in a few weeks. I rub shoulders with researchers in infectious disease who are working on this, and to my knowledge none of them are looking for people who know how to code but aren't already experts in some type of relevant math and biology. There's a zillion things you don't know about this, and the people who do also have plenty of coding skill, or are working with biologists/computerscientists/mathematicians who do. DKE-19 is spreading like wildfire, perhaps faster than COVID-19. This is potentially causing a lot of harm; please do your part to help flatten the curve of unqualified armchair epidemiology.

I say this not to discourage you, please help any way you can, and thank you. But you may be able to do more good by facilitating grocery delivery or pharamacy runs for at-risk populations, even if it's not cool and glamorous.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:04 AM on March 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think there was another AskMe thread where someone suggested calling restaurants/grocers/pharmacies and other small businesses that could make deliveries but don't have a website of their own, and offering to set up really simple pages for them so people could order easily.
posted by trig at 9:09 AM on March 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: CODEVID-19 might be up your alley.
posted by kyleg at 9:31 AM on March 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: U.S. Digital Response for COVID-19, started by three former U.S. Deputy CTOs, is matchmaking programmers with state and local governments.

The Coronavirus Tech Handbook is a crowdsourced tech-focused wiki based on Google docs that was very active the last time I could get to it. The platform currently seems to be overwhelmed, but probably a good place to start once it's running again.
posted by john hadron collider at 9:32 AM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Symptom Tracker
Volunteer data science skills here
posted by bleep at 9:45 AM on March 23, 2020

Response by poster: (Small possibly relavant, initially omitted note: I do have a masters in Biostats, and was previously a research fellow in Genetic Epidemiology, so if there people wanting more specialized help, find me.

I appreciate the input, and will step back.)
posted by gregglind at 9:48 AM on March 23, 2020

Best answer: I've been thinking about this myself and my conclusion is: work normal/increased hours because I can do all of my work from home and am a contractor, and then donate that extra money to relevant charities like food pantries or other local in need people. This works less well if you're salaried, but a lot of times the most efficient way for people like programmers with skills that are in demand from corporations is to take their money and then directly spend it to help people
posted by JZig at 10:02 AM on March 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Maia Majumder, PhD @maiamajumder · Mar 18
If you're a trainee with skills relevant to computational epidemiology & want to volunteer your free time towards #COVID19 research, please email me your CV.
I met my earliest scientific collaborators on Twitter, so it's time to pay back the opportunity. Retweets & recs welcome!

I don't know anything about anything (computational epidemiology?), so this may not at all be relevant, but figured it didn't hurt to post it.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:44 AM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Dataviz and data wrangling opportunities.
posted by lollusc at 3:10 PM on March 23, 2020

Response by poster: Also from Canada:

"Are you a web developer able to help out? Please get in touch."
posted by gregglind at 4:31 PM on March 23, 2020

Best answer: This might be below your skill level but could be a fun diversion and provide fun to many others: this question was also asked today from a hospital clown about how to take their act online. Maybe 2 mefites could team up?
posted by Rumple at 5:15 PM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Case tracking -- this started in Singapore and is expanding to more countries. I'm not sure if they're looking for programmers, but it's an example of what can be done at least.
posted by far flung at 11:03 AM on March 24, 2020

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