Last Sunday while having coffee in India Coffee House, I bumped into Ajayendra Urmila Tripathi, who besides actively volunteering for Stop Acid attacks, created a platform: Paltan where one can volunteer for causes/campaigns according to one’s interests. I caught up a conversation with him, which ensued in this manner:
What is Paltan? Can you explain it in detail?
Paltan is a “Social Volunteering Network”. Now what is that? Why it is needed, before telling this, it’s necessary to overview Social Networking Sites because they are somehow related to the significance of paltan.
Being familiar with social networking websites, just like Facebook, where we are representing either ourselves or any particular product/group/cause. It’s such a strong medium that its conversations and opinions have started intervening in our real lives.
Many social activists in the past have made it a weapon seeking its popularity and impact but the actual problem lies in Activism is, creating dialogue and awareness is only a single step, most important is execution on ground, getting your hands dirty and the way Facebook is designed, it’s very complicated. Because of this reason, Cause work through breaking it’s own working Structure and by adjusting itself within the framework of Networking Sites, though it is using the technology without generating maximum output, rather working just for its sake.
Designing of Paltan is going on keeping in mind the same problems where any Cause/Campaign can generate Maximum Output and people who’ll volunteer can achieve personal growth as well. It’s a platform where not only people, who wish to participate in social change and already running initiatives/activism campaigns/cause can connect, but volunteer will also get opportunity of knowledge exchange and skill growth, who will be rewarded with social rewards for further motivation. Ranking facility will be there as well to access ones’ social growth. Eventually, cause/social initiative will be able to work in it’s structure, add volunteers, and access their perfromance.
How different is your Idea?
Since it is inspired from other social networking sites, you’ll get design and working style just like other social networking sites so that any user when landed on website, can adopt it easily and need not to learn “how to use it”. But it’s working structure is totally different which is designed for cause/campaign only:
Most important feature of this application is you’ll be informed everything with a notification.Notification will automatically report if any assignment is done or pending.Would like to explain some features in points:
1. This is Skill based volunteering system that’s why whenever we login after doing volunteer registration, then app will ask you’re your skills and to select few from a given set of selected skills, so that admin/manager can give you interest related assignment and you can connect with people of similar interests. We are going to introduce skill forum soon in this, so that skill development of volunteer can happen.
2. We can post in this app just like Facebook / Twitter/ Myspace which has three types, first one is default type “ update”, second is “article” and third is “alert”. When we post anything by choosing alert option, a notification is sent to admin and if admin approves, the same notification is routed to all members of Paltan.
3. It has two types of assignments. First is individual, second is group. When admin will give assignment to 10 volunteers in individual mode, volunteer can connect with admin one to one basis but when assignment is in group mode, then everyone can interact on same page and each one will get the notification of activities of group on assignment.
4. One volunteer can connect with other volunteer by just clicking on the “Follow” button. By doing this, other volunteer activity will be visible on his timeline. You can like/unlike/comment or share it as well. You can share on your paltan profile or on facebook/twitter.
5. In the meantime, event feature is going to be introduced which will be combined with assignment, which will make it more impactful and meaningful.
6. There is one feature called TOUR which has to be developed by including all latest technologies. This will be most amazing feature but it still has time to get developed.
7. Most important feature of this application is it is made from open source technologies. We are using Scripting language PHP, Database Mysql, Environment linux Operating System and Server apache use means we don’t have any problem regarding licensing and neither we have to shell out our pockets in future.
8. Features like request new feature and report bug and check its status are given as facilities so that anyone can help in making application better.
When this thought of Paltan came into your mind? And when did you thought of bring this thought in implementation/action?
Last February (2013), me and Alok Dixit (Founder of Stop Acid Attacks), were discussing about a platform as how to streamline and strengthen campaign, Stop Acid Attacks using Technology. We used to get hundreds of message from people who want to get attached as volunteer, but we as a team of dozen were not enough to involve all of the them and it was difficult to increase our numbers for a campaign which runs on crowd-funding.It was then, this application became a necessity to help people connect through volunteerism.
I started working on this in May last. I used to have hours of brainstorming sessions with Alok, Ashish, Anurag and Abhilash discussing its features and structures. I used to code at nights. After three months, we launched it in its beta version. Currently, this application is working for Stop Acid Attacks campaign but when it’ll be completely tested, we’ll open its main features to all campaigns/initiatives.
What was your strength in creating this platform and what challenges you’re currently facing? How do you think, you’re going to overcome these challenges?
Alok has been always a support pillar for me including all teammates due to which we’re finding an inspiration to work upon it. Just like I work on resolving current issues, Alok keep suggesting me with his visionary thinking and then we start work after agreeing certain ideas.
I need few technical hands related to Database structure / coding / server management and paper work so that I can expand our team. Lack of funds is also a major issue. First priority of college graduates in Delhi is job. It ‘s truth that one can’t volunteer full time living in Delhi but Paltan cannot be move ahead with part time involvement as well.
How much is the impact of Paltan till now?
Paltan has more than 1000 active users who are volunteering for our campaign Stop Acid Attacks, that too without promoting this application anywhere. We are just writing about it and promoting it from our Facebook/Twitter pages.
What you’re most passionate about? What inspires you?
Programming and Artificial Intelligence, I used to think them of as boring subjects in college time but believe me these two concepts are most exciting and full of creativity. When we connect programming socially and watch our machine /application working changing world it makes us more passionate I believe paucity gives me that inspiration to work for new ideas and it is better to live in paucity rather comfort zone.
What is the future prospects related to Paltan?
Paltan will be big step towards strengthening activism through technology. After testing with Stop acid attacks we’ll open it for cause/campaigns around the world. We’re committed to make it better and create a big change through Paltan.
By: Sagar Vishnoi