An Interview with Jamie Parkins, JustGiving

jamie_parkinsWe have asked a number of our Supporters and Sponsors about why they get involved in Hack Days, here their views on innovation, and what they are excited about in the technology industry. Today we’re hearing from Jamie Parkins, Product Manager at JustGiving. 

Why do you get involved in Hack Days?

“As an organisation, JustGiving is very keen to encourage and be a prominent voice in the #Tech4Good movement. We know that amazing people can build amazing things that will mean no cause around the world goes unfunded. That matches our company’s goal and so it is only natural that we will achieve this through both our website and by also empowering others to develop alongside our platform. Attending, running and supporting hacks is a natural extension of this as this is where the grass roots really flourish. In addition people are often surprised that we are a platform that offers such functionality so its always good to be out there reminding them  particularly given the altruistic nature of so many hackathons.” 

Does involvement in Hack Days have an impact on the further development of your products and services?

“Very much so. Since launching our Consumer API over three years ago we have supported numerous events in an aim to add value on the day and to drive awareness of what can be done with the JustGiving platform. An added benefit of being present at hackathons is that you get to see your product used in earnest as well as celebrated and often questioned. Seeing your service used by developers on the fly quickly highlights either end points you’re lacking or areas where perhaps you are not providing sufficient documented support. Our new oAuth service came as a direct result of our time spent at hacks this year around the world witnessing people struggling to authenticate users quickly in order to build their app in a very limited time frame. “

We think that the kind of creative tinkering, new learning, and collaboration that takes place at Hack Days lays the basis for future Innovations in the mobile industry and beyond. What are your own internal approaches to Innovation?

“At JustGiving we’ve taken a number of steps that we think will help nurture an innovative environment. From physically moving to a more open plan office that discourages meetings in tucked away rooms and steers people towards open and collaborative spaces to structuring our software team into a delivery team, we are always looking at how we can be better in our day to day operations. A recent move to a micro service approach means we can build and ship quicker than ever before which naturally gives us more scope to test and learn quicker than ever before. If that’s “tinkering” in a lean style then I’m confident the net result is a greater set of innovative products for our users to benefit from. We’ve also experimented with running internal hack days to test new ideas, to broaden our horizons and to also “breathe” a little in what we all know is an ever changing technical landscape. “

Do you have a view on where the next big opportunities will lie for developers?

“Firstly I think the big opportunities will have an even greater chance of being fulfilled when we as service providers make life as easy as possible for developers. Whilst the likes of Twilio and SendGrid really lead by example, better documentation, faster times to Hello World, more plug and points of integration with the likes of IFTTT or Zapier and more consistency in API frameworks and policy can only remove the barriers to entry. Lower the friction and get out of people’s way in short! As for new opportunities in the world of JustGiving were fascinated with wearables and how people can harness the sheer wealth of data these devices are generating for good. How can lots of people walking 10,000 steps every day or a community of cyclists achieving new PBs ultimately help a cancer charity achieve their goals? Thats an interesting one to unpick for sure. And then theres your mobile device. As it becomes our beacon, our wallet, our quantified self as well as a device for communicating how does giving become an integral part of the mobile experience. We have teams looking at that as well as a growing number of partners that want to bring the two together. Exciting times. “


Tell us about some of your own new products and / or services that you are excited about.

“Our oAuth service I think will be a game changer for our community – new and existing. It means you can create and authenticate users quicker than ever and it makes JustGiving do the hard work, not the developer. That’s the way services should be. Friction free where possible.
To date the most popular use of our API has been for charity organisations to create fundraising pages for their supporters. That plays into the JustGiving business model nicely but when we take the API outside of the third sector, things get interesting. It’s amazing in how many spaces people want to generate generosity, or giving in their application or website.
Our aim to is to provide the transaction engine for facilitating that – and ideally through our API or Simple Donation Integration service. Just a few months ago British Summer Time Gigs ran a “donate to get a ticket” promotion for their Hyde Park Blur and Kylie gigs. It was great to see our platform used to process donations rapidly over a very short time frame (the word quickly got out on social media). JustGiving is not a ticketing site and the client was not a donation platform but together we were able to integrate and raise just under £50k in 4 hours. That’s the power of a platform approach. 
Coming up fast on the rails is live gaming. Twitch has made it so easy for people to broadcast their gaming and their numbers are just insane! And with any community like this you’ll find people that want to do good. The rise of the charity gaming marathon is getting a new lease of life thanks to Twitch and so we’re certainly interested in ways that third parties can join the dots between the streaming platform and JustGiving. “

How would you like to invite the attendees of Over the Air to get involved with your organisation?

“We often see developers try and create a giving mechanic that utilises our platform. Whether that’s someone using our search APIs to offer choice and discoverability or if its the Simple Donation Integration service to create donations that unlock “value” or “rewards”, we’re confident you can build tech4good over the course of a 24 hour marathon. To that end, our team of developers will be present to support, help and coach you. To give you some focus Over The Air have also selected a particular local cause that they would like any funds to go towards and to acknowledge what we deem the best use of JustGiving we’ll be awarding a set of Aurdinos as team prizes. We truly look look forward to seeing what you come up with. 
To get a head start check out our Developer Docs or follow us on twitter. Our Developer Evangelist Pawel will also be running a workshop session entitled “Mmmmm Dog Food: Making your APIs a First Class Citizen” which we’d love to see you at. “