technology Hosts PDF Liberation Hackathon, January 17-19

Courtesy of Open Knowledge Foundation Blog

Photo Courtesy of Open Knowledge Foundation Blog is all about inspiring leaders and inciting action to foster social change. That’s why we’re excited to host the PDF Liberation Hackathon’s West Coast event at RallyPad in San Francisco, CA, Friday through Sunday, Jan. 17-19.

This innovative 48-hour event, which will also take place in Washington D.C., New York City and Chicago, will bring developers and researchers together to come up with new ways to answer to old questions. Hackathon participants will troubleshoot different solutions for extracting large amounts of data sets from PDF documents. PDFs (in their current format) restrict the way that open source models can analyze data.

Read this excerpt from Marc Joffe’s guest blog post for “Math Babe” about the importance of this hackathon. The entire blog post can be found here.

“[O]pen source models can bring much needed transparency to scientific research, finance, education and other fields plagued by biased, self-serving analytics. Models often need large volumes of data, and if the model is to be run on an ongoing basis, regular data updates are required.

Unfortunately, many data sets are not ready to be loaded into your analytical tool of choice; they arrive in an unstructured form and must be organized into a consistent set of rows and columns. This cleaning process can be quite costly. Since open source modeling efforts are usually low dollar operations, the costs of data cleaning may prove to be prohibitive. Hence no open model – distortion and bias continue their reign.”

Visit this page to register for the PDF Liberation Hackathon.

Comfort and Empower the Leaders of Tomorrow


This week, we’re highlighting a few Rally campaigns that are comforting and empowering the leaders of tomorrow by providing professional training, emotional support and a safe place to sleep.

Young Minority Students Learn Valuable Technology Skills

Jason Young’s family was evicted from their home the day after Christmas in 2001. It was a difficult experience for Young. He knew he wanted to do what he could to prevent other low-income kids from facing financial hardships as they grew into adulthood. That’s why Jason co-founded the Hidden Genius Project, a two-year program that trains young black male students in science, technology, engineering and math to unlock their true potential and help position them as leaders of tomorrow. Read NationSwell’s story on this promising program and check out the Rally campaign.

Friends Help Care for a Mother in Pain

Kelly Gray-Sheehan is in pain; constant and severe abdominal pain. Her kids, Ava and Colin, have started to notice the toll that this chronic condition has taken on their mom. Fortunately, Kelly has loved ones who have started a Rally campaign For Kelly to provide a beacon of hope for someone who always goes out of her way to help others.

A Son Remembers His Dad by Giving Toys to Kids

Ryan and Ron Russek started giving toys to hospitalized kids at the City of Hope when Ron was battling cancer in 2004. Ron sadly passed away a year later, but his son has kept up the tradition and grown  the project exponentially. Visit Wish Upon A Toy to see how Ron is spreading joy to the City of Hope.

Group Provides Shelter Beds for Abused and Neglected Children

Need by Need has launched a Rally campaign to give 10 beds to Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter, a safe haven for abused and neglected children in South Carolina. Watch this video to find out more about this initiative to help give kids with little faith in the goodness of others a reason to believe again.

Group Raises Funds to Get Water and Electricity to Community in Nigeria

As Kwanzaa approaches, Yeye is helping a budding community in Lago raise enough money to purchase a generator and water tank. The group is almost halfway to their goal of $2,500, with more than $910 raised so far. Visit the Rally campaign to learn more.



Rally Quick Fix: Get Your Gmail Inbox in Order


Dear Gmailers:

It’s been several months since Google launched its inbox-prioritizing function, using tabs to filter incoming messages to your Primary, Social, and Promotions folders. And here at we’ve recently rebooted our Rally Newsletter, delivering some of our favorite crowdfunding campaigns directly to you every Thursday.

Here’s a simple way to make sure you never miss a single Rally-related mail, from our newsletter to updates on each Rally you support: You can click on messages appearing under the Promotions tab


and drag them right to the Primary tab.


Click “Yes” to receive future messages from Rally in your Primary tab.


Still not sure about how to filter and prioritize in Gmail? The folks at the Googleplex have kindly posted pointers here.

Rallying to Defend Internet Privacy


A version of this post appears on

In recent weeks the Lavabit email service has become almost as notorious as its most infamous client, Edward Snowden.

While at his old job as a National Security Agency contractor, Snowden leaked classified documents, allegedly via a Lavabit email account, about the agency’s mass-surveillance programs. Federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage, and he lived at the Moscow airport until Russia granted him temporary asylum in early August.

Around the same time Ladar Levison, the founder of Lavabit, suspended the company’s services. Under a gag order at the time, he explained that he preferred to close up shop rather than “become complicit in crimes against the American people.”  He has launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover legal expenses as he fights to maintain the privacy of his 400,000 customers’ accounts. He has raised more than $75,000 so far.

Court records unsealed on Thursday revealed what privacy advocates and tech pundits had suspected: In mid-July, about three weeks before Levison shut down his company, the U.S. government issued a search warrant demanding that he turn over crypto keys that guarded all web traffic to Lavabit. He has refused FBI orders to divulge details about Snowden’s email activities and has said that he would not allow the U.S. government access to his clients’ information.

To support this Rally and learn more about Lavabit’s upcoming legal battles, visit

SXSW 2014 Panel-Picking Season is Here


As happens every summer, thousands of proposals for panels and presentations get submitted for the following year’s South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Tex.

After those submissions are compiled and categorized, the voting begins. The list eventually comes down to the weirdest, smartest, fill-in-the-blankest panels that will be featured next March.

The team has sent in three ideas for potential sessions at SXSW, one of the largest tech-industry gatherings (more than 30,000 attend each year). Voting is now open and continues through September 6. These proposals cover how to inspire people to stand up for causes they believe in, train prison inmates for technology jobs, and build community in an economy driven by people who want to change their world.


Rally in the News: Tom Serres, Change Agent


This week USA Today has profiled Tom Serres, CEO and co-founder, in its regular Change Agents feature. Tom talks about how he switched careers and along the way, changed how people everywhere, from politicians to PTAs to non-profits, raise money for the causes that are most important to them.

He also discusses the growing influence of the cause economy on how people choose to become fundraisers, crowdfunding with easy-to-use technology to ask for help from their personal networks and beyond, and how they become philanthropic supporters, from donating to a meaningful campaign on a whim to stretching out their giving over a lifetime.

UnGrounded: At 30,000 Feet, Leaders Take On Innovation

teamwingspanFor CEO and co-founder Tom Serres, most of his business meetings don’t last 11 hours. Then again, most of them don’t happen on a British Airways flight from San Francisco to London.

Serres joins 149 other business, financial, technology, and creative heavyweights for the first UnGrounded Innovation Lab in the Sky, scheduled for departure today.


Rally in the News: Hot Startups in 2013, ALS Awareness, The Last Mile



Curious to learn about what keeps the team busy? Here’s an update…

Rally joins dozens of other companies on AngelList’s top 100 startups to watch in 2013. ReadWrite posted the list yesterday, which features some of the most intriguing innovators in 10 categories, including education, healthcare, and publishing.

The San Francisco Chronicle profiled Jim Tracy, the subject of a new documentary and the focus of a related Rally fundraiser. Tracy has spent decades training teens to race, despite being sometimes homeless and destitute, becoming the winningest high-school cross-country coach in California history. The film Running for Jim follows Tracy and the girls’ team at San Francisco University High School during an extraordinary season and shocking state-championship race. The lifelong competitive runner now lives with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. To support the film and Rally for ALS awareness, check out the fundraising page here.

Ray Harts, a graduate of The Last Mile (TLM) tech incubator at San Quentin State Prison, recently talked about his experiences with TLM and interning at on Press:Here, a technology roundtable on NBC affiliates around San Francisco and Silicon Valley. He was also interviewed for a story about TLM in the Valley’s Mercury News.

Keep your eye on this blog to find out more about the team and the Rally leaders fundraising for the people and causes that matter most to them.

Innovation With Crowdfunding at Manor New Tech High School


Innovation, relationships, and technology inspire the students at Manor New Technology High School near Austin, Tex.

So do robots, roller derby, and the prom.

This week, President Obama will get an education on campus happenings when he visits Manor New Tech during a trip to Texas to promote his ideas on job creation.


We have two new additions to the Rally family!

A warm welcome to Clay Woolam and Tarik Ansari to the Rally team!

Clay joins us as our in-house data scientist. He is an accomplished researcher and computer programmer with a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and Masters degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas.Clay moved from Dallas to the Bay Area to join the fast paced world of Silicon Valley startups. When Clay’s not working his magic at Rally, you’ll find him enjoying San Francisco wearing a Member’s Only jacket with Charlie by his side.

Tarik joins us as a Rails Developer. Tarik grew up in France and has studied in London, Mexico and China. A world traveller, he decided to make San Francisco his home (and we’re glad he did!). With dreams of changing the world one keystroke at a time, Tarik is passionate about startups, renewable energy and individual civil liberties. With a love for the outdoors and a sweet-tooth, Tarik can’t live without his bicycle and the local bakery’s semi-sweet cookies!

We’re very happy to have both Clay and Tarik (and Charlie) at Rally! Welcome guys!