Teaching Open Source Planet is a Planet, a collection of personal blogs by Teaching Open Source community members working to bring the open source way into academia. We write about our inspirations and experiences in learning, teaching, and collaborating within free and open communities. In the spirit of freedom, we share and criticize in order to collectively improve. We hope you enjoy reading our thoughts; if you’re fascinated by what you see, consider adding your voice to the conversation.
I really want a 64-bit ARM laptop, but no one is shipping them yet -- not even Vero Apparatus.
So, I've put together the next-best-thing: a portable, wireless system assembled from off-the-shelf components. The resulting system weights ~1.8 kg (4 lb), has a 5-6 hour battery life, and fits in my laptop bag. It has microSD for storage, an 8-core Cortex-A53 processor, wifi, ethernet, and bluetooth, an external HDMI output for presentations, and 1GB of RAM. The components are held between two sheets of acrylic by 3M Dual Lock fasteners so the configuration can be easily switched up.
This system runs a version of LEAP, our experimental enterprise Linux distribution for AArch64 systems loosely based on the CentOS 7 x86_64 sources, on a 96Boards HiKey. The HiKey isn't officially supported by LEAP (yet), but we expect to support it later this year. I look forward to swapping the HiKey for a 96boards Enterprise Edition board later this year.
If you're at Linaro Connect next week, I'd be glad to give you a peek sometime during the week or on Demo Friday, and I'll blog about how the system was assembled a few weeks down the road.
Netgear sent me their Netgear Arlo camera system making me one of their product ambassadors and wanted my honest feedback on the product, so I spent a few months now evaluating Netgear Arlo and here is my thoughts.
For me, technology needs to be simple to setup and configure and Netgear Arlo was rather simple to install. I simply drilled in some screws for the camera mounts and attached the cameras and then setup the base station and synced them. The whole setup process took me no longer than ten minutes. Although, fine tuning the position and sensitivity of the motion detection did take some time to get right.
So during my first few weeks of checking out Arlo, the Android Mobile application had some usability issues and crashed until Netgear released an update which did take another few weeks. This was sort of frustrating but these things do happen. Overall, my experience once the Android app bug was fixed was positive and the app worked well and was easy to use. The web interface worked well too. It seemed I would frequently get an error about the base station not being responsive via the web interface and this error never seemed reproducible in the Android app, so it felt anecdotally like this was an issue in the web app.
While I received the Netgear Arlo for free, I did check out the price of the Netgear Arlo and it seemed very reasonable priced and comparable if not lower priced than other competing systems.
Surprisingly, while using the Netgear Arlo one night it detected someone on the property and I called the police and later found out the individual was casing homes and was arrested. If it were not for Arlo, I do not know how that would have played out and it makes me feel much more secure knowing I have push notifications whenever Arlo detects motion. The night vision built into the system lets me monitor night and day.
While there are still some optimizations I think Netgear can make to improve how long it takes for a recording to start once motion is sensed, I really found the Arlo to be a good product.
One disappointing aspect of Arlo is that while it’s an internet connected device (and maybe even a IoT device if you will), it so far has no third party integrations like IFTT, WeMo, Phillips Hue or others. This gap left me desiring more in this regard.
For the price point and what you get in this system, Netgear Arlo is a useful tool to help improve security around your home or business. It has helped me in the situation I described above and I have been impressed enough that I have reccomended it to several colleagues who ended up getting the system themselves and also are benefiting from the product.
I think Netgear has a good product here and much potential to continue to improve and optimize it and make it best system out there.
Disclaimer: Netgear provided the product free in exchange for an honest review.
I am returning from a couple of weeks away: rested and super-energized about what’s coming next for the Participation Team and community leadership.
Based on research in the last two heartbeats we have now have an v.1 of Participation Leadership Framework, and we’re fired up and ready to go for the next three weeks developing and testing curriculum in line with that framework.
Volunteer sub-tasks volunteer for my heartbeat are: Curriculum QA and ‘Workshop Co-pilot’. The first is really just about staying connected to the work, and providing feedback and suggestions through review. The second is more of a role for this heartbeat, for someone interested in improving as a facilitator by co-piloting a couple of online workshops with me, and then running an offline version with local contributors in their region. Please reach out in the task comments if you are excited about doing something like this! As with previous volunteer tasks, there are more details in the issue.
Note: we also have ongoing development work on a fork of teach.mozilla.org in an effort to test the import and display external markdown files as content. Thanks to @asdofindia for his great work and recent Pull Request to help this along.
For more on contributing with the Participation Team and the Heartbeat process check out our contribute.md.
That’s it! Except as a final thing I thought I would share all the books that were recommended to me when I asked for suggestions for my time away. I highly recommend time away with books.
Maybe you have not heard, but the Federal Communications Commission is currently considering a proposal which would allow the agency to regulate device manufacturers and make them lock down certain wireless devices such as routers.
This is not good news because if passed, this means OEM’s could prevent users from flashing free and open source firmwares like OpenWRT or other custom firmwares on to hardware they purchase. This is not very consumer friendly and not to mention router OEM’s like Cisco, Linksys, Belkin, Asus, Buffalo, and others are not that great about updating the internals of their firmware and sometimes leave users with firmware that exposes them to security vulnerabilities.
I wanted to write something short and encourage folks to please go and comment here. If this proposal passes, it could have an international impact unless OEM’s decided to ship a U.S. version and International version of their routers which is very unlikely.
Glucosio is an open source project I founded recently. I blogged about the kick off here. I wanted to give an update as the project is moving forward better than I had imagined.
We are currently aiming for our Glucosio for Android Alpha release this month with a tentative release date on September 20th, 2015. This being our Alpha and our first public release will be the base of the app. It will have basic functions but the more advance features on our roadmap will be distributed across subsequent releases and I’m sure we will keep coming up with innovative ideas as we research the needs of people with diabetes. Hat tip to Paolo, Ahmar, Satyajit and Elio who have been working tirelessly on this release.
I’m happy to report that Glucosio is already translated into 13 languages. More specifically: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bengali (India), Breton, Bulgarian, Chinese Simplified, German, Italian, Spanish, Spanish (Venezuela), and Spanish (Mexico). We plan to have Greek, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Hindi before launch. (Want to translate these for us? Check here.) Translations are really important to this project because every language we can offer is a population of people we can reach with our app seeing as diabetes is a global problem. The more people we reach worldwide, the more we can offer great tools to and the more opt-ins to share anonymous trends and demographic data with diabetes researchers we can get. Hat tip to Arturo who is leading our l10n efforts!
We are still actively looking for a lead iOS Developer or even two people contributing part-time on our Glucosio for iOS product. If you know someone, tell them to ping me!
This is sitting in our backburner but it is definitely within the scope of our vision and will help us reach platforms like Firefox OS, Ubuntu Phone and Tizen. We initially looked at doing cross-platform development but realized we could give a better experience if we built individual apps for Android and iOS.
Currently, this project has been very low cost thanks to some great supporters. Other than that, I have bootstrapped any costs, which again have been very small. We have decided from the start of this project that we do not want to monetize our apps because we feel it will dilute our vision and goals for the project. That being said, maybe the team will look into donations, crowdfunding or other options in the future if it becomes necessary. We are also looking into becoming a SPI (Software in the Public Interest) associated project so we will have a financial home and some resources available to us.
We are just going to be focusing for the next few weeks on getting this Alpha out the door. That includes wrapping up translations, doing some internal testing, and making sure we get out a crisp Alpha (that happens right?). Then we will sit down and discuss next things we want to prioritize and have a release post-mortem to improve our next cycle.
We have a really great team of people and would love to have more help. It has so far helped for us to have lots of hands in the pot and allowed us to scale as a project and get a lot of work done in a very short amount of time. If you are interested in contributing, hit us up at hello [AT] glucosio.org or ping us on Twitter at @GlucosioApp. We have contribution areas to include Development (iOS/Android/HTML5), l10n, Marketing, QA, and more. Hopefully by our Beta release, we will have some crisp documentation on our wiki on how to get started on all of these pathways!
In the last few years I’ve learned a ton about what helps people learn, where they get stuck and how to customize learning for various ages, interests and attention-spans. When ‘teaching the web’ for kids as young as eight all the way up to university students there’s always some level of trouble-shooting and tinkering to do with tools I’ve tried so far (both on and offline). Mozilla’s Thimble had been one of those tools, but usually for the very early steps in learning. For more advanced lessons, I’ve tried a number of different solutions, all with some level of challenge. For example I turned more to codepen.io to show the separation of CSS/HTML & JS which was fun but only for super-short snippet-type learning. I also ventured offline with simple editors like Notepad ++ only to run into knowledge-blockers with students – around file-systems or computer permissions for installing new software.
And so, I was super-excited to see the latest version of Thimble released this week – especially after I did some testing. Here’s why I’m to go back to teaching with the (new) Thimble :
The new Thimble allows you to expand your code view, or your preview as you need. Seems small, but huge change from the previous version. With this, the brightness toggle, and text-size customization people will be able settle in to what works best for their learning. And thank you, thank you – the preview screen stays at the exact-scroll position for refreshes.
Many kids ask to make ‘apps’ in my classes, when often what they really mean is “something I can make and share on my phone”. So while the mobile view is obviously great from the perspective of learning to design for mobile, it also helps students understand the web as a platform for their app ideas. I imagine there’s more opportunity to extend that idea well beyond this as well with FFOS app preview perhaps.
A billion-times better. Students can now upload files they need vrs ‘all code in one page’, or link to external files, which with previous versions often resulted in mixed content errors. Yes, so much awesome, including the ability to re-name files names AND upload entire directories, which makes it easy ( I think ) for people to fork and upload projects. I managed to exceed the maximum file-size for upload, but at 5MB seems pretty reasonable. Having files lists also ‘bakes in’ an opportunity to teach file systems, best practices, naming conventions etc – which in the past was offline only. The only thing I couldn’t figure out, was how to download my project. Also next-wish : version control integration.
You can also take and upload ‘selfie’ images from your computer, which will be super-popular, especially for ‘photo booth’ type projects. Youth will love it, providing it passes the privacy agreements of students and schools – but then there’s a lesson to be made with this as well.
One of the biggest challenges and frustrations of getting things working – especially with younger kids is spelling mistakes of file names, attribute names – open tags, poorly nested tags… And so I’m thrilled to see suggestions & auto-complete as part of the new Thimble. Also showing which line has errors (without overwhelming popups) will be a huge help. I think there is also a way to use a color-wheel to add in hex colors (also helpful for younger learners), but I didn’t have a chance to test that.
Adding a tutorial.html file adds a ‘Tutorial’ view pane. I usually write my lessons in Google Docs, print and then give to students who are still learning to type, and so spend a lot of time looking from one to the other. Huge win that instructors can write tutorials as part of the lesson, and that students can keep their eyes on the screen instead of bothering with a second set of instructions. The only improvement I could ask for, would be the ability to assign specific tutorials, to files to create true lesson plans vrs one long file (also more value for sharing).
I’m sure there are a bunch of things I missed, but these are the wins for my classes.
Congratulations, and thank you to the Webmaker team, this is going to make things so so so much easier, and more rewarding for students and teachers.
On a separate note – I can’t help but think this would also help some of the curriculum development I’m working on – asking teams to develop content in Markdown. I see there is a Markdown extension for Brackets, and wonder if Thimble can take on a new file type ‘markdown’ to help educators submit curriculum without coding knowledge. Perhaps this is what that’s the potential for the tutorial file (and collaboration between educators and technologists)
In the last heartbeat, as part of our Q3 goals for leadership development, I interviewed a diverse set of people across Mozilla, asking what they think the skills, knowledge and attitudes of effective Participation Leadership at Mozilla are. Two things really stood out during this process. The first was how many people (staff, contributors and alumni) are truly, truly dedicated to the success of each other and Mozilla’s mission, which was really inspiring and helped inform the quality of this Framework. The second was how many opportunities and resources already exist (or are being created) for leadership development, that if bundled together, with more specifically targeted curriculum and focused outcomes will provide powerful learning by Participating experiences.
This Heartbeat iterated on themes that emerged during those interviews. I thank those who provided feedback on Discourse, and in Github, all of which brought us to this first 0.1 version.
Foundations of Participation Leadership are the core skills, knowledge and attitudes that lend to success on both personal goals, and goals for Participation at Mozilla.
Building Blocks of Participation Leadership are units of learning, that together provide a whole vision for leadership, but individually build skills, attitude and knowledge that inform specific learning outcomes as needed.
Examples of skills, leadership and knowledge for each:
Building for Action and Impact
Empowering Teams and People
We would love your comments, suggestions and ideas on where we are so far. In the next heartbeat we’ll begin building and running workshops with these as guide, and further iterating towards 1.0.
Image Credit: Lead Type by jm3
I into YAWL in a bit more detail. YAWL provides support for modeling and managing workflows. Two major audiences of YAWL are most likely people who deal with business processes and people who deal with healthcare processes. YAWL is primarily written in Java and the last changes seem to have been made this week. The project seems pretty active based on the recency and the frequency of commits.
In another activity part of the “FOSS Field Trip” I evaluated the OpenMRS project for suitability to use as a class project. Here is the rubric with “Mission Critical Criteria” filled out:
OpenMRS is a potential candidate project for a course on software engineering in healthcare that I am developing. It is related to a class module on electronic health records. Furthermore, the primary programming language used is Java, which is the main language in our curriculum. OpenMRS scored high on my evaluation using the rubric above.
Part B, Part 1 Activities 3-9: FOSS Field Trip – SourceForge
(6) SourceForge’s project statuses are as follows:
(7) I compared the Kendo Tournament Viewer software, currently with a “planning” status to the Tux Football software, currently with a “beta” status. Both projects actually seem to be in the same phase of development. They have both been updated in the last 6 months, can be downloaded, installed and run and have gone through at least two minor versions. Sourceforge notes that as of 5/28/2015 neither project is being actively developed and neither project has any clear plan of future features to be implemented. My guess is that the Kendo Tournament Viewer software simply never updated its project status from planning.
(8) You can tell which projects are most used by the number of downloads (both in the last week and other time ranges). Although, downloads don’t necessarily imply usage.
(9) The Kendo Tournament Viewer project is a fun arcade-style 2D football game for Windows and Linux, very reminiscent of Sensible Soccer and Kick Off. It was written in C++. This project appears to be a fun/class project and is intended to be play by young adults / those interested in playing soccer games. The project has a single developer/committer, was most recently updated on 11/14/14, and does not appear to be currently active. I would not likely use this software because computer games are not of interest to me.
Part B, Part 2 Activities 4-13: FOSS Field Trip – OpenHub
(5) There are 3.8 million lines of code (6.1 million total lines, including comments) in the OpenMRS Core project.
(6) The contributors (i.e., developers) appear to be from the US and South Africa
(7) The OpenMRS Core project is written in 15 different languages. See https://www.openhub.net/p/openmrs/analyses/latest/languages_summary.
(9) Java is the language in the OpenMRS Core project with the highest comment ratio (35%)
(11) The average number of contributors in the last 12 months is gateway timeout.
(12) The top three contributors have been involved in the project for gateway timeout.
(13) The average number of commits over the past 12 months, as computed using the information on the project summary page is gateway timeout.
Part B, Part 3 Activity 1: Project Evaluation Criteria
Mission Critical Criteria – Suitability
My evaluation rubric for OpenMRS is as follows:
Personally, I thought that this activity was informative but, at times, repetitive and tedious. I can see how the OpenMRS project could immediately be incorporated to the software testing / software quality assurance classes I teach each spring semester.
For the FOSS field trip assignment, we were asked to visit SourceForge and choose a category. Although SourceForge has changed from what it once used to be (the repository of open source goodness) to more of one place among many (e.g., GitHub), it’s still a good place to find free and open source software. For the second half, we were to evaluate OpenMRS at Open Hub.
I immediately went to one of my favorite areas–Security and Utilities–and looked within the Cryptography Software sub-category. After all who doesn’t want to obfuscate data and store information from prying eyes?
Even though the overall number of projects in this area is smaller than most of the other main categories (e.g., Games) it still offers 220 projects in various status categories. Moreover, the top languages tend to represent those with more maturity: Java, C, C++, and Python. This benefits the applications themselves as well as the potential for possible contributors.
Surprisingly, many of the offerings were in beta or above status markings. This should reflect a set of robust applications. However, one should not rely completely on the project status. Let’s look at two offerings: Password Safe (Production/Stable) and RetroShare (Beta).
Password Safe has 3,319 weekly downloads at the time of this writing. Moreover, it has a fully functional and developed external Website with endorsements as well as a donate link. It has developed support (738 posts) and development discussion (943 posts) lists, an active feature and support ticket list. Password Safe is rated at 4.8 stars with 227 reviews.
Although RetroShare is in beta status it still has 928 weekly downloads. Unlike Password Safe, it does not have an external Website nor are there discussion lists. It does have a more active bug tracking list with 241 closed tickets and 149 open tickets. There are four active developers as opposed to Password Safe’s one maintainer suggesting that there are more bugs and features are still being added.
Even though Password Safe is listed as stable and RetroShare as beta, both have wiki announcements dating back to 2007. This suggests that more than status listings need to be considered when attempting to determine any application’s robustness and overall development complexity.
Finally, Password Safe’s code base is predominantly for Windows OS only. Windows users who want an open source password management program that has been vetted by experts might consider this application. Password Safe was started by Bruce Schneier and is endorsed (and sold) by Yubico and endorsed by the Open Source Initiative. Security professionals will be well aware of Schneier’s good reputation and Yubico’s track record. The project has a Linux beta client, so those who use the Linux OS need to be cautious when entrusting their information to this application.
OpenMRS has its own very developed website, but also can be found at Open Hub. One general comment about Open Hub: this site provides more granular data in a much easier to use interface than SourceForge. It is quite simple for users to learn more about the developers and robustness of a project on Open Hub.
The Project Summary page is an excellent snapshot of the project in terms of a description, code base, and detailed commit information. I plan on using this site as an introduction in classes as it enables students to see a quick snapshot as well as drill down into more detailed information such as how much each contributor has participated in the project.
Overall the field trip was a useful experience and one that I plan on using with my classes as well. The Open Hub site will make it easier to students to compare and contrast various projects. Adding the SourceForge project status definitions will add another layer of richness to their FOSS research.
Welcome to my Free and Open Source Software blog.
Recently I’ve begun volunteering at Idea Fab Labs here in Santa Cruz, with two specific goals — expanding the space to include free/open source software ethos and hacking, and helping all these awesome makers with questions and reality around the open source way.
Tip — I got quite fired-up to do this from Ruth Suehle’s keynote at SCALE this year, so go watch that if you need any reason why you should be helping maker spaces and friends with your open sourcery.
On the first goal, I’m working up a space in the fab labs — similar to the 3D printing, CNC router, laser cutter, jewelry zone, electronics, etc. spaces — goal is to have a place to drop in and do real software hacking; teach others from the bottom all the way up on how and why to contribute; or, yeah, even freaking care about open source software.
Tip — if you live in the 21st century and care about the progress of technology, you should freaking care.
One of my many strategic plans is to launch a curriculum that we deliver 1x to 2x a month (year one), growing toward 2x to 4x a month (i.e., every week maybe!)
What do you think of these topic ideas as a way to introduce free/open source software to a local community that is technical, maker-oriented, but full of questions?
In case you, as a Mozillian, have missed Christie Koehler’s tweets of the last 24 hours, I implore you to have a look but also at the responses from Mozillians and employees current and former who agree that the issues she is pointing out are real and you can read about them here.
These issues are making Mozilla bleed and some are caused or allowed to exist because our leadership, our very governance allows them. We need to have a conversation about these problems and cannot just let Christie’s departure be in vain and roll along with the status quo.
We need to fix the culture at Mozilla and we need to invest in community and diversity and we CANNOT let the status quo continue if we expect to be able to be competitive, innovative and push the mission forward.
Can we have a town hall to discuss some of these issues? Can we get a response from Mitchell, Chris or Mark on these issues?
Discussion on this post is closed but feel free to engage on the Twitterverse. (Be polite)
Saying I’m excited about the Participation Team’s goals for the remainder of the year would be an understatement. And I’m especially excited about the emphasis on community leaders and the development of leadership curriculum that I’m working on. I thought I would write a quick post to provide insight into the work I’m starting this heartbeat, as well as some cool opportunities to get involved.
Goal: Launch the basics of a refreshed leadership program.
Participation at Mozilla has always been an opportunity to ‘learn by doing’, and ‘learning to lead’ is no exception . Being a part of Mozilla Reps program for a number of years now, it’s been incredible to see the transformation of people who arrive with ideas, and through the program’s empowerment, transform into leaders. These are people who’ve had (and continue to have) real impact, not only on Mozilla’s mission, but on their own personal goals for success. That last part is important to the theory I’m working with: when the personal development goals of a volunteer align with outcomes needed by Mozilla , there is a greater likelihood for sustainable impact; a base for scalable momentum.
So, when do we start being more deliberate about leadership development at Mozilla? Right now ! Our Heartbeat started this week, and you can follow the leadership tag for Github issues in coming months. I’m starting on the research phase for a Foundation of Mozilla curriculum will be the first step to connecting motivated, creative and goal-oriented individuals with events that can shape the future for Mozilla. As part of this, we’ll also be developing a standard for community education curriculum, which includes a centralized way to both find, and plug-in community education opportunities.
Both links (in the previous paragraph) point to Github tasks that can help you follow our progress, find planning documents and get involved. You’ll see that the curriculum task also links to ‘volunteer’ sub-tasks,should you want to get more involved in researching, developing curriculum standards, or bringing the Community Education Portal to Mozilla Design standards. I’m also looking for nominations of people who you think would be valuable to consult during this research phase – on which skills, attitude and knowledge should be built into this curriculum. You can nominate people here.
I just wanted to pen quickly that I found Chris Beard’s open letter to Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft) to be a bit hypocritical. In the letter he said:
“I am writing to you about a very disturbing aspect of Windows 10. Specifically, that the update experience appears to have been designed to throw away the choice your customers have made about the Internet experience they want, and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have.”
Right, but what about the experiences that Mozilla chooses to default for users like switching to Yahoo and making that the default upon upgrade and not respecting their previous settings ?What about baking Pocket and Tiles into the experience? Did users want these features? All I have seen is opposition to them.
“When we first saw the Windows 10 upgrade experience that strips users of their choice by effectively overriding existing user preferences for the Web browser and other apps, we reached out to your team to discuss this issue. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in any meaningful progress, hence this letter.”
Again see above and think about the past year or two where Mozilla has overridden existing user preferences in Firefox. The big difference here is Mozilla calls it acting on behalf of the user as its agent, but when Microsoft does the same it is taking away choice?
Anyways, I can go on but the gist is the letter is hypocritical and really unnecessarily finger pointing. Let’s focus on making great products for our users and technical changes like this to Windows won’t be a barrier to users picking Firefox. Sorry, that I cannot be a Mozillian that will blindly retweet you and support a misguided social media campaign to point fingers at Microsoft.
Read the entire letter here:
Today I learned of some of the worst kind of news, my friend and a valuable contributor to the great open source community Nóirín Plunkett passed away. They (this is their preferred pronoun per their twitter profile) was well regarded in the open source community for contributions.
I had known them for about four years now, having met them at OSCON and seen them regularly at other events. They were always great to have a discussion with and learn from and they always had a smile on their face.
It is very sad to lose them as they demonstrated an unmatchable passion and dedication to open source and community and surely many of us will spend many days, weeks and months reflecting on the sadness of this loss.
Other posts about them:
The other day Berkshire Hathaway joined a number of other multinational mega corporations at the White House to jointly call for more robust action on climate change. While it is great to see companies making some effort to make changes that will help curb climate change, in reality if you look at what Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiary have offered to curb climate change, it really isn’t a lot of action at the end of the day for such a large utility. PacifiCorp (owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy) has pledged 1,000-megawatt increases in wind and solar purchases and to begin phasing out some coal plants used to generate electricity. These efforts when you look at the overall negative impact on climate of PacifiCorp are rather small in scale.
PacifiCorp and Berkshire Hathaway Energy should really consider a much more loftier goal but ultimately these companies are at the beck and call of shareholders so making large investments will reduce short term profits and that is why they are not going bigger. Another thing in addition to increasing these goals that PacifiCorp could do and should be doing across its grid is replacing transmission infrastructure with a smart grid where power can be stored when capacity exceeds demand. This in turn would reduce emissions significantly but also they could take steps like installing smart meters at all ratepayer locations (which PacifiCorp is behind on and only rolled out in a few small markets).
Between increasing their pledge and investing in a smart grid and smart meters, PacifiCorp and Berkshire Hathaway Energy could have a real effort that would earn more applauds from the Sierra Club and other groups than the watered down pledge they are making right now. The time for big and bold investments in technology and renewable energy generation is now as our future is looking bleak if we all do not make important changes today.
I guess the ultimate question is whether Warren Buffett wants to leave a legacy he can be proud of where his companies were socially responsible and helped solve big problems like climate change or a legacy where minimal efforts were made to get some media attention while not irritating investors. If Buffett really wanted to, his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, could make investments in renewable energy that would curb climate change nearly single handedly.
More information on how the U.S. can have big impact on climate change:
This month’s #mozlove post is for April Morone.
I wrote this post with inspiration from the first version of ‘Participation Personas . Personas (V1) is a list of contributor profiles I use to design participation opportunities. For each persona I also suggest a series of ‘lenses’ which, I believe can help us design with, and for greater diversity and dimension.
A lens can be anything from gender identity and age, to what I called a ‘toxic rating’, which changes the flexibility and value of collaborating with someone. Another lens is what I have (so far) called ‘accessibility’, which encourages thinking about physical challenges of contribution. This could be anything from asking ourselves if resources are ‘screen reader friendly’, to building in a respect for periods of time people may ‘disappear’ to take care of their wellness.
In that light I would like to highlight the contributions, enthusiasm and dedication of April Morone. April describes herself as a ‘disabled contributor’ living with partial blindness, hearing loss and neuro-muscular problems . April is also advocate for helping other people living with disabilities contribute to the Mozilla project. April was kind enough to take time to answer my questions, the first of which was “What got you started contributing?”
“What got me contributing was this insatiable need to help and insatiable need to learn more in the IT field, as well as to DO more in the IT field. I’ve always been helping others, from my cousins, helping teach them at the age of twelve on up, to teaching and helping others.”
You will find April embedded in the project helping others, especially focused on new contributors people setting up local environments for bug-fixes. When I asked her what sustains her participation, she felt equally as motivated by people who ‘want to learn’, as her own interest in teaching and helping.
When listing the challenges to contribution, April identified the continual challenges posed by health issues which include the emotional effects of surviving domestic abuse. On the more predicable scale, April also listed issues with technology fails and limited time as worthy opponants. What’s I think is very inspiring about both April and the community around her is how she describes her continued involvement and the people making a difference for her:
Abishek Gupta, Gautam Sharma, David Walsh, Luke Crouch, Janet Swisher, Hagen Halbach, and Daniel Desira have kept me going. They have been contributors and now also friends who have supported me through difficult times when I might have otherwise have given up contributing. I had thought of dropping out of contributing and even just giving up. But they stood by me, listened, and gave support, which help. What also kept me going is my love of helping others, my love of Mozilla, and my love of IT and web development.
I think this is really, really special in that the community is as much a place to find ‘your people’, as it is a cause to contribute to. I know April is among a small group of volunteers at Mozilla with ambitions of creating a more supportive network for contributors living with disability through directed documentation and on-boarding – which I think is just amazing. I am grateful to be a part of a community that includes April and many of the people she listed who help her be successful.
Next month I hope to write a couple of these posts – we’ll see.
“Felt Heart” Image credit: Lauren Jong
These graphs are based on data gleaned directly from launchpad overtime
One thing to note about these graphs is 2015 is not yet complete so there can be change that will occur in 2015. The statistics should not necessarily be considered to correlate to Ubuntu overall losing popularity. Data from Google Trends for instance overall shows a downtrend for other desktop operating systems which likely correlates to end users focusing and spending more time on mobile these days.
The announcement by the FSF and Software Freedom Conservancy has a lot of jargon in it so to help people better understand I am going to do an analysis. Mind you, back in 2012, I reached out to the FSF on these very licensing concerns which no doubt combined with other developers contacts set in motion these discussions.
In July 2013, the FSF, after receiving numerous complaints from the free software community, brought serious problems with the policy to Canonical’s attention. Since then, on behalf of the FSF, the GNU Project, and a coalition of other concerned free software activists, we have engaged in many conversations with Canonical’s management and legal team proposing and analyzing significant revisions of the overall text. We have worked closely throughout this process with the Software Freedom Conservancy, who provides their expert analysis in a statement published today.
So this is about a year after the time I exchanged emails with Dr. Richard Stallman not only about privacy issues that Canonical was trying to wave off but also these licensing issues. We (myself and other Ubuntu Developers) had been hearing that other distros had been essentially bullied into signing contracts and licenses pursuant to Canonical’s IP Policy for Ubuntu at the time.
While the FSF acknowledges that the first update emerging from that process solves the most pressing issue with the policy — its interference with users’ rights under the GNU GPL and potentially other copyleft licenses covering individual works within Ubuntu — the policy remains problematic in ways that prevent us from endorsing it as a model for others. The FSF will continue to provide feedback to Canonical in the days ahead, and urge them to make additional changes.
In a nutshell, the FSF is making it clear while some progress was made that the Ubuntu IP Policy is still not a good example of a policy that protects the freedoms you have to using code under the licenses of software Ubuntu bundles into the distro we use and love. This is concerning because Canonical has essentially made some concessions but put its foot down and not made as much change as it needs to.
Today’s “trump clause” makes clear that, for example, Canonical’s requirement that users recompile Ubuntu packages from source code before redistributing them is not intended to and does not override the GPL’s explicit permission for users to redistribute covered packages in binary form (with no recompilation requirement) as long as they also provide the corresponding source.
As an example, Canonical was through its legal team asking some distros including Mint that they needed a license to redistribute Ubuntu but this is not true because the underlying licenses already set the rights individuals and groups have in redistributing code.
While this change handles the situation for works covered by the GPL, it does not help works covered by lax permissive licenses (such as the X11 license) that do allow such additional restrictions. With that in mind, the FSF has urged Canonical to not only respect the GPL but to also change its terms to remove restrictions on any of the free works it distributes, no matter which license covers that software. In the meantime, this is a useful reminder that developers are nearly always better off choosing copyleft licenses like the GPL in order to prevent others from imposing arbitrary restrictions on users.
It is clear since the FSF with its ally, the Software Freedom Conservancy in tow, was only able to achieve some success on the GPL front. The FSF being a good steward of the greater open source community realizes this and notes that the policy still has restrictions on freedoms other licenses entitled to you. As such, the FSF is calling on Canonical to do more and do the right thing and not just make concessions but follow all the licenses of software it uses.
Further, the patent language in the current policy should be replaced with a real pledge to only make defensive use of patents and to not initiate litigation against other free software developers. The trademark policy should be revised to provide better guidance to downstream distributors so that they can be confident they know exactly where and when trademarks need to be removed in order to comply with the policy.
This is a very important bit because it protects open source developers and ironically if you read the IP Policy it has some foolish statement like “Canonical has made a significant investment in the Open Invention Network, defending Linux, for the benefit of the open source ecosystem.” which is laughable because here the FSF and Software Freedom Conservancy is having to ask Canonical to respect the licenses of not only Linux but thousands of other pieces of open source software it claims it invests in defending.
Canonical, in our conversations, repeatedly expressed that it is their full intention to liberally allow use of their trademarks and patents by community projects, and not to interfere with the exercise of rights under any copyleft license covering works within Ubuntu. While we appreciate today’s development and do see it as a big step in that direction, we hope they will further revise the policy so that users, to the greatest extent possible, know their rights in advance rather than having to inquire about them or negotiate them. To this end, it will be important to choose language and terms that emphasize freedom over power and avoid terms like intellectual property, which spread bias and confusion.
This is perhaps the most important part because basically the FSF is making it clear the IP Policy still continues to confuse some users and that confusion may chill users into not exercising the freedoms they have to use the software that is freely licensed. Also it is concerning because the IP Policy as it stands violates the community values of the Ubuntu project.
In closing, Canonical should be thanked for making some concessions after so many years but should also, on the same token, be encouraged to fix the document entirely and protect the rights and freedoms of users and respect the licenses of the software Ubuntu ships. Additionally, this makes it clear that Jonathan Ridell, another Ubuntu Community Member who advocated time and time again on this matter and was shut down by the Ubuntu Community Council, really deserves at the very least a formal apology from the Ubuntu Community Council. When individuals ability to speak freely on important issues of advocacy are chilled in Open Source projects, it creates an unwelcoming environment. Jonathan Ridell is by no means the first person to be shut down by leaders in the community or Canonical itself. Over the past few years, there has been a trickle of departures because of people being silenced. In fact, Ubuntu Contributors and LoCo participation is at an all time low, as is participation in the Ubuntu Developer Summit which can only be linked to these attacks on advocates over the years.
Canonical has yet to release any statement in their press centre and neither has the Ubuntu Community Council which said it would wait until
it learned of the outcome of the FSF and SFC asking Canonical to adjust its infringing IP Policy.
For a few months now, I’ve been slowly identifying, and compiling a set of Participation Personas to help me, and hopefully others build quality contribution experiences for people, representing various stages in their Participation journey at Mozilla. In addition to the Persona ‘stories’, I’m insisting that a number of ‘lenses’ need be applied if we are serious about improving dimension and diversity.
Each Persona has the attributes:
These Personas were created with love and feedback of a number of people – you can see the ‘raw’ version here.
This really the first draft, and would be interested in what Personas you feel are missing, and especially how to dig into, and help people apply ‘diversity and dimension’ lenses. Yes you can suggest ‘name changes’, I know they’re a bit odd but it helped me start.
There’s probably a bit too much ‘story’ in each Persona, but I hoped that by making each a web-based it would be easier to digest, and also easier to give feedback. If you do have feedback, which I would LOVE, you can leave comments here or create an issue on the associated Github account.
I’ve dogfooded Firefox OS since its early beginnings and have some of the early hardware (hamachi, unagi, One Touch Fire, ZTE Open, Geeksphone Keon, Flame and ZTE Open C). It was good to hear some of the plans for Firefox OS 2.5 that were discussed at Whistler, but I wanted to take the time and model of this post and remix it for Firefox OS. Firefox OS you are great and free but you are not perfect and you can be the mobile OS that I need.
Just like Apple has Siri and Google has Ok Google, Firefox OS too needs a voice command system that will let me search the web, send a text, open apps, navigate to places. Not only is this good for a smartphone, but when I buy a TV running Firefox OS, voice commands will be very useful.
Let’s face it: notifications on Firefox OS are not a world class experience. Most of the big apps (Facebook, Twitter etc) do not integrate with Firefox OS so when someone messages you or tags you in a photo, you won’t know unless you open the app. There is a bug for this to fix this in Facebook app but the developer left Facebook so it got abandoned. There was never any progress on this for Twitter. In order for Firefox OS to be able to be sustainable and see good adoption, people will need to have notifications this is not negotiable.
While Firefox OS has never shipped in the U.S. yet plenty of Firefox OS developers do live here and so do a good portion of Mozilla Developers. LTE needs to be supported in the stack but also needs to be a requirement for reference devices going forward in the Foxfooding program.
There is much talk about how Mozilla is going to invest big into Firefox OS and that is great and very exciting but one of the biggest things Mozilla could invest in for Firefox OS that would increase adoption is expanding the app ecosystem. Without apps, a platform fails and this is obvious. Right now as things stand, even Ubuntu Phone is ahead of Firefox OS in the app ecosystem race. If Mozilla has to pay companies to port their apps to Firefox OS, well that would be a good investment because random low-quality apps are not going to fill the gap.
I believe Fido Alliance’s U2F is the future of strong authentication on the desktop and mobile so it would be nice to see support for this.
Firefox OS needs to have a foot in the producing local results game since Firefox OS does not have an equivalent of Google Now or a Yelp app. I need something to help me find local businesses and places and ratings. This should be a smart feature that uses my actual location.
We need a WeatherUnderground App or something really slick that delivers the most accurate weather forecasting available.
We need a transit app, not a bunch of local ones that can use my location and tell me available transit options like when trains and buses arrive. The data is out there and most of it is open so let’s build this into the OS or maybe Mozilla should make an app for that.
The updates offered by OEM partners has been deplorable mostly with many devices left behind on versions which leaves users with bugs and stability issues. Mozilla should set the bar high and take OEM’s out of the updates equation much like Ubuntu has done with their Mobile OS. OEM’s cannot be trusted to give regular OS updates and when they don’t the reputation of the platform is blamed for this not the OEM.
Firefox OS will need a Uber or Lyft app to get any kind of non-niche foothold in more westernized countries. I don’t really care if Uber or Lyft is offered as both will work. Uber already allows booking through their website so perhaps a little nudge could get them to package that into an app.
This summarizes ten things I would love to see happen for Firefox OS not all are hard requirements for me but consider this a wish list. Do you have a wish list of 10 things you want in Firefox OS? If so I encourage you to blog about it and dream big!
Yesterday the usual tech news outlets were buzzing over an accidental tweet which the media incorrectly interpreted as Mozilla was ditching flash (Blame The Verge for the chain reaction of copied news articles) entirely as a policy. While that is not the case, I was just as excited as many at the faux-news. This got me thinking: what would it really take for the web to kill Adobe Flash? Could Mozilla really make such a move and kill Flash on its own if it wanted to?
My thought is that Mozilla could not because users would be upset at the immediate lack of support for flash which is widely used. However, if Mozilla talked to other browsers including the Chrome Team, Opera, Vivaldi, Safari etc and made a coordinated effort to get at least some of the major names to agree on a set date to end their support for flash, say a year or so out, then I think it would be possible for Adobe Flash to die.
But absent the above happening a tweet by Alex Stamos, CSO of Facebook is right and maybe he understated it because it is really past time for Adobe to do the right thing and announce a end-of-life date for Adobe Flash in the next year or two. Such an announcement would give websites a year or two to do the major task of removing flash from millions of sites around the world.
The open web would be a better place without Flash but it would also be a better place without Java (sorry Minecraft fans but that game needs porting to HTML5) and other relics of the early less open web.
If you agree it is time for a open web free of flash then go give Alex Stamos’s tweet a RT and buy him a beer.
I’ve sat out of the discussion on Mozilla-Governance that has been ongoing over users disappointment with Pocket. I have seen other Mozillians dive in and defend the feature but I do not think this is helping at all. I read this post “Firefox, you’re supposed to be in my pocket, not the other way around” today and felt like it had many truths in it. I really do not know the rationale for adding Pocket as a default to Firefox but I assume there was some financial benefit for Mozilla involved.
The thing is the Pocket implementation is being lauded by Mozillians and MoCo as something that end users wanted but putting aside the discussions on Mozilla-Governance and the feedback from users on Input (Seems like the negative feedback is non-stop on Pocket). I’ll say that I have personally see a number of friends point out their distaste for this feature and it puts me in an awkward situation because I feel like defending Mozilla by default but rationally I cannot.
Who ever it was in management that gave the green light for this feature clearly is not listening to our users or didn’t get the right brief because I do not see a demand for Pocket in the browser. Can we start living the motto we like to use in marketing so much about how we serve our millions of users and not shareholders?
It seems like we are putting experiments and profit seeking features before our users instead of delivering on the features, performance and stability they truly want. So can we please make the rest of 2015 a year where we do not drop any other controversial features in our users laps? Can we focus on getting Electrolysis right? U2F? Improved ESR Support (Chrome is winning the web in Enterprise and Academia)?
Whistler was an exciting and productive week for the Participation Team (which included volunteers). We learned a lot about ourselves, our team, the expectations of the project and perhaps most importantly – the Participation goals of nearly 30 teams at Mozilla.
The experience reinforced the value of volunteers and volunteer communities at large, magnified by the participation of contributors in nearly every session we ran. In every way, we immersed ourselves in radical participation: listening to outside experts, polling passersby and engaging in intense discussions on every angle of community’s impact on the past, present and future of Mozilla’s mission.
We turned up to lead sessions with some anxiety about our preparedness, about our goals and the expectations with such a large number of teams awaiting us, yet left feeling successful and intrigued. We watched our colleagues on the main stage share some early victories, and vision for the future – the optimism and excitement was palpable.
— Emma Irwin (@sunnydeveloper) June 25, 2015
Overall the week was intense as, in addition to running sessions, we also worked on team vision for the future and the beginning of proposal for a Participation strategy at Mozilla. We look forward to sharing this soon.
On a personal note, one of the most powerful experiences for me was ‘heart’ in Chris Beard’s keynote (and I paraphrase) : that we have one life, and within the gift of each day is the opportunity to do something important. That we choose to spend cherished time helping Mozilla move it’s mission forward is very powerful. As parent of an childhood cancer survivor this philosophy also happens to also be my own. Truly understanding that every day is a gift, is a serious force in all choices I make for my career and in my life. I do choose to be here. It just felt very good to hear that recognition from Chris , with new realization this should be an extension of how we think about gratitude, empowerment and recognition to volunteers who turn donate the gift of their time – perhaps this can strengthen our trust in each other.
There was a lot of talk about ‘Space’ in Whistler – which I got. Being brave, being bold – being adventurous and making new things resonated. I could not ask to be part of a better, more compassionate, smart and creative team and extended community. I think with Participation as our co-pilot, Mozilla can most definitely get there.
I have come up with a new phrase and I am going to keep saying it and it is “The most important open source software has not yet been made.” But why is this phrase true? Simply put we have a lot of great open source software out there but the most important open source software is the one that’s not been written because of some barrier or challenge.
For every person, different software has different levels of importance right? So what is the most important unwritten open source software for me? Well it is health tech software that enables people to better understand how their health is and how their choices can impact it positively and negatively.
I was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and I have from the get-go tried to use technology and software to help me manage it. From graphing my glucose levels so I know how different foods impact me to tracking medication and other important metrics. But one thing stuck out when I was looking at available tools is that there are not many open source health tech applications and tools available and those that did exist were inferior to the proprietary ones.
So why is it important to have these tools be open source if the proprietary ones work well? Simply put, if you have the source code you can trust your data is kept private and safe but also you can build off the tools and integrate them with other services and tools that work specifically for you.
That being said, I came up with the idea of launching a Open Source Project and have formed a team of amazing individuals who share my vision of creating tools to help the millions of people worldwide suffering from both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. We are moving forward with that and are right now in the planning stage of launching the Glucosio Project (Italian for Glucose). The project will initially launch an Android app, then iOS and finally a web app (Think Tizen, Ubuntu Phone, Firefox OS) to allow diabetics to track their glucose and connect with third party services (IFTT, Phillips Hue, Pushbullet, Pushover etc), share the data and better understand the impact of their choices. We very well may expand as the project and contributor base but this is what we have envisioned so far.
I would like to thank Elio Qoshi, Satyajit Sahoo, Paolo Rotolo, Georgi Karavasilev, Priyanka Nag, Joshua Fogg, Viking Karwur, Stefan Angelov, Rahul Kondi and Ahmar Siddiqui for sharing this vision with me and joining as initial project contributors and the core team that will be behind the Glucosio Project.
We still have room for more (Dev, Doc, Creative, l10n etc) and if you are interested in contributing to this project please get in touch with us at hello [at] glucosio.org or follow the project on Github. We hope to make a big difference in many people’s lives with the apps we are working on and hope you will join us!
I haven't introduced my research team for quite a while, and it has changed and grown considerably. Here is the current Open Source Technology for Emerging Platforms team working with me at Seneca's Centre for Development of Open Technology. From left to right:
Edwin and Justin work with me on the DevOps project, which is applying the techniques we've learned and developed to the software development
processes of a local applied research partner.
Michael, Glaser, Artem, Reinildo, and Andrew work with me on the LEAP Project. Recently (since this photo was taken), Reinildo returned to Brazil, and has been replaced by Christopher Markieta (who has previously worked with this project).
I'm dying to tell you the details of the LEAP project, so stay tuned for an announcement in the next week!
I truly believe, that to make Mozilla a place worth ‘hanging your hat‘, we need to get better at being ‘forces of good for each other’. I like to think this idea is catching on, but only time will tell.
This month’s #mozlove post is for Tom Farrow AKA ‘Tad’, a long time contributor, in numerous initiatives across Mozilla. Although Tad’s contribution focus is in Community Dev Ops, it’s his interest in teaching youth digital literacy that first led to a crossing of our paths. You’ll probably find it interesting to know that despite being in his sixth(!!) year of contribution to Mozilla – Tad is still a High School in Solihull Birmingham, UK.
Tad starting contribution to Mozilla after helping a friend install Firefox on their government-issued laptop, which presented some problems. He found help on SUMO, and through being helped was inspired to become a helper and contributor himself. Tad speaks fondly of starting with SUMO, of finding friends, training and mentorship.
Originally drawn to IT and DevOps contribution for the opportunity of ‘belonging to something’, Tad has become a fixture in this space helping design hosting platforms, and the evolution of a multi-tenant WordPress hosting. When I asked what was most rewarding about contributing to Community Dev Ops, he shared that pride in innovating a quality solution.
I’m also increasingly curious about the challenges of participation and asked about this as well. Tad expressed some frustration around ‘access and finding the right people to unlock resources’. I think that’s probably something that speaks to the greater challenges for the Mozilla community in understanding pathways for support.
Finally my favorite question: “How do your friends and family relate to your volunteer efforts? Is it easy or hard to explain volunteering at Mozilla?”.
I don’t really try to explain it – my parents get the general idea, and are happy I’m gaining skills in web technology.
I think it’s very cool that in a world of ‘learn to code’ merchandizing, that Tad found his opportunity to learn and grow technical skills in participation at Mozilla :)
I want to thank Tad for taking the time to chat with me, for being such an amazing contributor, and inspiration to others around the project.
* I set a reminder in my calendar every month, which this month happens to be during Mozilla’s Work Week in Whistler. Tad is also in Whistler, make sure you look out for him – and say hello!
A lot has changed since the last blog post (more than three years). I was happily running a successful business around Videocache till Google decided to push HTTPS really hard and enforced SSL even for video content. That rendered Videocache completely useless as YouTube video caching was the unique selling point. Though people are still using it for other websites (whatever supported and not HTTPS yet), I personally didn’t find it good enough for selling. To add to the trouble, Mozilla and friends announced that there will be free certs for everyone. Now, that took away whatever motivation was left to keep working on Videocache. I decided to open source Videocache and the source is now available on GitHub. If you have better ideas or you are looking forward to make things work by forging certs etc, fork it and give it a shot.
In 2015, if you are web developer, you must know how APIs work and you should be able to consume them. So, to learn to expose APIs and version them properly, I fired a small project Pixomatix. Being a Rails developer, you really get obsessed with it and try to implement everything using Rails. Even when you want an API with 2-3 endpoints, you tend to make the horrible mistake of doing it in Rails. This kept bugging me and a few weeks later, I decided to freshen up my Sinatra memories. But working with Sinatra is not all that easy especially if you are used to all the niceties of Rails. Dug up my attempt of implementing Videocache in Ruby, and extracted few tasks and configurations I had automated long time ago. Ended up working a lot more on it and packages into a template app with almost all the essential stuff. Though I need to document it a little more, the app has got everything needed to expose a versioned API via Sinatra.
On the other hand, I tried to use devise gem to authentication for Pixomatix. It was all good for integration with standard web apps and APIs but it sort of failed me when I tried to make the API versioned. Devise turned out to be black-hole when I tried to dig deeper to make things work. I tried a few other gems which supported token authentication but they were also no good for versioning. Generally, you may not need to version the authentication part of your API, but what if you do! Since, this was just a learning exercise, I was hell bent on implementing this. So, I just reinvented the wheel and coded basic authentication (including token authentication) for the API.
That’s it for this post. I am looking forward to post regularly on the new stuff I learn.
I was an early adopter of Fitbit and have to say that is honestly paved the way for fitness bands and apps we have today. There are plenty of things about Fitbit as a physical product that bothered me from its silly short USB charger that I couldn’t charge overnight at my bedside to the band that caused rashes and a product line recall. There are however some things that Fitbit is doing better than Google Fit and Apple’s HealthKit so far and one of those things is it connects you with your friends with a common goal of improved fitness and coaching each other along. Neither Google Fit or Apple’s HealthKit have this social feature and even when they do I imagine Google will tie it to Google+ which means few friends could connect with me.
That being said Google Fit is really the underdog feature wise right now as it tracks a very limited amount of activities and does not have the full health picture that Apple HealthKit is going for. Also it seems like Google Fit is behind on partners and services to connect Google Fit with. For instance, I cannot connect Google Fit to Walgreen’s Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices or a number of other services that support HealthKit and Fitbit.
But the reason I have stuck with Google Fit is simply put I think there is more potential for Google Fit to become the best fitness/health platform and kick HealthKit and Fitbit to the curb. Android has millions of users worldwide outpacing iPhone so that’s millions more users that Google Fit can collect movement data from and make their accelerometer algorithm better than HealthKit or Fitbit. Even more, Android has tons of location data and amazing machine learning (Apple is far behind) it can throw behind Google Fit to help us better understand our health and fitness metrics.
All of that said I am sticking with Google Fit but would love to see the following implemented in the near future:
I was honoured to be invited to Makerfaire Vancouver this past month to talk a bit about Mozilla, Mozilla Webmaker ‘Clubs’ and to encourage a grassroots approach to teaching and mentoring girls in STEM. As it tends to go, I learned far more from others on the panel than I was capable of sharing I also left feeling a greater sense of purpose for my role in encouraging diversity in technology.
And that purpose came after listening to another panel speaker shared his studies showing that – when girls are asked to identify their gender on exams, they almost always had lower results than if they had taken a test without gender identification. And this resonated with me, not on reflection of my girlhood in science, but in my years working in technology and transition to motherhood.
Although important, it feels like the the bulk of advocacy begins with girls and ends with young women. I want to argue that success for ‘girls in STEM’ can only truly be celebrated when that success flows through the various identities and transitions in a woman’s life.
Motherhood is like that gender question on exams in that it often changes our confidence that we might be capable – or that people in positions of influence believe we are. Not because motherhood changes our abilities (heck no!) but because there’s a sense we need to apologize for having a competing priority especially when dominate tech culture reflects 18 hour days, beer-nights and ping-pong tables. Without proper mentorship, support and advocacy I’ve witnessed that tech loses a lot of women during this time.
So, I don’t have the answers (sorry of you scrolled down for wisdom) but what occurred to me is that somehow I have managed to say in tech, despite a number of transitions in my life – including a year-long period of critical illness for one of my children. I’ll be doing a lot more thinking about how to connect local efforts around youth with women who can also benefit. For me that also means thinking about open source participation as a way to find mentors, and to stay connected and relevant during life transitions.
* I have been ‘shouted down’ on this topic before, by men saying I was ignoring the challenges fatherhood played in their careers. To that I say – go solve that too.
* We were also asked about STEAM (arts education). To that I say, if you have strengths in art, go teach that. No one person can solve all things – take that thing you are good at, and bring it to your community :)
* Learning to Solder was the highlight of Makerfaire for my daughters.
I’ve come to the conclusion that for me at least it is no longer very convenient to use voicemail. You know, that feature most cell phones have that’s been made modern and comes from the era when we all owned landline phones and had answering machines with cassette tapes?
Yeah I’ve found voicemail to be utterly useless now that almost everyone is using Email, Social Media or SMS. Why do I want to call into voicemail wait a few seconds and then delete the message every time I get a missed call? (FYI I usually do not listen to voicemail but instead mass delete and send an email) This is really a bothersome task when someone can simply drop me a email or a SMS.
Let me break down the history of voicemail to you…
So it puzzles me that Google Voice is still investing in voicemail by integrating Google Voice into its Hangouts app on Android because it is clear there has been a decline of people using this technology and calling people isn’t very popular unless you are making a remake of “Call Me Maybe.”
Why can’t this technology be entirely eliminated or at least be made more useful with a new iteration like converting Voicemail to text? Yes there is visual voicemail in fact Google Voice does it but it is not widely integrated into any mobile OS yet. (But lets file a feature request and cross our fingers!)
Voicemail is dead, long live the Voicemail!
But seriously tell me in the comments if you still use voicemail and what your use case is because I’m trying to grok how voicemail is superior to email, SMS or Social Media at this point.
Mozilla recently announced it’s support for the USA Freedom Act alongside allies like the EFF, but the EFF also ended up withdrawing its support because of deficiencies in the legislation and a recent opinion from an appeals court.
I think Mozilla should have withdrawn its support on this still flawed bill because while it did push forward some important reforms it still extended flawed sections of the law that infringe on individual’s civil liberties such as Section 206 “Roving Wiretap” authority program. This program essentially allows the FBI access to any phone line, mobile communications or even internet connections a suspect may be using without ever having to provide a name to anyone. This is clearly not good legislation because it allows overreach and lacks a requirement that communications or accounts being tapped are tied to the subject. While this is just one example there are many other provisions that allow intelligence and law enforcement agencies to continue their spying, just not as broadly as before.
What we need is smarter legislation that allows law enforcement and intelligence agencies to do their work without infringing on the privacy or civil liberties of everyday Americans, you know, like back when domestic spying was entirely illegal.
Wikipedia does a great job of documenting some good information about the USA Freedom Act and I would encourage folks to check out the article and research this piece of legislation more. Remember this bill only passed because it had concessions for Pro-Intelligence legislators, the same folks who created the Patriot Act and opened up spying on Americans in the first place.
I think Mozilla could have done better by withdrawing support and it is good to see that while the EFF is celebrating some parts of the USA Freedom Act it is also mourning some of the concessions.
As you may or may not yet be aware, the Participation Team at Mozilla is working more openly using the Heartbeat process. This week we start Heartbeat #3 , and in the next two days you’ll see this page fill with the issues the team will be working on for next three weeks. You can see our previous issues and see how those went by viewing this page.
I thought I would surface a couple of things, I’m working on this heartbeat and would LOVE help with – should you want to get involved as a contributor in any way. I always offer lots of feedback, training (where it helps) and #mozlove with every chance I get. I also outlined what you might learn as part of contributing.
1) Education Portal Theming
Our platform needs some love from someone interested in bringing this site inline with Mozilla design standards. It’s close but – not close enough. Built on Jekyll (Github Pages, Liquid, Bootstrap ) – ideally we need something like Makerstrap.
You’ll learn (or get better at) : SASS, Jekyll, Twitter Bootstrap, SASS
2) Mozilla Domain Transfer
Right now the Education platform is under my repository account. Deb has kindly given me some instructions on how to transfer, but need someone to book time with me to walk through it and make it so.
You’ll learn (or get better at) : Github repository management
3) Figure out a way to add ‘chapters’ to training videos
I need a way to add chapters to a couple of our longer traiing videos. Research to help identify the best way (not Popcorn Maker which is being depreciated) would be super-helpful.
You’ll learn (or get better at) : Media / Teaching Technologies
1) Targeted Outreach
We have a community growing around Market Research contribution (Marketpulse) thanks to the clarity of our steps in the participation ladder. We still need a lot more people completing steps #1 and #2 in areas where Firefox OS phone is sold.
2) For a creative challenge I need help identifying non-traditional ways to reach out to people already skilled in Market Research. Basically outside the Mozilla community where do we go for this skill-set? I need not only ideas but someone interested in testing those ideas. If we could have even 1 new and skilled Market Researcher join as a volunteer I would do a happy dance and share that on Social Media.
You’ll learn (or get better at) : Strategy, Communication, Community Building, Writing
Community members will soon be part of the onboarding process for new staff and interns (yay!), as part of that we’ll need a scheduling tool. Onboarding is every Monday, and we need to ensure that all slots are covered. So!
1) Tool Research
I need help figuring out a way to create an open and accessible scheduling tool for sign-up. Is there a good (free and open) tool for this? Maybe its just a calendar, but I need help researching, evaluating and selecting.
You’ll learn (or get better at) : Community Management, Scheduling
So these are the things that would really be helpful if you’re looking to get involved with the Participation Team this Heartbeat – or at least my small place on it. Please email me at eirwin at mozilla, OR leave a comment OR tweet at me. if you’re interested. Thanks!
I would also be curious if this is helpful to those looking to get involved (above the Github issues). If not what else would work?
Debbie Chachra’s newsletter described what she told undergrad summer researchers in engineering education about their work today, and it struck me deep as someone who’s been an open source newbie and a perplexed undergrad researcher — and then grown into the sort of person that (terrifyingly!) is in the position to mentor both.
[Undergrad summer research] is not a job; the money they get is a stipend, not a salary. Its purpose is to carve out the space and time for them to participate in the program, not to pay them for the work they do… The reason why they get stipends and not salaries is twofold: one, because the summer is intended to be a learning experience above all, and two, because it’s basically impossible to do research to order. You can be directed to do specific research-related tasks, but actually exploring an area, being engaged, and coming up with insights is not something you can turn into a checklist, not least because if you could do that, it wouldn’t be research.
Research can pretty much only be done by people who are intrinsically motivated; that is, interested in and committed to what they’re doing, and not just doing it because they have to. Most of the students have had jobs and all of them are familiar with doing assignments for class; none of them have had an experience like this. So start by trying to get this across to the students: “You are not minions. You are not workers. You are not robots. You’re going to bring your whole heart and mind to what you do.”
This has been my failing — in both roles — many times. As a newcomer to open source and research, I showed up and expected… a job. That’s how you earned your stripes, right? That’s how you showed humility, and willingness to learn… you had to pay your dues. It’s what I had always been taught. And so I showed up in OLPC’s IRC channel and asked Jim Gettys to tell me what to do. I followed SJ Klein around the office like a puppy, beamed gratefully when Chris Ball gave me something to do. I sat in Cynthia Breazeal’s lab waiting for Cory Kidd to tell me… something. Waiting for orders.
It took a long time for me to realize that all these people were waiting for me. I didn’t know they wanted me — I thought they wanted my interchangeable labor-functionality. But no, they were waiting for an idea I didn’t know I was supposed to originate. How could I have known this was the culture, the expectation? I’d never been in a FOSS project before, never been in a lab — my family had never experienced these things. I’d never witnessed a student interacting with a hacker or a researcher. I had the “try things, make them happen!” paradigm, but only in my schools — I thought it was a thing you could do only in those special spaces like IMSA or Olin. I hadn’t been in schools like that quite long enough for that worldview to sink deeply enough into my marrow that it would transfer into all the spaces I would ever walk into.
Then I got a little older, a little more experienced. Failed a lot, learned from it — learned enough that others started seeing me as someone who could teach them. And I tried to impart this worldview shift of “you are not a robot,” but — as we often do when we are tired and under-resourced, I fell back into my habits. I would tell people what to do; I would scaffold a bit too tightly, I would… set expectations. When there’s no room to fail, there’s also no room to fly. I failed my way into becoming a better teacher, a better research supervisor, a better mentor of hackers, time and time again.
When we teachers think about the people who have taught us how to teach, we usually think about our own good teachers. I also think about the students who graciously allowed me to fail them, and stuck around long enough to keep loving me through learning how to be a better mentor to them. I am trying to make my learning worthy of the cost they had to pay for me to grow.
I block off a a bit of time each month as my #mozlove shout-out day. This is the day I try to blog, or write a couple of LinkedIn recommendations for community I am grateful for, amazed-by or otherwise I think you should know about! And so, I want to surface the story of Tanner today.
Tanner is a part of a core team contributing to Community Ops, and numerous other projects across Mozilla. Tanner has been a huge help to me personally, in tackling nasty server setup things. He is a true pleasure to work with. Tanner has also done a fantastic job as a Mozilla Rep, most recently helping with a Mozilla booth at SCALE 13x .
I asked Tanner what first compelled him to contribute:
At time I was sharing one computer with four others in my family, it was running Windows Vista. For some reason that I couldn’t figure out, Internet Explorer caused Windows to BSOD. I tried everything I could to fix my then-beloved Internet Explorer (I feel gross saying this). Eventually I gave up with it, and started trying out other browsers. For a while I used Opera, and really liked it. Then it too started causing some sort of problems, I don’t remember what yet. After a while, I remembered that one of my friends had told me about this program called Firefox, so I decided to give it a try. It was love at first sight.
I saw something interesting on the support page. It was run entirely by volunteers, and *I* could help!
I also asked him what was most rewarding, and found a kindred spirit in his response: ‘learning and teaching’.
Teaching someone just feels different than learning it yourself. My thinking is that if you are able to teach someone how to do something the right way, you have to be at least competent in what you’re doing, and that would say a lot about your abilities.
There are challenges in participation, and I asked Tanner about those as well:
Being somewhat nosy, I am always curious about what family and friends know about our contributor’s time and about Mozilla in general. So I asked about that as well, and glad I did because this:
A lot of people do have trouble understanding how I’d do something that I’m good at for free. When people say that, I explain to them that Mozilla isn’t *just* Firefox, and I’m not doing it just because it’s fun, but because we have to “save the Web”.
Tanner describes himself as being from: “The Middle of Nowhere, USA, also known as Cedar Rapids, Iowa.” And so, if you are ever wondering where the Middle of Nowhere, USA is – I can now share that with you here:)
Tanner will be attending the University of Northern Iowa this fall where he will be studying Networking and Systems (although I expect he can probably do a bit of the teaching a well!).
When he’s not being a volunteer super-hero, Tanner loves to go back to his love of Marching bands and Drum Corps – with YouTube of bands being his favorite viewing choice. (note to Tanner: I used to drum in pipebands, we should jam sometime soon)
I’m grateful for a community that includes Tanner, and so grateful he took the time to answer my questions!
Consider writing a #mozlove blog or tweet for someone you appreciate!
One of MoFo’s main goals for 2015 is to come up with an ambitious learning and community strategy. The codename for this is ‘Mozilla Academy’ although that’s likely to change. As a way to get the process rolling, I wrote a long post in March outlining what we might include in that strategy. Since then, I’ve been putting together a team to dig into the strategy work formally.
This post is an update on that process in FAQ form. More substance and meat is coming in future posts. Also, there is lots of info on the wiki.
Our main goal is alignment: to get everyone working on Mozilla’s learning and leadership development programs pointed in the same direction. The three main places we need to align are:
At the end of the year, we will have a unified strategy that connects Mozilla’s learning and leadership development offerings (Webmaker, Hive, Open News, etc.). Right now, we do good work in these areas, but they’re a bit fragmented. We need to fix that by creating a coherent story and common approaches that will increase the impact these programs can have on the world.
That’s what we’re trying to figure out. At the very least, Mozilla Academy will be a clearly packaged and branded harmonization of Mozilla’s learning and leadership programs. People will be able to clearly understand what we’re doing and which parts are for them. Mozilla Academy may also include a common set of web literacy skills, curriculum format and learning approaches that we use across programs. We are also reviewing the possibility of a shared set of credentials or roles for people participating in Mozilla Academy.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve started to look at who we’re trying to serve with our existing programs (blog post on this soon). Using the ‘scale vs depth’ graph in the Mozilla Learning plan as a framework, we see three main audiences:
A big part of the strategy process is getting clear on these audiences. From there we can start to ask questions like: who can Mozilla best serve?; where can we have the most impact?; can people in one group serve or support people in another? Once we have the answers to these questions we can decide where to place our biggest bets (we need to do this!). And we can start raising more money to support our ambitious plans.
We want to accomplish a few things as a result of this process. A. A way to clearly communicate the ‘what and why’ of Mozilla’s learning and leadership efforts. B. A framework for designing new programs, adjusting program designs and fundraising for program growth. C. Common approaches and platforms we can use across programs. These things are important if we want Mozilla to stay in learning and leadership for the long haul, which we do.
There are a number of places where we do similar work in different ways. For example, Mozilla Clubs, Hive, Mozilla Developer Network, Open News and Mozilla Science Lab are all working on curriculum but do not yet have a shared curriculum model or repository. Similarly, Mozilla runs four fellowship programs but does not have a shared definition of a ‘Mozilla Fellow’. Common approaches could help here.
That’s not our goal. We like most of the work we’re doing now. As outlined in the 2015 Mozilla Learning Plan, our aim is to keep building on the strongest elements of our work and then connect these elements where it makes sense. We may modify, add or cut program elements in the future, but that’s not our main focus.
It’s pretty unlikely that we will use that name. Many people hate it. However, we needed a moniker to use during the strategy process. For better or for worse, that’s the one we chose.
We will have a basic alignment framework around ‘purpose, process and poetry’ by the end of June. We’ll work with the team at the Mozilla All Hands in Whistler. We will develop specific program designs, engage in a broad conversation and run experiments. By October, we will have an updated version of the Mozilla Learning plan, which will lay out our work for 2016+.
If you have additional questions, ask them here. I’ll respond to the comments and also add my answers to the wiki.
You too can let folks know that you support Jonathan Riddell just like the Kubuntu Council has by tweeting with hashtag #ISupportJonathan or using this nifty banner on social media.
I’m happy to announce today that the Kubuntu Council unanimously approved my request for Kubuntu Membership. As I explained in response to a question by Jonathan Riddell, I have felt for a long time that Kubuntu Project distills the Ubuntu values and has a great sense of community that many long time Ubuntu Contributors might remember from the earlier days of Ubuntu.
I’m very happy to join the Kubuntu Team and look forward to supporting the project through contributions in my spare time.
Gosh, I might have to get another tattoo!