ENTRIES TAGGED "open source"
New report covers areas of innovation and their difficulties
O’Reilly recently released a report I wrote called The Information Technology Fix for Health: Barriers and Pathways to the Use of Information Technology for Better Health Care. Along with our book Hacking Healthcare, I hope this report helps programmers who are curious about Health IT see what they need to learn and what they in turn can contribute to the field.
Computers in health are a potentially lucrative domain, to be sure, given a health care system through which $2.8 trillion, or $8.915 per person, passes through each year in the US alone. Interest by venture capitalists ebbs and flows, but the impetus to creative technological hacking is strong, as shown by the large number of challenges run by governments, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and others.
Some things you should consider doing include:
- Join open source projects
- Numerous projects to collect and process health data are being conducted as free software; find one that raises your heartbeat and contribute. For instance, the most respected health care system in the country, VistA from the Department of Veterans Affairs, has new leadership in OSEHRA, which is trying to create a community of vendors and volunteers. You don’t need to understand the oddities of the MUMPS language on which VistA is based to contribute, although I believe some knowledge of the underlying database would be useful. But there are plenty of other projects too, such as the OpenMRS electronic record system and the projects that cooperate under the aegis of Open Health Tools.
Reinvigorate a Perl project today
I contribute heavily in the Perl community, and I’m consistently impressed by the pains we take with code and assets that we personally have no interest in. There’s a group of Perl people who shepherd (camelherd?) code and projects that have lost their maintainers. I’m one of those people.
There’s a very simple system CPAN uses and which has been working since around 1994. Basically, CPAN is a big directory structure that other mirrors rsync (see Jarkko Hietaniemi’s The Zen of Comprehensive Archive Networks). People contribute code through the Perl Authors Upload Server (PAUSE), which does some light verification for identity and permission for the namespaces in that code. No one really “owns” a namespace in Perl, but developers have permissions to control it, including extending that permission to other developers. This is a small bit of a social control. (As an aside, Perl 6′s design handles this differently by allowing people to specify an “authority” for modules)
OSCON Mainstage Talks: Create more value than you capture
At OSCON 2013, Tim (@timoreilly) asked us to aim higher and work on difficult problems while highlighting the most important trends that should be guiding open source developers and entrepreneurs. To illustrate his points, he offered up great examples from companies as diverse as Google, Square, Wikipedia, and O’Reilly Media.
Scale and complexity call for leaving it to specialists
As applications move from onpremise to SaaS, the scale of deployments increases by orders of magnitude (to “webscale”). At the same time, application development and operation become tightly integrated and continuous deployment brings the frequency of updates down from months to days or even hours.
The larger scale makes the health of SaaS applications mission-critical and even existential to its providers, while the frequent updates increase the risk of failures. Therefore, monitoring and root cause analysis also become mission critical functions, and more instrumentation is needed to ensure the application’s quality of service. At the company I co-founded, we see customers using extensive and often tailored instrumentation that generates massive amounts of data (think hundreds of thousands of data streams and billions of data points per day).
A Frank Talk about Women in Programming with the Founder of CodeChix
Rupa Dachere (@rdachere), Founder and President of CodeChix, and I had a chance to talk programming and open source community culture at OSCON 2013. She brings up some great points about the specific problems that arise for women, talks about why she brought CodeChix to life, and what we can all do to make the programming community more diverse.
Key highlights include:
- Women face unique challenges: Time, Resources, and Support [Discussed at 0:18]
- And, there is support, for instance, CodeChix has refresher courses and tech talks [Discussed at 0:50]
- The CodeChix origin story [Discussed at 2:36]
- Cultivating positivity [Discussed at 4:02]
- Eighteen month outlook – some companies are talking but others need to join the conversation [Discussed at 4:57]
You can view the full interview here:
Remember, an idle keyboard is the devil's playground
For the first time in eighteen years, 700,000 Federal employees are sitting idle. Among them are software engineers working throughout the government, who may now find themselves with nothing to do and lots of time to do it. With that in mind, here are five worthwhile activities to while away the days and avoid watching CSPAN.
1) Learn a new language or platform. When you’re working on big government projects for years at a time, your skills can go stale. If you’ve been grinding out Enterprise Java code, learn to code Android apps. If you’ve been mired in C++, try your hand at functional programming in Erlang or Scala. C# gurus can give Objective-C a try.
Whatever you learn, you can bring it back as a new tool in your belt when you get back to work. Not only can it give you a fresh perspective on your current work, it can lead to a lateral or forward shift in your career.
Not just paying attention, but starting over
Security has to reboot. What has passed for strong security until now is going to be considered only casual security going forward. As I put it last week, the damage that has become visible over the past few months means that “we need to start planning for a computing world with minimal trust.”
So what are our options? I’m not sure if this ordering goes precisely from worst to best, but today this order seems sensible.
Stay the Course
This situation may not be that bad, right?
Honesty, Evaluation, and a Success Story
I caught up with, Amye Scavarda (@amye), Client Advisor, Acquia, and Leslie Hawthorn (@lhawthorn), Community Manager, Elasticsearch at OSCON 2013 where both gave a talk on how to grow a career, that you’ll enjoy, in the open source world and beyond. Turns out it might not be so hard.
Key highlights include:
- Some old school first steps in taking a look at your work life [Discussed at 0:57]
- Don’t start by trying to improve what you are worst at [Discussed at 2:38]
- How and when should you learn new programming languages? It depends. [Discussed at 4:09]
- Success stories aka how this has worked for Amye [Discussed at 5:24]
You can view the full interview here:
The O'Reilly Open Source Awards 2013
Over the years, OSCON has become a big conference. With over 3900 registered this year, it was hard not to look at the packed hallways and sessions and think what a huge crowd it is. The number of big-name companies participating–Microsoft, Google, Dell, and even General Motors–reinforce the popular refrain that open source has come a long way; it’s all mainstream now.
Which is as it should be. And it’s been a long haul. But thinking of open source in terms of numbers and size puts us in danger of forgetting the very thing that makes open source special, and that’s the individual contributor. So while open source software has indeed found a place in almost every organization that exists, it was made possible by the hard work of real people who saw the need for it, most of them volunteering in their spare time.
The O’Reilly Open Source Awards were created to recognize and thank these individuals. It’s a community-driven effort: nominations come in from the open source community (this year there were around 50) and then are judged by the previous year’s winners. It’s not intended to be political or a popularity contest, but honest appreciation for hard work that matters. Let’s look at this year’s winners.