Open Source makes a difference

by Kevin Shockey

I didn't anticipate this lead into my debut as an O'Reilly Network weblogger, but I guess ya gotta go where the muse takes you. As I anticipated making this first entry, I was wondering what to cover. I was going to cover who I am, what I'm doing, and give a preview of what you might expect to read in this web log.

As I woke-up this morning the headlines read Atrapados entre balas asesinas, Trapped between assassins bullets. A father and two of his daughters had been shot to death in their car as they waited for the light to change. One minute the were just coming home from the game, the next, instant misery for two mothers, two sisters, and everyone else left behind to suffer their loss.

As the "pueblo" of Puerto Rico mourns, I come here to finally begin writing. But now I sit asking myself: "Who am I?"; "What am I doing that makes any sense in light of this tragedy?"; "What can I write about when my passion for technology, software development and open source seems pointless."

But that's just it, it isn't pointless. It's easy to compare our lives against the suffering we see around us and wonder if we have made the right choices. However like George Bailey from "It's a Wonderful Life", we each have our role to play. Yes we can change that role whenever we choose, but we always have a role.

One of the main reasons I am leading the SNAP Development Center is because of the choices I am now making. I decided about two years ago that I would involve myself in the creation of a high technology economy in Puerto Rico. I knew that I could help, and I willed myself to pursue the opportunity. I decided that I would become involved in this effort because I felt I had something to contribute. I saw in Puerto Rico what we all see by volunteering in open source software projects. I believed in the goal of the project, I saw problems that I could solve, and opportunities that I knew I could attack.

Deep down there are many people that are confused and scared of open source software. However, I believe that it has nothing to do with software licensing. They are scared and confused because they are unable to understand why a large group of programmers would volunteer their time to make commercial quality software.

Thankfully, there are millions who volunteer their time for countless altruistic causes. They help to bring comfort, to feed, to ask for donations, and to spread peace where none exists. Now enter the open source software development community; we write and test code so everyone else can make their own unique contributions. We have finally found a way to play our role, and we feel good playing it.

What confuses and scares people about open source is their inability to recognize that we all must find our role. We all need to find something we believe in and a way to turn our visions of the future into reality. What they don't understand is that with open source, we now realize that there is a way. There is a way for us to volunteer our unique gifts and spread this model to others. We each want to help ease the suffering we see around us, and we now have a model that gives us a way to play our role. We can be ourselves, play our role, and still make a difference. So we must reach out to those who don't understand, and lead them so that they too can find their role and make a difference.

What role do you play in open source and how do you think it makes a difference?


2004-12-12 19:30:18
Fixing the links
The link in the article is messed up somehow, but I managed to find the Spanish language account at
2004-12-12 19:32:09
And who is George Bailey?
That's my question. I think I understand the sense about making a difference, and I'll keep looking at that question. Thanks, Kevin.
2004-12-12 19:42:03
More Links to fix and end my suffering
The SNAP Project link is

and there is some URL corruption that is happening in the way these web log pages forward link requests through an intermediary.

I have failed to leave comments in these logs in the past because of some sort of loop that happens around getting to the comment-entry page, apparently because of cookie weirdness in O'Reilly's own version of Passport that happens faster than I can get my firewall to tell me what offends it. I managed to work through it here, appropriately.

There's something off for me about equating open-source evangelism with elimination of suffering. Maybe that's not what's intended, but I wonder if we are maybe over-reaching there. Unfortunately I can't look at the article while commenting (didn't think to open a new window), so I'm going to stop for now.

2004-12-12 19:45:39
Fixing the links
Sorry, the article in Puerto Rico is at

2004-12-12 20:00:36
Fixing the links
Thanks I think I finally got the links working. Owa tadork iam.
2004-12-12 20:10:37
More Links to fix and end my suffering
The connection comes from the following sequence:

1. Life can suck
2. Does being an evangelist for open source make it suck less for those that are suffering?
3. I should be doing more about this!
4. Then recognizing that we can't be good at all things and work on all of the projects that we might want.
5. However, if by doing my thing and being the best possible, it makes a difference. Just like Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, we may not believe or see that it makes a difference, but it does.

So ultimately it is about being the best you can and spreading that fever to others. Of course, if you are moved to actually do more, then great.

2004-12-12 20:33:46
And who is George Bailey?
Oops, I found the answer. Funny, that was my guess. In the first presentation of the page, it was corrupted by some sort of anchor-tag problem that disappeared when I fixed my firewall (I think). I sure hope trackback works better than comments just the same.
2004-12-12 20:37:20
And who is George Bailey?
Actually, whatever the corruption is, it hasn't gone away. But if I click Refresh I get a proper rendering of the page, and I can even see the comments, which do not appear on the corrupted version, which is first-up when I come here. Some times.
2004-12-13 17:58:15
Thanks for speaking out
Not everyone gets involved in an open source project for the reasons you describe here, but certainly some do. And I think that opening the discussion up to talk about why people should get involved as a volunteer activity where they can use their talents to improve the lives of others is important.

Only by talking about these values do they become part of the 'shared values' of the open source community.

Looking forward to more interesting weblogs! Nice debut!

2005-03-10 23:40:21
Concerning the reasons:
I think that besides of an "altruistic causes" there always should be an "egoistical" reason. I'll explain.

Ppl who's work is to create smth (don't want to cal them "creators" to avoid pathos) always have a dream to make something THE WAY IT SHOULD BE DONE, and there are always a lot of things that won't let them do it. For ex. - supervising directions, market expediency, etc. etc. And working in an open

Polidore Francis Pompey Francisca Prospero Fulk Rebecca Geoffrey Rees George Reginald Georgette Richard Gerrard

source project help those ppl to get loose of such limitative things (at least some of them). Maybe if you'd still like to add some pathos (or try to advertise open source for some reason) you'd call it "Creators looking for freedom..." or smth like that... )

So, I think that working in an open source project is more "for your self" than "for others, who suffer". And it's OK, because any real art or at least creativity is selfish or at least self-oriented.

And finally, I think, that when a person - programmer finally makes a code exactly the way he thinks it is meant to be done, the idea that he is doing it for him self or, if he still thinks so - for others to become happier, whatever, what's important - not for money, this idea makes this code three times more valuable for him. And since companies would never pay three prices for it, open sources will remain and prosper :)