The Open Source Development Model makes it easier to solve other people’s problems

Or at least that’s what Daniel Pink suggests in this article. While he doesn’t specifically mention open source development, he does mention Wikipedia as a loosely collaborative model that can help us solve problems faster and better:

  • Rethink the structure of your firm.

    Perhaps loose alliances of distantly connected people – think Wikipedia or a Hollywood film – can produce more creative products and services than fixed rosters of employees in traditional arrangements. And maybe those consultancies, which all of us love to malign, are offering a valuable service after all by providing distance for hire.

This is the reason why sites like StackOverflow have taken off and have answered millions of people’s questions about programming. The distance between you and your local coding problems is short, meaning you think about your problems more concretely. On StackOverflow, the problems you are helping to solve are further away from you, and according to this research, this lets you think about them more abstractly.

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Canadian spy agency, CSIS, uses illegal bulk data collection to subvert Canadian freedoms

On a beautiful Sunday morning, I have to link to this bit of ugliness on the illegal bulk data collection by the Canadian spy agency, CSIS. Only a handful members of government knew about and it was only revealed because of a court case.

From the article:

Many corporations and government agencies are now gravitating toward so-called big data computer analytics that can predict patterns of future behaviour based upon records about what has happened in the past. Spy agencies are no different, and the centre in question appears to be the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s equivalent of a crystal ball – a place where intelligence analysts attempt to deduce future threats by examining, and re-examining, volumes of data.

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Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon

Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon

Check it out, it’s a hackathon for SecureDrop, the software that Aaron Swartz worked on to give whistleblowers a secure method of dropping off files to newspapers on the web. A lot of news organizations have a SecureDrop website that can be accessed through Tor to hide your IP address. Excellent piece of software to hack on.

The hackathon is on Saturday November 5th and Sunday November 6th in San Francisco. Aaron’s 30th birthday would have been next week Tuesday, November 8th.

There are also speakers scheduled after the first day of the hackathon.

Now a bit about Aaron Swartz. He co-authored an early version of RSS and helped launch Creative Commons, and worked on a piece of Python code called web.py (which was one of the web servers Reddit used).

Aaron Swartz’s ideals and all his awesome hackery and coding to support them is something we can all learn from. Instead of simply discussing and debating endlessly, he would at some point sit down and write new tools to build a better future. SecureDrop, Creative Commons, they are all tools in support of the open web, and fundamentally in support of freedom.

SecureDrop is possibly the most important software. It lets journalists receive data from whistleblowers securely. Among the news organizations using SecureDrop are The New Yorker, the Washington Post, VICE Media and the Globe and Mail.

So if you are in San Francisco check out the hackathon. If you are anywhere else in the world, you can still work on SecureDrop, just fire up your favourite text editor and download the code.

librsvg will attempt to use Rust!

The librsvg  is going to be slowly converted to Rust.

This is exciting news for developers who are looking to learn Rust and it’s exciting for the free/open source software community. Librsvg is used by Wikimedia to render SVGs on Wikipedia, a fairly vital tool.

What’s exciting is that librsvg has received bug reports for bugs that are related mainly to the use of the C programming language:

Every once in a while someone discovers a bug in librsvg that makes it all the way to a CVE security advisory, and it’s all due to using C. We’ve gotten double free()s, wrong casts, and out-of-bounds memory accesses. Recently someone did fuzz-testing with some really pathological SVGs, and found interesting explosions in the library.

So it will be interesting to see how well Rust can prevent these sorts of errors and how easy it will be to port a C library to Rust.

In the article there’s an example of converting C code to Rust code. Very cool and looking forward to the results. Hopefully this will encourage more open source developers to pick up Rust alongside C!