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A New Perspective on Meritocracy

Meritocracy is a common element of open organizations: They prosper by fostering a less-hierarchical culture where "the best ideas win." But what does meritocracy really mean for open organizations, and why does it matter? And how do open organizations make meritocracy work in practice? Some research and thinking I've done over the last six months have convinced me such questions are less simple—and perhaps more important—than may first meet the eye...

The Next Big Challenge for Open Source: Rich Collaboration Software

The file sync and share movement started over a decade ago, led by the likes of Dropbox, Google Drive, and others, and became popular very fast. The killer feature was having all your files available on all your devices. No more forgetting to bring that important document to a meeting, emailing files, or handling multiple USB sticks. Files were always there when you needed them! That its growth happened with the start of the smartphone age made file sync and share even more useful. But its popularity wasn't just about having access to your own files on all your devices: it also made sharing easier, enabling a new level of working together. No longer emailing documents, no longer being unsure whether your colleague's feedback came on the latest version of your draft, no longer fixing errors that were already fixed...

Fixing Docs One README at a Time

"Documentation is highly valued, frequently overlooked, and a means for establishing inclusive and accessible communities," the GitHub team notes in their brand-new Open Source Survey. Based on 5,500 responses, the survey reveals that 93% of respondents say "incomplete or outdated documentation is a pervasive problem." However, only "60% of contributors rarely or never contribute to documentation." These stats won't surprise anyone who has spent more than a few minutes clicking through GitHub repositories. How many times have you clicked on a GitHub repo, skimmed the README, and thought: "Sounds interesting, but what does it actually do?"...

Your Team's Differentiator Isn't Its Tech

In 2016, I launched Open Innovation Labs, a place where people seeking to leverage the principles of openness can work with a seasoned team to build innovative software that solves their most pressing business problems. It has been an exciting and daunting undertaking. Today, Open Innovation Labs imparts knowledge and best practices that emerge from the world's most successful open source projects, and we provide a residency-style experience that immerses teams in those practices. We generally partner with companies looking to do two things: Either they want to move quickly and be disruptive, or they see disruption as an existential threat and seek to adapt their behaviors to facilitate a more rapid pace of change...

A List of Open Source Tools for College

I've used Linux now for 3 1/2 years, which to me is a substantial period of time. In that time, I have gone from only using LibreOffice to expanding into a purely Linux and open source workflow. I have built my workflow around only using open source software if at all possible, although I am required to use a couple of proprietary tools sparingly. I'd like to share my own philosophy regarding open source. I was first introduced to Linux by my programming teacher; he is a passionate believer in FLOSS and he converted me. I have a passionate belief in the technical superiority of open source tools over proprietary ones because they allow me the freedom to use them however I wish...

How We Brought the Internet to Standing Rock

Last spring a group I follow on Facebook started sharing information about an oil pipeline, called the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), that was planned to go in the ground in North Dakota, and the Water Protectors, teenagers from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation who were standing up to try to stop that from happening. As I watched the story unfold over the next few months, I knew that I wanted to go out there and see how the nonprofit organization I work for, Geeks Without Bounds, could help...

Documentation Based on User Stories

A typical manual page on a Unix-like system is a good example of feature-based documentation. Ideally, it contains an exhaustive list of all features (options, commands, parameters) of a program, it explains what the features are good for, and it provides examples of how to use them. The measure of quality in the case of this type of documentation is comprehensiveness and thoroughness. On the other hand, a recipe in a cookbook is a classic example of action-oriented documentation that guides the user towards the completion of a specific goal by explaining clear-cut steps...

Research Transparency: 5 Questions about Open Science Answered

Open science is a set of practices designed to make scientific processes and results more transparent and accessible to people outside the research team. It includes making complete research materials, data and lab procedures freely available online to anyone. Many scientists are also proponents of open access, a parallel movement involving making research articles available to read without a subscription or access fee...

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Scientists Are Accidentally Helping Poachers Drive Rare Species to Extinction

If you open Google and start typing “Chinese cave gecko”, the text will auto-populate to “Chinese cave gecko for sale” – just US$150, with delivery. This extremely rare species is just one of an increasingly large number of animals being pushed to extinction in the wild by animal trafficking. What’s shocking is that the illegal trade in Chinese cave geckoes began so soon after they were first scientifically described in the early 2000s. It’s not an isolated case; poachers are trawling scientific papers for information on the location and habits of new, rare species...

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5 Myths Busted: Using Open Source in Higher Education

Have you ever heard someone say, "It's impossible to do X with Linux"? Me too. This is the story of how I busted the myths about open source in my own head and used Linux to finish my PhD in fine arts. Many people think non-technical students can't use Linux, and they make a lot of assumptions about people who use it in their advanced degree programs. They scoff and reply with something along the lines of, "Well, of course; those people do 'computer stuff,' but in my [lofty, important, unique area] it's just not possible." Well, it is possible, and I'm proof...