Tech@State Blog: Open Source

Hey guys I’ll be typing my thought on my experience at Tech@State: Open Source here all day… got a great list of speakers so check back with me…

8:45: We are just kicking off right now!

9:00: First panel up: it’s Aneesh Chopra, Macon Phillips and Todd Parks… all massive gov’t ballers. They are talking about how Gov’t gets open source… details to follow.

– Aneesh is randomly talking about the Detroit Chrysler ad… says he was just up in MI and people were pumped about it. Tell us about you favorite Super Bowl Commercial here

– Macon Phillips up and is saying that with Open Source the biggest challenge is security but actually banks and lot os of things we value security on already use Open Source software. Also everything open source adds to the value of society as a whole.

  • Open Source does not mean free! It means cheaper but we still have to invest in those already made Open Source platforms.
  • Macon gives shout out to GovDelivery for White House dashboard!!!
  • Over 1,000 sites run run the White House module “Node Embed”
  • White House rolling out cool new utility bar in the next few weeks from drupal… it’s Open Source baby!
  • Crowd Sourcing for the SAVE Award is a good example of using Open Source philosophy… it’s doesn’t have to be all software.

Todd Park on the mic and loving these guys energy.

  • HHS is about applying Open Data to Open Source… haha I can’t imagine why
  • NOAA maybe the best example of open data… it’s been done in news for years… every news org uses the same weather data through the same systems to tell you the weather. Why can’t we do this with all gov’t data?
  • Tim O’Reilly = Thomas Jefferson of the web… that one got a laugh from the crowd.
  • HHS last summer 20 new apps in 10 days! Check out HospitalCompare
  • Put data where people are already making decisions is huge!
  • Healthville… just like farmville but teaches you about health in a fun way. Doesn’t exist yet but Todd says if it did it would be the biggest health tool made in decades.
  • Next week healthdata.gov will launch and will have all HHS health data where people can have at it and talk about the play with the data and comment on the data. Will include API’s and Apps Expo.

Aneesh Chopra is up now here’s his bullet points

  • Pre-Competive R&D Collaboration is a big initiative of the White House… Challenge.gov is the main hub for this.
  • Education is a big place where Open Source could be huge… it’s the biggest area where we could see almost immediate results.
  • Building a match.com for ideas so that people can find the ones they like and get involved.

Questions and Answers on first session:

More attention to the UI aspect of Open Source and Open Data… need common guidelines so things can work together… almost like an Open source style guide… what is the gov’t doing?

– Design and UI is always the back end and we need to move it to the front end… it goes back to that gov’t is currently done in Silos so breaking down those Silos will make Open Source more uniform across agencies and gov’t as a whole.

Who are the Open Source partners internationally?

– Currently working on Health IT data with European Union. Cool announcements possibly coming in April… if thing pan out according to Aneesh.

10:00: Gunner Hellekson from RedHat and Open Source for America up now… if you want to hear more from him you can chat live with him on 2/24 on GovLoop’s Open Source Webinar… details here!

  • Open Source is tricky cause there’s no license and no way to tell exactly who’s using it.
  • A lot of agencies want to be contributing to Open Source projects but there are no set procedures to release gov’t code so often it gets blocked or people don’t know how to get through the process.
  • DoD and DOE are leading the federal gov’t in Open Source and Open Source policies BUT there are still agencies that are stuck behind… Dept…State is lagging

Andrew McLaughlin from Civic Commons… it focuses on local and state gov;t using open source and building this together.

  • Local gov’t have a lot of the same problems there’s no reason for them to be trying to tackle them alone… need to be using each other as a knowledge share.
  • Creating a “Civic Stack” that is a list of all the software out there for cities to browse and find a solution
  • Open311 letting citizens send it information in anyway and using it to make an info management scheme for the city
  • Cities aren’t just domestic all cities all over the globe can use Open Source tech.

10:15 Panel two is starting with Darren Krape for State Dept, Chris Dibona from Google and Jeremy Allison from Samba. They are going through the history of Open Source.

  • The difference between Open Source and proprietary software is Open Source allows you to step by step breakdown of how it’s done… you can see all the pluses and minus and it’s incredibly transparent. With Open Source the person using the software has control and can use it for whatever way they choose. Open Source is non discriminatory
  • Why should you care about Open Source if you aren’t a developer? Because you don’t have to go back to the original developer to fix bugs or enhance but you can go anywhere because everyone has access you can do it through anyone that gets it.
  • Think about how much money would be wasted if every company wrote their own code and had their own operating system… it’s absurd… that’s why Open Source is a must? Writing software takes years but adding on to existing software takes days.
  • Always check Open Source first you might end up going with pay software but why wouldn’t you try it for free first?
  • Who is liable when open source goes wrong? This is the big question that make gov’t with sensitive info weary to trust diving in head first.

David Eaves is now up giving a short talk. David is awesome and you should friend him on GovLoop. David is talking about Code For America which is also awesome

  • Government needs code how do we get young bright people to care about it?
  • Code for America want to make government code open source… right now in 4 cities but keeping it Open source makes it’s influence exponential.

Panel numero 3… we’ve got Alex Howard aka mr O’Reilly, Greg Elin with he FCC, Lin Wells from Center for Technology and National Security Policy and Deb Bryant Public Sector Communities Manager.

  • Common misconceptions on pay software… if you report a bug it will always be fixed, you’ll get support everytime you need it, the code writer will always be at that company. Basically Open Source and Pay software have the same pitfalls.
  • Open Source is almost more valuable at the state and local level due to smaller more crunched budgets.
  • Open Source is a non- issue in the FCC!

Are people really have the problem where Gov’t is pushing back against Open Source? Greg is surprised to hear that it’s happening but here are his solutions. The number one things is a security patch they happen at the same rate in pay vs. open software. Support is issue number 2… how many things can you not find a solution for by just searching the internet.

  • Number one rule of Open Source is give it back better than you got it. So taking code is one thing improving that code and then releasing that added value in Open Source is another.
  • If we ignore Open Source gov’t will continue to become more irrelevant on the tech scene.
  • Is Open Source danger free… NO! But it’s up to us as gov’t to out innovate those who would try to use it against gov’t. This is why it’s important gov’t becomes the leader in open source. The to make gov’t the leader is to reward the use of it. Show it off and more people will start to take notice and get involved.
  • Natural disaster may be the biggest case for open source. Situations where timed response is important. Check out crisiscommons they are trying to work on Open Source for emergency response… pretty cool.

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Kitty Wooley

Stephen, thanks so much for going to the trouble to post notes; I really aprpreciate the opportunity to learn what was said.