12 Ways To Find Help for Your Open Source Projects

At Barcamp Boston yesterday I held a session to answer a question: how to you recruit people to help out on your open source and side projects?

The problem is one that vexes many developers. You develop a useful bit of code. Maybe it’s for your own use or maybe you created it during a hackathon. Then you want to give back to the community. So you open source it and upload it to github. Maybe you create a web page for it and a bit of documentation.

But then the requests start coming: can you fix this bug? Can you add this piece of functionality? Can you help me use it?

And while you’d love to develop and support it, you don’t have the amount of free time it requires. Yet it’s clearly useful to people. So the question then becomes: can you recruit other people to help?

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The Danger in Google’s New Privacy Policy

Google announced a new privacy policy and terms of service today. Buried within, was this innocent sounding, but insidious language:

We may use the name you provide for your Google Profile across all of the services we offer that require a Google Account. In addition, we may replace past names associated with your Google Account so that you are represented consistently across all our services. If other users already have your email, or other information that identifies you, we may show them your publicly visible Google Profile information, such as your name and photo. [emphasis added]

Essentially, as of March 1st, Google can change your identity and expose your details to others without asking you. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

No opt-out. No recourse other than to stop using Google services entirely.

Google has made clear they would prefer everyone use a single online identity, which they control. Two years ago, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO at the time, during a panel at Techonomy stated:

“The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity,” Schmidt said. “In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it.”

Governments demanding everyone have a single, verified online identity has dangerous consequences. Google voluntarily forcing people into a single, verified online identity before governments demand it is just plain evil. Continue reading >

7 Reasons Business Professionals Should Learn JavaScript

Are you a business professional who uses the Internet to perform research, use web-based business software, manage your customers, prepare reports or analyze data?

Then you should learn JavaScript.

JavaScript used to be just for geeks. But increasingly JavaScript is becoming the lingua franca of the web. The skill of writing JavaScript lies where typing was in the 80s. It’s not required yet, but it gives you a competitive advantage.

JavaScript can help you:

  1. Add functionality to your spreadsheets
  2. Customize your web-based business software
  3. Automate your Windows applications
  4. Enhance your desktop
  5. Tailor your browsing experience
  6. Build database reports
  7. Visualize your data

Marc Andreessen wrote a recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Why Software Is Eating the World. While he focuses on software companies, software inside companies, particularly simple scripts, is having the same dramatic impact. Continue reading >

How To Use Open APIs

Yesterday I gave a talk entitled “How Citizens Can Use Open APIs to Create New City Services” at Asheville Cloud Day 2011. I aimed to inspire city IT personnel to create open APIs and to show everyone else how they could leverage those APIs. You can find the slides of my talk here.

While I’ve been aware of open APIs, I had never used one until I was preparing for this talk. I learned how to use open APIs about a month ago after watching the excellent video Google Docs Unleashed from AppSumo. Open APIs are surprisingly easy to learn and use, and I encourage everyone to try out the import functions of Google Spreadsheet that allow you to access them.

In preparation for my talk, I did some research about open APIs and the “mashup” applications built on top of them. This post details the results of that research and walks through the live examples I gave during the talk for those who want to learn more. Continue reading >

Facebook Gestures (April Fool’s)

Facebook GesturesGoogle produces creative April Fool’s Day jokes. This year Google announced on their home page the release of Gmail Motion, a way to interact with Gmail using gestures. With Microsoft’s Kinect usurping the iPad as the best-selling electronic gadget of all time, it seems entirely plausible Google could release this technology. Which, of course, is the key to a good April Fool’s joke.

With the ongoing rivalry between Google and Facebook, and Google’s release of Google+1 on Wednesday, I thought it would be fun to envision Facebook’s response to Gmail Motion, if it was real.  As it happens, I had the day off, so took a couple of hours to write, direct and edit a short video response with my friend Jim Lauzon from LaZoom Tours called Facebook Gestures. You can watch the video below. Continue reading >

5 Myths of Net Neutrality

Net neutrality bubbled to the top of the news stack today with the submission by Google and Verizon of their net neutrality principles to the FCC. Bloggers and news outlets cried “The End of the Internet is Nigh” with heated emotional tirades describing apocalyptical scenarios of what would happen to the Internet if net neutrality was ignored.

I started the day mildly in favor of net neutrality. People I respect, like Tim Berners-Lee, Lawrence Lessig and Vint Cerf, support net neutrality, so I thought it was a good thing. But the more reading I did, and the more I thought about the issues, the more I came to the conclusion that “net neutrality”is being redefined in ways that have broad consequences for the future of the Internet. And while I agree with some of the principles of net neutrality, on the whole, I’d rather live in a world without it.

While reading today through articles about net neutrality, I kept running across the same inaccurate claims and doomsday scenarios by people who seemed not to understand the dynamics or history of the Internet. This article goes through these claims and attempts to dispel those myths. Continue reading >

Droid Apps That Have Rocked My World

I’ve had my Droid for five months now, and in those five months it has changed my life. The reason: apps.

Apps are not new. The iPhone may have perfected the distribution of them, but it certainly didn’t invent them. I had apps on my Windows Mobile phone, and before that on my Handspring Visor. In fact, you can trace apps back to the original Apple Newton PDA. (Okay, so Apple DID invent them…just not when people think they did).

But the combination of a phone, GPS, accelerometer, camera, speakerphone and touch screen have given apps a whole new life. So what apps have transformed my life? Well, besides browsing the web, reading e-mail and calling people, I’ve discovered lots of new apps. Continue reading >

Google Fiber for Asheville

Google Fiber for Communities is a new initiative being launched by Google which aims to bring gigabit Internet access to homes within a community yet to be selected. Why does Asheville and the surrounding areas need Internet access which is 100 times faster than the typical broadband connection today? Read on. Continue reading >

The Next Generation Search Engine…Isn’t A Search Engine

Wolfram Alpha and Microsoft Bing were both unveiled last month. Each provides a glimpse into the future of how we’ll use the Internet, and shows that Google has been sleeping on the job. Read on to imagine the future of search on the web.

Home Page Evolution

When I started using the web in the early nineties, search engines were in their infancy. The page you marked as your home page was a link directory. Eventually, the link directory that came to dominate was Yahoo.

And then the paradigm shifted. The web became too big to manually index and organize. The only way to access all the information the Internet had to offer was to use a search engine. And so came Alta Vista, and then Google.

Today I use Google for everything. To find links to sites containing information I need to know, to answer simple questions, to price compare and to find funny videos. Yet while Google sometimes provides answers, it usually only provides links to answers. Obtaining the answer requires me to scour other web sites to extract the information I need.

And yet, with Google at it’s peak, the paradigm is shifting once again. Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. The assumption is that the information already exists, and Google’s mission is just to find it and organize it. With the launch of Wolfram Alpha and Bing, it’s clear that this is no longer true.

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Decomposing Relationships in the Age of Technology

A little over a month ago, I caved. I hadn’t joined a social network for personal reasons since Friendster, where my account went dormant days after I joined. I haven’t been oblivious. I’ve been a user of LinkedIn for years, even giving talks on how to use LinkedIn professionally. And friends had extolled the virtues of Twitter and Tribe and, yes, even MySpace. I just didn’t believe them. They just seemed, well, like…fanatics.

And then it happened. I joined Facebook innocently enough. I was looking to work a little less and connect with friends. Facebook seemed a good way to start expressing my identity and stay in touch with people I don’t get a chance to see often. I liked the Network Updates feature of LinkedIn, and heard Facebook had a similar feature. So I decided to try it.

I got hooked.

The photos, the routine updates, the snippets of previously unknown personal details discovered while browsing profiles of friends. Looking at photos of long-lost friends, photos of their kids. Listening to songs recorded, articles written, art created. Receiving mundane updates about the lives of friends I rarely have time to reach out and connect with. It all has reminded me of the value of friendship and given me a desire to foster and grow deeper friendships. And has got me thinking, what exactly is “friendship”? Continue reading >