Get cooking with open source

I’ve been doing open source for about ten years now.  I think that many people are interested in freeing up their desktops, but they just don’t know where to begin.  Most people aren’t necessarily technically curious.  They take the computer they buy with the software that comes on it.  In general much of their requirements are met through the basic office, email and browsing tools.  When a need arises… or they get a tip from a friend… they download what they are directed to, by friends, web sites, or advertising.

It’s like food.  Many people don’t really go exploring much.  They eat what’s convenient, not what’s healthy.  People know deep down that they shouldn’t be eating junk, but all you have to do is talk into the speaker and you get a bag of instant food.  Besides, cleaning is a chore!  Shopping is a chore.  Who wants to do all that maintenance?

If you know anyone who has had a serious confrontation with diabetes you know that all of these things can change.  I have a friend who was forced to make changes in his life and start eating healthier.  He taught me that it’s not hard to clean up your diet and that when you learn a little more about what’s out there that it’s not much harder to eat well than it is to eat junk.  He said that the trick is to get away from the sugar and salt-coated taste you’ve been trained to expect and enjoy more what food has to offer.  Does that mean his diet is bland?  Not at all.  It’s full of color and flavor and variety.  He just needed someone to help him understand his options and what the so-called “easy choice” was costing him.

There are some of you who, like me, found out long ago that there were alternatives to the technical junk that we’ve been served.  We’ve learned a few skills to find and prepare our software without having to spend so much money.  We’ve grown to expect software to be multi-faceted, interconnected and multi-platform.  So, just to stretch the food analogy a little further, I think it’s time we started our own cooking channel.

Have you ever seen a cooking channel?  It’s filled with people who are passionate about what you can do in the kitchen.  Some shows are geared toward people who want to be fast and healthy.  They show you how to do things fresher without spending much more time than you do defrosting boxes.  Others are geared toward the fancy skills and advanced presentation.  Still others are about understanding how food works so that you can experiment a little on your own.  All of them have an audience.

So, how do we start our channel.  Why not here on My developerWorks?  You may have noticed that there have been some changes in capabilities.  Updates to the backend have provided sections for files, wikis and improved functionality for the existing sections.  I have created a new wiki called “Real World Open Source.”  I want to make this our own open source cooking channel where we really bring everything together.  We help people appreciate how to let go of the junk and how easy it is to start doing thing that will make a difference for them as individuals and for technology in general.

How do we do this?  Start with the Wiki.  If you are a chef, this is the place to explain the solutions that you have in place and the best ways to make it work.  Feel free to point to existing information that people should know about.  Our goal is to make it all easier to find.  If you are someone who wants to learn, then use this as a place to put up questions and things that you think need to be filled in.

Join the group too.  Besides the Wiki I have a group called Real World Open Source.  Membership in this group will help us keep track with each other and to have some of the developmental discussion that is necessary for this sort of thing.  It also has the ability to set up tasks and things that we need help with.

Why am I doing this?  I feel that I’ve derived a lot of benefit from what I receive from the open source community.  I think that many of the goals that technology can achieve for helping people accomplish more are best provided in an environment of openness, where commercial and community products can work seamlessly together.  This environment will grow only as a result of the demands of users.  We’ve seen progress.  I think that many more will make the move if we can just teach them how to cook a little.

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