Suggestions on How Non-Programmers Can Contribute to Techie Projects

I get asked a lot by people who are interested in helping out open source projects, but have absolutely no programming skills. What can they do? Well, here’s a few ideas how non-programmers can contribute to open source projects.

It is worth noting that it is best to contribute to software that you actually use yourself. That way you feel the benefits.

via How non-programmers can contribute to open source projects |

There are many ways to contribute to an open source project that go well beyond being a crack programmer in the language of the day. Indeed many of the suggestions cover ground that many Teknoids are already familiar with in other contexts. We love documentation, for example. Here’s the list:

  • Use the product
  • Bug test
  • Write documentation
  • Translation
  • Evangelize
  • Donate
  • Be professional

It is possible to help out other projects and organizations, like CALI, using these suggestions. For example, you could help out CALI by using and recommending our resources, reporting bugs you find, or write some docs on how your law school community could use CALI resources. And let us know if you’re doing any of these, we appreciate all of the support we get.


Notes from Drupalcamp Atlanta 10/27/12

These are my notes from dcATL.
  • Josh Clark @globalmoxie
  • The mobile future
  • Mobile is a new platform. What do we do with the new platform?
  • How do we do more with mobile?
  • Sensors give us super powers.
  • Mobile provides the opportunity to interpret the environment, think of augmented reality.
    • Think of ways to use camera and audio in classroom, like prof mentions case and it pop ups on device.
  • Table Drum app usess augmented audio.
  • AnyTouch turns everyday objects into interface objects.
  • Leap Motion moves touch interface into 3d space, natural gestures.
  • Natural gestures are the next break through in interfaces.
  • We need to design for natural gestures.
  • Windows 8 is intended to work with any input interface. Hugely challenging.
  • Medical field is using all sorts of special sensors with mobile devices to drive data collection.
  • Personal sensors make sense of our environment.
  • But we don’t need more operating systems, interfaces.
  • Remote control is an answer.
  • Ambiguous control among devices is coming, think of phones in cars. Your car rings. When you park the car, the interface follows you. Migrating interface.
  •– A day made of glass from Corning.
    • One smart device somewhere that is driven by ambiguous interfaces
  • Wii U
  • Grab Magic
  • Sifteo cubesare social toys.
    • Download software as it needs it.
  • Web is just in case, everything is loaded in case we need it. Needs to move to just in time, software loaded when we need it.
  • Passive interfaces just work on their own, doing the things they need to do to perform the functions they are designed to do.
  • Devices will get both dumber and smarter.
  • Metadata is the new art direction – Ethan Resnick @studip101
  • A cloud of social devices
  • Look beyond the interface, beyond the device, the presentation to the content and the services.
  • Push sensors
  • Think social not FB
  • Your ecosystem
  • We’re all cloud developers
  • Mind your metadata
  • New input methods
  • The future is here
  • Eric Webb @erikwebb
  • See slideshare
  • Evaluating modules
    • Supported version, maintainer rep, usage, # of open issues, usage over time.
    • Record before and after install using Devel module
    • Search for tag ” performance ” to weed out general issues.
    • What to look at
      • When does it run?
      • How does it scale?
      • What if it fails?
      • Does my site care?
      • Do I need this module?
    • ID the problem
    • Where problems occur
      • Page building like views and panels
      • External web services
      • Overall complexity
        • Views in panels in panels….
      • Misconfigured components
    • Keep records, establish a metric, adopt a definition of done, don’t hide behind infrastructure
  • Types of caching
    • App level caching is not really configurable. Tings like menus, forms
    • Component level caching, user facing stuff like blocks, views, panels
      • Best to speed up for authenticated users
    • Page level caching is important mostly for anon users
  • Configuring Drupal

  • Randall Kent @randallkent
  • Web services as the tip of the iceberg.
  • REST is the key to getting at the stuff in Drupal. REST is one way to create an API on Drupal.
  • REST
    • built on http
    • Client/Server
      • Separates ui from data storage
    • Stateless
      • All info necessary to process request must be included in the request itself
    • Cacheable
    • Layered
    • Uniform interface
  • /myapi/node – gets XML
  • /myapi/node.json – get JSON
  • REST console for Chrome
    • DrupalREST.php
  • See
  • David Bassendine @dbassendine
  • Open data, social, business tools
  • Few modules for consuming services
  • Always start with looking on line for a module
  • REST vs SOAP
  • Get to know the API you are working with
    • URL and path structure
    • Testing in browser for GET, POST requires extension/plugin
  • Services client for D7 will consume Services from another Drupal instance
  • REST API and Query API handle some RESTful APIs that serve json
    • See red mine module for example
  • Core HTTP API for other services
    • drupal_http_request($url,$options(headers,methods,data))
    • Slightly diff D6 & D7
  • Last 2 require custom modules to do the work
  • Krumo –
  • Talking to Web Services – Resources

  • Matthew Connerton @connerton
  • AJAX allways for there fresh of data in the browser page with refreshing the whole page.

    Sample code for AJAX in Drupal7
  • Replaces AHAH, which is a good thing. Pulls lots in crooks stuff
  • “use-ajax” class
    • drupal_add_library(drupal.ajax) to get Ajax in.
    • Pulls jquery in
  • $form[‘#ajax’]
    • drupal_add_library(drupal.ajax) to get Ajax in.
    • Blur is the default trigger.
  • It’s may ease the pain of the auth code stuff.
  • Check Drupal API for AJAX Framework docs.
    • includes/
  • Using #states in Form API
    • conditional fields moduleadds a UI to #states
      • Adds manage dependencies to content types
    • drupal_process_states
    • #states may be faster than #ajax
  • Ctools modal to open modal boxes for editing and such.
    • “ctools-use-modal” class
  • Doug Vann
  • Module filter is cool
  • DraggableViews
    • Makes rows of views draggable
    • Can be rearranged by drag and drop
    • Has AJAX
    • No relationship required
    • Could use this to provide a sort on Lesson topics based on order in the topic grid
    • Use this to rearrange stuff on the topic list view itself on the home page
    • No subsets or at least not easily handled
  • Nodequeue
    • Collect nodes in an arbitrary order
    • Requires relationship in order to bring stuff into proper scope

The HuffingtonPost Provides Open Source API For Public Polls |

The initial release is big. It includes more than 215,000 responses to questions from more than 13,000 polls, which the HuffPost Pollster team has organized by subject and geography into more than 200 charts. Per their announcement, “the data feeds operate in real time, so shortly after we add a new poll to our database, itll appear in the HuffPost Pollster APIs responses and calculations.”Adding to the coolness is that the effort relies heavily on open source tools. The HuffPost Pollster team is publishing the data as an HTTP-based application programming interface, or API, with JSON and XML responses. They are releasing the data under a creative commons license.

via The HuffingtonPost releases Pollster, open source API for public polls |

This lets developers get access to a large body of polling data from over 13,000 polls. The API provides JSON and XML responses to queries sent over HTTP allowing developers to parse and display the information in their applications. This represents a major open source resource in the political field.

GOV.UK Goes Beta With Open Source, Mobile Friendly, Scalable Platform

The British Government has launched a beta of its GOV.UK platform, testing a single domain for that could be used throughout government. The new single government domain will eventually replace Directgov, the UK government portal which launched back in 2004. GOV.UK is aimed squarely as delivering faster digital services to citizens through a much improved user interface at decreased cost.

Unfortunately, far too often .gov websites cost millions and don’t deliver as needed. GOV.UK is open source, mobile-friendly, platform agnostic, uses HTML5, scalable, hosted in the cloud and open for feedback. Those criteria collectively embody the default for how government should approach their online efforts in the 21st century.

via With GOV.UK, British government redefines the online government platform – O’Reilly Radar.

The site seems pretty easy to use and is very responsive. I could see this as a model for other governments. Check it out at



CUNY’s Open Source “Commons in a Box” A Big Win For Open Source in Academia

With a $107,500 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, CUNY has announced that it will now begin work on the “Commons in a Box” project, assembling its software into a single installation package. This means that other colleges and universities will be able to easily create their own academic platforms. News of the project came with the announcement that the Modern Language Association will take part in its development and will use the platform to create an MLA Commons for its members.

The project has been built using open-source tools, including WordPress (which enables multisite blogs), BuddyPress (a WordPress plugin that turns the blog into a social network), and MediaWiki (the Wikimedia Foundation’s wiki software). As a proponent of open-source technologies in education, that makes the Commons in a Box project a win in my book. It isn’t simply that the project will put the tools to create their own academic networks into the hands of schools; it’s that the Academic Commons development team has been sharing its coding back with the open source community, with WordPress plugins for example that have been downloaded over 100,000 times.

Inside Higher Ed: “Commons in a Box” & the Importance of Open Academic Networks

CUNY’s project joins a number of other major university projects including Open.Michigan, ELMS @ Penn State, and Open Scholar @ Harvard that are using open source software and licensing to develop sophisticated collaborative learning and research spaces. Given the collaborative nature of legal practice, law schools should be at the forefront of these sorts of projects.

LexisNexis to Open Source Hadoop Alternative HPCC Systems

LexisNexis is planning to release its internally developed supercomputing platform as open source, providing developers with an alternative to the Hadoop framework for large-scale data processing, the company said Wednesday.
LexisNexis has been developing the technology, dubbed HPCC Systems, for the past 10 years, according to the company, which provides a variety of information services to legal firms, libraries, corporations and government entities.

via Hadoop alternative to be open sourced – Computerworld.

It will run on commodity Linux boxes and will be released in Community and Enterprise flavors. The Community version will have a GNU Affero GPL v3 license.

And there is one important note:

LexisNexis stressed that HPCC Systems won’t involve the release of any of its “data sources, data products, the unique data linking technology, or any of the linking applications that are built into its products.”

It will be very interesting to see how this develops.


Oracle Gives OpenOffice to the Apache Software Foundation Starting Incubation Process

IBM, which had lobbied for Oracle to spin out the OpenOffice project after it was clear that the company had no commercial interests in continuing its development, also issued a statement today, saying that “We look forward to engaging with other community members to advance the technology beginning with out strong support of the incubation process for OpenOffice at Apache.”
But those community members may be elsewhere, as the creation of The Document Foundation included some of the leading developers on the OpenOffice project. While Oracle has handed over its OpenOffice code, the move does not reunite these two groups.
The Document Foundation stressed the importance of bringing these communities together in its statement in response to todays news: “The step Oracle has taken today was no doubt taken in good faith, but does not appear to directly achieve this goal. The Apache community, which we respect enormously, has very different expectations and norms – licensing, membership and more – to the existing and LibreOffice projects. We regret the missed opportunity but are committed to working with all active community members to devise the best possible future for LibreOffice and

via Oracle Donates OpenOffice to the Apache Software Foundation.

Seems like a good move all around, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to undo the mess that followed Oracle taking over Sun and the OpenOffice project.


Beware of Openwashing as “Open” Becomes the New Black

The old “open vs. proprietary” debate is over and open won. As IT infrastructure moves to the cloud, openness is not just a priority for source code but for standards and APIs as well. Almost every vendor in the IT market now wants to position its products as “open.” Vendors that don’t have an open source product instead emphasize having a product that uses “open standards” or has an “open API.”

“Openwashing” is a term derived from “greenwashing” to refer to dubious vendor claims about openness. Openwashing brings the old “open vs. proprietary” debate back into play – not as “which one is better” but as “which one is which?”

What does it mean to be open? And how can you tell if a product is really “open”?

via How to Spot Openwashing.

The article goes on to recommend paying close attention to licensing, the community, and a vendors proprietary products to see if their software and APIs are truly open source or just wrapped in a open blanket to take advantage of the latest buzz words.

Over the years I’ve seen a number of instances of openwashing, most notably with companies who built commercial products around a core of open source projects. The companies would make big noise about being open source and such, but community releases would just be a mash-up of other open source projects with the glue and features that comprised the real product they wanted to sell held back as proprietary.

So, buyer/developer beware. That open source based product that looks so cool may really just be a mirage.

Guess What? Diaspora Not Bug Free and Totally Secure

The code release was accompanied by a warning that it is by no means bug free. “We know there are security holes and bugs, and your data is not yet fully exportable,” Diaspora said in announcing the Alpha release.
Even with that caveat, though, early reviewers have been unsparing in their criticism of Diaspora’s security features — or lack thereof.

via Facebook wannabe Diaspora hit on security issues – Computerworld.

OK, so the initial release of Diaspora for developers is out and it isn’t ready for prime time. Hmm, let’s take 4 college students give them $200K and 90 days and see if they can create a “better” Facebook. Really? C’mon, lighten up. This project is just in its infancy, of course the code is a bit dodgy. But remember it’s an open source project now, so don’t just complain, join the community and contribute.