I would give everything I own for the chance to interview Mary Jen Burton Jessie. My mother’s grandmother was born in 1875 near Aiken, South Carolina, 12 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Without ever seeing a picture or drawing of her, I visualize a stocky build, prominent cheekbones, rounded shoulders. All physical trademarks courtesy of my maternal side.
And if I thought my mother Eloise got carried away by birthing 10 children, Mary Jen one-upped her. The 11 surviving children she and Henry Jessie created are half the leaves on part of my family tree I’ve been able to pluck and prune together since joining Ancestry.com back in 2018.
Proctorio, a piece of exam surveillance software designed to keep students from cheating while taking tests, relies on open-source software that has a history of racial bias issues, according to a report by Motherboard. The issue was discovered by a student who figured out how the software did facial detection, and discovered that it fails to recognize black faces over half the time.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $1.4 million to Michigan State University for Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade, or Enslaved.org, a first-of-its-kind database containing millions of records cataloging the lives of enslaved Africans and their descendants. Enslaved.org, developed and maintained by MSU researchers, links data collections from multiple universities, archives, museums and family history centers. The
Mellon Foundation funded the initial two phases of Enslaved.org – the first beginning in 2018 and the second in 2020 – which provided support for both proof-of-concept and implementation.
The Urban Innovative Actions project CoGhent aims to connect citizen-sourced cultural heritage and the collections of the city’s museums through a central open data system. In addition, the project aims to improve cultural participation and social cohesion in public and third places through the use of these data and visualizing it in an immersive digital experience room.
By linking heritage on a city level and using it to capture and show stories in cultural public spaces, the goal is to leverage digitized heritage to be used in an engaging and purposeful way, as a shared connection amongst citizens.
Roughly 30 years later, open source did not lay the tech giants low, as they feared. It played out that way because, after seeing what open source could do, rather than distancing themselves from it, many traditional tech powers lined up to grab a piece of the open-source pie. The cozying up didn’t happen all at once, but brick by brick, open source rose from a foundation to a towering evidence.
So why am I discussing this now? Not to dispense an open-source history lesson — there are plenty of those — but to discern the locus open source has reached, and extrapolate its trajectory from here, in light of recent indicative developments.
Nineteen years ago, a group of international researchers met in Budapest to discuss a persistent problem. While experts published an enormous amount of scientific and scholarly material, few of these works were accessible. New research remained locked behind paywalls run by academic journals.
The result was researchers struggled to learn from one another. They could not build on one another’s findings to achieve new insights. In response to these problems, the group developed the Budapest Open Access Initiative , a declaration calling for free and unrestricted access to scholarly journal literature in all academic fields.
Vele was 16 when she embarked a slave ship in 1832 at Cameroons River in West Africa. Precillia Cozzens, 35, was registered as a slave in New Orleans in 1846. Domingos, age 6, was listed in an inventory of enslaved people at Aguiar Plantation, Brazil, in 1806.
The records of these three are among more than 750,000 of people, places, events, and sources available to search in a new open-source database called Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade (Enslaved.org), a repository of information and stories about those who were enslaved or enslavers, worked in the slave trade, or helped emancipate enslaved people. The entries run from the 15th century to the late 1800s and span Western Europe, Africa, and North and South America.
It’s not possible to go very far in IT without encountering the term “open source”. For non-IT people, open source is simply software for which the source code has been made freely available for modification and enhancement by anyone, with its creator waiving any rights to profit from its use by others.
Open source software is ubiquitous. Source code controls the computer programs and applications that our technology runs on, making it part of almost everything we do—from the cars we drive to the mobile phones we use.
We’re about to conclude another decade of open source, and what a long, strange trip it has been. Reading back through predictions made in 2009, no one had the foggiest clue that GitHub would change software development forever (and for everyone), or that Microsoft would go from open source pariah to the world’s largest contributor, or a host of other dramatic changes that became the new normal during a decade that was anything but normal.
We are all open sourcerors now as we round out the decade. Let’s look back at some of the most significant open source innovations that got us here.
Mårten Mickos has been around the open source world for a long time. He has seen the early days when open source was not taken very seriously, but now he is heading HackerOne, a company that’s building a massive community of white hat hackers to help companies create secure systems. Security and open source might seem like different worlds, but Mickos sees strong influences from one to the other.
Today, open source has become the de facto software development model, but it has not always been that way. “In 2001, when I joined my MySQL as its CEO, people didn’t believe in open source. It looked cute, like a toy. We looked like a small startup. They didn’t have the courage to follow us, but slowly and surely it started growing,” said Mickos.