Open Source Musings The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of an open source guy

Working in open source on the web with Sandstorm Oasis

The word 'WEB' as a tag cloud

It can be hard to get away from working on the web. Doing that is incredibly convenient: as long as you have an internet connection, you can work from just about anywhere on just about any device.

The main problem with most web-based productivity tools — like Google’s suite, Zoho Office, and Office365 — is that they’re closed source and that your account and your data exists at the whim of large corporations. I’m sure you’ve heard numerous stories of, say, Google locking or removing accounts without warning.

If that happens to you, you’ve lost access to what’s yours. So what’s a FLOSS advocate who wants to work on the web to do? Turn to Sandstorm Oasis.

Let’s take a look at it.

A few links of interest - 16 August, 2016

Thoughts about open

A sign that reads 'Open'

Back in 2015, I attended an event in Wellington, New Zealand called Open Source Open Society. It was unlike any other open source event I’ve been to. The focus wasn’t on technology, and the attendees weren’t primarily techies. Instead, the event gathered techies, creatives, people working in the social sphere, and folks working in government to learn about and discuss how open source can change society.

If you’re interest, you can read my recap of the event. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you.

Done? Then let’s move along.

Open Source Open Society got me thinking yet again about what open means.

Technology drew me to open source. What kept me there was more than the technology. It was the community and the idea that open source could be far more than code.

So, what does open mean? Here are a few thoughts:

Open means access to data. Specifically, data the governments collect. About everything. As a developer, as an activist, as a journalist, as a citizen you should be able to peer behind the curtain and see how governments are using tax dollars. You should be able to get numbers and statistics that can help you pinpoint problems and find solutions to those problems. You should be able to use data to build tools that can help make cities, nations, and societies better.

Open means breaking down barriers, tearing down silos. It means sharing information with peers and colleagues. It means teaching others your kung fu (whatever that kung fu is). The goal? To make your community, your company, your project, your family a better place. To help everyone make better decisions, to share and spread ideas, to make people just a little more self sufficient.

Open means inclusion. At Open Source Open Society, Jessica Lord (a developer at GitHub) said If open source is for everyone, it should look like anyone. No matter who you are, not matter what level of technical knowledge or ability you have something to contribute. You have an opinion or an idea. You have a voice. And your gender, race, age, or beliefs shouldn’t be a barrier to participating. In anything.

Something Dave Lane of the New Zealand Open Source Society said sums up the meaning of open for me: Openness is essentially a demonstration of love for the world.

I can’t add anything to that, so I’ll end it here.

Free Your Stuff: Open sourcing reviews and other casual contributions

A padlock with a key in it

What do you do if you want to get your data out of your favorite website, but that site doesn’t allow you to easily export your data? If you’re software developer Erik Moeller, you get coding.

Moeller created Free Your Stuff, which is:

an “open source Chrome/Chromium browser extension that lets you download and, optionally, release under a free license any contributions you’ve made to other websites. The extension can currently get your data from Yelp,, Goodreads, IMDB, Quora, and TripAdvisor.

I asked Moeller a few questions about Free Your Stuff, which he graciously answered. He even provided the title for this post!

Here’s what Moeller had to say about his brainchild.

3 recommended books on open source

A stack of books

(Note: Two of these reviews originally appeared, in slightly different forms, as part of the 2015 and 2016 summer reading lists at They appear here via a Creative Commons license.)

When most of us think about books on open source, what comes to mind are usually technical tomes — books covering certain technologies, books which teach you to code, that sort of thing. But open source goes beyond that. And so do books on open source.

I’d like to share three books on the subject of open source with you. They might just get you thinking about open source in slightly different ways.