Community Thanks

Who are your Free (open) Software heroes?

This was a question asked last October as part of the Linux Voice podcast. The full series of responses can be found here: and it’s well worth a read.

This got me thinking about who has influenced me most in my use of open source and open data. The list could get incredibly long if I was to name all those who have been involved with the software I use on a daily basis, but I want to name five people or groups who challenged my thinking on the use of software and data, and changed the way I approach computing and the ‘digital ecosystem’ (for want of a better phrase!).  I don’t want this to become an awkward read for those listed, so I will endeavour to just state why they influenced me and state right now – THANK YOU!

  • Chess Griffin – Chess produced and presented the Linux Reality podcast at a time when I was just starting to increase my use of Linux and open source software. This podcast helped me understand some of the concepts surrounding Linux etc. Although the last episode of this podcast was created in 2008, the series is still widely referenced as ‘must listen to’.
  • Linux Voice team – Formally with Linux Format magazine, the four main chaps in the Linux Voice team have (unknowingly) been with me throughout my dabbling with open source and Linux. And they currently produce one of the most accessible magazines on the subject, so go subscribe 🙂
  • Marcus Neteler – I met Marcus years ago when I was helping deliver a geospatial workshop that used MapInfo and ArcGIS (8.3 I think!). He was one of the attendees and did the whole workshop using GRASS instead. I had never heard of GRASS, or come across open source at the time, and it totally confused me as to how a user was allowed get into the source code and fix issues as they cropped up. Probably more than anyone else, Marcus opened my eyes to the possibilities of open source.
  • Jo Cook – During a previous job role I emailed Jo a couple of questions about open source geospatial software as she was posting regularly about this on her blog at the time. I didn’t expect more than a couple of sentences in reply, but Jo took the time to layout different options, the strengths of specific software packages, alternatives to existing proprietary software etc. and we pinged a number of emails back and forth. This gave me the confidence to start using FOSS4G as part of my day-to-day work.
  • Mark BragginsMark helped create and publicise the Hampshire Hub (ProtoHub in those days!). This was in the relatively early days of opening up spatial data and it made me realise that more data can and should be open.

If you are reading this post and you can identify teams or individuals who have influenced your use of open source/data then consider giving them a shout-out too.

It’s not much but I hope that this post has helped highlight some great people who contribute their time and effort to making openness something that everyone can benefit from. As for me, I want to continue to become more involved with the open community. I will promote the open community where possible, and my aim is to follow as many of the suggestions made by Steven Feldman in his excellent ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch‘ presentation as I can.