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Call for Code

Learn more about IBM’s open source initiatives, including the Call for Code.

Dr. Angel Diaz is the face of open source at IBM as Vice President of Developer Technology, Open Source & Advocacy. At the recent Open Source Summit in Vancouver, we spoke with Diaz to talk about the importance of open source at IBM and how it’s changing the world around us.

LF: What’s the importance of open source in the modern economy?

Angel Diaz: We are living in a technology-fueled business renaissance — cloud, data, artificial intelligence, and the redefinition of the transaction. There is constant democratization of technology. This democratization allows us as computer scientists to innovate higher orders of the stack. You don’t have to worry about compute, storage and network; you get that in the cloud for example, but what has been driving that democratization? Open source.

Angel Diaz, Vice President of Developer Technology, Open Source & Advocacy, IBM (Image copyright: Swapnil Bhartiya)

Open source has been the fuel, the innovation engine, the skills engine, the level playing field that allows us as a society to build more, to build faster and move forward and the rate and pace of that is increasing.

What’s really nice about that is we are doing it in a controlled way with open governance and leveraging all the work that we do in consortia such as the Linux Foundation.

LF: Today, open source has become so pervasive that the question isn’t who is using it, but who is not using it. Can you point to some moments in history that changed everything and the industry realized that this is the right path for innovation, collaboration, and development?

Diaz: That’s a great question. I think there are two such moments. I addressed it in my talk here. The first such moment was in the late eighties, early nineties when, as an industry, we came together and rallied around things like Linux, Apache, Eclipse.

Our products have upwards of 75 percent open source. We are not leeches; we contribute as much as we use. Back in the nineties, we protected open source with intellectual property. It fueled innovation as it gave people the permission and freedom to go ahead and contribute without any worry.

That’s a pivot point number one. Time occurred and a lot of stardust happened. Over the past 10 years or so, we started to create centers of gravity around cloud data, artificial intelligence, transactions and so on.

These centers of gravity came together in consortia with open governance models. This is really important because what that allowed us to do was to create an open architecture and open cloud architecture.

There is one more moment, the third moment where we are now. It’s about individuals. The individual really matters and there are so many new computer scientists across a diverse set of underrepresented groups that it’s exploding.

How we behave in open source is important and that boils down to being a mentor for others. It’s around code, content, and community. So I think the next renaissance of open source is going to be grounded in our ability to connect those three things and help people celebrate their education process, their ability to connect with others like them to be mentored. And then conduct mentoring themselves.

LF: While everything looks rosy, there are some challenges.  Can you elaborate?

Diaz: Nothing is ever rosy. There’s always a lot of work as blood, sweat, and tears – the individual contributor doing the pull requests, submitting code. It’s a lot of work. If we can stick to the company side of the equation, I see organizations think that open source is something that they monetize quickly and that’s not the reality. It’s about creating an ecosystem where everybody monetizes. People need to understand the difference between a real open source, which is a meritocracy based system where everybody can contribute, vs closed source where an organization controls everything tightly. Open source is about open governance – it is not about controlling the commit process.

LF: Once in a while, we see the case of open source companies trying to change the license to survive, as they try to monetize quickly. Do you worry that we might go backward and return to proprietary software?

Diaz: No, I don’t think so. I think the process is pretty well understood, and organizations that adopt the open governance model are successful. I think there’s enough momentum. It’s just a matter of companies understanding how to behave in that world.

LF: How important is open source for IBM?

Diaz: Open source has been in our DNA for a long time, probably more than any other company that I know of. I joined IBM in the mid-nineties at IBM research. I got involved with open source in the early days working with Tim Berners-Lee on web standards. I worked on Linux and many other open source projects. Open source is how we like to create ecosystems and skills. That’s how we drive innovation for our clients helping them to be more productive.

LF: Does open source have any impact beyond the IT world?

Diaz: Yes. In fact, just recently IBM partnered up with United Nations Human Rights, The American Red Cross, and The Linux Foundation to launch something called Call for Code.

It’s not just about the code; it’s about how you use the code for good. We have launched a worldwide hack which ends on September 28, 2018. There’s still time to participate. But Call for Code is the place where developers can submit code and win a contest for good. This year we’re preparing for disasters. It is from what I can see the world’s largest hack ever, and it’s focused for the greater good. I think that really puts a good light on open source.

LF: So it’s not coding for the sake of coding, it’s for some greater good?

Diaz: Exactly. Think about it. We are going to put the winning entries into production. If it’s an app, or whatever gets built, saves one life, it’s worth it. It’ll probably save tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of lives.

IBM has committed to the project for five years. It’s just been incredible to see tens of thousands of developers registering, participating and being part of this endeavor. It doesn’t matter if you’re a developer or a data scientist or even if you’re just a subject matter expert or someone who cares about preparing for disasters, sign up and register because teams are forming. Someone may need somebody who is a professional on hurricanes, you can help. The best teams that I know of are multidisciplinary. It’s not just for developers. Join!

This article was sponsored by IBM and written by The Linux Foundation.

Call for Code

Todd Moore, Vice President Open Technology, IBM, speaks about the Call for Code initiative.

Open source is about community. At IBM, we have a commitment to open source and our developers are passionate about contributing back to open source. I’ve had the privilege to work with organizations like The Linux Foundation, Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Node.js Foundation, JS Foundation, Cloud Foundry Foundation, and many others. I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of communities to come together to grow an ecosystem, develop technology, and accelerate innovation. There’s also a human part to open source – a collective responsibility that we have to the world. There is work we can do that goes beyond developing platforms to grow our businesses and solve technical challenges. We can do more by focusing our combined developers, who already work together in open source, on critical problems that face humanity.

David Clark Cause is a company that creates purpose based initiatives and brings stakeholders together to tackle a common cause. Last year, David Clark Cause came to us with an opportunity to rally developers around a common cause and have a lasting impact.  We’ve done work like this before – for example, our IBM Foundation is working with the Open Medical Records (OpenMRS) project to create an oncology suite for use in countries in Africa and other regions using this open technology. The IBM Corporate Citizenship Office has helped deploy software from the Sahana Foundation’s open source disaster management solutions in over a dozen countries.

Given 2017 was one of the worst years on record for natural disasters, we decided to focus the efforts of 22 million developers around the world on this cause through the Call for Code initiative. David Clark Cause gave us the inspiration, and other partners like the United Nations, the American Red Cross, and The Linux Foundation came together to pool our collective efforts. Since 2000, natural disasters have directly affected 2.5 billion people, with 1.5 trillion in economic impact since 2003. And over the last 30 years, flooding is up over 240%. As developers, we can help people be more prepared, help them during a natural disaster, and help them recover afterward. We can make communities more resilient together.

Call for Code judges include iconic developers like Linus Torvalds and Tim Berners-Lee. The winning team and two semifinalists will receive support from The Linux Foundation to host their submission as an open source project and build a community around it, ensuring that it is deployable around the world in the areas of greatest need. Please join us- learn more at callforcode.org.

Call for Code

Answer the Call for Code. (Image: developerWorks TV)

The Call for Code initiative aims to harness the collective power of the global open source developer community against the growing threat of natural disasters. According to IBM, “the goal is to develop technology solutions that significantly improve disaster preparedness, provide relief from devastation caused by fires, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, and benefit Call for Code’s charitable partners — the United Nations Human Rights Office and the American Red Cross.”

In a recent webcast — How 22M Developers Take on Disaster Preparedness — Mary Glackin, SVP of Science & Forecast at The Weather Company and IBM Business, spoke with representatives from participating organizations about the initiative and some of the specific goals it aims to achieve.

The Call for Code is “encouraging the global community of developers to stand up for the rights of others,” said Laurent Sauveur, Chief of External Relations, UN Human Rights.   

“It’s an exciting cause and it’s a meaningful one,” said Trishan de Lanerolle, Program Manager, Networking at The Linux Foundation, which will host the code developed through this initiative.

Additionally, Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux and Git, will join a panel of technologists to evaluate submissions. Once complete, the winning solution will be deployed in the real world. Angel Diaz, VP Developer, IBM, explained that The Linux Foundation will host the code under the Apache 2.0 license, which will allow the code to evolve and improve even beyond the scope of this contest.

Practical Solutions

“Technology can be a wonderful and very powerful force for good,” said Sauveur, and it can improve things like tracking of aid delivery and communication in crisis situations to help pinpoint areas of need.

Getting people what they need, when they need it, and where they need it to alleviate suffering is key, said Brad Kieserman, Vice President of Disaster Cycle Services American Red Cross. And, the science of where is critical: where is the damage, where are the resources, where do they need to be?

Predictive analytics are at the center of this practice, said Kieserman, to help visualize data relating to the movement of people and resources.  “As models of service delivery improve, we can better understand the need and increase efficiency.”

Ben Narasin, Venture Partner, New Enterprise Associates offered tips for approaching the development challenge. When building such solutions, he said, it’s important to consider scale.  You need an idea that can scale, you need to build code that can scale, and you need to look at building a team that can scale.

“You cannot look at this from the perspective of ‘I have a cool technology that I want to deploy that will solve this problem.’” said de Lanerolle. “You have to think about your product being used in resource-poor environments.” For example, you have to consider things like connectivity and battery life and how to get your data at the end of the day. Such last mile challenges are critical, and open source can help.

Don’t reinvent the wheel, said de Lanerolle. “Take the opportunity to look at what’s out there.” He suggests looking at “existing technologies that are backed by open source projects where you can build resources that are available for everybody rather than just building out a one-time solution.”

Commit to the Cause

If you’re a coder, sign up, and if you’re interested, spread the word, said Glackin. “We can all be involved. Let’s all answer the call for code and make a difference in the world.”

We invite you to amplify the initiative and join the call. You can learn more about the Call for Code and watch the complete webcast here: http://ibm.biz/BdYxHZ.