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Good Faith Collaboration (Part Two) December 30, 2011

I enjoyed learning about collaborative culture definitions from the book. Henry Jenkins defines participatory culture as one in which there are low barriers of engagement, support for creation and sharing, and some form of mentorship or socialization, and members believe that their contributions matter and they “feel some degree of social connection with one another”.

I agree with the author that openness and incrementalism may not be enough to create good quality content. “Wikipedia must reconcile their vision with the inescapable social reality of irritating personalities, philosophical difference and external threats”. He notes that “goodwill is not always necessary to Wikipedia’s production”.

Clay Shirky said: “Wikipedia is the product not of collectivism but of unending argumentation; the corpus grows not from harmonious thought but from constant scrutiny and emendation”.

Einbinder writes in the introduction to his critique, “since encyclopedia is a mirror of contemporary learning, it offers a valuable opportunity to examine prevailing attitudes and beliefs in a variety of fields.” Indeed, problems both in community’s culture and its content are a representation of our society.

“Thomas Mann, a librarian, argues we would be better … (know of) the pathologies that infect social organisms (ex. short-sightedness, selfishness, and ignorance are constant factors in human life), rather than celebrating the unproven presumption that technology can cure all. Wikipedia is said to favor mediocrity over expertise”.

It goes even further with this caricature: “fanatical mob producing Wikipedia exhibits little wisdom and is more like a Maoist cult of monkeys banging away on the keyboards and thumb pads of their gadgets, disturbing the noble repose of scholars and displacing high-quality content from the market place”.

I would say that any criticism should be constructive. I have no doubt that technology is capable of curing a lot of social problems; it just needs to be redesigned so that people cultivate their best qualities while using it.

Ideally, contributors should become more tolerant and compassionate in the process of collaboration. Today Wikipedia volunteers are restricted to behave with civility, but do they truly feel compassion to those with opposing views? Surely, they have a sense of purpose and connection to others, but at times Wikipedia becomes a vanity project for those proving their personal significance at the expense of others.

Georg von Krogh, in his article on “Care in knowledge creation”, identifies five dimensions relevant to the successful creation of knowledge within a community: mutual trust, active empathy, access to help, lenience in judgment, and courage. Benkler and Nissenbaum argue that “commons-based peer-production” entails virtues that are both self-regarding” (ex. autonomy, independence, creativity) and ”other-regarding” (ex. generosity, altruism, camaraderie, cooperation, and civic virtue).

The author says that “the central concern seems to be how we can conceive of our humanity in working together and its implications”. His definition of good faith is “assuming the best of others, striving for patience, civility, and humor”, and Wikipedia is trying to act with it.

From 2004 Letter from the Founder: “None of us is perfect in these matters; such is the human condition. But each of us can try every day, in our editing, in our mailing posts, in our irc chats, and in our private emails, to reach for a higher standard than the Internet usually encourages, a standard of rational benevolence and love”.

Personally, I think that Wikipedia is a great invention and a great resource, but it is just the beginning of an even better model of gathering knowledge and resolving misunderstandings and conflicts. Let’s call it 1.0 version where people work together towards one great goal. It is a good start. Next version would align personal goals of the members with community’s goals, and help them rediscover and develop themselves in the process of compassionate creation.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer


Open Source Educator (Part Seven: Recognition and Getting Paid) March 7, 2011

<polyachka> what do you think is the role of incentives for volunteers?

<mchua> I think volunteers become volunteers for lots of different reasons.

<mchua> Oftentimes they’ll bring these reasons in themselves. You don’t have to hang a million dollar prize – the rewards are typically not monetary.

<polyachka> but still don’t they want some kind of recognition

<mchua> Sure, but that’s not the reason they start doing the work. They want to fix something to make a program better for themselves, they want to learn about a certain aspect of technology and so they’re trying to tinker with it, in the case of Sugar sometimes they want to make something for their kid, their little sibling.

<mchua> Once they do that work, yes, of course they want recognition for it.

<mchua> But you don’t start doing open source to get famous… there are far more time-efficient ways of getting in the news. 🙂

<polyachka> what forms of recognition

<mchua> Most people start contributing to a community because there’s something they want done, and they figure that it’s going to get done faster and/or better if they take a crack at it.

<mchua> Recognition – having other people use your work, give feedback, say thank you. Having your code reused and cited. Having people write back and say “thanks for that patch, the kids love this new block in TurtleArt.”

<mchua> Showing up at events and having folks you’ve never met in person before walk up to you and go “oh, you’re the one who translated my documentation, thank you!”

<mchua> Being accepted as part of a community you respect.

<polyachka> and how to get from non-paid contribution to paid, so that you can support yourself while doing what you love?

<mchua> So, it’s my opinion that “getting paid to do open source” is *not* the right endgame for everyone.

<mchua> If that’s your goal, that’s great, but not everyone wants to do it as a dayjob.

<mchua> What’s worked for me is that I just do what I love to do, get really good at it, and eventually someone hires me to do it because I’m providing tremendous value to a community their business relies upon.

<mchua> You build your portfolio as a contributor first, *then* you can apply for jobs at places at Red Hat.

<polyachka> i asked that because many good volunteers have jobs they don’t like but do free work in the field they love

<mchua> But other people want to use open source contribution as a way to enrich the jobs they already have.

<polyachka> it seems that you managed to do it right – get paid for work you love doing!

<mchua> For instance, a lot of folks in the Fedora community are sysadmins for universities, various sorts of industries…

<mchua> they don’t get paid to work on Fedora per se, but Fedora is a place where they can work on things that make their job easier, network with other sysadmins doing the same sort of thing.

<mchua> It’s sort of like why you would join a professional organization – your employer won’t pay you to attend, say, Architectural Society meetings, but hanging out with other architects might help you be a better architect for your company, and it’s fun.

<mchua> So sometimes you can use open source as a sandbox on the side to work on something that you can then take back to your job, to your boss, and make your career more interesting to you.

<mchua> It would depend a lot on the individual situation, really. If you want to get a job doing open source, think about “okay, what do I like to do in open source that somebody would actually pay me for?”

<mchua> For instance, there are plenty of people who use open source tools and designs while freelancing for their clients – “I’ll build you a website, and I’ll do it in Drupal.”

<mchua> or “I’ll design a logo for you, and I’ll use Inkscape.”

<mchua> Drawing on open source tools and communities as a means to do a job you love rather than the objective of the job itself.


Open Source Educator (Part Four: Grassroots) March 2, 2011

<mchua> But the community stuff was always where my heart was.

<mchua> I love working with open source communities because they’re where the passion is – these are people who are in a project for the love of it, for the most part – not because they’re being forced to do it for a living; it’s wonderful to work with people who love what they do and really believe in it.

<polyachka> and how long did you work for OLPC?

<mchua> … complicated question. 🙂 As a full-timer, just under 4 months. Combined full-timer and intern, maybe… 8-9 months? It wasn’t continuous.

<polyachka> and after that?

<mchua> I think I still hold the record for “person who’s held the most number of official titles at OLPC.” I was a content intern, then a grassroots intern, then a QA/Support engineer…(but I also worked other places in-between my OLPC internships – I wanted to see more of the world.)

<polyachka> did you go to Red Hast right after?

<mchua> My next job after OLPC was Red Hat, yes.

<polyachka> what is grassroots intern?

<mchua> Grassroots was community-building, basically. Encouraging groups in different areas of the world to start their own little OLPC projects. You’re a student? Great, start a campus club and get some classmates to help you repair broken XO’s, that sort of thing.

<polyachka> was it hard?

<mchua> Oh, it was hard work – but again, easiest thing in the world to get people who want to do work, to do work.

<mchua> Getting things out of their way so they could do that work – that’s challenging sometimes, but everyone’s always so excited that it always feels worthwhile.

<polyachka> in what cities/countries did you do it?

<mchua> For OLPC… let’s see. A lot more happened remotely than I was able to travel to in person – I did almost all of it online.

<mchua> But physically, within the US… Bellingham and Seattle, WA – Aurora and Chicago, IL (where myself and a number of other students started up an actual office downtown – that was an adventure)

<mchua> was the Chicago office, and if you imagine a bunch of 13-22 year old kids getting together an office on their own, running community events from it, and such – that’s what we did all summer.

<mchua> Washington DC, New York, Rochester, and of course Boston. Taipei, Manila… I really didn’t go to places specifically to do Sugar/OLPC stuff, I just did stuff wherever I happened to be.

<mchua> ILXO was fun; that was myself and Nikki Lee, Andrea Lai, Chris Carrick, Melanie Kim, and Mia Kato. It was a real learning experience. For us and for the local community.

<polyachka> what was it?

<mchua> That was the Chicago grassroots office.

<mchua> Well, there were all these teachers and parents who were interested – all these adults who wanted to learn about OLPC and Sugar and the XO …and we’d show up, and – for instance, once we were asked to do a workshop at a library, and Mia and Melanie volunteered to do that. So I dropped them off at the library, and they walked into the middle of this room of parents, and they started presenting.

<mchua> “Wait, how old are you?”

<mchua> “I’m 13, she’s 12.”

<mchua> It was a big role reversal for most of us, since we were used to being students taught by adults like that.

<polyachka> so right now your connection to OLPC/Sugar is projects that you get professors involved into, right?

<mchua> And yes, right now my main contribution to these projects is getting professors and their students involved in them.


Open Source Educator (Part One: Red Hat) February 26, 2011

I heard about Mel Chua in open source circles and asked if I could interview her on IRC. Here is part one of our interview:

<polyachka> Good morning! Where are you now?

<mchua> I’m sitting in Raleigh, NC at the moment. I tend to move around a lot, though. 🙂

<polyachka> and where is your home?

<mchua> The internet. :)I don’t really have a place I consider a (geographic) home base at the moment… been moving and traveling quite a bit. I’ll be settling a bit more in West Lafayette, Indiana this summer to start my engineering education PhD studies at Purdue University, though.

<polyachka> but where did you go to high school?

<mchua> Aurora, IL. I lived away from home for high school; it was a residential public magnet – my family didn’t live in Aurora.

<polyachka> by traveling you mean going from one project to another for Sugar?

<mchua> Oh, my travel isn’t for Sugar events these days. Mostly for work, and to see family and friends on occasion.

<polyachka> what do you do for work?

<mchua> My dayjob is working for Red Hat’s open source community team; I’m responsible for the company’s education strategy.

<polyachka> interesting

<mchua> So I work with professors who are getting the students in their classes involved in open source communities, and help them figure out how to do that. One of things I do is teach summer workshops for those professors – many of them have never been open source contributors themselves, so during the workshop we have them go into an open source project and make a contribution of their own.

<polyachka> how many people work for Red Hat?

<mchua> I think somewhere around 3,200 worldwide at the moment…

<mchua>Last summer, one of the workshops we ran (in Worcester State, Massachusetts) featured Sugar Labs as the community to get involved with. And Peter Robinson and Walter Bender were my co-instructors, with a lot of remote support from Sebastian Dziallas. Professors were patching Walter’s “Abacus” Activity, editing Sugar on a Stick documentation and using it for testing – good stuff.

<polyachka> so is it a big trend for professors- to learn about open source? Surprising, as all they publish is not open source…

<mchua>  I wouldn’t say it’s a “big trend” yet, but we’re hoping it will be. It’s certainly a growing movement. There are professors who contribute to open source as a hobby, and there are professors who research open source as a career.  So it’s not just CS professors – economics, sociology, etc. researchers look at our communities as well. Apparently we’re rather fascinating. 🙂

<mchua> And open source communities have characteristics of a lot of things they’d like their students to experience – real world projects, distributed collaboration, things for building their portfolio, etc.

<mchua> The Teaching Open Source (TOS) community,, is a gathering of these professors and open source community members working to support them – great group, the Worcester State crew from the Sugar workshop hangs out there as well. (It’s an open community that centers around academic rather than code projects, basically – everyone’s welcome to join.)

<polyachka> what was your favorite workshop?

<mchua> My favorite workshop would have to be POSSE – that stands for Professors’ Open Source Summer Experience.

<polyachka> where was it?

<mchua>It’s been taught a number of times. The first time was in Raleigh in July 2009. It’s been to Singapore, Cape Town… I taught the last one with Sebastian Dziallas in Doha, Qatar.

<mchua> Yeah, he and I have been revising the curriculum for the past year or so to make it more scalable and understandable (and teachable by people who aren’t us).

<polyachka> where is Sebastian from?

<mchua> He’s from Germany, but is currently studying in Boston. You should interview him, actually – he’s the guy behind Sugar on a Stick. (and started Sugar on a Stick while in high school.)

<polyachka> so any favorite topics for workshops or projects?

<mchua>In terms of workshop topics… the most difficult thing for professors is not learning the tools – they already know how to develop software and all that stuff, some people already know what bugtrackers are (some don’t) – the hard part is the culture.

<polyachka> how many people are in one workshop on average?

<mchua>On average I’d say we have between 8-15 professors in a workshop. Local open source community members swing by, though, so when we all go out to dinner we’ll have 15-20. I think of the workshops as cultural immersions – open source communities have weird quirks that sometimes we forget the rest of the world doesn’t know yet.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY


How can you start a project with OLPC? February 12, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 2:10 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

We received a letter from Lindy in Australia, she wants to start a project with OLPC computers in Cambodia. There are a lot of people who want to do the same thing, just countries differ. How can OLPC help these people? The answer is either to guide them through the process or direct them to existing deployments. Please, see correspondence below and submit your comments.


 I recently spent 3 months volunteering in a small school in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The school is a Not For Profit run by an NGO.
The school is about to celebrate it’s first birthday and has already  made a huge difference to the lives of the wonderful children who go there. I would love to see the children with your computers, while they are learning so much now there is a desperate need for books and educational materials. I am concerned that the children only get to  look at books while at school and have often thought how much more quickly they would develop if they could work at home as well.
There are currently 140 children at the school and most of them are under 12. I know that they would be extremely grateful for the computers and make very good use of them. Is it possible to apply for a donation of the computers to the school and if so how do I go about it?

Kind regards, Lindy


Dear Lindy,

How wonderful of you to think of a present for the school in Cambodia. Please, remember that everything in life is visualized first and then becomes real. If you really want to make it happen and you work on it, it will come true but you need to know what the steps are.

While OLPC doesn’t offer donations, it mentors along the process. The main steps in the process are:

  1. Make sure the school is ready to handle the project  
  2. Raise money to buy computers
  3. Find volunteers to provide training to teachers
  4. Enable on-going support
  5. Develop curriculum to teach

More detailed:

  1. The school has to  have electricity and teachers willing to commit to learning computers and teaching them (extra load for teachers) plus other resources, including on-going financial (teachers salary).
  2. You can always create a project plan and post it on to raise money to buy computers (maybe not all 140 at first, you can always start with lower number to test it out). Several on-line fundraising sites are good for that.
  3. When you have the computers you will need to find volunteers, who will teach the teachers at Cambodian school how to use computers, so that teachers can teach children year-round.
  4. You will also need to have someone on your team of volunteers who knows how to fix computer when kids break them and have spare parts ready, also provide support (repair, technical support, teacher support, maybe long-distance).
  5. The last thing will be to develop curriculum and be able to revise it as software changes rapidly.

See more deployment guides on

You can’t just give XOs (OLPC computers) to kids without giving thorough instructions, as XOs have their own unique software. Also unsupervised, children lose interest in developing their skills, so teacher guidance is needed…

We will post similar instructions and sample project plans on that we created especially for people like you. The map also serves as a tool for communication with other volunteers and current deployments, so that you can contact them and learn from their experience. Feel free to look up schools and volunteers in Cambodia. If you collaborate with them, maybe you can combine or share resources.

Last year I volunteered in Saigon, Vietnam for three months teaching children in a shelter how to use XO computers, they have only 5 XOs and it was still a lot of work. I had to have a translator, set up Internet connections, educate teachers who were not interested in teaching, and deal with children’s resistance to be motivated to have after school classes, not integrated into their school curriculum.

I also went to Seam Reap and helped an NGO to demonstrate three XOs they have. Unfortunately, those XOs are unused, because teachers didn’t receive training  plus the school doesn’t have electricity to run computers, never mind money to pay teachers to give computer classes.

If after reading all above mentioned you are determined that you can make it happen and run the project well, you should pursue it.

Also, if you first want to try yourself as a volunteer, you can help an existing deployment, acquire skills needed and then implement OLPC computers in your school in Cambodia.

Let me know if I can help you with anything else.

Sincerely, Marina.


Dear Marina,

Thanks so much for your reply. I was actually going to send an email back with the question – how do I make it happen? – you have answered before I had a chance to!

As you say, visualizing it is the first step. I would love to make it happen so I’ll have a really good think about it and see if it can be done.

While I’m really keen to go back and volunteer again I’m not good with computers myself but I’ll do my best to search out for some people who are.

Thanks for your encouragement.

Kind regards, Lindy


Haitian EduTech Dinner January 26, 2011

Community-organized Haitian EduTech Dinner was held at OLPC on Tuesday, Jan 25 at 5PM. Dinner was prepared by Haitian-American OLPC volunteer Alexandra Merceron.

Boston’s  joined  OLPC_Boston monthly community meeting to discuss EduTech plans (OLPC, Sugar,, etc.) emerging in Somerville Massachusetts, as well as the 400 OLPC laptops shipping to Haiti shortly. I joined the meeting at the very end, but I was present when Beth of Waveplace discussed eToy workshop plans for mentors to be organized both in Haiti and the US, and announced upcoming Mentor Workshop in St. John, US Virgin Islands May 23-June 3. Caroline Meeks offered partnership with Waveplace for training mentors.

Remote and In-person Participants from Haitian Diasporas:

Beth Santos, Waveplace Foundation

Franklin Dalembert, Haitian Coalition

Ryan Ansin, Every Person Has A Story

Chris Low, Matenwa Community Learning Center (group of Fayerweather teachers)

Benaja Antoine, Haiti Partners                                     

Gardy Mathieu, Entrepreneur near Cap-Haitien

Myriam Jeannis, UMass Dartmouth

Ryan remotely provided update Haiti in Transition—Watch Via EPHAS and revised Brochure EPHAS Brochure Proof_Rev3 regarding his trip beginning Sunday. “Every Person Has a Story” is exclusive documentarian for a couple thousand people moving from one of the American Refugee Committee’s main tent city.

“Hi all,

It was a real pleasure to see you all at the meeting.  Although my time with you there was very limited due a schedule conflict, I did enjoy being there.  I am impressed by the great work you are doing to help lift up my brother and sister Haitians.  We all share a common vision and have common denominator which is to help develop people’s potentiality to be productive by providing access to education, science and technology. 

Once again many thanks to you Adam, for coordinating this effort.  Bringing all these organizations together to network and share information is very important.

I would like to meet with those that are going to Haiti while I am there, we can probably visit some of the camps where the Haitian Coalition has been working. 

In solidarity, Franklin Dalembert”.

Thank you, Benaja, for this beautiful Haitian Painting!


Happy Birthday, olpcMAP! January 24, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 8:37 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Today olpcMAP is 3 month old! After its launch n SF OLPC summit, the map evolved into something very agile and beautiful, and it is just the beginning!  Please, see our map’s photo collection:

1. At first, it was just an idea.

2. Then it was the idea of many people!

3. Nick made it all real and launched the map on the last day of SF OLPC Summit.

4. December 2010 Cambridge olpcMap Sprint gave it more meaning and map beautifiers worked hard to add markers and make them pretty.

5. We’ve been experimenting with the “look and feel” and we are looking for testers.

6. Norway’s team  liked the project and offered to create video and pdf tutorials that they finished. What a great job!

7. We are about to finalize our home page and it feels good to be home! There are 465 markers living here today! 🙂


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