How open source weaves connections between countries

If global friendships are grown repeatedly, the world would be an immeasurably better place. Open source is an outstanding tool to make that happen.
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Long ago, when I was a tech administrator for Arlington Public Schools, I received an unexpected email saying, "Our school in India loves your children's stories, so we've printed them all out in braille."

Apparently, the school had found my collection of children's stories on the web. I spent a moment visualizing those students so far away, enjoying my stories on those printed pages of braille. The email's sender might not have realized how meaningful their email was to me, but it's stayed with me for two decades.

Tell collaborative stories with open source

That experience got me thinking about how technology can weave new connections between people in different countries. While surfing the web recently, I encountered an Inkscape enthusiast in Romania. His talent with the software was obvious.

You might not think of Romania as a tech hub, but people have all kinds of tech talent there. Talent exists everywhere. Open source, accessible to anyone who downloads it, can serve as a connector between cultures and countries. This enthusiast was having a fabulous time honing his skills using Inkscape, one of today's premier illustration tools—and it doesn't cost anything. He and I had something in common—something that could foster a friendship.

I then became curious whether the website gets regular web visits from Romania. A quick email to the staff confirmed that, yes, their website logs show regular visits from Romania. In fact, gets more monthly web visits from Romania than from Denmark, Norway, and New Zealand. Would you be surprised to learn that receives a lot of web traffic from Indonesia? I find that statistic delightful because it points towards a smaller world—a more inclusive, multicultural world.

My thoughts about open source as a global connector awakened again last month when I found out about an open source, web-based motion graphics editor named Motionity. The software was created by a software developer in Great Britain and she describes it as "a mix of Canva and Adobe After Effects."

This application is immensely exciting. I can envision my lighthearted, whimsical story, Ellen the Eagle Needs Glasses, drawn in Inkscape and brought to life using Motionity. To honor AlyssaX's programming work, we must find ways to use her software that showcase what it can do. If you're an illustrator or animator, get in touch with me—even better, surprise me with your finished creative project created using Inkscape and Motionity.

Explore Motionity for whatever uses you might have. Surprise AlyssaX with your best creative work. I want AlyssaX to experience the same feeling I had when I received that one-sentence email from India.

(Our language does not currently have a word for that kind of experience, but maybe we ought to coin a word. If you coin such a word, please tell me.)

Forge global friendships

Fifteen years ago, I attended an international conference on wireless community networks. At that conference, I participated in a session explaining the workings of Serbia Wireless, a nonprofit grassroots community wireless network. One of the young presenters was from Serbia, and another was from Bosnia. I quickly understood its significance when I heard what they were doing with their homebrew wireless community network. These two young people were using open source hardware and open source software to blur the national boundary lines between the two previously warring nations. I honestly wanted to jump up and cheer when their motivation became apparent. After their session, I grabbed one of the presenters, Bogdan Tancic, for this six-minute video interview. Listen carefully to what he has to say.

Make connections

If you're looking for something meaningful to do in your life, find ways of connecting with people in different countries. Help these individuals cherish their cross-national friendships. If these new connections are grown repeatedly, the world would be an immeasurably better place. Open source is an outstanding tool to make that happen.

What are your own cross-national open source stories? Share your stories right here on

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Phil Shapiro has been an educator, teaching students from pre-school to graduate school for the past 35 years. He currently works at a public library in the Washington, DC area, helping youth and adults use their public Linux stations.


A wonderful article Phil! I've shared it with my daughter and other teachers I know

As a former math major, one of my favorite ways to disprove something is by finding a counter example.

When I hear a someone say something stereotypical about a country, culture, etc., I'm often able to offer a counter example by telling them about my experience with individuals who doesn't fit the stereotype.

I had a good fortune of meeting and working with people from many countries through several open source communities, so I have a pretty good arsenal of counter examples :-)

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