Weekly wrap-up: Try your hand at hyperloop, demystifying OSS licensing, and more

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open source news and highlights


Open source news this week: July 15 - 19, 2013

What other open source-related news stories did you read about this week? Share them with us in the comments section. Follow us on Twitter where we share these stories in real time.

  • It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s hyperloop. Elon Musk, head of the Tesla electric car company and the SpaceX rocket firm, made headlines with just a couple of tweets this week. He tweeted that the alpha design for his revolutionary form of transport called "hyperloop" will be available August 12. Then, after one of his followers suggested he patent the design, Musk replied: "I really hate patents unless critical to company survival. Will publish Hyperloop as open source." So if you’re looking for a new open source project to work on, perhaps you can offer feedback to help advance this "fifth mode of transportation"—whatever it is.
  • I’d like to add a license to that. GitHub unveiled ChooseALicense.com this week to help simplify open source software licensing and encourage its users to actually select a license when they publish their code. Wired has a brief analysis of the move, which one analyst calls "a huge reversal for GitHub." What do you think? Will adding this new step on GitHub get more developers to add an OSS license to their code?
  • Just for kids. An affordably-priced tablet for children designed by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) debuted this week, making it a little easier to get tablets in the hands of children from low-income families. The family-friendly XO Tablet for children debuted on Walmart.com this week for $149.99. Loaded with free educational games, apps, videos, e-books, and more, the Google-certified tablet and its on-board XO Learning System were designed by OLPC to give children a way to learn through the use of a touchscreen device. You can read all about the tablet’s features and specs on the OPLC website.
  • Data.gov Sneak Preview. The White House unveiled a preview of its Data.gov redesign this week and is seeking user feedback on the new look. The site is the hub for most of the data collected by the federal government, and under the new design, it will offer more examples of what users are doing with the data and feature more robust searching capabilites, reports Wired. Want to compare the look of the new site (built in WordPress) to the old one? Open Next.Data.gov in one tab and Data.gov in the other. What do you think?
  • Speaking of open data and the feds. The Library of Congress launched a set of data challenges this week that will make one winner $5,000 richer. The library is inviting competitors to "apply the Akoma Ntoso schema to U.S. federal legislative information so it can be more broadly accessed and analyzed alongside legislative documents created elsewhere." Complete details on the contest, including the judging criteria, is available on challenge.gov
  • A new way to fund open source code. The members of the Khan Academy are taking money out of their own pockets to give a weekly bonus to open source developers, reports Gigaom. The $5 weekly contribution from members amounts to about $125/week. Members of the Khan Academy, an online learning platform, plan to choose which developer will get the bonus each week. What would you do with an extra $125?

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Ginny Hamilton was a community manager for EnterprisersProject.com, an online publication and community focused on how CIOs and IT leaders create business value through information technology. A former journalist, Ginny is passionate about local politics, journalism, technology, and social media.


I really like GitHub's ChooseALicense.com; it makes it easy to select a license, but every time I see something like ChooseALicense.com, I think that someone really needs to create a <a href="http://movies.disney.com/schoolhouse-rock">Schoolhouse Rock</a> style animated short about open source licensing.

Not so keen on the the redesign for data.gov. I think they've <strong>oversimplified</strong> the site's navigation in favor of their search box. KISS designs can be good, but they've taken it a little too far. A government data website is the kind of thing that should have a fairly complex navigation scheme. The new design is nice, but still has some kinks to work out. I like most of the site's look, except for the text being rgb(105,105,105) instead of black. (I'm not a big fan of grey text on a white background.) What strikes me as kind of odd (and a little bit silly) is they want feedback, but the two options are Twitter and Quora!? Give us feedback, but only 140 characters of it! (Quora isn't so bad, obviously.) An open government website only asking for feedback through two private services (even if they are free) is odd when they could easily collect feedback via a contact us page in addition to the two options they've already given. Data.gov, the current site, has a contact us page, while the new site doesn't. If they want the discussion to be completely public, make a page with comments enabled (the site is running WordPress so that would be really easy). If you want feedback, don't make someone have to go through the effort of signing up for an account somewhere else just to give you an opinion.

Hi Joshua,
A Schoolhouse Rock-style video explaining OSS licensing would be a fantastic service to the open source community. Maybe if someone else doesn't produce one, we'll find time and resources to make one someday.

And you're right, it's definitely hard to give any sort of meaningful feedback in 140 charachters. I hadn't taken the time to notice that the beta data.gov site doesn't include a feedback form. Perhaps they'll add one once it's out of beta. It should definitely be easy to provide feedback for something like that.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Always good to get some perspective from others on the stories we write about.

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