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Ben Kerensa of Mozilla tells his open source story
Mozilla contributor creates diabetes project for the masses
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My open source story started in high school as a student. I always considered myself to be a hacker—not the malicious type, but the curious type who liked to tinker with code and hardware. My first encounter with open source was in 2001 when I installed my first Linux distro, Lindows. Of course, I was also an early user of Mozilla Firefox.
As a result of my early adoption of Linux, the first version I used was 1.0.4 (if I recall correctly), and I immediately fell in love. While I did not stay long with Lindows, hopping across many distros (Debian, Puppy Linux, SUSE, Slackware, Ubuntu) over the years I continued to use open source software on a daily basis from my youth into adulthood.
Eventually, I consistently used Ubuntu. Around the release of Hardy Heron I started some of my first contributions to Ubuntu, helping out on IRC and helping users locally who needed help. With Ubuntu being where I cut my teeth in open source, it has always had a special place in my heart. The community behind Ubuntu is very diverse, passionate, and friendly and everyone comes together with some shared common goals but also individuals' goals as drivers for why they contribute to open source.
After having contributed to Ubuntu for a while, I started contributing upstream to projects like Debian, GNOME, Ganeti, and many others. In the past few years I have contributed to over 40 different open source projects, some small and some very large.
After some changes in direction in the Ubuntu project, I ended up deciding not only that was it time for me to try something new, but that also I wanted to put my contributions into something new. So I started getting involved in Mozilla around 2009, helping out on IRC and then eventually getting involved with the Mozilla WebFWD program, becoming a team member, then the Mozilla Reps Program, Mozilla DevRel Program, and then for just over two years was a Firefox Community Release Manager overseeing the release of Firefox Nightly and Firefox ESR. Contributing to Mozilla was an even more rewarding experience than contributions to other open source projects. Of all the open source communities I've been involved in, Mozilla has been the most diverse, largest, and friendliest.
One thing that has happened over the years in terms of my feelings about open source is I've become more and more aligned to the values of free software and more defensive of things like privacy and respecting licensing and working in the open. I believe all three of those topics are very important to open source, and while many may not care about these things it's important that people advocate for them.
And here I am today, no longer a full-time contributor to other people's open source projects. Recently being diagnosed with diabetes, I saw a gap in the open source ecosystem where open source health software was not very abundant. Where it did exist, it was not as active as other open source software applications like Linux distros or browsers.
I recently founded my own open source project, Glucosio, to bring open source diabetes management and research software to the masses. My years of contributing to open source projects and observing various structures has really come in handy being a project leader now. I'm very excited about the future of Glucosio, but most importantly about the future open source and how that will play out in health and medicine.
There is a lot of potential for software innovation in healthcare, and I think we will soon see a startup disrupt healthcare and medicine with open source solutions.