Community spotlight: Barry Peddycord III, PhD student in computer science

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Meet Barry Peddycord III, a PhD student in computer science at North Carolina State University. He wishes academia were more open so work like his can reach as many audiences as possible. Barry's insightful comments on articles across many opensource.com groups enhance our conversations about the open source way. You can read his thoughts on open education at his blog.

Community is very important to opensource.com. We want to continue to recognize community members who contribute to the site by doing things other than writing articles–things like rating articles and commenting on them, voting in polls, and sharing our collective work on social media. We hope you enjoy getting to know Barry.

The basics

  • Name: Barry Peddycord III
  • Opensource.com username: isharacomix
  • Location: Raleigh, NC
  • Occupation/Employer/Position: Ph.D. Student, North Carolina State University
  • Open source connection: None... yet.
  • Favorite open source tool or application: Wordpress
  • Favorite opensource.com channel: Education

Questions and answers

Open up to usBarry Peddycord III

I'm a Ph.D. student studying computer science at North Carolina State University with a focus in educational technology. I refer to myself as a "hopeless academic," completely enamored with the scholarly, university lifestyle.

I've been a follower of the open source and open culture movement since my freshman year of college. While I was already exposed to Linux and the GPL, it wasn't until I read Richard Stallman's essays in Free Software, Free Society, that I really "got it." I was immediately swayed by the reasoning and rhetoric behind why we, both as programmers and as people, should care about openness in software, culture, and society.

Even though I'm a competent programmer and I love to code, I've never been actively involved in a traditional open source project. I would prefer to leave the coding to the coders, and use my talents to write educational materials and courseware that can be contributed to projects such as Merlot and Saylor.

I also have a blog where I write about grad school, education, technology, and cooking.

What open tools and data help you get things done, and how do they help you?

The one tool I make more use of than anything else these days is the Wordpress blogging platform and content management system. While I had blogged on and off during my college life, when I started Grad School, I made a conscious decision to begin and maintain a blog that would keep me motivated throughout my doctoral studies. As such, my blog is a big part of my life and I love it very much!

While I prefer to use the hosted version at Wordpress.com, I'm free and perfectly capable to take my content to my own server should Wordpress ever go under or take their business in a way I don't agree with. Unlike proprietary vendors, I appreciate the fact that I'm not locked in to their service, and the fact that I am with them is the result of a choice that I have the freedom to make.

What do you wish were more open?

I would really love to see more cases of open artistic works, such as literature, art, music, and film. The thing that makes FOSS so amazing is that it enables and encourages users to go from being passive consumers of software to becoming active participants in the software's life cycle. When cultural works are made available in the same way, the audience is given the opportunity to become a producer of content as well, building on the work through remix and commentary. There's a lot of talent out there, and by providing open content that people can use to supplement the gaps in their abilities, we can give them an opportunity to make themselves known.

What are the biggest challenges to openness that you encounter, either at work or in your life?

From my observations, openness has an unusual place in academia. On the surface, academics are seen as and encouraged to be open about our expertise and research in the form of publication, teaching, and outreach. Unfortunately, it feels like there are a number of disincentives to being open in academic culture.

The "publish-or-perish" mentality creates a sense of scholarly competition between academics, especially in hot, emerging issues. I've already been conditioned to refrain from speaking up about the work I've done that hasn't been published yet, since there is a perceived threat of giving others a chance to use my work to get ahead of me or–even worse–preclude me from being able to publish it in the first place! Even after the work has been published, it feels like only a small number of academics take their work beyond the conferences and journals and give talks aimed at the general public, meaning that much research is written for and read only by academics, which diminishes the value of the research.

Why choose the open source way?

I feel like it's my responsibility to share my knowledge with as broad an audience as possible. Publications in journals and conferences only show a glimpse of my work to a very specific group of people. Being open about my work in the form of blog posts, forum participation, and talks to local interest groups helps connect my research with the people it directly impacts.

As researcher in education, I study in a field in which everyone's interests are at stake–students, parents, professors, industry leaders, lawmakers–and the more accessible my research is to the world, the bigger an impact it can have.

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1 Comment

isharacomix's picture
Open Minded

Strange, I think I know this guy. :P