Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Do Something Meaningful - Coding for the World


This talk by Steve Yegge is also inspirational

It was inspiring to hear a friend describe his friend’s work in bio-medical research.  That research had meaning!  It had higher purpose; it helped mankind as a whole.

There must be researchers in medicine, the sciences, technology and engineering and so on - a very wide range, both professional and amateur - whose work is deeply useful to us all as a whole.

Lucky them!  Thinking of them makes returning to your billing system code or web shop or whatever slightly deflating, yes?

I got all fired up hearing my friend relate the progress and research that others were doing.  We’re not doing that, him and I.  We’re not actively contributing to solutions to the worlds problems; perhaps our ineffectiveness is part of the problem?

Did they need sys-admins, I wondered?  Or programmers?  Floor sweeps?  Imagine how satisfying it must feel to play a small supporting role to something useful!

It was then that it struck me; could the hobby time of programmers be diverted to help those doing the serious work?

I imagine a community - website driven, perhaps - of programmers who help code analytics and enablers for researchers.  Of companies donating hardware or cloud instance time for crunching.  Of an army of five minute code-reviewers.  The chance for us all to play a part, however small, in being part of the solution!

All out in the open, all open source public domain - code and data.  No NDAs or assertions of ownership.  All for mankind and the planet as whole.

Contributions could be individually small - just taking five minutes to look at a page of code and spotting a bug, for example.

The small problems seem multiple.  Not all researchers would reach out for help; not all would get it if they did.  Maybe people don’t need programmer help? Maybe only cranks would apply?

Critical results would still need careful audit.  Some programmers would make mistakes, others would be down right malicious.  Some researchers would be gaming the system, others would be wasting time or causing controversy.  But these are small problems.

Please, someone, point out there is already such a system!  And if not, please, lets build one.  Lets get our hobby time aimed at a higher purpose.
(Programmer, researcher, would you be part of this?  We need to know the supply and demand.)

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