How often do you hear “open source” and “passion” in the same sentence?
Leigh Day is vice president of marketing communications at Red Hat, and her team’s “Open Source Stories,” a video project that shines a light on the stories and people behind open source technology, is a passion project the company has rallied around.
Red Hat started creating the videos because the company’s writers and marketers kept coming across interesting ways to apply open source thinking. The videos humanize open source and take it from an abstract idea to a human, shareable story. Plus, they introduce open source to people beyond the tech space: The videos “explain to the layman the importance of open source,” Day says.
The stories that Red Hat is producing are pretty incredible.
‘The open patient’
In one of the stories, “The Open Patient,” a college student named Steven Keating was participating in a research study. He got a brain scan that showed a slight abnormality, but his doctors told him not to worry about it.
Months later he started to smell a faint vinegar smell. Because he had the open data from the original research scan, he was able to look back at it and realize the abnormality was near the smell center of his brain.
He pushed for another brain scan, even though doctors weren’t concerned, and found that he had a massive brain tumor.
During his treatment process, he says, he started to wonder “how come, as patients, we’re last in line to receive data?” He was looking for information in an easy-to-digest format to help him make decisions about his treatment, and he wanted to provide his own data back to the hospital.
Another tumor patient, Liz Salmi, says she was facing her second brain cancer surgery when she realized that battling cancer had become her full-time job. She started a blog, The Liz Army, about living with brain cancer.
She says she knows other patients are interested in connecting with each other and sharing information. Her website has been helpful for families of patients with tumors, since tumors often limit a patient’s ability to communicate and explain how they’re feeling.
“There is no one open electronic medical system” for patients across medical systems and states, Salmi says. So she started calling herself “an open source patient” as she transparently shared her medical progress and research online.
The third prong of “The Open Patient” is an interview with the co-founders of OpenNotes, a way for clinicians to transparently share information, decisions and plans with patients. OpenNotes started in 2010 with three hospitals, 100 doctors and 20,000 patients. It has grown to include 12 million patients, and medical institutions in 36 states. Patients in the program report feeling much more in control of their care.
“Imagine the cures and diagnoses that could happen if all things were open,” Day says.
Penn Manor is a school district in Pennsylvania that is using open source thinking to involve high-school students more actively in their own education. The high school launched a student-run IT department, where students take apart computers and learn how they work. The program has promoted collaboration between students and teachers, in an environment where “the best ideas win.” The program adopts an apprenticeship model to teach students, and shrugs off the more formal structures of high-school education.
“It’s not the normal classroom,” one student says. Another student describes how the open source curriculum opened new doors for him. He’d been told that he shouldn’t plan on being able to go to college, but helping to build the curriculum catapulted him ahead. Now he’s in college, and he says his professors can tell he’s had unique opportunities to learn.
Why create open source stories?
“We know that open source transcends technology,” Day says. She points to examples of open source taking off outside the software industry, like Ikea open-sourcing its furniture and Nike publishing open source projects. “Open source can change a life. Using it early can be important for future technologists,” she says.
People around the world are interested in open source methodology because we have so much information coming at us so fast, she says: “We want information to be high-quality, transparent and fast, and open source can deliver.
At Red Hat, she says, “we’re a mission-based company, so when we can show more people that open source is changing lives, we knit our work family closer together. This project really showcases our soul.”
Red Hat will be featuring Tate Modern’s Tate Exchange, which promotes making artistic methods more accessible to the public, in an Open Source Story that will launch at an event in London later this year.
You can watch all of the Open Source Stories on YouTube here.