Silona Bonewald on LoTV and Codeathons
Although I've known Silona for (mumble) years, I have never gotten around to doing a proper interview with her for GeekAustin. A few months back, I heard her interview with Phil Windley on Technometria. Days later, I heard her interview with Jon Udell on Interviews with Innovators, and I thought: " I gotta get in on this action." So I grabbed my field recorder (courtesy of the folks at SmartBear), called Silona, and said: "Let's meet at Medici."
Lynn: I'm big fans of both Phil and Jon, so it was a treat to hear your interviews with them -- practically in the same week. Rather than ask the same questions, I'm just going to put links to their interviews.
Silona: They both went very topical. They both called within a week of each other. My interview with Jon focused on Citability, because Jon Udell had done some early work in the area around 10 years ago. Phil's interview focused on the Open Banking project.
Lynn: Let me start with another of your projects: the League of Technical Voters. When you first mentioned it to me, I was hoping that it was going to be a membership organization. What was so appealing: I believe that there are a lot of common concerns to tech folks -- privacy, net neutrality, etc -- that would benefit from a PAC or coalition. Disney and the MPAA have lobbyists. It would be nice to see lobbyists for (free) Open Source, or a lobbyist for a more realistic set of patent laws.
Silona: The long term view has always been to make the LOTV a membership organization. It's just that it was a question of funding and getting all the materials together. A political action committee is kind of separate thing. I've been helping John Mark (@JohnMark) set up something along those lines, and that would be a 501c4. The League of Technical Voters is a 501c3 which means we're not actually a political action commitee nor would we ever be one.
What LOTV was going to do was help create open source tools to facilitate that -- things like voting, and all the issues we have surrounding voting, helping create open source voting tools.
You were way ahead of the curve on Drupal. Wasn't Drupal a big part of the LOTV codeathons ?
Silona: At the first codeathon everything had to be done in Drupal, and that ended up being kind of too limiting for our volunteers and the non-profits. So on the second one I opened it up. We had people doing some things in Python and Ruby.
Lynn: But the Drupal of then (2006) is considerably different from the Drupal of now. That was like Drupal 4.6? 4.7?
Silona: Yeah, it was pretty harsh working with it back then.
Lynn: Listening to the old Lullabot podcasts back then, and hearing them talk about how they were going to have an "automated install" in the next version...
Silona: That was actually one of the things that we wanted to do at the codeathon. The problem at that time was doing a Drupal installation was not an insigificant task for the non-profits.
Lynn: Now there is CiviCRM, Open Atrium, and all of these packages which are practically turn key installations, and very easy to install. The Drupal community seems committed to making it even easier.
Tell me about the upcoming codeathons
Silona: I have a Citability codeathon in DC on February 26. I'm speaking with the folks at crisiscamp.org about doing one with them. I'm also working with some advocacy groups about doing one for kids. These codeathons have three things in common: 1) that they be open source, 2) that they be sponsored by non-profits, and 3) that they create universal solutions. So even if the codeathon is for a childrens' advocacy group, the code can be use for just about any non-profit.
For example, Citability, anyone can use it, it doesn't have to be a government entity. It's for anyone who wants to do citations.
Lynn: I'd like to hear about citability, but I need another cup of coffee. Let's get a refill, and then you can tell me about it.
to be continued...