It's a long title, but one that's going to become far more important to me as time progresses. I got into System Administration via Open Source. The philosophy is something that I really related to and believe. A group of people contributing to each other using their own skills, to make the end result greater than the sum of all the parts. Cheesy.
Open Code - so that if you do have a problem, it's easier to fix.
Open Standards - so that other people can link to your code without necessarily having to examine the source directly.
Open Documentation - so that other Sys Admins and End Users are able to work out how best to use the package to its potential.
Free Franchise. Odd one out?
There are sometimes projects that all of us have to complete that require premeditated infrastructure setup and integration. One such example is with PCI DSS. In order to fulfil the requirements of the specification, you need a minimum of three physical servers. It's not explicitly stated in the specification (as that may change). There are a number of things like this that require a high level of initial research, when if this knowledge is shared, can be replicated and used to minimise the total cost of a project quite dramatically.
There are a number of ways this is scalable outside of coding. Massively so.
A couple of years back a friend of mine bought an Alpine Ski Chalet. They're English. When they moved over they got a British Architect to design a really nice bathroom for the chalet. It was going to be a wet-room with tiled floors and mirrors embedded into the tiles. It was a fantastic design and really suite the minimalism of the chalet. However, when they showed their designs to the French Builder - he laughed. "No, the building will move too much." - he said. However, they went ahead and got this bathroom built, and sure enough, the tiles started cracking and falling off - as the wooden structure twisted and distorted under the snow in the winter, then returned to it's unladen shape in the summer.
The lesson that I'd learn from this, is that there's no point in trying to rubber-stamp an idea or solution onto anything. Physical, medical or software. You've got to tailor the solution to the individual instance - however, there are global rules you can use to help advise people doing similar tasks. For example, the lesson above would teach a little to people wanting to tile chalets - DON'T!
Charities and NGOs often repeat tasks over and over again. Hundreds of wells are built each year using repeatable principles and shared knowledge. However, more often than not this shared knowledge is kept within a privileged circle - so that only those within the circle can benefit from the knowledge. What the Internet does is to break down these circles and make the information freely available. I'm fully aware that there are many to whom the information would be useless - but it gives everyone the potential to access it, with a much lower barrier than if it were kept in the original circle.
We need to start breeding a culture of sharing across charities. I originally came across 'circuit riders' in 2006.. a group of tech support guys using their shared experiences to give charities better value help. If a single person hadn't come across a problem before, the chances are someone else in the group had. Now technology is the easiest place for this to start, as most of its already connected to the internet, and the people interested in technology are already literate in the ways of the web. However, it doesn't take a genius to use a wiki (just look at wikipedia) - or a comments thread (youtube). People know how to network (facebook) and get photos and information published (flickr, digg). What we need to try and do in the coming year and beyond is to give the people who need it the loudest voice.
Peter Gabriel's Witness project, and more specifically 'the hub' is about giving a voice to the unheard people suffering from human rights abuses. However, I don't want to focus on the negative. I want to have information published which is useful to people who have little. How to build a simple rope-ladder.. How to safely construct a staircase. . Get tutorials published and translated and make available to provide people with the tools necessary to release themselves from deprivation. I don't know how to do it. However, I'm sure that other people have better ideas and can be inspired.
One of the projects that I'm working on over the next few months is basic health posters. I've been asked to create some and translate them to other languages. We may think people know basic hygiene - but many don't. It's important not to belittle or look down on people who don't - but give them the means to learn. Things like 'don't eat raw chicken' may seem obvious to us - but to some people all they care about is getting something which they can eat. This next year is going to be confusing for me (*as you can tell by the disconnectedness of this post) - there's so much to address. However, once I have some direction I'll be able to address things one at a time rather than spewing out randomness like this post.
I hope you'll continue to read this blog, and follow me on my journey over the next few months (and possibly years)!