Ravings of a medical informatician..

Not that you care about anything he might talk about

Open Source as a form of Social Transformation?

Burke and I were asked some time ago to present our work on OpenMRS as an example of social transformation at a national conference hosted by our institute. The first thing that went through my mind (besides a large “wha?”), was that I detest giving talks about such wishy-washy, touchy-feely topics. Given that we were asked by our direct mentors and peers to do this, however… we agreed.

Regenstrief’s spiritual leader, Tom Inui, likely sensed our sentiments about giving this talk, and gave me a book as a gift:

Getting to Maybe

He told me that the book described our story and perhaps might help us with further work on OpenMRS. I gave it a shot, and in short, I highly recommend it. It reads easily, and it’s inspiring.

What it taught me:

  • Trying to do good things in the world starts with good intentions and isn’t typically associated with deep introspection and planning
  • Most people that have succeeded in changing the world feel as if they’re constantly flying by the seat of their pants
  • If people readily identify with your cause, then you very well might be onto something… don’t ignore this

I have to tip my hat to Tom and Brad Doebbling (the organizer of the conference we presented at), as they forced us to do something that isn’t in our nature: be introspective and attempt to describe how we’ve evolved OpenMRS to where it is today. Burke talks more about the presentation we gave in his blog post, but I keep coming back to an idea I had as we were in preparation: the open source approach to software development is an extremely potent way to enable social transformations.

The way in which I’ve seen the larger open source community converge on OpenMRS is nothing short of staggering from my perspective, and I can’t help but think that there’s some important lessons in this that can and should be reused by others. I’ll have a lot more to say on this in the weeks to come, as I share some exciting news about the growth of the community.

On a completely different topic, I just got a copy of the new Radiohead album, In Rainbows. Um, wow. A clear standout track: Bodysnatchers. Go download it now! Yes, they’ve actually released the album online, and allow you to decide for yourselves how much to pay for it. Brilliant.

October 11, 2007 Posted by | Informatics, Medicine, open source, OpenMRS | 4 Comments