Emma Irwin with two of her three daughters

Emma Irwin with two of her three daughters

Working to keep the Internet an open source

Emma Irwin is a passionate advocate for web literacy

Have you heard of “open source” on the Internet?

Do you know what it means?

In a nutshell, open-source is the opposite of proprietary. Consider the sale of a muffin. The person who sells you the muffin is selling you a proprietary product. The ingredients (what they are and from whence they came) are kept a secret. With open source, the person not just gives you the muffin; she also gives you the recipe and invites you to change it even more, and pass it along to the next person.

Operating quietly in our midst is Internet developer Emma Irwin, herself an open-source advocate and educator.

Irwin passionately believes in open source. In an online essay, she once wrote, “‘Open’ is all about people, and I have met so many inspiring, courageous, brilliant and humble people from all over the world – changing the world.”

On a volunteer basis, Irwin gives her time to Mozilla Webmaker. This is an open source project that, according to their website (webmaker.org) “creates software, projects and events that promote web literacy through making and sharing.”

According to the About page on Webmaker.com, their goal is to encourage Internet users  “to move beyond using the web to making it.” It has tools that can teach users how websites work (X-Ray Goggles), how to build your own web pages (Thimble) and how to create mashups (Popcorn Maker).

Irwin is both a rep and a mentor with Webmaker.

Although Irwin is not currently teaching locally, she has in the past run a Webmaker Code Club for Grade 5 students in Sooke. “What I am missing right now is a classroom,” she noted, adding that computers and a functional lab space would be required. “I usually teach for free,” she said, adding that she is happy to give instruction to whoever shows up.

From her home in Sooke — often surrounded by her three children Molly (10), Daisy (9) and Violet (3) — Irwin works for Benetech. According to their website, “Benetech is a nonprofit technology company that provides software tools and services to address pressing social needs. Its four program areas are Global Literacy, Human Rights, Environment, and Benetech Labs.”

There are many types of open-source resources available online. MOOCs (massive open online courses, which we wrote about earlier this year in the Sooke News Mirror) are one example. Wikipedia is another. Open Office a third. Mozilla (an open source browser). WordPress (open source website development). And the list goes on.

Irwin, a self-defined “annoying optimist,” believes in the power of paying it forward. Her family was the recipient of tremendous support from Sooke residents when her middle daughter, Daisy, was undergoing cancer treatment.

Through open source technology using the Internet as a vehicle, Irwin strongly believes in the future. Yes, she acknowledges that there are issues surrounding privacy and safety on the Internet. But the potential future reaches far outweigh the hazards.

“I see open source solving major social issues like mobilizing (during) disasters, like putting the right tools in the hands of medics,” she speculated. Other issues that could be resolved using open source include literacy and Internet education.

The reach of the Internet has not yet been fully realized, and it’s people like Irwin who will be a part of the online community persisting in a quest to keep it open and available to all.

Other fellow web developers, programmers and enthusiasts who want to contribute to keeping information on the Internet free and available can get involved through Benetech using their online form, at socialcoding4good.org/volunteering/volunteer

Irwin challenges others web developers and technologists to contribute to the growing movement of giving forward.

“Lending your skills is a really meaningful way to have impact,” she said.

Just Posted

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Victoria police retrieved a number of stolen items May 15 after arresting a man and woman squatting in an empty building. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police look to return stolen items following arrest of squatters

Golf clubs, power tools, jackets, cell phones and a MacBook Pro were retrieved

Before you take on a pet, make sure you want to have it for life. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
EDITORIAL: A pet is a lifetime commitment

Tons of people are getting pets during the pandemic, some for the first time

Protesters seen here rallying against the injunction order on April 1. (Black Press Media file photo)
RCMP enforce injunction at Fairy Creek blockade

Protesters can remain but police will ensure open access for loggers

The Victoria International Airport saw its revenues plummet in 2020. Officials hope a proposed warehouse will be a significant revenue generator. (Black Press Media file photo)
Head of Victoria Airport Authority makes economic pitch for Sidney warehouse project

Geoff Dickson said Sidney stands to earn $325,000 in annual taxes

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10 million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10 million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

(PQB News file photo)
RCMP on the hunt for serial Rathtrevor Beach flasher

Two separate incidents noted at provincial park on April 30 and May 14

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

(Kamloops This Week)
Puppy’s home in question as BC Supreme Court considers canine clash

Justice Joel Groves granted an injunction prohibiting the sale or transfer of the dog

Kayak the humpback whale was found dead on a Haida Gwaii beach on Saturday, May 15, 2021. (Marine Education and Research Society)
Kayak the humpback whale found dead on Haida Gwaii beach

Whale was estimated to be only 18 years old

Then-finance minister Kevin Falcon presents his last B.C. budget, Feb. 21, 2012. The province was emerging from the 2009-10 recession and repaying federal incentive to cancel the harmonized sales tax. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Political veteran Kevin Falcon set for second run at B.C. Liberal leadership

Vancouver MLA Michael Lee announces on the same day

The bow-legged bear was seen roaming 2nd Avenue on Friday, May 7 and again in Brown Drive Park on May 13. (Submitted photo)
Bow-legged Ladysmith bear euthanized after vet examination

CO Stuart Bates said the bear had obvious health issues

Conservation Service Officer Kyle Bueckert holds a gold eagle that was revived from acute rodent poisoning Monday, May 12. Photo: Submitted
‘Obviously, he’s a fighter’: Golden eagle, recovered from poisoning, back in Kootenay wild

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

Most Read