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Why Introducing Information Equality to Your Code Matters with Safia Abdalla

niko profile image Niko 👩🏾‍💻 ・3 min read

Let's listen to this talk as a community and engage in a constructive conversation from the POV of our industry and experiences. Feel free to share meaningful take-aways, raise questions (that folks in the DEV community might be able to help clarify), or state areas where we may disagree with the speaker's POV in the comments.

About Our Speaker

Safia Abdalla is a passionate open source software and data science for social good advocate. She co-organizes the Py-Data Chicago meetup, has given numerous insightful talks, and is active on twitter @captainsafia engaging the community in conversations worth having about our industry.

I was first introduced to Safia from her CodeNewbie podcast episode which piqued my interest in open source.

Talk Summary:

This talk explores how those who spread knowledge and ideas, before we were data scientists, engineers, or researchers; we were storytellers. That though the latest excitement in our field revolves around databases, frameworks, and technology. At the core of all these technologies is the desire to communicate and return to our roots. And that it’s imperative that we stop building things for each other and start building things for the people.

The notion that the general public isn’t interested in learning about the details of cutting edge research or work that we do, is challenged as a mere distortion that has been manufactured to keep people ignorant. Raising the question, is there any use in creating knowledge that doesn't reach the people that need it most? Until we can get our work into the hands of not just our colleagues, but everyone including: teachers, suburban moms, children, and business professionals, have we made true impact? Until that goal is achieved can open science or open source ever be truly open at all? Safia shares with us that focusing our energies and high IQ’s towards this goal of information/education equality, will be the greatest challenge of our generation and will begin a New Knowledge Renaissance.

With notebooks being a long standing symbol of the preservation of meaningful thoughts and knowledge; She poses that the innovation of interactive notebooks will play a key role in this renaissance, allowing through it’s computationally backed narrative, easier sharing of ideas to all.

Concepts I’d like to discuss.

1) nteract
One of Safia’s Open-Source projects is a desktop based interactive computing environment/interactive notebook editor. In the Jupyter ecosystem it uses React, Rxjs, and Redux (Web tools packaged for the desktop using Electron). Noteboooks use ipython format so you can share them with colleagues and outputs displays with live updates. Are you interested in checking it out? Any thoughts on combining cutting edge web technologies and the stable and well tested desktop world?

2) Perception politics regarding programming and coding tools.
Do you agree that these exist? Any ideas of ways we can make our products more accessible and less intimidating to the broader community?

3) The Crisis of Ignorance.
Safia posed that no matter how much data is acquired or research produced the information still isn’t accessible to everyone. Her argument that "historically when misinformation reaches problematic heights, it triggers the beginning of innovation/renaissance; that we’re overdue for" was really thought provoking. Any possibility that aids the way we communicate with each other as people, gives me hope. She believes due to federal funding, education pushes, and changes in accessibility of informations that in the future professionals like teachers knowing how to program may become the norm. What are your thoughts on this?

Final thoughts:

Safia encouraged us to envision a world with truly open science and open source would look like. That we as technologists and storytellers are responsible for making the dissipation of knowledge from creators to consumers easy and delightful. I'm all for allowing the truth she shared, that software is a conversation between the community of people creating it and community using it, should inspire us to do great work.

excited smiling emoji wearing glasses
Hope you'll join in the conversation with me in the comments here or on Twitter

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