The Healthcare Analytics Blog

This Blog is where I write about my favorite kind of data analytics, Clinical and Healthcare analytics. Of course, all kinds of analytics are fair game for discussion in keeping with my growing fascinations with Mathematics, Statistics and Data Mining.

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Adding a Project List to My Website

I am making somewhat of a digression in order to talk about my projects. In part because they will include, over time, some tangible responses to the challenges I've discussed I mention the new pages in the blog. So, I have decided to add a new set of pages to the website to post information about my personal projects. Some of these involve development and programming and some are other kinds of activities. I plan to focus today's blog mainly on the application development projects as it gives me a chance to talk about open source and free or non-costly software.


I Love the Open Source and Community Software Concepts.

The open source movement is really, to my mind, a foundation in computer engineering rather than a movement within it. It is the way things were in the beginning and a philosophy. The norm was to share code as ideas (like “free as in speech”, see Darren Wershler-Henry, (2002) Free as in Speech and Beer, Prentice-Hall, Toronto). It was from the get go more than just code because all those patterns we now use daily, search algorithms, sort algorithms, ways of doing things originated again and again in the creative processes the original hackers of the 60s and 70s.


My late cousin, Rick, and I spent our entire youth (and beyond) creating and exploring the halls of science and among our discoveries was the computer. Not withstanding the analogue TIC-TAC-TOE computer he built from scratch, Rick's first computer was an Apple kit of sorts(c. 1969). Of course, software as we know it now was nearly non-existent and was for us programs copied by hand from computer ‘mags’ (or ‘Xerox' copies of them from libraries) and stored, if we could, on cassette tape. Often we just typed in the code as we needed in and then ran it. Running programs for college computer courses consisted of delivering your stack of punched cards to the operator in one room and picking out your reams of output in another, debugging and repeating. To avoid line-ups this was usually all done at 2 am. In this setting, our classmates shared great programs with you without question. If you had a physics problem to solve you first checked to see if someone had a FORTRAN routine which helped with the job.


Intellectual property has had to become a more concrete concept at the hands of lawyers (of course) and entrepreneurs, in order to measure worth for the purposes commerce. Unfortunately, the entrepreneurs (now, often venture capitalists rather than the creators) and the lawyers fall, more into the business for the sake of business types, rather than business for the builders and users of technology. However as evils go this is on balance a necessary one. At the same time, the concept of open source and "free as in speech" has needed increasingly aggressive defence. The fact that "free as in beer" is what todays naive users and naive lawyers think is the issue 'muddies' the conflict further.


All that being considered we now find the two camps, unnecessarily always suspicious of each other, and I am in the open source camp (in case you still weren’t clear on that). This begins to touch on the difficult to pin down definition(s) of when ideas should be able to be reserved as sole personal property and when and how they are part of the commons (see Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons” Science, December 13, 1968). This is also a discussion I intend to reserve for a future ‘Millerean Rant’ rather than explore it now. Nuff Said!

Incidentally, I read an interesting essay yesterday about “what the top 1% of software engineers do”. This ventures among other things, the generally untested opinion that a significant proportion of these are represented in open source projects. Notwithstanding the implied comment on the state of the art, this is consistent with my own opinion about the creative ‘volksgeist’ in all this.


A bit about the Cost and Accessibility of Software.

In my experience more frequently than not software tools are beyond the reach and resources of users with need. While commercial software pricing is very much out of control for legitimate users, I believe the open source software movement serves as a balancing force in the market for user rights. This is particularly important for the academic and not-for-profit sectors. Also I think that the work going on in open source software is more likely to return rewards of effort to the software creators and builders. This is truly the impetus for me to be in this camp (beyond any politics of course).

So, as I have said, my project list has become part of my website. The current list can be seen in detail at Projects.

When one visits a project web site such as on the Apache Foundation site a description of the project, usually with a brief background and various discussions of the release history and application or package documentation is encountered. My intent is to share my learning process as well as the development process involved in the project’s progress. I assume the sharing of what I learned about the object oriented development paradigm and my research process into the domain area of the project may be of benefit to other learners as a (hopefully, positive) development example as a didactic exercise. As a result the way I have used the Unified Process is documented proceed step by step for my project 1 (DPSS). Whether I repeat this idea with other projects I am posting depends on the value other find in the exercise. I certainly forces me the think rigorously about how I am carrying out my development. I also hope some useful dialogue is generated as well.

So I invite the reader to visit the Projects page and see how my project 1 is unfolding. Feedback, comments and discussion are enthusiastically welcomed, email to, "infmtx.feedback@gmail.com". This is also the otherwise unheralded addition of feedback functionality to my site in general, and to this blog in particular.

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