This article was written in collaboration with Cami Williams, an Open Source Developer Advocate at Facebook.
We wanted to take the time to thank the open source community members who have inspired and motivated us in the last year. In our Community Spotlight series on the Facebook Open Source Twitter page, we featured the following individuals for their achievements in growing our open source ecosystem.
Edidiong is a Developer Advocate who specializes in technical writing and building websites . She’s passionate about uplifting women in tech, and has played a major part in building communities like the Facebook Developer Circle Uyo. In fact, Facebook recognized Edidiong as one of the 40 Icons of Change for her work building the technology ecosystem in Nigeria. She’s quite literally iconic! Check out some of her articles on open source, including “Open Source contributions: A catalyst for growth” and “The Technical Writers Guide to Contributing to Open Source Projects”.
Seoul, South Korea
Ceyda loves machine learning. She self-learns languages (English and Korean, in addition to her native Turkish), which informs her machine learning work on natural language processing, which informs how she thinks about learning languages, which informs… you get the idea. And her love for machine learning doesn’t stop at linguistics. We’re obsessed with how Ceyda did her master’s thesis on neural networks for webtoons! She collected data sets of colorful webtoon comics and trained machine learning models to color black and white images. If that isn’t the coolest thesis ever, we don’t know what is. Check out her blog post on model deployment for PyTorch.
Youtube: Ebenezer Don
Manjulia is a software engineer with a passion for teaching and accessibility. In addition to being a ReactJS open source contributor, she is a founding member of Mumbai Women Coders, an organization that uplifts women in tech and provides opportunities in the tech world. Her dedication to her community inspires us. Oh, and have we mentioned that she’s casually a professional hip hop dancer who has danced with famous Bollywood celebrities? Check out her online book, ” Building accessible websites 101” to learn best practices for building inclusive web pages.
Ekene is a leader in open source and developer advocacy. We’re inspired by his community-first approach thinking about tech, and especially love his talk The State of Payments In Africa, which covers the shift in payment systems in the formerly cash-only Kenyan economy. Now as a Developer Experience Engineer for Netlify, he has gotten on stage at a Google Developer Group summit in Lagos to talk about Building Customizable Checkout Experiences. If you are interested in getting started in GraphQL, Ekene’s blog post, GraphQL: The good and the bad, is a must read.
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Samson is one of those people in the open source community you have to know about. He’s the co-founder of Open Source Community Africa, a maintainer of Sugar Labs projects, a board member for Open Source Collective, and a consultant for African governments on technology. We’re inspired by his community-driven approach to tech and his commitment to democratizing open source. The future is here, and Samson is determined to make sure that it is evenly distributed.
Youtube: Michael Liendo
Michael is an AWS community builder, React developer, and internet explorer with a soft spot for tacos. Whoever you are, Michael has created a little something for everyone. We’re obsessed with his custom React hook for writing the best dad jokes, as well as his Slack Clapback command to “ADD👏🏾SOME👏🏾SASS👏🏾TO👏🏾YOUR👏🏾SENTENCE!👏🏾”.* Go check out his video “AWS Amplify: Adding a RESTful backend to ReactJS“, and subscribe to his channel for more tech content.
*: Learn more about digital blackface and embodying Black personas here.
Annie is the ultimate designer-developer hybrid, and the owner of the most aesthetic personal website you’ve ever seen. We especially love her posts sharing her experience being a bootcamp grad, being a designer turned developer, and chasing curiosity over passion for code. You can read more about her experience on Medium, and check out her front end magic using React and other open source libraries here!
Anna “Apero” McDougall
Youtube: Anna McDougall: Developer
Pauline P. Narvas
Pauline is truly a powerhouse. Not only is she an open source champion, she’s also the host of Inspiring Figures, a series of conversations with the people that you should really know about. You might also know her from her incredible work ethic on #100DaysOfCloud challenge (the AWS Solutions Architect Associates are lucky to have you!), her motivational workout gainz, or as the person who took over the #a47da4 hashtag on Instagram. She is tech goals, she is fitness goals. Consider us a fan!
Olu is a web developer, ethical technologist, philomath, creator, accessibility advocate, self-described nerd, and maximalist, among other things. They wrote an amazing blog post: Building the Woke Web: Web Accessibility, Inclusion & Social Justice. The post highlights the importance of making the web an inclusive place, identifies barriers to accessibility, and suggests some solutions. It’s a must-read for anyone creating on the web, and challenges the open source community to make the web a better place for all. Get to know Olu and their work on their site, and while you’re there, develop an appreciation for cats that smell like dogs in the gig economy.
Victor is building the future of the web. While his commitment to React is what first caught our eye (peek those React Native case studies), we were especially inspired by how Victor embodies the spirit of invention. He so rapidly learns skills, builds projects, and shares them with the world on his website. When he’s not spinning off new side projects or honing in on his web dev skills, he’s dishing out learnings on his learning process, which is pretty meta.
New York, USA
We are so appreciative of all the work Monica has done for the React and open source community this year. She is an advocate for accessibility in open source for people of all backgrounds, and is the founder of React Ladies, a community for women and non-binary React developers. She publishes her content regularly on Egghead and on her blog. Check out her blog “ Keeping Server-Side Rendering Cool With React Hydration“.
New York, USA
If you like building things, bringing people together, accessibility, tech security, Prince is your go to person. We’re inspired by their work making CS education accessible to all as an instructor on egghead.io, a Twitch streamer, and a Yale University faculty member teaching web dev and software engineering. We have also been informed that Prince will code and speak about tech for a pet corgi, which is some deeply relatable content.
New York, USA
Logan is an open source champion. Not only does he bless us with his ReactJS and PyTorch content, he’s also a contributor to the GitHub Arctic Code Vault, a snapshot of millions of repositories archived in a decommissioned coal mine deep beneath an Arctic mountain in Svalbard, Norway. Logan’s GitHub commit history blew our minds, and 1,000 years from now, when archeologists rediscover the vault, we expect them to be just as blown away.
Thank you to our Facebook Open Source community, we are excited to see what you create in 2021!
Hopes Google, Facebook deals will underpin a rise in journalism jobs
“We have seen no guarantees from the big media companies that money raised from the digital platforms will be spent on journalism,” said MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom said last week.
“If some of this the Facebook and Google’s massive Australian revenue is now to be returned to media companies, there must be a corresponding commitment that the money is spent on news content, not dividends or corporate bonuses. The media companies must provide transparency about how they intend to allocate these funds.“
There are signs at least some companies are already progressing with plans to do just that despite challenging market conditions.
Guardian Australia is expected to take another floor in its Surry Hills office for new employees while industry sources have indicated News Corp Australia, owner of The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun, is considering hiring almost 100 journalists with the money. News Corp declined to comment.
National broadcaster the ABC has not yet signed any deals with Google or Facebook but has pledged it will use the money to invest in regional journalism.
But Nine, which owns television, radio and newspaper assets (including this masthead) has been less explicit. A spokesperson for Nine referred back to comments made publicly by chief executive Hugh Marks.
Mr Marks said at a Senate inquiry more than one week ago that if funding from tech giants wasn’t secured, job losses at Nine’s publications would continue.
Following the company’s half-year financial results last week, Mr Marks indicated the company would consider hiring new journalists. “You won’t be able to say a dollar here goes to $1 there but you can look at that business and say it’s a strong viable sustainable publishing business that will be able to support journalism going forward,” he said.
“If there are opportunities for us to employ more journalists to get a positive result then we will do that. But it certainly underpins the future of journalism in this market.”
Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton said most of the money the company expects to gain from its deals with Google and Facebook will be used for Perth based newspaper The West Australian and its regional titles. He initially said the cash would be dropped to the bottom line and be used for repayment of debt but now says it will be focused on improving the newspapers’ digital strategy.
Seven’s deal also has a YouTube component, which means some of the money will be spent on television content.
“It will support quality journalism in metropolitan, regional and community markets and underpin the digital strength and sustainability of our news businesses going forward,” Mr Warburton said.
Industry sources who are familiar with the various agreements have said that some publishers have an audio component – which requires them to invest a large amount of money in areas such as podcasting. Other companies will use the money for distribution strategies to build their digital audiences.
For smaller outlets like Junkee, the money will provide an important backbone for the business to continue its work.
“We haven’t made any definitive decisions yet about how we’ll spend the money, but this moment presents a unique opportunity for us to invest in public interest journalism,” Junkee’s editorial director Rob Stott says. “We’ll be looking at a mix of original reporting and background infrastructure that will make Junkee a more sustainable operation into the future. I’m extremely excited about the potential for this funding to make a real difference to the breadth and depth of content we produce.”
Facebook banned my perfectly harmless article – and I think I know why
You start by excluding fascists, anti-vaxxers and conspiracists. You end by banning pretty much anyone you disagree with. In recent months, Facebook has taken to labelling as fake, or removing altogether, a number of stunningly inoffensive pieces: a study by the American researcher Dr Indur Goklany claiming (quite correctly) that the number of people dying globally as a result of natural disasters was falling; a column by the investigative journalist Ian Birrell questioning whether the WHO had been too hasty in ruling out the possibility of a Wuhan leak; a report by the leading Oxford epidemiologist, Dr Carl Heneghan, of a Danish study arguing that facemasks made little difference to the spread of Covid-19.
And, now, an article of mine. Last week, I wrote a piece for the John Locke Institute (JLI), a high-minded organisation that runs summer schools and seminars, mainly for sixth-formers, offering in-depth tuition in the humanities subjects. I advanced the view that the epidemic had made us more collectivist, and that the post-lockdown world would be relatively authoritarian. The JLI bought advertising on Facebook to promote the piece. Facebook first authorised the advertisements, then pulled them without explanation.
In my case, as in all the others, it is impossible to know what the offence was. None of the pieces was making tendentious claims, let alone promoting conspiracy theories. Since Facebook offers neither explanations nor an open appeals process, we can only guess.
Are algorithms set in such a way as to screen out Right-of-centre opinions? Are they overseen by people with an explicit agenda? Is Facebook responding to pile-ons by woke activists? Is the real objection not so much to the content as to the authors?
I suspect the last. A few weeks ago, Think Scotland, a Unionist website, tried to advertise two articles critical of Nicola Sturgeon. Facebook said no on the bizarre grounds that they violated its “Vaccine Discourager” guidelines. The editor, Brian Monteith, suspecting that Facebook was being pressurised by Cybernats, experimentally tried to advertise a wholly unpolitical article about a young mother potty-training her daughter. It, too, was rejected. Eventually, after a campaign mounted by Toby Young’s Free Speech Union, Facebook backed down.
For what it’s worth, I take the view that Facebook, as a private company, can run whatever adverts it likes. But let’s be absolutely clear that it is now a publisher – a publisher with an agenda. Any notion that Facebook (or Twitter, or YouTube) is simply a platform has gone. It is one more opinionated channel, alongside Fox News, Russia Today, the BBC and the Morning Star.
What is most interesting is not the fact that Facebook has its biases – we all have biases – but what those biases are. Bizarrely for a company that was originally meant to facilitate the free flow of ideas, it has become intolerant of dissent – or, at least, of certain forms dissent. You generally won’t get into trouble for denying Stalin’s crimes, boycotting Israel or celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s death. But question whether there is excessive use of state power in enforcing lockdowns or reducing carbon emissions and you may be excluded.
Indeed, we seem to be reaching the point where simply to call for free speech is becoming dangerous. To the extent that the JLI can be said to have a collective view on anything, it believes in heterodoxy. Its founder, a former Oxford academic called Martin Cox, ensures that his summer schools and seminars hear a range of views from top lecturers, and encourages his students to engage with ideas that might initially repel them. That is, if you think about it, the essence of liberalism.
The article of mine which JLI ran, the one Facebook found intolerable, was not about Covid-19 or public health. It was about the fragility of an open society, the way a shared threat can throw people back on their tribal instincts, and the consequent likelihood that powers seized by governments on a supposedly contingent basis in 2020 won’t be relinquished when the epidemic passes.
Any organisation that sees such opinions as unacceptable is – there is no other way to put this – hostile to liberty.
Tragic reason why man tried to live stream death on Facebook
A man who threatened to live stream his own death on Facebook after he was denied euthanasia despite a viral campaign now plans to travel to Switzerland to end his life.
Alain Cocq, 57, who suffers from a disease that is so rare that it does not even have a name, says he is in a permanent state of suffering.
His case went viral in September 2020 when he threatened to live stream his death on Facebook if French President Emmanuel Macron did not change the country’s laws to allow for assisted dying.
He had to give up on his project after Facebook cut the feed, but he is still advocating for changes in law and has now decided to go to Switzerland to be able to benefit from euthanasia there.
He is applying to the authorities in the Swiss capital Berne and he hopes to receive a positive response in the coming months, if not weeks.
Cocq suffers from a rare form of disease that has been described as being similar to ischaemia, which is when a restriction in blood being supplied to live tissue causes an oxygen shortage that damages the tissue and can cause dysfunctions.
There is no cure for his condition, which will, very slowly, prove fatal.
“I want end of life to become the primary theme of the presidential elections in 2022,” he told local French newspaper 20 Minutes.
Despite his appeal to the French president in September, President Macron said he was “unable to accede to his request” despite the “profound respect” he had for him.
The retired plumber, who has been ill for 34 years, is hoping the Swiss will help him end his life after a failed attempt with the European Court of human rights in 1993 and a first petition to the French government in 1994.
At the time, he was still in a wheelchair, but after that numerous cardiovascular and cerebral accidents rendered him permanently bedridden.
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