“Let’s honor Alan Turing not with a code of conduct, but with our code”

This morning, John Graham-Cumming delivered a stirring keynote at the Open Source Conference (OSCON) in Portland, Oregon. He challenged the open source community to honor computing pioneer Alan Turing not simply with a code of conduct but with the software they build. The five minute video is well worth your time.

Graham-Cumming also shared the story of how he leveraged the power of social media, open source software and the Internet to honor his petition to apologize for the treatment of Turing. For those who follow the path of e-democracy, this is fascinating stuff:

In 2009, I petitioned the UK to government to apologize for the treatment of Alan Turing. To my surprise over 32,000 people in the UK signed the petition and on September 10 of that year then Prime Minister Gordon Brown called me at home to tell me that the apology text was being issued that night.

I harnessed this great crowd of ordinary people and celebrities by myself. Using a mixture of Twitter and Facebook and old fashioned press and television the word spread quickly. I have written about how I achieved this on O’Reilly Radar. The campaign grew slowly at first as only a small number of people in the computer world, who already knew about the Turing story, signed. But a big break came when The Independent newspaper wrote about the campaign and shortly after Richard Dawkins lent his name. As Twitter amplified stories in the press more and more people signed until the BBC decided to cover the story first on its web siteand then on television.

With the weighty BBC story to tweet the petition quickly grew and got the attention of Downing Street. The petition itself was all managed electronically through open source software created by the British non-profit My Society. With an open source petition platform the British government has enabled direct, electronic democracy.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

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