Among my friends and family, it’s widely assumed that because I have some vague knowledge of HTML and CSS I can make anything on the internet work. I don’t have the heart to tell them how wildly inaccurate this is. One of the reasons I wanted to become a CHI fellow is that I know how to conceptualize digital projects, but I have no idea how to build them. As a Millennial, I grew up in between the generation who built everything on the internet with their code and the one who has always had UI to do everything for them (I’ll let you figure out which generation is which).

In my project, I’m attempting to use three different coding languages that I’ve never had practice with before: python for the data analysis, geojson for the data translation, and JavaScript for the interactive functionality. Don’t ask me why I decided to do it this way. I’ve never taken the easy road in my life. Every time I worked on the project, I shed a tear for not being able to use Flourish rather than coding my own data project.

However, through the process of teaching myself these languages, I’ve come to establish a begrudging fondness for my own coding. Some might call it a runner’s high… coder’s high maybe? Where you make a breakthrough in your code and it works for the first time. But it’s important to note that I owe all of my small successes to the coders that came before me and the spirit that the internet was originally built on.

Without the ethos of open source, I would still be stuck in the metaphorical dark age. It didn’t surprise me when I learned many years ago that the internet was originally built with open access, open source knowledge in mind (by academics no less). While the term “free knowledge” is relative, when you look at all the content on the internet, it is (mostly) filled with information sharing. We want to share the things we know. We want to connect across the cosmos. We want our Mapbox API to play nice with our geojson file! And none of that would be possible without the gracious help of content creators and open source tools like Github, Scrollama, and Creative Commons.