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Advocating for Collaboration in Code

Dan Gowans has been in the tech space since graduating from Algoma University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Shortly after receiving his degree, Dan began working for a startup as a developer at the recommendation of one of his professors. This startup was part of an incubator program at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, formerly located in Shingwauk Hall.

For the past ten years, Dan has been working for the City of Sault Ste. Marie, where he is currently working as a Systems Analyst/Programmer. He is responsible for supporting several third-party and in-house applications used by staff. However, like many smaller organizations, Dan found that finding resources for these applications were oftentimes challenging.

In 2017, Dan had a discussion with his manager, former Algoma University sessional instructor Frank Coccimiglio, about developing new in-house code in the open on GitHub, a platform for developers to host their code and share it with others without restrictions, called ‘open source development’. Professor Coccimiglio was supportive of Dan’s idea to be part of the GitHub program in hopes of being able to find collaborators in other municipalities with similar challenges to work out solutions together.

Currently, the City has over 30 open source projects stored on GitHub that anyone in the world is welcome to look at, contribute to, or use for their own purposes. An example of this collaboration was a developer in Argentina who took a tool written for the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s Legal Department and translated it completely to Spanish.

On February, 2, 2020, GitHub took a snapshot of all the open source projects on its Platform for a project called the GitHub Arctic Code Vault . The project will store open source code for the next 1000 years, including code written for the City of Sault Ste. Marie. To ensure the archive will last, all public code that lived on GitHub that day is now being stored in a decommissioned coal mine close to the North Pole, 250 metres deep in the permafrost of an Arctic Mountain. The goal of this program is to preserve code that future historians can use to learn about elements of our society.

Dan’s biggest drive is to advocate for openness and transparency in the work he does by developing what he can in an open source environment to promote collaboration.

If you are an Algoma University alumnus and have a story that you’d like to share with us, please let us know by emailing Hilary Prouse, Administrative Assistant for the Alumni & Advancement Office, at hilary.prouse@algomau.ca.

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