SG Geek Girls Maker Series #2: Anna Filippova

In our SG Geek Girls Makers Series #2, Anna Filippova, co-organizer of RubySG and current PhD Candidate at the National University of Singapore talked to us about the Paradox of Open Source software.

The Open Source movement has been around for a long time, but here are some common myths that Anna debunked during her talk.

Myth #1. Free/Open source software is a new idea


Between the 50s’ to 80s’, DECUS tapes were a unique way of worldwide transmission of free software.

Since the 1950s, the most famous group of people that were using open source software, even before that term came to be, were the academics at MIT.

At that time, it was generally distributed under the principles of openness and co-operation long established in the fields of academia, and was not seen as a commodity in itself. Source code, the human-readable form of software, was generally distributed with the software itself because users frequently modified the software themselves, because it would not run on different hardware or OS without modification, and also to fix bugs or add new functionality.

Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman, formerly from the MIT Lab, launched the GNU Project in 1983 to create a Unix-like computer operating system composed entirely of free software. With this, he also launched the free software movement.


In Finland, Linus Torvalds, a computer science student, implemented the first versions of the Linux kernel. Soon, many people were collaborating to make that kernel more and more usable, and added many utilities to make GNU/Linux a real operating system.

In 2002, git was born. Shortly after in 2008, GitHub – a powerful collaboration, code review, and code management platform for open source and private projects was introduced.

Today, thousands of new code repositories are added to GitHub daily.

Myth #2. Women don’t participate

Women heros

While comparison of absolute numbers for women who contribute to open source software remains low, there are many significant women leaders in the open source community that are worth mentioning:

  • Danese Cooper – a veteran in the open source world, having served as Sun Microsystems first chief open source officer and spearheaded the company’s efforts to open its source code, leading to projects like its Open Office initiative. She also held similar positions at Symantec and Intel, and was CTO of the Wikimedia Foundation until 2011.
  • Karen Sandler – the executive director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, former executive director of the GNOME Foundation, an attorney, and former general counsel of the Software Freedom Law Center.
  • Elizabeth K. Joseph – Wrote The Official Ubuntu Book, Ubuntu Community Council Member and runs Ubuntu Women
  • Linda Liukas – Ruby Hero and writing a children’s book about Ruby called “Hello Ruby”. Co-founder of Rails Girls, a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas using Ruby.

Myth #3. There are no personal and economic gains to contributing

Most people think that sharing software is altruistic, but there are many personal and economic gains to promoting and contributing to open source projects.

Anna talked about post-scarcity – an alternative form of economics or social engineering in which goods, services and information are universally accessible.

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Eric Raymond is one of the co-founders of The Open Source Initiative,  an non-profit organization dedicated to promoting open-source software. They keep track of open source licenses, which are licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition. In brief, they allow software to be freely used, modified, and shared.

“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs look shallow.”- Linus’ Law, Eric Raymond.

This quote by Eric Raymond really emphasizes the underlying philosophy that if you put your program out there for others to scrutinize and improve on, it will only get better.

There are also personal reasons to contribute to open source software – such as to learn a new language, to get into a sense of community and to show others what you are doing professionally as well.

Myth #4. I need to be really good to get started

While it might take a while for beginners to start contributing to huge open source software projects such as Firefox, there are many ways for you to get involved if you wanted to start contributing to the open source community.

Here are some examples that Anna lists:

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There are many open source community meetups in Singapore as well that you can take part in to learn more about a particular language, or get involved in a project.

Other helpful links:

Singapore’s Tech Communities –

Google’s Anita Borg Scholarship –

Rails Girls Summer of Code –

Ada Initiative –

You can watch the full video of Anna’s talk on YouTube:

About Anna Filippova:

Anna’s research looks at the social dynamics of FOSS systems, charting how projects work, and how they work through collaboration challenges. Armed with perspectives from communications and social psychology, Anna digs into conflicts to find out what makes and breaks working together online. She hopes to improve the experience of both FOSS projects and organisations that rely on remote work.

You can find her work in peer reviewed academic publications like Computers in Human Behavior and CSCW proceedings. Anna has also appeared as a guest on, and regularly speaks at barcamps and hackathons.

Ask her how you can get involved in a project, about learning to code, or the many other ways you can become a part of the community.

Special thanks again to our sponsor Paypal for the venue and food~