Recently, the White House published a blog titled “How We’re Changing the Way We Respond to Petitions.” The blog details how the White House plans to update its We the People platform and respond to each petition in its backlog. The goal of this effort is to realize “an unprecedented level of openness in government.” In particular, the plan focuses on being responsive, opening up code, integrating with other platforms, and building a community. As a leader in the creation and support of open-source software, these principles are in line with our practices here at Kitware.
According to the White House’s blog, “from now on, if a petition meets the signature goal within a designated period of time, we will aim to respond to it— with an update or policy statement — within 60 days wherever possible.”
At Kitware, we also strive to be responsive. We actively solicit and respond to feedback to ensure our solutions best meet the needs of our communities. For example, based on feedback from developers and collaborators, we have been working on adding new features to and improving the API for GeoJS. In addition, we have included a “Tell us what you think” button on the updated VTK website and a “Request a new feature” button on ParaView’s website. Based on a uservoice request, ParaView now enables interactively rotating in a 3D Render View while limiting the rotation to one of the three coordinate axes.
Opening up code and integrating with other platforms
The White House is “opening up the code behind petitions.whitehouse.gov on Drupal.org and GitHub, which empowers other governments and outside organizations to create their own versions of this platform to engage their own citizens and constituencies.”
We also have opened up the code behind many of our solutions on GitHub. These solutions include ParaView, VTK, ITK, CMake, CDash, RGG, and MAP-Tk. As detailed in our Open Source Mission Statement, we use open practices to ensure that we, along with our collaborative communities, advance the state-of-the-art as a matter of daily practice. We have found that practicing principles of open source results in many benefits, which include agile development, rapid innovation and deployment of solutions, collaboration, transparency, and reproducibility.
Beyond contributing to open-source projects, we work with organizations to integrate open-source technology into their workflows. For example, when the National Alliance for Medical Image Computing (NA-MIC) community wanted to adopt a new software development process to ensure consistent quality across its projects, we helped integrate our high-quality software process into Slicer for version 4. This version of Slicer has improved code base with fewer crashes, improved test coverage, and a modern interface that is more functional and has fewer lines of code. As a result, Slicer 4 has been downloaded more than all prior versions of Slicer combined.
While we maintain exceptional, permissively licensed code, we recognize that good documentation is as important as the code itself. For example, we have focused effort into releasing current versions of the ITK Software Guide, now available as two books. The software guide is accessible in a variety of formats, and it is now available in browser-friendly HTML format. Through diligent documentation with modern tools like Sphinx, used for CMake and ITK documentation, documentation is available in a variety of formats and can incorporate interactive visualization technologies like VTK-generated WebGL.
Building a community
The White House has “assembled a team of people responsible for taking your questions and requests and bringing them to the right people …”
Similarly, at Kitware, we are dedicated to making sure your questions and requests are brought to the right people. We offer several mailing lists for users and developers. These mailing lists provide forums for questions, as well as outlets for discussion about future work and development topics related to our projects. We also maintain Google plus communities for scheduling weekly user and developer interactive video meetings. See, for example, the ones for ITK and Slicer.
Our goal is to enable the success of our collaborators, customers, and community members, whom we exist to serve. We are happy to publicize their accomplishments by welcoming contributed articles to the Kitware Source newsletter. Special attention is made to retain authorship metadata of contributed patches and code review, so authors receive appropriate acknowledgement. See, for example, the summary of ITK repository contributions or code reviews.
There are several ways you can contact us to learn how we can help with your next software development effort. You can fill out a form on our website, or you can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Either way, we will have the appropriate team members contact you!