“Open source software” is created and improved collaboratively, over the web, by the people who need it, even if they work for different companies in different industries on different continents. Similar to our Openness Philosophy, the premise behind open source software is that none of us is as smart as all of us. Software developers that share code help accelerate technical progress, just as we invite patients to share their health information to accelerate research.
(Warning: Technical jargon ahead!)
Here at PatientsLikeMe, almost every software component behind the website is open source. The operating system and web server, database engine, the Ruby on Rails web development framework — if it weren’t for the time and passion that many people have dedicated to these and many other open source projects, PatientsLikeMe might not exist.
It’s time to give some back! We’ve begun to contribute some improvements and innovations we’ve made to the open source community. We recently needed to enhance the open source Ruby gem (a kind of software library) to support some recent changes made by Campaign Monitor, the email service we use to send our monthly newsletters and other large email campaigns. Our contribution has been noted on Campaign Monitor’s website for the benefit of their other customers using the Ruby programming language. Check out our project for more information, including installation instructions.
We’ve also extracted code from PatientsLikeMe that we think others will also find useful, and released a couple of plug-ins for Ruby on Rails, including:
- migration helpers, which adds some convenience to Rails database migrations (simple scripts that help us evolve the database over time)
- multi_field_group_by, which allows you to run a database query and group the results by more than one field for more powerful aggregations
There’s more to come, so watch our GitHub account for updates.