Community Contributor Pipeline

To transition from Rokwire Community’s Working Open month (February) to Full-stack Community month (March), I am providing readers with a taste of how community contributions work in an open-source community with an academic component.  The diagram below is a rough sketch of how people join and engage with our community.

Attribution Standard for Rokwire

Fork tree for Safer Illinois repo on Github.

If you are interested in developing your own instance of Rokwire, this post is for you. We currently have three steps which you must follow in order to comply with our conditions of fair use. The first is to review and understand the terms of the Apache 2.0 open-source license. The second is to sign and submit the Contributor’s Licensing Agreement. This provides a way to navigate the legal territory of our academic institution (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign).

A big part of working open is assigning proper attribution to the open source components that make it all possible. Given that we are an open-source organization located within a University, the third step is adhering to our Attribution Standard. This standard is shown graphically below, and should be displayed prominently on splash pages and other graphical user interfaces.

The Attribution Standard is important from our end, as we would like a visual means to identify the hard work and investments of both our internal team and the University community more generally. Over the years, UIUC has served as the cradle for a number of famous tech innovations, including ILLIAC, the Mosaic web browser (Netscape), and even fictional characters such as Calculon. Having an attribution standard helps you by helping us sustain interest in the Rokwire platform as a whole.

Rokwire Initiative vs. Platform

In the Rokwire community, we often use the term “Rokwire” in reference to a mobile software platform, associated research activities, and (of course) our community-building activities. But what is the difference between these activities? Newcomers may be confused by this rich tapestry of efforts. In past interactions with community members, it has become clear that the opportunity space is not fully appreciated given the public-facing “Rokwire” moniker.

One clue to our structure comes from our LinkedIn profiles: we have two distinct personae which you will want to follow. The first is “Rokwire: computer software“, which is the software platform that enables smart, healthy communities. The focus here is on Open-source software development.

By contrast, the second LinkedIn profile is focused on “The Smart, Healthy Communities Initiative: information technology and services“, with a tagline of making technology work for human lives. There is a focus on open-source here as well, but contributions will mainly come in the form of open papers and open interdisciplinary project collaborations. Taken together, we can think of these efforts in terms of layers. The software platform is an enabling layer of the smart, healthy communities initiative.

As the smart, healthy communities initiative tends to run in the background, it is easy to think of Rokwire as only a mobile software platform. But what about the open-source community aspect of smart, healthy communities? As mentioned previously, there are opportunities to contribute that do not involve code or expertise in software development. In the smart, healthy communities initiative, there are opportunities to conduct Human-computer Interaction and behavioral research. We are also interested in other types of interdisciplinary initiatives, including input from a wide range of fields such as CS, ECE, Psychology, and the College of Art and Design. Open-source academic project management is an up-and-coming topic to which I will devote a future blog post.

Version Control and Working Open

For working open month, I would like to highlight a Rokwire Community tutorial on Version Control and Working Open (slideshow, video). You can look through the slides for general inspiration, or view the 33-minute tutorial on YouTube. While this tutorial focuses mostly on working with Github and their flavor of Git (version control), I also touch on the Open Science Framework, which is good for hosting workshops and materials for academic collaborations.

Theme of the Month: Working Open

Welcome to 2021 and our first theme of the month. After a busy January, we begin the year with some discussion and resources on a form of open-source collaboration called working open. This is different from a Hackathon or even a structured (formal) collaboration. I will introduce the topic with some links (below). Note that this resource list is mostly Mozilla-centric, as working open is the main working mode of Mozfest and the Open Leaders program. Therefore, I will also introduce three ways to work open in terms of the Rokwire Community.

Resource List

Open Leadership and Events (Mozilla).  link

Working Open Primer (Mozilla).  link, Working Open Checklist (Mozilla).  link,    Mozilla and Working Open (YouTube). link

My Big, Dumb #mozfest Fail, OpenMatt blog.   link,   How to Work Open (Open Matt blog)link

Blogging and Working in the Open (Steven Messner blog)link

Atlassian Open Practices.  link

How to Contribute to Open Source (Open Source Guide).  link

Santo, R., Ching, D., Peppler, K., Hoadley, C. (2016). Working in the Open: lessons from open source on building innovation networks in education. On the Horizon, 24, 3.

Working Open in the Rokwire Community 

Working with transparency and reproducibility. The Rokwire Community is currently forming a Publication Interest Group, where we work on open publications. Open pubs are collaborative papers where calls for involvement are made using Github issues and contributions are evaluated via pull request. We also aim for reproducibility

Working using version control. In Rokwire Community, we use Github and its implementation of version control (forking and pull request). We also use Atom to prepare documents and push them to Github. Version control allows us to track changes made between multiple contributors. The controlled versioning of documents also enables unambiguous workflows.

Publicly-available workflow. Soliciting help on Github issues in addition to providing roadmaps and vision statements in open repositories is key to building an organized workflow that is also open to the public. This includes multitude benefits, including synchronous collaboration and asynchronous communication.

Additional Links

Open Tools for Virtual Instruction (Laura Hilliger blog).   link

Top 10 Open Source Tools for Working from Home.   link

Collaborative Platforms (Open Science Training Handbook).   link

Working open will be highlighted in the next Rokwire Newsletter. Visit our website for more information.

Extended Reality (XR) for a Smart Campus

One long-term goal of the Rokwire Community is to develop an extended reality (XR) infrastructure. XR is a combination of virtual and augmented reality, and incorporates elements of fully real and fully virtual environments.

COURTESY: Wired XR article.

COURTESY: What is Extended Reality (XR)? Visual Capitalist (Jenny Scribani).

Currently, we utilize a generic space in Mozilla Hubs. But we want to take this to the next step, which involves customized integration. Our focus will be building upon the Mozilla platforms (White article): A-Frame (web framework), Mozilla Hubs (virtual rooms), and Spoke (3-D social scenes). This will involve some prior knowledge of JavaScript and Blender.

These efforts will culminate in two outcomes. The first outcomes involves developing a pipeline of virtual experiences for education and collaboration in the Rokwire Community. Secondarily, we would like to develop Augmented Reality resources to be integrated directly into mobile apps developed on the Rokwire platform. Contribute to our broader vision of smart communities in XR!


Goode, L. (2019). Get Ready to Hear a Lot More About XR. Wired, January 5.

White, S. (2018). Enabling Social Experiences Using Mixed Reality and the Open Web. Mozilla Blog, April 26.