Bryan Paget

Health Canada

April 2021

Bryan makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from April 7th to 14th. Thank you, Bryan!

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Bryan Paget. I grew up in Toronto and I have lived in Vancouver and in the UK. I currently live in Ottawa where I work at Health Canada which is an organization responsible for promoting healthy living in Canada.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on two projects at Health Canada.

The first project is a natural language processing app using entirely open source software. The app is designed to help reduce friction in the health and safety inspection process. I designed the app to be self learning and the user of the app has the final say via the ability to overrule any algorithmic predictions.

The second project is about open data solutions within Health Canada. I research and promote F.A.I.R. data practices. We are currently exploring open source and commercial data cataloging software. I hope we can use as much open source as possible.

What is most interesting about that?

I am very concerned about the ethical use of AI and that concern guides everything I do. AI is a powerful tool. My goals at Health Canada are to make that power accessible to the people. I’m not interested in replacing humans with AI.

I became interested in open and F.A.I.R. data because I want everyone to be able to gain insights from data in an accessible way. Data scientists are often slowed down by finding and cleaning up data. I hope my work can improve the UX of working with data.

How did you first discover FOSS?

I discovered FOSS and specifically GNU/Linux when I was 16. I started using Ubuntu when I was 19, verion 4.10 Warty Warthog. I loved it right away. I managed to easily install Ubuntu on my Tangerine iBook. The fact that it was free appealed to me since I didn’t have a lot of money but once I had it installed it was the freedom to change the OS that fell in love with. I learned a lot about how the computer and OS work from installing Linux. I learned about the kernel, device drivers, daemons, display servers, display managers, window managers and file managers. I discovered numerous graphical and console-based apps. There were more icon themes than I could keep track of and I believe some of the old window manager themes belong in an art gallery.

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

I wanted to get to know the people who make the software I use. The creative energy that has gone on into making the Linux desktop into a diverse collection of communities is something I’d like to draw more attention to and celebrate.

I’ve had a preference for open source, especially non commercial, software for a long time. I think it’s the communities of people who work on these projects that fascinate me.

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

I think free and open operating systems are necessary to achieve the free world we all want to live in.

How should they get started?

Talk to people. I’ve enjoyed talking to open source developers and designers. It can be hard to actually connect with people over the internet. I hope to check out some nonvirtual events when the pandemic has settled down.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

  1. Some FOSS projects don’t quite shine the way some commercial products do.

  2. Lack of funding for FOSS projects.

  3. FOSS doesn’t have an outstanding FOSS laptop yet.

How can they be solved?

  1. I want to help out with FOSS UX in a big way. I want to work with the desktop Linux communities to bring some cohesion so that onboarding new users and delivering products and services can happen as easily on desktop Linux as on the web.

  2. I think tiered models may be a solution for some projects, especially if there is commercial interest in the project. I think Gitlab is setting a pretty good example. Additionally, selling hardware and offering tight integration with services that users (such as myself) are already paying for (Nextcloud, Bitwarden etc…) are options to consider.

  3. I know there are many Linux laptops on the market right now and they are good. I own a Darter Pro from 2019. It’s a great laptop. I look forward to a designed-for-linux laptop. I think conducting user studies could help guide the design of a FOSS laptop.

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

People live all over the place. We can communicate online easily but there is something about living far away that makes contributing feel like a far off dream. Especially when it comes to UX related contributions. Those kinds of discussions are hard to do over Github/Gitlab and social media.

What does a perfect day off look like?

I like doing Yoga. I enjoy listening to music, riding my bike, walking. Lately I’ve been watching Chinese dramas to improve my ear for Mandarin. I also like studying the graphics of retro video games and the hardware designs of retro video game systems.

Do you want to tell us something else we didn’t ask?

I have a master’s degree in statistics but I consider myself to be more of an artist and psychologist.
Bryan P.