We’re all quickly learning that worldwide pandemics can bring out both the best and the worst of humanity. But one thing has become readily apparent to me — outside of the large teams of medical professionals risking their lives right this minute, the open source community stands alone in its ability to rapidly organize in the midst of chaos to give back to the world and, in this case, make it safer for all of us.
These are just a few incredible open source projects that didn’t exist a few months ago, but rapidly formed teams of dozens of contributors to fill both big needs and small niches in the fight to defeat the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19.
Now that Americans are finally starting to get tested for the coronavirus, information and statistics about the results are being released state-by-state, which has led to a scattering of primary sources across the web, each releasing different figures in different forms. The COVID Tracking Project collects as much information as possible from each local health authority’s website and puts everything together in easy-to-digest tables, as well as spreadsheets and a public API.
The maintainers are also fully transparent about their process and take great care to annotate individual figures with the methodology used to arrive at each, which has earned them the trust of even the largest national news organizations reporting on COVID-19.
This one might be my favorite, simply because of its laser-like focus on solving a very specific (yet catastrophic) problem. The United States is already running out of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the healthcare professionals on the front lines of this crisis. #findthemasks.com has gathered specific donation requests and points of contact from hospitals around the country in desperate need of basic supplies.
Please look up your local hospitals on #findthemasks and follow their instructions to donate anything you have hoarded — it’s likely the single most impactful thing you can do at this point. If you don’t see your local hospital, or don’t feel comfortable shipping equipment to any hospital listed, you can also visit PPE Link and they will connect you with hospitals in your area.
I figured I’d throw in this cheeky website broadcasting a simple but serious message: STAY THE FUCK HOME!!! If you’re still not convinced of the importance of this “suggestion,” give their “Self-Quarantine Manifesto” a quick read. Now.
The GitHub community has translated the instructional essay into over a dozen different languages — including a safe-for-work version, if that helps — and they’re looking for more translators if you’re multilingual and need something besides Netflix to fill your time with while you stay the fuck home! 😉
This collection of various visualizations is fascinating (and sobering) to look at. If you’re smarter than I am and have experience in data analysis, their team (led by a GitHub engineer) would be more than happy to add your contribution to the site — they’re using Jupyter Notebooks and fastpages.
CoronaTracker is a beautiful cross-platform app for iOS and macOS with intuitive maps and charts fed by reputable live data. Apple is being justifiably picky about “non-official” Coronavirus apps in their App Store (so is Google, by the way) but you can still download the macOS app directly or compile the iOS source code yourself using Xcode if you wish.
A bit more family-friendly than #StayTheFuckHome, the Staying Home Club is maintaining a running list of over a thousand companies and universities mandating that employees and students work from home, as well as events that have been canceled or moved online. Quarantining yourself might feel lonely, but here’s solid proof that you’re far from alone right now.
This one is a bit over my head, but apparently Nextstrain is a pretty impressive open-source service targeted at genome data analysis and visualization of different pathogens. Their COVID-19 page is still awe-inspiring to look at for a layman like me, but probably a thousand times more so if you’re an actual scientist — in which case, the genome data they’ve open-sourced might be of interest to you.
Johns Hopkins University’s visual COVID-19 global dashboard has been bookmarked as my go-to source of information since the beginning of this crisis earlier this year. Now, JHU’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering has open-sourced their data and analysis for anybody to use.
COVID-19 Scenarios will probably hit everyone in a different way, depending on your levels of optimism and/or pessimism right now. It uses advanced scientific models to predict the future of the virus based on past data and future variables and assumptions you can tinker with yourself.
The maintainers at the Neher Lab in Basel, Switzerland even have a discussion thread and an open chatroom set up for both scientists and non-scientists to ask questions and post ideas, which I find really nice of them!
Similar to the COVID Tracking Project above, the Corona Data Scraper has set up an automated process to scrape verified data from across the web to form massive CSV spreadsheets and JSON objects. They even rate the quality of each source to prioritize data accordingly.
Folding@home has been around forever. I remember installing it on my family’s home computer as a curious kid and making my father infuriated over how slow it got. But they switched gears this month from using our computers to crunch various proteins and molecules in the background, and all of their power is now going towards discovering unknown “folds” in the coronavirus, which might be able to lead scientists to find better cures and potential vaccines.
You can download their software here to donate some idle computing power to their efforts — they definitely know what they’re doing by now, after pioneering en-masse distributed computing 20 years ago.
Fun fact: The team behind Folding@home has seen a huge spike in computational power this month after cryptominers started mining coronavirus proteins instead of boring, old Ethereum with their insanely overpowered GPUs! 👏
To wrap this list up, I thought I’d include yet another API fed by multiple data sources that you can use to create your own open-source project if any of these inspired you. This one is incredibly flexible in terms of query parameters and endpoints but they all return simple JSON responses like we all know and love.