As many of our readers know, we are based in Chattanooga, TN, otherwise known as the Gig City. We were recently voted the best (small) city for entrepreneurs in America. Many folks like to toot Chattanooga’s horn (we like to brag and talk about the city), and with good reason:
- Thanks to a partnership between EPB (the local power company), and the City of Chattanooga, we were one of the first cities in the world to have fiber laid throughout the city. As a result, gigabit-speed internet was made available (for a price) to anyone who wanted it.
- Organizations such as the Lamp Post Group, the Company Lab, and LAUNCH Chattanooga (one of our clients) have helped countless entrepreneurs conceptualize, launch, and grow their small businesses.
- QuickQue, a local startup founded by a local entrepreneur, was recently purchased for $11.5 million by San Francisco-based OpenTable. Not only that, but the local office will remain and grow!
There are countless other examples of why Chattanooga is an awesome city for geeks and entrepreneurs.
However, the one I want to focus on in this post, is why Chattanooga is great for the open source community – and how Chattanooga can better embrace open source.
Why Chattanooga is great for Open Source
- Chattanooga has an active open source mailing list
Few people realize that Chattanooga boasts one of the most active Linux User’s Group mailing lists. Chugalug (Chattanooga Unix, GNU, Android, Linux Users Group) has existed since 1999, and despite being based in Chattanooga, boasts of active members worldwide.
It is a community of people helping people: Jobs (and job information) are exchanged, hardware is traded, and most importantly, experience is shared. It is a great community made up mostly of IT professionals in the Chattanooga area, and is a very active mailing list (with occasional in-person, informal get-togethers).
- Several Chattanoogan entities support open source
The “Fourth Floor,” Open Chattanooga, the Gig Tank, and several others are groups of people, companies, nonprofits, and local government organizations that have joined together to help promote open source software, open source development, and Chattanooga’s high-speed internet. William Roush, a member of the aforementioned Chugalug mailing list, has this to say:
Chattanooga has a dense amount of open-source initiatives. The library hosts meetings for Open Chattanooga and is looking to hire an Open Data Specialist. We have Gig Tank which provides resources for startups that seem to favor open source development. We also had GeekMove which provided financial incentives to bring open source savvy people to Chattanooga.
- National Organizations are supporting Chattanooga-based open source initiatives
Mozilla,, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, Department of Education, and US Ignite, have teamed up to launch the “Gigabit Community Fund” in Chattanooga. “US Ignite fosters the creation of next-generation Internet applications that provide transformative public benefit” and Mozilla’s “mission is to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web.”If you live in Chattanooga, you can participate in the Gigabit Community Kickoff Event, hosted at the Fourth Floor of the Library on February 6th (2014). “Next generation communication and networking technologies offer opportunities for everyone in our communities. This kickoff event is a community sprint for educators, technologists & community catalysts to come together and build: Let’s create together.”As an IT professional with understanding of how gigabit internet works (and what can be done with it), I’ve been asked to help lead the day by facilitating group discussions and brainstorming events throughout the day.
[Update: You can also read our newsletter on the Gigabit Community Fund for Nonprofits, which I wrote on 1/22/2014 to several local clients and colleagues]
There are countless other reasons why I feel Chattanooga is great for open source, but these touch on some of the biggest reasons. Let me know your thoughts on other reasons I haven’t mentioned in the comments below!
How Chattanooga can Better Embrace Open Source
Here are just a few ways in which I feel companies, nonprofit organizations, the government, and individuals in Chattanooga can better embrace the concept of open source.
- More day-to-day local IT professionals (especially open source developers) should be consulted, cultivated, and engaged during events such as the Chattanooga Gigabit Community Kickoff Event. There is a huge untapped pool of potential volunteers for projects such as these within the Chugalug community, and employees of local organizations such as TVA, Unum, Blue Cross, and even smaller organizations like Lamp Post Group.
- A local company (such as EPB) should mirror repositories of widely-used open source projects, such as Linux distributions like Ubuntu and CentOS, for use by the public. A closer mirror on such a fast internet connection, will reduce both latency and bandwidth bottlenecks, and allow open source developers to access and download these open source projects much more quickly.
- As I explained in an earlier blog post, entitled The Gig: What it means for Chattanooga, the city needs to make a concerted effort to use the “Gig” wisely – and this will most definitely require a lot of contribution from open source:
“Until the emphasis moves away from talking about what we currently have TO developing products and services that actually need the Gig (or at least a faster internet connection than is available in most US cities) we will not be as innovative as many think we are.”
- Chattanooga has huge potential, but until recently, lots of emphasis has been placed on building new apps and websites under the auspices of “The Gig” when those apps and websites would only require (literally) a fraction of gigabit speed internet to actually work well.
Chattanooga has great potential, as we are currently one of the few cities that has such a powerful resource at our fingertips (pun slightly intended)! We are a city that is on a mission, and we are on a great path. We must stop comparing ourselves to other cities, and instead define ourselves as an exciting city with our own unique DNA.