The government is the de facto "keeper of the data" for the entire country. There's all kinds of useful data on pretty much any topic. The problem is that often, that data is stored in a way that is very difficult to discover and access. In my opinion this is primarily a workflow issue as opposed to a policy issue. Too many datasets exist as documents on a walled-off shared folder somewhere. Even sharing data with another agency is difficult, especially if it's of substantial size. Most agency networks block file sharing services like Dropbox. So, the opportunities for open data are really endless if we can change the way the government stores, creates, and releases data.
We become better software developers by observing how some of the best software in the world is being written. Open source has changed and will continue to change the way the world builds software, not only by creating high-quality reusable components, but by giving us a model for how to produce better software. Open source gives us complete transparency into that process.
The intersection of those two concepts is the sweet spot to success (in my mind) in open source. Everyone wants to be a +1 in their interactions in open source, but sometimes you have to settle for being a 0 for a while until you build up enough expertise in a project. You don't want to be a -1, where you are actively hampering work from being done.
However, you should be bold and inquisitive when figuring out what you want to work on in open source. People will generally help you in open source communities if they see you're passionate and willing to learn.
Licenses are the legal underpinning of open source projects, but companies don't always know how to manage them. Jeff Luszcz founded Palamida to help organizations ensure they were complying with upstream software licenses. Along the way, he and his team discovered that being unaware of the open source licenses in use leads to being unaware of vulnerabilities that need to be patched.
When I teach beginners, I doubt many of them have any idea what open source really means! What I do know they notice (and care deeply about) is how easy it is to find information and answers to their questions ("Can I Google this?"). Open source, and the fact that it requires a community to work really well, benefits these beginners whether they know it or not.
I have a much better appreciation for Linux after having worked on the series! To be very honest, Linux intimidated me a little when I had to use it at Pixar over my internship a few years ago. But now, I would welcome any classes on how to use it. There is such a strong, positive, intelligent community creating Linux together, that I am honored now to somehow be a part of that. Thank you, Linux!
I had my first run-in with the turn-based, Linux strategy game Battle for Wesnoth a few years ago. It was not long after discovering open source software, and I was incredibly impressed that a small group of developers could create such an excellent game for free. Discovering this along with Linux and the numerous GNU packages is what really piqued my interest in the world of open source.
Getting my clients' developers and sysadmins to stick to all of the documented processes I've set up for them.
I have years of experience implementing Drupal-based solutions, so I have a rather solid understanding of what works and what doesn't. But some folks without any experience with Drupal try to shoehorn it into incompatible environments. I do my best to explain all of this and why to ensure that, when I'm gone, folks can take all of my wiki documentation and run with it (use it and update it as necessary).
I like to think of my consulting services as successful if my clients can continue working on their projects without me. Basically, I'm doing a good job if I put myself out of one.
By jumping into the fire. I started using Linux in the office lab for network experiments it became easier to use Linux functions like tcpdump than it to requisition the data scope to monitor networks. Then we needed a DNS for the lab, then a file server and ... so the little Linux box under my desk became part of the glue keeping things running. It was not the best solution, but it was fun. It sounds great, but we did have some formal training on other *ix's as the company was looking to migrate away from the proprietary OS's of the day.