Thanks to lots of people who encouraged me to submit talks and apply for money, and thanks to the sponsorship from linux.conf.nz and Google, I went to two conferences in New Zealand last week. For a week and a half I hung out with linuxchix, people from #geekfeminism, and Drupal folks. It was GREAT. I met a zillion people, gave three talks, and learned a lot.
Kelly picked me up from the airport on Saturday. The next day she and Daniel drove me and some friends all over the south end of the island. Sunday, I sneaked away from the welcome sessions and “how to give a talk” tutorials to visit the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, where I saw a lot of wet birds, fern trees, and a tuatara. There was also a historical display with an excerpt from the Diary of Laura Fitchett, an early British settler. It went like this: “Wet today. Still wet. Very wet. Could not dry the clothes. Too wet for laundry. Rained again.” Kind of like most of my visit to Wellington!
On Monday, we had the Haecksen/Linuxchix mini-conference. Lana Brindley did a great writeup of it. I especially enjoyed Sara Falamaki’s “Happy Hackers, Happy Code” talk even though it made me cry a little bit to think that things might be so nice. Sara outlined some specific advice for good tools and processes for version control, knowledge management, task tracking, build system, testing systems, and development itself, and going for goals like code that improves by shrinking in size, while she threw candy with a wicked overhand at us for participation. Suggestions for great tools from the audience: Valgrind, whiteboards and markers, printf, virtualization, backups, bugzilla summary reports, google docs, RT, your mouth, nice commit messages, Firebug and Web Developer, good sys admins, and pastebin.
I gave my talk “Code of Our Own” which was really Advanced Feminist Solidarity Theory for Coders. We have named the problem, documented it a lot, and we have lots of “Women in Thingie” groups with overlapping memberships. We have some efforts at classes and mentoring. That’s great. What now? What do we need? What helps and what might be helpful to try? My thoughts here are mostly: let’s code together. In meetups, friendships, miniconferences, unconferences or open space, and so on.
My favorite bit is where I said how teaching programming to 11 year old girls is awesome but it’s not helping us, the ones doing the coding now and dripping out of the leaky pipeline, and when I report problems I face and then a bunch of guys go “Oh, well, I know the answer, let’s go teach some 11 year old girls” there’s no way I can argue with their awesome altruism because they’re doing a good thing, but they might as well have said “Sucks to be you, bitter old hag, we’ll just start over then with some tabula rasa infants.” Good luck with that; sounds like a recipe for repeating the same conversation for the next 30 years. It was nice to say a few outrageous crude things while then slipping back into constructive, positive, niceness and yet during both the mean-ass and the pollyanna moments, seeing so many women’s faces around the room nodding, smiling, and cracking up. So, the slides give you a feel for what I talked about, but if you want the full talk with all the jokes and asides and digressions, there is a Code of Our Own video on the Internet Archive which you can download. There will be videos of all the talks very soon from LCA.
Joh Clarke’s talk on security was hilarious and scary. Her point was that the sky has already fallen and you can’t assume anything is secure and we need to face that, somehow, without having the Howard Hughes learns about Germ Theory reaction. She managed to be scary, reassuring, and devastatingly wry all at once, with pictures of her cat breaking into various boxes.
Afterwards a bunch of us went to the Catalyst office where Joh works and worked on moving the geekspeakr.com site to a new server. Emma Jane, who is a freelancer and author of Front End Drupal, awesomely outlined all the things we would need to do on a whiteboard. It was great. She broke it down into a lot of steps so that lots of people could contribute and this also clarified everything to be done.
Emma Jane is also the person who knit the famous Drupal Socks.
It struck me that there were an awful lot of steps to do this seemingly simple thing (as usual) and each step required a set of esoteric and non-obvious background knowledge. We needed sys admins. We had them! We needed people to fuck around on the command line installing and configuring things and moving things around into version control and making it work. (That was me and Angie, and it’s my particular skill.) We needed front end people to scoot blocks around and write themes! And people to document what we did! And we needed people to buy beer and do QA and do all the other things which I didn’t notice happening because I was installing and configuring. Yay!
Here are a bunch of us poking away at the server!
We got pretty far, but didn’t finish upgrading or theming. I’m probably going to go do the upgrade. Janis (who is usually a gcc hacker and who explained allpairs and Delta to me; they help her debug) did some QA on the site the next day. I was happy to be sharing a keyboard with Angie Byron who is a kick ass Drupal core developer.
Elky, Cat, Joh, and the Linuxchix Gentlemen’s Auxiliary were there doing stuff too! I ended up feeling like I would happily work with any of them, any time. They’re sensible! Smart! Nice! They get things done.
Here we are feeling tired and happy!
It was like Christmas – I hung out with kick ass open source people all day long, heard great talks, gave a talk and asked for more coding and development with other women, and then got to do that very thing with people I greatly admire!
I felt inspired to FOR SURE make it to the CodeChix meetup next time it happens in the SF Bay Area.
So, I have a lot more to say and will have to post several more times about linux.conf.au and about DrupalSouth. Stay tuned!
And a final thought about the joy of coding with others:
To be of use
by Marge Piercy
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.