Re-stating our support for the victim/survivor in the Dana McCallum case

[Content warning: rape]

Back in April, we published a statement of support for the victim in the Dana McCallum rape case. In the letter — written by Liz Henry and co-signed by Leigh Honeywell, Valerie Aurora, Brenda Wallace, Tim Chevalier (me), Annalee Flower Horne, and Beth Flanagan — we stated our empathy and support for the victim/survivor — who is McCallum’s wife (they are in the process of divorcing) — in this case as well as for her family.

This month, McCallum accepted a guilty plea for two misdemeanors in this case: one count of domestic violence with corporal injury to the spouse and one count of false imprisonment. McCallum will serve probation, community service, and will have to undergo counseling. We already included this link in a linkspam, but given our previous statement of support for McCallum’s victim, I want to reiterate that support.

As Liz wrote in our statement of support back in April, “Rape is a horrible violent crime no matter who the rapist is.” McCallum’s wife read a statement that says, in part:

I must say that it deeply saddens me that as a victim, my only public support has been from hate groups. I expected more from the LGBT and feminist community. It’s a shame that they can’t do the emotional work it requires to process that someone they love is capable of such an awful crime. That is their burden to carry, though.

In April, we also expressed disappointment in the transmisogynistic response to McCallum’s crime. As geek feminists, we believed then, and do now, that we can and must accept that someone in our community is capable of the crime of rape. Hard as it may be to accept, self-identified feminists can sustain rape culture — up to and including actually committing rape — too. We also believe that at the same time, we must resist the narrative that would use this crime to de-gender or misgender McCallum and, by extension, trans women. Rape can be committed by anyone, regardless of their assigned sex at birth or their self-affirmed sex or gender. Structural power dynamics and rape culture mean it’s far more likely to be committed by cis men than by people in any other group, but that is a fact that needs to inform anti-rape organizing — it does not make rapes committed by specific non-cis, non-male people less damaging.

McCallum’s wife also said that she still loves McCallum and wants “forgiveness” to prevail. The Revolution Starts at Home (PDF link) is recommended reading for anyone curious about what that might look like.

Edited to add: McCallum’s ex has also written a public blog post, as a guest post on Helen Boyd’s blog, about her experience:

The transphobic radical feminists and other transphobic people will continue to rage over the state of my wife’s genitals, and I can’t stop them. But I hope more intelligent and thoughtful people will rise to the occasion to steer the conversation to what really matters.

I want her to be accountable. I want this to never happen again. I want to forgive her. I want this story to be about forgiveness and redemption. I need it to be. I need others to let it be that, too – to be my story, my trauma, my choice, my agency.

I recommend reading the post, but not the comments.

All about my linkspam (14 October 2014)

#GamerGate

A few more links about the Grace Hopper Celebration Ally Panel


We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

We want to have our Linkspam and eat it, too! (12 October 2014)

Read how the Grace Hopper Celebration Ally Panel went horribly wrong:

And here’s to all the other stuff:

  • An Apology to the Trans* Community | Alissa Nutting (October 8): Speaking about how not to be an ally, Allisa Nutting apologizes for messing up with a story about a trans* character: “My level of ignorance at the time was truly astounding. I conflated allyship with intention. Because I meant well, I imagined that I could explore trans* consciousness from my privileged position. I know now that an ally must listen more than s/z/he speaks and act in accordance with the trans* community.”
  • Why We Must Help Bridge the Gap For Women In Tech | Lisa Abeyta (October 9): “Over the past five years as we’ve grown APPCityLife into the civic tech platform it is today, I’ve wondered how many other women would embrace tech if they believed it possible to do so. Tech is so much more than being a full-fledged developer, scientist or engineer, and one of our goals has been to empower individuals on the fringe of tech to not just join the community but change the conversation by being part of it.”
  • Misogyny and the Female Body in Dungeons & Dragons | Analog Game Studies (October 6): Given that even canonical game theorists such as Fine seem unconcerned with the reproduction of rape culture within the space of role-playing games, it is important to better understand the history of racist and misogynist attitudes in game culture. This essay addresses this problem by offering a close read of two articles on the topic from The Dragon, TSR Hobbies’ flagship magazine for all things Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The Unsafety Net: How Social Media Turned Against Women – The Atlantic (October 9): “A 2013 report from the World Health Organization called violence against women “a global health problem of epidemic proportion,” from domestic abuse, stalking, and street harassment to sex trafficking, rape, and murder. This epidemic is thriving in the petri dish of social media.” [content warning: discussion of threats and sexualized violence against women]
  • Dollars for Dudes: Almost No Women Among Medical Industry’s Top-Paid Speakers, Consultants | ProPublica (October 8): “The causes are not clear, but men account for more than 90 percent of the 300 doctors who received the most money from drug and medical device companies, according to new federal data.”
  • Pro-gaming team banned: “Too good to be girls” « Player Attack (October 6): “An all-female pro-gaming team has reportedly been disqualified from a Dota 2 competition because they’re too good at the game. Organisers at the recent Girls Wars SEA event felt that one of the members of team Dolls plays the game “like a boy”, and has kicked the whole team out of the contest.”
  • 6 Women Making Waves for Social Justice in Tech | craigconnects (October 10): Looking for role models? Here are a few excellent women to choose from!
  • Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? | Salon.com (October 3): “But despite the natural and cozy fit of atheism and feminism, the much-ballyhooed “New Atheism” that was supposed to be a more aggressive, political form of atheism has instead been surprisingly male-dominated. The reason has, in recent years, become quite apparent: Many of the most prominent leaders of the New Atheism are quick to express deeply sexist ideas. Despite their supposed love of science and rationality, many of them are nearly as quick as their religious counterparts to abandon reason in order to justify regressive views about women.”
  • 13-Year-Old Girl in Training to Be the First Person on Mars, NASA Thinks She Could Succeed | The Mary Sue (October 9): “Mark this one down in the win column for women in STEM. Whether or not Alyssa Carson actually achieves her big dream of making history on Mars, her dedication to studies in science and languages, plus her becoming the first person to attend all three of NASA’s world space camps, is inspiring.”
  • Kings of Pain: On Gender and Power in Shadow of Mordor | A Game Of Me (October 6): “It honestly never occurred to me when I started playing that it might be, in its treatment of women, the most exasperatingly cliche, troubling video game narrative I’ve encountered in some time.”
  • Life and Times of a Tech Feminist Killjoy | Julie Pagano : Julie Pagano, author of the “death by a thousand paper cuts” piece, is leaving the tech community. Her series about her experiences since the papercut article give insight into the climate and events that lead to that decision.

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Losing my Linkspam

  • Twitter Engineer Dana McCallum Pled Guilty to Two Misdemeanors | Valleywag (October 7): [CW: rape] “At a hearing in San Francisco Superior Court this morning, Dana McCallum, a Twitter engineer and prominent women’s rights and LGBT activist, accepted a guilty plea for two misdemeanors related to the alleged rape of her wife. McCallum, who is a transgender woman, was initially charged with five felonies for the alleged incident, which occurred in January.”
  • How did Twitter become the hate speech wing of the free speech party? | KevinMarks.com (October 4): “Say something about feminism or race, or sea lions and you’d find yourself inundated by the same trite responses from multitudes. Complain about it, and they turn nasty, abusing you, calling in their friends to join in. Your phone becomes useless under the weight of notifications; you can’t see your friends support amongst the flood.Twitter has become the hate speech wing of the free speech party. The limited tools available – blocking, muting, going private – do not match well with these floods. Twitter’s abuse reporting form takes far longer than a tweet, and is explicitly ignored if friends try to help.”
  • Trouble at the Koolaid Point | Serious Pony (October 7): [CW: sexual harassment] “There is only one reliably useful weapon for the trolls to stop the danger you pose and/or to get max lulz: discredit you.
  • graydon2 | on false equivalences (October 7): “I want to write to my fellow straight white able-bodied rich men (SWARMs?) of the tech industry, and perhaps of the broader internet. There are a lot of us! A disproportionate number, in fact. I will get to proportionality in a bit. I want to discuss oppression because of a reaction a lot of my fellow SWARMs seem to have to many recent displays of sexism, homophobia, racism, classism, that sort of thing. This is the reaction of stating false equivalences (and their close relative: false balance). I want my fellow SWARMs to learn not to do that. Just that. I want you, if you can get through reading this, to reflect on false equivalences you’ve heard, maybe some you’ve uttered yourself — hey, we all do it sometimes — and make a promise to get better about it. Don’t even promise me. Promise yourself, on the basis of trying to be a decent and reasonable person: make yourself a promise to not emit false equivalences anymore.”
  • @skullmandible on marginalized fiction (with tweets) | pizza_blood | Storify (October 3): A series of embedded tweets discuss how having a label for a medium, such as “gamer” or “literature” leads to a homogeneity in what is accepted as “canon” which rejects everything that isn’t canon as trash: “the self-selected arbiters of the medium classify as “trash” (typically) genre work and films/literature/games by women and POC”
  • The First Female Gamers | Medium (October 5): A history of women gamers: “Something unprecedented about Dungeons & Dragons rendered it more popular with women than prior titles marketed to “gamers.” Was it that it was a personal game, a fantasy game, a game that deemphasized competition? Whatever the reason, it converted many women into gamers at a critical juncture in history: the dawn of personal computer gaming.”
  • Lennart Poettering: The Open Source community is a sick place to be in | Google+ (October 6): [CW: verbal abuse, harassment, death threats] Kernel developer Lennart Poettering writes about the abuse he’s received as a result of his open-source participation: “The Linux community is dominated by western, white, straight, males in their 30s and 40s these days. I perfectly fit in that pattern, and the rubbish they pour over me is awful. I can only imagine that it is much worse for members of minorities, or people from different cultural backgrounds, in particular ones where losing face is a major issue.”
  • #WeNeedDiverseMedia for reasons….part 96464864 of a never ending list | hoodfeminism (October 6): “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stop having “The first Black/first POC to do X in media” because it wasn’t so hard for creators of color to get access to major platforms? Wouldn’t it be great if the demographics of people in power in publishing houses, Hollywood, and major cable networks reflected the populations they claim to represent? No one’s going to hand us seats at those proverbial tables though, so we create our own tables, and clearly when we do, we have to be aware that for some people we need a reason to exist, and we can’t afford to worry about what those people, all we can do is focus on the work in front of us.”
  • Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries | The Digital Reader (October 6): “Adobe is gathering data on the ebooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order. All of this data, including the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book is being sent to Adobe’s server in clear text.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Cookie of the week: Jake Boxer and Github


We’ve been critical of Github on this blog before. And the problems we talked about before — specifically, sexual harassment and structurelessness — haven’t necessarily been resolved.

Nonetheless, I want to recognize an individual engineer at Github for our occasional “cookie of the week” feature, Jake Boxer.

Harassers who are part of the ongoing Gamergate coordinated harassment campaign created a repository on Github to coordinate their harassment efforts, and when @nexxylove reported this, Jake responded promptly by removing the repository.

I’m giving a little piece of the cookie to Jake’s employer, as well. Jake did not feel that he had to consult their legal team or wait a week for a response, or start a lengthy internal discussion about whether the repository was appropriate. He did not show any fear that if he removed the repository promptly, he would be criticized for supposedly targeting a group to marginalize their free speech. I can infer from this that Github, whatever its flaws (and there are many), is a company that will support an employee acting to stop the abuse of their resources for a purpose that doesn’t further the interests of the company.

Jake recognized that he would be able to do what he did while facing relatively few consequences, and in light of that, chose to use his privileged position for good:

Have a cookie, Jake!

Allons-y, a linkspam! (7 October 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Guest post: Great design as activism: Real talk from “Not afraid to say the F-word: Feminism” sticker designer Amelia Greenhall

This is a guest post from The Ada Initiative. It originally appeared on the Ada Initiative blog.

The evolution of the f-word sticker design

Once you see it, you won't forget it: the dynamic and attention-getting Not afraid to say the F-word: FEMINISM sticker by Amelia Greenhall. This sticker is the Ada Initiative's thank-you gift for its 2014 fundraising drive (only available till October 8, 2014, so donate now!).

Smiling womanAmelia works at the intersection of design, user experience, and data visualization. She's the Executive Director and co-founder of Double Union, a non-profit feminist community workshop, and co-founded the publication Model View Culture. She spends her time reading, writing, biking, climbing, and working on interesting things. We asked Amelia to tell us more about her amazing sticker design.

How did you come up with the idea for the sticker?

Feminism as a "dirty word" is a concept that’s funny because it strikes at the truth of the matter: a lot of people and organizations ARE afraid to say it. The Ada Initiative was one of the first woman-focused tech organizations to actually say the word "feminism." Their work has profoundly changed tech culture, and part of it comes from opening up the ability to identify publicly as a feminist in tech. They’ve brought many of us who aren’t afraid to say "the F-word" together – and given us a way to do something about the problem, by funding the Ada Initiative's work.

The sticker sure is eye-catching! It feels like it has many levels to it, despite being all black and white. How did you achieve that?

From the beginning, I knew I would work with hand lettering for this design because I wanted to create an organic form that stands out against the mass of vectorized, illustrator'd shapes on a laptop. I wanted the fundraiser sticker to be a refreshing visual break from tech culture’s dominant (current) forms, to echo how TAI represents changing tech culture to me.

Ink bottles and brushes

I started by drawing potential layouts in my sketchbook until I found a rough shape that took advantage of the die cut. Then I used brushes and india ink to letter the phrases “Not afraid to” “F-word” in many different ways, and scanned those in at a super high DPI to capture all the little details in the brushstrokes.

Many different handwritten versions of the words "F-word: Feminism" and similar words

Using Photoshop and my Wacom tablet, I moved parts of the scans around until I found a combination of lettering that was playful and eye catching, and easy to read at the size I wanted to print the sticker.

Photoshop screenshot showing level adjustment

The sticker does have many levels! Working from scans of hand lettering let me use Photoshop tools like “Invert” and “Levels” to bring out the natural variations in the ink painted on paper. I wanted to hit a charcoal tint in the background and bring out the rich variations of ink in the letters.

How important are design and memorable images to feminist activism?

So incredibly crucial! One of the things we’re doing with our feminist activism is building our own community and design and memorable images are a huge part in building a movement. We need a visual language to talk about it with, to identify with and gather round. Imagery of high heels and business suits alone won’t cut it. To represent all of us working to improve tech culture – we need things that speak our own language, have tech snark, incorporate our memes. We need propaganda! Especially physical objects like stickers, buttons, totes, and posters – to act as signposts. Things that say “this is us, this is what we stand for!”

Will you be putting this sticker on something you own?

Yes! I’m primarily a printmaker, which means I design so many things that get printed in multiples that I couldn’t possibly keep everything around or my apartment would fill up! But this is a sticker that easily makes the cut.

Here’s how it looks on my laptop!

Silver laptop with f-word sticker on it

What I appreciate about stickers like this one is that they’re so great for signaling affinity. I know that if I see another “F-word” sticker across the room at a coffeeshop or conference, that person is someone who’s also trying to make tech better – someone I may want to go talk to! I also like that this sticker starts conversations – it’s definitely something that catches the eye.

I am a huge fan of the Ada Initiative’s work changing tech culture, so I love when people ask about the sticker – I get a chance to introduce someone to conference anti-harassment policies or ally skills workshops!

Do you say the f-word? F-F-FEMINISM! Donate $128 or more (or $10 a month) to the Ada Initiative before October 8 and receive the F-word sticker as a thank you gift for supporting our work for women in open technology and culture!

Donate now

Much Ado About Linkspam (5 October 2014)

The latest on Gamergate [Trigger warning: Links following contain discussion of harassment]:

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Never get involved in a land war in linkspam

  • The Toast’s Recipe for Bootstrapping a Profitable Media Business | Fast Company (October 1): “Feminist commentary wrapped in jokes is Ortberg’s signature style, and what draws over a million unique visitors (per Quantcast) to The Toast each month. Only a little over a year old, the site was profitable just after three months. And, as Ortberg and her cofounder Nicole Cliffe (formerly of The Hairpin) like to point out, unlike so many of the high-profile media startups today–Vox, 538, First Look–they succeeded without any financial commitment from men.”
  • Women Who Conquered the Comic Book World | Ms. blog (September 29): “Robbins knows something about the glass ceiling for women cartoonists because she first hit it herself in the early 1970s, when she tried to join the male-dominated “underground comix” movement based in San Francisco. After the men cartoonists shut her out, Robbins joined forces with other women cartoonists to create their own women’s-lib comic books. She went on to become a well-respected mainstream comic artist and writer, as well as a feminist comics critic who’s written myriad nonfiction books on the subject of great women cartoonists and the powerful female characters they created.”
  • Why I choose to speak at a tech event which had booth babes | Matter Chatter (September 29): “I’m pretty sure Netguide didn’t do their market research which shows that 45% to 48% of gamers are female and at a predominately gaming conference, they were pushing away half of the attendees.  As a female gamer, and a female engineer myself I can tell you that bikini clad girls will not entice me into your booth.  However, the bigger question to ask is what sort of message was this sending to our daughters about their value and to our sons about respecting females?”
  • Apple’s Health App: Where’s the Power? | The Society Pages (September 30): “Apple doesn’t hate people with eating disorders. They probably weren’t thinking about people with eating disorders at all. That’s the problem.”
  • Y Combinator and the Negative Externalities of Hacker News | Danilo Campos (September 29): “I renew my calls to Sam Altman and Y Combinator’s leadership to expound a Code of Conduct for Hacker News. These issues persist, in part, because the organization has yet to draw a line in the cultural sand. It is the height of hypocrisy to claim that sexism and discrimination are problems while leaving unchecked one of the most obvious sites of infection for those ills in our industry.”
  • LoG: Little Women in Gaming | The Lonely D12 (September 26): “During game club at school last week, I had 3 freshmen girls pick up the Shadowrun: Tool Kit and asked me how to play. I told them all about the world and different characters I had played and they said it sounded amazing. They stared at the rule books and were just overwhelmed. These young ladies want to play an RPG but have no means to do it on their own. Which is why getting these girls involved in gaming early, and getting boys to accept women at the table as the norm is so very important.”
  • Male Allies and GHC | Accidentally in Code (October 1): “There’s a lot of discussion about women in tech, and there’s this constant refrain of “what about the men” and I am tired of hearing it. It’s not about the men. It’s about women, and other minorities (who have it far worse). The fact that (some) men have made this, like everything, about them is illustrative of the problem.”
  • Sam Pepper sexual harassment row: How YouTube teen fan girls found their voice | The Telegraph (September 30): “Since Peppergate, young female YouTubers have sought to expose the seedy, misogyinistic underbelly of the vlogging. A number of girls have uploaded their own videos to youtube. There have been extensive allegations of sexual harassment, assault, coercion and rape, with high profile, adult male youtubers accused of soliciting sexual images from underage girls. This flurry of testimonials has sent shock waves through the community.”
  • Man receives 4.5 months of jail time for Twitter rape threats | Ars Technica (September 29): “Nunn began his Twitter attacks around July 29, 2013, five days after the Bank of England announced that the Austen campaign was successful. “Hi, it took Twitter 30 minutes to ban me before. I’m here again to tell you that I’ll rape you tomorrow at 6pm” is one of a handful of tweets Nunn directed at Creasy. The message did indeed originate after the suspension of another of his accounts from which he was tweeting threats.”
  • Spyware executive arrested, allegedly marketed mobile app for “stalkers” | Ars Technica (September 29): “Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell saidin a statement. “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life—all without the victim’s knowledge.”
  • Learning to Love Criticism | The New York Times (September 27): “The study speaks to the impossible tightrope women must walk to do their jobs competently and to make tough decisions while simultaneously coming across as nice to everyone, all the time. But the findings also point to something else: If a woman wants to do substantive work of any kind, she’s going to be criticized — with comments not just about her work but also about herself. She must develop a way of experiencing criticism that allows her to persevere in the face of it.”
  • People hate me, I must be doing something right | Mathbabe (September 30): (in reference to a quote from the above article) “This is so true! I re-re-learned this recently (again) when I started podcasting on Slate and the iTunes reviews of the show included attacks on me personally. For example: ‘Felix is great but Cathy is just annoying… and is not very interesting on anything’ as well as ‘The only problem seems to be Cathy O’Neill who doesn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation…'”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

OPW and Growstuff: Frances Hocutt on open and welcoming open source communities

Two weeks ago, I interviewed Geek Feminism founder Alex Skud Bayley about Geek Feminism, programming, and the Growstuff Indiegogo campaign. As a followup, I’m interviewing Frances Hocutt, who will work on Growstuff’s API if the fundraiser reaches its target.

Frances Hocutt looks at a flask in a laboratory

Frances Hocutt

Frances is the founding president of the Seattle Attic Community Workshop, Seattle’s first feminist hackerspace/makerspace. She prefers elegance in her science and effectiveness in her art and is happiest when drawing on as many disciplines as she can. Her current passion is creating tools that make it easy for people to do what they need to, and teaching people to use them. She is a fan of well-designed APIs, open data, and open and welcoming open source communities.

Frances is entering technology as a career changer, from a scientific career. She’s recently finished a Outreach Program for Women (OPW) internship, and she spoke to me about OPW, Growstuff, mentoring and friendly open source communities.

What did your OPW project go? What attracted you to Mediawiki as your OPW project?

This summer I wrote standards for, reviewed, evaluated, and improved client libraries for the MediaWiki web API. When I started, API:Client Code had a list of dozens of API client libraries and was only sorted by programming language. There was little information about whether these libraries worked, what their capabilities were, and whether they were maintained. I wrote evaluations for the Java, Perl, Python, and Ruby libraries, and now anyone who wants to write an API client can make an informed choice about which library will work best for their project.

I am generally interested in open knowledge, open data, and copyleft, and I admire the Wikimedia Foundation’s successes with the various Wikipedias. When Sumana Harihareswara asked me if I might be interested in interning on this project for the Wikimedia Foundation I jumped at the chance. I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming and supportive I found the Mediawiki development community. I had a good experience technically, professionally, and personally, and I learned a lot.

What attracts you to Growstuff and its API as your next project, technically?

Growstuff open data campaign logo

I really like creating usable tools and interfaces, and when that comes with the chance to play around with APIs and structured data, that’s gravy.

My favorite tech projects value developer experience and generally usable interfaces (whether for UIs or APIs). Growstuff’s current API makes it hard to retrieve some fairly basic data (given a location, when was a crop planted?), so I’m really looking forward to the chance to have input into designing a better one.

I also enjoy writing particularly clear and careful code, which I’ll be doing with my API example scripts so that anyone can pick them up, include them in their website or app, and easily modify them for whatever their intended purpose is.

What attracts you to Growstuff as your next development community?

The development community is the main reason I’m so excited about working on Growstuff. Growstuff is one of a handful of majority-female open source projects, and I definitely feel more comfortable when I don’t have the pressure to represent all women that sometimes comes when women are a small minority. Growstuff has great documentation for new developers, a friendly IRC channel, and an agile development process where pair programming is the norm. It’s obvious that Skud has fostered a collaborative and friendly open source community, and I’m looking forward to working in it.

What can the technical community learn from OPW and Growstuff about mentoring and supporting people coming to tech from diverse backgrounds and oppressed groups?

As I’ve come into tech, I’ve gotten the most benefit from environments where interpersonal connections can flourish and where learning is easy and ignorance of a topic is seen as an opportunity for growth. I credit much of the smoothness of my internship to being able to work with my mentor towards the shared goal of helping me succeed.

Some particularly useful approaches and skills were:

  • explicit explanations of open source community norms (i.e. how IRC works, whom and how to ask for help, ways that various criticisms might be better received, where a little praise would smooth the way)
  • constant encouragement to put myself out there in the MediaWiki development community and ask for help when needed
  • willingness to share her experiences as a woman in technology and honesty about challenges she had and hadn’t faced
  • willingness to have hard conversations about complicity and what we’re supporting with our technical work
  • willingness to engage with a feminist criticism of the field and orginazation, without falling back on “that’s just how it is and you need to get over it”
  • introducing me to other people like me and encouraging me to make and nurture those connections
  • telling me about career paths that my specific skills might be useful in
  • making me aware of opportunities, over and over, and encouraging me to take them
  • inviting metacognition and feedback on what management approaches were working for me and which weren’t.

Gatherings like AdaCamp have also helped me find people at various stages in their careers who were willing to openly discuss challenges and strategies. I’ve been building a rich network of technical women of whom I can ask anything from “how does consulting work” to “how much were you paid in that position” to “how in the world do I set up this Java dev environment?!” It’s amazing.

I’m looking forward to more of the same at Growstuff. Growstuff’s pairing-heavy style encourages those connections, and Growstuff’s development resources focus on making knowledge accessible and not assuming previous experience. I’ve admired Skud’s work for years and I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with her myself.

How are you finding the fundraising process for Growstuff? How can people best support it?

Frustrating, in a word. The crowdfunding campaign I ran last year only ran for ten days, so I’m adjusting to the longer and slower pace of this one. Like many women, I often feel awkward promoting myself and my projects — even when I would be happy to hear a friend tell me about a similar project she was working on! I try to reframe it as sharing interesting information. Sometimes that works for me, but sometimes I still feel weird.

That said: if you want to support Growstuff (and I hope you do), back our campaign! Tell any of your friends who are into sustainability, gardening, shared local knowledge, or open data why Growstuff is exciting and encourage them to donate! If you garden, sign up for an account and connect with other gardeners in your area! We’re trying to make it as an ethical and ad-free open source project and every bit helps. And if there’s anything you want to do with our data, let us know! We’d love to hear from you.