Tag Archives: floss

GF classifieds: Google Summer of Code edition

Student applications for Google Summer of Code are opening March 29.

Google Summer of Code — yes, bad name for anyone in the southern hemisphere, but you are allowed to apply! — is a project sponsoring Open Source development by students (largely university students, students who won’t be 18 by April 26 can’t apply) over the northern summer period. Google pays a stipend for students to work on a contribution to a project over summer. Open Source projects are selected as mentoring organisations, students apply by submitting a project proposal to a project, and some of those proposals are accepted. Applications close April 9.

So I thought I’d do a post in the spirit of Skud’s GF classifieds. If you are a mentor or part of a mentoring organisation for Google SoC and you’d like to bring your project to the attention of readers here, please post a description in comments at any time before April 9. The more you can say the better:

  • Do you have link to a list of ideas for projects?
  • Can applicants make contact with you or your mentors in order to discuss their application before submitting?
  • Are previous years’ students available to discuss their experiences?
  • What kind of skills are you looking for?

Of course, if your project has made a commitment to diversity in some way, then feel free to tell us about that.

Students who are interested in applying: this is a big process, don’t wait for the official opening to get to work on researching and talking to mentoring organisations, as there are only two weeks between the open and close of applications. Here’s some starting points:

Note: obviously Google SoC projects accept applications from people of any gender. The reason for this post is to level the playing field at the awareness level. By posting here, what you’re doing is hopefully increasing the visibility of your project among interested women, rather than excluding anyone else from applying.

FLOSS inclusivity: pragmatic, voluntary, empowering, joyous

Lucy Connor’s “Diversity at what cost?” and Benjamin Otte’s blog post on equality got me thinking about the backlash against diversity and outreach initiatives in open source. Specifically, I sometimes see arguments that inclusivity

  • is a slippery slope into coercion and quotas
  • should not be a FLOSS value, or
  • competes with the core mission of his/her software project.

In response to Otte’s thoughts on whether the principle “all men are created equal” stands in opposition to core GNOME and Fedora goals, I said in part:

The words “equality†and “inclusive†can be easy to misinterpret. Advocates often use them as a softer way of saying “don’t be sexist/racist/etc.†and “let’s give due consideration to people we’re inadvertently leaving out.†Perhaps [critics] are misreading this suggestion as greed for market share, or conflating cowardice with the intention and practice of thoughtful inclusivity.

Yes, it is an important principle that all people deserve to be treated equally *by the law*, and as an ideal to reach toward, it’s laudable. However, it’s a straw-man argument to suggest that advocates for equality and inclusion propose that all seven billion people’s opinions should have equal relevance in every endeavor and choice.

Every organization has a specific mission, such as “change the government’s policies to improve the environment†or “maintain an excellent Linux distribution with cutting-edge innovations.†This is its “value proposition,†in US English. It embodies some of its core values. The Fedora project is indeed facing a tension between its value proposition and one facet of inclusivity — suitability for novice users. But there are many other aspects to inclusivity and an interest in equality, such as accessibility, nonsexist language, university outreach, and documentation. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

You may also be interested in http://geekfeminism.org/2009/11/29/questioning-the-merit-of-meritocracy/ for thoughts on meritocracy in FLOSS.

… If you simply find any good product unstylish as soon as a certain proportion of the population starts to benefit from it, that strikes me as needlessly snobbish, and implies a misanthropy that will permanently be opposed to even the least controversial inclusivity initiatives.

We linkspammed Connor’s piece a few days ago, and commenter koipond noted:

I hear the sentiment, but it’s kind of missing the point. No one is saying “Diversity at all costs†where they want to force people in who don’t want to be there. It’s more a case of trying to break down the barriers that prevent people who might be interested but see a toxic morass and refuse to swim in the pool.

My comment was along similar lines:

When I read http://geekfeminism.org/ or the http://geekfeminism.wikia.com wiki, or listen to the women on the Systers mailing list, I don’t hear a general and undifferentiated “WE MUST GET MORE WOMEN INTO FLOSS†or tech agitprop agenda. I see lots of initiatives to help underrepresented groups — African-Americans, women, people from developing countries — get in on the joy and empowerment of hacking.

I think there is a separate argument to be made that everyone, of every gender and from every socioeconomic, ability and ethnic background, should be generally technically literate, which means being able to code a “hello world†in some decent language and feeling empowered to modify their computing environment a little. To extend the analogy, I know it ruined your [Connor’s] enjoyment of Model UN when the teachers forced everyone to participate, but you’re not against the goal of everyone learning a little about how international politics works.

And because these sexist behaviors and attitudes keeping women out of high-status and high-paying professions are just now starting to fade, it’s important to take an extra look at seemingly innocuous traditional attitudes to make sure they don’t conceal yet more barriers and discouragement. As Kirrily Robert pointed out in her OSCON keynote, the community as a whole grows organically and benefits greatly from (voluntary, of course) women’s participation:

http://infotrope.net/blog/2009/07/25/standing-out-in-the-crowd-my-oscon-keynote/

Like you, these advocates like helping people. Check out http://gnomejournal.org/article/88/the-un-scary-screwdriver for an example of the kind of noncoercive, entirely opt-in outreach that most advocates, well, advocate.

As I noted to Connor: Sure, coding, and open source work, are not really intrinsically appealing to lots of people. But because there are so very many external factors keeping interested girls and women away from tech careers and open source, I’m comfortable prioritizing breaking those down, so that maybe in fifty years people’s intrinsic interests will shine naturally through. And then we’ll talk and see what interesting patterns show up.

Linkspamming ’round the clock (9th January, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

If I can’t linkdrop it’s not my revolution (Sept 20, 2009)

Society sucks, but we don’t have to

There’s an argument that comes up a lot in (geek) feminism discussions:

This isn’t a problem with $community, it’s a problem with society

This is used to explain everything from distasteful jokes to someone’s inability to spell, but especially it’s used to “explain” why there aren’t more women in the community or why they have crummy experiences when they do participate. And it raises the question:

Why can’t geek communities be better than society as a whole?

If you reported a software bug and the developers said, “we don’t believe you. Or the other 50 people who reported this bug,” you’d be annoyed, along with 50 other people. If they said “it’s someone else’s problem, XYZ software/hardware sucks” you’d be pretty unsatisfied, even if it was true.

What you want to hear is “thanks for reporting that! I’ll get it fixed right away.” And you still feel like they care if they say “well, that’s because XYZ software/hardware sucks, but we can do this workaround…”

Geek communities are full of smart, inventive people who produce everything from free software to fan fiction. I think we can probably do better than putting an SEP field around issues.

In academia, Hard Problems are the ones that are worthy of further study, research, and discussion. In geekdom, we like to eat impossible for lunch. So stop shuffling your feet and waiting for the “there aren’t many women participating” bug to be fixed upstream. We might need some clever social hackers to find us good workarounds, but know what? We’ve got just the sort of talent in our communities that might manage it. If people could only admit to themselves that it’s not someone else’s problem.

Women in FLOSS, tell Bruce Perens you exist

Unicorn check-in time for women in open source!

Bruce Perens seems to think that women aren’t passionate about open source software:

What I meant was that there are more women who hold technical jobs than there are women who so love the technology that they will work on it whether they get paid or not. That seems to be an especially male thing.

I told him I was, and he confused me with Yuwei Lin and then told me I (she?) was an outlier.

How about we all head on over there and tell him that a) we exist, b) we ARE passionate about open source, and c) yes there IS a problem, even if he doesn’t see it.

  1. Create an LWN account (free)
  2. Comment on this thread
  3. Prepare your bingo cards for a round of “Wow, there are girls here?!?”

I’m turning off comments on this post. Go make them on LWN, not here.

Quick hit: LWN discussion on sexism, social skills, and autism spectrum disorders

As I mentioned in the link roundup, the LWN thread on the Free Software Foundation’s women in Free Software mini-summit will burn your sanity points. But there’s an interesting comment thread involving Matthew Garrett (mjg59) and Bruce Perens about Asperger’s and high functioning autism and what can be expected from people with Asperger’s if they are critised for sexist behaviour or otherwise offending people.

I wanted to highlight this discussion largely because “(s)he can’t help it, (s)he’s autistic” and the more disturbing variant “if geekdom just tossed out all those non-neurotypical folk, all the nasty sexism would go away” pop up fairly commonly in geek feminism discussions. (I don’t observe this much from geek feminists themselves, although being neurotypical I won’t be as alert to it, but certainly in the discussions.) I appreciate the considerably more nuanced discussion on this.

Note for commenters: While the LWN discussion started by talking about Richard Stallman (RMS) and the EMACs virgins incidents, statements about Stallman being neurotypical or not seem to be a matter of speculation only. Comments on this post making blanket assumptions about all neurodiverse people being unable to function in society or perform certain social tasks, or presuming that any individual is or is not neurotypical without that person’s self-identification being known, will be deleted.

Link roundup, 2nd Impact (August 27th, 2009)

  • The Free Software Foundation will host a mini-summit on women in Free Software on September 19. Seth Schoen notes that “I guess the venue and timing could be a challenge for some people (it doesn’t seem to be colocated with, or right before or after, anything else in particular)”. See LWN for some discussion, some much of it probably will cost you some sanity points.
  • OMG! Girlz Don’t Need Games or Features! — A review of the new Lilac PSP demonstrates that Sony, like many companies before, could use some lessons on how to market games and gaming systems to women.
  • Anna Filina offers her take on women in IT saying (among other things) that she hates working with women. Um?
  • Late business at the Hugo Awards in which Yonmei proposes a small modification to the nomination procedures for the Hugos to help redress the gender imbalance. Result: “There was certainly considerable SMOFFISH outrage at the idea that there could be anything imperfect or biased about the Hugo nomination system which might need to be remedied.” Links to LJ discussions at the bottom of the post.
  • ROSE blog interviews Erica Brescia (BitRock), Angela Brown (Linux Foundation), Stormy Peters (GNOME Foundation), and Dru Lavigne (BSD).
  • Another round of technology and gender images at Sociological Images, including a woman tied to a bed as an inducement to buy Gameboy consoles.
  • Melissa McEwan (via M. LeBlanc) on how puzzled privileged people get when they have fun intellectual devil’s-advocate conversations about our oppression and we get personal about it.
  • The GNOME development community is planning an outreach program for women similar to the 2006 outreach program. They are looking at funding women developers to work on GNOME Shell.

The Thank-You Meme: The coreboot project

Recently, I was at a bar with 4 or 5 other women I knew through women in Linux advocacy. The striking thing was that, out of all of us, only one (Kirrily Robert) was still actively working on women in open source projects. The rest of us had burned out – and even Kirrily had burned out once before. This not atypical.

One of the reasons we burn out is the huge imbalance between positive and negative feedback. For every supportive email or blog comment, you get a hundred obnoxious ones. I have a theory: Most people in open source support what we are trying to do, it just doesn’t feel that way. On the Internet, no one can see you nod.

Here on the Geek Feminism blog, we’re going to try an experiment: The Thank-You meme. If you get a really positive, well-written thank-you for your work in women in open source, we’d love it if you shared it with the rest of us. Here are the rules:

1. The thank-you can’t be written specifically for this blog. It has to be a genuine, spontaneous thank-you. No astroturfing.

2. Along the same lines, you can’t post a thank-you that you wrote yourself. Feel free to send someone a thank-you, though!

3. Ask permission of the sender to post it. Offer to anonymize it.

4. If you haven’t heard back from the sender after a week, go ahead and post it, carefully anonymized.

And here is the inaugural Thank-You, from Carl-Daniel Hailfinger, a member of the

Open Source research ideas

If you had a research team at your disposal to study women in open source, what would you set them doing?

My biggest wishlist item would be to look at retention of women in open source. How long do we stay on individual projects and in the community as a whole, and what makes us leave?

Another one would be to study how financial support for open source work is distributed. Who gets paid to work on open source, attend conferences, has hardware donated, etc? Is there a gender gap? (Might want to study within companies that use open source, but are not explicitly open source companies, for this one.)

Related: Do people mostly work on open source during work hours or leisure time? How do disparities in available leisure time affect open source contributions? (Would love to see this visualised as coloured timelines.)

What Women-In-Open-Source studies would your team of researchers do?