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 coreboot (formerly LinuxBIOS) team. Man, sounds like a great project to work on.
Hi Valerie, I wanted to thank you for writing HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux. Your HOWTO did not only help me understand mailing list and chat politics and their impact on women a lot better, it also had a profound impact on how we (coreboot project) deal with new developers. The atmosphere is now a lot more encouraging and we deal switftly with those who ridicule or insult others. Although there may be the occassional heated exchange among senior developers about technical issues, we are very careful not to stoop down to personal insults or remarks which could be seen as demeaning. Since coreboot (http://coreboot.org/) is a free BIOS/firmware replacement for x86, developers and users often risk having to desolder the ROM chip if something went wrong. If something goes wrong, we are quick to point out it's not the personal fault of the individual, but a problem caused by the hardware they could not have known about. I'm happy to report that our female developers can 1. tell project leaders directly (off-list) if they see problems and 2. are polled regularly (off-list) about how accepted/respected/taken seriously they feel and so far they said they're happy. Regards, Carl-Daniel