Tag Archives: the ada initiative

When a link and a spam love each other very much (26 March 2014)

A couple of quick announcements to start us off:

  • applications to attend AdaCamp Portland (June 21–22, ally skills track June 23) are open
  • the call for submissions to another issue of Model View Culture is out: the Abuse issue. “This issue explores themes of harassment, microaggression, boundary violation, assault, discrimination and other forms of abuse in the tech community”.

Onto the spam you’re waiting for:

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.

Linkspammers of Catan (first fortnight of April linkspam)

Enjoy!

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in 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.

Valerie Aurora

A personal appeal for support from Valerie Aurora, executive director of the Ada Initiative

Valerie Aurora

I’m writing to ask you to donate to the Ada Initiative.

A year ago, a friend of mine was groped at an open source conference. Again. I’ve personally been groped twice at conferences myself.

But what shocked me most was the reaction to her blog post about it. Hundreds of people made comments like, “Women should expect to get groped at conferences,” and “It was her fault.” Many of these people were members of the open source community. Some were even prominent leaders – that I was forced to work with directly in my job as a Linux kernel developer! I realized I’d felt alienated, unwelcome, and unsafe as a woman in open source for many years. I was furious and determined to make a difference.

So I quit my job and co-founded the Ada Initiative with Mary Gardiner. We are the only non-profit dedicated solely to increasing the participation of women in open source, Wikipedia, fan culture, and other areas of open technology and culture. Currently, women make up only 2% of the open source community, and 9% of Wikipedia editors, down from 13% a year ago. We want to change these trends.

You can help by donating or by spreading the word about our donation drive now:

Donate now!

Help spread the word

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished already. Since our founding in early 2011, we helped over 30 conferences and organizations adopt an anti-harassment policy, organized the first AdaCamp unconference, provided free consulting on high-profile sexist incidents, wrote and taught two workshops on supporting women in open tech/culture, and ran two surveys, among other things.

http://adainitiative.org/what-we-do/

We need your help to achieve our upcoming goals. The Ada Initiative is funded entirely by donations. Without your financial support, the Ada Initiative will have to shut down in early 2012.

http://supportada.org/donate

Your donations will fund upcoming projects like: Ada’s Advice, a comprehensive guide to resources for helping women in open tech/culture, Ada’s Careers, a career development community, and First Patch Week, where we help women create and submit their first open source patch. You can learn more about how the Ada Initiative is organized and operated on our web site and blog.

Whether or not you can donate yourself, you can help us by spreading the word about our fundraising drive. Please tell your friends about our important work. Email, blog, add our donation button to your web site, and tweet. You don’t have to stand on the sidelines any longer. You can help women in open technology and culture, starting today.

Pillar covered by colourful advertising bills

Maiden, mother and linkspam (6th December, 2011)

  • The Ada Initiative is holding an AdaCamp in Melbourne, Australia on January 14 for everyone interested in supporting women in open tech and culture, from wikis to open government to digital liberties to open source. Applications to attend close December 14.
  • GNOME Outreach Program for Women Participants Continue to Impress: The accomplishments of the women who participated in Google Summer of Code this year are impressive. For example, Nohemi Fernandez implemented a full-featured on-screen keyboard for GNOME Shell, which makes it possible to use GNOME 3.2 on tablets.
  • How not to market science to girls: This is an apparently successful Australian company that sells science kits for kids. That’s great, and some of the kits look pretty good. The problem is, they split some of the kits into ones for boys, and ones for girls. And that split is exactly what you think.
  • It’s 1980 and women’s writing is being dismissed: Quote from Ben Bova: Neither as writers nor as readers have you raised the level of science fiction a notch. Women have written a lot of books about dragons and unicorns, but damned few about future worlds in which adult problems are addressed.
  • Repost: What I Thought About Twilight: And the verdict is… surprisingly not terrible… My conclusion is that one of the things that I think makes it popular with teenagers also negates some of the moral panic argument: Bella’s agency.
  • Women in Open Source Survey: We all know about the challenges that open source software faces when it comes to women, and the number of women in the open source world actually has been a frequent argument of discussion and research… [Sourceforge] just launched a survey based on the original FLOSSPOLS 10 questions.
  • Scientific American Defends Marie Curie—and Women Scientists—in 1911: As the first woman editor in chief of Scientific American, I’m keenly aware of the sense of standing on the shoulders of giants—some of them clearly frequented our editorial offices in 1911. I thought you’d enjoy in its entirety an editorial that ran in the January 21, 1911 issue.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in 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.

A woman holds a sign with Rebecca West's 'differentiate me from a doormat' quote

Example conference anti-harassment policy turns one year old

This is a cross-post from the Ada Initiative’s blog. The Ada Initiative has put a lot of effort into helping conferences understand and adopt some form of anti-harassment policy. Your donations will help us continue to promote the policy and do similar work. Thanks!

November 29 was the one year anniversary of the publication of the example conference anti-harassment policy! Inspired by multiple reports of groping, sexual assault, and pornography at open tech/culture conferences, the Ada Initiative co-founders helped write and publish an example conference anti-harassment policy for modification and reuse by conference organizers. This example was the collaborative effort of many different conference organizers and community members, who all deserve thanks and credit.

One year later, over 30 conferences have adopted an anti-harassment policy of one kind or another. “More than 30″ is a rough lower bound; several organizations have adopted a policy for all their events and run a dozen or more events per year. Some of the organizations that have announced that all their conferences will have a policy include Linux Foundation, ACM SIGPLAN, and O’Reilly (pledged). Here’s why some conferences have adopted a policy, in the organizers’ own words:

Tim O’Reilly: “[...] It’s become clear that this is a real, long-standing issue in the technical community. And we do know this: we don’t condone harassment or offensive behavior, at our conferences or anywhere. It’s counter to our company values. More importantly, it’s counter to our values as human beings.”

Jacob Kaplan-Moss, co-organizer of PyCon US, speaking for himself in this post: “A published code of conduct tells me that the conference staff cares about these issues, takes them seriously, and is waiting and willing to listen if an incident happens. It’s by no means a solution to the depressing homogeneity of technical communities, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

ACM SIGPLAN: “This policy has been in the works at the ACM SIGPLAN for several months; SPLASH 2011 is proud to be both the driver for that effort and the first ACM conference with such policy in place. This policy is not a symbolic gesture, delivered to satisfy a perceived need for political correctness, but instead goes to the core of both our personal beliefs and the beliefs of the community as a whole.”

Like any good open source project, the policy has been forked, adapted, and rewritten from scratch several times. Conference organizers looking to adopt a policy now can choose from several different policies. Many policies are linked to from this list of conferences with a policy; if you know a conference that is missing, please add it!

Some history

Why write an example anti-harassment policy? What we discovered after a little research (aided by the timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities) was the following:

  • Often, the person doing the groping, harassing, or showing of pornography honestly believed that their behavior was acceptable for the venue. Just as often, many other people went on record agreeing with them.
  • People who saw these incidents didn’t know how to respond to these incidents or weren’t sure who to report them to.
  • Conference organizers sometimes didn’t learn about an incident until long after it happened. When they did find out in time to take action, they often didn’t know how to respond to the incident.

We looked at these facts and figured it might help if conference organizers had an easy way to:

  • Educate attendees in advance that specific behaviors commonly believed to be okay (like groping, pornography in slides, etc.) are not acceptable at this conference.
  • Tell attendees how to report these behaviors if they see them, and assure them they will be treated respectfully if they do so.
  • Have established, documented procedures for how the conference staff will respond to these reports.

But we knew that conference organizers are very busy people, and very few of them had the time to write something like this. We figured that if we wrote an example policy that could be easily adapted to their needs, we could save them a lot of time and energy, and reduce harassment at conferences at the same time.

One year later, it looks like we had the right idea! Now it’s almost easier to attend a open tech/culture conference with a policy than one without. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, from attendees of all genders to speakers to organizers, and especially conference sponsors. Sponsors like any way to reduce the chance that their name will be associated with bad press.

You can help encourage adoption

Our goal is to make policies like this obsolete because everyone knows how to go to a conference without ruining it for the people around them. But we’re clearly not there yet, as this incident from October 2011 shows. One way you can help change the culture of open technology and culture is by encouraging the adoption of a similar policy by the conferences you attend.

Here are some of the common arguments against adopting a policy that addresses the three points we describe above.

This has/will never happen at my conference!

Congratulations! Some conferences are small enough or exclusive enough that it’s easy to end up with a group of people who all agree about appropriate conference behavior. Generally speaking though, as a conference gets larger or easier to attend, the mathematical probability of someone with significantly different ideas attending the conference increases until it is a near-certainty.

Next, if you believe there’s never been harassment at your conference, you might want to do a little asking around. If you don’t have a well-publicized method to contact the organizers about harassment at the conference, you’re unlikely to hear about it. When this policy was first posted, many organizers went back and asked attendees if they’d ever heard of harassment at previous conferences they had run and found the answer to be yes surprisingly often.

Finally, a great way to keep up a perfect record of no harassment is to adopt a policy that tells attendees you expect them not to harass each other.

Listing specific behaviors is unnecessary/insulting/ineffective/negative/etc.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming evidence from previous incidents shows that many of the people involved had absolutely no idea that what they were doing was unacceptable – and in fact were quite angry to discover that there were some unspoken rules that no one told them about. You may not enjoy telling people the rules specifically, but people hate breaking rules unknowingly even more.

To be blunt, a non-trivial percentage of speakers at open tech/culture conferences view pornography in their slides as simply good speaking technique. Telling them, e.g., to only include material suitable for a diverse audience won’t change their behavior because they believe everyone enjoys a little pornography in their technical talk. The only way they are going to stop including pornography in their slides is if you tell them not to, in so many words. Another non-trivial percentage believe it’s perfectly acceptable for a man to touch a woman on any part of her body without her consent if either the man or the woman is drinking alcohol. They believe this is appropriate behavior, so asking them to, e.g., “Be respectful of other people” is not specific enough to change their behavior.

This policy will hamper free speech and ruin my talk!

Conferences and their topics vary, but we have yet to attend a conference in open technology and culture in which a talk required the harassment of attendees in order to get information across. We’re not sure, but we suspect you can, e.g., teach people about file system semantics and keep the audience’s attention without employing sexist jokes. (I’ve done it more than once!)

Conferences in which talks about sexuality, racism, etc. are on-topic are encouraged to add exceptions for these talks and give guidelines on talking about the subject while respecting the attendees. We encourage them to send us their modifications so we can add them to the options in the example policy. Here is one example of the policy as applied to a talk about sexuality by Cindy Gallop at the Open Video Conference 2011.

In the end, you can always vote with your feet – you can preferentially attend, speak at, and help organize conferences with policies against harassment.

A note: We want to explicitly acknowledge the fact that harassment at conferences is not just a problem for women; in fact, we’ve heard many reports of men being the target of harassment, or being disgusted or creeped out by other attendees’ behavior. In this as in many cases, the changes that make open technology and culture more welcoming (and safer) for women are the same ones that make it more welcoming for everyone.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

I’m too pretty to linkspam (2nd September, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in 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.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Hubris, thy name is linkspam (12th July, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in 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.

Wednesday Geek Woman Special Edition: Google Sydney and their meeting rooms

Cross-posted in edited form from the Ada Initiative blog.

The Ada Initiative, the non-profit Valerie Aurora and I have founded to increase women’s participation in open technology and culture, is fundraising right now with our Seed 100 campaign. The aim of the campaign is twofold: to raise money for our startup phase including program development, and to demonstrate to larger sponsors the community interest. We’re in our last week and our big push to reach 100 now.

We’ve resisted posting about Seed 100 here to date, since we want GF and the Ada Initiative to stand apart, but we enjoyed this story a lot, so we’re cross-posted it as a Wednesday Geek Woman special edition, honouring both the Sydney Google Women Engineers Group themselves, and the women they’ve named their meeting rooms for!

One of our donors at the Analytical Engineer level is a consortium, the Sydney Google Women Engineers Group. We asked the members of this group to answer some interview questions and tell us a little more about themselves, the Sydney Google office, and why they donated.

Tell us more about the Google Sydney Women Engineers Group.

Photo of Alice

The Sydney Google Women Engineers group is an official network, and all of the women engineers are included. We have lunch together once a month and we have an ongoing budget for events that promote and encourage women in computing, group activities and off-sites. For example, recently we took an acrylic painting class together; for a bunch of engineering types, the opportunity to splash paint onto canvas was certainly novel!

The Google Sydney office has meeting rooms named after historical women in computing. Which women and why?

Photo of Eddy

The names of the meetings rooms are: Antonelli, Lovelace, Hopper, Spärck Jones, Liskov and Perlman. The names were chosen by the women engineers’ group by consensus, after much discussion.

  • Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper were obvious choices as some of the most well known (and hugely influential) women in the history of computing.
  • Kathleen “Kay” McNulty Mauchly Antonelli was one of the original ENIAC programmers.
  • Photo of Susannah

  • Karen Spärck Jones‘ work on information retrieval, and her invention of the Inverse Document Frequency measure in particular, is especially relevant to Google as a search company.
  • Barbara Liskov‘s well-known work in object oriented programming language theory earned her a Turing Award, John von Neumann medal and numerous other honours.
  • Finally, Radia Perlman‘s work on network design, in particular her Spanning Tree Protocol is also fundamental to our daily work.

Photo of Katie

The room names were voted on by the entire office, so we needed to promote our idea to everyone. It took the support of the whole office, men and women, for the idea to be put into place, and we’re really proud of seeing the names there today. Here is what we wrote to promote the idea:

The women in computer science’s history are too seldom celebrated, despite the fact that they have been an active part of the field since its very inception [...]. By naming our meeting rooms after the women who have helped make our field what it is today, we can make a positive statement about Google’s commitment to promoting gender equality in computer science, while paying tribute to these pioneers and reflecting the Sydney office’s openness to diversity.

In addition to being named after women in computing, each room has a picture and biography of the woman it’s named after.

Is the Ada Lovelace meeting room where your [Seed 100 donor reward] print from the Lovelace and Babbage comic will end up or do you have other plans for it?

Photo of Kendra

Yes, the Lovelace and Babbage poster will take pride of place in the Ada Lovelace meeting room once it arrives, along with the photo and bio of Ada Lovelace that is already there.

See the Ada Initiative blog for more information about the donation the Google Sydney women engineers made.

Does anyone else honour famous women geeks in this manner? Do you have meeting rooms, computers or anything else named in their honour? If you were naming your meeting rooms, which names would you use?

Companies, diversity and diversity advice?

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters:

What startups do geek feminists see as role models for diversity, and why?

And, what do people think of the idea of a company having a ‘geek feminist advisory board’ instead of a technical advisory board? Its scope would be larger than a traditional technical advisory board also potentially including diversity, corporate social responsibility, culture, and strategy.

I have to say that sounds perhaps more like it should be an ethical advisory board generally, to me. Anyone have experience with that kind of advisory role?

I’ll write more about it as it begins to happen no doubt, but one of the prospective projects for the Ada Initiative is to provide that kind of advice as consultants, including to volunteer organisations and similar that generally wouldn’t be able to afford to hire consultants on the subject of gender diversity.

Advocacy project for women in open technology and culture: The Ada Initiative

Today, Valerie Aurora and I launched the Ada Initiative, a new non-profit organization dedicated to increasing participation of women in open technology and culture, which includes open source software, Wikipedia and other open data, and open social media.

Valerie and I have 10 years experience in open source software, open social media, and women in computing activism with groups like Geek Feminism, Systers, and LinuxChix. The Ada Initiative is focused on helping women get careers in open technology through recruitment and training programs for women, education for community members who want to help women, and working with corporations and projects to improve their outreach to women.

Get involved

If you’d like to get involved, check out our contact page. If you’re really excited, write a blog post about us. We’re on Twitter and Facebook too.

Project ideas

If you have project ideas for the Ada Initiative, especially the kind of work that iis difficult for volunteer groups to do (that is, intensive and/or lengthy), we would be happy to hear them. You could raise them in comments here, or contact us.

Donating and funding

We are not yet accepting donations, but if you are interested in helping fund the Ada Initiative or putting us in touch with potential donors, please contact us.

We’d like to stress though that we do not think that women, inside or outside open technology and culture should fund the bulk of the Ada Initiative’s work; that is the job of projects and companies that make money from their work. If you are enthusiastic about the project and want to help with startup costs you will welcome to donate, but we do not expect you to, particularly if it would be in any way a financial burden.

Relationship with Geek Feminism

While both of the co-founders of the Ada Initiative write for the Geek Feminism blog, the Ada Initiative and the Geek Feminism project are not the same thing. The Geek Feminism blog, wiki and community comments on, critiques and builds geekdom as a whole and is far from limited to open technology and culture. The Geek Feminism blog is independent from the Ada Initiative and will remain so. Valerie and I will continue to write for the blog on various subjects outside of any work we do for the Ada Initiative.