Author Archives: Guest Contributor

Dinner plans for all: How conference organizers can make newcomers feel welcome

Woman wearing a hat and glassesThis is a guest post from Becky Yoose about the Newcomer dinner at the code4lib conference, going on at the time of this posting. Becky is the Discovery and Integrated Systems Librarian at Grinnell College, where she plans, implements, and maintains several critical technology initiatives at the Grinnell College Libraries. She prefers nano and vim over emac, knows enough python to be a danger to herself and others, and likes pie.

Figuring out what to do after the sessions end for the day is a challenge for most first time conference attendees, and underrepresented attendees feel an added level of stress in determining what, if any, safe and inclusive activities they can participate in during this free time. Sure, there might be brewery tours, game nights, dances, and movie screenings, but what if you’re not interested in them? What is one thing that all conference attendees, no matter who they are, have in common?

They all have to eat.

Take a small group of conference attendees (mix of new and veteran attendees), add a restaurant of their choosing, throw in some planning, and you get a conference social activity that provides a safer, informal environment that anyone can participate in. For the conference, planning these kinds of informal dinners is an opportunity for building inclusiveness in the community.

Recipe ingredients matter

Many conferences provide food at various social events, but the effect these events have on creating a more inclusive environment varies. Some conferences try to welcome first time attendees by holding a separate event, which traditionally includes some food; however, these events have their pitfalls and blind spots. You’re surrounded by fellow new attendees, but that’s about it. You’re still part of a big crowd, and if you don’t see yourself represented in said crowd that only aggravates the existing stress you’re already under. In short, the food meant to welcome first time attendees in this format itself causes anxiety due to the lack of a safer space for integration into the community.

When I attended my first code4lib conference in 2009, I managed to stumble my way through the conference, but there were many who were struggling to get a sense of the loosely-organized community. Since I’m not a drinker, my social options were limited; however, I ended up grabbing someone I didn’t know well from the conference and we went off to eat at a local foods restaurant holding a movie showing. The movie and food were both good, but the company of the attendee that went with me made the outing special. I started thinking about how to take this experience and repurpose it into something that can build community while being inclusive to everyone at the same time.

Building the recipe

I shot out the idea of an All Conference dinner, with the emphasis on getting conference veterans to mix with newcomers for the 2010 conference. Even though code4lib is a smaller conference, an all-conference dinner would still have fallen in the same pitfalls as the traditional events I described above. And then there are logistics! How do you fit 70+ people in a restaurant without paying for private room fees?

After some discussion with the code4lib community, the Newcomer Dinner was born. The base has stayed the same, but with a few tweaks each year:

  • The Social or Local Activities Committee compiles a list of restaurants around the conference hotel. Many conference goers have specific dietary needs – veg*n, kosher, allergies – so make the extra effort to seek out restaurants that can cater to specific needs, or at least note which restaurants have specific dietary offerings.
  • Schedule the dinner for the night before or the night of the first day of the conference. The connections made at this meal gives attendees a set of familiar faces in the conference crowd, making the big anonymous crowd a little less anonymous.
  • Around a month before the conference, create a place for sign-up for small dining groups, no larger than six to a group. Discussion becomes difficult when the group is larger than six, from experience.
  • Promote the dinner early and often! Encourage a mixture of new attendees and conference veterans in each group, and get the vets to lead the groups. This is where cultivating buy-in from various established community members helps! Sometimes you’ll need to persuade folks into leading groups, especially during the first couple of years of doing the dinners or if you have some shy folks in the same group.
  • In the sign-up page, give explicit instructions as to what the group leader is responsible for: reservations, leading the group to and from the restaurant, main contact for the dinner group in case people are running late, etc.

Recipe reviews

How does the Newcomer Dinner help create an inclusive community environment at a conference?

It provides the opportunity for marginalized folks to find each other and to connect – for those looking for others like themselves, the Newcomer Dinner becomes the opportunity to connect with each other in a small group environment. The dinners are planned ahead of time; people have the chance to do their research and stake out a group or restaurant. This focus on small groups and advanced planning provides a lower-pressure, informal safer space for underrepresented attendees who otherwise might not venture far from their hotel rooms outside of conference hours.

It provides the opportunity for others to listen and to learn from each other – in some groups, there are a mix of diverse people, and the conversation can and sometimes lead to an exchange of ideas and experiences by all sides. Again, conferences big and small don’t have a lot of opportunities for small group, face to face conversations outside the conference, which makes the dinner a place where people have dedicated time to share thoughts, experiences, and engage in conversations otherwise not present in the conference center hallways.

There are a few considerations for organizing a Newcomer Dinner. code4lib’s dinner is completely voluntary, which means that the people who really want to be there will be there if their schedule permits. There is also the consideration of the dinner group; not all group dynamics are ideal, but the focus on food gives some buffer for some groups that have one or two folks who like to talk. Lastly, even though the focus is on creating a welcoming environment with great food, having the Newcomer Dinner covered under the conference’s Code of Conduct helps ensure that if anything happens in the group, then there is a system in place to address any issues.

Make the recipe your own

The dinner has since become one of the rare traditions of the code4lib conference since 2010, and is one of the highlights of the conference for many people, including those newer to the community, leading to lasting friendships and professional connections alike. Past participants have even organized their own dinners in their own communities! The focus on conference veterans mixing with the newer attendees adds the dimension of networking opportunities for newcomers within the community. More importantly, it provides an opportunity for inclusive community building. Overall, the Newcomer Dinner is a good (and filling) tool to help build an inclusive environment for conferences and communities alike.

Ed. note: At AdaCamp, one of the more popular events is the Saturday night dinner in the form described in this post. AdaCamp Portland applications are now open!

Guest post: Nicole Stark’s Survey of Harassment Policies at Fan Conventions

This is a guest post from author Jim C. Hines that originally appeared on his blog as "Nicole Stark’s Survey of Harassment Policies at Fan Conventions." It is a summary of Nicole Stark's paper surveying and analyzing fan convention anti-harassment policies, the first study of its kind that we know of.

After I posted my Convention Harassment Policy Starter Kit, I learned about a study Nicole Stark had done about harassment policies at fan conventions. Stark’s article is available on Google Docs, here. I’ve seen a fair amount of discussion on harassment policies and why we do or don’t need to worry about them, but this is the first example I’ve seen of a more rigorous academic survey and discussion of harassment policies. Stark gave me permission to link to her paper, and to discuss some of the highlights.

ETA: Stark is a M.A. student studying sexual harassment. She asked me to share that her email address is, in case anyone wanted to follow up with her about her work.

From the abstract:

This study uses content analysis to evaluate a sample of 288 fan convention websites. These conventions took place within the United States from March to November 2013. The analysis was used to determine how common sexual harassment policies are and their characteristics. This study examined both frequencies and descriptions of codes of conduct, including promoted and prohibited rules, sanctions, reporting guidelines, and the existence of a sexual harassment or general harassment policy. Less than half of the sample contained any behavioral policy at all. Those behavioral policies that were present were found to be generally informal, unstructured, and devoid of a sexual harassment policy. However, many policies contained rules that could be used in the prevention of sexual harassment. These rules, when made clear and recognizable, may work as effective policy in informal spaces. (Page 2)

Stark opens by discussing an instance of sexual harassment from New York Comic Con, and goes on to note that:

A study on sexual harassment policy in manufacturing firms revealed that an available written policy resulted in a 76 percent reduction in one year’s reports (Moore and Bradley 1997).

In other words, to anyone arguing there’s no need for a sexual harassment policy, there is actual research showing that such a policy can significantly reduce sexual harassment.

I expect some people to protest that a convention isn’t the workplace, and that’s true. There are likely to be some differences in the dynamics and effects of a harassment policy in a convention space vs. a workplace. But the underlying premise and conclusion here is pretty straightforward: “We created a written policy on sexual harassment, and sexual harassment decreased significantly.”

I assume most people would like to see sexual harassment at conventions decrease significantly as well. Ergo, creating a written policy seems like a really basic and obvious first step.

Stark’s sample comes from the website’s list of upcoming conventions. The cons were all from 2013, all located in the U.S., and included media, anime, literary, gaming, comics, relaxicons, and more. So what did she find in her study?

Of the 288 convention websites, 59.38%  had no listed policy on their website in regards to behavior or code of conduct. Less than half of all websites (40.62%) had at bare minimum, a behavioral policy explaining acceptable or unacceptable actions while at the convention. These rules ranged from a basic ‘be polite’ to lengthier explanations and examples of what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Of the total sample, only 3.47% used the phrase ‘sexual harassment’. However, 13.88% used the word ‘harassment’, not detailing readily available distinctions between harassments, whether sexual, bullying, or annoying otherwise.

Fewer than half of conventions have a posted policy about acceptable behavior, let alone harassment. And the policy is only the starting point; what about instructions on reporting harassment and other unacceptable behavior?

Only 15.27% (44) of the 288 convention websites contained guidelines on reporting. Of the three conventions participating in Project: Women Back Each Other Up, only one employed the use of purple ribbons to indicate female staff members who were prepared to intervene and handle potential sexual harassment. Several policies listed that if there were emergencies, to dial 911 or building security.  This left 84.72% (244) of the convention websites devoid of response or guidance to potential victims.

Stark goes on to recommend:

…in evidence of the language and audience in these informal spaces, the following are suggestions for a comprehensive policy at fan conventions. The policies need to be recognizable and readily available (Moore & Bradley 1997), properly enforcedinclude and define sanctionstrain employees for prevention and response, (Harmus & Niblock 2000), detail complaint procedure (Fowler 1996), and define sexual harassment in terms that the audience understands. (Emphasis added)

I have very little to add beyond Yes. That.

I recommend anyone interested in the ongoing conversation about sexual harassment in fandom read the full study. And my thanks to Nicole Stark for letting me link to and chat about her research here.

A smiling man in front of shelves of booksJim C. Hines is the author of the Magic ex Libris series, which has been described as a love letter to books and storytelling, and includes a magic-wielding librarian with a laser blaster. He’s also written the Princess series of fairy tale retellings and the humorous Goblin Quest trilogy, along with more than 40 published short stories. He’s an active blogger, and won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. You can find him online at

Guest post: Scholarships for women speakers at PuppetConf

This is a guest post by Dawn Foster, Director of Community at Puppet Labs, the leading provider of IT automation software for system administrators. Puppet Labs is a founding sponsor of Ada Initiative and a repeat sponsor of AdaCamp.

About 30 women smiling at the camera in a hotel ballroom

Women's breakfast at PuppetConf 2013

With PuppetConf 2014 coming up on September 23 – 24 in San Francisco, we recently began accepting proposals for PuppetConf 2014 talks, and we would love to see more proposals from women this year! You can submit your talk proposal any time through March 18, 2014. [Ed. note: Feel like you aren't good enough to speak at PuppetConf? Take our free online Impostor Syndrome training.]

To further encourage you to submit a proposal, we are offering a limited number of travel scholarships for female speakers who would like to receive help paying for travel to the event. This scholarship is for women who submit talk proposals that are accepted by the selection committee. All self-identified women are eligible to apply, and it's as easy as checking the box on the call for papers submission form.

This is your chance to talk about all the interesting ways you are using Puppet technologies in your environment! We are looking for sessions that range from how-to information for beginners to advanced topics for experts, and everything in between. Talks are not limited to Puppet, either. We also want to have talks about related tools, DevOps culture, configuration management improvements, and other information about how to make working in operations a better experience. We have a big list of potential topics on the CFP submission form if you want a few more ideas about what we would like to see.

Here are some great sessions from last year if you want to get a better feel for the types of talks that we had at PuppetConf 2013.

You can watch all of the videos and see the presentations by visiting the PuppetConf 2013 video page.

Last year, we had a women's breakfast, which was open to all self-identified women attending PuppetConf. When we do something similar this year, I hope to have a much larger group! You can be part of this year's breakfast by submitting your talk. We hope you will encourage other women to propose talks too.

I hope to see many of you at PuppetConf 2014! Don't forget that submissions are due by midnight PDT on March 18, 2014. But don't wait for the last minute, submit your talk now.

Guest post: What's wrong with "meritocracy" in open source software?

The recent welcome announcement that GitHub was replacing a rug celebrating the concept of a meritocracy in open source software development has had a lot of people wondering, "What's so wrong with meritocracy?" To answer this, we are publishing an excerpt from a post by Ashe Dryden, "The Ethics of Unpaid Labor and the OSS Community."

Ashe Dryden is a programmer, diversity advocate, writer, and speaker. She blogs regularly at and her work is almost 100% funded through community donations at

Meritocracy is the belief that those with merit float to the top – that they should be given more opportunities and be paid higher.

We prize the idea of meritocracy and weigh merit on contribution to OSS. Those who contribute the most, goes the general belief, have the most merit and are deemed the most deserving. Those who contribute less or who don't at all contribute to OSS are judged to be without merit, regardless of the fact that they have less access to opportunity, time, and money to allow them to freely contribute.

As the people who exist within this supposed meritocracy don't exist within a vacuum, we also have to realize how our actions affect others. Meritocracy creates a hierarchy amongst the people within it. Some of those at the top or striving to at least be above other people have been guilty of using their power for bullying, harassment, and sexist/racist/*ist language that they use against others directly and indirectly. This creates an atmosphere where people who would otherwise be deemed meritorious within this system choose not to participate because of a hostile, unrewarding environment.

A lot of people hold the idea of meritocracy close. I believe they mean well, too, but they aren't necessarily seeing the whole picture. We all want a system where we feel we can be rewarded for what we contribute: that society's injustice toward certain groups of people – most specifically geeks, many of us who grew up feeling abused, persecuted, and ignored (blog post coming on this soon) – would be rendered irrelevant. In striving for that, our community has become a microcosm of society at large.

The idea of a meritocracy presumes that everyone starts off and continues through with the same level of access to opportunity, time, and money, which is unfortunately not the case. It's a romanticized ideal – a belief in which at best ignores and at worst outright dismisses the experiences of everyone outside the group with the most access to these things. A certain demographic of people have three or four steps above other people, so the playing field is not even.

Read the rest of Ashe Dryden's post

For more reading on the meritocracy in open tech/culture, see:

The Paradox of Meritocracy: Belief that a workplace is a meritocracy may increase gender bias, not lessen it

Questioning the Merits of Meritocracy: Discussion of specific open source software projects that embrace meritocracy (as of 2009)

How White Male Tech Writers Feed the Silicon Valley Myth of Meritocracy: On the intersection of race, class, tech, and blogging

GitHub donates private repositories to women learning open source software: A collaboration between GitHub and Ada Initiative to compensate for extra barriers for women learning open source software development

Guest post: Conference codes of conduct as seen from your world and mine

This is a guest post by Andromeda Yelton about how conference codes of conduct actually improve the protection of free speech for women and other disadvantaged groups in tech, originally posted on her blog here. Andromeda Yelton is a librarian and freelance software engineer. She teaches librarians to code; speaks and writes about libraries, technology, and gender; and is on the Board of the Library & Information Technology Association.

In discussing ALA’s Statement of Appropriate Conduct with ever-wider audiences, I get the growing feeling that we stand at different starting lines, and it affects our understandings of the words in the statement.

So if you looked at the Statement and your first reaction was “but…free speech?” or “nanny state” or “political correctness”, this is for you. Let me attempt to explain some starting points. (Trigger warning: graphic violence, rape, rampant misogyny.)

Proponents of these codes are not concerned that people might disagree with them (even disagree passionately). We aren’t concerned that people might not be nice. We aren’t wanting to run to some hammer of authority every time someone says a group we’re in might be other than pure unicorns and roses.

Here is the world I live in:

I live in a world where famed game developer and technical writer Kathy Sierra disappeared entirely from the internet for years after she received a series of death threats, including publishing of her home address, social security number, and false allegations that she had abused her children.

I live in a world where Anita Sarkeesian ran a Kickstarter to support a project on sexism in video games, and as a result someone created and distributed a video game consisting solely of clicking on her face until you had beaten it to a bloody pulp.

I live in a world where merely having a female-gendered nickname on IRC (a chat network important in the technology world) makes you 25 times more likely to receive unsolicited malicious private messages, even if you never say a word.

I live in a world where I have zero interest in going to CES because I don’t want to have to deal with the naked booth babes (and am therefore cutting myself off from the biggest trade show relevant to my interests). Where a friend of mine takes for granted there will probably be naked women on conference slides in her field. Where people complaining that a joke about being “raped by dickwolves” in a comic about gaming isn’t funny leads to its creators selling dickwolves t-shirts and large numbers of people to this day defending this as a reasonable position to hold. Where a hackathon sponsored by a major tech news web site gives time on stage to an app intended solely for sharing photos of women’s cleavage, with a nine-year-old-girl in the audience. Where a major tech news discussion site is so prone to misogyny many women never bother to spend time there, at the same time as it is suspected of repeatedly quashing discussion critical of misogyny.

I live in a world where I treat it as great and inexplicable good luck that no one has yet threatened to rape or kill me just because I blog and speak publicly about technology and sexism under an obviously female name, and I have the backup plan in my head of how to moderate comments and log IPs if it’s ever needed, and the list of which friends have my back enough that I’d ask them to wade through that kind of cesspit for me. I live in a world where using my own name on github and IRC was aspecific conscious choice that required actual bravery from me, because I know that I am statistically exposing myself to retribution for doing so.

Let’s say that again: I live in a world where being myself in public, talking about things I care about under my own name in public, is a specific choice which requires both courage and a backup plan.

In this world some people choose not to be themselves in public. They choose not to speak, or to speak only under disguises – ones they can’t wear at conferences, face-to-face.

That is my concern about free speech. That right there.

That is the aim of conference codes of conduct. To clarify the threats — not to eliminate them, because you can’t ever do that, but to state that this is a place where silencing people through graphic threats of sexual violence or open and regular degradation is treated as unacceptable, that if it happens to you there’s a place to go, and to (crucially) say that the bystanders care too. That you’re not in a place where a lot of people are decent but indifferent and someone somewhere might attack you and it’s all on you to cope, but you’re in a place where a lot of people are decent and affirmatively have your back.

And by clarifying the threats, by publicly affirming the decency of the bystanders, we create a world where you don’t have to be quite so brave to speak up. A world where the uncertain, the new, the outsiders have a voice too. A world where maybe the barrier for being a woman in tech — or an outsider coming in — is not the ability to say “fuck you”, but merely the interest in saying something, anything.

If you have been reading the statement of acceptable conduct from the frame of mind that you haven’t encountered problems and things seem fine and the only speech you can imagine it chilling is the edgier end of the perfectly fine, please go back and reread it from my world. It reads differently.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Sarah Stierch

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Netha Hussain, AdaCamp DC alumna.

Photograph of Sarah Stierch

by Matthew Roth, CC BY-SA

Sarah Stierch (User: SarahStierch on Wikimedia) is an active contributor to Wikimedia, she has been contributing projects since 2006. She is an administrator on Wikipedia and the Program Evaluation & Design community coordinator at the Wikimedia Foundation. On Wikipedia, she is interested in writing articles about people and places. She was instrumental in launching the Teahouse, a friendly place to help newcomers get accustomed to Wikipedia’s culture and WikiWomen’s Collaborative, a global initiative in increasing the participation of women in Wikimedia projects. Both these projects she developed as a part of her fellowship program with the Wikimedia Foundation. She has also participated in OpenGLAM initiatives by working with prominent libraries, archives and museums in the US.

On Wikipedia, she performs administrative tasks like cleaning up speedy deletions and emptying the backlogs. Being an OTRS volunteer, she handles issues with images and media by adding appropriate licenses to images tagged for deletion. She does not get involved in controversial admin actions, like closing of consensus driven article discussions. She thinks that it would be a good idea to have more admins in charge of discussions related to women.

Sarah enjoys the work she does as an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation. Her experience as an employee is different from that of being a community member. Her experience as a community member always comes to help when she is asked her opinions about implementing new projects and programs. Some people treat her with more respect and interest because of her newly assumed roles. In her opinion, to have a chance to get paid for doing the work you love, with the colleagues you respect, to help Wikimedians around the world is a fulfilling experience. As a full time employee, she now also gets health benefits, which she thinks is nice!

She likes the work culture of Wikimedia Foundation. She finds satisfaction in being able to support one of the most popular websites in the world. Being located in San Francisco, the Wikimedia Foundation’s office is next to numerous tech-companies like Google, Yelp and Salesforce. She thinks that the unifying mission of employees of all organizations in SF to make the web a better place is a meaningful goal.

In the past, she worked as a fellow at the Wikimedia Foundation as a part of which two projects: the Teahouse and WikiWomen’s Collaborative were launched. She is still unclear on the impacts made by these initiatives, but evaluation shows that the Teahouse has helped retain new editors as a whole, a significant number of them being women. It is exciting for her to see her efforts making an impact not only in English but also in other language Wikipedias. WikiWomen’s Collaborative on the other hand has played a significant role in retaining the existing women editors, but have not brought many new women editors into the movement. She recalls that building the support system to help women was one of WikiWomen’s Collaborative’s achievements.

In her capacity as a volunteer, she has arranged numerous meetups and workshops to spread the word about Wikipedia. She recalls that the attitude of the Wikimedia community has generally been supportive, as most Wikimedians want to see more people get involved in the movement. She has been careful in avoiding discouraging comments from a few people who do not support her vision. She finds it tough to see the Wikimedia Foundation stepping back from the supportive role in increasing gender diversity, but she is happy that Wikimedia communities in different parts of the world have stepped up to fulfil this goal by organizing a variety of events and activities to increase the participation of women in Wikimedia.

Sarah believes that the Ada Initiative was critical in helping her become a better employee by helping her learn to handle unsettling and uncomfortable situations. Knowing how to address such situations has helped her to influence the environment at her office, and made it a safer and more inviting space for women. AdaCamp honed her facilitation skills, like making sure that everyone got their say in the discussions especially in male dominated groups. Among AdaCampers, she also found a great network of feminists around the world whom she can call on for support and advice. For her, it is a great feeling to be a part of the amazing community of AdaCamp alumni. The friendly space policies created by Ada Initiative is being used by her for all the events she and the Wikimedia Foundation conducts.

She calls upon all people to click [edit] when they find a mistake or an error on Wikipedia. She invites everyone to stop by the TeaHouse to get help on any aspect of Wikipedia. She wants all people to make a difference by editing Wikipedia.

Sarah’s biography can be read on Wikipedia here. She can be reached at sarah (at) wikimedia (dot) org.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Dana Bauer

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Leslie Birch, AdaCamp DC and San Francisco alumna.

I got to know Dana Bauer at AdaCamp DC. Even though we both live in Philly, it was really the first time I got to find out more about her. She is a map wizard and often spends her free time sharing her talents with hackerspaces and other meetup groups in Philly. She was instrumental in me taking my first Python workshop — something I was driven to do after attending AdaCamp. Dana is very active with the Python community and I can remember one talk she gave about Py love that had astounding graphics and ended with everyone in hysterics. She knows how to engage people and encourage community. Most of all, she keeps me on my tech path and represents the type of woman I strive to be.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Sarah Sharp

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Carol Willing, AdaCamp San Francisco alumna.

Thoughtful. Encouraging. Integrity. Commitment. Strength. Resilient. Collaborative.

These words easily describe Sarah Sharp, Linux kernel developer and USB 3.0 driver maintainer. Sarah's efforts with the Outreach Program for Women (OPW) in the Linux kernel demonstrate her commitment to build awareness, to encourage, and to celebrate the women that will become the next generation of contributors to the Linux kernel. I had the pleasure of spending time with Sarah and two of the OPW interns at LinuxCon this year and to see their energy and enthusiasm for improving the kernel and its community.

Sarah champions collaboration, inclusiveness, and respect to improve the Linux community. She's a wonderful ambassador for Linux, open source, and the Ada Initiative. Thank you Sarah!

Tickets on sale now for women in free/open source software conference, Flossie 2013

This is a guest post from Paula Graham, organizer of the Flossie 2013 conference for women in free/libre and open source software (FLOSS).

Get your tickets for Flossie 2013 now!

Flossie 2013 brings together FLOSS women developers, entrepreneurs, researchers and policy-makers, digital artists and social innovators for an exciting mix of talks, spontaneous discussions and open workshops. Flossie 2013 brings the benefits of open thinking to artist and entrepreneurs and the insights of diverse innovators to FLOSS development. Flossie 2013 is located in London.

Download the Programme for Flossie 2013 here

Register for Flossie 2013 now - tickets are going fast!

Flossie 2013 builds on last year's success with new threaded mini-events: Google and Mozilla coders will be evaluating contributions to our Open CodeSprint and we are also combining students of architecture and product design with disability communities, makers and coders to explore and prototype Smart Assistive Environments innovation for Living Aids industry partners and is part of AHRC-funded participatory design research fieldwork.

For more information or to take part in the CodeSprint:

For more information or to take part in the Diversifying Internet of Things project:

This year's theme is DIVERSITY – women, LGBTQ and men with an interest in diversifying technology are welcome to attend and the building offers wheelchair access, please note our diversity and anti-harassment policy here

#flossie2013 | @flossienet | Facebook | |

Cross-post: My Family And The Ada Initiative, by Sumana Harihareswara

This is a cross-post from Sumana Harihareswara's blog, Cogito, Ergo Sumana. She is Engineering Community Manager at Wikimedia Foundation, a long-time member of the GNOME community, and editor of science fiction anthology Thoughtcrime Experiments.

Please join Leonard and me in donating to the Ada Initiative. Why? Let me tell you a story, and then a surprise.

My parents came to the US from Karnataka, in south India, in the 1970s, and they were lonely. They spoke Kannada and English and Farsi and Hindi and Sanskrit, but Kannada was their mother tongue, and they arrived in Oklahoma and found no Kannadiga community to speak of. (Go ahead and groan. My dad passed on his love of terrible puns to me.)

An Amerikannada envelope and my parents' wedding photoI'm not saying they were the first Kannada speakers in the US. There were definitely already Kannadigas in the US in the 1970s. Indians had been immigrating here for decades.* There were letters and long-distance phone calls and occasional visits, a few families getting together, the adults laughing and swapping tips in Kannada while kids ran around. But the Kannada-speaking diaspora was scattered and had no central place to talk with each other. A bunch of people who shared a characteristic, but not really a community.

So my parents did some community organizing, in their spare time, in between working and raising my sister and me. How did they get Kannada speakers together? They started "Kannada Koota" local organizations (like user groups). "Koota" means "meeting" in Kannada. They basically started a grassroots network of Kannadiga meetups. How did they get these folks talking to each other, all across the country? They started a bimonthly magazine, Amerikannada, and ran it for 7 and a half years, until their money and energy ran out. It had great fiction, and articles from the literary magazines back home. And it included ads for those Kannada Koota meetups, "how I started a Kannada Koota" articles, and tutorial exercises for "how to learn Kannada", for parents to teach their kids. My parents were sharing best practices, talking meta, inspiring people all over.

I didn't really know that, as a kid. As my parents processed subscriptions, recruited articles and ads, wrote, and edited, my sister and I stapled, stamped, glued, and sealed bits of paper in languages we couldn't quite yet read. We had a rubber stamp with the logo: a griffin-like creature, half-lion, half-bald eagle. I gleefully deployed those magical bulk-mail stickers, red and orange and green with single-letter codes, and piled envelopes into burlap sacks and plastic bins for the frequent trips to the post office.

An Amerikannada envelope, my dad's employee badge at a nuclear power station, and the Rajyotsava award he received for service to the Kannada languageIt was always my Dad who took the Amerikannada mail to the post office. He was strong in those days, heaving the great bags of mail like an Indian Santa Claus (mustache yes, beard no) alongside the blue-uniformed workers on the loading dock, the part of the post office most people never use or even see. My sister and I came along, not to help — how could we? — but to keep my Dad company.

At home, while toying with BASIC on a PC Jr, I overheard the shouted long-distance phone calls in mixed Kannada and English. Stuff like "Go ahead and give me the directions to the venue, and I'll tell it to Veena." or "Well you know who you should talk to? Raj is going to be over there around then…." Weekend after weekend I spent reading science fiction in some corner at a Kannada Koota.**

My father receiving the Rajyotsava award from the government of Karnataka. From Kannada WikipediaThe funny thing is that I thought I was rebelling against my parents by taking the path I did. I majored in political science at Berkeley instead of engineering, and fell in with open source hippies. I used AbiWord on Caldera Linux to write papers about nineteenth-century American political theory and naturalization rates among Indians in Silicon Valley. I fell away from coding and saw that other things needed doing more urgently: tech writing, testing, teaching, marketing, management.

And here I am now, a community organizer like them, finally appreciating what they did, what they made, what they gave up. My dad had to work to support us; he couldn't edit Amerikannada full-time, even if that would have been a better use of his talents, and a greater service to the world. My parents couldn't find enough ads and subscribers to pay for the cost of keeping the magazine going. I appreciate WordPress and PayPal all the more because I see that Amerikannada folded (partly) for the lack of them.

My momWhat if one of my parents had been able to bring in income from the community we were building? What if it had been sustainable?

Today, the community that I most identify with is that of women in open source and open culture. We've talked to each other in pockets and locally for decades – hats off to LinuxChix and VividCon, for instance – but in the last few years, The Ada Initiative has brought us more resources, a stronger community, and faster progress than ever. And this is possible because the Ada Initiative's staff is full-time.

So, here's the surprise: Leonard and I will match every donation to the Ada Initiative up to a total of USD$10,000 until midnight August 27th PDT, one week from today. Yes, again. And this time, if the community matches the full amount, we'll chip in an extra thousand dollars.

The Ada Initiative's work is useful in our own lives. When I needed an anti-harassment policy for my workplace's technical events, and when Leonard wanted resources to advise his technical communities on diversity, we consulted the Ada Initiative's resources. AdaCamp brings together, teaches, and inspires women from all over, including me. And the network I found via the Ada Initiative helped me write a keynote speech and respond to unwanted touch at a hackathon.

But more than that, we know that we're improving our world and helping science fiction, open source, and Wikipedia live up to our values. We believe in inclusiveness, compassion, empowerment, and equal and fair treatment for all, and the Ada Initiative opens the doors for more women to get to enjoy those values in the places we love.

And my parents taught me that I should give back. It feels so much better to give back than to give up.

* One couple who moved from Gujarat to California in 1958 had a son who's now a Congressman.

** Nowadays I get to be the only Kannadiga at science fiction conventions.

About the Ada Initiative

Mary and Valerie laughing

Co-founders Mary and Valerie (CC BY-SA Adam Novak)

The Ada Initiative is tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to increasing the participation and status of women in open technology and culture, which includes fan fiction and fan culture, Wikipedia, free and open source software, open hardware, open data, open education, and more. Since our founding in January 2011 by open source developers Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner, we have made hundreds of conferences safer and more welcoming for women, taught hundreds of women how to overcome Impostor Syndrome, and changed hundreds more women's lives through the AdaCamp unconference for women in open technology and culture, among other things. Our work is only possible through the support of people like you. Read more about our programs, our progress in 2013, and our supporters.

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