Category Archives: Ada Initiative projects

AdaCamp Berlin report-out: "I went to AdaCamp and all I got was a very good time!"

"Thanks to all of you! it was a great experience that all women in tech and open culture should live." — Anonymous AdaCamper

AdaCamp is an unconference for women in open technology and culture and the people who support them. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, discuss issues women have in common across open technology and culture fields, and find ways to address them. AdaCamp is organized by the Ada Initiative, a non-profit devoted to increasing the participation and status of women in open technology and culture, which includes open source software, Wikipedia and related projects, fan fiction, and more.

57 people who identified as women attended AdaCamp Berlin, held on October 11-12, 2014 at the office of Wikimedia Deutschland.

AdaCamp

A huge thank you to all of our sponsors who made AdaCamp Berlin possible:
Google, Puppet Labs, Ada Initiative donors, Automattic, Mozilla, Red Hat, Web We Want, Wikimedia Foundation, Simple, New Relic, Wikimedia Deutschland, Linux Foundation, NetApp, Rackspace, Spotify, Stripe, Wikimedia UK, Gitlab, OCLC, O'Reilly, Pinboard, and Python Software Foundation.

Impact of AdaCamp Berlin

"Talking to feminist women who work in tech and don't do exactly the same things I do gave me the possibility of looking at my position from other points of view and this was very empowering." — Anonymous AdaCamper

Our post-event survey (24% response rate) indicated that 83% respondents had improved their professional networks and feel more committed to participating in open technology and culture as a result of AdaCamp, two of the primary goals of the event. 66% of respondents felt more part of a community of women in open technology and culture and 58% agreed that AdaCamp increased their awareness of issues facing women in open technology and culture.

"I got back to editing Wikipedia after being dormant for 3 years." — Ednah Kiome

62% of respondents also said that they learned new skills to participate in open technology and culture. Overall, survey respondents liked the unconference format for its attendee-driven content and collaborative nature. Many participants specifically praised AdaCamp's role cards that are used for all sessions to help keep the session focused, on topic, and productive.

About the attendees

AdaCamp Berlin Attendees

CC BY-SA Sarah Sharp

"She believed, she could, so she did."Greta Doci

57 people attended AdaCamp Berlin. The attendees came from 19 countries. 35% of attendees were from Germany and 13% were from the United Kingdom. Other countries represented include Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America.

We worked hard to make AdaCamp Berlin diverse in many different ways. Some statistics from our post-conference survey (24% response rate):

  • 9% listed their race or ethnicity as other than white or Caucasian (compared to 23% in the Adacamp Portland survey, 30% in the AdaCamp San Francisco survey and 25% in the AdaCamp DC survey)
  • 100% were born outside the United States (11% AdaCamp Portland, 18% AdaCamp San Francisco, 28% AdaCamp DC)
  • 50% were not employed as programmers or IT specialists (42% AdaCamp Portland, 41% AdaCamp San Francisco, 49% AdaCamp DC)

Travel scholarships

"Inclusivity was a founding cornerstone of the event."Zara Rahman

To make AdaCamp more accessible to students, non-profit employees and others living outside of Berlin, and to increase the diversity of our attendees, we offered 6 travel scholarships to AdaCamp Berlin. Two of the travel grants were awarded to AdaCampers from Albania, and the others were awarded to AdaCampers from Belgium, France, Kenya and Slovenia. An additional 5 travel grants were provided by Wikimedia UK for UK based attendees. These five AdaCampers came from the United Kingdom and from Ireland.

What we did

AdaCamp Berlin was primarily structured as an unconference, with attendee-organized and facilitated sessions around issues facing women in open technology and culture. Based on feedback from the previous four AdaCamps, we added some more structure to the beginning and end of the schedule.

"I loved that AdaCamp allowed us to talk about [the connections between basic rights for women, and empowerment through technology] in their interlinked realities, unlike the slew of women’s events that seem to do little more than feed corporate ambitions." — Jane Ruffino

For most attendees, the first session of AdaCamp was an Impostor Syndrome workshop. Women's socialization is often less confident and competitive than men's, and women are therefore especially vulnerable to Impostor Syndrome — the belief that one's work is inferior and one's achievements and recognition are fraudulent — in open technology and culture endeavors where public scrutiny of their work is routine. As at AdaCamp San Francisco, the opening session was a large-group Impostor Syndrome workshop facilitated by AdaCamp Berlin and Bangalore lead Alex Bayley. The Impostor Syndrome workshop was followed by introductory sessions on areas of open technology and culture that might be new to participants; including everything from electronic security and privacy, to feminist activism.

Two sessions in the afternoon were the first free-form sessions: the first focusing on what problems and barriers face women in open source technology and culture; and the second discussing existing solutions in a variety of communities. On Sunday the morning sessions were also free-form, with a focus on generating new and creative ways to address the problems and barriers facing women in open source technology and culture.

AdaCamp Schedule

CC BY-SA Nóirín Plunkett

On Sunday afternoon, attendee-organized sessions moved towards skill-sharing and creation, with a multitude of workshops, make-a-thons, edit-a-thons, hack-a-thons, and tutorials that ranged from a security and cryptography workshop, through group programming working on software as a craft, to a meta-workshop on how to run workshops!

AdaCampers reported learning a variety of new skills including but not limited to the usage of crypto tools, privacy, approaches to feminism, how to contribute to open source, how to better organize events, creating safer spaces, making events inclusive, fan culture, security and what one AdaCamper described as "A deeper understanding of why security is particularly important for women."

Lightning talks were held on both days of the main track. Any AdaCamper that wanted to share their knowledge, experience or passion—on a topic either in open technology and culture or not—was given the stage for 90 seconds. AdaCampers talked about subjects from useful hand signals for group communication, to online language barriers, to Wikipedia projects. For many lightning talk speakers, this was their first experience of public speaking.

Social events

On the evening of Friday October 10, Wikimedia UK and Web We Want sponsored a reception at Wikimedia Deutschland. Thank you to Wikimedia UK and Web We Want for hosting a reception that allowed a wider group to get together and socialise in a positive, feminist atmosphere.

3 women smiling

CC BY-SA Greta Doci


Following the tradition established at AdaCamps DC, San Francisco, and Portland; instead of a large social event on Saturday night, attendees had dinner in small groups at restaurants around Berlin. Attendees were invited to host dinners on behalf of their employers. Thank you to Puppet Labs and Knight-Mozilla OpenNews and their representatives, for hosting dinners.

"The greatest moments [of AdaCamp] were the session on women who don't code and the Saturday night dinner, developing a discussion on codes of conduct at feminist events we'd begun during the afternoon with some of the women who attended it and luckily were also at the dinner." — Anonymous AdaCamper

Reports from AdaCampers

"I went to AdaCamp and all I got was a very good time!" — Helga Hansen

Several AdaCampers wrote publicly about their experiences at the event, in a variety of languages! You can read some of those blogs posts here:

Conference resources

Colored lanyards to indicate photo preferences

CC BY-SA Ioana Chiorean


Each AdaCamp we strive to improve the event. After each AdaCamp, we publish any resources we developed and license them CC BY-SA for use by the community. We're presently working on a photography usage policy, which we look forward to releasing publicly in the new year!

Future AdaCamps

We're thrilled with the increasing success of AdaCamp at bringing women together and developing the current and next generation of women leaders in open technology and culture. AdaCamp is one of the key events of the Ada Initiative, with huge impact on its attendees and the communities they are involved in. Our 2014 AdaCamps in Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India, are part of our strategy to reach a wider range of women by holding more frequent but smaller AdaCamps around the world. We are developing plans for AdaCamps in 2015 and 2016 now. If you'd like to be notified of the next AdaCamp, sign up to our announcement mailing list or follow us on Twitter.

Thank you to all of the AdaCamp Berlin attendees and AdaCamp sponsors for giving us the support we needed to run this event and make it what it is. You are what makes AdaCamp a success!

Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2015 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.


Thank you again to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs, gold sponsors Automattic, Red Hat, Mozilla, Web We Want, and Wikimedia Foundation; and silver sponsors New Relic, Simple and Wikimedia Deutschland.

How I made a tidepool: Implementing the Friendly Space Policy for Wikimedia Foundation technical events

smiling woman

Sumana Harihareswara
CC-BY Guillaume Paumier

This is a guest post by Sumana Harihareswara, a writer, programmer, Wikipedian, editor, community manager, fan, and member of the Ada Initiative board of directors.

Back when I worked at the Wikimedia Foundation, I used the Ada Initiative's anti-harassment policy as a template and turned it into the Friendly Space Policy covering tech events run by WMF. I offer you this case study because I think reading about the social and logistical work involved might be inspiring and edifying, and to ask you to please donate to the Ada Initiative today.

Donate now

Wikimedia hackathon in Berlin, 2012, by Guillaume Paumier (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons I was working for Wikimedia Foundation for ~8 months before I broached the topic of a conference anti-harassment policy with the higher-ups – my boss & my boss's boss, both of whom liked the idea and backed me 100%. (I did not actually ask HR, although in retrospect I could have.) My bosses both knew that Not So Great things happen at conferences and they saw why I wanted this. They said they'd have my back if I got any flak.

So I borrowed the Ada Initiative's policy and modified it a little for our needs, and placed my draft on a subpage of my user page on our wiki. Then I briefly announced it to the mailing list where my open source community, MediaWiki, talks. I specifically framed this as not a big deal and something that lots of conferences were doing, and said I wanted to get it in place in time for the hackathon later that month. Approximately everyone in our dev community said "sure" or "could this be even broader?" or "this is a great idea", as you can see in that thread and in the wiki page's history and the talk page.

Sumana with two other women running Wikimedia hackathon in Berlin, 2012, by Yves Tennevin [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons I usually telecommuted to WMF, but I happened to be in San Francisco in preparation for the hackathon, and was able to speak to colleagues in person. My colleague Dana Isokawa pointed out that the phrasing "Anti-harassment policy" was offputting. I agreed with her that I'd prefer something more positive, and I asked some colleagues for suggestions on renaming it. My colleague Heather Walls suggested "Friendly Space Policy". In a pre-hackathon prep meeting, I mentioned the new policy and asked whether people liked the name "Friendly Space Policy," and everyone liked it.

Sumana teaching a Git workshop at Wikimedia hackathon in Amsterdam, 2013, by Sebastiaan ter Burg from Utrecht, The Netherlands (Wikimedia Hackathon 2013, Amsterdam) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons So I made it an official Policy; I announced it to our developer community and I put it on wikimediafoundation.org.

This might have been the end of it. But a day later, I saw a question from one community member on the more general community-wide mailing list that includes other Wikimedia contributors (editors/uploaders/etc.). That person, who had seen but not commented on the discussion on the wiki or on the developers' list, wanted to slow down adoption and proposed some red tape: a requirement that this policy be passed by a resolution of the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees (so, basically, the ultimate authority on the topic).

Wikimedia hackathon in Amsterdam in 2013, by User:Multichill (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
But approximately everyone on the community-wide list also thought the policy was fine — both volunteers and paid WMF staffers. For instance, one colleague said:

"If a policy makes good sense, we clearly need it, and feedback about the text is mostly positive, then we should adopt it. Rejecting a good idea because of process wonkery is stupid.

Sumana is not declaring that she gets to force arbitrary rules on everyone whenever she wants. She is solving a problem for us."

My boss's boss also defended the policy, as did a member of the Board of Trustees.

"Perhaps you misread the width of this policy. Staff can and generally do set policies affecting WMF-run processes and events."

I didn't even have to respond on-list since all these other guys (yes, nearly all or all guys) did my work for me.

Sumana and other Wikimedians enjoying a canal ride during the Amsterdam 2013 hackathon, by Andy Mabbett (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons I was so happy to receive deep and wide support, and to help strengthen the legitimacy of this particular kind of governance decision: consensus, including volunteers, led by a particular WMF staffer. And, even though I had only proposed it for a particularly limited set of events (Wikimedia-sponsored face-to-face technical events), the idea spread to other affiliated organizations (such as Wikimedia UK) and offline events (Wikimania, our flagship conference — thank you, Sarah Stierch, for your work on that!). And the next year, a volunteer led a session at Wikimania to discuss a potential online Friendly Space Policy:

"Explore what elements are essential for you in such a policy and what we can do collectively to adopt such a policy for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia websites."

Lydia Pintscher and Lila Tretikov at the Wikimedia hackathon in Zurich, 2014, by Ludovic P (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons So perhaps someday, all Wikipedia editors and other Wikimedia contributors will enjoy a safer environment, online as well as offline! I feel warm and joyous that the discussion I launched had, and is having, ripple effects. I felt like I took a gamble, and I looked back to see why it worked. A few reasons:

  • The Ada Initiative's template. I cannot imagine writing something that good from scratch. Having that template to customize for our needs made this gamble possible at all.
  • I started the discussion in January 2012; I had joined Wikimedia Foundation (part-time) in March 2011. So I had already built up a bunch of community cred and social capital.
  • In early 2012, open source citizens saw more and more reports of hostile behavior at conferences; people saw the need for a policy.
  • I added "or preferred Creative Commons license" to the big list of attributes (gender, disability, etc.), which gave the document a touch of Wikimedia-specific wit right at the start of the policy.
  • Sumana teaching a workshop participant at the Wikimedia hackathon in Amsterdam, 2013, by Sebastiaan ter Burg from Utrecht, The Netherlands (Wikimedia Hackathon 2013) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons I balanced decisiveness and leadership with openness to others' ideas.
  • Honestly, I narrowly focused the policy to an area where my opinion carried weight and I held some legitimate authority (both earned and given), phrased my announcement nonchalantly and confidently, and ran the consensus process pretty transparently. I believe it was hard to disagree without looking like a jerk. ;-)

(If you can privately talk with decisionmakers who have have top-down authority to implement a code of conduct, then you can use another unfortunate tool: point to past incidents that feel close, because they happened to your org or to ones like it.)

Indic Wikimedians gathering at Wikimania, 9 August 2013 in Hong Kong, by Subhashish Panigrahi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons By implementing our Friendly Space Policy, I created what I think of as a tidepool:

"…places where certain people can sort of rest and vent and collaborate, and ask the questions they feel afraid of asking in public, so they can gain the strength and confidence to go further out, into the invite-only spaces or the very public spaces….spaces where everybody coming in agrees to follow the same rules so it's a place where you feel safer — these are like tidepools, places where certain kinds of people and certain kinds of behavior can be nurtured and grown so that it’s ready to go out into the wider ocean."

With the help of the Ada Initiative's policy adoption resources, you can make a place like that too — and if you feel that you don't have top-down authority, perhaps that no one in your community does, then take heart from my story. If you have a few allies, you don't have to change the ocean. You can make a tidepool, and that's a start.

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Welcome AdaCamp Gold Sponsor Web We Want

Web We WantThe Ada Initiative is pleased to welcome Web We Want as a Gold sponsor of AdaCamp, our conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture.

The Web We Want initiative uses innovative approaches to build support for national and regional campaigns to create an internet that is socially just and observes human rights. The projects key principles are freedom of expression on and offline; affordable access to a universally available communications platform; protection of personal user information and the right to communicate in private: diverse, de-centralized and open infrastructure; and neutral networks that don’t discriminate against content or users.

About AdaCamp

Audience of women with multicolored hair and clothes

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative is holding three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India.

Sponsorship

Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.


Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs; gold sponsors Automattic, Mozilla, Red Hat and Wikimedia Foundation; and silver sponsors New Relic, Simple and Wikimedia Deutschland.

Meet our AdaCamp Berlin and Bangalore lead: Alex Bayley

With three AdaCamps in 2014 and four planned in 2015, the Ada Initiative staff can no longer run them all ourselves! Part of our mission is sustainable work practices, which unfortunately sometimes means not always being able to travel. So, for AdaCamp Berlin and Bangalore we're bringing in one of our most experienced AdaCamp alumni, Alex "Skud" Bayley, to run AdaCamp on the ground, with the assistance of Nóirín Plunkett in Berlin and Suki McCoy in Bangalore.

A woman smiling wearing a gardening hat

Alex "Skud" Bayley, AdaCamp Berlin and Bangalore lead

Alex has been part of AdaCamp right from the start: she secured our Melbourne venue for us, drafted the application process we use to this day and gave us the benefit of her vast experience in running events in open technology and culture. She also joined us as an AdaCamp Portland attendee. Alex is an experienced open technology and culture developer and community leader; she uses open source software and related technologies to effect social and environmental change. She has worked in Australia, the US, and Canada. After leaving San Francisco in 2011, where she had worked as a technical community director for the open data project Freebase, she returned to Australia and started Growstuff, combining her personal interest and experience in veggie gardening and open data. She lives in Ballarat, Victoria, where she works on a variety of open tech projects for social justice and sustainability.

To help you get to know Alex before AdaCamp, we interviewed her about AdaCamps past and present, and the many other projects she's working on right now.

What's your history as an event leader? What were your favourite moments at events you've run in the past?

Alex: I've been organising events for mostly Internet-based communities for about 20 years now. I've always loved the opportunity to meet people face to face who I originally knew online. Some examples include the Melbourne Perl Mongers (a technical meetup group that I founded in 1998), and the Wiscon Vid Party (a fan-made video show held annually at Wiscon, a feminist science fiction convention). I also helped organise the first AdaCamp in Melbourne in 2012.

My favourite moments? I'd have to say I love the moment when an attendee realises that this event is different, that it's something special. We all go to so many events that are formulaic, whether it's a tech meetup with the same speakers and pizza as all the other tech meetups, or conventions with the same sorts of panels and vendor exhibits you see everywhere else. We think we know what to expect. So when someone comes to event and you see their eyes widen and they say "Oh! This is different!", and they realise that an event can make them feel joy or inspiration or belonging, that's what I really love to see.

What did you enjoy about AdaCamp Melbourne and AdaCamp Portland?

At AdaCamp Melbourne, I really loved the venue — an environmental park in Melbourne's suburbs, with a meeting space built from green materials and using passive solar technologies. It meant we had heaps of natural light and fresh air, and the area around us was full of greenery, a farmer's market, and even livestock. It was lovely to be able to feel the sun on your face at lunchtime, and a nice change from meeting in a more traditional convention space. AdaCamp always has a special feel to it because we work hard to make the space welcoming and accessible, but herb gardens right outside the meeting room door and chickens pecking around nearby were really something different :)

In Portland, I was just outright inspired by all the women I met, the amazing projects they're working on, and how smart and passionate and welcoming everyone was. I made some great friends that weekend, and came home with a new commitment to expanding my own skills and using them to make the world a better place. I think AdaCamp gives us a safe space to open up to ideas, and to listen and talk without having to be on our guard against stereotypes, sexist comments, or unwelcome attention, and that's what makes it so easy to fully engage and get the most out of the event.

What are you looking forward to most about AdaCamp Berlin and AdaCamp Bangalore?

I am so excited to meet women from Europe, South Asia, and other areas who are as passionate as I am about both open tech/culture and feminism. Past AdaCamps have helped us form a network of feminists in the open tech/culture field, and this network is now spreading more widely, giving us connections to other points of view and other experiences. This will strengthen our understanding of the issues we face and give us new insights into how we can face them together. I'm especially pleased that each AdaCamp has women attending from further away, so that there's more chance for our ideas to cross-pollinate, rather than being siloed in each region.

What else are you working on right now? Any plans for your visit to Germany and to India?

I'm working on Growstuff, an open data project around food and sustainable agriculture, so I'm going to be meeting with a lot of people and talking about that through my travels. If you're interested in those areas, or if you're looking for a welcoming open source project to get involved in or a chance to learn Ruby on Rails, please get in touch and let's meet! I'm also visiting the UK and will be running a coding event in London the weekend after AdaCamp.

Apart from that, as usual I have about a dozen other projects on the go! I'm making block prints of Grace Hopper, doing software development and tech work for community gardens and appropriate technology, and working with my local library to build up their collection of books by and about same-sex attracted and gender diverse people. I'm looking forward to the long flights to Europe and India as a chance to do nothing for a change :)

About AdaCamp

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative is holding three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India.

Supporting AdaCamp

AdaCamps are not supported solely by our sponsors: gifts from you, our generous donors, make up a large part of AdaCamp's budget. Support women in open technology and culture and their leading event! Please contribute to more AdaCamps in 2015 by giving to our annual fundraising drive today!

Donate now

Fundraising goal counter

Sponsorship

Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.


Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs; gold sponsors Automattic, Mozilla, Red Hat and Wikimedia Foundation; and silver sponsors New Relic, Simple and Wikimedia Deutschland.

Conference anti-harassment work in skeptic communities, 2014 edition: more victims speak out as the world takes notice

[Trigger warning for sexual harassment and assault]

It's been another difficult year for opponents of sexual harassment and assault in the skeptic community and related communities such as atheism and science, as prominent figures accused of harassment and assault continued to be celebrated and defended by some of the community. However, signs of change continue, with others speaking up publicly about their own and their colleagues' experiences of harassment and assault.

Keep reading for our updated history of conference anti-harassment work in the skeptic community (with some related events from the science blogging community), adding the events from October 2013 to September 2014. Part of anti-harassment work is giving credit where credit is due, so we hope you take a minute to read through and honor the many different voices that have worked hard to make skepticism more welcoming, sometimes without recognition or fanfare for years. This entire post is licensed CC BY-SA the Ada Initiative – please feel free to reuse and remix according to the terms of the license!

Remember: Conference anti-harassment campaigns do work – they "just" take several years of dedicated effort to succeed.

Table of contents

  1. About the authors
  2. Summary of the skeptic anti-harassment campaign
  3. Detailed timeline (skip to the updates)
  4. What's changed in 2014
  5. How you can help
  6. Sources and resources

About the authors

Mary and Valerie laughing

Mary and Valerie
(CC BY-SA Adam Novak)

As a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture, the Ada Initiative cares deeply about ending harassment in geek communities. Our co-founders, Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora, co-authored the most widely used example anti-harassment policy, hosted on the Geek Feminism Wiki. The Ada Initiative's first project was advocating full-time for the adoption of policies in the open source community, often working directly with conference organizers and community leaders as advisors and coaches.

If you find our work inspiring, we hope you will join skeptics in supporting the Ada Initiative's anti-harassment work. We can only do this work with the support of people like you!

Donate now

Summary of the skepticism and atheism campaign

The big picture: In 2010, few or no conferences have policies. Serial sexual assaulters and outright rapists are common enough that women speakers have an informal network to warn each other about them. Victims are too afraid to name or report their attackers. In 2014, most conventions have anti-harassment policies, many leaders vocally oppose harassment, and at least three high-profile serial harassers and assaulters have been publicly identified. Some harassers and assaulters have lost their jobs and positions of power. However many victims and advocates are still stalked, harassed, and threatened, and need continuing support from the community. Several accused harassers and assaulters have threatened or begun legal action against those reporting them.


Detailed timeline:

A woman red hair on a black background

Rebecca Watson

June 2011: Rebecca Watson video blogs about being sexually harassed at the World Atheist Convention and suggests: "Guys, don't do that." In response, she is viciously harassed by members of the skeptic/atheist community for at least 2 years (the harassment is still on-going as of September 2014).

A smiling woman holding a paper printed with the word atheist

Jen McCreight

May 2012: Jen McCreight says on stage at the Women in Secularism conference that women speakers share the names of speakers who are likely to harass or assault them with other women speakers. Stephanie Zvan blogs about Jen's comment and about harassment at skeptic/atheist conferences and suggests adopting anti-harassment policies at atheist/skeptic cons, linking to the policy on Geek Feminism Wiki as a good example.

Sarah Moglia and David Silverman commit to (and follow through on) adopting an anti-harassment policy for the Secular Students Association and AACON respectively. Many more conferences follow, led by Jen McCreight, Chris Calvey, Stephanie Zvan, and many more.

Ashley Miller publicly reports her experiences with harassment at TAM 9, countering earlier claims that no harassment was reported at TAM 9. In a positive turn of events, Elyse reports favorably on SkeptiCamp Ohio's handling of harassment complaints according to their anti-harassment policy. Sasha Pixlee of More than Men begins maintaining a list of skeptic/atheist conferences with anti-harassment policies and advocates for more policies.

June 2012: Rebecca Watson and Jen McCreight announce they will not attend TAM due to DJ Grothe's recent statements. Among many other things, DJ blamed Watson and many others for discouraging women from attending TAM by telling the truth about their experiences of harassment in the community. (Ironically, Watson raised money for travel scholarships for women to attend TAM for several years.)

Dr. Pamela Gay gives a talk, Make the World Better, at TAM calling for skeptics to fight harassment in their community, and describing harassment she had personally experienced, although without naming the perpetrator.

PZ Myers explains why he's in favor of conference anti-harassment policies in response to a claim that they are unnecessary because hotel security exists.

WylloNyx explains why anti-harassment policies are not sex-negative and would not prevent consensual sexual activity at conferences. "A lack of statement about non-harmful sexual expression is neutral on the sex positivity scale. That harassment policies make it clear that they offer protection against non-consensual sexual expression makes the harassment policies sex positive. It means that not only the 'yay, sex is awesome' part isn't shamed but also the 'sex isn’t always awesome' aspect is addressed to the protection of attendees and speakers. To address both aspects of sex positivity clearly without shame makes sexual harassment policies sex positive."

Greta Christina points out that the OpenSF 2012 conference for people in open, polyamorous, or ethically nonmonogamous relationships has a detailed code of conduct, including things like: "We know this is California and everyone hugs, but please do that awkward 'wanna hug?' gesture before actually hugging."

Ashley Paramore reports being repeatedly groped in front of several people at TAM in 2012, without naming her attacker. The conference anti-harassment team banned the assaulter from future TAMs. Several other people back up her story. Paramore was harassed and threatened for months for publicly reporting her attack.

August 2013: Ian Murphy, Dr. Karen Stollznow, Carry Poppy, PZ MyersJason Thibeault, and many more begin naming names of specific serial sexual assaulters and harassers in the atheist/skeptic community. Jason Thibeault (@lousycanuck) creates a timeline of the sexual harassment accusations. Several of the named abusers threaten legal action, causing accusers to switch to using obvious pseudonyms instead.

An Indiegogo campaign is launched to raise a legal defense fund for one of the accused rapists, Michael Shermer. Ashley F. Miller points out that a quote from the campaign page makes it clear that the goal is to silence victims: "A show of support will send the message that we as a community will no longer tolerate illogical attacks on people who do not condone nor support sexual harassment, sexual predation, or rape any more than we support defamation of our community members from anonymous allegations."

A skeptic comedian mocks the rape allegations by claiming that it is the victims' responsibility to turn down alcoholic drinks if they don't want to get raped and comparing the reports to religious texts. Jason Thibeault provides a transcript of the video with these remarks and explains what is wrong with the idea that getting drunk should be punished with rape or comparing the reports made directly to PZ Myers and others with religious gospels.

Smiling woman with glasses

Dr. Danielle Lee

October 2013: In the related science-blogging community, biologist Dr. Danielle Lee (@dnlee5) describes being called an "urban whore" in a blog post hosted on Scientific American. Scientific American removes the blog post and eventually reinstated it.

Following discussion about the Scientific American blog takedown, Monica Byrne then names a science editor she had described in 2012 as approaching her for sex inappropriately: Bora Zivkovic, then-Blogs Editor for Scientific American. Zivkovic apologises for his behavior to Byrne, but other women describe similar experiences. Zivkovic then resigns from Scientific American and Science Online, and Science Online states he will not attend their events in 2014. The #RipplesOfDoubt discussion arises from this incident.

November 2013: In response to #RipplesOfDoubt, Dr. Pamela Gay publicly describes the fallout from her TAM 2012 talk, including threats to her career.

January 2014: Bora Zivkovic publishes a (since deleted) New Year blog post asking how he can prove himself trustworthy. Science Online co-founder and board member Anton Zuiker publishes a long article calling for the online community to forgive Zivkovic, including a discussion of an unrelated false rape accusation. Two days later, the board of Science Online states that Zuiker has been asked to not comment further on Zivkovic.

February 2014: Ben Radford files suit against Karen Stollznow, and posts about false accusations on the Centre For Inquiry's blog.

March 2014: Radford posts a statement to his Facebook wall, an apparent retraction of Stollznow's allegations of harassment. allegedly co-signed by her. Stollznow categorically denies agreeing to it or signing it; Stollznow's husband Michael Baxter states that he had worked on a joint statement draft with Radford or his representatives but that it had not been finalized nor had she agreed to it. Stollznow raises $60,000 on Indiegogo for her defense fund. Jason Thibeault creates a timeline of the statements released by different parties.

Woman's portrait

Janet Stemwedel

Back in the science-blogging community, Dr. Janet Stemwedel (@docfreeride) publishes a report-out from an impromptu gathering of people at the ScienceOnline Together conference concerned about the ScienceOnline board's handling of violations of its anti-harassment policies.

May 2014: Dr. Pamela Gay describes the assault she experienced in 2008 and alluded to in her TAM 2012 talk and her November 2013 blog post and subsequent communication from her assailant.

September 2014: Mark Oppenheimer's Buzzfeed piece Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? is published, documenting harassment and assault of several women in the skeptic and athiest communities, including several not-previously described accusations, particularly about Michael Shermer. Jason Thibeault releases an updated timeline of harassment and sexual assault allegations in the skeptic community, including several women who allege Shermer harassed or assaulted them.

Adam Lee (@DaylightAtheism) publishes a post in which Dr. Pamela Gay goes on record as saying that D. J. Grothe is the person who originally intervened when she was sexually harassed but later pressured her into silence.

What's changed in 2014

The rumbles and cracks that grew around sexual harassment and assault in 2013 continued to grow in 2014, with a growing part of the community no longer willing to be silent about their own experiences and those that their colleagues and friends reveal. The unhealthy parts of the culture of the skeptic community have begun to attract mainstream attention. But powerful people within the community are accustomed to its norms and keen to defend them through silencing their victims with professional and legal consequences. Much more support is needed for those speaking up, from individual support through to institutional reform that protects them from reprisals.

How you can help

Two women smiling

Sarah Sharp and Sumana Harihareswara, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Whether you are the leading novelist in your field, or a lurker on a mailing list, you can take action to stop conference harassment. You can use your words, your influence, your money, and your participation to change the culture in your community.

  • Only attend conferences with (enforced) anti-harassment policies
  • If a conference doesn't have a policy, ask them if they plan to have one
  • Start a pledge to not attend cons without policies
  • Start new conferences if existing ones won't adopt policies
  • If you sponsor events, only sponsor events with policies
  • Publicly support victims of harassment, especially if you are exceptionally influential
  • Publicly support anti-harassment campaigns, especially if you are exceptionally influential
  • Exclude well-known harassers from your events and let them know why
  • Educate yourself on responding to harassment, especially if you are a con organizer
  • Learn more about bystander intervention
  • Don't promote the work of people who harass or support harassment

You can also donate to support the Ada Initiative, which has been working full-time on ending harassment in open technology and culture communities since January 2011. Our 2014 fundraising campaign ends October 8th. Learn more about our progress so far and our plans for future work in 2014 and 2015.

Donate now


Sources and resources

List of geek conferences that have adopted anti-harassment policies
The Geek Feminism Wiki Timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities
Ada Initiative anti-harassment policy page

Reminder: This entire post is licensed CC BY-SA the Ada Initiative – please feel free to reuse and remix according to the terms of the license!

Newest AdaCamp sponsors: Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia UK, and Wikimedia DE

The Ada Initiative is pleased to welcome the Wikimedia Foundation as a Gold sponsor of AdaCamp, our conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture.

Wikimedia FoundationThe Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, and many other free, multi-lingual content web sites. The Wikimedia Foundation's sponsorship is through travel scholarships, in-kind donations and a grant from the Wikimedia Grants Program, which is open to the public and is designed to fund mission-aligned programs and activities.

We're also excited to have the support of two national Wikimedia chapters for our 2014 AdaCamps: Silver sponsor Wikimedia Deutschland is hosting AdaCamp Berlin in October and, as announced in July, Bronze sponsor Wikimedia UK provided travel scholarships for UK based attendees. Our remaining 2014 event, AdaCamp Bangalore in November, is being organized with the assistance of local Wikimedians.

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. AdaCamp brings together individuals from around the world with a passion for open source culture and content, including free knowledge projects. Through this collaboration, we hope to reach a proportionally larger audience of women interested in Wikimedia-related activities though these collaborations with the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia Deutschland and Wikimedia UK chapters.

About AdaCamp

AdaCampAdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative announced three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India. AdaCamp Portland occurred in June and was a huge success. Applications have closed for AdaCamp Berlin on October 11–12 and AdaCamp Bangalore on November 22–23. To hear about future AdaCamps, please follow the Ada Initiative's announcements via email or on social media.

Supporting AdaCamp

AdaCamps are not supported solely by our sponsors: gifts from you, our generous donors, make up a large part of AdaCamp's budget. Support women in open technology and culture and their leading event! Please contribute to more AdaCamps in 2015 by giving to our annual fundraising drive today!

Donate now

Sponsorship

Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.


Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs; gold sponsors Automattic, Mozilla, Red Hat and Wikimedia Foundation; and silver sponsors New Relic, Simple and Wikimedia Deutschland.

Conference anti-harassment work in SF&F, 2014 edition: N. K. Jemisin's speech, Hugo battles, Frenkel saga & more

[Trigger warning for sexual harassment and assault]

Smiling woman

N. K. Jemisin, award-winning author and leader in the SF&F anti-harassment movement

It has been an eventful year for the SF&F community, to say the least! In the Ada Initiative's 2013 history of anti-harassment campaigns we wrote: "Sometimes fighting harassment and assault at conferences feels like a losing battle. For every step forward, it seems like there's another step back."

2014 was no exception to that rule: a powerful editor and long-time serial harasser returned to the conference most people thought he was banned from, award-winning author N. K. Jemisin gave another game-changing Guest of Honor speech, and the Hugo awards became a battleground for the future of SF&F, to name just a few events.

Keep reading for our updated history of conference anti-harassment work in the SF&F community, adding the events from August 2013 to August 2014. Part of anti-harassment work is giving credit where credit is due, so we hope you take a minute to read through and honor the many different voices that have worked hard to make SF&F more welcoming, sometimes without recognition or fanfare for years. This entire post is licensed CC BY-SA the Ada Initiative – please feel free to reuse and remix according to the terms of the license!

Remember: Conference anti-harassment campaigns do work – they "just" take several years of dedicated effort to succeed.

Table of contents

  1. About the authors
  2. Summary of the SF&F anti-harassment campaign
  3. Detailed timeline (skip to the updates)
  4. What's changed in 2014
  5. How you can help
  6. Sources and resources

About the authors

Mary and Valerie laughing

Mary and Valerie
(CC BY-SA Adam Novak)

As a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture, the Ada Initiative cares deeply about ending harassment in geek communities. Our co-founders, Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora, co-authored the most widely used example anti-harassment policy, hosted on the Geek Feminism Wiki. The Ada Initiative's first project was advocating full-time for the adoption of policies in the open source community, often working directly with conference organizers and community leaders as advisors and coaches.

If you find our work inspiring, we hope you will join SF&F authors and fans in supporting the Ada Initiative's anti-harassment work. We can only do this work with the support of people like you!

Donate now

History of the science fiction and fantasy campaign

The big picture: In 2010, Sexual harassment, stalking, and groping were common. Serial sexual harassers operated with impunity. The feminist science fiction convention, WisCon, was one of the only SF&F cons with an anti-harassment policy.

In 2014, over 1000 people have pledged to attend only SF&F cons with anti-harassment policies, many cons have policies, and several serial harassers have been publicly identified, banned from conferences, and/or fired from their SF&F jobs. However, some people charged with the protection of attendees have not educated themselves about existing anti-harassment work, and voices for diversity and justice in SF&F are subject to terrible attacks. In terms of our terminology for stages of anti-harassment campaigns, SF&F is somewhere around Stage 5–6: Most conferences have strong, enforced anti-harassment policies and powerful harassers are being publicly named, with attendant backlash.

Detailed timeline:

Smiling woman wearing glasses

Connie Willis CC BY-SA Ellen Levy Finch

August 2006: At the WorldCon science fiction and fantasy convention, Harlan Ellison gropes Connie Willis' breast on stage during the Hugo awards ceremony (both are Hugo-award winning authors), kicking off extensive online discussion about sexual harassment in the SF&F community.

April 2008: At Penguicon, a hybrid science fiction and Linux convention, attendees create The Open Source Boob Project, in which some attendees wore buttons to signal whether they are open to requests to touch them sexually. The creator later had a change of heart and publicly stated that he thought the project did more harm than good by causing women to feel unsafe.

Vito Excalibur suggests the idea that becomes the Open Source Back Each Other Up Project, focusing on anime and comic conventions. This is a pledge by individuals to intervene if they see harassment occurring.

Geek Feminism LogoMay 2008: The Geek Feminism Wiki is founded by Alex "Skud" Bayley (formerly Kirrily Robert), becoming a go-to resource for feminists in a variety of geeky areas, including science fiction, computing, fandom, anime, computer gaming, cosplay, and more. Mary Gardiner becomes a major contributor to the Geek Feminism Wiki.

July 2008: Genevieve Valentine reports on harassment of several women at ReaderCon. The offender was quickly ejected from the conference.

August 2008: Girl-Wonder.org launches the Con Anti-harassment Project, focusing on comic, anime, and fandom conventions. Girl-Wonder.org members include Karen Healey and Hannah Dame, who were listed on the press release for the CAHP launch. Several conventions adopt a policy shortly thereafter.

January 2009: Racefail, an SF&F-wide discussion of race in SF&F works and criticism, and of fans of color and their experiences in fandom, begins. Several hundred posts (as listed by Seeking Avalon and rydra-wong) are contributed by many writers.

May 2009: WisCon, the feminist science fiction convention, adopts a clear and specific anti-harassment policy after having a more generic one for many years earlier, in response to an incident of harassing photography.

The Geek Feminism Wiki page "Timeline of Incidents" is started. This page records the sexist incidents in geek communities and currently goes back as far as 1973. The Timeline of Incidents, along with the rest of the Geek Feminism Wiki, eventually become vital resources in the fight for anti-harassment policies.

A woman with raised eyebrows wearing glasses

K. Tempest Bradford
(CC BY K. Tempest Bradford)

August 2009: The Geek Feminism Blog is founded by Alex "Skud" Bayley and many others, with frequent contributions from Mary Gardiner, Liz Henry, Terri Oda, K. Tempest Bradford, and many others. With a firm moderation policy, this blog becomes a safe space to discuss geeky and/or feminist topics, including fandom, technology, and activism.

The Backup Ribbon Project is created by thatwordgrrl. The idea is to wear a ribbon indicating that you are willing to help victims of harassment, either by intervening or by assisting them after the fact.

[ENORMOUS GAP HERE PLEASE HELP US FILL IT: Email contact@adainitiative.org or leave a comment.]

A black and white photo of Jim C. Hines, smiling with his arms crossed

Jim C. Hines

November 2010: Jim C. Hines creates a set of resources for reporting sexual harassment in SF&F, updated yearly. The 2013 version is here.

July 2012: Genevieve Valentine reports harassment at ReaderCon from René Walling, a well-known fan. ReaderCon bans him from the con for 2 years, in contravention to their stated policy of a lifetime ban. Hundreds of blog posts and petitions protesting this decision followed, as well as more reports of harassment by René Walling as well as other Readercon attendees, from Kate Kligman, Veronica Schanoes, and others.

August 2012: The ReaderCon board issues an apology, bans René Walling for life, and resigns en masse. Led by Rose Fox and Crystal Huff, the Readercon convention committee commits to many improvements on its anti-harassment policy and its enforcement.

Dragon*Con bans Backup Ribbons from the Backup Ribbon Project, citing concerns that harassers might wear them.

September 2012: Scott Henry writes an article for Atlanta Magazine documenting that Dragon*Con co-founder Ed Kramer has evaded trial for child molestation for years. Kramer continues to receive part of the Dragon*Con profits each year.

Smiling woman

Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin

November 2012: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) issue a a statement defining their sexual harassment policy and specifying that it applies to all SFWA events.

June 2013: N. K. Jemisin gives her Guest of Honour speech at Continuum 9.

So I propose a solution — which I would like to appropriate, if you will allow, from Australia’s history and present. It is time for a Reconciliation within SFF.

It is time that we all recognized the real history of this genre, and acknowledged the breadth and diversity of its contributors. It’s time we acknowledged the debt we owe to those who got us here — all of them. It’s time we made note of what ground we’ve trodden upon, and the wrongs we’ve done to those who trod it first. And it’s time we took steps — some symbolic, some substantive — to try and correct those errors. I do not mean a simple removal of the barriers that currently exist within the genre and its fandom, though doing that’s certainly the first step. I mean we must now make an active, conscious effort to establish a literature of the imagination which truly belongs to everyone.

Within days, SF&F writer and community member Theodore Beale denounces Jemisin in deeply racist and sexist terms on his blog, which he then syndicated to the Science Fiction Writers of America Twitter account (@SFWAuthors). SFWA apologises and bans Beale from syndicating blog posts to their account. Jim C. Hines and Amal El-Mohtar, among others, call for his expulsion from the SFWA.

Smiling woman

Mary Robinette Kowal © 2012 Rod Searcey

June 2013: In what appeared to be a watershed moment, Science fiction editor James Frenkel leaves Tor shortly after being reported for sexual harassment at WisCon 2013 by Elise Matthesen. Elise announced what she had done, without naming the editor in question, in simultaneous posts on the blogs of Mary Robinette Kowal, Seanan McGuire, Chuck Wendig, Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, and Jim Hines. Shortly thereafter, Sigrid Ellis names Frenkel in a comment on John Scalzi's blog post. Mary Robinette Kowal names Frenkel and details all the reasons why someone might be afraid to name him in "Why I am I afraid to name the editor?" K. Tempest Bradford reminds everyone that "high level people at Tor have been aware of Frenkel's behavior for years." More revelations about sexual harassment in SF&F, both by Frenkel and others, follow.

July 2013: Science fiction author John Scalzi pledges not to attend conferences without strong, specific anti-harassment policies and asks others to co-sign. N. K. Jemisin makes an important clarification that harassment is not limited to sexual harassment. Over 1000 people co-sign the pledge.

Mary Robinette Kowal posts an open letter to the "Twelve rabid weasels of SFWA" in which she reveals that she "spent four years in office [at the SFWA] and the first year I almost quit because I got so tired of getting hate mail." The post included gems such as "I know, I know. Asking you not to be racist/sexist/elitist, or just for impulse control is tantamount to fascism and catering to the liberal mob. All the other members manage to do it. Why can’t you?" and "Please quit. And by 'quit' I mean, please quit SFWA in a huff. Please quit noisily and complaining about how SFWA is censoring you for asking you to stop using hate speech. Please quit and complain about the 'thoughtcrime' of asking people not to sexually harass someone."

A green card with a picture of N. K. Jemisin looking at a small green monster, with the text "N. K. Jemisin, PC Monster, Writes amazing, critically acclaimed, award-winning fiction despite being neither white nor male!!! Uses Guest of Honor platform to brainwash audience with her radical-socialist-fascist-PC message of treating all people as human beings. +5 cloak of Not Taking Any of Your Sh*t.

PC Monster card for N. K. Jemisin

The PC Monsters of SFWA Twitter list is created, to mock members of the SFWA, described as "screeching feminists." Instead, people use it as a "Who to follow" list (DL Thurston made a copy here), and at least some members of the list suddenly gain dozens of new followers. Jim C. Hines creates collectable playing cards to commemorate the honor. The list includes Laura Resnick (@LaResnick), William Alexander (@williealex), Jess Haines (@Jess_Haines), Myke Cole (@MykeCole), Michael Swirsky (@mbswirsky), Josh Vogt (@JRVogt), Jim C. Hines (@jimchines), Amal El-Mohtar (@tithenai), Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed), Sean Wallace (@oldcharliebrown), Alex D MacFarlane (@foxvertebrae), N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin), Steven Gould (@StevenGould), Jason Sanford (@jasonsanford), and John Scalzi (@scalzi).

Dragon*Con finally gets rid of child molester and cofounder Ed Kramer by buying out his share of Dragon*Con.

August 2013: Theodore Beale is expelled from the SFWA for using it to promote hate speech, including racism.

January 2014: Amal El-Mohtar argues strongly against on-going "hand-wringing" over self-promotion of an author's eligible works for awards because it harms marginalized people the most, especially women and people of color.

February 2014: Dave Truesdale circulates a petition calling for the end of "political correctness" in the SF&F community (by which he means a return to cover art of sexualized women and women conforming to 1950's era gender roles). Science fiction luminaries Gregory Benford, Robert Silverberg, Barry N. Malzberg, and Mike Resnick sign the original petition. A significantly rewritten petition calling mainly for a set of rules around editorial decisions at the SFWA is signed by many more award-winning authors, including David Brin, Jerry Pournelle, Nancy Kress, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, C. J. Cherryh, and Larry Niven. Natalie Luhrs posts a detailed critique of the original petition.

Sean Fodera criticizes author Mary Robinette Kowal for fighting sexism while simultaneously publishing photos of herself wearing a romantic dress. He later apologizes.

The "Women Destroy Science Fiction" Kickstarter to fund an all-women issue of LIGHTSPEED Magazine raises over $50,000 – more than 10 times the original goal. It is expanded to create all-women issues of fantasy and horror as well.

April 2014: Larry Correia and Theodore Beale recommend a "Sad Puppy" slate of works to voters in the 2014 Hugo awards, comprising largely politically conservative or "golden age"-style science fiction works. John Scalzi recommends assessing all the works on their own merits; his position is criticised by Shweta Narayan and Arachne Jericho among others for exposing marginalised Hugo voters to hurtful and dangerous sentiments.

May 2014: N. K. Jemisin gives her Guest of Honor speech at WisCon 38, directly addressing Beale's attacks on her, saying that:

… I was premature in calling for a reconciliation. Reconciliations are for after the violence has ended. In South Africa the Truth & Reconciliation Commission came after apartheid’s end; in Rwanda it started after the genocide stopped; in Australia reconciliation began after its indigenous people stopped being classified as “fauna” by its government. Reconciliation is a part of the healing process, but how can there be healing when the wounds are still being inflicted? How can we begin to talk about healing when all the perpetrators have to do is toss out dogwhistles and disclaimers of evil intent to pretend they’ve done no harm?

Despite last year's harassment complaints, WisCon allows Jim Frenkel both to attend and to volunteer in the consuite. After the end of the conference, WisCon pledges a response to complaints about Frenkel's presence.

A women wearing a face shield and holding jewelry wire and tools

Elise Matthesen making jewelry, by Sarah Ahiers

June 2014: Both Lauren Jankowski and Elise Matthesen announce publicly that WisCon has told them their 2013 harassment reports concerning Jim Frenkel had been lost by the con committee. Jankowski also reports that she had falsely been led to believe Matthesen had asked for Frenkel not to be banned.

Deirdre Saoirse Moen criticises a piece that Leah Schnelbach has written for Tor.com valorising Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) on the basis that MZB had been complicit in her husband Walter Breen's sexual abuse of children within the SF&F fandom community. In June and July, MZB's adult children Moira and Mark Greyland give survivor accounts of MZB's own abuse of them.

The full text of the zine The Great Breen Boondoggle, with explicit contemporary accounts of Breen's abuse of children in the early 1960s together with the Berkeley fandom community's discussion over whether to expel him, is made available on Wikia, causing fans to reflect on how many of the fallacies the Berkeley community fell into, particularly the fallacy that ostracism is evil — "We're all kooks. Walter is just a little kookier than the rest of us. Where will it all end if we start rejecting people because they're kooky?", "…if we do such a horrible thing as expelling him, I'll quit fandom." — are still widespread and causing harm in fandom fifty years later.

July 2014: WisCon's subcommittee reviewing Jim Frenkel's continued attendance at WisCon announces a four year ban for Frenkel with apparent "parole" for good behaviour. Their decision is roundly criticised and a personal post by the subcommittee chair and resulting discussion reveals several key failings, including interviewing Frenkel but not the complainants, and an attempt to apply a judicial model to him. Widespread negative commentary on the decision has been linked by Natalie Luhrs. Stephanie Zvan publishes a detailed on guide on how to decide when or if an accused harasser can return to "scene of the crime."

A woman in a long red dress standing on stage

Ann Leckie CC BY-SA Henry Harel

August 2014: In a joint decision, the convention committees of WisCon 37 and 38 revise the decision on Jim Frenkel's future attendance, and announce that he is permanently banned.

The Correia/Beale "Sad Puppy" slate performs poorly at the Hugo awards in London. Ann Leckie's debut novel Ancillary Justice, widely praised for its handling of gender, wins Best Novel, and receives a standing ovation.

What's changed in 2014

Unfortunately, 2014 revealed that some of the progress that appeared to have been made in 2013 was spotty at best, with WisCon, a self-identified feminist convention, unable to respond decisively to protect its community from well-documented harassment that had already cost the harasser his job. The subcommittee responsible for the Frenkel decision was unaware of existing best practices, including those arising Readercon debacle of 2012. Likewise, SF&F continued to grapple with its long history of privileging abusers' place in the community over everyone else's safety.

But anti-harassment bridges continue to be built, with activists and fans involved in safety committees and anti-harassment work reaching out to each other to share best practices. Authors like N. K. Jemisin, Sofia Samatar, and Benjanun Sriduangkaew who work outside the traditional fascination of SF&F and other literature and media with the experiences and ambitions of white Western men continue to find venues for their their work, though not as many as are justified by the quality of their work. The work that precedes reconciliation with the SF&F community continues.

How you can help

Two women smiling

Sarah Sharp and Sumana Harihareswara, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Whether you are the leading novelist in your field, or a lurker on a mailing list, you can take action to stop conference harassment. You can use your words, your influence, your money, and your participation to change the culture in your community.

  • Only attend cons with (enforced) anti-harassment policies
  • If a con doesn't have a policy, ask them if they plan to have one
  • Start a pledge to not attend cons without policies
  • Start new confs if existing ones won't adopt policies
  • If you sponsor events, only sponsor events with policies
  • Publicly support victims of harassment, especially if you are exceptionally influential
  • Publicly support anti-harassment campaigns, especially if you are exceptionally influential
  • Educate yourself on responding to harassment, especially if you are a con organizer
  • Learn more about bystander intervention
  • Buy books from the PC Monsters of Genre
  • Don't buy the works of people who harass or support harassment

You can also donate to support the Ada Initiative, which has been working full-time on ending harassment in open technology and culture communities since January 2011. Our 2014 fundraising campaign ends October 8th. Learn more about our progress so far and our plans for future work in 2014 and 2015.

Donate now


Sources and resources

List of geek conferences that have adopted anti-harassment policies
Resources for reporting sexual harassment in science fiction and fantasy
The Geek Feminism Wiki Timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities
Ada Initiative anti-harassment policy page

Reminder: This entire post is licensed CC BY-SA the Ada Initiative – please feel free to reuse and remix according to the terms of the license!

AdaCamp Bangalore: free for everyone, and applications closing early on September 12

AdaCamp Bangalore is a 50-person unconference for women in open technology and culture, being held on November 22nd-23rd.

A free event for all

We're pleased to announce that we won't charge a registration free for AdaCamp Bangalore. Other AdaCamps have had a self-selected tiered registration fee, including a free option, to allow attendees to choose to support the event at whatever level they are able. For our Bangalore event, the Ada Initiative and our sponsors will be covering all our attendees' registration costs. If you have already paid a registration fee, you'll be refunded shortly.

New application deadline

AdaCamp Portland models 2We have had so many great applications to AdaCamp Bangalore that we are on track to fill all our spaces and grant all our travel scholarships before the originally planned deadlines. Also, it's important that our overseas visitors apply and register in time to plan their travel, including visas.

For this reason, we are moving up the deadline for Bangalore applications to Friday, September 12th. Please make sure to apply before that date.

We encourage applications from people who consider themselves "non-technical" or not "technical enough." We found that many people assume that AdaCamp is only for coders or computer experts, which is definitely not the case! AdaCampers include writers, makers and crafters, researchers & academics, NGO and community workers, activists, and many others. AdaCamp is more interesting and satisfying when we have attendees from a wide range of open technology and culture fields.

About AdaCamp

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative is holding three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India.

Sponsorship

Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.


Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs, gold sponsors Automattic, Mozilla and Red Hat, and silver sponsors New Relic and Simple.

AdaCamp Berlin applications closing early on 15th August

New application deadline for AdaCamp Berlin: 15th August

AdaCamp Portland models 2This Friday (15th August) is the final deadline to apply to attend AdaCamp Berlin. We had intended to keep applications open until 1st September, but have gotten so many excellent applications that there's already a waitlist! AdaCamp Berlin is a 50 person unconference in Berlin, Germany on 11-12th October, 2014.

If you would still like to attend AdaCamp this year and can make it to Bangalore, applications for that event are still open. AdaCamp Bangalore is occurring on 22-23 November and women from any region may apply.

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

We encourage applications from people who consider themselves "non-technical" or not "technical enough." We found that many people assume that AdaCamp is only for coders or computer experts, which is definitely not the case! AdaCampers include journalists, writers, fans of all sorts, knitters, researchers & academics, community managers, and many others. AdaCamp is more interesting and satisfying when we have attendees from a wide range of open technology and culture fields.

About AdaCamp

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative is holding three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India.

Sponsorship

Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.


Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs, gold sponsors Automattic, Red Hat, and Mozilla, and silver sponsors New Relic and Simple.

A record-setting year for the Ada Initiative: 3 AdaCamps, 9 Ally Skills Workshops, standalone Impostor Syndrome Training, and more

Women smiling

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

2014 is a record-setting year for the Ada Initiative! Since our last progress report, we've run one AdaCamp and opened applications for two more AdaCamps. We've taught 9 Ally Skills Workshops to over 200 people and kicked off a train-the-trainers program. Our Impostor Syndrome Training is ready to launch as a standalone class open to the public. Conference anti-harassment policies continue to spread to new fields, and specific, enforceable community codes of conduct are catching on for the first time. Read the rest of our (short, we promise!) mid-year report for 2014.

AdaCamps around the world

AdaCampMost exciting of all, in 2014 we are holding three AdaCamps on three continents: AdaCamp Portland, AdaCamp Berlin, and AdaCamp Bangalore. This is a year of firsts for AdaCamp: first time we have three AdaCamps in one year, first AdaCamp in Europe, first AdaCamp in Asia, first AdaCamp in a non-primarily English-speaking country, and first time we had to close applications early because we ran out of space. AdaCamp Portland is already finished, and applications for AdaCamp Berlin and AdaCamp Bangalore are open now (and filling up fast). We are tentatively planning four AdaCamps on three continents in 2015! Thank you to all of our sponsors who made these three AdaCamps possible: Google, Puppet Labs, Ada Initiative donors, Automattic, Mozilla, Red Hat, Simple, New Relic, Linux Foundation, Spotify, Stripe, Gitlab, OCLC, O'Reilly, Pinboard, and Python Software Foundation.

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

You'll notice that Ada Initiative donors are an AdaCamp sponsor this year. This is because AdaCamp is a money-losing program for us – corporate sponsorships and registration fees don't cover the full costs of the event. In our last progress report, we said we were planning to run a larger standard format conference called AdaCon. We were planning to do this mainly because it would be easier to raise enough corporate sponsorship to cover the full costs of the conference. However, it would also mean that we would hold the event somewhere that women in open tech/culture already have lots of resources – like the San Francisco Bay Area – and that would be expensive and difficult to get to for women outside that area. We decided to instead hold more, smaller AdaCamps around the globe so that we could reach the women who need AdaCamp the most. As a result, Ada Initiative donors are likely to be major sponsors of AdaCamp for the forseeable future, and we thought you should get the credit!

Taking Impostor Syndrome Training to the next level

Mary Gardiner speaking with upraised hand

CC-BY-SA Alejandro Linares Garcia

We ran our Impostor Syndrome Training at AdaCamp Portland with some new exercises and material and got rave reviews! Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you aren't actually qualified for the work you are doing and will be discovered as a fraud, and severely affects the career, health, and happiness of many women in open tech/culture. After more than a year of tinkering and refinements, our Impostor Syndrome Training is now ready to be run as a 2-hour standalone class. We plan to start teaching classes in late 2014, after our yearly fundraising drive wraps up.

Ally Skills Workshop goes viral

Woman explaining while a man listensThe Ally Skills Workshop (formerly Allies Workshop) has really taken off! So far this year we taught 9 Ally Skills Workshops to over 200 people, where we teach men how to support women in open tech/culture with simple, every day techniques. We teach Ally Skills Workshops at conferences, inside companies, and as a publicly available class. People love it: "This was an amazing class. Great scenarios, great conversations. I really enjoyed not only the guided discussion, but break out conversations with co-workers were hugely enlightening." And it works: "I've already witnessed a couple of incidents where coworkers who attended the workshop corrected themselves after saying something that could be misconstrued."

We also started a new program to spread the Ally Skills Workshop even faster: the Ally Skills Workshop Train-the-trainers class. We trained over a dozen instructors who teach their own version of the Ally Skills Workshop in their workplace or community, using our CC BY-SA licensed materials. From a train-the-trainers client: "We've run the [Ally Skills Workshop] 4 times and the impact has been fantastic. This workshop has been the catalyst for many "a-ha" moments." We have several more Ally Skills Workshops scheduled and are taking reservations for more. Contact us at contact@adainitiative.org to learn more.

Conference anti-harassment work spreads a wider net

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Fighting to stop conference harassment was our very first project, and three years later, it is still bearing fruit. Our conference anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct continue to spread to more and more fields, this year including library-related conferences, co-working spaces, and hackathons. We also continue to publish more specific advice and refinements, such as how to handle harassment swiftly and safely, how to decide when a person who has harassed someone can return to an event, and a collection of resources for creating inclusive events. Our plans for the rest of 2014 include introducing better guidelines for alcohol at events to signal that people are still expected to behave with respect to each other, even when drinking.

Community codes of conduct get real

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Community codes of conduct are getting more popular this year – and this time around, some of them are specific and enforceable! Tim Chevalier created this useful comparison of community codes of conduct showing which ones include three important elements: specific details about what isn't allowed, how to report violations, and information about how it will be enforced. We also continue to provide free consulting to companies and organizations on implementing codes of conduct in their communities as well as conference anti-harassment policies, working with over a dozen organizations and people this year alone. If you have questions about implementing a code of conduct or anti-harassment policy, email contact@adainitiative.org.

The Ada Initiative is growing

If it seems like we accomplished a lot more in the last 6 months than usual, that's because it's true! We hired our third staff member, Suki McCoy, our Director of Operations, in November 2013, joining Executive Director Valerie Aurora and Deputy Executive Director Mary Gardiner. Mary was on maternity leave for six months after Suki joined, so we went from 1.5 full-time staff for the first three years of the Ada Initiative, to 2 full-time staff in the first half of 2014, and have been at 2.5 full-time staff since May 2014. The difference in what we can accomplish is astounding! We hope to continue growing during the next few years, until we can satisfy the full demand for AdaCamps, Ally Skills Workshops, and Impostor Syndrome Training. Thank you to all the Ada Initiative donors and sponsors who are a crucial part of this important work!

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Thank you from Suki, Mary, and Valerie!
CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo