Category Archives: Ada Initiative projects

New Relic, Simple, Spotify and Pinboard sponsor AdaCamp

Two women smiling

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak


Simple logo
New Relic logo

Pinboard

Pinboard

The Ada Initiative is pleased to welcome silver sponsors Simple and New Relic, bronze sponsor Spotify, and supporting sponsor Pinboard as the first sponsors of our 2014 AdaCamps. AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. In 2014, the Ada Initiative will hold three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India.

Simple is a bank that offers all electronic consumer banking services integrated with budgeting and savings tools. The bank, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, was founded in 2009 and partners with Bancorp Bank, an FDIC insured bank, to hold account funds. Simple is hiring in the Portland, Oregon area.

New Relic makes tools that allow developers of web and mobile apps to monitor and analyze the performance of their applications, all the way from user experience, through servers, and down to the line of application code. New Relic's monitoring tools and platform support Ruby, PHP, .Net, Java, Python, iOS, and Android apps. New Relic has offices in Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; and Seattle, Washington. See New Relic's list of job openings to learn more.

Spotify makes it easier to discover new music, share music with friends, and follow your favorite artists. Spotify uses Python extensively and hosts PyLadies meetups at their offices. Spotify has engineering offices in New York, San Francisco, and Gothenburg and is hiring.

Pinboard is a bookmarking and personal archiving site ("Social Bookmarking for Introverts" is their tagline). Pinboard's design is about speed and functionality with a focus on personal management and archiving. In addition to bookmarking and archiving your favorite web sites, Pinboard runs one of Twitter's wittiest accounts. Built by Maciej Cegłowski in the summer of 2009, Pinboard had just over 22,000 active users in 2013. Ada Initiative is a happy Pinboard user.

On behalf of women in open technology and culture, we thank Simple, New Relic, and Pinboard for their generous support.

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 will hold three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India. Applications to AdaCamp Portland are now closed. Applications for AdaCamp Berlin and Bangalore will be open soon.

Sponsorship

Your organization has the opportunity to join Simple, New Relic, and Pinboard in sponsoring 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 silver sponsors New Relic and Simple.

AdaCamp is coming to Berlin and Bangalore in 2014

Women in open tech/culture

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

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. Learn more by reading our AdaCamp San Francisco final report.

In addition to AdaCamp Portland scheduled for June 21-22, 2014 at the New Relic offices in downtown Portland, Oregon, the Ada Initiative is planning to hold AdaCamps in Berlin and Bangalore in 2014. The Berlin AdaCamp will be October 11-12, 2014 at the Wikimedia Deutschland offices. Planning is underway for AdaCamp Bangalore will be on November 29-30, 2014.

To be the first to know when applications open for AdaCamp Berlin and AdaCamp Bangalore, follow us on social media, read our blog, or sign up for our mailing list.

About AdaCamp

Five pointed star with a rainbow of colors and the word "AdaCamp"

AdaCamp is the world's only event focusing on women in open technology and culture, and is a project of the Ada Initiative, a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture. Both are named after Countess Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer. Attendance at AdaCamp is by invitation, with applications open to the public. Attendees will be selected based on experience in open tech/culture, experience or knowledge of feminism and advocacy, ability to collaborate with others, and any rare or notable experience or background that would add to AdaCamp.

Sponsorships

A limited number of conference sponsorships are available. Benefits include making a public statement of your company's values, recruiting opportunities, and reserved attendance slots for qualified employees, depending on level. Contact sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information.

Contact

If you have any questions, please email us at adacamp@adainitiative.org.

Applications open: AdaCamp Portland, June 21 – 22

Women in open tech/culture

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

Applications for AdaCamp Portland are now open!

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.

AdaCamp Portland will be in downtown Portland, Oregon at the New Relic offices. The main track will be on Saturday June 21 and Sunday June 22, 2014, just before Open Source Bridge 2014. A shorter Ally Skills track for people who want to learn how to support women in open tech/culture will be on Monday June 23.

Apply to AdaCamp here

About AdaCamp

Five pointed star with a rainbow of colors and the word "AdaCamp"

AdaCamp is the world's only event focusing on women in open technology and culture, and is a project of the Ada Initiative, a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture. Both are named after Countess Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer. Attendance at AdaCamp is by invitation, with applications open to the public. Attendees will be selected based on experience in open tech/culture, experience or knowledge of feminism and advocacy, ability to collaborate with others, and any rare or notable experience or background that would add to AdaCamp.

Sponsorships

A limited number of conference sponsorships are available. Benefits include making a public statement of your company's values, recruiting opportunities, and reserved attendance slots for qualified employees, depending on level. Contact sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information.

Contact

If you have any questions, please email us at adacamp@adainitiative.org.

Allies Workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area

Want to spend an afternoon learning how to support women in your workplace and community? The Ada Initiative is running two Allies Workshops open to the public in the San Francisco Bay Area: one on Friday, March 7th in Redwood City and one on Tuesday, March 11th in San Francisco, from 3pm to 5pm.

A woman explains while a man listensThe Allies Workshop is a fun 2-hour discussion-oriented workshop focusing on simple, everyday ways people can use their power as an ally to make their workplace or community more welcoming and attractive to women. We discuss what to do in practical, real-world scenarios ranging from how to welcome a woman attending a conference for the first time to speaking up when a co-worker makes a sexist joke at the office party. People usually leave the workshop feeling ready to take action and eager to learn more.

We usually teach this workshop at a company or conference, but are experimenting by running two workshops open to the public. Register now to attend the workshop on Tuesday, March 11th in San Francisco (both a few blocks from BART or Caltrain). The workshop focuses on what men can do, but works best when about 50% of attendees are men and 50% people of other genders. We provide drinks and snacks during the break (including vegan and gluten-free options).

Registration fees range from $200 to $0, depending on your economic situation. Many employers have personal development or training budgets for their employees. Ask your manager if your employer will pay for the registration fee for the Allies Workshop.

Allies Workshop San Francisco
Date: Tuesday, March 11th, 3pm-5pm
Location: San Francisco Paramedics Association
657 Mission St Suite 302
San Francisco, CA 94105

Transit: 2 blocks from Montgomery St BART station, 1 mile from 4th and King Caltrain station
Bicycle parking: Bring your bicycle inside to the conference room, plenty of room for multiple bikes
Car parking: Driving not recommended, but metered street and garage parking are available for around $10/hour nearby
Accessibility: ADA accessible, email contact@adainitiative.org for any other ways we can make attending easier
Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/allies-workshop-san-francisco-tickets-10668450623

We invite you to join us at one of these two Allies Workshops! You can also schedule an Allies Workshop at your workplace. Email us for more information at contact@adainitiative.org.

Several people in discussion around a table

Allies workshop discussion

HOWTO design a code of conduct for your community

Two women standing back to back smiling

Hurray for no jerks!
CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

Now that we know it is possible to go to conferences and not be insulted or harassed, people are starting to wonder: Why can't we have the same thing on mailing lists and wikis? Contributing to open tech/culture is WAY more fun when we don't have to put up with jerks!

We have good news: several open source software projects have adopted a community code of conduct, inspired by the success of conference anti-harassment policies. Besides making your project more pleasant and efficient for people already involved, a code of conduct attracts new people. The OpenHatch wiki explains it this way: "As a new contributor, you might prefer FLOSS communities where contributors pay attention to these sorts of social questions. Having a code of conduct is often an indicator that a project has a sizeable number of contributors and interested in growing."

Two community codes of conduct we especially like are the Django code of conduct and the Rust code of conduct. Why? Because these codes of conduct:

  • List specific common behaviors that are not okay
  • Include detailed directions for reporting violations
  • Have a defined and documented complaint handling process

Without these elements, a code of conduct isn't worth the electrons used to display it on your computer screen. In fact, a code of conduct that isn't (or can't be) enforced is worse than no code of conduct at all: it sends the message that the values in the code of conduct aren't actually important or respected in your community.

Designing a community code of conduct

So you've decided you want a code of conduct for your open tech/culture community! Here are some of the questions you should expect to answer while writing a community code of conduct:

Who adopts and enforces your community code of conduct? With conferences, the answer is easy: the conference organizers. In an online community, the answer to "Who is in charge around here?" is often much harder to figure out. Many open tech/culture communities consider this lack of structure to be a feature, not a bug, making it even more of a challenge. However, most open tech/culture projects do have people in positions of leadership who can enforce policies if they were inclined to do so. Some examples of people in roles who can adopt and enforce policies are foundation board members, employers of project members, mailing list administrators, code maintainers, IRC operators, wiki administrators, and anyone who decides how to spend money associated with a project. Employers usually already have policies that apply to their employees' behavior, but they often aren't enforced when it comes to their participation in open tech/culture projects.

What are the consequences for violating your code of conduct? At a conference, the organizers control access to the physical space, so penalties are easy: asking the person to either apologize or leave the conference, or stopping a speaker's talk, for example. Penalties for violating an online code of conduct are more complicated and varied: perhaps banning them from an IRC channel (chat room), or removing their wiki editing privileges for a few days, or unsubscribing them from a mailing list. Often these forums are administered and controlled by different groups who disagree about what harassment is or what the response should be, which is part of why it is important to write down what your community standards are. Also, it is much easier to get around enforcement by creating a new online identity than it is to change your appearance and sneak into a physical conference. (This isn't a reason not to have a code of conduct, just something to plan for.)

Who decides what actually violates the code of conduct? At a conference, the answer is the conference organizers. In an online community, many decisions are made in ad-hoc discussion where the loudest voices often prevail – and often the loudest voices are the ones arguing in favor of harassment. For example, here is a question that often deeply divides an open source community: Are jokes about penises okay or not? You may think the answer is obvious, but some programmers think the answer is yes, and other programmers think the answer is no. Whatever your stance on penis jokes is, you're going to have to explicitly tell people what it is in your code of conduct because you can't take it for granted that people know what it is. A related point is that sometimes it is the argument over whether something is harassment that makes people leave, not the harassment itself.

Some more encouragement to get specific

In our experience at the Ada Initiative, getting specific about what's not okay is both the most effective and the most cringe-inducing part of writing a code of conduct. Nobody wants to be "negative" – but it's exactly what you need to make potential victims of harassment feel confident and safe in joining the community and in reporting violations. If I, as a new participant, don't know whether the people enforcing the code of conduct think unwelcome sexual advances over IRC are considered okay, I'm not going to take the risk of reporting them and getting scolded for being "thin-skinned." Instead, I'm just going to leave and find a project where I can work on my software in peace.

Here's what I wrote in response to one proposed code of conduct that didn't get specific on what wasn't allowed:

I think this code of conduct won't have the impact you are looking for as a result of a basic design choice: to not list what's not allowed in a specific manner. 90% of the effect and work is in being specific, for several reasons:

The major weapon of harassers is arguing whether something is actually harassing. It is difficult to enforce a CoC if you have to have a month long nasty argument about whether it was violated. It burns out people like you.

It encourages people to report when they are certain they will be taken seriously and not dismissed or argued with.

The list of "don'ts" educates people on what to do, so you avoid problems in the first place.

Finally, it sends a signal to people considering joining your community in a way that "be nice" does not. "Be nice" is a signal to harassers that they can use tone arguments and otherwise play on people's desires to be nice to get away with stuff. For example, Wikipedia's "Assume good faith" is regularly abused by people not acting in good faith. Asking people to attempt resolution by discussion is used both as a delaying tactic and a way to abuse people longer.

Go forth and adopt

Mary and Valerie laughing

Mary and Valerie

Now that you've learned a little more about designing community codes of conduct, it's time to go advocate for one in your community! We recommend starting with the Django code of conduct or the Rust code of conduct. Take a look also at the comparison of codes of conduct on the Geek Feminism Wiki. And if you need some advice on getting over the rough patches, we encourage you to email us at contact@adainitiative.org and we will happily work with you.

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 NicoleStark@knights.ucf.edu, 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 costume.org 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 http://www.jimchines.com.

The Allies Workshop: Learn to support women in open tech/culture in real time

Want to do something when you see casual sexism at work, but aren't sure what? Tired of feeling helpless when you read a sexist email to your community's mailing list, but have no idea how to respond?

The Allies Workshop is for you! The Ada Initiative Allies Workshop teaches simple, everyday ways to support women in your workplace and communities. Participants learn techniques that work at the office, at conferences, and online.

About the workshop

Several people in discussion around a tableThe format is interactive and engaging (one participant asked, "Can we get more training like that?"), with a short intro followed by discussion in small groups about real-world scenarios. Some examples: a colleague writes "Pretend you are explaining this to your girlfriend" in an email, you see a man take credit for a woman's idea in a meeting, or you want to help a newcomer feel comfortable at her first conference. The default scenarios are aimed at people involved in open tech/culture, but we also customize scenarios for each workshop.

Get the workshop

To get the Allies Workshop at your organization, email contact@adainitiative.org for more information and a quote. So that we can afford to teach more workshops, we usually charge a fee to teach this workshop, with a variety of discounts for non-profits, small companies, and making seats available to volunteers and community members. We also teach a "train-the-trainers" class so that the Allies Workshop can reach more people in your organization.

What people are saying about the workshop

A woman explains while a man listensHere's what participant Jan-Bart de Vreede said: "The workshop helped identify situations which really happen. In my (sheltered) world I often don’t see the kind of behaviour that was illustrated and it was interesting to be able to discuss the situations with the people present. I notice it has made me a little more alert to that kind of situation in my own environment."

Several participants said the most valuable outcome was learning how to have discussions about sexism with their colleagues comfortably and respectfully. Peter Van Hardenberg told us that the Allies Workshop "helped me to improve my understanding of the issues women and other visible minority communities can face in their daily lives and provided me with a framework for having supportive, honest and open conversations about them."

More ways to get the workshop

If you can't attend a workshop in person, we have several resources for you, all licensed CC BY-SA, meaning you can use, copy, modify, and redistribute them for free as long as you give credit to the original authors:

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.

Progress for women in open tech/culture in 2013: End of year wrap-up

CC BY-SA Adam NovakOur 2013 wrap-up of progress for women in open tech/culture is a little earlier than usual since the Ada Initiative will be experiencing some "downtime" from December 11 through January 1. (Computer metaphors are super useful, especially just after a nation-wide news story about a certain important web site in the United States…)

Overall, 2013 was a year of continuing progress for women in open tech/culture. Three recent high-profile incidents show how far we've come as a community: the controversy over removing unnecessarily gendered language in the open source project libuv, the debate over Chelsea Manning's name and gender in her Wikipedia entry, and two sexist presentations at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

While these incidents highlighted sexism and transphobia in these communities, their resolutions were incredibly positive. The libuv project not only removed the gendered language, it also adopted a formal policy against exclusionary language. Chelsea Manning's Wikipedia entry was eventually correctly named in English as well as most other languages, and the editors who fought against the renaming were banned from editing pages related to trans issues. And TechCrunch not only repudiated the sexist presentations, it adopted an anti-harassment policy for all of its events. Still not impressed? Just read the timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities for 2010 and see how many incidents turned out this well back then!

CC BY-SA Adam Novak. Woman with pink hair speaking and gesturing

CC BY-SA Adam Novak.

Thanks to your support, the Ada Initiative is working hard to accelerate this change in direction. Since our last progress report in mid-2013, we have published more resources for conference organizers, organized conference scholarships for 21 women in open tech/culture, taught two more Allies Workshops, shared best practices for fighting harassment with the skeptic/atheist and science fiction & fantasy communities, spoken at women in open tech/culture conferences, and much more. The anti-harassment policy movement continues to grow beyond our wildest dreams: recent adopters include all TechCrunch conferences (an organization formerly notorious for sexism under previous leadership), the Entomology Association of America's conference (bugs!), and live action role playing (LARP) groups. And we did it all in between raising over $100,000 for women in open tech/culture, hiring a new Director of Operations, and filing our taxes (groan).

AdaCamp logoOur plans for 2014 include running several AdaCamps around the world, teaching dozens of Allies Workshops, more Wikipedia-related work, and online community codes of conduct. In early 2015, we hope to have our first AdaCon – a 400+ person conference for women in open tech/culture and the people who support them. If you'd like to sponsor AdaCamp/AdaCon or hold an Allies Workshop, please contact us at contact@adainitiative.org for more information.

The progress we've made together over the last three years has only been possible because of people like you – the donors and sponsors of the Ada Initiative. By making it possible for us to work on supporting women in open tech/culture full-time, you are making a difference!

Here's to the progress we made together in 2013, and to more in 2014!

Donate now

For those of you making end-of-year donations to charity, the Ada Initiative is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit. Your donation may be tax-deductible in the U.S. (consult your tax advisor, we are not tax advisors, yadda yadda required lawyerese). For more information, see our donation FAQ.

Lightning reviews for lightning talks: another easy way to make your conference better

Selena Deckelmann and Rebecca Refford at AdaCamp DC CC BY-SA Maírín Duffy

CC BY-SA Maírín Duffy

What's your favorite part of a conference? For many, lightning talks are where it's at – a series of short talks on a wide range of topics given one right after another. At AdaCamp unconferences, we have had talks on how playing the game Nethack helps learn command line interfaces, ancient natural uranium reactors, and a rap on women in technology. Lightning talks are fun, easy, and energizing. Every conference should think about having them (or having more).

The downside of lightning talks is that there often isn't time to review them all before they go on stage. Sometimes a less than appropriate talk ends up in front of your audience. One bad lightning talk can overshadow an entire conference. Take the Titstare lightning talk at the 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt conference. This one talk ended up with more press than the entire conference, and left a bad impression on the conference's target audience.

So what can conference organizers do to avoid bad lightning talks, while still keeping the fun and variety that makes lightning talks so popular? We have one solution: A short questionnaire for lightning talk presenters to fill out when they submit their talk. This questionnaire asks speakers if their talk features things like sexy pictures and jokes about specific sensitive topics, so organizers can take a closer look at the talk before including it in the line-up.

What if the presenter decides to lie in their answers? In that case, this step won't help. But in our experience, most presenters simply don't know that their slide or joke is offensive. In the Titstare case, the developers expressed their surprise at the reaction it got: "Sorry if we offended some of you, very unintentional. Just a fun Aussie hack."

We wrote up an example Google form that conference organizers can use to both collect lightning talk submissions and screen them for potentially unwelcome material. We suggest that organizers use this as a screening tool only that flags submissions for extra review. This encourages presenters to be honest in their replies and prevents good talks from getting rejected on technicalities – especially ones related to fighting sexism and other discrimination in tech.

The entire form is embedded below. To copy the form and use it for your conference, follow the instructions at the top of the form. Best wishes for your conference and any lightning talks you run!