Category Archives: Getting involved in open tech and culture

Guest post: Scholarships for women speakers at PuppetConf

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

About 30 women smiling at the camera in a hotel ballroom

Women's breakfast at PuppetConf 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebooting the Ada Lovelace Mythos: Video, transcript, slides, and summary now available

A full length oil portrait of a woman in 19th c. dress

Ada Lovelace

How has the perception of Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer, changed through history? What does that changing view say about us as a society? That's the subject of "Rebooting the Ada Lovelace Mythos," the keynote at the world's first conference celebrating the achievements of Countess Ada Lovelace, hosted at the Stevens Institute of Technology. Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora was honored to give the keynote speech at this historic conference.

Now you can watch the video (with transcript), read the transcript alone, or read the slides of the whole talk here. A summary of the talk is at the end of this post.

As part of our mission to support women in open tech/culture, we work hard to make the video and transcript of Ada Initiative talks available to as many people as possible. Transcripts are surprisingly cheap and fast to create. We use and recommend StenoKnight CART Services, whose proprietor, Mirabai Knight, is also leader of the open source software stenography project, Plover. Make your videos accessible to those who can't or don't want to watch them and support women in open tech/culture, all at the same time!

Talk summary

Today, Countess Ada Lovelace is known primarily as the world's first computer programmer, having published in 1843 a program written for an early computer designed (but never built) by Charles Babbage. But our view of Lovelace has changed significantly over time, starting with her early fame as the poet Lord Byron's daughter and extending into deeply personal book-length attacks on her personality and accomplishments.

This talk discusses the changing perception of Ada Lovelace from her birth to 2013, with emphasis on how this reflects the importance of computing and the perceptions of women's proper roles in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In Lovelace's lifetime, science and mathematics were considered an appropriate leisure time pursuit of upper class Victorian society, including the occasional woman as long as she did not intrude too far. Today, women are still excluded from STEM at greater rates than men, but we also have a greater understanding of how this is happening and much wider agreement that we need to end discrimination against women in STEM. Over the same period of time, computers went from interesting curiousities to crucial components in multi-billion dollar industries and the military-industrial complex. What was once an unimportant piece of trivia – who wrote the first computer program – became a hotly contested symbol of the struggle to define who should be included in the computer revolution and who should be "naturally" left out.

In the end, all the popular versions of the Ada Lovelace mythos – world's first computer programmer, Lord Byron's daughter, delusional mentally ill gambler – are incomplete and often perpetuate harmful stereotypes about women in STEM. The talk ends with some proposals for new, more complex stories we could tell about Ada Lovelace, as a brilliant and flawed human being with variety of interests, who happened to see farther into the future of computing than anyone else for the next hundred years.

Outreach Program for Women: "The impact that the program has had on the participating free software projects has been profound"

The Outreach Program for Women (OPW) is a paid internship program in open source — both programming and other contributions — for anyone who was assigned female at birth and anyone who identifies as a woman, genderqueer, genderfluid, or genderfree regardless of gender presentation or assigned sex at birth. Applications for the December 2013 to March 2014 internship program are now open, closing November 11.

OPW is run by the GNOME Foundation and includes internships in several open source projects, including GNOME, Debian, Fedora, the Linux kernel and Mozilla. The Ada Initiative is excited to see this program expanding each year and proud to count its co-organizers, Marina Zhurakhinskaya of Red Hat and Karen Sandler, Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation, among our advisory board members.

With the deadline for applications closing soon, we asked Karen Sandler to talk about the successes of OPW to date and plans for the future.

Q. What are the most exciting changes since you and Marina Zhurakhinskaya took over the program?

Photograph of Karen Sandler

Karen Sandler, GNOME Foundation ED and co-lead of OPW

Karen: I think the most exciting change was expanding the program beyond GNOME to other free software projects. We were having such a good result with the program within GNOME, we just couldn't keep it to ourselves! We now have over 20 participating free software organizations. With that has come a lot of other great changes, like having others help us to organize and promote the program within their own communities and to the public. Sarah Sharp is a great example of this, working to build the participation of women in the Linux kernel.

One of the things that I love about the program is that many of the women who come through it wind up being our best advocates. Some of our former participants have gone on to speak about the program at conferences and in their communities. Some other participants become mentors in future rounds. One participant now serves on GNOME's board of directors and is our treasurer. So as the program progresses more people become active in shaping it. We've been growing it organically within GNOME infrastructure so as the program expands beyond GNOME it benefits from the influence of new mentors and advocates.

I'd be remiss if I also didn't mention another exciting change that isn't within the program per se, but is more of a change to the rest of GNOME from the program: as a result of the Outreach Program for Women all of our mentorship and ability to get newcomers started has improved within GNOME. The program is modeled after Google's Summer of Code, so we had good experience with formally inviting people to work on time-limited projects with us. For OPW, however, we thought critically about what could be keeping women away from free software and introduced changes to overcome those obstacles. For example, Marina realized that making the initial contribution could be the hardest part – just getting started. So we require making a contribution as part of the application process and put in mechanisms to assist women with their very first steps in contributing. We identify mentors and specific places where they can be contacted. This has been so helpful that we now do the same for [Google Summer of Code (GSoC)]. It's improved the quality of our applications and has the additional benefit of letting all newcomers know who and where to ask for help. And, in the context of OPW, even women who are not accepted to the program can walk away knowing that they are contributors to a free software project.

Q. What do you recommend to OPW interns to get the most out of the experience?

Karen: I think one of the most important things is to stay in contact with your mentor and others in the team that you are working with. This is probably good advice for anyone getting started contributing to a free software project actually. Letting people know what you're working on and how it's going is the best way to get help when you need it and also to get people to care about what you are doing. We require participants to blog at least every other week, but frequent blogging makes you more visible to others in the project which helps build relationships and create opportunities to have your work more fully integrated into the project. It also means that folks will be excited to see you and will know who you are when you come to their conference!

Q. Introduce us to some of the interns from the 2013 mid-year round, and their projects?

Karen: We had 37 participants this past round, so there are too many great internships to recount. But here are three that popped to my mind:

Jessica Tallon worked on federation support for GNU MediaGoblin via the Pump API with Joar Wandborg as her mentor. She rewrote PyPump so now images can be successfully submitted to MediaGoblin via PyPump and commenting via PyPump works too. Her wrapup post is here.

Lidza Louina worked on the Linux Kernel improving drivers in the staging tree with Greg Kroah-Hartman as her mentor. Lidza started out by doing driver cleanup, then went on to merge two TTY drivers into the staging tree that had been out-of-tree since 2005. That involved getting them to compile, updating the drivers to work with new kernel API, and cleaning them up to match kernel coding style. Lidza contributed 18 patches to the 3.11 kernel, and 62 patches to the 3.12 kernel (as of 3.12-rc2). Lidza gave a lightning talk about her project at LinuxCon North America on September 18, 2013. You can see her slides and her weekly summaries.

Tiffany Yau's internship was with GNOME's Engagement team for marketing (she even weighed in on whether to change the team's name from Marketing to Engagment). Her mentors were Allan Day and Sri Ramkrishna. Tiffany helped us do much better at drawing attention to and promoting GUADEC, among other marketing tasks. She was completely focused and helped log all of the happenings of the event while also filming short interviews with key people in the GNOME project. As a result, his year's GUADEC was a vast improvement marketingwise than previous years. You can see her work included here.

Q. What happens to the interns in the longer term? Do they stay in free and open source software and/or use their skills in employment?

Karen: We actually don't have great statistics on this as we haven't formally been tracking it. I do know that about half of GNOME's participants have continued to contribute after their internship is over, which is pretty great. Anecdotally, I know that the internships help the participants focus their career paths and give them a resume boost in addition to confidence building. I think our program is having a substantial impact and as it grows we'll be able to collect more actual data. Most importantly, the participants get a real sense of free and open source software and what it's like to be a regular contributor.

It's a little outside of your question, but the impact that the program has had on the participating free software projects has been profound and worth mentioning. One example I can easily point to is that Wikimedia had in the past only one woman apply for GSoC. After they participated in one round with OPW, they had 7 accepted GSoC students who were women. In the GNOME project, we've had a very visible changes. Women are participating in our top level discussions and are always present on Planet GNOME. While we started at 4% women in attendance at GUADEC in 2009, this year we had about 18% participation by women with 22% of the speakers being women. It's been a phenomenal change. I encourage anyone who's interested in the program (as a mentor, sponsor or participating organization) to contact me or Marina and to encourage awesome women to apply!

To learn more about the OPW, visit the program webpage. Applications for the December 2013 to March 2014 internship program are now open, closing November 11.

Ada Lovelace conference report-out

Last week was the world's first conference celebrating the achievements of Countess Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer. Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora attended and has this report-out:

Three women squinting into the sun

Dr. Robin Hammerman, Sydney Padua, and Valerie Aurora (CC-BY SA Dr. Robin Hammerman)

I never thought I'd have breakfast with two Ada Lovelace experts, much less go to an entire conference full of them! The first conference celebrating Ada Lovelace's life and accomplishments was everything I had hoped for: a wide variety of papers and discussions on Lovelace's work, the science fiction inspired by her life and times, issues affecting women in computer science, and the broader societal implications of her story.

One of our goals at the Ada Initiative is to give women varied and interesting role models in open technology and culture. This conference showed Ada Lovelace as a complex, multi-dimensional person who lived an exciting (if short) life. Besides writing an incredibly prescient paper on the potential of computing, she rode horses, played the harp, bet way too much money on horse races, had secret affairs, went to all the best scientific salons, suffered through various health problems, and was both close friends and colleagues with one of the most interesting people in Victorian-era society, the scientist, mathematician, and engineer Charles Babbage.

When I was a university student studying computer science and mathematics, I always resented the pressure to focus only on programming and give up my interests in music, literature, and art. I felt like I finally fit in at this conference, which was intentionally interdisciplinary, much like the host university, the Stevens Institute of Technology. The Ada Lovelace conference was a perfect fit for Stevens, which is engineering-oriented but strongly values an education in the arts and humanities as well.

Black and white poster with cartoon Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage holding silly sci-fi guns with the text "Lovelace and Babbage: They Fight Crime"

Sydney Padua's Lovelace and Babbage comic

For me, the highlight of the conference was getting to meet Sydney Padua in person, the artist behind The Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. I couldn't believe our luck when she agreed to help the Ada Initiative's very first fundraiser by creating a custom print for our Seed 100 donors and I was looking forward to thanking her in person. Sydney had many interesting and insightful things to say about the Lovelace-Babbage friendship, historical trends in their reputations, and changes in the gender ratio of computer animators. She also gave us a sneak preview of her upcoming graphic novel!

My keynote address, "Rebooting the Ada Lovelace Mythos," was well-attended, thanks in part to it being part of the Provost's Lecture Series on Women in Leadership and open to the public. The talk was recorded and we will post it on the Ada Initiative web site when it is available (with captioning, of course).

Two women, a river, and downtown Manhattan

Sydney, Valerie, and the Manhattan skyline (CC-BY SA Dr. Robin Hammerman)

The faculty of the host university, the Stevens Institute of Technology, were all incredibly warm and welcoming, especially the conference organizer, Dr. Robin Hammerman. She told me that Stevens recently succeeded in increasing the percentage of women students to 30%, quite an accomplishment in a technology-oriented institution. Their dedication and creativity in making their school more attractive to and supportive of women gives me hope for the Ada Initiative's goals and women in STEM in general. (Plus they have a fantastic view of downtown Manhattan from half of campus!)

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible: all the speakers, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Dr. Robin Hammerman especially!

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

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

Get your tickets for Flossie 2013 now!

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

Download the Programme for Flossie 2013 here

Register for Flossie 2013 now - tickets are going fast!

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

For more information or to take part in the CodeSprint: http://www.flossie.org/content/flossie-2013-codesprint

For more information or to take part in the Diversifying Internet of Things project: http://www.flossie.org/content/diversifying-internet-things

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

#flossie2013 | @flossienet | Facebook | info@flossie.org | www.flossie.org

Puppet Labs is giving away 5 free tickets to PuppetConf for women in IT/ops/sysadmin, applications close 9am August 20th PDT

Puppetconf 2013: Join us in San Francisco August 22-23 at the Fairmont Hotel in San FranciscoLong-time Ada Initiative sponsor Puppet Labs is offering 5 free tickets to PuppetConf to women in systems administration, operations, or IT roles. PuppetConf focuses on automating systems administration through the open source Puppet systems configuration software. PuppetConf is this Thursday and Friday, August 22 – 23, 2013, in San Francisco, California.

PuppetConf also includes a women's breakfast, 8am to 9am on Friday morning, where you can meet other women interested in systems administration. It is open to all self-identified women attending PuppetConf. Ada Initiative executive director Valerie Aurora will be attending the breakfast and looks forward to meeting all of you!

To apply, please fill out the application form before 9am August 20th, Pacific time. Update: We awarded 8 tickets in all! Thank you so much, Puppet Labs!


A woman wearing a shawl standing in front of tropical vegetationDo you want to support women in free and open source software? The Ada Initiative is a non-profit dedicated to supporting women in open technology and culture, including free and open source software. Our programs include the AdaCamp unconference for women in open tech/culture, Impostor Syndrome training, and making conferences safer for women. Donate now and support women in open source! Our fundraising drive ends August 30th, 2013.

Donate now

10 fellowships for women to attend the Open Hardware Summit, applications close August 18th

This is a guest post from Addie Wagenknecht, Chair of the 2013 Open Hardware Summit.

CC-BY-SA Adam NovakThe 2013 Open Hardware Summit will take place on September 6, 2013 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The annual conference is organized by the Open Source Hardware Association, and features speakers, demos, and panel discussions centered on the topic of the Open Source movement.

Speakers this year include world renowned leaders from industry, academia, and the maker community such as Becky Stern, Director of Wearables at Adafruit, Marcin Jakubowski, Founder of the Open Ecology Project, Amanda "W0z" Wozniak, Engineer at Wyss Institute, and Eben Moglen, Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center.

This year the Summit team is excited to team up with the Ada Initiative to offer five Open Hardware Fellowships for women. These fellowships include a $500 travel stipend and admission to the Summit. In addition there will be five Fellowship tickets for women for admission (sans travel stipend) to the Summit.

To apply, please fill out the application form before the end of the day August 18th, Pacific time. Update: We had so many strong applications that we awarded 6 tickets and 7 travel scholarships, and still couldn't grant one to every person who deserved it. Thank you to all the women who applied and hope to see you next year!

My hope is by offering women the option to attend by offering the Open Hardware Fellowships that we as a community can encourage more women to participate actively in future years. At my first internship, there was no women’s bathroom in the office. Now we have many strong women leaders and speakers in our field and I personally want to continue the trend. I hope by inviting you into this community, I can support you as others have supported me.

This is a crucial time in open hardware where we can shape the future of the whole field together. We are just on the edge of what is possible. Let’s do this!

I really look forward to meeting you at MIT. See you at the Summit!

Addie Wagenknecht (@wheresaddie and @ohsummit)


Do you want to support women in open hardware? The Ada Initiative is a non-profit dedicated to supporting women in open technology and culture, including open hardware. Our advisory board includes Alicia Gibb, founder of the Open Source Hardware Association. Our programs include the AdaCamp unconference for women in open tech/culture, Impostor Syndrome training, and making conferences safer for women. Donate now and support women in open hardware! Our fundraising drive ends August 30th, 2013.

Donate now

Ada Initiative keynote at first Ada Lovelace conference, October 17 – 18

New Ada Lovelace sticker

New Ada Lovelace sticker

The Ada Initiative will be giving the opening keynote for the first Ada Lovelace conference! Check out our recent posts about the upcoming interdisciplinary conference about Ada Lovelace's achievements and legacy, to take place on October 17 – 18, 2013 at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

Executive Director Valerie Aurora will open the conference with a discussion about the mythos of Ada Lovelace: the stories we tell about her, what those stories say about us, and what stories we might tell instead. Based on a discussion at the most recent AdaCamp unconference, we'll explore how even the most positive stories about her are incomplete and one-dimensional. Was she simply the world's first computer programmer? A delusional self-aggrandizing pseudo-intellectual? Or something much more complex: a scientist and philosopher who viewed computation, mathematics, poetry, and philosophy as an interelated whole?

Lovelace and Babbage: They Fight Crime

2D Goggles: Sydney Padua's creative alternate history

When it comes to fictional stories about Ada Lovelace's life and times, steampunk portrays an alternate history in which Charles Babbages' engines been built after all and the computing age began in the 1850's. But they often show a modern, one-dimensional view of computing as primarily industrial and technical tools. Based on her writings, computation influenced by Ada Lovelace would have included from the beginning more artistic and humanist applications than the mere collation of statistics envisioned by technicians like Babbage. What would an alternate history of computing really look like if you take into account Lovelace's influence, philosophy, and ideas?

If this sounds interesting, you can register for the conference now. We are incredibly excited about this historic conference, and hope to see you there!

Supporting 477 women in open source through GitHub and Ada Initiative partnership

Updated to add: As of April 24, 2014, Ada Initiative no longer partners with GitHub.

Seven women with arms on each others' shouldersWhen the Ada Initiative partnered with GitHub to give away free private source code repositories to women learning open source software, we thought maybe a few dozen people would take us up on the offer. 6 weeks later, we've given away 477 free private repositories! (What's a Github private source code repository? Read more about source control in general and GitHub in particular.)

The goal of this donation was to increase diversity in open source software by giving people from underrepresented groups a chance to practice and grow their programming skills in private before participating in the mainstream open source community, where women often face harassment both online and in person. Hundreds of women took GitHub and Ada Initiative up on the offer and have made hundreds of commits, showing that women in open source see the value of a chance to learn in a supportive private environment before joining the wider community.

GitHub OctocatWe're thrilled to learn that this program has inspired other organizations to ask GitHub for free private repositories to give away to increase diversity in open source software. Since GitHub has limited hardware resources and we don't want to hog all the free private repositories, we've agreed together to cap the number of repositories given away by the Ada Initiative to 600 total. That's 123 still left for women learning to write open source software. To get a free private repository on GitHub, just email the managers of the Ada Initiative GitHub account with your GitHub account name and ask for one. Updated to add: We ended this offer after giving out about 580 free private repositories to women learning open source software development. Thank you GitHub!

The Ada Initiative and the 477 women who already received GitHub repositories thank GitHub for their commitment to increasing the participation of women in open source software. Companies like GitHub can make a huge difference working in partnership with those dedicated to increasing diversity in open source. Some examples of people and programs to work with are the Outreach Program for Women, which organizes open source internships for women, OpenHatch, which guides newcomers in open source software, and technology diversity consultant Ashe Dryden.

We're so happy to be part of supporting 477 women in their quest to become open source developers. Thank you to GitHub, all the Ada Initiative donors and sponsors, and the Ada Initiative GitHub management team for making this program possible!

AdaCamp DC attendees (c) Adam NovakAdaCamp DC attendees (c) Adam Novak

Thank you!

Ada Initiative meetup in Portland, Tuesday 7pm – 9pm

Women in open tech/cultureThe Ada Initiative is organizing a meetup during the Open Source Bridge conference in Portland, Oregon, at 7pm – 9pm on Tuesday June 17, 2013. We will meet at Huber's Cafe in downtown Portland, a friendly restaurant and bar famous for its flaming Spanish Coffee. You are invited, whether you are attending Open Source Bridge or not!

Huber's Cafe
411 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204

7pm – 9pm, Tuesday June 17
Ask for reservation for "Aurora"

Lukas Blakk, panelist

Lukas Blakk, panelist

The Ada Initiative's Valerie Aurora is moderating a panel on good news for diversity in open source at Open Source Bridge 2013, along with Ashe Dryden, Sumana Harihareswara, Lukas Blakk, Asheesh Laroia, and Liz Henry. Can't be there in person? The session will be recorded and available for free on the OSBridge web site.