Ada Initiative news, June 2011

Hi all,

This is our first monthly newsletter keeping our supporters up to date on our activities. We will be sending one out every month from now on.

What do you want to see in this newsletter? We’d like to give our supporters insight into our day-to-day activities without boring you with what we’ve learned about U.S. – Australian tax treaties. What would you like to hear about? Let us know at

A brief history of the Ada Initiative

It’s been an exciting 6 months since the Ada Initiative was born. It started when co-founder Valerie Aurora announced she was leaving her kernel job at Red Hat in January 2011 to work on women in open source full-time, one way or another. Valerie convinced Mary Gardiner to become co-founder of the as yet unnamed new organization, despite the fact that Mary was working on her PhD in computational linguistics and also a parent of a not quite one-year-old son.

Valerie and Mary met in person in January 2011 to design, plan, and name the Ada Initiative. (Valerie notes it is one of the few positive naming decisions she has ever been involved in – see, e.g., chunkfs for her usual style). We hastily registered the domain name and made the first public announcement of the Ada Initiative at the end of January at LCA 2011, Australia’s largest open source conference. We also ran the Ada Initiative’s first workshop for allies of women in open source at that conference, as well as advising LCA on their successful implementation of an anti-harassment policy. One day old and we were already doing our job!

After our announcement, we worked 18 hour days for a week to put together a web site and a press release. We launched worldwide on February 8th with Linux Australia as our first sponsor. We formally incorporated as a U.S. non-profit in March 2011 and spent April and May learning how to legally fund-raise as a non-profit, getting a bank account, recruiting a board of directors, finding angel funders (thank you Puppet Labs and DreamHost), and reading a lot of tax law. In June we launched the Seed 100 fund-raising campaign, which hit our target a week early, saving ourselves and our supporters a week of nagging and nail-biting.

Overall, our experience is that while there are many parallels between founding a self-funded non-profit and founding a for-profit company, the non-profit involves approximately an order of magnitude more paperwork than starting a for-profit business. Just getting to the point where we could accept donations took several months and about twenty trips to the bank. Thank you all for being patient!

What’s next

From what we’ve learned in the last 6 months, we expect to continue planning and fund-raising for at least another 6 months before we can spend most of our time on actually increasing the participation of women in open technology and culture. We will continue running three programs during this time, partly for our own sanity and happiness: the allies training workshop, the conference anti-harassment policy, and analyzing the results of the Ada Initiative census of women in open technology and culture.

Key to our strategy of actually getting things done is paying ourselves (which turns out to be incredibly complicated for non-profits, even for the employee not located in Australia). During the decade we have volunteered for women in open source, we’ve seen what projects can be accomplished by volunteers and which projects need sustained full-time effort. Fundamentally, no one wants to come home from work, open up their personal email, and read death threats for the rest of the evening. Our board of directors is putting in extra hours this month going through the incredibly complex (but fair) IRS-approved process of deciding on our compensation.

We believe passionately in community input and outside advice – simply put, we can’t succeed without it. To guide us, we’ve appointed an advisory board of non-profit and open technology and culture experts to help us review our programs and reach out to communities of interest. At present the advisory board is dominated by open source experts, as the open source community is going to be one of our early focuses. As the Ada Initiative works in different open technology and culture areas we will be adding new advisors. Our advisory board members have been incredibly generous with their time and resources.

In addition to the advisory board, we’ve appointed our board of directors to help us manage the organisation. In addition to Valerie and Mary, our advisors Rachel Chalmers, Matt Zimmerman, Sue Gardner and Denise Paolucci are very generously contributing additional time to the Ada Initiative as board members: a big job to ask of volunteers.

How you can help

As our project plans become more developed, we’ll be looking for a wider variety of feedback on them. If you are interested, we invite you to join the supporters mailing list, which is open to the public and where we will seek your advice on our project plans. This list is not open for general discussion, so it should not be a major time sink for subscribers.

Programs update


We will continue publishing results from the Ada Initiative Census over the next few months. Our resident statistics expert, Mary Gardiner, is currently finishing her PhD and is looking forward to having more time to spend on crunching the data.

Allies workshop

In June at Open Source Bridge 2011, we ran our second version of the allies training workshop, which teaches participants practical ways to respond to sexist incidents in their communities. If you are interested in running a similar event, there are training notes on the Geek Feminism wiki. One of our planned projects is developing a detailed curriculum for allies training workshops. Contact us for more information.

Conference anti-harassment policy

The trend of adopting anti-harassment policy or code of conduct governing behavior at conferences continues to gain ground in open technology and culture circles, with dozens of conferences participating. Recent adopters include Open Source Bridge, Pycon AU, and Geek Girl Con. See the anti-harassment policy resources for a current list.

Fund-raising update

We know you’re almost as tired of hearing about fund-raising as we are of doing it. Fortunately, our successful Seed 100 campaign closed on June 24 ahead of schedule, and raised over $80,000 from 100 (+3) donors who each contributed $512 or more to the Ada Initiative to support our start-up phase.

Thank you to all of the Seed 100 donors.

The Ada Initiative Seed 100 campaign: we reached 100 donors. Thank you!

We’re in the middle of gathering the Seed 100 rewards now, and planning to ship during July.

A big part of the rationale for the Seed 100 campaign was to show the level of support in our community. Now that you’ve demonstrated such enormous faith in us, we want to reach back out to you and keep the lines of communication open. Let us know if there are things that you want to know about the Ada Initiative and our plans.

Conferences and talks

Valerie was honored to be invited to the FOO Camp 2011 unconference, put on by O’Reilly Media. Valerie participated in several sessions and spread the word about the Ada Initiative.

Valerie presented Open source: Open to whom? at Open Source Bridge 2011 in Portland on June 21. We met many of our Seed 100 funders at Open Source Bridge, which lived up to its billing as the “conference for open source citizens.”

Mary was the keynote presenter at Girl Geek Dinner Sydney on June 30, and video of her talk is available on our website. Thanks to GGD Sydney for hosting this event and to Tim Ansell for the video recording.

Upcoming appearances

We are proud to announce that Mary Gardiner will be giving a keynote presentation at PyCon AU in Sydney on August 20–21.

We originally planned to spread the word about the Ada Initiative by speaking at OSCON 2011, but after the success of the Seed 100 campaign we concluded that our time (and your money) was better spent working on our programs during July. OSCON is a wonderful conference and we’re sorry we’re missing it! If you’re attending, don’t forget to wear your Ada Initiative conference badge lanyard.

New sponsors

This month, Google and The Mail Archive join us as our first two Venture Philanthropist sponsors! Google and The Mail Archive join our Angel sponsors Linux Australia, Puppet Labs and Dreamhost as early supporters of the Ada Initiative.