In this post, we write about what your future donations will make it possible for us to do next. We spent a good part of 2011 doing unglamorous, boring, but necessary tasks: filing required legal paperwork, fundraising, project planning, and setting up a transparent, accountable organizational structure. With the completion of our next round of fundraising, we will be done with our ramp-up phase and be able to focus on project work for most of 2012.
We’ve identified five major projects we’d like to work on in 2012. In order from easiest to hardest, they are:
- Ada’s Advice: a guide to resources for helping women in open tech/culture
- Ada’s Careers: a career development community for women in open tech/culture
- First Patch Week: help women write and submit a patch in a week
- AdaCamp and AdaCon: (un)conferences for women in open tech/culture
- Women in Open Source Survey: annual survey of women in open source
Have a favorite project? We will soon be conducting a poll of our supporters about which project they most want to see finished.
Ada’s Advice is a comprehensive guide to resources for people who want to help women in open stuff, organized by the position of the person looking to help – e.g., parents of young children, employers looking to hire, women in open stuff themselves. A lot of useful books, guides, wikis, policies, HOWTOs, and more are out there, it’s finding them that’s the problem. We also don’t think people should have to read 10 books on women in computing before they can start helping, so we want to write short, useful summaries of books and longer works.
As part of this project, we want to update and generalize several existing popular guides, for example rewriting HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux to apply to Wikipedia and open technology and culture communities in general. Ada’s Advice is intended to be a companion, not a replacement, to the volunteer-produced Geek Feminism wiki – many of the links will be to pages located and maintained on the Geek Feminism wiki.
Ada’s Careers is more than just a listing of open job opportunities, it’s a community for women to improve their careers at any stage. We want to create a community where people share tips for improving résumés, mentor each other, practice interview skills, work on their negotiating skills, and stay on top of trends in the job market. It’s also a way for open technology and culture employers to connect with qualified, talented women. We are looking at ways to make the community self-sustaining, such as requiring employers to post career development content in return for posting job listings.
First Patch Week
First Patch Week is a structured way for women to find mentors and work through the process of writing and submitting their first open source patch. The Ada Initiative will partner with an open source project or company to donate some of their employees’ time during First Patch Week to work with women on their first patch. The Ada Initiative will design the curriculum, recruit participants, and pair them with mentors.
We won’t require that the first patch actually fix a real bug or create a real feature – for better or worse, the reality is that a week is barely enough time to install the prerequisites and learn the process in most modern open source projects. Many employers put a premium on already having experience in open source, but women have extra barriers to getting this experience. For example, one study showed that users with feminine nicknames on IRC have a 25 times higher chance of getting a nasty message after joining many major IRC servers.
AdaCamp and AdaCon
AdaCamp is a series of small unconferences bringing together people interested in women in open technology and culture from across many different communities. We hope it will spark new ideas, spread best practices, and be a catalyst for change. We will hold our first AdaCamp in Melbourne in January, with our second tentatively planned for summer 2012 somewhere in the U.S. If the AdaCamps are successful and we see a demand for a larger conference focused on women in open technology and culture, we will organize AdaCon, a larger event with multiple tracks and a few hundred participants, probably in 2013.
Women in Open Source Survey
Data is powerful. A key element to judging the effectiveness of our projects is whether the percentage of women involved in open technology and culture communities is increasing or decreasing. If a project is not actually increasing the number of women, we don’t want to be wasting our time on it! Unfortunately, measuring this in a way accurate enough to do year-by-year comparisons on the results is technically difficult and expensive. The most accurate survey to date, the FLOSSPOLS survey, funded by EU government grants, took several graduate students working over multiple years to complete, and still only covered part of Europe. We will start with a feasibility study on what it would take to do a survey of women in open source accurate enough to give us feedback on our work and go from there.
We will also be working on other areas, like making open tech/culture conferences more welcoming to women, giving free consulting advice to organizations on increasing the participation of women, and speaking at conferences, but these are the big ticket items. We may not be able to complete all of these projects, but we already have a significant start on 4 out of the 5. We’re also want to spend this year developing our organizational expertise outside of open source software and expanding into projects focusing on Wikipedia, fandom, and other areas of open technology and culture.