GNOME 3.4 is here!

I’m so excited that GNOME 3.4 has been released. There is a lot of good information in the press release and the release notes that were published today. GNOME 3.4 is great – it’s much more polished and also fixes a number of small things that make a much better user experience (including some users found annoying in the previous GNOME 3 releases).

Some of the improvements include:

  • Smoother scrolling, better systems settings
  • Document search
  • Video calling added to Empathy
  • More intelligent pop-ups and message tray
  • Better accessibility support
  • Sleek and zippy Epiphany (which is also renamed to “Web”)
  • Better hardware support
  • A lot of small enhancements made through our Every Detail Matters effort

Since version 3.2 six months ago, GNOME received 41,000 contributions made by 1,275 people – incredible! Many thanks to the whole GNOME community for working together on this release, and to Matthias Clasen, Allan Day, Andreas Nilsson and Andre Klapper for working so hard on all of the coordination to get the release out the door.

Supporting the Ada Initiative

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I was so excited to be recently added to the Ada Initiative’s advisors. Perhaps coincidentally, it turns out that this week has been a time when the world demonstrates just how much we truly need the Ada Initiative.

I had my own personal negative experience this week. I posted my recap of my South By Southwest panel, in which I included a picture of me along with the other panelists, since I was wearing my copyright is censorship t-shirt from QuestionCopyright.Org. The very first comment I received on the post was a very specific comment about a part of my anatomy. While I suppose the comment in some sense could be considered complimentary, I instantly regretted having posted the picture. I deleted the comment and moved on, no big deal – but it reminded me of how off putting these things can be. I’m fairly thick-skinned now, but when I was younger, a comment like that could have just turned me off from blogging or even participating in this space at all. It was a fairly disheartening thing to happen, but reminded me all the more about how important the Ada Initiative and other efforts like it are for women in technology.

On a more significant level, as Lukas Blakk, another Ada Initiative advisor, has already blogged about today, there have been a couple of more serious situations of blatant sexism this week.

A tech company called Sqoot organized a hackathon in Boston, and included an overtly sexist advertisement for their event, luring the presumed male hackers by promising beer served to them by women. They further botched things through a weak apology.

The other incident involved a startup called Geekli.st, and a questionable video made to promote t-shirts with their logo. While made by a t-shirt company, and not geekli.st themselves, geekli.st’s t-shirts were prominently featured. The video has been taken down, but you can see how the twitter conversation about it went so badly.

As you can see, never has the Ada Initiative been so needed. The thing that impresses me the most about it (like the GNOME OPW, actually) is that it focuses on concrete and positive activities to improve the situation. Please spread the word about the Ada Initiative as a resource to all who may benefit from it, and consider making a donation.

I’m so thankful for the great GNOME community, for Marina’s amazing work and for the awesome mentors, interns and sponsors that participate in our Outreach Program for Women to make our community the kind of place where you’d want to shrug off the occasional negative comment to keep participating.

What I’ve been up to

This bi-weekly report is a bit short, as I spent almost half of the time at sxsw, speaking about free culture and taking continuing legal education classes to make sure I keep my status as a lawyer in good standing. I wrote a separate report of sxsw earlier. Some of the things I did during the rest of the time are:

  • coordinated my travel and finalized the proposal for speaking at LibrePlanet in Boston this weekend and at the Linux Foundation’s Collaboration Summit in San Francisco April 3-5. Come and say hi!
  • answered some questions regarding GNOME logo use.
  • helped get the documents needed to renew our SSL certificates. Thanks so much to StartCom Ltd.
  • worked with Rosanna on house cleaning, including getting invoices out to our sponsors.
  • met with Shaun to discuss our budget. It’s hard work being treasurer. Thank Shaun if you have the time and German too for having done it for so long in the past.
  • talked to various reporters – will link here to articles as they come out. An article about my medical devices work was published in an industry magazine called Mass Device recently
  • worked on our Q4 report – thanks Emily for organizing it, and thanks to Andreas who will publish it soon!
  • talked to some folks about the OPW’s new round – we’ll have some announcements on that coming too!
  • joined the Ada Intiative’s advisory board! Check out all of the great work that the Ada Intiative has done over it’s first year in existence.
  • released an episode of Free as in Freedom with the audio from the app store panel at FOSDEM, along with commentary by Bradley and me.

Free Culture at SXSW

I had the privilege this past Wednesday to speak on a panel at the music conference of South by Southwest: Set Your Content Free (It’s Harder Than You Think). Moderated by the enthusiastic and eloquent Michael Petricone of the Consumer Electronics Association, the panel was composed of me, Hank Shocklee (of Bomb Squad/Public Enemy fame), Julie Samuels of EFF, and Paul Geller of Grooveshark.

sxsw panelists

As you can see, I wore my QuestionCopyright t-shirt, which became a talking point in the panel. It was very refreshing that all of the panelists believed that sharing content is the right way forward, and though each of us had a different perspective, that fundamental agreement made it possible to have a much more interesting and in depth discussion about these issues than I’ve had elsewhere. As Michael put it, we had a great practical discussion of strategies for using free content to promote and maximize alternative revenue streams – the positives, negatives, pitfalls, and the hard work it takes to be successful, even when you give it away for free.

Some of the topics we covered were:

  • direct-to-consumer business models enabled by the digital marketplace
  • the power large copyright owners continue to wield and how it affects the marketplace
  • opportunities and obstacles faced by independent artists
  • new definitions of success in the marketplace

The theme was really exploring various ways that the shift away from centralized distribution and control affects musicians and artists generally. I spoke a bit about Sita Sings the Blues and nonprofit distribution of art and music. Julie piped in about things from a legal perspective in the wake of SOPA/PIPA, Paul talked about his experiences at Grooveshark and the legal battles they’ve been engaged in and Hank discussed his view of the industry as a producer and composer. Favorite moments of mine included Paul saying that there should be many Groovesharks, Hank kicking things off by saying that the key to being successful can only be by building an audience through the free distribution of your music and Julie underscoring my point about copyright as censorship and discussing the erosion of fair use. Also, Hank advises R&B artists to make A Capella tracks stat for DJs to use.

Many thanks to Julie for inviting me to participate and to QCO for sponsoring some of my travel. I really loved the discussion, which was in contrast to the continuing legal education tracks I sat through later in the conference. Those were predicated on the very traditional business of representing copyright maximalists. I found it interesting that most of the panels on the main sxsw tracks were realistic discussions about the current state of the music industry which is becoming more centered on the assumption of sharing whereas the panels of lawyers were mostly staunch supporters of the past models (it was news to me that the demise of SOPA was a tragedy). A few of the lawyers on some of the panels did have very interesting things to say. For example, one lawyer cited that 99.9% of the musicians who perform at sxsw cannot make a living from their music. I hope that over time, these legal focused sessions will become more balanced – both in perspective on copyright and also in their representation of women on the panels. In a field where there are many successful women (and the audience was well represented in this regard), the speakers in the CLE track only included 5 women out of 45 speakers.

Nonetheless, I was very glad to take care of some of the requirements I need to keep my bar membership in good standing, and some of the discussion was very interesting.

It was a fun and fascinating week. I was proud to represent QuestionCopyright.Org and look forward to having many interesting discussions about free culture in the future.

Update on my recent activities

Here’s what I’ve been up to since my last update:

  • We had an advisory board meeting, at which Alejandro Piñeiro presented on the current state of GNOME’s accessibiltiy work. We discussed a few other things, such as our progress so far this year with hackfests.
  • I followed up and talked to advisory board members who couldn’t be at the meeting
  • I pursued a new donation for the GNOME Foundation (more news on that to come) and followed up on working with existing donors.
  • I worked a bit on the annual report – Juanjo Marín, Emily Gonyer, Christy Eller and Daniel Galleguillos are all working hard!
  • I helped with trademark advice for a GNOME project, working with Red Hat lawyers
  • I gathered documents to help renew our SSL certificates (thanks av and SEJeff!)
  • I worked with jrocha and dneary to prioritize our keynote invitations for GUADEC and get to the actual business of sending out invitations.
  • I participated on a call and did some prep work for a panel I’m on at sxsw on free culture
  • I wrote and submitted a proposal for the LF’s Collaboration Summit
  • I worked with Juanjo Marín to publish a new story on the a11y campaign – the announcement is coming soon!
  • I reviewed and discussed our Form 990 with our accountants
  • I participated in a GUADEC organizational meeting and a GNOME.Asia one too. These teams are really pulling together to get the conferences organized well and on time. I also helped edit various related documents, like the calls for papers!
  • There were various other housekeeping matters, of course!