Take a moment today and donate The Ada Initiative

As you enjoy your weekend, take note that today is the last stretch of the Ada Initiative fundraising campaign.

I actually promised at the first AdaCamp in Melbourne that I would blog about Imposter Syndrome, and so now I will finally make good on that promise. The experience at AdaCamp was amazing for me and the more support we can drive to The Ada Initiative to be able to continue their good works the better! I was so lucky to attend, as I was keynoting LCA and Marina Zhurakhinskaya suggested I look into going a couple of days early for it.

AdaCamp was actually my very first unconference, and I remember being a little bit nervous when I put a post-it up on the wall suggesting an Imposter Syndrome session. I had never talked about Imposter Syndrome in public before and I wasn’t sure it was the best topic to propose (especially around so many talented and accomplished women). When the time for the session came, the room was full. I was floored.

For those of you who don’t know about it, Imposter Syndrome is exactly as it sounds. It’s the feeling (no matter how capable you are) that you are a fraud and that at any point you will be found out to not know what you are talking about. There are many better descriptions that a basic web search will bring you to. In my case, I am lucky enough to be in such niche fields that I *know* there aren’t that many people who know as much or more than me about the particular issues. I mean, how many people have thought deeply about free and open source software in medical devices from a public safety perspective? How many freedom fighting cyborg lawyers can there be? And yet, every time I’m asked to do an interview or make a speech I worry that I’ll be asked a question that I won’t know the answer to and it will turn out that I don’t know what I’m talking about afterall. I scour my research in a panic beforehand, every time. Of course it turns out that when I don’t know the answer to a question, it’s for good reason. But when the presentation or interview is over I am so relieved to have scraped by again. Rationally, I’ve known for some time that this is a bit silly.

I was once asked to be interviewed for a documentary on software patents (Patent Absurdity). I referred the interviewer to a number of other experts, including Dan Ravicher, Eben Moglen and Mark Webbink, saying that I wasn’t the right person to speak on the issue. The interviewer told me that he had asked quite a number of women to participate in the documentary but that they all had said the same thing as me. He told me that in fact, more than one person he’d consulted had suggested me for the interview and so he was sure I was right for it. He also told me that he was having the hardest time getting any of the women who other people had suggested as knowledgable to agree to an interview which made the documentary look very off balanced (especially as compared to the recommendations he was getting from other experts). So I agreed to do the documentary. It was very eye opening for me.

When I found out about Imposter Syndrome the first time I couldn’t believe that what I was feeling was actually part of a documented phenomenon. I read about accomplished women (and some men too) who felt the way I did and I started to feel like I had some tools to deal with it. But really it was during the AdaCamp session that I felt I had turned a corner. I still feel small waves of panic when I must hold myself out as an expert, but I have much more confidence in my knowledge and value as someone worth consulting on all matters related to software freedom.

The Ada Intiative is such an important organization (I’m one of their advisors now). Please take a minute today to give them a donation. Our free and open source software communities are already better for their work. If you’re reading this after the fundraising campaign is over, please still give them a donation!

GNU is turning 30

I mentioned in my report at the Annual General Meeting during GUADEC that the 30th birthday of GNU is coming up and I hope you’ve all been thinking of ways that GNOME can participate! I taked to Libby, FSF Campaigns Manager, this week and she filled me in a bit on the plans. The event will be held at MIT and will be largely comprised of hackfests and meetings, rather than conference style presentations (though RMS will be speaking). Registration is already up and today is the deadline to apply for travel scholarships, so move fast if you need one!

Do you have any great ideas for a hackfest or meeting we could hold there? We need to start organizing soon, as the event is at the end of September. I’d also like for us to organize a GNOME dinner on one of the days. Let me know if you’d like to help organize.

We’re engaged

One of the many awesome things that happened at GUADEC was that the GNOME marketing team was able to meet again, pretty soon after our New York hackfest. The most visible thing that was decided at this meeting was to change our name from “marketing” to “engagement”. The team has actually been wrestling with this since New York. We realized that using the term “marketing” to describe us was misleading. Marketing is often associated with commercial companies and suggests that we’re trying to sell something (and maybe something that’s not that great either) to make a profit. It also implies that we’ve got professional marketing help. In fact, the team is more about outreach, education, promotion and advocacy. Since we can’t fit all of those words into our name, we decided to go with “engagement” – the aim of all of our activities is to get people to see how great GNOME and our community is, and to make them want to participate more in both our project and the dialog about it. (We also took a little inspiration from Mozilla.)

So thanks to great work by Andrea and Allan and the rest of the team, we’re officially called the “engagement” team, and you can find us on irc.gnome.org at #engagement. The team is amazing – it’s a very diverse group of people, all doing this work as volunteers in their spare time. The group meets every other week and has been impressively productive lately. If you’d like to contribute to GNOME but aren’t sure how, engagement is a great place to start. Plus the IRC channel is just a really nice place to be. Come talk to us!