More stuff I’ve done recently…

I lost a little time to being sick but in the past two weeks, I:

  • did some final revisions on the GNOME’s 990
  • looked into the ongoing UK open standards discussion, and discussed preparing a comments with SFLC. Thanks to Glyn Moody for letting me
    know about it
    and to SFLC for working with me. I’ll keep you posted as to our comment (the deadline’s been recently extended a month).
  • worked on some trademark issues for GNOME
  • finished fundraising for our Outreach Program for Women, and started to put together a press release with Marina – that should be coming very soon. I also helped wrap up the tough decisions about which applicants to accept and took care of some paperwork related to the program.
  • discussed keynote invitees for GUADEC and got to invite a couple of speakers! I hope they come! I also started working on looking for sponsors for GUADEC.
  • attended a couple of GNOME.Asia planning meetings and worked on a few action items too. That group is working so hard to put the conference together, despite being thrown quite a few curve balls along the way.
  • followed some of the important discussions going on in the GNOME community and participated in a number of backchannel discussions. I’m glad that the substantive discussion is being talked about openly and I’m glad we’re committed to improving as a community. One thing I would recommend doing (and I think I might make this its own blog post) is taking the time to positively react to good emails and discussion points that go around. When we see something negative we’re quick to react but in general we rarely thank those who take the time to be good communicators. Just a thought! So if you liked an email that you read, or thought the tone was good or supportive or something like that, quickly write the person a private email to tell them so!
  • guest lectured a class on free culture and free software with Justin Colaninno at Columbia Law School. I’ve been doing it ever semester for the past few years, and it’s very fun to see how much the knowledge about the topics has changed and gotten broader acceptance.

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.

My recent activities

I’ve been a bit remiss at posting, due to my travel schedule (and more recently thanksgiving with relatives from out of town and the like). Last week I went to Latvia to keynote at the LATA conference in Riga. Perhaps not surprisingly to readers here, I spoke (in English) about software freedom and how the software that we should consider essential has expanded considerably. GNOME of course features into that prominently. You can see the video of the talk here. Thanks so much to Rūdolfs Mazurs, who in addition to filming the talk, sat next to me during most of the conference and translated from Latvian! He was such a good translator that I was even able to ask questions and feel fully engaged in the sessions. It was an exciting conference, and I was glad to hear folks who are active with free software in Latvia say in their talks that “GNOME Shell is the future”.

Not too long before LATA, I was able to attend UDS in Orlando. It was a very interesting conference, and I was sponsored by Canonical to attend. I had quite a number of productive meetings with GNOME and Canonical folks there and particularly enjoyed getting to know some of the Ubuntu community members who are not Canonical affiliated. I had a few thoughts that came out of attending UDS that I hope to give their own posts.

While at UDS, I interviewed Adam Dingle from Yorba for the Free as in Freedom oggcast. We talked about free software nonprofits, software freedom generally and the great work that Yorba is doing (you probably know them from their Shotwell photo manager software).

I also interviewed Stefano Zacchiroli, the DPL of Debian. That episode was just released today. We talked about Debian, GNOME and copyleft, and there’s a discussion about the interview with me and Bradley as well.

I’ve also been mentoring a few tasks for Google’s Code-in. I was happy to help GNOME get accepted to the program and now we’re starting to see the benefits. Thanks to Andre Klapper for all of his ongoing hard work!

While on the road I helped Marina to organize and get ready to announce the new round of participants in the Outreach Program for Women. We were able to include 12 participants this time, in a wide range of areas! I’m particularly excited, as I’m also a mentor for one of the participants. The actual work for the program begins in a couple of weeks, when you’ll start to see a lot of activity on the Planet from these ladies. It was a privilege to work with the sponsors of the program to solidify the announcement: A thousand thank yous to Google, Mozilla, Collabora, Red Hat and the GNOME Foundation itself.

I’m very happy to be home and not travelling for the next few weeks – there’s so much to be done! In particular, I’m looking forward to announcing a new Friends of GNOME program…

GNOME Outreach Program for Women is now open for applications

If I’ve seen you in person since I’ve started at GNOME it’s fairly likely that I’ve talked to you about the Women’s Outreach Program. I’ve been so impressed at the work that Marina, Stormy, and the rest of the GNOME Community have done in setting it up. It amazes me how the program systematically provides paths to overcome so many of the problems that we identify as possible reasons for the lack of involvement by women in free software.

Last year I was interviewed for an article about the topic, and when discussing this with Alex Skud Bayley (formerly Kirrily Robert – congrats to Alex on the name change) at last year’s OSCON, she said something like “if you are a woman in free software at some point you will be considered an expert about women in free software.” I wanted Alex’s thoughts because her 2009 OSCON keynote on the topic was really great. And while I like telling my story and giving my thoughts about the participation of women in free software, I think Alex was right – I’m mostly speaking from personal anecdotal experience. What I love about the Outreach Program is that it’s something concrete. It takes proactive steps to get women involved and try to keep them involved. And it has gotten great results.

I met many of the last round of participants in the program at the Desktop Summit and even listened to a few of them give presentations about their work. I was extremely impressed. Even better, some of these women stick around in our community after their internships are over, which is especially exciting. A couple of the women I talked to said that they believe that their careers have been kickstarted by the program and they’re not sure if they would have gone down that path otherwise.

As Marina writes, in the last session there were seven female interns among the 27 GSoC interns in GNOME. The most it had in previous years was one female participant. She noted that all of the women who applied for GSoC in 2011 found mentors and project ideas, made a first contribution, and navigated the application process with the help of the resources available through the OPW.

Extra thanks to outside funders of the program: Collabora, Google, and Mozilla. They make it possible for the program to have the reach it does.

The new application period for the program is open right now through the end of October, so if you know someone who may be right for the program please send this information their way!

GNOME is an innovative Free Software desktop. It is easy to use and is the most popular desktop distributed with free operating systems.

In an effort to get more women involved in Free Software, the GNOME project is sponsoring several internships for women from December 12, 2011 to March 12, 2012. The application deadline for the program is October 31. The applicants need to get in touch with individual GNOME projects ahead of time to decide which project they are interested in working on and make a small contribution to the project.

Participants will work remotely from home, while getting guidance from an assigned mentor and collaborating within their project’s team and the rest of the GNOME community. The projects include developing software for the core desktop, file management, messaging, popular applications, educational activities, and the platform libraries. There are also non-coding projects, such as graphic design, documentation, and marketing. The stipend for the program is $5,000 (USD).

Please visit http://www.gnome.org to learn more and apply. The mentorship opportunities are also available throughout the year for anyone interested in getting started contributing to GNOME outside of the internship program.