Archive for the 'Free Software' Category

5000 Steps

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

I spoke at LinuxCon last week on “Understanding Volunteers”.  As always I felt terrible before I was speaking and oddly I still felt rather glum after I finished.  It was difficult speaking in front of a mostly Japanese audience.  I was incredibly worried that no-one would understand anything I was saying and very aware of cultural differences.  Like most of the talks I saw I ended up finishing early which left extra time for questions.  I was asked two questions but one of those was “what questions do you get asked at other conferences?”.

I ended up walking an extra 5,000 steps that day though, just in pacing around in circles before I had to talk.

I did learn some things by giving the talk.  I now have a much better idea of how the research I have read on the motivations of people who work in Open Source can be applied to the community.  And I got to have a couple of conversations regarding the concept that Japanese people are not good at trusting strangers and that they don’t necessarily want to work in an open environment.  (These were not my ideas, but the ideas of some people doing post-graduate research on this area.)

Next month I will be speaking at YAPC::NA on Working with Volunteers.  I’m already nervous about this and I’m really hoping that I don’t have to wait until the last day of the conference to speak.

Gluten-Free Food at LinuxCon, Tokyo

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

I was really surprised that there were gluten-free bento boxes at LinuxCon.  I had selected this option when registering but getting gluten-free food in Japan can be difficult.  The bento box I received on the first day was incredibly good, good enough that I’ve looked up the company it came from so I can buy from them in the future.  There was a problem with box labels on the second day but the conference organisers went out of their way to fix that for me.  And on the third day one of the conference staff, when they couldn’t find me in the lunch room,  brought my lunch to me as I was sitting outside the room I was going to speak in.  A conference lunch that made me want to say “wow”.

First Thoughts on LinuxCon, Tokyo 2014

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

I spent the past three days at LinuxCon in Tokyo.  It’s been a while since I attended a non-Perl conference and this was the first LinuxCon I have attended.  It was different than I was expecting.  To begin with it had fewer attendees.  I am always surprised by how big tech events can be in Japan.  The last Perl conference I attended, YAPC::Asia, had over 1000 attendees.  This conference looked as if it had less than 500 people and I had expected it to be much bigger, as I thought that Linux was very popular in Japan, given the large sponsorship it has from companies such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC.

The attendees were mostly male, like most conferences I attend, but there were a lot of people in formal business attire and it felt more like the commercial conferences I have attended than the grass-roots ones.  For example the conference badges listed the companies that people belonged to and not their nicknames or IRC handles.  I attended a number of community talks and I was surprised by how few members of the audience actually contributed to an Open Source project.  The community talks were also not well attended, but then there were six tracks so it is possible that nothing other than the keynotes was well attended.

There was no swag bags for attendees, but I am rarely keen on those.  The t-shirts that were given out were the usual ones designed for men, though there had been an option for women’s t-shirts when signing up, and I was confused by the size.  Usually men’s t-shirts in Asia fit me better than US ones but it turned out that these t-shirts are US sizes.  It did come in handy as a blanket during the opening keynotes as the air conditioning made the room much too cold and made me wish that I had thought to wear a jacket.

The conference was mainly in English and I was expecting it to be either bilingual or mostly in Japanese.  I had attempted to translate my slides into Japanese, so these could be in Japanese and English, but I didn’t see any other slides like that.  The Japanese speakers I saw were speaking in English and every question I heard asked was also in English.  The keynotes did have simultaneous translation though, which I thought was a good thing.  I’m still confused by the lack of Japanese at the conference as the majority of the attendees were local.

I found it hard attending a conference where I knew so few people.  Marty was there with some people from his work, but apart from that there was only one other person that I knew.  I don’t like large groups of people so found it really hard to speak to anyone.  I did speak to a number of the speakers after their talks, but apart from that I didn’t speak to many people.  I didn’t attend any of the evening events.  I didn’t want to attend the speakers and sponsors event on my own and by the end of the conference I was too drained to attend the main evening event for all attendees.

I am glad that I went, as I did get to learn some interesting things about community and Japanese culture, and I got to meet some other people who are involved in community leadership.

Conference Preparation

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

I’ve been working on my talk for LinuxCon Japan by rereading a number of papers on the topic of motivation in Free and Open Source (F/OSS).  I was able to recall a lot of the information I had read before but I realised that today I was memorizing odd details about the papers.  And then I remembered why – it was because of a question I was asked after giving a talk on a related subject at another tech conference.

“Your talk was interesting but how much of this is relevant to men?”

Now there was a question I was not expecting.  There are always more men at the conferences I speak at than there are women.  And when I say more I mean that at that particular conference about 95% of the attendees were male and I was the only female speaker.  It was a few years ago and the question has stayed with me.  I replied by saying that the research I was referring to was carried out on members of various F/OSS communities, and the majority of those respondents were male.  The person who asked the question said I should have mentioned that in my talk.  Really?  I don’t recall any of the other speakers saying that their material was relevant to men.  I’m sure that the person asking the question didn’t mean to upset me but it was just another thing that highlighted the fact that I was different from the other speakers at the conference.

The paper I was reading this morning stated that 97.5% of the respondents were male – so the question could be, “how much of this is relevant to women”.

OSDC Australia: Keynote

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Last Wednesday was the first time I ever gave a keynote at a conference.  I have been the first speaker at a conference before, but those talks were called something else so I’m not going to count them.   As always I was really nervous before I spoke.  It doesn’t matter if my talk is a keynote or not, if the audience contains 20 people or 2,000, I always feel this way.

The talk I gave, Understanding Volunteers,  was a variant on one I had given at YAPC::EU and YAPC::NA earlier this year.  The new version is longer.  I added additional material on the need to belong and made sure I had examples of a variety of different Open Source communities.  I was able to keep in most of my Perl community examples and I imagine I would be forgiven if there was a bit of a Perl community focus.  I am, after all, the Vice-President of The Perl Foundation.

Female Role Models in Technology

Monday, May 28th, 2007

For the last few days I’ve been thinking about the reasons why there are so few women in the Open Source or Free Software communities. I have asked female system administrators why they don’t want to attend the meetings of their local linux user group. They make going to a group like that sound as likely as getting one the guys from the linux group to go and have a pedicure or to enjoy going shopping for clothes. Not impossible but unlikely all the same.

I have accepted for a long time that women just don’t want to do these things and haven’t really seen it as a problem. But now I want to know why. What is it that stops a woman for even going once to see what it’s like? Why do they automatically think it’s something they wouldn’t enjoy?

A lot of research has been carried out in this area as it isn’t just me who wants to know this. There are many different reasons cited but one I’ve never thought about before is the impact of role models. I have a 13 year old sister and she’s quite happy to tell me that when she grows up so wants to be like Jordan or Nicky from Big Brother. This horrifies me. But it’s not that surprising since the media is full of stories of celebrities and their glamorous existences.

Looking back on my childhood the strongest female role model was that of Margaret Thatcher. She showed that a woman could become the leader of the country. But the things I remember most about her was that everyone seemed to hate her and that she was described as the Iron Lady and supposedly had balls of steel. Well, I wasn’t quite sure what all of that meant but it certainly didn’t seem like something I wanted to aspire to when I grew up.

The Information Technology Association of America released a report [pdf] in 2003 which stated the following:

Underrepresentation of women and minorities in IT leads to the inevitable “vicious cycle” of fewer professional role models for those who wish to enter the IT profession. The Panel believes that the scarcity of adequate role models and mentors has a direct correlation to the perceptions that female and minority candidates will develop about IT. These candidates may tend to view the profession as lonely and isolated or may find assimilation into mainstream networks of companies difficult due, in part, to a lack of common interests or a sense of just not belonging.

When my little sister thinks about what she wants to do when she grows up she doesn’t think about going in IT. To her it’s full of geeks and weirdos like her brother-in-law and her sister’s friends. Because of the generation she is growing up in she is much more aware of computer technology than I was. She spends hours on bebo and MSN. But she sees a computer as a communication tool and not something that she needs to understand. In the same way that I had no interest in how the phone worked when I was 13.

I don’t know what can be done to change the perceptions that woman have or to provide them with role models that they will aspire to be like. But I am starting to realise that although I expect to be accepted by any community of technologists that many woman do not feel this way.

Is Sexual Discrimination Really an Issue in the Perl Community?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

I’ve been reading the comments on Jono’s post regarding discrimination and a couple of them are asking for actual examples of sexual discrimination in their communities. I’m a member of the Perl community and I was trying to remember if I’ve ever had a problem with sexual discrimination. My first thought was that I haven’t at all. And then I occurred to me that maybe once, and I mean once in seven years, that assumptions were made because of my sex.

I went to register for a YAPC conference I was speaking at. The person in front of me was also a speaker and during the registration process he was given a ticket to the speaker’s dinner. I wasn’t given one when I was registering so I asked if I could have one. The person who was doing the registration looked at me and said “Oh I thought your husband was the speaker”. When I said that actually it was me that was speaking and not Marty I was given a ticket to the speaker’s dinner.

This did annoy me and made me rant a bit at the time but it’s the only personal example I can think of. Any other problems I can think of really can be explained by the fact that in any group of people there are going to be some that don’t like each other. It’s nothing to do with sex and everything to do with personality clashes and differing opinions. I really do think that sexual discrimination is low down on the list of things that are causing problems in the Perl community.

Open Source or Free Software?

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

I was amused to read on the front page of this week’s Computer Weekly that Richard Stallman “was a prolific programmer for his open source GNU Project”. Glad to see that it isn’t just me who sometimes forgets to use the phrase “Free Software”.

Linux Professional Institute Certification

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Whilst at FOSDEM Marty decided to take the LPI Certification Level 1 exams. He has been considering teaching this course in Belfast and thought it might be a good idea to sit the exams first.

At the start of the conference they announced that one of the sponsors was going to pay the exam fees of the three candidates with the highest score. Marty received notification today of the bank transfer.

FOSS Conference Press Release

Friday, March 10th, 2006

I was pleased to see that the Belfast Telegraph has picked up the story about the FOSS Means Business event. I wouldn’t have said that Google is behind the event or that Open Source is a new approach to software development but if it gets more people to attend the event I know it will make the organisers happy.