Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Linuxcon Japan

Monday, April 14th, 2014

I will be speaking on volunteers at LinuxCon Japan on the 22nd May.  I have never attended this conference before as the timing hasn’t worked out.  I’m a little nervous about speaking in front on an unknown audience but since I’m speaking on the final day of the conference I will have time to get used to the venue and to hear some of the other speakers.


Sunday, June 14th, 2009

I’m getting ready to travel to America for YAPC::NA.  I took a quick look at the schedule and it’s possible that I am the only female speaker.  This morning I have mixed feelings about that.  I spoke at last year’s conference.  Whilst attending the speaker’s dinner I was asked “whose wife are you?”.  It never occurred to the person speaking to me that I was  there because I was a speaker.  And that’s not the first time that had happened at a technical conference.

I expected to become more comfortable the more of these conferences I attended.  But that doesn’t seem to be happening.  Last year I had one too many strange things said to me.  I ended up feeling isolated and different from the other attendees.  I became wary of the hundreds of men who surrounded me wondering when the next one would say something crude.  When I complained to some male friends I got asked if I couldn’t take a joke.  And you know what?  Sometimes I can’t take a joke.  Sometimes I don’t want people to draw attention to my sex and sometimes I get defensive and upset.

This is not something I like.  I don’t like that one man making an inappropriate comment about me paying him for sex can spoil an entire conference dinner.  I know he was only joking but unfortunately that’s the comment that sticks with me, not the hundreds of other perfectly acceptable comments that were made on the same night.  I know he meant no harm but suddenly I am aware that it’s only me that he’s speaking to like that; he certainly isn’t suggesting similar things to the men.

It’s hard to be one of ten women in a room with three hundred men.  I  can do it but I’m not surprised that many others don’t even try.

Who are the Role Models in Technology?

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

February’s edition of the Communications of the ACM contains an article called “Woman in Computing – Take 2”.  I printed it out last night but it isn’t as interesting as I had hoped. I hadn’t released from the cover that this was going to be a review article.  It does contain lots of facts and figures about women in computing but I am more interested in finding out the “why”.

The papers lists some of the current initiatives that are under way to try to increase the numbers of woman in computing.  One of these is to expose girls to positive role models in the technology sphere.  This is something that I have read about recently in the blogosphere as people are starting to write about Ada Lovelace day.

Recent research by psychologist Penelope Lockwood discovered that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones. That’s a relatively simple problem to begin to address. If women need female role models, let’s come together to highlight the women in technology that we look up to. Let’s create new role models and make sure that whenever the question “Who are the leading women in tech?” is asked, that we all have a list of candidates on the tips of our tongues.

This subject was also addressed by The Information Technology Association of America who 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.

I have written about role models before but I have to admit that this is an area I still don’t understand.   Part of the problem is that don’t have clear understanding of what a role model is.  Meriam Webster defines a role model as:

a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others

Now that is very clear when I read it but I can’t tell you who any of my role models are.  I don’t consciously sit around and think that I want to be like a particular person.  And I imagine the same is true for most people.  This is problematic though as it means that I am likely to underestimate the need for positive female role models in computing.

This isn’t the only thing I am confused about though.  If I forget about trying to work out who influenced me or who I imitate can I name some people that I imagine others would want to imitate that would cause them to pick computing as a career?

Japanese Podcasts

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

I finally decided to subscribe to Japanesepod101.  I need to do something to improve my Japanese listening skills and the podcasts I have listened to so far do seem useful. Compared to the cost of my Japanese lessons the service is not expensive at $25 a month.

They provided a way to import these into iTunes but I am running into technical problems.  Some of the files just stop downloading with no errors and others give me errors that seem to be related to invalid URLs.  iTunes also keeps losing my password for the podcasts even though I checked the box for this to be remembered. I have never tried to do this before and I had expected it to be much easier.  So far I have 1830 files – sounds like a lot but this has been running for around 24 hours now and there are still another 2400 to go.

The Self-Organizing Nature of Open Source Projects

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I’ve just finished reading an interesting paper called “Latent Social Structure in Open Source Projects“[pdf].

The authors looked at open source projects to discover if the project members self-organize and how successful the self-organization is. They also tried to determine if the ways that open source projects self-organize could provide useful lessons to aid in the building of commercial software teams.  A nice change from open source projects trying to learn from more traditional software projects.

I was particularly interested as one of the projects they looked at was Perl; the other four were Apache HTTPD, Arache ANT, PostgresSQL, and Python.

The authors detected community structure by data-mining the mailing lists used by the projects’ developers.  They are aware that developers use other methods of communication, such as private email and irc channels, but they considered mailing lists to be a good place to start.

There are a some things in the paper that I am not sure about.  They describe Perl and Python as being examples of projects that are monoarchist with a project leader.  I can’t comment on the Python project but is Larry Wall really “at the helm making informed important decisions”?  The paper contains a chart showing the development community structure in Perl from April to June 2007.  They have taken out the managers from this chart so I can’t tell if Larry was involved in any of the development being shown.  (Larry would fall under their definition of a manager as a person with intimate knowledge of large parts of the project who would link various sub-communities together.)  I am aware that Larry is still involved in many aspects of Perl development but I do feel that the project is much too big to think of any one person being at its helm.

I did find the chart showing Perl development fascinating though I have no idea what aspect of Perl development the sub-communities they show are involved in.  There is a sub-community of Paul Marquis and Xiao Liang Liu.  Another with Jonathan Stowe and Pelle Svensson.  One of the communities showing active development contains Arthur Bergman, Leon Brocard, H. Merijn Brand and Jarkko Hietaniemi.

They also gave some information on the data gathered to work out the sub-communities.  They looked at Perl mailing lists from 1st March 1999 to the 20th June 2007 (it doesn’t state which list or lists.)  They counted 112,514 messages with 3,261 participants.  They also extracted information from code taking the author, time of commit and the filename.  They then matched the author to the email addresses.  For this period of Perl they say that there were 92,502 commits.  But the figure that really shocked me was that for all these commits there were only 25 developers.  So we have a mailing list with 3,621 people on it but only 25 people actually making any changes that were agreed!

I assume that they were looking at the core Perl language and I am aware that Perl modules are being developed by thousands of developers but I’m still fascinated by the concept that so few people are committers on what appears to be a vast project. I would love to know more about their data.  Which list did they use, how many messages are there per month, is this number declining over time?  Maybe I’ll write and ask.

A lot of the things in the paper didn’t surprise me but one thing intrigues me. Do developers work better if they get to choose who to work with?

New Scanner

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

A couple of weeks ago Marty bought me a scanner.  For a while now I’ve wanted to do something with the large collection of prints I have taken over the years. I never got round to putting these in albums and the damp air here is causing them to stick together.

I would like to have bought a negative scanner but I rarely use my 35mm camera anymore so this would have had a limited use.  In the end I compromised and bought a flatbed scanner that can also scan some types of negatives.

One of the reasons I moved to digital was that it was becoming too hard to get film printed.  Black and White film had to be posted away and some never came back.  Others came back with prints composed of half one picture and half of another.  Even colour films were ruined.  All my Egyptian films came back too yellow with lots of scratches on the pictures.  When I first saw them I was really worried that something had gone badly wrong with my camera but then I realised that these had been left to dry on something dirty.  I found the Egyptian photographs today but the negatives wouldn’t scan.  So far I haven’t been able to scan many of my negatives.  The process is slow and seems to work less than 50% of the time.  The negatives have to be completely flat and a lot of mine curve slightly.  There are also problems depending on how the negatives have been cut by the processing company.

I did manage to scan a few pictures though and I’m glad that I now have some of these stored on my computer.

Sailing Boat on the River Nile

Sailing Boat on the River Nile