Archive for the 'Free Software' Category

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.

JavaScript – most successful scripting language ever?

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

FOSDEM had a Web 2.0 track which I decided to sit through on the Sunday morning. By far the best talk in this track was given by Alex Russell. I didn’t have a computer with me so the only information I had before I heard the talk was that he is the project leader of the Dojo Toolkit. I was expecting his talk to be about the project but instead he gave a talk called “Functional Programming and AOP in a JavaScript Environment”. After a brief introduction to JavaScript Alex gave examples of how to implement a variety of object oriented patterns and advanced functional programming idioms such as closures and monads.

I have attended JavaScript tutorials in the past but these did not present me with a language that I would ever have wanted to use. They mainly focused on browser incompatibilities and horrible hacks to get round these. The language looked ugly. But after hearing Alex I realise that it’s not that you can’t write good code in JavaScript it’s just that lots of people choose not to or don’t know how to.

I am glad that the slides are available as not only did I not take a computer to FOSDEM but I also managed to forget to bring a notebook with me on Sunday morning.

Perl Mongers Meeting – 15th March

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

The Belfast Perl Mongers will be meeting next Wednesday. It’s been nearly a year since the last meeting and I’m not even sure it counted as it was in Birmingham.

We still haven’t decided whether this will be a technical or social meeting. I was hoping that Marty would speak but he’s going to be too busy with the FOSS event. If I don’t manage to find a speaker we will just have to get by with eating and going out to a bar. A few of the guys from will be over – maybe I should get them to speak…

Free Software Event in Belfast

Monday, March 6th, 2006

If you are interested in Free Software and are going to be in Belfast on the 16th I would recommend that you attend the FOSS Means Business event. I haven’t heard all the speakers but I did get the opportunity to hear Richard Stallman speaking at FOSDEM at the end of February. This was the first time I’d heard Stallman and he wasn’t quite what I expected. A lot of people, when discussing Stallman, focus on the eccentricities of his personality. But he is a very articulate speaker and the passion he has for his subject is well presented without him sounding like a raving fanatic.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the way that he handles questions. He had no problems giving answers but he isn’t always pleasant to the people asking them. So if you do go along and decide to take part in the Q&A session I would recommend that you use the phrase Free Software and not Open Source.

Why did no-one tell me that Linux was actually GNU/Linux?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

I’m confused. Marty has tried to explain this to me but really I switched off after the first five minutes. It all sounds much too complicated. But Richard Stallman is coming to town and I’m told that he’s a wee bit sensitive about this topic.

(I was going to categorise this as open source but Marty noticed so I called the category Free Software)