Audrey Tang is far and away the most awesome hacker I've ever had the privilege to have worked with. She's best known for creating Pugs, a perl6 implementation in Haskell. Though it's now semi-retired in favour of the newer implementations that it had a role in inspiring, it represented a huge leap forward and a quantum shift in Perl6 development at a time when enthusiasm around Perl6 was sorely flagging. She was the first CPAN contributor to have uploaded 100 modules. She's the key figure behind Perl 5's internationalization, as well as the i18n of many, many other individual pieces of software. She was part of the committee that designed the Haskell 2010 standard, and has made innumerable other contributions to the open source community.
I never got seriously involved with Pugs, but many of the things Audrey did with it shaped my thinking around open source, community, and how we should collaborate. First was the idea that a project should be optimized for fun (-Ofun1), not for control, or strict adherence to the founder's vision, or anything else. Second, whereas many open source projects keep a very tight rein on who has commit access and make getting a commit bit an arduous process, Audrey aggressively gave out commit bits to anybody who happened to wander by in the general vicinity of Pugs. Got a great idea? Here's a commit bit, go implement it. Notice something missing in the docs? Here's a commit bit; go add it. Ranting in IRC that something's not working? Here's a commit bit; go fix it. Extending this trust makes people feel welcome and want to contribute. It fosters an air of community instead of making prospective new participants feel as though they are looking at climbing (or worse, building) a pyramid.
Audrey would likely demur at my calling her brilliant, but it's a fitting descriptor for her. She has a unique and penetrating insight into code and an uncanny knack for encouraging the people who write it. I count myself as fortunate to have been able to work with her and to be part of a few of the communities she's had such a profound impact on.
1 -Ofun: -O is the compiler option that tells it how you want your code optimized. Audrey's presentation on -Ofun [pdf] talks more about how to maximize the amount of fun in your software project.
Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging about women in science and technology. You can find more information at the Finding Ada website.
Inasmuch as the Dos Equis Guy commercials feature Formulaic Beer-Commercial Fail (about which I've previously vented here), this is still a good quote:
(On pickup lines:)
There's a time and place for them.
The time...is never.
You can figure out the place on your own.
So this happened to swim by in my Twitter feed:
This kind of thing makes me want to metaphorically grab hold of the field of User Experience Design, tell it "Here, I have someone I'd like you to meet," and drag it over to the field of Security. The converse goes for Security when (for instance) its practitioners come up with an amazing new security procedure that no user will ever follow. In fact, a great many problems would be solved if we could but make a few more introductions between disciplines. Getting Software Development acquainted with fields like Ethics, Sociology, and Social Justice and concepts like privacy, identity, diversity, and accessibility would be a good start.
...conveniently summed up in this single video created by EA!
I imagine the conversation went something like this...
- Dudebro 1: Hey, we've got this woman in Red Alert who's tough as nails, sarcastic as hell, and kicks a lot of ass. How are we going to expand on her character in Red Alert 2?
- Dudebro 2: She's not very hot. Let's sex her up!
- Dudebro 1: What a great idea!
- Dudebro 3: You know what would be even more awesome? In Red Alert 3, we should have her played by Jenny fuckin' McCarthy!
(The Crown rests. FFS.)
So Julian Assange has turned himself into the police and been arrested.
Uh, no it's not. It's an attempt to bring an individual to trial for criminal acts he's alleged to have committed -- rape and sexual assault, in this case. The charges predate Wikileaks' release of US diplomatic cables, FWIW.
I don't understand all the hand-wringing over this, like the media is trying to make out whether to drape Assange in a hero's cape or a villain's one. People do good things; those same people do bad things, and they should be praised for the former and held to account for the latter. The cells of Torquemada's prisons were apparently "large, airy, clean and with good windows admitting the sun....far superior to the civil prisons of that day", but you don't see anyone holding him up as a wholesome personage to emulate, and rightly so.
We can give Assange credit for his work with Wikileaks without letting him off the hook for his other behaviour. It's that simple.
I tried for hours to form my experiences around camaraderie and the good ol' boys club in the military into a comment that would fit with this Geekfeminism post, but I couldn't manage to pull it together.
The phrase "This Man's Army" is very much appropriate to the military of today (or, at least, the Canadian Army of 1997, when I got out). By and large, it's still very much a white, male, heterosexist institution, but there are a lot more subtleties than an overarching summary would have you think, including a lot of pockets of very inclusive, principled, and thoughtful people.
Indeed, after a fashion, the military is a cornucopia of extremes. I saw humanity at its best and at its worst many a time during my short, part-time stint there. Young soldiers -- kids, really -- punished by being humiliated in front of their peers. Rumours that our WO had been passed over for promotion because he was black. But too, the noble parts -- soldiers standing up for an excellent officer when others tried to slag him because he was gay. Grizzled old sergeants admonishing junior NCOs not to address their charges as 'guys' -- "Call them troops! 'Guys' is sexist." Soldiers on a course rallying around a colleague who'd been harassed by one of her instructors.
I learned a lot there -- about myself, about others; about what it means to be honourable. That's one thing that can certainly be said about it.
Monae is clear that she makes her artistic decisions to give others courage to break out of the norm. She says:
That's what I've always been fighting for - making sure that people love themselves for who they are, and we don't pick on people because we're uncomfortable with ourselves, or who they are. That's been my message, from when I was young to now. There are lots of young girls out there who are struggling with their identities… afraid of being discriminated against or teased. I take risks and use my imagination so that other people will feel free and take risks. That's my hope.
Mark Shuttleworth (the CEO of Canonical/Ubuntu) has been in the news recently because of comments he made during a conference presentation. I was present at a Ubuntu Open Week session where he was questioned about diversity, and wrote a brief guest post on the Geek Feminism blog about it.
Every now and again, something happens in our community that's problematic -- something racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise harmful. It can be something high profile, or something as seemly innocuous as a comment on a mailing list or irc channel. In fact, I shouldn't say "every now and again" -- it happens a lot. More than you might think.
This post really spoke to me -- this comment in particular. Part of the issue surrounding being a minority in FOSS is that your time and energy get diverted from the productive bits (coding, testing, writing, etc) whenever you're forced into dealing with incidents like the above.
We have a lot of amazing people from a lot of diverse backgrounds in FOSS, and we all benefit from their contributions and expertise. So when someone says or does something (intentionally or not) that makes people in the community -- our community -- feel unwelcome, or excluded, or threatened -- we all need to step up and address it.
Nobody wants to have their project saddled with behaviour that drives people away. We all benefit from an environment that's welcoming the broadest possible range of contributors. So when it comes time to deal with sexist behaviour, women shouldn't be the only ones paying the troll tax. Geek guys need to step up and take part of the load. I'm trying to start with me.
Guys, if your experience mirrors mine, you've been in the situation where someone else has done something that crossed the line. You've gotten that sinking feeling that what's just happened is wrong, but maybe you weren't quite sure what to do about it, or how to do something about it, or if you were even the right person to do something about it. I'm going to urge you to step outside of your comfort zone a little, and say or do something to let people know that this kind of behaviour isn't ok. A stern glance or a terse "not cool" can be enough. It doesn't have to be elaborate or involved, but it does have to happen, because silence is tacit approval. If nobody objects, it looks to all concerned as though it's ok.
This isn't a sermon from on high. Nobody is perfect, least of all me. There are going to be times when we screw up, or let something slide that we shouldn't have. We're human; it happens. What's important is that we make the effort -- a serious and genuine effort -- to work together, respect and support each other as fellow hackers and human beings.
(Some random links that inspired this post. I found them useful; I hope you will, too.)
- Jay Smooth: How to Tell People They Sound Racist
- Shakesville: Crank it up to 11
- mdz: Do not stand by
- Chris Clarke: How Not to be an Asshole: A Guide for Men (frank but important read, especially if you think a woman is overreacting to an incident of online harassment.)
I've been meaning to write this up for a while, but certain events impelled me to try to get it out while it still has a slight pretense of timeliness.( That thing you said... )
One of the reasons some people give for the fact that there are fewer women than men involved in many areas of technology, engineering, and "hard" sciences is that, you know, women and girls aren't very interested in that "tech stuff"; they just don't like it as much as men and boys.
If you would have been with us on our trip to Science North this past weekend, you would have seen that argument for the great load of bullshit that it is. Not only did our girls have a great time, there was pretty close to an even gender split amongst the other kids in attendance, and I sure didn't see anyone off in the corner sulking about how "boring" or "uninteresting" the place was.
I complained to the owner of a paintball field about the banner graphic on their website; it features a bikini-clad woman covered in ersatz paint splotches. This kind of thing is common in the paintball industry; I dislike it because I think it portrays women as "scenery" instead of serious players, and because it tells me that the business in question thinks I'm a dick with a wallet instead of a thinking customer.
I got back a reply from the female co-owner of the field saying
I am sorry that you took offence to the banner. It was suggested by my graphic designer who I respect and whom is female. The girl in the photo plays paintball at Double Tap on a regular basis.
...which puts me in the rather, uh, unusual position of telling a cadre of women to knock it off with the women-unfriendly sexist stuff. O_o