shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (sabre - angry face)
Thursday, February 13th, 2014 21:54
While clearing out my stash of old writing/blogging, I found this lengthy comment that I wrote back in November. It's a reply to the 2.39x1014th round of clueless dudes opining on why there are so few women in STEM without bothering to have done even the most preliminary of research.

Might as well save this reply for posterity; dollars to doughnuts says I'll have the chance to roll it out again all too soon.

Here's an archived version of Mika Schiller's post, if for some reason you are wont to subject yourself to it.
Comment body... )
shadowspar: Members of the band B'z, sitting down (b'z sitting)
Friday, December 6th, 2013 23:13

A little while back, I was asked on twitter: if tech conferences are, for women, an experience that's dangerous at worst and uncomfortable at best, how do we go about fixing it?

This is rather a big question—basically akin to "how do we eliminate sexism in society?" Conferences are a microcosm of the larger world; they transmit most of its problems and amplify some to boot. That being said, I'm certainly happy to outline what I think some reasonable starting points for allies might be.

Read more... )
shadowspar: Members of the band B'z, sitting down (b'z sitting)
Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 17:45

Trigger warning for rape culture & extensive enumeration of the abuse people get for reporting rape, assault, and the like.

Read more... )
shadowspar: Members of the band B'z, sitting down (b'z sitting)
Friday, October 25th, 2013 09:57
When I see a comment I feel is slamming me personally, here's how I deal with it.

I identify the problematic behaviour that's being called out.

I try to honestly and searchingly reflect on how much I manifest that behaviour.

If I do evince that behaviour, then I think about what I can do to improve.

If I can honestly say that I've substantially banished that behaviour from my life, then the comment doesn't apply to me, and I let it pass.
shadowspar: Members of the band B'z, sitting down (b'z sitting)
Thursday, August 9th, 2012 23:41
Rape, Rape Culture, and Creepiness )
shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Friday, October 7th, 2011 14:51

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.

shadowspar: Picture of ouendan (\o/)
Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 15:06

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.

shadowspar: Picture of Kurama lashing out with a rose whip (kurama - rose whip)
Sunday, September 4th, 2011 23:39

Douglas Crockford whines that people have baggage.

Isn't it kind of hypocritical, or at least wilfully ignorant, to build a social media website -- something of which people are a central component, and getting them in the door key to its success -- and then complain that these damned people don't behave deterministically and don't fit neatly into the system like nice little cubes?

Well, surprise! People are mushy bags of mostly edge cases, and if you're building social software, you're going to bloody well have to deal with it.

Damn users, getting to have opinions about software, instead of just using it or not!


⁰: Self-loading cargo: airline industry slang for passengers.

shadowspar: cartoon of a developer sitting in a chair, reading a book, with back turned; speech bubble: "stacktrace or gtfo" (stacktrace or gtfo)
Monday, August 22nd, 2011 12:16

So this happened to swim by in my Twitter feed:

New Approaches To Designing Log-In Forms

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.

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 15:27

Dr AnnMaria DeMars, former judo world champion and hardcore statistics geek, who I've followed on twitter seemingly forever:

  • DrAnnMaria: If you're following me hoping to hear about business, statistics or programming you want @annmariastat
  • DrAnnMaria: I have two twitter accounts because most programmers don't care about conditioning for martial arts or matwork.
  • DrAnnMaria: On the other hand, with all the sexual harassment problems at conferences #OSCON maybe those programmers ARE following me here on purpose
shadowspar: Picture of Kurama lashing out with a rose whip (kurama - rose whip)
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 22:28

...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.)

shadowspar: Picture of Kurama lashing out with a rose whip (kurama - rose whip)
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 10:48

So Julian Assange has turned himself into the police and been arrested.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, said Assange's arrest is an attack on media freedom...

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.

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Friday, July 23rd, 2010 00:14

From this interview, passed along by [personal profile] badgerbag:

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.

shadowspar: Picture of Kurama lashing out with a rose whip (kurama - rose whip)
Monday, July 12th, 2010 17:55

Dudes are always wringing their hands and saying stuff like

I AM COMPLETELY BEWILDERED BY THE FACT THAT THERE ARE SO FEW WOMEN IN TECHNOLOGY

or

I CANNOT FATHOM WHY MORE WOMEN DO NOT GET INVOLVED IN STARTUPS
CLEARLY, AN IMPENETRABLE MYSTERY!

and then they post or retweet stuff like this:

<startupnorth> RT @hnshah: 5 ways engineers are like hot chicks http://kiss.ly/cfVvO8

Gee there, dudebros, I wonder whatever could be the problem?

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 12:55

I admit it. One of the best moments of my undergrad degree came when our small group of thesis students was bandying about topics. When I mentioned I was set on doing decompilation, there was a long, awkward silence. One of the other students, apparently speaking for the entire group, said "We wouldn't touch your research subject with a 10-foot pole."

As smugly optimistic as I was, though, my thesis on automated decompilation would never have seen the light of day without the work of Dr Cristina Cifuentes -- particularly her PhD thesis on Reverse Compilation Techniques.

Dr Cifuentes' research runs head-on into some of the most thorny theoretical problems of computer science -- problems like the Halting Problem, which define the limits of what computers can actually do. Amongst other things, she's also worked on binary translation, static analysis, and parallelization, topics that people sometimes shy away from because of their reputation for both practical and theoretical difficulty. But this work yields awesome real-life applications, like programs that find bugs for you by reading your source code, and holds out the promise of many more, like tools that can scan compiled binaries for security bugs, or general-purpose decompilers that can read in a binary originally written in C and 'decompile' it to Ruby source code instead.

I think we forget how many women were involved in pioneering work in the early days of computing (eg the ENIAC programmers) and how many are in the thick of pioneering work today. The hardcore research isn't just done by bearded guys in white lab coats -- women are pushing the boundaries and making the future of computing possible, too.


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.

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Friday, November 6th, 2009 14:08

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.

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Friday, October 16th, 2009 03:50

First off: since Skud's OSCON keynote, I've been following the Geek Feminism blog. I think you should too.


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.)

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Monday, September 28th, 2009 23:20

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... )
shadowspar: Picture of Kurama lashing out with a rose whip (kurama - rose whip)
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 09:08

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.