LibrePlanet 2010 day 3

22Mar10

Free network services – A discussion session led by Bradley Kuhn, Mako & Matt Lee : Libre.fm encouraged last.fm to write an API so they didn’t need to screen scrape; outcome of the network services story still unknown – netbooks without local productivity apps might now work, most users of network office apps are using them because of collaboration. We have a replacement for twitter – status.net, distributed system, but nothing like facebook [yet?]. Bradley says – like the original GNU problem, just start writing secure peer to peer network services to offer the things that are currently proprietary. There is perhaps a lack of an architectural vision for replacing these proprietary things: folk are asking how we will replace ‘the cloud’ aspects of facebook etc – tagging photos and other stuff around the web, while not using hosted-by-other-people-services. I stopped at this point to switch sessions – the rooms were not in sync session time wise.

Mentoring in free software – Leslie Hawthorne: Projector not working, so Leslie carried on a discussion carried on from the previous talk about the use of sexual themes in promoting projects/talk content and the like. This is almost certainly best covered by watching the video. A few themes from it though:

  • for anyone considering joining a community, they are assessing whether that community is ‘people like us’ – and for many people, including both women *and* men, blatant sexuality, isn’t something that fits the ‘people like us’ assessment. Note that this is in addition to offensive and inappropriate aspects of the issue.
  • respect is a key element here: respect your community, respect potential contributors, and don’t endorse (even silently) disrespectful behaviour
  • Codes of conduct might be a good idea
  • The lack of support in the community has for at least one project led to a complete loss of the women contributors to that project – and they are still largely lacking many years later.

We then got Leslies actual talk. Sadly I missed the start of it – I was outside organising security guards because we had (and boy it was ironic) a very loud, confrontational guy at the front who was replying to every statement and the tone in the room had gotten to the point that a fight was brewing.

From where I got back:

  • Check your tone
  • help people be productive in your community
  • cultivate creativity
  • know yourself
  • do not get caught up in perfectionism
  • communicate – both big stuff, but also just take the time to talk – how are you going, etc.
  • Share your mistakes
  • Guide don’t order
  • Recognition = Retention
  • Recognition = Delegation – its ok to let other people be responsible for stuff
  • http://bit.ly/MentorGuide
  • http://bit.ly/MentoringArticle

Chris Ball, Hanna Wallach, Erinn Clark and Denise Paolucci — Recruiting/retaining women in free software projects. Not a unique problem to women – things that make it better for women can also increase the recruitment and retention of men. Make a lack of diversity a bug; provide onramps – small easy bugs in the bug tracker (tagged as such), have a dedicated womens sub project – and permit [well behaved :)] men in there – helps build connections into the rest of the project. Make it clear that mistakes are ok. On retention… recognise first patches, first commits in newsletters and the like. Call out big things or long wanted features – by the person that helped. Regular discussion of patches and fixes – rather than just the changelog. CMU did a study on undergrad women participation in CS : ‘Lack of confidence preceeds lack of interest/partipation’. Engagement with what they are doing is a key thing too. ‘Women are consistently undervaluing their worth to the free software community’. ‘Its the personal touch that seems to make a huge difference’. ‘More projects should do a code of conduct – kudos to Ubuntu for doing it’ — Chris Ball.

I found the mentoring and women-in-free-software talks to have extremely similar themes – which is perhaps confirmation or something –  but it wasn’t surprising to me. They were both really good talks though!

And thats my coverage of LibrePlanet – I’m catching a plane after lunch :(. Its a good low-key conference, and well put together.

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