Tag Archives: drupal

Loss of virtue in a linkspam is irretrievable (12th December, 2010)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Drupal Voices 100: Jack Aponte on Diversity, Power and Privilege in Open Source Communities

Neville Park is a queer mixie nerd in Toronto. This post originally appeared at Wild Unicorn Herd.

An interview with Palante Tech‘s Jack Aponte (a. k. a. Angry Brown Butch) on, well, diversity in Drupal.

Background: Drupal is a kind of CMS (content management system); it’s a particularly powerful and versatile platform for building and managing websites. It is free and open source, which means that you don’t have to pay to use it, and anyone can help work on it. There’s a very large and international community of people who use and work on Drupal, and like the wider tech community, it’s dominated by white straight cis men. Open Source people, and Drupal people in particular, pride themselves on having a “doacracy”—a community that values getting stuff done above traditional authority. This could create a beginner-friendly, non-hierarchical environment of subversion and experimentation. In practice we just have white straight cis men getting SUPER DEFENSIVE at the suggestion that maybe they got where they are not only by the sweat of their brow, and shouting down any mention of patriarchy, racism, or any other systemic oppression when people run the numbers and get to wondering why there’s so little minority representation in Open Source.

There is a nice summary of the podcast at the link, and my transcript is below the fold. I’ve added links to give context to some of the references Jack and the interviewer make.

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If She Can Do It, I Can Too

Leslie Hawthorn has just made another huge career change and will begin life as a consultant shortly after speaking on FOSS mentoring in Turkey and accepting an award from the National Center for Open Source and Education. Oh yes, and some vacation, where the best coolers are going to be extremely necessary, they are helping out so no ones has to worry about anything but enjoying vacation, I sarted to look for a cooler on bestcooler.reviews so We can take one with us. :)

You can find her on identi.ca and Twitter.

A little over four years ago, I made a huge career change. While I loved talking to geeks all day, recruiting just wasn’t the right role for me. When Chris DiBona asked if I was interested in joining his team to help make Google Summer of Code happen for the second year, I was elated. I knew I had great organizational and project management skills. I knew I got along really well with programmers and loved to talk tech. I knew what the Summer of Code was – an awesome program to give jobs to students by giving them a chance to work on Open Source projects, and a great way for those projects to find new contributors. And I knew what open source software was in a general sense – everyone shares their code with everyone else. Sounded beautiful and idealistic. I was in!

What I didn’t know was, well, everything else. Sure, I used Firefox, but I was running Windows. I’d used GNOME about, oh, four years previously, but never to do anything but play music files and it wasn’t ever running on a computer I owned. I had never been on a mailing list before joining Google, and had never been on a mailing list outside the company. I hadn’t used IRC since high school. And did I mention that I don’t write code?

Now consider that the team I was joining consisted of the dude who used to talk about Linux on TV – oh yeah, and he’s now my boss – the then Chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, two of the lead developers of Subversion – those guys whose Poisonous People talk has more than 120,000 views on YouTube, and a dude who is an IP attorney in addition to being a compiler developer. A few months later, I’d be sharing a cube with the guy who literally wrote the book on Open Source software. No pressure, right?

Needless to say, I was intimated. Really intimidated. But I was also passionately excited about the chance to help people do good in the world, and that pushed me to get out there and get things done. I talked to some lawyers, knocked on the doors of some accounting types, wrote some documentation, kicked mIRC until I could figure out how to connect to Freenode, and created a channel called #gsoc. And the games began.

I spent the first few days hanging out, seeing who was there and trying to answer questions quickly and effectively. There were a lot of people in the channel who had participated in Summer of Code the year before talking about what a great program it was and how it really helped them become better coders, get a good job, and meet great new programmers for their projects. I knew I’d made the right choice in taking on this job. I also knew I had no idea what I was doing and that I was going to be found out for the Impostor I was at any second.

Suddenly, this amazing person burst into the channel, filled with praise for the program. I didn’t know who she was, but I surmised from her handle webchick that she was, well, a chick who worked on web stuff. She was infectiously enthusiastic about her work on Drupal, which I quickly Googled. I still didn’t know a Content Management System from a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but I quickly deduced that it was software that helped you make websites. Cool beans. I had played around with DreamWeaver a little bit back in the day. I could understand this stuff.

So I asked webchick if I was right and Drupal helps you create websites, figuring it was a stupid question but that I had to start learning sometime. She replied immediately telling me that I was right and that it was written in PHP – okay, good, I know what PHP is – and that she hadn’t worked on it before Summer of Code. I was astounded. I asked her to tell me more since I could only imagine that doing this kind of work required all kinds of experience, so she must had some really great classes at school or she wouldn’t have been able to learn so much so quickly.

To my surprise, she let all of us know that she had taken a few classes on web design at community college, but nothing that had really prepared her extensively for working on Drupal. She said that she’d been terrified of contributing to open source because it was just for geniuses but since she saw that Summer of Code was a program for students, she thought they’d be OK with someone who was a complete beginner. She’d been sucked in completely by Drupal and now spent morning, noon and night working on it. If I remember correctly, she’d already been hired by a Drupal consulting shop when we had that first fateful interaction.

I know webchick was just telling her story, but I can’t even begin to tell you how much what she said gave me confidence. I too attended community college and after walking through halls filled with Stanford PhDs for three years, I had a little bit of, um, degree shame. Sure, I graduated from Cal at the top of my class, but I only had an English degree and couldn’t possibly be as awesome as all those people around me who had only attended universities and had done advanced studies in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Hrm. Maybe not.

I walked away from that IRC chat feeling so inspired. I knew if webchick had been successful, I could be too. She had passion for her subject, unbridled enthusiasm and the willingness to share her experiences. I had all those things, too. If those were the indicators of success, I could make it work, even if I didn’t know a darn thing yet.

One year later, I was promoted to be manager of the whole Summer of Code program. I started traveling the world to share stories like webchick’s with people so that they would be just as inspired by the wonder that is participating in the FOSS community. I started inviting the public to Google to hear about all the great work being done by famous open source developers who’d joined the company. Two years later, I launched one of the most widely read developer blogs at Google soon after and kept it fed with regular content. With the help of webchick and an awesome team of mentors, I then went on to create and launch the world’s first global initiative to get pre-university students involved in open source development. I might have had zero experience then, but now I was making things happen.

Four years after that chat in IRC, webchick, a.k.a. Angela Byron, is now the maintainer for Drupal 7. Even if you don’t know what a CMS is, you’ll be impressed to know that the software that Angie is currently in charge of is what powers whitehouse.gov. Angie was the recipient of one of five Google O’Reilly Open Source Awards for Best Contibutor in 2008. Being able to share that stage with her and put the award figurine in her hands remains one of the most shining moments of my life.

If you’re intimidated, you’re not alone. Don’t let that stop you. We all have to start somewhere and FOSS people who seem like deities to you were all new at this once, too. If Angie can do it and I can do it, you can too. Cease procrastination and begin your application for Google Summer of Code 2010.

And remember, even if you fall flat on your face, at least you know you’re moving forward.

See you in #gsoc on Freenode.

Linux.conf.nz and DrupalSouth

Thanks to lots of people who encouraged me to submit talks and apply for money, and thanks to the sponsorship from linux.conf.nz and Google, I went to two conferences in New Zealand last week. For a week and a half I hung out with linuxchix, people from #geekfeminism, and Drupal folks. It was GREAT. I met a zillion people, gave three talks, and learned a lot.

Kelly picked me up from the airport on Saturday. The next day she and Daniel drove me and some friends all over the south end of the island. Sunday, I sneaked away from the welcome sessions and “how to give a talk” tutorials to visit the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, where I saw a lot of wet birds, fern trees, and a tuatara. There was also a historical display with an excerpt from the Diary of Laura Fitchett, an early British settler. It went like this: “Wet today. Still wet. Very wet. Could not dry the clothes. Too wet for laundry. Rained again.” Kind of like most of my visit to Wellington!

wellington blogger

On Monday, we had the Haecksen/Linuxchix mini-conference. Lana Brindley did a great writeup of it. I especially enjoyed Sara Falamaki’s “Happy Hackers, Happy Code” talk even though it made me cry a little bit to think that things might be so nice. Sara outlined some specific advice for good tools and processes for version control, knowledge management, task tracking, build system, testing systems, and development itself, and going for goals like code that improves by shrinking in size, while she threw candy with a wicked overhand at us for participation. Suggestions for great tools from the audience: Valgrind, whiteboards and markers, printf, virtualization, backups, bugzilla summary reports, google docs, RT, your mouth, nice commit messages, Firebug and Web Developer, good sys admins, and pastebin.

Lana and Sara at lunch: Lana and Sara

I gave my talk “Code of Our Own” which was really Advanced Feminist Solidarity Theory for Coders. We have named the problem, documented it a lot, and we have lots of “Women in Thingie” groups with overlapping memberships. We have some efforts at classes and mentoring. That’s great. What now? What do we need? What helps and what might be helpful to try? My thoughts here are mostly: let’s code together. In meetups, friendships, miniconferences, unconferences or open space, and so on.

My favorite bit is where I said how teaching programming to 11 year old girls is awesome but it’s not helping us, the ones doing the coding now and dripping out of the leaky pipeline, and when I report problems I face and then a bunch of guys go “Oh, well, I know the answer, let’s go teach some 11 year old girls” there’s no way I can argue with their awesome altruism because they’re doing a good thing, but they might as well have said “Sucks to be you, bitter old hag, we’ll just start over then with some tabula rasa infants.” Good luck with that; sounds like a recipe for repeating the same conversation for the next 30 years. It was nice to say a few outrageous crude things while then slipping back into constructive, positive, niceness and yet during both the mean-ass and the pollyanna moments, seeing so many women’s faces around the room nodding, smiling, and cracking up. So, the slides give you a feel for what I talked about, but if you want the full talk with all the jokes and asides and digressions, there is a Code of Our Own video on the Internet Archive which you can download. There will be videos of all the talks very soon from LCA.

Joh Clarke’s talk on security was hilarious and scary. Her point was that the sky has already fallen and you can’t assume anything is secure and we need to face that, somehow, without having the Howard Hughes learns about Germ Theory reaction. She managed to be scary, reassuring, and devastatingly wry all at once, with pictures of her cat breaking into various boxes.

Afterwards a bunch of us went to the Catalyst office where Joh works and worked on moving the geekspeakr.com site to a new server. Emma Jane, who is a freelancer and author of Front End Drupal, awesomely outlined all the things we would need to do on a whiteboard. It was great. She broke it down into a lot of steps so that lots of people could contribute and this also clarified everything to be done.

to do list for geekspeakr move

Emma Jane is also the person who knit the famous Drupal Socks.

Emma Jane's Drupal Socks

It struck me that there were an awful lot of steps to do this seemingly simple thing (as usual) and each step required a set of esoteric and non-obvious background knowledge. We needed sys admins. We had them! We needed people to fuck around on the command line installing and configuring things and moving things around into version control and making it work. (That was me and Angie, and it’s my particular skill.) We needed front end people to scoot blocks around and write themes! And people to document what we did! And we needed people to buy beer and do QA and do all the other things which I didn’t notice happening because I was installing and configuring. Yay!

Here are a bunch of us poking away at the server!


We got pretty far, but didn’t finish upgrading or theming. I’m probably going to go do the upgrade. Janis (who is usually a gcc hacker and who explained allpairs and Delta to me; they help her debug) did some QA on the site the next day. I was happy to be sharing a keyboard with Angie Byron who is a kick ass Drupal core developer.

Elky, Cat, Joh, and the Linuxchix Gentlemen’s Auxiliary were there doing stuff too! I ended up feeling like I would happily work with any of them, any time. They’re sensible! Smart! Nice! They get things done.

Here we are feeling tired and happy!


It was like Christmas – I hung out with kick ass open source people all day long, heard great talks, gave a talk and asked for more coding and development with other women, and then got to do that very thing with people I greatly admire!

I felt inspired to FOR SURE make it to the CodeChix meetup next time it happens in the SF Bay Area.

So, I have a lot more to say and will have to post several more times about linux.conf.au and about DrupalSouth. Stay tuned!

And a final thought about the joy of coding with others:

To be of use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Link Roundup Strikes Back (August 15th, 2009)