Tag Archives: ubuntu

Pink sparkly linkspam (November 16th, 2009)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

“Issues of Women in Open Source” for Ubuntu Open Week, and â€œWhy?”

Elizabeth Krumbach is a long time linux user and contributer who was elected to the Ubuntu Community Council last month. (Congrats Lyz!) These are some of her thoughts on the question, “Why are you involved with promoting Women in F/OSS?” (cross-posted from her blog).

Last week I did a presentation for Ubuntu Open Week on the Ubuntu Women Project covering some of the “Issues” that are involved in why many women feel discouraged within the community. Full logs of the session can be found here. Mackenzie Morgan followed up my session with one describing what the Ubuntu Women project is actually doing to address these concerns, full logs of her session are here.

Truly Mackenzie’s session was much more valuable than mine, and I’d like to do away with mine entirely when more people understand that there are challenges facing women who join F/OSS communities. Unfortunately each time we have one of these sessions we spend a considerable amount of time justifying the project to folks – why we exist and why we are so targeted toward women (rather than other groups who are poorly represented).

The sessions went well, the questions were good and engaging, and once again it’s nice to have such a supportive community.

After the session I was asked a question privately which seemed simple but really got me thinking:

“Why are you involved with promoting Women in F/OSS, did these groups actually help you? How?”

So to simply answer the second question first – yes, they absolutely helped me, I would never have made it this far without groups like Ubuntu Women and LinuxChix.

How did they help? I’ve wanted to write a long “How Women in F/OSS groups helped me” essay for quite some time now, but I never quite get around to it, so here’s the rough version:

When I started using Linux back in 2002 it was with significant help of my boyfriend at the time. I had a number of local friends who were supportive of my involvement, but I always felt like I was at least 20 steps behind all my friends when learning things, was too timid to ask questions in any public forums, and even with supportive friends at the local LUG meeting, I always felt a bit uncomfortable as one of the only women.

My boyfriend discovered LinuxChix in late 2002 and pointed me in that direction – suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore! In 2003 I worked with Samantha Ollinger to launch the Philadelphia chapter of LinuxChix so I could meet up with more local women using Linux. The local chapter and international LinuxChix lists provided a comfortable environment where we should share stories of success and frustration, get advice from each other on many issues, and simply geek out with other women who shared our interests. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have loads of fun with my male geek friends, but there is something vital to me about being able to commune with other women. Feeling less alone as a women in F/OSS made a huge difference for me.

In 2006 I got involved with Ubuntu Women, which has been the only specifically geared group I’ve been a part of for encouraging women within a project. It’s been an important “safe place” for me to discuss things I encounter within the project, bounce ideas off of others, answer questions that folks ask about expanding involvement of women in their projects. What I’ve gained from this project through the support of peers is the confidence to be heavily involved in the Ubuntu community. I’ve made friends through the project who I know I can drop a note to when feeling frustrated and need a sanity check (am I overreacting to be offended by $this? how should I confront $situation without upsetting others?).

So now that I’m full of confidence and successful in F/OSS, why am I still so involved? Why do I choose to spend my time with this?

I’m involved because I feel that having as many people involved with Ubuntu as possible is important and I have the expertise to focus on women as a group to recruit from.

I’m involved because it still helps me, and encouraging and supporting others is very rewarding for me.

I’m involved because my success is not a solitary story, there are several women involved with the Ubuntu community who will state that they’ve been helped by the project or those involved in the project who have learned lessons through involvement and have striven to be more welcoming and encouraging to women in their projects and LoCo teams.

I’m involved because I’ve watched women who felt they couldn’t contribute, who people assumed were “just at an event because they’re someone’s mother/sister/girlfriend” blossom into active members of their LoCo teams because someone spoke to them to find out their interests and talents and get them involved.

I am hopeful that lessons learned within the Ubuntu Women Project regarding support and encouragement will continue become more and more a part of the Ubuntu community. Whether we’re focusing on recruiting more women, more people in our local communities, educators, our grandparents or anyone else, I feel support and encouragement for new contributors of all kinds to the project will remain important to the project and community.

A linkspam stole my baby! (November 6th, 2009)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Mark Shuttleworth on diversity, during Ubuntu Open Week

Rick Scott is a Canadian geek who likes testing, writing, and philosophizing about software, and a regular GF commenter.

Ubuntu Open Week, a series of IRC presentations by Ubuntu community members, is winding down today. I sat in on one of the last sessions, “Ask Mark Shuttleworth” (sabdfl):

12:31 <@akgraner> <MarkDude> QUESTION how important is having a diverse group of contributors (women & minority folks) to solving Bug #1?
12:31 <+sabdfl> not especially, but it makes the project more interesting
12:31 <+sabdfl> next
12:57 <@jcastro> <MarkDude> FOLLOW-UP QUESTION – did you just say that primarily white dudes are able to address the solving of Bug #1? Women & minorities just make it more interesting? Please clarify.
12:58 <+sabdfl> MarkDude, if you think i can’t see a baited trap from this close, you’re mistaken
12:59 <+sabdfl> i said that having diversity in the project is a wonderful goal. but it’s no more a requirement to fix bug #1 than it is a requirement to do most other things. fundamentalism is something i despise, and that goes for overdone activism too.
12:59 <@jcastro> (that was the last question)

Bug #1 is the fundamental bug that Ubuntu is designed to address: “Microsoft has a majority market share”.)

Full logs will be available shortly on the Ubuntu Open Week wiki page.

Some of my best friends are linkspammers (2nd November, 2009)

  • The Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision 2010 awards, honouring “women making significant contributions in the areas of Innovation, Social Impact and Leadership” are taking nominations until December 11.
  • the f word looked at salaries of men and women in science, engineering and technology on October 30, Equal Pay Day.
  • David Eaves examines the alleged structurelessness of FLOSS through Jo Freeman’s The Tyranny of Structurelessness
  • Felicia Day is taking all the fun out of galaxies colliding.
  • Sun Labs has a technical report out on the success of their mentoring programs.
  • Matt Zimmerman, who writes here, was interviewed by Amber Graner, and mentions his goals regarding women’s participation in the Ubuntu community.
  • Mary Alice Crim reports on a workshop at the National NOW conference to explore feminists’ roles in shaping Internet policy: The Internet is a feminist issue
  • Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was called away from the SOAR conference (a professional event) by family needs, and she’s not buying any pressure for a mother not to complain about having to do that.
  • Casey Johnston (herself a woman gamer) wrote 10 Reasons NOT to Date a Girl Gamer aimed at heterosexual men. The wow_ladies community on LiveJournal tried to figure out what was up with it; tongue-in-cheek?
  • Australian video game review TV show Good Game replaced host Jeremy Ray with Stephanie Bendixsen and Ray alleged that his gender was the primary reason. Sarah Stokely had a look at the PR issues involved.
  • MindTouch has a list of the most influential people in Open Source (from an executive/business perspective) which doesn’t include any women. Mozilla Corporation’s chairperson Mitchell Baker (herself a woman) was not impressed at either women or Mozilla as a whole not appearing.

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

No business like linkspam business (21st October, 2009)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

A followup on the Shuttleworth incident

We’ve turned off comments on the original post; there were about 200 already and there’s only so much that can be said before people stop adding anything new.

I wanted to let you know that I received a private response from Mark Shuttleworth, in which he says that he has no intention of apologising for his comment. I know that a number of other people have approached him in person and by email, both before and after I posted my open letter, to ask him to consider the effects of what he said, and I’m still hoping that he will come around. (Despite numerous assertions to the contrary, I do prefer to see the glass as half full when it comes to these issues.)

Here are some other blog posts about Mark’s comments and their effects:

On Keynotes and Apologies by Chris Ball, Lead Software Engineer for One Laptop Per Child:

Well, I was at the keynote too, and was paying attention, and it turns out that even with context applied, someone who talks about “explaining to girls what we actually do” when talking about free software really is saying something sexist, and buying into the noxious stereotype that women can’t be developers or tech-savvy; that they’ll never be a real part of our group, even if a few of them are brave enough to try in the face of other people dismissing their efforts (and Mark certainly isn’t the first to have done that).


Finally, I want to repeat that for me the real shame here isn’t that Mark said something unfortunate — we can all say something unfortunate when we’re speaking in front of a large crowd for a long time, myself certainly included. What’s a shame is that it doesn’t take a superhuman dose of empathy to give a short and sincere apology for an obviously harmful joke afterwards, yet we don’t have one yet. To make matters worse, it’s the second time in a few months that someone’s implied that women are people who lack technical knowledge during a conference keynote, and it seems to be the second time we aren’t getting any kind of apology for it. We’re left to conclude that the biggest heroes in free software — the people who speak for and about us to the world — don’t care much about whether women feel invited to or excluded from free software, or how they could use their power to affect that.

Sexism debate by Adam Williamson, Redhat developer and QA community manager:

If we’re going to accept the big — yet paradoxically easy, because it’s abstract — proposition that sexism in F/OSS exists and should be tackled by people modifying their behaviour, we’re going to have to start actually listening when people start trying to point out exemplary instances of the kinds of behaviour that are problematic and need to be changed, rather than taking each example in isolation and trying to pick it apart or denigrate its individual significance.

Hide of a rhino or constitution of a psychopath by Brenda Wallace, Statusnet developer and one of the organising team for this year’s linux.conf.au:

Other survival techniques include changing project – I know of women who contribute actively to one distro, then change, then change again – in the hopes of finding a place where they can contribute their skills without frequent grunching. Yesterday’s “linux is hard to explain to girls” comment by Mark Shuttleworth is an example of The Grunch, and I know it’s caused more than one ubuntu contributor to start looking for another project. It’s the (prominent) straw that broke the camel’s back.

And it all ties up into the “Harming the Community” speech – that by reporting any incident, then you, the reportee, are doing harm to open source. I’m expecting some comments here along that line. I don’t agree with you, but could you please spend half as much energy helping ensure these incident don’t happen again as you spend telling the reportee how wrong she is to report it. Thanks.

People have been asking for transcripts or video; unfortunately those aren’t available. However, a number of people who were present have blogged, tweeted, dented, or commented about Mark’s keynote showing that they were angered or annoyed by it. (Others who were present have confirmed that Mark made the comment, but have said it didn’t bother them; at least there is no doubt that he did make the comment about explaining Linux to girls.)

Emma Jane Hogbin, Ubuntu user and Drupal contributor, first dented about it here while watching the live stream:

Mark! “Explaining to girls what we actually do.” WHATTHEFUCK!! RMS, anyone? #linuxcon

Chris Ball, commented here with his experience:

I was there and was annoyed by this. It’s true that it was said in quieted tones, imitating self-deprecating embarrassment. I think a simple apology for saying something that unintentionally excluded women would be sensible, and I’d applaud Mark for doing it.

An anonymous commenter, at comment #39 on Chris’s blog post:

I’m male. I was there, at the keynote, and I heard the comments. I found them both tacky, and I could tell that the women sitting next to me found them even more tacky.

Matt Zimmerman, CTO of Canonical, was present and audibly said “WTF?” from his seat in the audience, then mentioned it on IRC. His was one of the early reports that led to my letter. In email over the weekend (quoted with permission) he said:

I was there at Mark’s keynote, and have spoken to various people in the community about it as well as to Jono and to Mark himself.

My position is that Mark made a mistake in what he said. This mistake doesn’t make him evil, but it does warrant a response on his part. There’s some very good advice on http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/So_you_made_a_mistake about what to do in this situation which I hope that Mark will consider.

Women in the community who have concerns, questions or advice regarding this issue are welcome to contact me directly.

(ETA: Matt has now blogged about the subject here.)

Matt also has an excellent blog post on the subject of backlash from the last go-round, Backlash: feminism considered harmful, which is recommended reading for anyone taking part in this discussion:

We have a problem in the way that women in free software are regarded and treated. If this is news to you, I encourage you not to take my word for it, but read what women in the community are saying about it. Ask women you know about their experiences.

What I want to discuss here, though, is how people are received when they speak up about this, for example by criticizing sexist behavior they have observed. Often, the problem is denied, the critic themselves is personally attacked, and the victims are blamed. In short, there is a backlash.

This is probably the time to reiterate that Geek Feminism has a comment policy that says, in part:

We welcome discussion that encourages and supports women in geek communities. […] If you join the discussion here, we assume you are either a feminist, or want to learn more about feminism. If you are new, we recommend that you read some background material. A good starting point is the Geek Feminism Wiki, especially Resources for men. […] Comments that are anti-feminist, abusive, creepy, derogatory, or which add nothing to the conversation will be deleted on sight.

I’d also like to remind everyone that the correct English term for female, adult humans is “woman”. Thank you.
EDIT: Video now available

  • “A release is an amazing thing; I’m not talking about the happy ending..”: 3:02
  • “Your printer, and your mom’s printer, and your grandma’s printer”: 35:30
  • “We’ll have less trouble explaining to girls what we actually do” at 35:55

Thanks to Chris for taking the time to find the timestamps.

Open Letter to Mark Shuttleworth

COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED ON THIS POST. There is a followup post here.

Another conference, another sexist comment in a keynote speech by a leader in the open source community. And September was going so well!

I just sent the following to Mark Shuttleworth, founder and leader of the Ubuntu Linux project.

Hi Mark,

I’m writing to you as a woman who has been involved in Linux and open source for more than 15 years, and who has been very involved in discussions around women in open source of late; I recently keynoted OSCON and Atlanta Linux Fest on the subject, and I also run the Geek Feminism wiki (http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/) and blog (http://geekfeminism.org/).

I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make it to LinuxCon this year; I hear it’s a pretty good event. I’ve been listening with some interest to people’s reports of what’s going on there, and this afternoon I heard from multiple sources about your keynote, in which you referred to our work in Linux as being “hard to explain to girls”.

I wanted to bring this up because I think what you said in that talk was pretty dismissive of the skill and dedication that many women have already brought to Linux, not only as designers and documenters (which I gather you mentioned in your talk) but as coders, release managers, sysadmins, and more — and of those who might be interested in the future.

2009 is shaping up to be a watershed year for women in open source. We have seen numerous high profile incidents where men have made remarks in conference presentations which have dismissed, marginalised, or upset women; we’ve seen an increase in discussion on blogs, mailing lists, and twitter/identica; many conferences have invited speakers (including myself) to keynote on the subject of inclusivity and diversity; and a number of efforts towards recruiting and supporting a more diverse open source community have been launched. In light of the attention the subject has been getting of late, your comment at LinuxCon seems oblivious at best, and only serves to further damage the Linux community’s reputation.

I’d like to invite you to think about the message you’re sending to women in the Linux community, and, if you didn’t mean to convey the message that we’re technical illiterates and hard to educate, consider apologising publicly.


Kirrily Robert

Just a note to new readers here at GF.org: we have a comment policy that you should read before commenting.

COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED ON THIS POST. There is a followup post here.

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome

This is only the second blog I’ve written for, the other being my personal blog.  I’m still getting the hang of it, and look forward to learning a great deal from the other contributors here.  I’m excited to see how quickly things are picking up, and grateful to Skud for inviting me here.

After quietly using free software for some years, I became personally involved with the free software community when I joined the Debian project in 1999.  Through my work in Debian, I met and collaborated with developers of many other free software projects, and became a founding member of the Ubuntu project in 2004.  I presently work for Canonical as Ubuntu CTO.

Earlier this year, I began writing about problems affecting women in the free software community, inspired in part by friends in the Debian Women and Ubuntu Women projects.  Along the way, I have found the geekfeminism wiki to be a valuable resource in exploring feminism, and have tried to help improve it with references and information from my own experiences.  I have never lived as a woman, and have only very basic knowledge of feminist history, theory and ideology, and so am conscious of being out of my depth at times here.

I hope that by being a part of this conversation, I can help to promote higher standards of behavior and dialog in geek communities, especially in free software, which is my passion.  I would like to see more men listening, questioning themselves and their peers, and recognizing the necessity of change.  Many discussions about women in geekdom seem to revolve around changing women to bring them into the community: inspiring them, instructing them, converting them.  Instead, I think we need to focus on changing our community, to make it a place where women are welcome, to stop excluding and driving away women who are already interested.  This begins with changing ourselves, and setting an example for others.