AdaCamp day 1: Allies workshop, OPW, The likeability paradox and depression/activism

This is a recap of my first day at AdaCamp SF. My first post in this series was about the opening reception.

Allies Workshop

I started the day with the 2 hour Allies workshop. Valerie Aurora led this session, with the intention to train a number of new people on how to give the workshop. I took a ton of notes, so here goes, without much editing:

The presentation starts with 15 minutes of introductory slides, which are Creative Commons licensed. We answer the question “why is men fighting sexism important?” There’s a visualization at the start of the number of women involved in FOSS (not many – 2%) and Wikipedia (slightly more, but still not many). We got sidetracked on a slide that had a bit of jargon on it – introducing the idea that we don’t have a gender binary, but for the purposes of the discussion today, “man” will mean “cis white male”, as that’s typically who will be participating in the allies workshop.

I failed to take notes on this (probably because I was intensely paying attention!).. There was a part about the purpose of speaking up. When you decide to speak up about sexism, you’re often not doing so to educate someone who has made a mistake, or is being a jerk. You’re helping a group set a boundary and showing everyone listening in what is ok and not ok. Super important point for me!

There’s a reminder to not be scared of the discussions about to happen. They will be uncomfortable possibly awkward, and that’s ok. When men speak out about sexism they do not get the same responses that women do. They are often publicly supported and privately criticized — the opposite of what happens to many women. The workshops will be a 7-minute discussions, followed by summaries and reflections to the group. These discussions are the times to ask questions, even seemingly foolish questions. Val asks that everyone respond authentically (my word, not hers) when questions are asked. This is a safe place for Allies to find the answers to difficult problems.

Then we went into some example scenarios. We did three scenarios that were prebaked and then one that a participant brought up. I’ll save my notes on these discussions for another time. I really enjoyed the time I spent on this, and learned quite a bit from my group.

The Likeability Paradox

In the book Lean In, there’s a section about the difficulty of being liked vs being respected when you are a woman leader. This discussion was by far the best large-group of the day for me, and extremely well-moderated. I wrote down lots of phrases: bossy, “risk theater”, damning with faint praise, competition between women == disdain, acceptable level of emotional discourse, the difference between “earning respect” and “earning like”, likeabliity == emotional catering, gendered insecurity about a woman’s place, the amount of time it takes to earn respect vs first impression likeability, orgs maximize stability by ignoring these kinds of problems.

There was the start of a great discussion about dog whistle adjectives, adverbs and verbs that subtly and not-so-subtly remind women of their role and place. Are there words we can choose to describe “aggressive” behavior, for example, that are less gendered and more fair to both men and women? Example was asking an employee to “be more aggressive”, when what the manager really meant was they wanted more “decisiveness”. Another person said they started using “inspire” instead of “convince” in their activist work.

There was a short discussion asking “what is respectibility” and how do we unpack that term. This brought up some experiences people have had with being questioned consistently about their qualifications — “the veracity of contribution is questioned” and “what has ‘this woman’ ever done for this community?” Another comment was that by speaking less as a manager, and “planting seeds that employees then run with and come to the same conclusion” a woman had found it much easier to get her employees to do what she wanted. There was quite a bit of discussion about how problematic recommending “speak less” is, even if it is an effective tactic. Upon reflection, I think what was problematic was the framing, rather than the management tactic. Men who are managers clearly use this tactic as well, and it is effective.

Later, Sumana tweeted a link to this piece in Politico about Jill Abramson.

Depression and activism

I mostly came to this session for tips from those in attendance. Here’s what I wrote down:

  • Ask for a big chunk of time off to recharge
  • Structure time for fun
  • Only work when you really want to — give yourself permission to relax when you feel like crap!
  • Consider flipping your “alarm” system to management – start talking about how busy you are when you’re at 70% capacity, rather than 150%!
  • Be selfish with your time and energy

Internal strategies:

  • Try cognitive behavioral therapy (there are great books: Mind over mood, Panic attack)
  • Flip negative self talk, going even so far as to rewrite personal stories in the best possible light

IBM had suicide prevention training for new folks working on-call. A hacker training school has a weekly 2-minute “talk about your life” time.

At AdaCamp this weekend – reception & plotting for the imposter syndrome workshop

I flew to San Francisco yesterday to join 200 women and allies at AdaCamp. This is the third Ada Camp I’ve been part of, and it’s been wonderful to see the event evolve, get quite a bit bigger and turn into a place where I meet coworkers and like-minded nerdy women in an unabashedly feminist space.

I stopped by Heroku before heading to the reception, to meet up with @cathynalee and see my buddies at Heroku Postgres. After a round of a hilarious card game where you fight rounds to the death (with dice of course) with strange heros (mine was a Barbarian) and acquire coins to win, I headed off to the Google SF offices for our reception.

I’d never been to the space before. The view was pretty great.


Many, many old friends were there. Having the opportunity to sit and mingle and be silly for a couple hours was great for calming me down, and wonderfully restorative to be able to just relax with friends I work on so many difficult problems with, week after week. I also saw several friends from Portland, who I don’t see often enough at home. I ran into Sarah Sharp, who gave me the stats on her work with the Gnome Outreach Program for Women and the Linux Kernel. In short: In 13 days, 374 patches were submitted, and 137 patches were accepted. Six women were accepted into this round of OPW. Fantastic work on the part of the Linux Kernel contributors and all the women who applied.

I also got to mingle with hackerspace founders from Seattle and San Francisco. I’m just a supporter of hackerspaces, rather than a founder, so I felt a little bit like a fangirl joining their conversations. I also met the creator of Hate Map, a sentiment analysis heat mapping tool.

And, I met a fellow coworker from Mozilla for the first time and we chatted about PyLadies, PyStar and grassroots education efforts for adult, beginner programmers. And then another woman joined us and we veered off and talked about Texas, how insane the advisory system is in high schools that steer women away from tech and science classes “to keep balance” in the girls lives (!!??!?!) and learning to drive as an adult.

As the party wound down, I met with some organizers of an imposter syndrome workshop. My advice to women who feel like they’re frauds: pick some badass skill to acquire and spend a couple days mastering the basics. For me, my eyes were opened to the power of badassness and the confidence that it inspires when we taught PyLadies how to use git. Several of the women who have taken these classes have come back to me with stories of impressing their coworkers, getting jobs and overall just feeling like they belonged in tech circles and discussions because they could confidently talk about git workflows.

Overall, great conversations and I’m looking forward to more amazing ones over the next two days.

FrOSCon: Mistakes were Made: Education Edition talk slides and notes

I just finished giving my keynote at FrOSCon, and am pasting the notes I spoke from below. This was meant to be read aloud, of course. Where it says [slide] in the text is where the slides advance.

Update: My slides are now available on the FrOSCon site.

FrOSCon – Mistakes Were Made: Education Edition


Thank you so much for inviting me here to FrOSCon. This is my first time visiting Bonn, and my first time enjoying Kölsch. I enjoyed quite a lot last night at the social event.

Especially, I would like to thank Scotty and Holgar who picked me up at the train station, Inga who talked with me at length on Thursday night. All the volunteers who have done a terrific job making this conference happen. Thank you all so much for a wonderful experience, and for cooking all the food last night!

And I promised to show off the laser etching on my laptop I had done here by the local hackerspace. I come from the PostgreSQL community, so I got an elephant etched into the laptop. It only costs 10 euro and looks awesome.


I’ve also made a page of resources for this talk. I’ll be quoting some facts and figures and this pirate pad has links to all the documents I quoted.

For those of you from countries other than Ireland, Great Britain, United States, German and Turkey – if you know where to get a copy of computer science curriculum standards for your country, please add a link. Right at the top of this pirate pad is a link to another pirate pad where we’re collecting links to curriculum standards.


And finally, this talk is really a speech, without a lot of bullet points. So, the slides will hopefully be helpful and interesting, but occasionally I will be showing nothing on a slide as I speak. This is a feature, not a bug.


For the past few years, I’ve been giving talks about mistakes, starting with problems I had keeping chickens alive in my backyard. Here’s a map of my failures. Scotty is familiar with the video that is online that tells the whole story of how all these chickens died.

Next, I talked about system administration failures – like what happens when a new sysadmin runs UNIX find commands to clean up — and delete all the zero length files, including devices, on a system. Or how to take down a data center with four network cables and spanning tree turned off. Here’s a tip: it really only takes first cable.
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Europe’s open source advantage

I had this phrase “europe’s open source advantage” rolling around in my head Friday as I helped pack 1500 conference swag bags. We had a team of at least twelve people standing and seated in an assembly line for two hours to complete the task.

And this is what always happens at the volunteer-run free and open source conferences. I was told that somewhere around 70 volunteers would help out today, and it’s felt like easily twice that many people have been wandering around and pitching in today.

After we were done, the woman pictured above, brought conference-themed cookies that she bakes every year for the organizing team.

Attendance at FrOSCon is estimated at 1500. FOSDEM is estimated at about 5000. Chaos Communication Congress had an attendance of 4230 in 2008. All three are volunteer organized, focused on free software, and software freedom (although CCC is also about hacking, security and politics, many people I know go to 2 or more of these events).

FrOSCon has been around for seven years, inspired into creation by the organizer’s trip to FOSDEM, another terrific free and open source conference in Brussels, Belgium. What struck me at FOSDEM, is the same feeling I’m having here in Köln/Bonn.

It’s a privilege to be here. Organizers are excited and smiling and relaxed. Speakers feel obligation to take controversial positions — like I’ve heard more than once in the last 24 hours that “if you value freedom, you won’t buy Apple products.” Also: “What do I care about patents? I live in Europe.” And as I look around, I’m one of maybe 5% of people with a Mac laptop. (Far more people have iPhones.)

I think about our conferences in the USA, and we could learn some things. Both in terms of attendance and in terms of our vision. On the point of where exactly we are losing track of the activist spirit clearly on display here… maybe it has to do with our proximity to Silicon Valley, where I was recently told “charitable giving here is often in [the] form of angel investing.”

We don’t seem to feel an obligation to volunteer and create these large general, self-sustaining conferences. We certainly have large commercial conferences, and smaller generalist conferences. SCALE I think is one example of a community that’s created a sustainable community. And I’ve heard SE-LinuxFest is growing very quickly. So maybe we’re at a turning point?

I’m giving a keynote tomorrow about computer science education. What I’m really going to talk about is computational thinking. It’s a relentless decomposition of problems, algorithms for problem solving and the practical application of those ideas – in code or not.

That’s the kind thinking I believe leads some of us from “free as in freedom” for software to the value judgements about individual hardware purchases. Or, sometimes it leads us to find space in our communities for people who exist somewhere along the freedom spectrum. :)

I’ve had a chance to catch up with old friends, and make more than a few new ones. Mostly I’m looking forward to tonight’s BBQ, even if it rains. Henrik tells me that it’s what sets the whole tone for FrOSCon. People coming together to eat and drink and get to know one another over a shared feeling of belonging, out from behind their screens. And also to be openly critical of the ideas, organizations and products that threaten the foundations of free software.

Activism in a giant, hierarchical bureaucracy: Lessons from a consultant to the millitary

My favorite talk about activism and behavior change at OSCON 2012 came from an unexpected source: Kane McLean, part of the Strategy & Communications Group at BRTRC Technology Research Corporation and currently works supporting the Under Secretary of the Army at the United States Army Office of Business Transformation.

This talk blew my mind for a number of reasons:
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Where to find me at #LCA2012

I’m going to be pretty busy while in Melbourne and Ballarat for the next 10 days.

Here’s my itinerary:

There’s a rumor that Stewart Smith and I might do a Q&A about databases in the cloud. If it happens, it will involve lots of pessimism and swearing.

Drop me an note if you want to meet up! I’ll be in Ballarat until early Friday morning.

Then I fly back to LA to give a keynote at SCaLE that Sunday (blog post about that coming).

Headed to PgConf.EU

I’m headed to Amsterdam for PgConf.EU and very excited for my very first European postgres Conference.

I’m giving two talks – Managing Terabytes, and Mistakes Were Made. Both are cautionary tales about the things that one can do terribly wrong with database management, and system operations management. My goal with these talks is to start a conversation about what we can learn from failure.

I encourage everyone to share their stories about what fails. Not only are they great “campfire stories” for entertainment, but they help us all learn faster, and they teach us what ultimately works when everything is failing.

In the same vein, UpdatePDX is putting on another “tales of failure” set of short talks the following week back in Portland. I’ll be leading the charge with a short story of my own, followed by at least two other tales of failure.

Postgres Open: next year (!), resources, video

Postgres Open is over!

I wanted to share a few resources, and remind attendees to fill out our survey. I really appreciate the detailed comments I’ve been getting! Keep them coming.

I wanted to specially thank our program committee:

Robert Haas
Josh Berkus
Gavin Roy
Greg Smith

They were the people who put together and edited the website, found sponsors, recruited speakers, voted on talks, gave talks and tutorials and executed the many tasks needed to make the conference a success. We plan to make key members of the Postgres community part of the operation of the conference going forward. We’re really just emulating the way that PgCon is run.

I have some more thoughts about what makes a conference “community-operated”, and once my budget numbers are settled, I’m going to share with you what running the conference costs in terms of my time, and in terms of dollars to operate. It’s important to both understand the costs involved, how much of my time is required and what that means for you as either a sponsor, speaker, attendee or volunteer supporting what we are doing.

NEXT YEAR: September 17-19, 2012

I’m pleased to announce that next year’s conference for September 17-19, 2012 at the Westin-Michigan Ave. So mark your calendars now!

The conference will continue to be operated as a non-profit, with proceeds going toward operation of the following year’s event, and a very small percentage going to Technocation, Inc – our fiscal sponsor and a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to developing educational opportunities and resources for software professionals.

We had fantastic support from our sponsors this year, and hope to expand that next year.

In particular: 2ndQuadrant, EnterpriseDB, Heroku and VMWare’s support were instrumental in pulling this event together. We really only started planning in May. It feels good to now have a whole year ahead of us!

With greater sponsor support, we can help fund some of the things that attendees asked for like: soda (which costs $8/soda – I feel as though we should get some kind of gold plating for this), conference tshirts, and a closing party.

Please get in touch if you or a company you know is interested in sponsorship for 2012!


Speakers are uploading or linking their slides to the PostgreSQL wiki. If the slides you’re looking for aren’t there, please ping the speaker or me.

Streaming Video:

Streaming content will be available for about 30 days.

I will be getting all the video on flash drives this week. My plan is to upload it to either vimeo or youtube. I don’t really have the resources to provide individual copies of the videos, but if we find a location for raw data upload, I’ll pass that along to you all.