oscon: day 2

The opening talk about Processing was really cool. On Sunday, I’d talked with Schwern and Tom Limoncelli about women’s participation in computer science. Schwern mentioned some neat visual programming environments. I think that Processing seemed like something in that direction. I want to play with it!

The overcoming bias talk was pretty boring. The idea was good, but Robert Hanson didn’t really have the crowd with him. He said one thing that stuck out in my notes: “Private advantage but at a social cost”. It was nice that he spoke before the Microsoft guy.

So microsoft is launching an opensource portal/marketing site. Nat’s questions about where microsoft was going with it’s litigation really put him on the spot, and the guy didn’t give a real answer.

The Pirat Partiet guy was awesome! Rick Falkvinge started the Pirate party in sweden to encourage copyright reform. They’re going for 4% of voters in 2009 (i think!). Campaign contributions are unregulated in Sweden, so you can donate here.

Steve Yegge spoke last about branding. Then the keynote sessions were done!
I saw Amy Hoy’s When Interface Design Attacks talk. A great distillation of a lot of UX material. I learned a new word: satisfice. It’s what a user does when they can’t do what they really want to do – use the next best thing or give up.

After that, I went to the Mahara presentation by Penny Leach. Penny is the maintainer of the postgresql port of Moodle. The idea behind Mahara to maintain ePortfolios throughout a student’s education career. For example, there’s hooks for creating a CV and creating/sending cover letters to employers. I like the idea of tracking that type of thing automatically. I learned that my husband’s high school the high school my husband teaches at uses Moodle later. Ton of functionality, seems like a great product. The talk wasn’t well attended – I wonder if fewer university/education folks came to OSCON this year. Penny mentioned mochikit as a good javascript library.

oscon: day 1 (continued)

I also saw Larry Wall’s Perl 6 talk – i need to look up implicit list comprehension and DFA/NFA regex syntax. Lots of neat stuff, I wish Perl 6 were coming sooner.

Luke Kanies also gave a talk about Puppet. I thought it was great, but heard some negative stuff about it from someone else. I’m going to give it a try, but cfengine is my fallback plan.

oscon: day 1

This is from my notes.. no real organization.

First, I saw Tim O’Reilly do his radar talk. It seemed like a re-hash of some ideas about open data I’d heard him talk about before (last year?). His success factors for open source projects were: frictionless distro, collaborative development, freedom to build/adapt/extend and the freedom to fork.

He also mentioned something I’m interested in – getting more people involved in open source. He specifically mentioned mozilla => firefox and said that they “rearchitected for participation”. I imagine that the community took advantage of all four success factors, so that’s what he’s referring to, but I didn’t take any more notes on it.

He also mentioned memcached and hadoop as projects to watch.

The first session I attended was Josh Berkus’ Performance Whack-a-mole. He divided problem databases into three categories – Web (CPU-bound), Online Transaction Processing (CPU and/or I/O bound) and Data Warehousing (I/O bound). He also suggested that basic setup checks and configuration should take about an hour. A lot of common sense advice in one place, with quite a few tool suggestions I’m going to check out.

Next I attended the Open Design talk from the Chandler project. I really enjoyed this talk. I wish they would have had more time to discuss examples of their decision making process. Based on what I saw of Chandler, it seems like their methodology is really working. They have a lead designer (Mimi Yin) who has the final design decision making authority. They really spelled out that consensus is not required to move forward, and that voting is used to get a feel for what the voters think, not to make decisions. In design, I think that’s critical for maintaining a coherent design and direction. They said they may be releasing Chandler at the end of August. I took a lot more notes – I may post separately about this later.

I spent the rest of my time talking with people about women in open source, Perl and PostgreSQL (at the booth). The food was really good and they had beer most of the time in the exhibit hall. Good call organizers!

we need a hero

I spoke with a woman from a university that said she thought what we needed was a hero. Somebody that would inspire people outside our industry and rally the people inside it already. And they should still be living 🙂

I named a few possibilities – kc klaffy, Allison Randal, Evi Nemeth. If you’ve got others, leave them in the comments. Not sure I agree with the her, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

moving on from experiencing to changing the structure

I attended a “women in open source community ” BoF last night. I think that the intention for the BoF was good. But despite the efforts of the moderator, the discussion looped repeatedly on personal problems, and didn’t get very far into the meat of what we might really do to get more women into open source.

What if we looked beyond individual behavior and experience to the structures preventing women from participating?

Someone mentioned a recent study on a public university’s successful effort to increase female enrollment – presumably in a computer science program. We need information like this distilled from academic papers and organized as principles! Arm change-agents with facts and let them loose!

I think that our goal should aim for equal (50%!) representation across all computer-related fields. That is not going to happen without systemic change, or because a few people stop being jerks. It will only happen if the system that brings people into computer science and information technology puts a premium on gender equality.

sharing data

I’ve been watching the Nature Precedings feed..


The researchers studied re-used vs. original data in publications containing the word “microarray”. The Odds Ratio by Disease graph pointed toward greater reuse in Leukemia and Nutritional/Metabolic Diseases. Maybe because those diseases have been studied much longer? Or the scientists who study those diseases use the public resources more? I imagine there’s funding priorities and areas of research that are thought to be more promising than others. I’d love to see a follow up that explored the whys.

thoughts on seduce a woman today

What I know of Nat Torkington is that he’s generally funny, from Australia New Zealand and actively recruited women for talks for OSCON. A comment on a blog entry he made about “seducing a woman” highlights a long-running struggle in the tech community — how do women point out sexism or offense at humor in the tech community? This person chose to be anonymous, which is unfortunate. I think the way to change the tone of humor like this is to be direct and put your name on your objections.

I rolled my eyes when I read Nat’s blog entry, but I didn’t think of it as sexist — just a tortured analogy that wasn’t very funny (sorry, Nat). As with many gender-related issues, perception varies.

I’m glad that anonymous made their feelings known. And, Brenda probably gave the most effective (although not direct) critique – at least one that Nat responded to. It’s time that more of us ladies spoke up when we see something that’s subtly or overtly sexist being passed off as humor.

As Larry Gelbart, M*A*S*H producer, said “Most jokes state a bitter truth.” Let the people who are publishing know that we’re reading, and that we have senses of humor too.

women and ubuntulive


You have to look at the revision history to understand what is going on in this wiki entry. So, go ahead, go have a look.

Now, did you think, “What the fuck?”

I don’t think the gender problems are going to magically go away today, but holy crap, could you lay off the shopping advice? First, why would any self-respecting shopper look to UbuntuLive for that information? And second, if you’re going to title something “LinuxChix”, do a google search first so that you’re aware of the venerable organization by the same name and maybe link to it? And then read Helping women in Computing and Why we refuse to just live with it.