It’s not just Noirin.

I meant to write something funny, insightful and biting. But honestly, I’ve lost my sense of humor at the moment. So, here’s your trigger warning about discussing rape, statistics and slut-shaming if you want to stop reading now.

What’s happened is that Noirin was sexually assaulted. And then she named the person who assaulted her.

I’m lucky enough to have never been assaulted at a conference. I can barely imagine the hurt and frustration, because the people who attend the conferences I run or attend are my friends, people I trust, and the violation feels unforgivable. This thought brings me to tears because of the time and energy that I have put into the last six years as a volunteer: creating conferences, giving talks and loving being part of a global community of hackers.

Unfortunately, I know women who have been assaulted. With each day that passes since Noirin’s disclosure, I find out about more women who never told anyone about an assault. I’m very glad that Noirin went to the Atlanta police.

Some facts:

  • According to the US Department of Justice, 127,052 people reported being sexually assaulted or raped in 2009. From 2000 to 2009, the victimization rate from this study went from 1.2 down to 0.5. Yay us!
  • According to the US Department of Justice, only 39% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported in 2004 to law enforcement officials (Page 106, table 91). That pretty much sucks.

And why is it that people don’t report these crimes?

Well, there was a survey recently by the Haven group that has some interesting, if disturbing conclusions. There’s been a lot of coverage of it — the BBC for example.

One appalling quote:

The survey also found more than one in 10 people were unsure whether they would report being raped to the police…

And why won’t people report?

The main reasons were being too embarrassed or ashamed (55%), wanting to forget it had happened (41%) and not wanting to go to court (38%).

So, reader, what can we do about this?

If you encounter someone who has been assaulted, support them! You’re not the police, you’re not a court of law — it isn’t your job to put anyone on trial. What you can do is be understanding, and help the woman report the incident to police.

Also, publicly voice your support. You can simply thank someone like Noirin for their bravery in coming forward, and leave it at that. Valerie Aurora wrote a supportive blog post with the headline “It’s not just Noirin.” You’re welcome to do that too.

There’s an undertow of disgust in the horrific comments I’ve read on Reddit, Norin’s own blog (and wow – I can’t say I’ll have the same bravery if the trolls ever come after me), and in private. It’s utterly painful to read, exhausting and terrifying. To be called a cunt for speaking about one’s experience. Wow. What year is this?

I, for one, am so happy that Noirin had the strength to write so clearly about her experience, and to say what I believe: “It is everyone elseโ€™s job to avoid assaulting me”.

One comment that sticks in my head from Hacker News:

We as the technology community need to make sure it’s not a “dark alley” for anyone, for everyone’s sake.

And for the women who are assaulted: there is no fucking way that it is their fault.

Last week: to Maine for a wedding

I was in Maine last week for the first time, attending the wedding of Scott’s youngest uncle Dwight, and last member of his generation of Deckelmanns to get married, and Kevan.

I took a few photos, made a couple of the family cakes (Viennese Speckled Sponge Cake), helped out with all sorts of last minute preparations and had a great time with everyone.

Twenty of us travelled to Maine for the wedding, and we all stayed in a farmhouse sitting near a pond, and overlooking an inlet leading to the ocean. Walls were paper thin, and most of us slept dormitory style, and we shared a single shower between us all. It was beautiful, and the weather was perfect for the wedding – 72F and a slight breeze.

Now I’m in NYC for a few days before heading down to Atlanta for Grace Hopper.

Foocamp 2010: lovely, expectant, reflective

This has been sitting in my edit queue for too long… here goes.

So, I was invited to Foocamp this year. Back in February, I attended KiwiFoo at the invitation of Nat Torkington. I realize now (sorry, Nat!) that I never blogged about going there. I have some rough notes around that I may try to edit down.

I’ll avoid any direct comparisons for a moment, and just talk about what it was like to dive into a slice of Silicon Valley, dislocated into the countryside for a weekend.

When I arrived, I felt immediately at home, welcomed and appreciated. Sara Winge was so helpful and easy-going about the Tesla Coil Josh brought. (Thanks for the ride, Josh!) I spent a lot of evening time educating people about avoiding touching the sparks (it may be a pretty toy, but it is in fact a dangerous one!) and also playing around with a metal glove that was rigged up so you could get a bit closer in to the coil.

I spent a couple delightful hours considering claude glass with Roberta Cairney. Over and over, I absorbed the positive energy tumbling out of Sumana. Once again, I spoke with Kiwis whose humor and affectionate swearing reminded me of home.

I held one session – about forgetting and the ethics of shifting our culture to assume everything may be on your permanent record, and the ways in which people try to opt out or game the system. I was surprised and overwhelmed by the people who attended. Rita King, Scott Berkun, Biella Coleman and danah boyd were all part of the discussion and I was able to talk about ideas I’ve had tumbling around in my head for years. I believe sysadmins/devops must have conversations about the ethics of the default choices made by developers around configuration and long-term management of log data. People asked provocative questions, and we had a real debate about the ethics. It was a wonderful experience and I came up with at least one good idea that I hope Jesse Robbins and I are going to act on together.

I also ran into several people who are just starting to work on user group and community issues in their geographic areas. Seattle came up over and over – and I’m looking forward to helping Ben Huh and the open gov folks who want to do grassroots organizing in their tech communities. I also met some amazing women there, and hope that we’re able to continue our discussions about business and tech in the future.

I camped, and was in a tent under the stars, and early morning fog. I enjoyed running into a fellow PostgreSQL community member, Paul Ramsey, among the early risers.

Apart from the immediate things to collaborate on, and an incredibly long list of new ideas and connection points, I came away inspired and mentally refreshed. I relished the relative lack of device obsession. The people that I wanted to have conversations with tended to have put their devices away for a few hours, and were focusing on the people in front of them.

The Ignite talks were my favorite talks. Jake Applebaum‘s meditation on wikileaks was particularly inspiring, reminding me to seek out opportunities to change the world for the better.

Starting at Emma

Today, I start at Emma.

I have some clues about what I’ll be up to – working on some big PostgreSQL databases, tearing into the infrastructure and discovering what makes their small company tick. Emma’s work with small businesses, and a focus on humane communication and consensus building completely drew me in.

And I’m looking forward to riding my bike everyday over on the office on Burnside!

Change in the air

On Tuesday, I’m headed off to PgCon, for three days of intense PostgreSQL conferencing. This conference is PostgreSQL’s major developer (and end user!) conference of the year, held in Ottawa. I’m looking forward to seeing old and new colleagues, spending a day in the developer’s meeting, and hopefully sharing some new projects.

I’m also leading the charge on the lightning talks! If you’d like to give one, find me at the conference, and we’ll see what we can do.

Finally, if you want up-to-date info about what’s happening at the conference, have a look at my twitter list for Postgres. (Right now, looks like we’re trying to track down Oleg and Teodor in the #ashcloud!)

Also, today is my last day at End Point. I’ve really enjoyed my time working for a fantastic PostgreSQL support company. I highly recommend their services – and two members of the team will be presenting at PgCon – Greg Sabino Mullane and Josh Tolley.

I’ll be taking a new position next month, and really looking forward to a few new challenges. I’m definitely staying in Portland, and continuing to work with Postgres.

If you’re headed to PgCon, find me in Ottawa and I’ll tell you all about it!

Speakers workshop at LibrePlanet next week!

I’m headed off to Boston (and then NYC!) next week for three days of free software love at LibrePlanet, March 19-21.

While there, I’ll be giving a speaker’s workshop – how to give talks at technical conferences. There’s not really a magical formula, just lots of tips and things to practice that will help you not only give great talks, but find excellent places to give those talks, be prepared for speaking to any size crowd, and have a good time while you do it.

I started giving talks at conferences about five years ago, and have been running my own conferences for three years. I still get the butterflies when I get up in front of people, but I’ve got a whole kit of strategies I now use to deal with it.

The workshop is scheduled for 3:30-5:30pm, and I’m sure we’ll all head out for dinner and conversation right after.

I’ve also got one free pass to the conference left, so leave a comment if you’ll be in the area and can use the pass.

Also, I’ll have some incredibly profane free software advocacy stickers on-hand to share. We’re free software activists, but we can still have fun, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

Why you should go to LCA 2011


I returned from LCA 2010 on Sunday with an ecstatic grin, and tons of projects to work on for the rest of the year. I was lucky enough to have End Point send me to New Zealand! I knew a few of the organizers, and had high expectations. LCA totally surpassed them all.

Next year, LCA will be held in Brisbane, Australia. You should really go.

I’ll break it down for you:

* Content

The talks were really good. People went out of their way to talk about the technical issues they are facing without sugar coating it, dumbing it down, or resorting to lists of features.

Ted Ts’o‘s talk on EXT4 development was amazing in this regard. I came thinking that he’d give a laundry list of features, how it differed from EXT3, when he thought they’d be “production ready”. What I got instead was an incredibly detailed accounting of the failures in testing and systems analysis that filesystems developers had encountered over many, many years. The new development effort had its own fair share of bug creation, but they also found long standing bugs in EXT3. He went so far as to break down effort in terms of new feature creation, bug fixing and two other tasks (i wish I had a copy of the slides already!). Anyway, interesting talk, great advice for those who work with concurrency-sensitive applications (most of us these days) and very interesting case studies in failure.

Paul Gunn, an engineer at Weta Digital, gave a detailed talk on his experiences scaling their data centers. Much of the lessons there were fairly well understood by data center engineers (hot/cold aisles, raise the temperature to save some dollars!, don’t cram stuff under the floor where air is supposed to flow!, use high ceilings to sink heat). It’s always great to see companies sharing their practical experiences with developers.

Another fun project I learned about was Sheepdog – an EBS replacement developed by a team from NTT. The whole project looked fantastic – providing snapshot, cloning and thin provisioning, and a reasonable looking GUI. This could be a fundamental building block of free clouds.

I also was inspired by Cucumber-nagios, a relatively new project from Lindsay Holmwood. He and others have been talking about “behavior driven infrastructure“, a great bit of syntactic sugar on systems automation work that started with cfengine in the early ’90s. I look forward to playing around with these tools. And I really like that he leveraged nagios’ existing interfaces rather than inventing something new. This type of collaboration between projects is a breath of fresh air for sysadmins, who (if they’re anything like me) struggle to make awesome new tools talk to the awesome old ones.

I spent some time in an Arduino intro class, soldering and hacking on a temperature probe for a few hours. I ended up with a working temperature monitor and an appreciation for how easy to use the tools are.

* Hallway Track

There was a fantastic common area filled with people hacking on their talks, having conversation or maybe just hanging out to see what would happen next. IRC was full of hilarious chatter, and people connecting to see new babies (my god, so many people have had babies!).

There were also some couches, and a nice courtyard that often filled up with people. The common spaces in a conference seem to determine how well people can connect once they’re not just sitting in front of a speaker.

Another convenient and wonderful aspect of the location was the food. Excellent restaurants at reasonable prices were within a 5 minute walk of the conference venue. This made impromptu coffee breaks and relaxed but productive lunches very easy and enjoyable. I really, really liked this.

* Inspiration

Three keynotes by Biella Coleman, Benjamin Mako Hill and Glyn Moody were inspirational and subversive. All three were rallying cries for a hacker mentality – the drive to tweak, tinker, create and share. All three spoke to the pleasures and joys of software development.

Biella Coleman brought up the origins of the Free Software Foundation, and even played a video of a very young Richard Stallman talking about his frustration with not being able to modify source code. She also discussed the responsibility leaders in free and open source have to be transparent in their management of their projects (and how we remind ourselves of that in amusing ways).

Benjamin Mako Hill gave a rallying talk about antifeatures, and how their existence is a competitive advantage for free and open source software. Pia Waugh gave a detailed description of the talk, and the categories of antifeatures – protection money, market segmentation, securing monopolies and protecting copyrights. A memorable quote was “I have yet to meet a free software DVD player that respects the unskippable DVD track.” Mako reminds me that humor is the best medicine for something that’s seriously broken.

Glyn Moody went a slightly different route – talking about how sharing and openness are leaking out into the rest of the world. The Human Genome Project and Project Gutenburg were two of several examples he used, and to briefly cast a glance at what was at stake if public ownership had not been achieved – in particular with the Human Genome Project. He managed to convey a sense of urgency and importance that is often missing.

What free software actually gets used for and why are critically important stories. We all need to get better at telling compelling stories.

* Friendship

Free software is built on friendships. Trust, willingness to make mistakes in front of each other, and a desire to build on top of others work to make something better are the traits I see among those who collaborate with each other. Building free software can be a painful process – long nights, tedious bugs, no recognition for the work that went into it all. Conferences like LCA are a tremendous affirmation of the work that we all do.

From the scripted get-togethers, to the spontaneous hackfests and anti-scripted gatherings (the un-professional networking session!), all events are attempts to connect to the other people who know what it’s like to live inside of free software. And we relax around each other, make jokes and enjoy for a few days the knowledge that we’re doing something really cool.

I met so many people for whose time and attention I am incredibly grateful for. And, for those Kiwis who took me out for great food, shopping and long walks along the pier in the sunshine — thank you so much for taking the time. I miss you all.

select short_story from life limit 7;

Robert tagged me, and I’ve been procrastinating on a ‘stuff I did in 2008’ post, and this seems more fun anyway. Here goes:

  1. I’ve never seen the Grateful Dead in concert, despite graduating from the University of Oregon. Yes, I attended before Jerry died.
  2. I started college as a Chemistry major, intending to switch my major to musical performance.
  3. I competed in a Junior Miss pageant in high school. I wore spandex and danced a synchronized routine to ‘Tusk’, by Fleetwood Mac. I played a violin solo. I lost.
  4. The last time I played the violin publicly was about five years ago for my friend Amy’s orchestra, essentially a chamber orchestra that was a several-month experiment in improvisation with many musicians from the Portland area. The project was a collection of songs she wrote about eight artists and performers that inspired her. The performance was also a release party for the book DIY in PDX.
  5. I once unwillingly spent the night in a Venice convent.
  6. I made another ‘I am not a douchebag‘ bag for the family Christmas party gift. I’ve made three, one of which I was actually paid (“commissioned” hah!) to make.
  7. In 2008, I managed to increase my houseplant count from 0 to 4. All are still living as of this blog post. My chicken count went from 3 to 1.


  1. Gabrielle Roth, because she rules
  2. Mark Wong – since he started the P5 series last week!
  3. Emilie Steele, because we didn’t get a chance to talk nearly enough last year at PgCon
  4. Magnus Hagander, because he should blog more and he hasn’t responded to Robert’s tag yet
  5. Andy Lester, because his book rocks, and lots of people are going to need it this year
  6. Nikolay Samokhvalov, because I hear such great things about and want to visit him in Moscow someday for a Bruce-Momjian-Style tour
  7. Josh Berkus, just for fun and because he is blogging more these days! ๐Ÿ™‚

the rules:

  1. Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post – some random, some weird.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

meme: Current state of me

Audrey started a meme that I liked – so here’s my answers:

  • Did I earn a living? Yes, I did. I’ve never been happier with my work, who I work with and who I work for. I surprised myself a little with a job change that has me working at home, and co-working at various places in Portland. I find myself jumping out of bed every morning, excited to start my work day, and attending amazing geek events 2-3 times a week. (shameful Portland tech scene junkie confession!)
  • Was I able to incubate new ideas? Well, I was certainly *exposed* to tons of creative, exciting ideas, and felt energized to participate and organize in ways that I did not in 2007. As far as generating my own ideas, I think I was in the same boat as Audrey — spending a ton of time *doing*, but not as much time reflecting on experiences. The one exception to that was my vacation last August in Mexico. I took nearly three weeks to unwind from work, and I spent that time learning a little Spanish, and taking photographs that I was very proud of. Looking out to next year, I can’t wait to see what happens, and feel like I won’t be able to avoid an explosion of creativity.
  • Did I grow in ways that I wanted? YES. OMG. I had an incredible year, personally and professionally. I organized two PostgreSQL conferences – one in Maryland! – and helped get new user group leaders started with groups in at least five new locations. I’ve seen several long-time community members step up, join boards and become more active in the core community building work I championed. I met Tom Lane. I stood by as close friends, inspired by a growing community, started their own projects. I was inspired over and over again by the humor, grace and intelligence of the people who make PostgreSQL happen. I contributed code, presented nearly a dozen talks and traveled.

So, 2009 will be a lot about co-chairing Open Source Bridge, with a big helping of PostgreSQL community work, primarily speaking about the filesystem performance testing we’re doing here in Portland, and hopefully a bit more about user groups. I’m looking forward to a great work year, with a company that continues to be successful in a difficult time, and with coworkers that make me laugh every day.

I’m looking to Portland to inspire me: with cool ideas, exciting companies and a vibrant tech scene.

Your turn!