Sarah Tavel has a good data-backed post about the general dearth of women in startups, and how the gender balance in a startup changes if the CEO is female. It would be fascinating to repeat the measurements for open source projects…
The second annual HFOSS is taking place March 10 in Milwaukee (along with SIGCSE 2010). F&OS communities helped save a lot of lives after the Haiti disaster, and many of the social and technical tools developed for it (and earlier, Katrina) are being used right now to help Chile; hope to see a strong turnout.
Google Summer of Code 2010 is now up and running. Mentoring organizations can apply March 8-12, and students can apply March 29-April 9 (but should start working on their applications as soon as the list of organizations is announced). The University of Toronto has always been a strong presence in GSoC—here’s hoping 2010 is the best year yet. I’m particularly hoping that some UCOSP students will shoot for spots.
A talk I’d really like to see:
Moving the Needle: How the San Francisco Ruby Community got to 18%
In January 2009, the monthly San Francisco Ruby meetings averaged 2% women. In January 2010, they averaged 18%. What happened in a year to make such a big difference?
Over the last year, Sarah Allen and I have been spending all our nights and weekends working on a series of workshops for women who want to learn Ruby. When we got started, to be honest, I wasn’t very optimistic. I’ve lived through quite a few gender diversity efforts in quite a few technical communities, and most of them failed to make any noticeable dent.
But to my amazement, we were incredibly successful. In this talk, I’ll take you through the factors that were critical to our success, and I’ll explore the great things our community has gotten from the effort – some expected, some wonderfully unexpected. I believe that any local OSS community can adapt these techniques and end up with an outreach effort that makes an immediate, visible, and lasting difference.
Speaker: Sarah Mei
…if you will translate the examples from Freeman and Pryce’s excellent book Growing Object-Oriented Software Guided by Tests from Java into Python. There are already translations into Ruby, Scala, C#, and Groovy, and if I could find a few hours I’d tackle it myself, but I can’t, so I’m offering food and drink to anyone who wants to volunteer.
We were an hour and a half late getting into Toronto on Sunday after PyCon: the de-icers on the first plane out of Chicago weren’t working, so they had to put us on another one. Fair enough, but after we landed and taxied up to the gangway, the doors didn’t open, and didn’t open, and didn’t open. Finally, the captain came on (clearly embarrassed) and said, “Uh, folks, I’ve been trying to find out why we’re not able to disembark you, and apparently the rules say that, we have to get all the valet-checked bags off the plane before passengers are allowed off, so that no one will have to wait for their luggage. Thank you.” <click>
You can’t make stuff like this up.
In Last Chance to See (the best book he ever wrote), Douglas Adams wondered what the world “looks” like to rhinos. Their nasal membranes are larger than their brains, but they have terrible eyesight. As a result, they would see Douglas like a poorly-rendered sprite on a low-res computer screen, but could smell him on the wind half a mile away. Sight is effectively instantaneous, but smell isn’t. Douglas’s insight was to realize that as a result a rhino’s view of the world is rich with the data of things past—for them, the past and the present blur together in one sensorium.
I was reminded of Adams’ thinking as I watched people use Twitter and other social media at PyCon. Everyone’s perception was smeared in time and space: sitting in one talk, they could catch a whiff of what was going on three rooms away by keeping one eye on tweets from its audience, and someone who had just come into a room could recap the discussion by scrolling through the last two pages of other people’s comments. “This and now” has become “these and recently”. I wonder if that’s why my generation finds it all so confusing: we’re looking for things when we should be taking a deep breath to find what’s on the wind.
It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Atlanta, and I’m on my way home. I came down Thursday to:
- Raise money for Software Carpentry.
- Get people excited about Basie.
- Get people excited about UCOSP.
- Talk with Georgia Tech‘s Mark Guzdial about computer science education.
#4 actually happened first. Mark picked me up Friday morning; we chatted for a while, then I spent an hour with some other faculty before giving my evidence-based software engineering talk. It was fun, and I came away from my discussion with Mark with half a dozen leads to follow up.
#1 is most important to me personally—I really want to spend a year upgrading the course after I leave U of T at the end of this term—but I didn’t have much luck. The people I spoke to were sympathetic, but it’s been a hard 18 months for everyone financially, and there are a lot of other good causes clamoring for attention.
I put less time into #2 than I probably should have, but still got some good feedback (which I’ve posted on the Basie blog). Long story short, if we can make Basie faster and provide a Trac-to-Basie migration tool, our prospects are good.
I wasn’t thinking of #3 (UCOSP) when I proposed my talk, but it’s what people were most interested in. Several students and professors said that they would like to be involved; the trick now is to find money to hire a half-time admin to take care of fundraising and organization. If you have $35K you can spare, please let me know. (And my slides are up if you’re interested.)
The best part of the trip? Talking to people I’ve only ever met electronically, or haven’t seen since my last PyCon eight years ago. Some of the discussion was about programming, but not a lot (since I don’t actually program any more). Mostly it was about kids, careers, and the meaning of life—all the catching up you do with people that you really wish you got to see more often.
It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Atlanta, and I’m on my way home…
Later: video of my lightning talk on Friday evening about yet another collaborative O’Reilly book (this one on software architecture) is available at blip.tv — check about 9 minutes in.