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Code of our Own
Supporting Women Developers in Open Source
And That Means Us
are the women
We’re here already.
We’ve made good progress.
Dreamwidth and OTW devs
How can we better support each other? graphic by Kirrily Robert, from
How to bring new women into open
source developer communities, and keep
✤ That diversity is good for open
source software, for women,
for the world in general.
✤ Universal design is a goal. That
goal is reached best by
widening the pool of
✤ Having more women
contributing to FLOSS is good. Let’s just run with those assumptions.
What not to do
✤ Joanna Russ “How to Suppress
Women’s Writing” applies to writing
✤ Denial of agency
✤ Pollution of agency
✤ Double standard of content
✤ False categorizing
Code of Our Own
✤ I work for BlogHer as one of 2
✤ Group blog site with 80 paid
editors (all women) and much
larger community of writers
✤ Ad network for 2500 bloggers.
2400 of them are women.
✤ Passionate and heavy users of
Code of Our Own
✤ 2400 women bloggers
✤ 900 on self-hosted WordPress
✤ Pathway to being involved,
✤ Touch/own your code
✤ Edit documentation
✤ Build themes, build plugins
photos from blogher.com
Where are they
✤ Here’s a pool of smart,
dedicated software users who
aren’t yet part of the WP
✤ How to get more of them
✤ Running workshops, tutorials
✤ And: there are huge barriers.
Work in progress!
kind of suck
✤ Mentoring has not worked to
generate broad base of change
✤ Not enough people want to say
✤ Puts you under ﬁre, target for
proving you’re expert.
✤ Fear of ending up tech
support/newb hand holder
forever, wasting time, too much
volunteering already. Teach and mentor anyway when you can.
✤ Lack of understanding of
infrastructure is a barrier to
contribution to FLOSS
✤ Command line/Unix skills
✤ Lots of webdev possible
✤ But it helps culturally and for
communication and learning
Let’s talk to grown
✤ Leaky pipeline
✤ Flaws with “teach
programming to girls”
✤ At best, some kids learn Skitch
or something. Well, that’s cool.
✤ At worst, attracts people who
can’t deal with adult women’s
maturity and agency
✤ You hack together. Yay!
✤ That’s not going to help you or
us all in the long run to work
through these issues, many of
which are about gender based
isolation and internalized
✤ Pollution of agency.
✤ Don’t let your life fail the
We need strategies to
Impostor syndrome. I’m not really a
programmer. Whatever I know, it isn’t
“enough”. I write code but am not really a
Every coder knows someone more geekier
than they are.
Culture of experts. Pecking order.
Gender adds complexity to these power
dynamics, feelings, and pressures.
How, other than “man up”, and
“magically be less insecure”, do we
Think of tech support and
debugging as feminist
✤ What women say to me when they run
into a coding problem
✤ “I’m so stupid. I never know what I’m
doing.” Even the ones who knew more
than I did.
✤ Catching myself saying this. It’s not
easy to stop. Cyclical.
✤ Gently redirect self-deprecation. Don’t
make a person feel worse for putting ✤ Demystify, reassure, empower.
herself down. But let’s help each other
stop it. “Disclaimer!”
✤ Create culture of ﬁguring
things out together. Peer
✤ Unconferences, tech camps,
coffee and code
✤ Starting from the beginning
isn’t beginning enough.
Boys tend to be incompetent together and ﬁgure
stuff out in early teenage years without shame.
✤ Do I even know enough to go Consider starting a band as an example. Girls are
to something called socially rewarded at that age for demonstrating
competence, maturity, not looking stupid. We can
“HackerChix?”, “Intro to work on that skill now, as adults, with respect.
to develop trust
✤ Introductions are important.
Establishing ourselves as
whole people, background, life,
essential for developing trust.
✤ She’s Geeky, BlogHer,
Woolfcamp, all started with
facilitated getting to know you
✤ Tag yourselves on badge. Photo
and bio or description of skills BE REAL.
up on the wall for reference.
Start from the
✤ Dreamwidth does a good job of
starting from VERY beginning. Desi from DevChix, and Nabil, at She’s Geeky
✤ What do I need to start coding?
✤ What tools do people use?
What should I use?
✤ These photos are from She’s
Geeky session “Show and Tell
your Dev Env”.
✤ Dev env setup. We need more
workshops, sharing sessions.
✤ Doing a speciﬁc thing, with
✤ She’s Geeky session on
Installing Drupal on your Mac
with MAMP. The scope was
good for an hour and a half.
✤ Get a web host and install WP:
another good session.
Look at some code
✤ Code tours work well.
✤ This was a tour of index.php in
WordPress at BlogHer’s Geek
Lab, by Nelly Yuspova.
✤ We spent a lot of time digging
into “The Loop”
✤ Biggest epiphany for class: to
read this code and know what
it does, you have to dig around
into other ﬁles it refers to, like
This was the most popular slide at my talk on coding at BlogHer. We need to give each
other permission to be confused. Fight the spiral into insecurity and feeling incompetent.
Admit that debugging is hard
Intro to a language
✤ Ruby workshop at She’s Geeky
✤ Set up by DevChix
✤ Step by step instructions
✤ Guest accounts, how to ssh in
and start doing stuff
✤ 35 people mostly women
✤ We deliberately girliﬁed it
with ponies, sparkles, nail
painting, kids, cooking,
✤ Unconference or open
✤ Informality worked.
✤ We practiced telling overbearing guys
to stfu so we had room to talk and
listen to each other.
✤ One on one teaching, workshops, with
✤ Looking over someone’s shoulder is
✤ We need more of this for coding. More
of a pair programming approach.
✤ Code Chix
✤ Super Happy Dev House
✤ Hacker and maker spaces like
✤ Just invite people over to your
house and show each other
coding projects and you’ll learn
✤ Based on the people I know in
these communities of bloggers,
yes, but slowly
✤ Feedback: Code isn’t so
mysterious. Power shift from
depending on bf/husband to
doing own development.
Women also setting up as
✤ Contributions to FLOSS? We’ll
All about Me
✤ I personally ﬁnd this hard too.
✤ I loved programming starting from age
6 on punch cards. It is annoying to say
this. Pointless “street cred”.
✤ Tech writing, tech support, databases,
html, Perl, BSD -> Linux, web dev, PFY
in 90s, software engineer. More cred.
✤ Still Not Experienced Enough, Ever
✤ Not ambitious to be superhacker.
Dilettante. Fun. Learning new stuff!
✤ What helps me?
✤ Ways that IRC is uncomfortable.
✤ Public exposure of not-knowing
✤ Peer mentoring here too.
✤ IM me your bug. Pastebin me
✤ I’d like to have more friends who
code to do this with.
✤ Watching someone code, in any
language. Their process.
✤ Good habits, tricks of efﬁciency
✤ Screwups and failure to scope a
problem. “Oh, this will take 10
✤ 5 hours later . . . LOL.
✤ The comfort of schadenfreude
Show the Code
✤ What happens when we blog
✤ Good results for me so far but I
am still tentative
✤ Looking at what people said
about Leah Culver was chilling
✤ Yet meanwhile, script kiddie
dude posts on forums. WTF.
✤ Code more with other women
✤ Post your code and talk about
it in public somewhere
✤ Host a “ﬁguring code out
together” meetup for women
✤ Give a talk on *exactly* what to
do to become involved in an
open source project
✤ Bring women into irc channels
but keep private backchannel
✤ Make time to hang out with
other women while doing geek
✤ Pay attention to other women
✤ You have to make an effort to
do this and shift attention,
information feeds, reading
patterns, to be more diverse
✤ Beta read other women’s stuff. Expose
your drafts. Improve them. Thank each
✤ All those How to Suppress Women’s
Writing things? Don’t do them to yourself
✤ Backchannels are important. Complain.
Support. Document. Naming the problem.
Then turn outrage to positive action.
✤ Avoid burnout & isolation by standing
together. Don’t ride point. It’s a trap. Look Demonstrate Solidarity!
at feminist collectives and joint
authorship. Deﬂects some forms of
misogynist criticism. Useful!