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[Events] Unlocking the Open Source Comes to Clubhouse

Asheesh Laroia asheesh at
Tue Feb 5 06:11:36 UTC 2013

Howdy all,

About six months ago, I read _Unlocking the Clubhouse_ from cover to 
cover. It was a superb read, and very interesting.

I scribbled some notes into a text file, and since I haven't done anything 
remarkable with them yet, I thought I'd email them to y'all at Events in 
case my thinking aloud helps crystallize thoughts for other people, or 
sparks a discussion that is helpful, or at least as a backup in case I 
accidentally delete the text file. (-;

As context: I don't believe that any of these is fundamentally related to 
womanhood or all women in our society or all women in any society or so 
forth. It's just a translation of patterns that seemed to be useful to 
retain more women in the book within Carnegie Mellon CS, where I think the 
pattern would improve the quality of our events, too.

Here they are, with minimal annotation to make them hopefully make sense:

* Emphasize the professionalization (i.e. "at work", aka "no extra time 
cost") of open source

(Annotation: I was referring to how you can promote free software ideals 
without necessarily using up time outside of work hours. That is, it 
doesn't need to compete with other hobbies or socializing for time. I hope 
the career panel parts are doing this, but I should think carefully about 
the questions we ask career panelists so that audience members really get 
the above impression. "Professionalization" of open source to me refers to 
how people contribute to open source at work more nowadays (in my opinion) 
than they used to in, like, 1989.)

* emphasize how it all takes time

(that is, people don't become epic open source contributors overnight; if 
your story is like mine, you dabble in some things for a year or two, then 
use some software, then dream about how you could be involved man wouldn't 
it be super cool to be one of the cool kids, and then finally you figure 
out how you want to contribute)

* emphasize that you can use these skills in group projects etc. outside 
of large communities as practice

(that is, the learning you get from participating is of value back and 
forth among group non-open-source projects and open source ones, so there 
is value in the learning even if you don't stick around)

* emphasize personal relationships everywhere -- mentorship in foss, 
mentorship within campus-discuss, how first patches are a way to get that 
personal relationship with existing committers

(that is, it's not only a way to be better at programming; it's a way to 
get more contacts, and that there's not really anonymity; if you have a 
relationship with the committers, your work will be likely reviewed 

* emphasize how floss lets you take computing into the real world with 
impact on users, and society

(see also: >50% of contributors to Mozilla Thunderbird do it because they 
are excited about having an impact on millions of people who use the 
program, based on an opt-in survey done years ago)

* "[success] happens through regular practice and repetition"

(similar to "it all takes time")

* emphasize that lack of self confidence is universal,
   not just something you personally face alone

(This almost goes without saying in that it's important, but it's 
something that is very important; see also my historic "Debian for Shy 
People" effort/brand; it should be said within the events.) * advertise to 
young women in physics, e.g. through Bloomberg physics girls bathrooms

(Annotation: Think about ways to reach women that aren't via the usual 

* open source-related communities are a way to get access to information 
swapping such as project-specific coding style that teaches you how people 
really use your programming language, or general communities related to 
e.g. your programming language

(Annotation: Many people wish for skills and things that seem like 
permanent improvements in their skill level, rather than just momentary 
attempts to build something for a grade, and a fast jumping between tasks 
and skills with a sense that they don't work on any one in particular to 
improve to the point of being solid.)

-- Asheesh.

P.S. Sorry I've been absent from other threads here. I'll be catching up 
shortly, like a few days.

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