Yelp removes accessibility review

Today I got a notification from Yelp that they removed one of my reviews. In my review I reported that ironically, a therapist who advertised as serving a diverse group of people with a focus on coping with health challenges and “aging gracefully”, did not have a wheelchair accessible office.

The review was removed by Yelp as not being substantive.

I have to assume that this was done at the business owner’s request. That seems pretty sad to me. It would be better practice for her to ask former clients for reviews.

Yelp is often very useful for me. I don’t review businesses often and when I do, it is normally to say positive things and thank people for doing a fantastic job. I also try to mention businesses that consider access or are particularly thoughtful or accessible for wheelchair users. But I feel stubborn here.

Yelp should not remove reviews for reporting lack of wheelchair accessibility. Lack of accessibility in any business is incredibly useful information for many of us. My review potentially would save other people who have difficulty with stairs from wasting their and Dr. Schochet’s time.

When I wrote the review, I was feeling bitter and sad that I had gotten my hopes up at finding a fabulous sounding therapist who would understand what I needed to talk about so I wouldn’t have to explain all of disability politics and the feelings of loss and worry I was coping with.

Here’s my old review, admittedly sarcastic –

“Her ads say that she deals especially with “Adjusting to health changes” and aging gracefully, but her office is up a flight of stairs and the bathroom is up another flight of stairs. So if you are disabled, you will likely need to look elsewhere.”

Seriously, is that all that bad? That was it. That was all I said.

Here is Dr. Schochet’s description of her practice from Yelp:

Specialties

* Diverse San Francisco practice includes:
Visual and performing artists, creatives
Newcomers, immigrants, expats
LGBTQI, alternative lifestyles

* Guidance with navigating life transitions:
Adjusting to health changes
Improving the quality of your relationships
Adapting to work challenges
Management coaching
Grieving losses
Approaching retirement
Aging gracefully

Here is my newly submitted review:

In 2014 I called this doctor to try to get counseling as I coped with ill health, physical impairment and increasing loss of physical mobility and the challenges of having a full time job while being a wheelchair user in chronic pain. I understand that not everyone’s office can be accessible, especially if someone has a home office. However, as this therapist advertises her practice as focusing on topics like “aging gracefully” and “adjusting to heath changes” I thought this might be a great fit for what I was looking for. After some phone conversation Dr. Schochet, who seemed very nice, let me know that unfortunately her office had many stairs to get to it and the bathroom is another flight of stairs away.

I think it is useful to note, for other wheelchair users or people with mobility limitations, this practice is not wheelchair accessible. I believe that not being able to physically access a business due to its lack of wheelchair accessibility counts as a substantive consumer experience.

My 3 star rating is based on the fact that Dr. Schochet seemed perfectly nice and professional on the phone when i spoke with her about her practice and what I was looking for.

Let’s see if it stands. I think it is perfectly fair. This review explains more clearly that I had some personal engagement and experience with the business owner, and how this information is a useful addition to Yelp.

This blog post is for the meta issues. I don’t approve of the action of the psychologist who may have requested my review’s removal, if that’s what happened here. She may be a very nice person and a good psychologist. My impression of her was fine. But, if she petitioned Yelp to have my accessibility report removed, that does not speak well for her as a therapist for a “diverse” population. This is the opposite of what a person who believes in diversity, and being a good ally, should do.

I also think deleting an honest and fair review is just silly. As should be clear from this post, it will only have the opposite effect from what you may intend, because I can just post my experience somewhere else and describe it even more thoroughly, including the sad and embarrassing part where someone tried to silence a fairly reasonable and minor critique, unlikely to affect anyone’s decision who isn’t also a wheelchair user . . . . Truly a bit ridiculous.

I would like to call out Yelp for bad judgment in this small and more or less unimportant decision. My concern is that it may stem from a very bad policy.

Is it Yelp’s policy to not allow criticism of accessibility?

The review was removed “because it lacks a substantive consumer experience”.

I hope my new review makes it clear that I did have a substantive consumer experience. I had the experience of not being able to use the business at all.

If I can’t GET INTO a business to use it, then do my reviews not count? I believe they do count, and that they are useful information for others to make their decisions.

My own house has stairs and is not accessible. If I have a bad day and can’t manage the stairs or am in too much pain to handle the stairs and still function after I get down them, then I don’t leave the house.

Any time that I know in advance that a business or venue is not accessible, I feel deeply appreciative. I can choose not to go and make other plans, or I can decide how to navigate or negotiate its barriers, or I can make sure I have someone with me to help. Any sort of information about barriers to access is helpful!

That’s ultimately why I mention accessibility. It is because I am thinking about the experience of other people with disabilities and am acting in solidarity with them. It is a political act. It’s not to punish anyone for being in an inaccessible location. It’s to improve the world for everyone one step at a time. Bitter humor is often helpful but it is not necessary and you will note I tried to leave that tone out of my second attempt at a review.

Meanwhile, here is an amusing list of Wheelchair Inaccessible businesses in San Francisco, also from Yelp.

I would never have thought about this again ever, if Yelp had not removed my trivial two sentence comment about lack of wheelchair access, but now I’m a bit ticked off, enough to write a blog post for half an hour. Cheers and peace out.

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Bad Inventions: The laptop girdle and the standing desk bra!

I have two new Bad Inventions for my collection of ideas that I will never implement and everyone is free to steal!

First, let me introduce the Laptop Girdle (or laptop belt)!

I often am working on my computer while lying on my back with knees and feet up on pillows to relieve strain in my low back and keep my painful ankles elevated. I’m sure many other people use their laptops in bed or on a couch lying down. One problem with this is the laptop needs to be specially propped up so it doesn’t slide upwards on your torso. Another problem is that your stomach or your belt can accidentally mess with the laptop track pad so that you suddenly click with your belly. I don’t even have that much belly and it happens all the time since my MacBook Air has very little space between the bottom edge of the laptop and the trackpad. Same with my belt. So, the Laptop Girdle will be a belt with a special groove meant to hold a laptop in place, immune from belly or belt-buckle clicks!

Also good for playing games on your ipad in bed!

The laptop belt is also useful for people who are sitting up with laptop ON THEIR ACTUAL LAP.

I think that boob clicks are also possible in this scenario so the laptop girdle must protect against boob clicks for those of us who are generously endowed.

Which thought leads us to . . . the Standing Desk Bra! Standing desks are amazingly popular with hipster programmers who aren’t me! There is one in my hotel room right now! Now, I am also not a person who needs a marvelously sturdy variety of bra which has the structural engineering of a suspension bridge. But for those of us who do wear amazingly constructed bras imagine if its support framework also had something that popped or folded out or attached on the underneath of the front of the bra, that would be a convenient shelf for your laptop, reading a book, or use as a handy drafting table! YES. The world needs Standing Desk Bras!

Please send me your drawings of these inventions as soon as possible so that we can make it happen. OR just make something like this and you are welcome to your ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

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What I did on my Portlandia vacation

Hello from SUNNY PORTLAND! It’s gorgeous here. I’m enjoying scootering all over town, seeing friends, eating delicious food and loafing around with Danny.

I spent Friday with Selena and her awesome cute baby and her cat Funny. We talked about a million things and had coffee and doted on the baby. I do love babies!!! We talked about work and general stuff about our lives, feminism, children, and so on. I gave her a whole bunch of zines from Double Union. I also finished reading an academic paper on feminism and programming and culture clashes by my friend Luis Felipe which delved into many of the implications of the C plus equality parody/impersonations and similar instances of aggression by way of parody code. I look forward to its publication . . . I also worked on getting some of selena’s code up and running and we talked about ways to extend it for other uses and the indie tech/web decentralized-everything shift or course correction in how people are thinking about making tools these days.

Pambla lizzardLiz birdnerd

Both the baby and I have saucy tshirts on. Mine says “Macho Pero No Mucho” and the baby’s says “Bird Nerd” as she is clearly destined to be a future birder like her parents.

Then went to the Mozilla office to say hello to Lukas’s Ascend Project students. There was not much time to do a lot other than say hello and drop off my stickers. They were making stuff with Webmaker and pushing/pulling/merging to their git repos. It looked like a lot of fun and like the class had good cameraderie. I talked with Dino as well about the upcoming Ada Initiative ally workshops.

Then got a cool email from the State Department. How often does anyone say that sentence? Weird eh? They have a delegation from Egyptian hackerspace organizers and teachers who want to come visit Double Union and talk about making hacker and maker spaces for women. This made me super happy!!

Danny and I then went to the Wieden Kennedy office which was hosting a party for the XOXO Festival. I have been in there before but only remember it dimly; it was very pretty. We hung out in the “Nest” which is hard to describe. The center of the building has high ceilings and walkways across it. On one of the walkways there is a hangout space with …. giant twigs all around it so it’s like being in a nest. The couches are fuzzy grey and and look like rocky outcrops with boulder pillows. It is 100% awesome. Robin and Dan Hon’s tiny kid sat on my scooter saying “vroom” for like, an hour and dinging the tiny bell on the handlebars. Apparently he had just spent a weekend recently getting to ride on tractors so his life is fabulous. He taught me the sign for “bike” and “motorcycle”. I not only like babies I really like tiny children (At least when they are not screaming or covered in body fluids.)

The rooftop party was also very relaxing, it was sunny, people were super friendly, I saw Tim and Pamela and Evan P. and Kanane and tons of other people I know while we ate, ok, the hipstery-iest ridiculous food: deviled quail eggs, chocolate covered (peeled) tiny apples on sticks, homemade marshmallows with candied lychee, can’t remember what else. Cocktail that tasted like a sweet-tart with dragonfruit in it which looked disturbingly like a tentacle. I enjoyed all of this greatly. The rooftop was decorated with tiny succulents (or epiphytes) in glass terrariums which reminded me of the brilliant design-critique tumblr Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table .

Xoxo dragonfruit

Xoxo tinysucculents

It was amusing that part of the “festival” for XOXO was going to different tech company offices. I would have gone to the Slack one but the timing didn’t quite work out. It reminded me a little bit of the vibe of BarCamp Block but less unconferencey and much more luxurious. At BarCamp Block we persuaded 9 different tech companies in downtown Palo Alto to let us use their office space over a weekend for our decentralized unconference. We made a mesh network specially for it. It was lovely… Anyway, XOXO felt very decadent. I have ambivalent feelings about it even while enjoying it greatly.

Pambla lizzard

We then checked into our airbnb place and had dinner and took a cab to the Yale Union building where there was a night of video gaming and demos which sounded right up my alley but unfortunately the building was not accessible. Danny went up the stairs to scout for me, ie, to see if I should give it a try to go (painfully) up the giant flight of stairs while he carried my scooter, or, if he could find out if there was an elevator. Meanwhile I scouted around the outside of the building. There was a ground floor entrance with a phone number to call for access which implied maybe there *was* and elevator so I called it but it went to voicemail. After hanging out for a while at the foot of the stairs talking with friends I found that there was some bustle and consternation perhaps about no one knowing how to make the elevator work or unlock it or find a person who might have the key to it. From Danny’s description of the elevator it sounded like one of those murky freight contraptions that I should emerge from with a fog machine generating a cloud to make me look like a special super villain. We decided to move on to another venue of the conference, the main one called the Redd Building.

Xoxo yaleunion

Xoxo redd

The Redd Building is gorgeously industrial. I liked the patio with its cubist-ish mural, awkward tables and mural-echoing sunshades. This whole bit of town reminds me of Austin from 25 years ago. Lots of brick buildings and patios and beer. Less trellises with xmas lights. (Are trellises with xmas lights on outside patios still a thing in Austin bars?) I gossiped more with Robin who told me about an ARG she worked on where you learned about art or art history by pulling off a (staged) heist from an art gallery and then forging some paintings. It sounded amazing! EVERYTHING SHOULD BE LIKE THAT. The actual talks did not appeal to me as I do not care about tv shows so i hung out in the pleasant outside patio with food trucks talking with people for a while then we went home & I realized I had been running on tramadol and coffee fumes for most of the day and collapsed into bed whimpering in pain and taking ALL THE POSSIBLE MEDS. My left ankle feels worryingly fucked up. I hope I don’t end up in a boot again. The pain is also intense down my right sciatica line-of-horror and messed up peroneal nerve but that will wear off over the next few days from the injection earlier this week, I trust. The other day someone I have known for a while went, “wait, are you actually in *pain*?!” Uh hahahaha yes. I thought that everyone knew that I am in constant pain and it is just an endurance game of how long I can power through it and stay good tempered and have intellectual focus. I also feel like I whine all the time about pain and exhaustion. Apparently this is less apparent than it feels. We should all have fuzzy red halos around us like in video games so it can be apparent who has the fewest hit points or constitution is low or whatever.

Morning renewed me somewhat, so with my trusty holster of fucking Tramadol by my side, I went out to hack some portals and find a nice cafe while D. stayed asleep which is his ideal vacation (and our usual pattern when traveling). I admired a lot of bulidings. I think bricks are beautiful. They often seem so human. However they were manufactured you know they were laid down by hand by a person and often by people who thought about creative ways to design a wall or a window archway or put a pattern with different colors or sizes of brick. San Francisco does not have a lot of creative brickwork. . . . I also just love the warm vivid colors of brick. Check out this stone and brick wall with a planter with horsetail fern. It did not have to be beautiful and yet it is! Someone loved it when they made it and it is clearly still tended well now. I like aesthetics that manifest appreciation and love in a space.

Portland greywall

The cafe I was aiming for is called Commisary; its yelp reviews mentioned light and fluffy scones and good coffee. I have nto been drinking coffee because of my recurring gastritis but I figured this weekend I can go off the rails a little. Therefore, if I’m going to break my no-coffee rule, it has to be DELICIOUS coffee. The cafe has cute outside tables and a pleasant atmosphere. When I rolled up there was a step which made my heart sink a little. I can manage to over it but it usually just feels depressing or sad, it is awkward and a bit painful for me, and it perturbs other people who express their freaked-outness, worry, or discomfort with disabled people by acting very annoying towards me in a whole range of possible ways. I also have a sad alienated feeling like no one gives a fuck when I encounter a barrier like this even if I personally can negotiate the barrier because someone with different impairments than me will not be able to and no one cared to think about that. Steps are like a huge fuck you. Then… yay…. behind the planter there was a tiny ramp. This is actually a very lovely and clever ramp design. I’d like to see more entrances like this! The one thing that could improve it is a handrail on the “step” side for people who need steadying while going up a step and for whom ramps are harder than steps. My minor angst was assuaged. I felt very happy while enjoying my scone and coffee. It started to really feel like a vacation. No responsibilities and no one expecting me.

Portland caferamp

I had also scoped out another cafe that is INSIDE A BIKE SHOP. Oh yeah. I figured it was worth a look because often I can find perfect scooter or wheelchair accessories in a bike shop. I have also been looking for someone with decent machine tools to cut the bar that holds up my scooter seat back to shorten its distance from my back and lower it. Well, thank you Portland bike scene because Western Bikeworks is the most fabulous place. I didn’t try the cafe but I got some nice new wheelchair gloves, very dapper, and a cup holder, and a thing to strap around the scooter back to hold my battery charger while traveling. The sales people were all super nice. NO one acted like I was a weird intruder with astonishing never before thought of desires for bike stuff to bolt onto my wheelchair. One of the mechanics in their shop sat with me to have a look at the seat back. We talked it over and he cut some lengths of the metal bar off and drilled a new hole to hold the spring clip and set it all up beautifully for me. Thank you Doug, you’re a rock star! My chair is so much more comfortable now!

Portland bikeshop

Portland scooter

I’ve been talking with April from EFF and my friend Zach about holding another hackability night for wheelchair, scooter, and mobility/access gadget hacking and modifying, but this time at Bike Kitchen while also inviting bicyclists and bike mechanics. This should happen soon!!!

Though I am not heavily participating in xoxo I have a critical observation of it, beyond my usual eyerolling about lack of accessibility. I was expecting , and willing to put up with, uncertain or bad accessibility. The thing I didn’t expect is this: It’s been like going back in time for me to a tech conference from 15 years ago where it is a total sausagefest in a deep way. It is not just that there are way more men than women. It is that the men I’m meeting and talking with though they seem mostly quite nice and interesting, are talking to me and the other women around me as if we don’t do anything interesting, creative, technical, or amazing ourselves. I am spoiled by years of San Francisco and feminist activism and choosing to be in spaces where I am respected. But, I haven’t been treated like that or seen other women treated like that for many years in this kind of context. It is a pervasive assumption that I must be here to be a fan, or in a support role, or because I am just a passive consumer of whatever amazing things ‘independent tech” men are doing. You can’t fix this by inviting a couple of women on stage, at least, you can’t fix it right away. It reminds me of pre-2005 SXSWi and I found that just astonishing. What the heck. So, I feel like a time traveler or an anthropologist on Mars. I would far rather hang out on the fringes with non-douchey people. It is not even that people are horrible it is that their deep rooted assumptions are showing. It’s so embarrassing. They are only focused on themeselves or other men who they consider capable of being Important. How ludicrous! How sad! How much they miss out on! The harm to our civic creativity! The loss to society! The damage to the emotional and creative wellbeing of the women around them! As usual, that Marge Piercy poem comes to mind, where she realizes the sexism of male poets and philosophers and decides to go hang out in the kitchen instead where things are more interesting. I am sorry to make anyone sad by these observations but I gotta say it because like 500 women in various portland scenes will be reading it thinking YES EXACTLY ALSO WTF and I care more about what they feel and think than about hypotheical dudes being defensive or explaining how they cannot be sexist because they have a daughter and mean well, etc. etc. bingo, etc. etc. etc.

Quote of the day: “I have something to say about this whole “Maker” bullshit. I made a human. OUT OF MY VAGINA.” Now there is a creative endeavor. LOLZ!

This long chatty blog entry brought to you by my need to rest in bed for a good long while before going out again. To downtown Portland now to fool around and maybe go to Powells Books and have no real destination for a while. D. is having more of a day in bed as he does not feel very well (as is often true, of the two of us he is in many ways more impaired than I am ) And I think we will meet up in the evening at the Redd building and figure out what’s happening there, music, games, maybe wrangling someone to unlock that dammed freight elevator . . . . Peace out.

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How to test new features in Firefox 34 Aurora

If you’re a fan of free and open source software and would like to contribute to Firefox, join me for some Firefox feature testing!

There are some nifty features under development right now for Firefox 34 including translation in the browser, making voice or video calls (a feature called “Hello” or “Loop”), debugging information for web developers in the Dev Tools Inspector, and recent improvements to HTML5 gaming.

I’ve written step by step instructions on these
ways to test Firefox 34. If you would like to see what it’s like to improve a popular open source project, trying out these tasks is a good introduction.

Aurora

First, Install the Aurora version of Firefox. It is best to set it up to use multiple profiles. That ensures you don’t use your everyday version of Firefox for testing, so you won’t risk losing your usual profile information. It also makes it easy to restart Firefox with a new, clean profile with all the default settings, very useful for testing. Sometimes I realize I’m running 5 different versions of Firefox at once!

To test “Hello”, try making some voice or video calls from Firefox Aurora. You will need a friend to test with. Or, use two computers that you control. This is a good task to try while joining our chat channels, #qa or #testday on irc.mozilla.org; ask if anyone there wants to test Hello with you. The goal here is mostly to find and report new bugs.

If you test the translation infobar in Aurora you may find some new bugs. This is a fun feature to test. I like trying it on Wikipedia in many different languages, and also looking at newspapers!

If you’re a web developer, you may use Developer Tools in Firefox. I’m asking Aurora users to go through some unconfirmed bug reports, to help improve the Developer Tools Inspector.

If you like games you can test HTML5 web-based games in Firefox Aurora. This helps us improve Firefox and also helps the independent game developers. We have a list of demo games so you can play them, report glitches, and feel like a virtuous open source citizen all at once. Along the way you have opportunities to learn some interesting stuff about how graphics on the web can work (or not work).

Monster madness

These testing tasks are all set up in One and Done, Mozilla QA’s site to start people along the path to joining our open source community. This site was developed with a lot of community contribution including the design and concept by long-time community member Parul and a lot of code by two interns this summer, Pankaj and Maja.

Testing gives a great view into the development process for people who may not (yet) be programmers. I especially love how transparent Mozilla’s process can be. Anyone can report a bug, visible to the entire world in bugzilla.mozilla.org. There are many people watching that incoming stream of bug reports, confirming them and routing them to developer teams, sometimes tagging them as good first bugs for new contributors. Developers who may or may not be Mozilla employees show up in the bugs, like magic . . . if you think of bugmail notifications as magic . . .

It is amazing to see this very public and somewhat anarchic collaboration process at work. Of course, it can also be extremely satisfying to see a bug you discovered and reported, your pet bug, finally get fixed.

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Court life sounds horrible

In case anyone was wondering whether royal life in the Korean court in the 1700s would be fun or not:

Prince Sado’s illness grew worse. Before he had completely recuperated from his recent bout of smallpox(0), the Two Highnesses passed away. He was saddened by these losses. He was also heavily burdened by the ritual duties of mourning(0.5). . . . During the five-month wake, after a wail(1) at Kyonghun Pavilion His Majesty(2) would invariably drop by at Okhwa Hall to scold his son for whatever he happened to find irritating. Then, when the Prince went to T’ongmyong Pavilion, the same scene would be repeated. How angry this made the Prince! His rage was kindled like a well-constructed fire. It was His Majesty’s habit to rebuke his son in front of a large crowd. It was at T’ongmyong Pavilion, before all the ladies-in-waiting, where the Prince went to honor his grandfather’s memory despite the relentless summer heat of the sixth and seventh months, that His Majesty’s sharpest and most humiliating derision awaited him(2.5).

No longer able to contain his rage, his mind helplessly seized by disease, Prince Sado(3) began to beat his eunuchs severely. Beating servants in the mourning period was, of course, grievously wrong(4) . . . . From that year [1757] his “phobia of clothing” asserted itself(5). I cannot begin to speak of the hardships and heartaches this terrible symptom wrought.

(From The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong. I recommend skipping right to the 1805 Memoir for the juicy stuff.)

korean-unicorn

Footnotes:

0.
Smallpox! Fun times.

0.5.
During the mourning period, they would pack blocks of ice around the royal corpse and put seaweed around it to absorb the melting water. I bet that smelled great in the summer heat!

1.
Near as I can tell, royal Korean mourning customs of the time included 5 formal wailing rituals per day. For five months.

2.
King Yeongjo, who ruled for decades and sounded kind of OK, except for being emotionally cold to Sado and one of his sisters, having a lot of very strong phobias, and making Prince Sado attend all the boring interrogations and executions of political criminals while never inviting him to parties. Oh yeah, and that whole thing with the rice chest.

2.5.
Though that moment of sharp derision was nothing to what was going to happen later. Did I mention the rice chest?

3.
Prince Sado had a tragic end as his father ordered him to get into a rice chest (which was something like a giant fancy wardrobe, or a big TV cabinet, except potentially full of rice) and then had him locked in, in front of his family. He died of asphyxiation, or lack or water, or starvation, or something, after 8 days. At least, he kept screaming for a few days and then after 8 days they took a peek in and he was definitely dead.

4.
Apparently, when it’s not the five month mourning period, you can beat your servants all you like. This hardly seems the way to get your servants not to kill you.

5. Each time he changed clothes, Prince Sado would have twenty or thirty sets of clothing laid out. He would burn some of them. If anyone messed up while dressing him, he could not accept those clothes and would beat or kill the servant. For over six years they had to keep finding cloth to make him new outfits. Once he was dressed he’d wear that set of clothes until it was filthy.

So.

Then the Prince chopped off a lot of people’s heads at random, raped a bunch of ladies in waiting, jumped in a well to try and kill himself (failing). For months or maybe years. (Except, obviously, not jumping into a well for years. That was just once.) Everyone covered up for him as best they could, since talking about it would probably get them killed or exiled. When his father the King finally confronted him about this, Prince Sado claimed he did it all because his dad didn’t love him enough.

That was only a tiny glimpse into the messed up drama of palace life. It’s all backstabbing your second cousin over a vaguely worded memo or an imprudently ambiguous sounding comment to the King, gossip, exile, scandal; or, if you’re small, being taken away from your parents, pressured to study the classics, put away your toys, and demonstrate extreme filial piety when you’re barely potty trained. NOT FUN.

korean-rice-chest

Reading about Hyegyeong as well as reading what she wrote makes me think of the nature of history and what we think we know. Her reality is slippery even in her representations of recorded history in the daily life of the palace. She claims for instance to have bribed the palace scribes (daily) to change the record of what the King said that day. People are convicted of treason based on interpretations of memos, then years later pardoned, with plausible explanations of the falsity of the earlier records. She is an awesome unreliable narrator and creator of history. So many official histories look that way; maybe all of them.

“Thus my family gathered all my letters and, at regular intervals, washed away all that was written.”

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Reading Manzoni

A short note about a book I’ve just started! This weekend I was listening to the Requiem by Verdi and as I listened was reading about it. Verdi dedicated it to this guy Alessandro Manzoni. So I read about Manzoni, who wrote a classic of Italian literature called I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed). It sounds like people in Italy have to read it in high school or college and have all the reactions to it that entails… maybe it is considered stodgy or boring. But! I’m reading it and really love it! It’s very funny & sly.

“The words of a powerful oppressor pierce the heart and fly away. He can rage at you for showing suspicion of him, and at the same moment make it clear that what you suspect is true; and he can insult you and claim that you have insulted him, mock you and demand satisfaction, threaten and complain at the same time. He can be both shameless and irreproachable.”

It’s always heartening to know I can keep getting older and will never run out of mind-blowing, complicated books to read and things to think about. I have many leanings of sympathy towards the point of view that old culture does not have to matter. New things come along and are relevant, beautiful, and complicated too. But I love reading old books. It’s the closest I can get to time travel and communication with ghosts. Imagine a dinner party with Manzoni and, say, Cao Xueqin. I don’t know if a dinner party is really right. But imagine getting to make them read the other one’s books! Maybe more of a reading-all-night slumber party.

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The wtf-ological imperative

On the last day of Open Source Bridge I had a hilarious random encounter. I was taking some notes and making badges while listening to the lightning talks (which were great). A guy came up to me and gave me a post it note where he had written, “Wikipedia:” and then some links to articles on the categorical imperative, Karl Popper, and a couple more.

He said something like, “You might benefit from reading these, young lady.” Not sure what I said; something like “Ummm thanks. Why are you giving me this?” He said “I like SCIENCE.” I agreed that I also like science, asked his name, and shook his hand. Then I told him it was weird to call me young lady since I’m obviously old enough to be his mom. He went back to where he was sitting and the lightning talks carried on.

I really wondered what was going on. Had I ever met this person? Was he doing this with everyone or was he fixated on me for some reason? I looked at his web site. It didn’t seem odd. Maybe this was just a slightly socially awkward act, and not a Gift of Fear moment from a member of some odd corner of the manosphere. Maybe this is how Dark Enlightenment people try to make frenemies!

At some point later I was standing next to the same guy reading the unconference schedule. I asked him why he called me young lady and why he gave me those links. “Did I do or say anything in particular, at the conference, during my talks, blogging somewhere, that made you think I am in need of special education about empiricism?” He said everyone should have it. “Yes . . . but why me today? What is it? And why call me young lady? I’m 45. You look like you’re in your early 20s.” The guy said it was because of my tshirt. I was wearing my “End Patriarchy” shirt where the word patriarchy is in html markup as an “end” tag; a mildly nerdy feminist joke. He explained that he dislikes postmodernism. I said it was an odd thing to do. He then explained further that he calls every woman “young lady” and that even if I were 70 he would still call me that.

I had to leave the conference to catch my flight so missed out on this puzzling conversation, but I added as I went away that it wasn’t very polite and it seemed even not very empirical of him to classify me as young no matter what. I don’t always care about politeness, it isn’t that really; it’s that his action and the way he talked to me were mind-bogglingly condescending!

I thought about how communication generally happens. I have passed out flyers to people on the street or during rallies or events but usually not as a shorthand to tell them that they’re wrong in real life. Argument at that level generally happens in something that is framed as, well, argument, or public discourse, or has some other teaching, learning, or activist context. But perhaps my tshirt with its feminist joke is like an invitation to philosophical debate! Yes, I asked for it by wearing this outfit…. *snort* I think if this is going to be a movement, the enlightened ones need something more catchy than a torn pink post-it note. There should be some Kantian Chick Tracts for budding deontologists to hand out on the street to anyone who expresses some identity politics or looks like they might edit the Geek Feminism Wiki. Like creeper cards, but you just hand them to people who are sitting in a chair minding their own business! There could be a whole series of philosophical and political comic books that let feminists and other wrong headed folks know where we missed the logic train. It would be especially great as part of a cult to save our scientific souls! Like Less Wrong, but *even sillier*!

Maybe trading cards or a collectible card game so that I could whip out an Instant and like, counterspell the dude’s Karl Popper with a Paul Feyerabend card drawn by Katja Foglio. It really needs more elegance and fun to be playable!

In short I could not take this moment seriously and had trouble believing it even happened. So I honor that WTF by pausing a moment to record it for all time and make fun of it on the internet.

Chick tract

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Mozilla’s bug reporting, QA, and release processes

AdaCamp Portland was an amazing conference for feminist women in open source tech and culture. Not all, but many of the conference attendees are developers, system administrators, or do other technical work in open source software. I gave an informal talk meant to be an overview of some things I currently do at Mozilla. Lots of people came to the session! We all introduced ourselves going around the room.

To start off with, I showed a sample bug to talk about the process of reporting a bug, using Bugzilla, and practicing the skill of reading and understanding a bug report.

We looked first at Bug 926292.

Bugzilla couple

Let’s look at the life of this bug!

This bug was reported in October 2013 for Firefox 24 by someone new to bugzilla.mozilla.org. New users have basic permissions to file and comment on bugs. For around their first 25 bugs filed or commented on, they are marked “New to Bugzilla” to anyone with more permissions on the system. This helps more experienced users to know when they’re in conversation with people who are relatively new to the system. And, bugs reported by new users are automatically entered into Bugzilla with a status of “UNCONFIRMED”.

Our bug reporter was answered the same day by a community bug triager who used the “needinfo” checkbox to ask the bug reporter more questions. A bit later, in Comment 2, I was able to confirm the bug; I marked it NEW. Community members often jump in to do this from Bug Triage bug days, from our One and Done community taskboard, or because they watch the “Firefox::Untriaged” component. (Yes . . . you too can sign up to get email from Bugzilla every time a new bug is filed!)

Francesca Ciceri is currently working on bug triage and verification with our team as part of the GNOME-OPW internship program, doing similiar work to Tiziana Selitto who was an OPW intern last year! Both their blogs have good insights into what it’s like to approach QA in a huge and somewhat chaotic system like Mozilla’s.

In our example bug, I took a guess as to which product and component to add to the bug. This is like putting the bug into the right place where developers who work in a particular area will be likely to see it, and pay attention to it. I moved it from “Firefox” to “Core” and thought it may be something to do with the CSS Object Model. Picking the right product and component is tricky. Sometimes I look for similar bugs, to see what component they’re in. Sometimes I use Bugzilla’s Browse pages to skim or search through the descriptions of components for Firefox, Core, and Toolkit. Even after doing this for a year and a half, I get it wrong. Here, a developer moved the bug to what he thought was a better component for it, Core::Layout. (Developers also sometimes guess wrong, and keep passing a bug around to each others’ components like a hot potato.)

At this point a few developers explored the bug, and went back and forth with each other and the bug reporter about whether it had been fixed or not, exactly what the bug was, whether it is a Mac issue or a Firefox issue, and how to fix it. It was resolved as a duplicate of another bug in October, but the bug reporter came back to reopen it in February 2014. The bug reporter was polite but persistent in explaining their view, giving more details of the browser behavior, trying to find the bug in the very latest developer build (Nightly), giving a test case and comparing the behavior in different browsers. A developer submitted a patch, asked for code review. Related bugs were mentioned and linked. At least two new bugs were filed.

One important thing to note is that people working on QA and development tend to move very fluidly between using various Firefox versions. One of the best things you can do to get involved with helping out is to set up all four “channels” of Firefox with the capability to run them all at once with different profiles, and to start with new, clean profiles. In fact, we need better and more up to date documentation of how to do that on different operating systems, with screenshots! Here are some links that may help you set that up:
* http://www.callum-macdonald.com/about/faq/multiple-firefox-instances/
* https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Mozilla/Multiple_Firefox_Profiles
* https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/profile-manager-create-and-remove-firefox-profiles

OK, back to bug 926292!

Since I had worked on the bug and added myself to the cc field, I got bugmail about all these changes, and more or less followed a long. I often think that the collaboration that happens in bug fixing is very beautiful, and even fairly efficient!

In comment 29 you can see that code got committed to a mercurial repository, to “inbound”. From there, it goes through automated tests and is merged by one of the “sheriffs” into another hg repository, mozilla-central, where it will go into the next build of Nightly, which at that point in April, was Firefox 31.

Comment 30 suggests uplifting the patch to versions that will soon be released, to Aurora and Beta. Release managers started to get involved, commenting and asking the developers to formally nominate the bug for uplift.

At this point in my talk I explained a little bit about the “trains”.

Trains

The versions of Firefox under development advance on a 6 week cycle, from Nightly to Aurora to Beta to the main release of Firefox. In this rapid release schedule, Firefox 31 was Nightly, so Aurora was 30, 29 was Beta, and the release version most folks use was 28. The uplift request was refused so the patch “rode the train”. That means, if you were using Firefox 31 any time after the patch was merged into mozilla-central, you will see its effect. (It would also be fixed for Firefox 32 and 33 which are currently in use as Aurora and Nightly, since 31 is currently Beta.)

Our bug was marked “FIXED” when the patch was merged into mozilla-central. You can see near the end of its comments that I tagged the bug “verifyme” to put it into the queue of bugs that need verifying for Firefox 31. Many people see that list and work on verifying bugs including community members in our Bug Verification test days. I hope the story of this particular bug is over. I don’t have the number immediately to hand but I believe that over 1000 bugs are fixed for each version of Firefox over its release cycle. We can’t verify them all, but it’s amazing what we do get done as a team!

Other tools we looked at in my talk and the ensuing discussion:

Datazilla, which tests and measures Firefox performace: https://datazilla.mozilla.org/

Mozmill, a UI automation framework for Mozilla apps including Firefox and Thunderbird: https://github.com/mozilla/mozmill

Socorro, or crash-stats, where QA and other teams keep track of crashes in Firefox and other Mozilla products: https://crash-stats.mozilla.com

The ftp directories where Firefox builds and build candidates are stored: ftp://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/candidates/

The mercurial repositories or “the tree”: http://hg.mozilla.org/

DXR, a nifty tool to search Mozilla’s code: http://dxr.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/source/

TBPL which shows the test results for every commit that’s merged into different branches https://tbpl.mozilla.org/

And a quick view into Mozilla’s Jenkins continuous integration dashboard which you can only see from our VPN, just to give an idea of the work we do when Firefox is in Beta. As a particular version of Firefox advances through rapid release, QA pays more attention to particular areas and uses different tools. We have to know a little bit about everything, be able to reproduce a user’s bug on many different possible platforms, figure out which developers may be able to fix a bug (or whose commit may have caused a regression or crash).

It was a lot to cover in an hour long talk! I wanted to pilot this informally as a test for doing a more formal talk with slides.

It represented fairly well that QA covers quite a lot of territory; it’s complicated and interesting work.

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Taxis who refuse wheelchairs

I enjoy coming to Portland and taking the awesomely accessible train from PDX airport to downtown, but I got in a little late for my conference dinner, so, figuring it would save time, I headed to the taxi dispatch line to get a cab. I was traveling by myself, with my manual Quickie Ti wheelchair and a backpack.

The taxis were about halfway up to the first taxi position, and the dispatcher motioned for me to get into the first one in line, a Union Cab. The driver shook his head at her, then at me as I asked him to open the trunk of the taxi. “I just need you to open the trunk, the wheelchair folds up and I will put it in.” He refused to take me as a passenger. The dispatcher was angry with him, but he ignored her and pulled up a few more feet, taking another passenger who arrived at the stand after me.

The second driver in line was in a Green Cab. He had a big white bushy beard and was wearing sunglasses and a large black floppy hat. He looked right into my eyes, shook his head, and waved his hand dismissively as I asked him to open the trunk of the taxi. The dispatcher also was unable to persuade him to open his doors or trunk. That guy pulled up and let someone else and their luggage into his cab.

The third driver was outraged at what he had just seen. He got out of the taxi, and helped me put my backpack into his trunk. I took apart my chair, which has quick release wheels like some bicycles, and folded down the seat back for us both to put the pieces into the trunk of the taxi. This driver asked the dispatcher from the airport taxi stand to report the first two drivers. I said that I would write down their information and report them. I got the cab companies and numbers, but not the license plates. As we pulled out of the airport, we actually caught up with the two cabs that had refused to take me as a passenger, so I was able to double check their cab numbers.

The nice driver was from Broadway Cab. He pointed out the phone number for the City of Portland complaint line, and was very supportive and helpful. He said that to his knowledge, the first two drivers have done this in the past because they think that wheelchairs will take too much time to deal with. Talking with him was so heartening, a good reminder that there are plain old decent human beings around who will treat me like a fellow person although we are strangers.

From my conversations with other cab drivers and bus drivers, there are other assumptions that they tend to make about wheelchair users or people who have a visible disability. Drivers may be angry at me before I even get into a cab or bus, because they are afraid I will take up their time, be unable to get in or out of the cab, may somehow injure myself and sue them, or whatever. If I try to hail a cab on the street, it usually doesn’t work. I have to ask someone else, even a total stranger, to hail the cab while I hide out of sight. This is part of why services like Uber and Lyft work well for me, while I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to use them. I can leave my house with my manual wheelchair, travel, and be confident that I won’t get stranded by bigotry.

As it was, I only had wait a few minutes for a nicer cab driver, and things turned out fine. However, I do get angry about cab drivers who won’t stop for me. The prejudice that I get isn’t going to get any easier for me as I get older, so I try to take the time now, while I have the energy (and the privilege) to report discriminatory behavior.

I just reported them through the City of Portland’s online complaint form and to the cab companies. The city emailed me back immediately to apologize and to let me know they were addressing the complaints. Both Green and Union took my phone complaint and said they would investigate and likely reprimand the drivers.

Since I benefit daily from the activism of people who hard core chained themselves to buses in the dead of winter in the 70s and 80s, I figure I can spare an hour to try to make sure that current ADA law is enforced. I also think of places like New York City where activists are fighting hard to get the city to make all taxis accessible to more wheelchair users.

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Editing Wikipedia 101 session from AdaCamp

After the Welcome and introduction and first session of AdaCamp in Portland I joined Netha Hussain and Rosie Stevenson to facilitate a session on editing Wikipedia. Everyon in the room introduced themselves and talked about their connection to open knowledge, information, and wikis. There were several people who had never edited Wikipedia.

We started by briefly describing what a wiki is. It is a collection of documents that are editable by multiple people; usually each page has a revision history and some transparency around who made specific edits. So, you can see who wrote which bits in a document with multiple authors. Often, a wiki page has words that are linked to other pages in the wiki. We accepted that we were mostly talking about Wikipedia here and acknowledged that “what wikis are” and their philosophy has a rich, interesting history.

Netha talked a bit about her work adding useful information from medical textbooks and journals which she started doing as a medical student.

Rosie jumped right in to an example of the kind of work she does; taking a biography of a notable woman who has a Wikipedia article in a language other than English, and creating an English language Wikipedia article about that woman. She had an example prepared. “I like that there’s a photo of her and she’s dead,” Rosie said enthusiastically. I chimed in with, “I *love* dead people!” We tried to explain why we love dead people. It is because editing the biographies of living persons is often a lot more contentious than writing about people who are not around to mind that you’re writing an encyclopedia article about them.

We paused to discuss what “notable” meant. There was not time to get into it, but Notability as defined by Wikipedia policies is an often contentious point, and often applied with gender and other biases. It is therefore important to try to establish the notablity of your subject, whether that’s a person or some other topic, by including good references that show they are important or significant.

Rosie’s example was Ángela Figuera Aymerich. She created an English language page for Figuera Aymerich. We all helped go over a brief tour of the page editing view. Rosie knows a little Spanish and uses Google Translate to read the source page. She made a very basic page with one sentence. We pointed out edit summary box where you can describe what you’ve just done.

Then we added a reference. Rosie did a search to find a book that talked about Figuera Aymerich and found one in Google Books. She used an online tool to format a nice looking Google Books citation for Wikipedia, then copied and pasted it into the edit page.

A new editor asked if it was ok or if it is considered rude to edit someone else’s sentences. Someone else explained it is not rude, but can take some tact. Often, men don’t pause to ask themselves that question, they just jump in and change things around. This is a good example of gender differences in the ways we begin engaging and the assumptions we make about interaction and collaboration.

This led us to do a quick tour of the article’s Talk page. Every article in Wikipedia has a “meta” page called hte Talk page, where people can discuss what might or should go into the article.

We then touched on adding images. Rosie advised always using images from Wikimedia Commons, because they will be licensed correctly for use in Wikipedia(s). If you have a properly licensed photo or image you want to use that isn’t there, you can go through the image upload wizard which will walk you through adding it to Wikimedia Commons. Then, use that version in your Wikipedia article. We did this all a bit too fast to follow.

There was some discussion of Categories, what they mean, how to search Wikipedia for articles similar to the one you are about to add, to see what categories it includes.

Categories that identify gender or other identity based information, such as “Women writers” or “Women writers from Bilbao” and so on, can be contentious topics. I talked a bit about how this is often exactly the sort of information I’m looking for that I consider valuable and important. But other editors or admins sometimes label this information as “sexist” or irrelevant, undoing important work.

Some of the new editors in the room wondered why anyone would be “a deletionist” so we discussed that a little bit.

It can be a good starting point to edit existing articles, either from a category like Articles needing cleanup or from some area of your own expertise, a book you’re reading, or something you’re learning about for which you have good sources that you can cite.

It was a good session! Several of us had lunch together and talked more about Rosie’s passion for translating articles from one language into another! She spoke very movingly about the politics of translation, especially as it is relevant to women’s history. If we don’t put this information online, it can more or less disappear from public awareness.

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