Changing the World with Open Source

Today I was on a panel, Changing the World with Open Source, for the Women Who Tech Telesummit. I came away feeling charged up and inspired at the thought that the other panelists and I were really on the same page as far as F/LOSS culture, free culture and non-hierarchical and non-traditional methods of collaboration as being world-changing in themselves. Process is as important as product! It was almost eerie, but very heartening, to realize how deeply I agreed with Arthur and Jane. I thought, “My god… the world already has changed!”

logo for women who tech

The talk had around 90 attendees out of about 600 registered for the conference. It was recorded and broadcasted in various places including in the learning theaters in Microsoft stores.

We mentioned many resources and practical tips for engaging with open source projects and communities. Answering questions in support forums or IRC, submitting a patch, entering the project with a friend (as equals) rather than picking a mentor or teacher and working alone, going to events like WordCamp, DrupalCon, or Wikimedia hackathons were mentioned. Arthur talked about The Ada Initiative, (which just got its non-profit status approved, hooray!) and I mentioned Dreamwidth as a particularly friendly project for contributors. I also gave a hat tip to hackerspaces and to Women Who Code.

So, I recall making a few good points that I think added to the political depth of the conversation, or that reframed it as important activism. As women at this moment in history we are engaged in a long, drawn out struggle to take our places in the public sphere. Much of the advice on “women in F/LOSS” is pitched to newbies and inexperienced developers. But I wanted to speak to experienced women “in tech” too. While we might feel suspicious as developers and as women of anything asking us to do work for free — since our labor as women is so often exploited — it is a political act for us to take credit for our work in the public sphere. Coming into the public as writers or as developers, our mere assertion of that right (and the right to have attention paid to our work) brings a hostile reaction, no matter how nice or helpful we are. As we like to talk about at geekfeminism.org, it is crucial for us to support each other and for good F/LOSS projects to foster a supportive culture.

Thanks @janeforshort, @sarahnovotny, @awjrichards, and @WomenWhoTech, @brainwane and @Sarah_Stierch! And of course to anyone listening. I enjoyed our conversation very much!

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