Support a geek feminist nonprofit!

I’m donating — at the $15/month level — to support The Ada Initiative, a small non-profit that’s tackling sexism in open tech and open culture. Over the last few years we’ve seen women stand up to assert that sexism and gender bias exists. It affects us directly and indirectly. It harms our lives. It makes it harder for us to contribute to projects that further our ideals. We believe passionately, some of us, in FOSS, in collaboration and sharing, building tools that empower people, opening information access for all to use and build upon. We want to participate fully in that culture.

One of the first steps to increase women’s participation is naming the problems of bias, misogyny, sexism, and harassment. That’s absolutely crucial! We continue to do that, in parallel with many other efforts. To many people, calling out problems looks like complaining. Why are we just whining about sexism? Why don’t we “do something”? The Ada Initiative is an earnest — and effective — way of doing something. If you’ve ever felt impatient with people’s complaints about sexism, here’s an opportunity for you to put your money on the line, to support a force for positive change.

How can we change things? What about constructive actions? What positive steps can we take? The Ada Initiative takes on the task of improving women’s participation in FOSS conferences and events, and in other public arenas for speech. Valeria Aurora and Mary Gardiner, and the rest of us, are working to build spaces for women to participate in public discourse.

Harassment often keeps women out of that public sphere, or drives them away. The Ada Initiative is working with a large number of tech conferences and other events to take a definite stand against harassment. But we also work to strengthen women’s participation in other ways. Here are some of the other things The Ada Initiave does:

Created AdaCamp conference: Held two AdaCamps, a wildly popular unconference for women and advocates of women in open tech/culture.
Made conferences safer for women: Wrote and encouraged adoption of policies preventing harassment of women, now in use by hundreds of conferences and organizations in open tech/culture as well as science fiction conventions, fan conventions, computer game conferences, and skeptic/atheist conferences.
Reached thousands of people through speaking: Spoke about increasing diversity and welcoming women at several conferences, including co-founder Mary Gardiner’s keynote at Wikimania 2012. We also helped many of our advisors and supporters develop keynote speeches on diversity, including Sumana Harihareswara’s OSBridge 2012 keynote, Sarah Stierch’s Wikimedia Academy 2012 keynote, Alex “Skud” Bayley’s GUADEC 2012 keynote, and Michael Schwern’s YAPC 2012 keynote.
Created a non-profit charity: Created a charitable non-profit organization from scratch, including acquiring tax-exempt status in the United States, a non-trivial task.
Advised organizations on supporting women: Provided free consulting to several organizations on high-profile incidents of sexism, improving recruitment and retention of women in open tech/culture jobs, and creating a friendlier environment for women.
Taught hands-on workshops: Wrote and taught four free workshops teaching practical skills to men wanting to help women and trans people in open/tech culture.
Conducted surveys and research: We ran several surveys, including a survey of over 2800 people about attitudes towards women in open tech/culture.

Future work by The Ada Initiative will include more workshops for women, on contributing to open source projects, on fighting imposter syndrome, and on designing and running good gender diversity programs, as well as their usual work with conferences.

Here’s another thing I absolutely LOVE about The Ada Initiative. It’s about adult women in this field. I love that it’s not dismissing those of us who are already here, who are already participating. Support us who are going to conferences and speaking at events, submitting patches and writing the code! Helping us, helping us not burn out or quit in disgust because the bad things never change. Rather than writing off the women already HERE, and trying to recruit a new crop of fresh faced teenagers and recent graduates, The Ada Initiative is fighting to patch the “leaky pipeline”‘s leaks.

Women’s work fighting sexism is important. It’s especially important when it’s about supporting other women, pulling together for constructive action. I’m a supporting donor to The Ada Initiative because I want Val and Mary to get paid for doing that work, because they’re GREAT at it.

Feminism and tech/Internet activism are a big part of my life. I’ve been part of LinuxChix, Systers, DevChix, phpWomen, Drupalchix, and am peripherally involved in so many other efforts by women in specific F/LOSS communities to organize and support each other. They’re all doing great work in many dimensions. Of course, I work at BlogHer, which supports women’s participation in public discourse in blogging and social media. And I’m proud to be part of Geek Feminism the blog and wiki, which has developed into a highly organized and effective group, doing consistent work. The Ada Initiative has ties to many of these communities, and intersects with them. As a feminist FOSS non profit it can give help coordinated across many projects and communities. We have the chance to make a lasting institution for our support.

Please join The Ada Initiative, and donate anything you can afford — but I’m hoping here that you all will join at the $15/month or $30/month level! This, along with my monthly donation to Noisebridge will be my main donation effort for 2012 and 2013. I hope you join me! (And the fabulous rockstars who are TAI’s Directors and Advisors!) Donate, and … I’ll see you at AdaCamp 2013!


Feminist Hackerhive meetups

We’ve had a few more anarchafeminist hackerhive meetups over the last month and each one has been different, with a different group of people showing up and wanting to talk about their ideas and projects. Mostly, we just hang out in a mellow way and sometimes people bring cupcakes or other food to share. There is a fair amount of discussion of Misogynist Shit that Happens on the net or in various geek communities along with strategies for dealing with them and what I would call general feminist consciousness raising. We are all getting to know each other. People like the stickers!

This is also happening in Noisebridge mostly in a very public setting so nothing super private, secret, or anonymous is happening during these meetings. It is not particularly a “safe space”. Far from it since we have people occasionally intrude, we don’t have any standards for behavior or speech internally in the “group”, and also, I warn people not to use the open wifi at Noisebridge without a VPN. But about the meetings, I figure that people can get to know each other here and if anyone wants to do something with more secrecy they have that opportunity to do so in an autonomous working group.

Here’s a few of the subjects we’ve talked about over the last few weeks, as short notes since I am so far behind in blogging about the meetups.

Resisting gender binaries in software/web tool development. Wikipedia and the Teahouse project. The Ada Initiative. I reported on stuff that happened at GeekGirlCon and we talked a bunch about the skepchick and feminist frequency clusters of activity. Linux installfests. IRC cloaking. Using Bitlbee. Livestreaming technology for use at Occupy. Tracing identities from IP numbers and other information. Gradual ongoing skillsharing amongst the Hive. Grassroots skillsharing and activism. Our own histories of going into programming, web dev, computer science, and involvement with open source stuff, some of us not programmers but are “very sophisticated end users” who are often in a role of being the most technical person in the room.

Awareness of gender and misogyny is important in predicting the attack surface/threat model for an action online. Who is it going to piss off?

Local safety alerts (discussion of that email from SFWAR last year about someone killing women in the Mission; its veracity; what kinds of alert are useful or not). Divides within Occupy movements in SF and Oakland; people on mailing lists, with smart phones, were not the people on the street suffering the violence, or without much of an intersection. Description of a women’s urgent action committee who ran public vigils for years every time a woman was killed by her partner. What happens in activist groups leading up to everyone from anti-oppression groups quitting or from marginalized people quitting the group, with examples of racism and sexism.

Creating something like an activist tools package and hosting system. Cloud-based servers, important in organizing to figure out who has the passwords, tools that can handle different accounts/logins, set that up from the beginning. Everyone can post vs. gated/moderated vs. individually owned.

My app idea in response to Circle of Six: how about an app called Wingmen Don’t Rape or something like that, distributed on college campuses, for men so that they can monitor each other to make sure they’re still not raping anyone. It would have a few simple buttons where you remind your buddies not to have sex with anyone who is unconscious or too drunk to consent or if they’re too drunk themselves to have good judgement. They could send each other anti-raping tips and then report periodically throughout the evening “Still haven’t raped anyone yet!” It would be great to raise awareness! Well, seriously it would just attract outrage, but it would be funny as hell and would make a point. I get so pissed off at all the “don’t get raped” apps people make! Why not a few “don’t rape anyone” social pressure educational apps?

Some of us don’t usually identify as feminist, have problems with that framework, and yet kind of see the point of feminist actions or want to work with other women or are just sick of facing sexist behavior alone.

Feminist hacker ethics should consider access issues to tech tools and the number of voices being heard within a movement. It needs to consider the dynamic where the assets, computers/accounts/hosting/servers are owned by men, while the work is being done day to day by women who don’t step up to take the credit for the work for many reasons.

Class differences seen in activism where just showing people they can SMS to Twitter on their own phones is powerful, or showing them how to post to or for the first time. Someone who uses email may not have the framing to get how to talk “on the Internet”. This is important for women having a public voice.

Someone brought a game boy controlled sewing machine and donated it to Noisebridge. Interest all around! Someone else let us know that conductive velcro exists. Some frilly pink fabric was also passed around and greeted with terror, horror, anti-pink feelings, and from some, enthusiastic glee. Devolution into discussion of My Little Pony and the whole brony thing.

Phone access codes to Noisebridge.

Pystar, Railsbridge projects discussed with enthusiasm!

Yelp for doctor reviews. Situations trans people face where collecting that information attracts trolls, attacks, is difficult to maintain and keep as well as to host. Needs to be distributed/federated, with really good revision history and author info while preserving anonymity. admins shouldn’t have too much power. LIke an open source review engine that preserves accountability. Syncing between different instances will be important. What about using github as the back end. Crawl existing lists to pre-populate. New entry creation should be treated differently than reviews of existing care providers.

Feminist Hackers github group. We can contribute these project ideas. Just mkae the readme describing the project and check it in. Maybe we can help each other and recruit contributors for the ideas we’ve been discussing. gets a little discussion at each meeting. Everyone has a different idea of what it would be, and how to do it, and what the risks would be.

General love for markdown. Writing a guide to hardening one’s security.

Service for storing/sharing block lists, for use by individual bloggers/social media users/feminist group blogs etc, with an API. Exporting block lists. Agitating for data liberation from various companies to be able to export those lists.

Talkbackbot discussed again. Poortego (a Maltego imitation on github). Maker Pipeline project to match people’s skills and projects. Desire to have a 3js and D3 library workshop. Teaching (white hat) hacking to kids. Complaints and lulz over things made for women that are pink or flowered. Flowered crap at REI. Bic For Her pen reviews were very funny.

Automated hate mail doxxer tool. What about using spamassassin for hate speech? Individually customizable/trainable over time. Hateassassin! Crowdsourcing the job of looking at your blog comments/moderating (for people with an urgent situation who ahve just been slashdotted or something) Countergriefer project: tool to use panopticlick… and then republish their shit with that information for a block list or doxxing.

Persona management software.

Shit Reddit Says, Tumblr activism going on.

Discussion of name change laws in California and other states. IN some states you must register the name change in public which forever and googleably associates your old name with your new name. Not good when you are trying to evade stalkers.

Matt Honan’s situation with his amazon & apple accounts socially engineered and then his ipad, phone, and computer info deleted remotely. Very interesting story.

Description of the stuff Anita and Jonathan told me and Kellie from EFF about what it is like to face a long term ongoing series of attacks and raids on herself and her accounts everywhere and her family and friends. What help could a larger hackerhive provide? This would be the emergency response team. What resources exist to help people in this situation?

Funny ideas about challenge coins and medals for the (entirely hypothetical) Feminist Emergency Response Team (FERT) and the Feminist Cyberdefense Strike Force.

More ideas for crypto parties.

We hope that people elsewhere will declare themselves feminist hackers and will meet up and post their ideas.

Also, say hi on freenode; some of us are there hanging out on #geekfeminism and on #feminism as well. This geekfeminism channel *isn’t* the moderated one run by the gf bloggers and friends though there is some intersection.

If you want to join the mailing list, you can do it here, but it is a private list so if you don’t already know me please email me separately to let me know a bit about yourself and why you would like to join. We would like for now to keep it to people who have at some point identified as significantly non-male.

Bad inventions: Dog skates and conductive paint toilet seats!

From my notebook pages of ridiculous inventions and bad ideas, for your amusement. As I fiddled with a pot of conductive paint and thought about murals on the wall with blinky LEDs, I had the horrible idea of painting a toilet seat with conductive paint in such a way so that when you sit on it, your bare butt completes a circuit and lights up something on the wall. That should be enshrined in the bad inventions hall of fame!

Dog skates would take the idea of dog skateboards and wheelchairs a bit further. Basically you would take an old fashioned metal rollerskate and modify it to strap around the body of a small dog. Then, add a spring-powered suspension system between the body and the wheels, so the dog can easily bounce up and down between a walking and a rolling position. The skate could also be locked with a screw device in a wheels-up or wheels-down position to make the dog walk, or to pull it along on a leash like a little (live) pull toy. I don’t have a dog and don’t even like dogs, but thought of this while staring at other people dragging their reluctant chihuahas around San Francisco, and it made me laugh because it’s such a bad idea.

Data journalism and Media Lab fun

In June (catching up with posts here!) I went to the MIT Knight Foundation Civic Media conference to talk about data journalism and hang out with other free speech minded, politically active, wordy nerds. The tour of the MIT Media Labs was great and super inspiring. I especially loved the high low tech lab run by Leah Buchley, the materials hacking Mediated Matter lab with tons of 3d printing materials projects, and the Fluid Interfaces and Tangible Media labs. I talked with people from Document Cloud, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the Center for Investigative Reporting as well as lots of great people from the Ford and Knight Foundations.


Other stuff from my scattered notes: Irene Ros’s talk. Storyfying a company CTO’s responses to reports of sexist internet behavior in the javascript community. Data visualization is helpful to explain and show gendered bias in how women are described in the news. The squoot incident. I note to myself to tell Irene about the Joanna Russ antipatterns to detect and categorize misogyny.


Someone advised me to get in touch with T Mills Kelly to talk about our work on internet hoaxes. While it looks like we work on different kinds of “hoaxes” or fictional information on the net, I’d like to take a closer look at their work.

Notes on journalist’s responsibility to the people in the story, on action in human rights communities and emerging communities online, and what journalistic ethics are regarding consent in a story or for a story. Different communities have different expectations for ethical behavior and consent around identity, identifying a source.

One of the nicest conversations I had was with Sasha Costanza-Chock who demoed VozMob for me and let me sign up to try and to test their platform, which was in beta. They wrote a Drupal module which enables people to blog very easily from feature phones — i.e. if you can’t afford a smartphone, you can still take a photo, make a slideshow, or send an SMS message directly to post on a blog. They pioneered a project here at

Mobile Voices (VozMob) is a platform for immigrant and/or low-wage workers in Los Angeles to create stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones. VozMob appropriates technology to create power in our communities and achieve greater participation in the digital public sphere.

It looks like a very carefully set up project done in collaboration with existing organizations and communities. Their structure and guide for participation and affiliation is especially great. There is a Drupal project for the Vozmob module where development is ongoing.

Even better: the vozmob project and module evolved into a launch of a hosted platform, Groups or individuals can set up a vojo account to blog by voice message, or text or photos sent over SMS, or to blast to a group’s members by SMS. It looks like a great tool for activists or for any group whose constituents have phones but not feature phones. This is something that would have been (and will be) very useful for people from the Occupy movement!

vozmob logo

My own ideas that I wanted to convey to people at the conference were largely around journalism and sourcing about events that *happen on the Internet*. Data journalists often deal with large stacks of paper or PDFs that need storage, access control, and annotation as well as with plain old huge data sets. We think of events as happening in “real life” and about stuff on the net as being part of the “coverage”. But what about when the stuff on the net is the event — an Internet drama, a suddenly exploding Twitter hashtag, a political idea or a video gone viral? The stuff “happening” is happening textually or in media – it is already mediated. To write about it well, we need to source it and to source it we need ways to capture and archive it, especially as these happenings can be ephemeral; accounts or comments can be deleted. I see this as an opportunity to create tools to turn on “hotspots” of activity – for example on a controversial blog or a cluster of blogs or associated social media accounts – and record the activity happening so that sourcing of coverage about a controversy can be transparent. This might be a private, semi-private, or a site that functions as public storage like the Internet Archive. While this makes me feel as if I am re-inventing the idea of an annotatable “shadow web”, it might have more of a practical use and might be more possible with the increasing cheapness of data storage.

Well, it was a great trip to Boston, and I really appreciate getting the opportunity to participate and meet so many smart, motivated, creative people in tech and journalism.