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, 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!

My talk at SXSWi tomorrow morning at 9:30am, on an outer gas giant, in the rain

So, I should have written this post earlier so people knew I was speaking. Tomorrow, Saturday morning at 9:30am I’m speaking with Scott Rosenberg (author of Dreaming in Code and Say Everything) on identity, pseudonymity, fake identities, hoaxes, anonymity, and so on. The title of the talk is How to Be Yourself When Everyone Else Is Faking It. It’s at the Omni Downtown at 700 San Jacinto (between 7th and 8th), so, not in the main conference center.

When we met to discuss the talk Scott and I both realized we wanted to talk about our takes on the arc of identity formation and representation on the Internet from the late 80s onward and possibly stretching back a bit earlier. My own impressions reach back to powerfully strong Usenet and MUD personalities from the late 80s and early 90s. There were mailing-list-famous people, hoaxes, personalities who would morph but who were identifiable by writing style or personal obsessions, people who were known for updating their .plan file daily; web and blogging identity issues have older roots not just from the literary world but from the pre-web online world. I’m going to talk about the arcs I see in blogging identities, going from personal journals to subject-focuses to identity fracturing and then back to wallet-name based blogging for many people — once they switched subjects or centrally defining characteristics a few times, hit a particular level of success, or were outed. Though I am firmly on the side of protection for anonymity and pseudonymity (and I believe Scott is too) I can outline some of the objections to that position. And yes I will definitely talk about Internet hoaxes a bit.

I think it will be a lively discussion and whoever shows up at 9:30am on Saturday morning in the rain to a hotel several blocks away will probably into be able to contribute substantially to that discussion! YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Hope to see you there — or perhaps in comments here. I’ll update with links to our slides and whatever extra notes get taken. You could also check the hackpad page to see if anyone adds info there.

And if you see me around, definitely say hi and introduce yourself! Give me a card! Tell me everything! And please…. I am dead serious…. hold my hand and pull me down the (carpeted, difficult, exhausting) hallway or up a horrible hill. It would be so helpful. I am stopping total strangers and asking them to hold my hand and pull me along a little while.

me and al

Other stuff I am definitely going to: Curing a Rage Headache: Internet Drama & Activism with Sady Doyle, Jay Smooth, et al Sunday at 12:30, and Tech Co-operatives: A Better Way to Make a Living with Raeanne Young, Jack Aponte, and crew Monday at 9:30. I haven’t gone through the whole schedule yet to pick things but those are the two I definitely want to make. But on Sunday at 12:30 YOU should go to How to Build a Social Site and Not Get Users Killed which includes Danny O’Brien, Jillian York, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, and Sam Gregory.

Today I went to Gina Mccauley’s Social Media Sharecropping session and I’ll put my notes up from that a bit later tonight.

Random conversations with strangers at SXSWi

Day one of SXSWi and though the conference hasn’t started yet, I ended up by accident in the same place as the “open coffee” SXSWi meetup. I asked to share the only table that my wheelchair could get to at Jo’s Coffee House on 2nd Street and had a nice chat with Bob Summers. He was wearing a Friendeo tshirt so I asked if Friendeo was his company. Duh. Yes. (On the other hand I am wearing a Hackmitin Mexico City tshirt just because I think it looks cool… so go figure.) What I really wanted to know was, did he come to SXSWi with a suitcase full of like 5 Friendeo tshirts so he could advertise his company every day? (I asked him that just before I left, and… YES.)

Friendeo is like Dropbox but for streaming video. They have a player you download and can use across all your devices, and you get a terabyte of storage to keep your stuff. It also has friending so that you can watch your friends’ videos. I asked if he expected licensing trouble and he replied it was fair use. Then I asked what kind of data they keep on users. You can sign up for a free account with nothing but an email address but your IP is logged and kept. Free accounts can watch 3 hours of video free. Over 3 hours per month, you pay $10 for 30 hours and $30 for 300 hours a month. An interesting model!

Bob was part of the CUSeeMe team early on, and we talked about how GLBT and disabled people end up being heavy and key users of video chat and similar community spaces.

We then talked a bit with Greg Nielsen who is the VP of biz dev for Data Foundry and was trying to get Bob to go today to tour the Giganet data center, or colo, I guess. (correction… Giganews, host of the world’s awesomest Usenet provider.) He talked a bit about Golden Frog and Dump Truck which provide “massive online storage” that is encrypted and does not do deep packet inspection. I thought it was interesting that he mentioned DPI right away. He told a little story about the name Golden Frog — a frog which lives in Panama and which doesn’t make the usual frog noises but uses some sort of multimodal communication technique involving “hand” waving and deep vibrations. I assume this signifies that the company is super committed to super encrypting and protecting their data and we should think of the mysterious signals of the frog as a sort of amphibian VPN. That would work better if anyone knew what a golden frog is beyond David Attenborough. But hey, it’s a fine story.

Austin skyline at night

I had read that morning about the Homeless Hotspot project, which hired some folks from downtown Austin shelters and gave them Hotspot tshirts and some kind of mobile wifi providing device to let people get on a 4G network for a fast net connection. The idea is they are supposed to donate with Paypal. I ended up telling everyone I talked to about this. I haven’t seen a person in the tshirt yet, but it’s been raining hard all day.

As the restaurant cleared out a little and I had finished my huevos rancheros I headed towards what looked like the nucleus of the coffee meetup. There I met Dave Michaels from Tech Ranch Austin which I have vaguely heard of as an incubator or something vc-ish for startups. I babbled to him about hackerspaces and my thoughts on how what startup incubators and VCs should be doing is providing community centers and low cost or free housing for hacker entrepreneurs.

I went on about how Noisebridge in SF has been a tech startup magnet/incubator in many ways, motivating people who visit to pick up and just move to San Francisco because they meet people with good ideas and get excited about doing a startup. Because of the cost of housing they end up couchsurfing, airbnb-ing, in an SRO or flat out homeless and people have been banding together to get housing. So I talked about how there should be hacker barracks or some sort of hacker housing beyond “hostels” and more like community centers and hackerspaces with attached places to sleep and a shared kitchen. Old motels would be good for this.

I think that start up incubators and VCs should be making safe, cheap spaces for smart motivated people to live as well as work — then let a hundred startups bloom…. It is not like putting a foozball table into a coworking office is going to cut it these days, since no one has the money just to survive.

Then I talked with John Reece from the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I asked him if they actually provide some kind of services or if they are about research and “awareness”. He got a funny wry look on his face and replied that the Komen thing was an opportunity for them to explain to everyone what NBCF does. They fund mammograms for underserved populations in all 50 states and their policy is to only provide that funding if the detection programs are also tied to getting people into treatment and care programs. Their founder’s cancer was detected early when she was 34, which she credits to her 8th grade PE teacher who taught the class about breast self exams.

He also gave me a card for Beyond the Shock which sounds like a forum for education once you know you have breast cancer. He also told me about a sort of soup kitchen project called Convoy of Hope which NBCF partners with to find people who might need a free or low cost mammogram. I think that NCBF should talk with people at BlogHer and come to the BlogHer 2012 conference!

I resolved to try and spend most of my time at SXSWi talking with people I don’t know and taking notes on what they’re doing and why they’re here. I have plenty to say myself, and I know a ton of people but I already know my own thoughts and would like a break from them. And rather than try to chase down the people I know in order to feel comfortable and/or popular and cool I am going to talk to just whoever whether they have a badge or not because usually the “lobbycon” is the most fun part of conferences anyway. I would also like to see my friends obviously but not cling to them. And would love to go see the ATX hackspace if it has any events going!

That was my morning — and by the way if you need a rain jacket, the Patagonia shop on Congress between 3rd and 4th streets has expensive but very nice jackets.

London and The Story

It’s amazing how only two suitcases can explode over a hotel room in stratigraphic layers of gadgets, papers, cords, chargers, cookies, postcards, tshirts, teacups, leg braces, books, and handkerchiefs-and-underwear washed in the sink hung out to dry. I have a fabulous view out the window of beautiful brick rooftops and the dome of the British Museum, which is lucky since I’m spending a lot of this trip to London lying in bed with my feet up on pillows!

I really enjoyed The Story. Eighteen of us told 20-minute stories one after the other, and it was never boring! It was like being inside a real-life anthology carefully edited by Matt Locke. As the day went on the bigger and somewhat inchoate Story began to emerge from the selection of individual stories told. I’m not sure what that big story is. It had the feeling of a thing that’s too new to be named, something diffuse that’s popping up rhizomatically in many different gardens, or something invisible and huge that we’re all trying to harness and ride. It felt like a story about the possible future.

I’m sure it’s unfashionable to be earnest about something so pomo. But that’s how I respond to anthologies. They’re about an unnameable shape and their pleasure for me is in trying to wrap my mind around that emerging shape.

My talk, “Fake Lesbians All the Way Down” was on last year’s blogging hoaxes (Gay Girl in Damascus and Paula Brooks/LezGetReal) and while I tried to make it a personal story about the process of doubting and then investigating particular identities, being lost in a labyrinth of identities and sources and histories, what I wanted to convey was not my personal experience or drama or a homily about Syrian activists in danger (which does trump the rest of the story). I wanted to convey an instance of what it means to read a story actively, to engage with a “difficult text”. Whatever people got out of it, the gossipy pleasure of Internet Drama and so on, I think I represented a good piece of the puzzle, one with swirly doubts, complexities and difficulty, that you can’t read without being drawn in to be part of it.

Other stories: Jeremy Deller‘s historical re-enactment of The Battle of Orgreave, part of the miners’ strike in 1984; Matthew Herbert‘s experiments with sound as story (I was overcome with sudden nostalgic desire to hear the sounds of a city street in 1982); Ellie Harrison‘s playful, scarily and wonderfully OCD manifestations of enormous personal and political data sets; Tom Chatfield and Phil Stuart on the narrative tricks of their video game for children on philosophy and death; Tom Watson and Emily Bell on the story of sticking with the unfolding phone hacking scandal; and Danny‘s wrap-up story about Anarchy, the Universe, Occupy, Hackerspaces, Open Source, the Internet, and Everything — and too many other talks to go into in one blog post.


I loved how interested the audience was, how everyone was listening very hard, and talking about it all on the breaks and afterwards, with more than idle curiosity — a bit more like being at a science fiction convention where you know you are among other people who really love Whatever It Is, than like being at a tech conference where half of it is necessarily about networking and pushing your startup or getting a job. Maybe that view is because as an outsider to this scene, the networking bit was invisible to me. Still, it felt like most of the people there were story-lovers and creators who had the capacity to listen with complexity.

Also, how awesome was it that the conference schedule was printed IN CHOCOLATE?

The Story program in chocolate

The night before the conference there was a dinner for the speakers, and for me the highlight was talking with Matt Sheret not just about our own upcoming talks but also in depth about zines, anthologies, books, stories and games including role playing games and MUDs. We had something of a shared experience of the ways role playing games, especially as collaborative stories extended over months or years, pull people together socially and the depth of community & friendships they can create.

I have to add a few ill mannered words though, because it is part of my role as an imported American to stomp around, braying gracelessly. And it’s not like, when I see the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen and the most ripe for mockery, I can keep my mouth shut about it! One talk made my head explode with rage so much that I was glad it was there as a bad example, as the utterly wrong kind of story and story telling. So while I don’t want to be mean to the perfectly nice person exemplifying this, I must slam the subject of her talk. /end disclaimer

Fiona Raby gave a sort of “multimedia presentation” (and I mean that in all the ways one might itch all over at a badly “interactive” museum exhibit) of a vision of the future in 2050 of humans as “Foragers“. Without any apparent knowledge of the enormous amount of science fiction and futurist thought of actually creative and visionary people on this subject, some design consultancy in South Africa poured out buttloads of money to come up with the Art Concept of how in 2050 the Earth’s 9 billion people will need to be fed. Oh, no one has ever pushed the boundaries of thought about THAT before, for fuck’s sake! Anyway, the Foragers will be genetically engineered with handwavium to have external stomachs around their necks like inner tubes and will have prosthetic arm extensions to vacuum up and digest common weeds and the leaves of trees (in order to preserve biodiversity rather than having nothing but soy crops) whilst wearing Nikes and fashionable track suits because globally industrialized consumer capitalism is still going strong and nothing else about the world has changed other than “9 billion people” and “we still have brand name sneakers”. This, presented as radical conceptualization of the future rather than as just freaking lazy. Swoopy drawings of the foragers and then some people cosplaying foragers with long green sleeves, masks, and inner tubes around their necks in a skanky vacant lot under some pylons (with the people playing frisbee in the background hailed as more radical conceptualization of the normal human activity taking place as foragers forage, and the snapshot-level quality of the photos lauded as brilliant camera work. Interspersed with “science” bits about how (news flash!) Scientists have discovered (recently!) that there are certain plants… (peas… fancy that!) that “put Nitrate” into the soil and useful crops could be genetically engineered to splice that capability in.


THEN… as if that were not enough crime… they hired a hack writer to drivel on about the last butterfly being accidentally Foraged off an oak leaf, and then printed a few paragraphs of that drivel in 5 inch high plastic three dimensional letters (in a special font) which were artily placed on an art gallery floor so that they (radical concept!) were only readable in a linear fashion from a particular perspective. There is also a video or three and some computer animation. I could almost forgive the whole Foragers thing as a clumsy, naive, beginner’s attempt at science fiction, if not for the obviously obscene amount of money an enormous amount of useless people sucked off some governmental/NGO tit to produce this 5th-rate bullshit. I have to be harsh, because to me this is exactly the most horrifying process of producing and telling a story, as well as being a bad story.


On Sunday I went to the London Hackspace to have a tour. It was amazingly like Noisebridge in San Francisco, but somewhat quieter and with less people trooping in and out.


I loved how familiar it was, I loved the clutter and mess (which to me is richness and depth), the 3D printers, computer equipment and half-finished projects everywhere, cables hanging down from the walls and ceiling, murals of robots, enormous wood shop full of tools and scraps, and most of all the little flyers and bits of tape everywhere exhorting people to clean up, put your stuff away, put tea cups here, how to use this particular machine without cutting your hands off, organizational systems carefully created for the screwdrivers, and NO SLEEPING signs, because they are common to co-ops and collectives everywhere and their evident frustration is so touching an attempt to believe in human virtue.

screwdrivers big

Did you clean up?

With amusing naivete I had made the mistake of, while crippled and in theory “resting”, trying to keep up with Coryand Alice for an entire day. I have been in bed ever since. I really enjoyed Shoreditch House, the office with all those fascinating things and the astroturf balcony and back issues of Punch and the Whole Earth Catalog and lots of great science fiction, the hackspace, that awesome Vietnamese restaurant, both levels of Forbidden Planet, and that one store with the fancy leather coats.

Meanwhile — my beautiful view of rooftops from the hotel window led me to a small ridiculous epiphany. As I grew up reading everything including a ridiculous amount of British literature the word “chimneypots” meant something completely abstract to me. An architectureal feature of some sort that is part of a chimney or maybe just a weird old word for chimneys themselves. Of course looking out this window there are actual pottery things that look like flowerpots sitting on top of brick chimneys. Mindblowing! And they’re so lovely! I wish I could convey how smug I feel at this realization of how imaginary these objects were to me and how mundane they obviously must be to people here. Now I have a thing to the name, have read the Wikipedia entry for chimney pots (theory and history of) and have found 52 page pdf parody history of the fine old sport of Chimney Pot Spotting; I believe I’m looking at a Tadcaster Stoat and a Manly Bovington right now!

out the window

Oh! And! Two people (at least) drew cartoons of the speakers at The Story: sketch by Francois Jordan and another by Drawnalism. And… I wanted to mention that it was all a fundraiser for the Ministry of Stories which runs writing workshops for kids and has a storefront — The Monster Shop — run on the same sort of model as 826 Valencia and The Pirate Store.

What would you like to hear from me at BlogHer?

At every annual BlogHer conference I’ve given one (or several) talks and workshops. I’ve always gotten a lot of great feedback from my workshop sessions on coding and debugging, blog security and privacy, and other technical how-tos, as well as talking about politics, women’s history, feminism and identity, and how our writing online ties into the letters and diaries and activism from women in the past. Last year I spoke about what it’s like to be a small blogger who suddenly is on the crest of the wave of breaking news and talking with mainstream media. I also try to approach tech support for our bloggers and community as part of my personal feminist activism: tech support as empowerment!

Since I work for BlogHer full time, I’m on call as a speaker to fill in anywhere the organizers need me to, so I could end up anywhere. Still, I like to propose my own panels! I’m considering “A Server of Her Own” or “Feminist Hackers” . . .

If you’re thinking of coming to BlogHer ’12 in NYC next , what would you like me to speak about or teach? Any particular subjects or panels you’ve seen me run before, that you’d like to see happen again? Or, if you’re thinking of coming to speak, what kind of panel or workshop would you like to run *with* me?

me, skye, and tempest

Not that it’s all about me!

If you’re thinking about coming to BlogHer or putting in an idea or a talk proposal… read on!

BlogHer is an extremely friendly and open conference. 80% of our speakers each year are new speakers at the conference! It started with 300 women in San Jose years ago, and now I think our numbers at the annual conference are closer to 4000. Yes! Four thousand blogging women! (And sundry.) The parties are great — the people are the best thing though. Some people are nerdy, some are more writerly, some personal, some blogging on particular subjects, some very commercially oriented and many not at all. As with all the best conferences the sessions are good but the hallway and lobby conversations that happen informally are even better.

Read through Polly’s (very helpful) Call for Ideas, and Jes’s How to Become a Speaker at BlogHer! And if you have any questions for me personally about the conference, feel free to ask in comments or email me at

Hackmeet report, Day 1

Hackmeet was amazing yesterday and after a bit more rest I’ll be heading out to catch the last half of day 2 of this activist & tech unconference. Over the last few months I ended up at some of the hackmeet organizing meetings and agreed to give a talk on whatever they thought might be useful. I couldn’t tell who the audience was though as the schedule evolved. Cypherpunks? Security researchers? Data liberation nerds? Activists who need help making web sites and having https (and its problems) explained or who want to make mobile apps? The sort of people who are kind of activists but a bit more like people in nonprofits who barely use the net at all except to get people to sign a petition? WHAT. Seriously I could not tell. It turned out to be a kind of wild mix of all that and more with what I think was a fair bit of crossover from #OccupySF and #OccupyOakland.

hackmeet logo

I listened to part of the Electronic Civil Disobedience and Hacktivism talk by a guy named wrought, which started out trying to root online activism in earlier civil disobedience heroes (all male: Thoreau, Gandhi…) As a history lesson I thought it was a condescending and oversimplified bid for legitimacy, but, okay. And then I got so annoyed by the pedagogical technique that I hate, repeated asking “And who here knows what X is, who This person is, raise hand, reply from audience?” It does not work well for me in a classroom when I’m a teacher or a student because it does horrible things to power dynamics; and it really is out of place in a meeting of anarchist activists! (Hello, let’s do it alanya to alanya style or not at all!) Again, okay, whatever! Maybe it works for some people! I voted with my wheels (exhausted, sick, and cranky) and went to hang out on the other side of the space for a while.

The second talk I went to was a discussion on Technology and Privilege. It was really run like a discussion, which was great. Chairs were rearranged in a circle and was run by a beardy guy named Flatline, in all black except for his hot pink chucks. There was a quick round the circle name-only introduction. Flatline asked if anyone had felt that their access to technology was affected by privilege. I can’t remember the original question in detail, but people responded with some thoughts about how they were conscious that their owning a computer or having access to one was because of their class background and sometimes gender (especially in the case of having access to computers in childhood — or not. ) Nothing hideously faily was said that I can recall. We were all 30 or 40 of us on the same page with this. I wondered how many people had read Restructure’s post about gender and computer access?

A K-12 educator talked about kids’ access to computers and how it was controlled and policed. I mentioned gender and class in relation to privacy, that it is important to keep in mind when you make tools for people’s use that they may have access to a computer but it is not under their control or accessible in a private place. We touched on accessibility and disability, screen readers, other things than considering screen readers when making web sites or distributing information. Mike Kan brought up different learning styles and needing the visual and GUI aspects to information and hating the command line. The discussion moved on to race, ethnicity, culture, country, infrastructure. Someone who did a bunch of activism in something called (early — not gonna be much trace of it in history on the web) talked about having email or not in the early 90s and what a privilege marker it was; people stopped asking the question in the late 90s and assumed “everyone has email now.” She also had a good story about how, to have root on their boxes you would have to take on a woman (I think) as your apprentice and teach her how to do everything you could do, although no one really liked the word “apprentice”. I asked a bit suspiciously if the women ever stopped being apprentices. Yes! They did. This sounded like a very good model for increasing gender equity or equalizing power and access to tools across other lines of identity.

I liked this discussion. I wish I had remembered to mention, a cool project for bus riders in Oakland (and maybe the whole Bay Area) to report bus ride data over SMS.

Afterwards Rae and I and some other women were like, OMG… usually we want to shoot ourselves in the head during these sorts of discussions, but we didn’t! Surprise Non-Fail! We expected it to be super faily, and then it wasn’t! (Strangely all our metaphors about hating and not wanting to go to those privilege discussions were about violence towards ourselves. Catch yourself doing that, think it over!!) Rae and I ended up gossiping about GeekGirlCon and the game of thrones post and intersectional identities and the Crunk Feminist Collective and I went on a little bit about how much I adore Kid CuDi & the post I need to write about loving his work. She talked about hyphy and crunk and the pain of loving it but having serious issues with the Problematic parts of the works and the culture. nihilistech and I also talked a bit after the session and I gave her a tour of Noisebridge quick before it got too crowded for us to move around the space easily. (It was still too crowded.)

In one talk but I can’t remember which one, a person who sounded like he was active early on in ACT-UP talked about their strategies and early work. I was part of that (perhaps not as early as him — in Texas we just copied it all, cargo cult style, from stuff we saw in the news and whatever actual ACT UP materials we had gotten our hands on; we did many successful actions and produced tons of our own materials, zines, flyers, events, and so on.)

I had lunch with miloh and sasha and another guy and Mia. The Tastebridge people and others who I think sometimes work with Food Not Bombs had made food for everyone (probably about 150 people.) It is so awesome when people make food at these events and work to feed each other. I think it’s beautiful and I don’t respect people who mock it as being a fucking hippie thing. The integration of actual needs of life into our shit isn’t “fucking hippie” and it is ignorant to disrespect domestic labor. Also food is love. Call me a fucking hippie then, since I cooked for 100 people for years at my co-op and loved it! ANYWAY deep respect for the people who cooked and cleaned and organized.

So then I did my kind of half assed presentation, Browse Anonymously from a USB Key. I had expected to do this for about 10 people who were very non techy and instead it was a totally unreadable mixed crowd of like 50 people. I passed my little pocketful of free usb drives around the crowd and told people to copy or download the files, format their own USB in fat 32 if they needed to do that. (Hilariously resulting in someone from the audience perseverating for me to explain what FAT 32 means to which I finally went, JFC, Google it. To me it means “the thing you click when you format a drive to make it work on Mac and Windows both” and that is fucking enough.) I had only tested out doing this on a Mac and Windows so did not really have any particular knowledge of running Torbrowser and Vidalia on Linux and assumed it would work.

I gave a total amateur’s explanation of how Tor works. Then was like, Okay, well, copy the file onto your usb drive, click it to unzip it, quit firefox or your other browsers, and run Torbrowser. You will see the Vidalia control panel and then a modified Firefox version called Aurora will open up. Hurrah. You are using Tor!

A bunch of people told me later that they had no idea it was that easy to install and use. So I’m glad I gave the talk. Honestly I was not feeling the mojo or energy I usually have while public speaking. It was also inherently embarrassing to stand up and be like “Derp! Use Tor!” alongside actual crypto/security experts. Still… if it was useful to someone, that doesn’t matter!

The session ended early but then as people came up to talk with me it became clear I should re-open the talk. Maybe 15 people gathered back around to talk about how to meet with people or host group chats online. IRC is too fucking hard to deal with for most people (not just using it — I mean in setting it up and hosting a channel). I recommended and demonstrated using PiratePad over Torbrowser, which gives you chat and a collaborative editing environment. itself would have access to what you do if you don’t trust them, their logging or their ability to withstand a subpoena, but they would not have a way to connect it back to you since you connect to it with Tor. People seemed to like that as a use case and a solution.

Then I listened a bit to Aragorn who runs Anarchist News talking about… Something. Everything and nothing. This talk bored the hell out of me and I wondered why anyone would stay sitting through it. You are anarchists right? If someone is standing up with a microphone spouting pure bullshit and it’s boring, why just sit there? I think they all started checking their email (reflex from years of bad professors). Near as I could tell was a mix of statements about Internet culture lambasting us (who?) how We aren’t being visionary enough and yet then going on about being a l33t sys admin. If anyone got something out of this talk, I’d love to know! I tuned out of it and put up the rest of the photos I took last week on the Friends of Noisebridge wall.

At 4 I ran a discussion session called Feminist Anonymous which was me asking people to talk about Anonymiss, and if something like Antisec or Lulzsec were focused on feminist goals, what would they be? What will it look like when specifically feminist hackers start to act collectively and with political consciousness? Legal or non legal actions? Who or what would their targets be? Would it be indistiguishable from other social justice hacking aims of similar groups or would there be a different dynamic? I touched on debunking ev-psych essentialist reasons “why there are no women hackers”, asserted that there were and are. But even when there are there are social barriers to banding up with each other and acting in solidarity. I ranted a bit about tricksters and geniuses, mean fandom communities that are women running 4chan-like boards, and where that might lead. I brought up the idea of “” which got many people in the room a bit excited and wanting to talk. During this bit of the discussion my head exploded and I ranted a bunch, ended up going, to the question of “omg but what about false accusations”, CRY ME A RIVER. Yes, I like ethics and don’t want to harm people. But it is amazing to me that in the balance, the possibility some guy might get falsely accused and it might ruin his life, weighs so heaviliy in the balance that it prevents anyone making an infrastructure for people to report actual violence and harm and dox their perpetrators or to do that naming publicly. We are really heavily colonized to have it be our first reflex to protect those innocent privileged men. What about those of us already suffering the harm of being trolled, not hired for jobs because we google up “feminist” or “rapist-namer” and thus unhire-able troublemaker? When our mere public presence (real life or internet) is an invitation to violence and harassment, when we can’t participate in public discourse even in the mildest of ways without bringing down a world of hell on our heads? I have to give a shit that you might get falsely accused and have to consider for a moment defending your identity and your truths which apparently otherwise are untouched, I have to shield your aristocracy? No. I don’t and I think it is reasonable to propose the fucking idea, though even just proposing it, I expose myself even more as a target. Adding to the irony, feminism is often positioned by people as being opposed to free speech. Yet we are supposed to police ourselves to stay silent and private and discreet when we are the targets of violence and misogyny — because someone, somewhere, might game that kind of accusation! Seriously, give me a fucking break. Honey badger don’t care. I wondered if anyone got my references to SCUM and Hothead Paisan as I tried to say that I am against actual violence but feel differently about words and writing and the net.

Lots of people talked about feminist consciousness, naming problems, backlash, intersections of race and gender, realizing there was a problem (or not). We touched on the geek feminist wiki timeline of incidents, the Ada Initiative and tech conferences (which someone else brought up), Hollaback, I explained the hierarchical structure of Someone (I think liriani?) came in in the middle and said is this all about anti-rape or can we talk about how to build a feminist internet, across queer, race, gender identities? That was a good question that I did not answer, a much different framing of the problem than we had gotten a bit deep into since the session was more on “How can we fuck shit up and why don’t we more often?” I am sorry I didn’t make more space for that in the discussion and feel like I fucked up there. I want feminist antiracist queer activism in this discussion of goals, targets, and methods. Also when people were enthusing over hollaback we did not complicate that in any way talking class or race. We did talk about the importance of comment moderation in establishing safe spaces for people to converse. The person doing the moderation job still gets the stress.

I think folks were intrigued by the idea of doxxing people who say misogynist shit in public. That gets around “false accusation” “problem” and will be funny. It is important to bring lulz. And it would be satisfying!

Someone said the word “episteme”! Noted and filed.

We had more interesting talk from K-12 educators about kids’ access to computer information and skills. I recommend talking about identity and cybersecurity in schools as a way of furthering good information! Funny side conversation later with her and mia and X. Trapnel about how the net nanny “don’t give your name and address to anyone on the internet” mentality of teaching kids about computer stuff, completely ignores that the actually more prevalent danger is that our identity and cultural consciousness raising info has outstripped our computer security info. So kids go online and talk about being trans or queer or feminist and then get busted by their parents and beat up or kicked out of the house. What they need is Torbrowser, encryption, anonymity and good password security against their own parents and teachers. The predator is inside the house

Someone gave an interesting explanation of her national or maybe international organization which has a very long history of women supporting other women who are drug users. They have good security practices, and they also have a strong real life network and practices developed to support each other in emergencies or bad situations, in custody battles, court, jail, and so on. Her point was very good — that women activists need strong support networks.

I think we are gonna end up having a continued feminist anarchist hacker/activist consciousness raising meeting at Noisebridge maybe run by me and snail.

At one point I got to exercise one of my superpowers of discussion moderation, as some total douchebro came into the room and began to bray.

Douchebro: “Blah blah blah me me me I blahblah don’t know what you are talking about but in MY definition of feminism…”
Me: “While I’d love to hear your definition of feminism later, I’d like first to hear from HER and HER over there in the back.”
Douchebro: ……..!
Rest of room: *ELECTRIC RELIEF*

At moments like those I think of myself as an implacable Douchebro Redirect process and I imagine that while polite innocuous words are coming out of my mouth everyone can see a giant cartoon style thought balloon over my head that says, “FUCK OFF” while a green-lantern-esque ray comes out of me and blasts the braying jackass wrapping him in a cone of silence and bewilderment. If done right it is like beautiful sleight of hand and everyone should feel a bit of disbelief that it really happened, like they are hallucinating.

It’s hard to do it without giggling. A slight professorial nod and expression of deep concern works well. Or, I just imagine that and it always comes out as an unholy smirk.

You too can learn to do this in your real life! So useful! It takes practice. You can role play “Douchebro Redirect” with a few friends. Set someone up as the listeners and someone up as the loud bore who honks on and on offensively. Then take turns interrupting the bore and talking and listening to each other rather than paying more attention to the bore.

Meanwhile actual knowledge about SSL and the fucked upedness of the CA system was being dropped and there was a session that sounded great about secure email and IM. I caught some of Morgan’s resisting forensics talk , a couple of lightning talks (including the one on sassaman) and then took off. Exhausting!

I’m going back now and will probably offer to run people through the diceware method of choosing a good password. I thought also of running through the Joanna Russ categories as anti-patterns for anarchist feminist antiracists to notice.

SXSWi talks I'd love to go to!

Take a look at these suggested SXSWi panels, and please vote them up and comment if they sound good to you! I first spoke at SXSWi in 2006 on a panel organized by BlogHer who were invited by the SXSW folks as part of their effort to diversify the conference and get more women and people of color to speak and attend. As they sustained those efforts over the years SXSWi grew exponentially in size, developed a fairly decent gender balance, and became something more than the same old talking heads who only hear each other’s voices. The talks are good and the scene is amazing as Austin fills up with musicians, geeks, and filmmakers for several weeks.

* How to Be Yourself When Everyone Else is Faking It I’ll be on this panel with Biella Coleman, Zeynep Tufekci, Scott Rosenberg, and Brian Christian and honest to god, that alone would make it amazing no matter what Internet pundit topic we picked. We’re going to talk about identity, names, ethics and internet culture; I predict some fierce synergy. Biella is a hacker anthropologist and FLOSS advocate, Zeynep is a sociologist of net culture and while we haven’t met I’m a huge fan of her blog. Scott Rosenberg is a writer and editor whose work is totally amazing – He wrote Dreaming in Code and Say Everything and is a great tech journalist. Brian wrote The Most Human Human; do you think I can convince him I’m not a sockpuppet ? As for me, I must be on this panel because of Amina et al but I will talk a bit about my ideas from The WisCon Chronicles and my essay there about free speech, internet drama, and feminist safe space; what happens when ethical expectations collide.

I hope to get everyone on the panel on board with my project, The LOLcat Delusion, which will explicate Evgeny Morozov‘s book The Net Delusion entirely through macros and animated gifs.

SxSWi 2010: Viral Video Session

* The Fall of the Geek Triumphant In which Danny O’Brien (Oblomovka, Committee to Protect Journalists) will humorously but brutally explain our cultural mythos to us & the risks of what happens when geeks (us) become the popular kids (i.e. incredibly fucking powerful.) This will extend the talks that I heard Danny do at FooCamp in June and it got everyone there very excited as they saw what we have been doing and believing in a bit of a new light (and ways to fix the problems with it.)

* How to Run a Social Site and Not Get Your Users Killed. Consider activists and journalists who are in danger from governments and law enforcement as use cases when you make a social site (or a blog, or anything really) This is incredibly important! Jillian York from the EFF, Mathew Ingram from GigaOm, Kacem El Ghazzali, Danny O’Brien, and Sam Gregory from WITNESS are going to break it down for us.

* Race: Know When To Hold It And When To Fold It . Adria Richards, Anjuan Simmons, Corvida Raven, Erica Mauter, and Scott Hanselman talking brass tacks, how can we keep diversifying tech conferences and make events better?

* Man Up Ladies or You Don’t Stand a Chance Obnoxious but I love it. Comp Sci profs tell us to Man Up! I wrote to Sue Black and asked if I could be on this panel but if not I’m certainly going to it!

*Digital Sisterhood for Women Entrepreneurs , Ananda Leeke leading a panel on participating in strong communities of entrepreneurial women, how peer support works, and basically Sisterhood as a business model. Good stuff!

* Tech Cooperatives: A Better Way to Make a Living . I have lived in co-operative housing for a long time and love the idea of work co-ops and worker-owned businesses. That’s ideally how I’d like my working life to be organized and so I really want to hear how people set this up in practice. My friend Raeanne from Quilted Coop, a web dev, design, and strategy company that focuses on developing sites and apps for nonprofits and companies that promote social change. They also seem to do a lot of work for artists.

* LiberationTech – how geeks overthrow governments. Hacktivists!

* Binary Bitches: Keeping open source open to women Another “Man Up” but from a different angle — talking about gendered communication and communication styles. Can’t tell if they’re going to be all like “be pushy! toot your horn! don’t be so egalitarian!” or tell dudes to join our Modest Workers’ Commune Circles or what. Probably both. Should be a great discussion!

liza, nesting

* Open-Web, Open-News: Reporters & Developers Remix . Dan Sinker – Mozilla Foundation (Also from @mayoremmanuel !), Mohamed Nanabhay from Al Jazeera English, Emily Bell from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and Andrew Leimdorfer are going to unleash a world of fabulousness in this panel about the future of journalism and I think there will be a lot said on developer-journalist collaboration. This sounds very NewsFoo so I look forward to it greatly!

* Trekkies, geeks and furries oh my! Covering fandom Obviously I want to go to this panel since I edited an entire anthology on a feminist science fiction conference and its culture and am part of stuff like the Organization for Transformative Works. SXSWi has fandom running through it like a weird secret system of pneumatic tubes but no one talks about it as part of geekdom — for one thing I think the ethics and policies developed in fandom are quite influential in geek culture and for Internet social practices.

sxswi parties - sunday night

There are so many more I have left out!! And there are more here than I can possibly attend at once conference. If I left your panel out and should not have, or if you just want to court my thumbs-up vote for the panel picker, please tell me in comments!