SXSWi: Non-developers to Open Source Acolytes: Tell me why I care

Elisa Camahort is moderating. Annalee Newitz, Dawn Foster, Erica Rios.

Annalee Newitz explains the entire complicated insane definition and history of the Open Source movement in less than 3 minutes. Free redistribution, available source, derivative works okay, no restrictions on tech or users (http;// Licenses: gpl, MOzilla public license, BSD License. Commonly used open source software (oss): Firefox (MPL), OpenOffice (LesserGPL), GNU/Linux (GPL), BSD (BSD), WordPress (GPL), Apache (Apache License), Rails (MIT License), PHP (PHP License). The GPL is viral and powerful. Anytime you use software that uses GPL that you intend for redistribution, you have to release under GPL.

Elisa: I know some of the names of this software. But Rails? Apache? Okay, well, really I know what Apache is. But why does this matter to me?

Dawn Foster talks about OSS structure and leadership. It looks chaotic from the outside. Random people contributing code. How in the world can you end up with anything reasonable? But that’s not how it is. You’d be surprised how hierarchical it is. OSS community structure.
Bug Reports: Community members submitting bugs to improve the project.
Contributors: Community members contributing to committers for review.
Committers: Trusted community members with access to modify code.
Maintainers: Direction and decisions for a portion of the project.
Leaderships: Strategic decisions, project direction.

Elisa: So, I’m not the only one who had no idea that all this existed behind the idea of open source. Erica is going to talk from the point of view of a company using open source software.

Erica Rios: My role at the Anita Borg Institute is to maintain the technical aspects of the organization. We use WordPress, for example. I see myself as a customer for these tools. I want help with installation, configuration. Is it going to have an impact on my server maintenance, what cron jobs I should run, what about backups, patches. When I hire people I need to know what kind of time and money I need to invest to maintain the software. What kind of customer service support do I get from a tool? The staff, my users, who are also the customers for this software. Does the tool do what they need it to do? Is it easy to use? Are they going to be able to figure it out, with or without support? There’s a self-sufficiency question. Will everyone be coming to me for that help? I think of it like hardware. We’re lucky enough to have HP Labs donate space to us. Our machines are still on warrantee and I can get service. Do I always need to know the details behind why something’s not working? Is the community “friendly”? Am I going to go looking for help and be told RTFM? Because I’ve already tried.

Elisa: When you were looking at open source tools, was that part of your due diligence, did you look at the friendliness of that tool’s open source community?

Erica: Absolutely. And it doesn’t have to be a hierarchical traditional manual or documentation scenario. The community is so robust that I can type my question into Google and get an answer right away.

Guy in audience gets up and takes a mic. A lot of people don’t realize some open source tools and projects offer paid support. Ubuntu, etc.

Dawn Foster talks more about open source and paid support.

Erica Rios. Developing friendships with other users and developers. If you have a personal relationship then people are much nicer in their explanations. With documentation, when it’s written in plain language, it’s more helpful. I have a degree in computer science, but I appreciate documentation in plain language, and it helps me communicate to my less technical users. Quality community can demonstrate their intelligence through the quality of a product but not feel ego-driven to demonstrate it in their documentation.

Elisa invites questions from the audience.

Same guy from audience: Questions about where the open source software came from. Fear of patent suits from big huge companies, etc.

Annalee Newitz: I’ve heard people talk about their management saying “You can’t use an open source code because it’ll creep into our code and we’ll be sued.” People need to be educated about the legal ins and outs of open source licenses. For example the GPL is one of the most radical ones… A company lawyer is good to go through the license and explain to management. There’s a lot of online explanantions written by lawyers, for example through the EFF or some from Creative Commons. It’s sad that people move away from the GPL but from a business perspective it makes a lot of sense.

Dawn Foster: It’s less of a risk, because if there’s proprietary code in there, someone’s going to have noticed it. Or they can notice it. It’s not really that different.

Annalee: I would strongly agree with that. The fact that you can look at the code means you can tell if there’s a problem.

Audience member: Myth of putting it al out there and it being exploited.

Dawn Foster: I tend to worry less about being exploited by open source Eric Raymond “with enough eyeballs… all … are shallow” I worry about backdoors and things in proprietary code, that I’ll never know is there. The empowerment of being able to look at the code

Annalee: That’s why you hire security auditors, etc. BSD, used by the miliatry, you can lock it down.

Liza: I’m going to be the downer here. THere is a cost for making it useable for people with no technology background. For example WordPress, it’s so beautiful! But it’s hard for people to use and to understand. So, users assume that level of customer service is free and that it’s going to be free and that there’s no cost to maintain it. And this makes it hard for developers and consultants to monetize what we do. Upgrading, security issues, etc. People coming into open source, think that it’s going to be free .

Dawn quotes Richard Stallman, Free as in freedom, not free as in free beer. There are costs, time and money.

Annalee: When you’re looking for a return on investment, long term will it be more costeffective to have this invest in maintaining this rather than paying Microsoft for a new license every couple of years? So yes, the long term costs are way better.

Erica Rios: We look at it that way at Anita Borg Institute. That’s one of the key philosophical reasons I put to management, the flexibility we get.

Kimberly (from audience): Speaking as soneone who once upon a time had all sorts of Microsoft certifications and has now gone more into open source, there is more flexibility, there is very little barrier to entry, it’s really a meritocracy. They can contribute and there’s opportunities for them, they can build stuff for non-profits. To get Microsoft certified you pay a lot of money and yes there’s support and community but open source has way more opportunity.

Elisa: Is there a way in open source to validate what level they are in an open source community?

Kimberly: I’ve had people use me as a reference

Woman in back: It depends on the community.

Erica: Now that I’ve gone through this process I look at how much a person has contributed and how much of it has been accepted in to the main trunk fo the software.

Dawn Foster: It’s good for companies and hiring and companies can see people’s code and status in a community before hiring them.

Frank (from audience): Reliability and continuity. You can always get someone to maintain it because it’s not proprietary. Voting machines and cryptography. If the source isn’t out there there’s always someone out there who is so clever they can’t see their own mistakes. But a community can see it and can find the broken places. As American people we need to get the source out there so we can rely on our voting machines.

Elisa: Thank you so much for bringing that up and articulating it. Let’s talk about the philosophy and the reasons for supporting it. HOw many of you buy organic food, and free trade coffee? (Show of hands) We make economic decisions based on philosophical, emotional, ethical reasons. How many of you make technological decisions based on that? (Show of hands, a fair amount)

Guy in grey hoodie: (question)

Elisa: Kaliya Hamlin, getting non developers involved with open source communities. It’s extremely intimidating, I can tell you. I’m a wannabe, but there’s an idea that it would contribute to the greater good. Anyway, what’s the ethical reasons to use open source?

Annalee: Oviously there’s a lot of technical reason to choose it. And that’s an ethical choice too, to make the technical choice that would benefit the most peopl.e But when yo have a product made by people donating their time, or a company is giving 20% of their time to give back to open source, you simply get a higher quality. People are working together. They own it. When people own the stuff they produce, it will be better. When you produce software that is proprietary and your company owns it, you are alienated from it. But with open source you put your love into it. You can play with it, deploy it, use it with your friends, fix its security holes…

Erica Rios: analogy of the free library. If we can’t contribute and have free access to intellectual knowledge, we undermine democracy. Women and systemic reasons why girls and women often drop out of technical fields. Access. Open source is a unique opportunity for all women to have access to knowledge. If all software code was proprietary, I would never have looked at a pice of code in my life. I couldn’t have afforded it. Period.


Erica: Dr. Fran Allen, just announced as a Turing Award winner, first woman to be granted this award. It’s highly likely that a girl at the high school level right now, who has access to open source code, may achieve something as great as Fran. It gives other people access and opportunity and to contribute at higher levels. It’s a key consideration in us achieving equality between genders in technical fields, and as we increase participation, we’ll increase innovation.

Jory Des Jardines (audience): The Wisdom of Crowds. Ran an open source business project, because people didn’t ahve the motivation, aka, pay. Does money mean motivation? Money makes it easy to commit, people are flowing in and out of this project. The explanation you’re giving explains the structure, but what is the motivation for an engineer to bother?

Annalee Newitz: There are other rewards that people work for. We’re at a conference where there are artists. They’re hoping to make money, but they want people to appreciate their work. They want to create something beautiful and be acknowledged for it. Why do people want to have a higher reputation on Digg? They’re not getting money for it. Well, some of them are. (laughter … re. crowdhacking prank.) But there’s a point, Hey, I’ve spent 4 years doing this kickass thing, now pay me.

Dawn Foster: Contributors to the Linux kernel. They pay people fulltime to do nothing to contribute to those projects. Those companies are motivated for that software to be good.

Guy: Dispel that there’s anything anticapitalist about open source. More of them are libertarian than anti-capitalist. And about self interest and profit, my company went to open source, time, energy, money chasing clients on IP issues, waste of time. We got a better rate for our time to offer consulting services around it and provide the software as open source.

Erica: Who is mostly willing to work for free? Women. the motivation to work is there. There’s a lot of stereotypes that we default to when we look at what it is that isn’t working. There’s probably a lack of supportive culture. Asked by Mozilla to tell what could help keep women developers. My answer was I don’t know, ask the ones who are there and ask the ones who are leaving.

Woman with short black hair in audience: Ideals, but as a business manager, of a sucessful open source consulting and educaiton company, we charge a fair amount. It’s a myth that keeps developers away from open source. Like it kind of smells like patchouli a little bit…

Elisa: You will not find musicians in an orchestra playing for free. Actors will do it for free. Bloggers used to do it for free but that’s changing. Now we have blog consulting. People had passion that seemed to translate into not getting paid, Oh if I love doing it i shouldn’t get paid. Open source has that too, if I’m passionate about it I shouldn’t charge.

Annalee: You don’t have to do it for free, just get your boss to let you spend 50% of your time doing it because it helps improve the product.

Guy in audience: I’m not understanding, please explain, what is the distinction between building proprietary products on top of open source software.

(Well, it depends on the license! )

Annalee: that’s a good question and it gets debated a lot in open source communities. They are spelled out in the licenses. For example what will happen with Google and the GPL license. People need to be a little bit geeky about legal language and licensing.

Audience: How geeky do you need to be to say you’re into open source?

Erica: For example our crm system….Not important for us to customize that part. But to customize web solutions is very important. If we don’t need to hack it, let’s not do it.

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SXSWi: Attention panel

Notes on “Every Breath You Take: Identity, Attention, Presence and Reputation”.

Christian Crumlish, Ted Nadeau, Mary Hodder, Kaliya Hamlin, George Kelly

Christian Crumlish talked about how new cell phones are. Etiquette still developing. How much of your attention can I have? Establish level of communication or mode of being present and paying attention. Maximize or optimize your presence. Let’s take a look at Plazes. Trazes, history of where you’ve been. “I finally gave in, last night, and I’m on Twitter”. Tribute to Leslie Harpold David Howard, who documented changing his name. (Me and the woman next to me snort a little bit… It becomes way important and interesting when men do it…) Porn search expose. People who have a separate computer for browsing porn. Cognitive dissonance on iChat as Thomas Vanderwal chatted to someone who was listening to his podcast. Unmasking digital identities. Attention spying on yourself.

Kaliya’s talking about OpenID. Namespaces are on the rise. Often people have 100 identities and that’s growing fast. Instead of us getting a different identity from every company we deal with, WE should tell the different companies and websites who we are. OpenID, inames, and LID all cooperating to have one login box instead of competing with each other, with the Yadis protocol, an XML-XRDS document. sxip also joined this protocol. Kaliya explains the

(I signed up with a while back. And at last week’s hackathon, a developer at Socialtext implemented OpenID in our wiki software.)

Ted Nadeau says our non-monetary assets are: Identity, Attention, Intention, Influence, Reputation. (In addition to Str Dex Int Wis Con Cha.)

He explains his identity in brief. Your reputation appears different to different viewers. You are not the authority on your own reputation. Systems based on reputation. EigenTrust. Whuffie. Karma. Opinity. None are compelling to Ted. Conceptual models – Pythia’s Framework for building reputation systems. “a ubiquitous, spontaneous, and highly efficient mechanism of social control”. It’s good to know. It’s useful. It’s good to know if someone’s scary when they’re drunk. Shame can be useful socially. Big reputations – corporations, wwf wrestling personalities. Polytheistic gods – Zeus, Ganesh. Films, soap operas, consistency. Big, consistent, shared. Bigger entities like nations. eBay, LinkedIn, WoW, Amazon, academia’s citation indexes (Hirsch number), Google pagerank. Problems: Reputation theft, damage, loss, stuck, Identity first, reputation later. ‘Sybil’ attack, karma-whoring. Call to action: Deepen the conversation. Implement Reputation systems.

Mary Hodder is amazed that Ted can be funny this early in the morning. She’ll explain a bit of background for academic views of attention, but then will talk about them from a user specific perspective. Systems collect data on you. IM data, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the meta data. Your google searches, too; maybe somewhere in the back of your mind you know they’re collecting information on you. It doesn’t seem that consequential, but it’s incredibly consequential. There’s an attention economy built on top of everything we do. Gestures. A gesture is a vote of confidence. The Attention Trust asserts that you own a copy of your information. You own a copy of your attention stream. The Attention Trust built a recorder. Citation of McCarthy and red scare. He said that certain behaviors were not common and therefore were outside the social norm. WE’re engaging in the social norms. If the government can subpoena the clickstreams for Microsoft or Yahoo then they’re segmenting a section of the population away from everyone else and saying they’re not normal. If only the Yahoos, Googles (and governments!) of the world have that attention pool, then that gives them too much power. If all our attention information is public then it’s more difficult for the government to make false claims.

I agree strongly with Mary Hodder. Public pools of information are a protection against abuse by powerful entities. They aren’t a perfect protection, but they give us all a chance.

George Kelly is talking about Mapping Persoality Visibility. Johari charts.

You know, I saw people doing this on LiveJournal last year but never followed the link. It’s like a slam book (a concept I learned from the Judy Blume book Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. I thought it fascinating but never could get anyone to agree to try it.) Good, now I can try it: Johari window for Liz Henry.

Questions: The idea of a single repository where all this stuff goes is a problem. We have multiple identities and shifting identities over time. A blog means it’s too much in one place. (Lizzie ?? “prematurely grey” might be her old blog. Ah. Liz Burr.)
Christian: I don’t know. There are a lot of us that have multiple identities and then are merging them back together or splitting them apart.
Ted Nadeau: Working for companies. Integrating their identity moving forward. Youth maybe is more intuitively able to see that we’re one person not many. Identity, and maintaining and coalescing an integrated identity.

Wow, I dig all the stuff Ted has been saying.

Kaliya: People in this room have a unique opportunity to help with this problem. The physical world translating into the logical world and back. Things that have friction in RL now have zero friction online. Work on increasing identity friction. That will help. (Did I get this backwards? Kaliya will you explain that more somewhere online where I can read and link to it? You just blew my mind but I don’t think I understood.)

Mary Hodder talking about the “wearing my work clothes to bed” or “bikini at the bank” concept. Yes! Be able to move between multiple online identities. (That would increase friction rather than having all your online stuff and real life stuff be together in one repository.)

Well, we’ve been talking about that and having 4 different personas which are easy to switch between, since the first barcamp at least, but I haven’t seen it happen yet in any software or web platform. People still respond to this idea with “But you can just log out and back in again with a different name.” No. Not to the 20 places online that are all tied together and that I use together.

?? who works for Alternet and Jim Hightower etc. What people are putting out there about me or others. Firms googling potential candidates and not hiring them. Jill at Feministe. Her picture etc. up there and some conservative guys ranking her, etc as if she’s some kind of internet slut. But law firms will be looking at her and she’s afraid it will hurt her career. Unfortunate response was

Mary HOdder: Law school class, some guy playing tetris during a lecture. Video shot of it and put up on Dabble. He wanted it taken down.

Kaliya: It’s improper to make judgements about someone’s personal life and work places will need to learn that. If they judge people on their personal life they are going to lose good people. Creating social norms is important. Something bad happens to me now in email? I blog it. We have a personal platform to out bad behavior.

Christian Crumlish: We’re in a wild west phase and we’re waiting for that to mature…

SXSWi panel on commercialization of wikis

Here’s some notes on Ev. Prodromou’s talk on commercialization of wikis. (Here’s his slides, which he just nicely emailed to me.)

Does commerce belong in wikis?
– the wikisphere needs a healthy ecology

Supporting a wiki project
– out of pocket
– donations, grants, govt.
– wiki farm. Wikia. Nurturing the wild wiki.

Four types of wiki businesses:

  • Service provider: Wikispace, wetpaint, pbwiki
  • Content hosting: wikiHow, Wikitravel, Wikia. Focus on particular topics. Managing the wiki itself and developing its culture and community.
  • Consulting: Socialtext, biggest company in this area. Taking the wiki method into the enterprise. Going into companies and showing them how to use wikis. Use wikis and wiki theory to help companies make the best wikis out there. Being professional wiki evangelists.
  • Content development: WikiBiz. Started on Wikipedia. Offered a service to write Wikipedia pages for companies, following Wikipedia policies and procedures.

    Prodromou is most interested in talking about the content hosting variety. Crowdsourcing. There’s suckers, yahoos, rubes, you get them to do your work for you, and then sell it back to them.

    Wikinomics. This is the kind of model that that’s trying to sell. Get a sucker to work on your site for free, hahaha.

    Prodromou says: “EFF THAT. I hate the term crowdsourcing. It’s one of the ugliest terms ever invented on the internet. People in wiki software are some of the most idealistic, altruistic people on the planet. We don’t want to exploit people.”

    Platform for knowledge. Knowledge havers and needers. You are in both categories. Crossing that line and providing a platform for knowledge havers and needers to communicate. Give them focus and direction. Be a steward of that knowledge and its flow. “You” as the wiki provider are not the focus. It’s noble, it’s decent, and there’s no exploitation involved.

    Rules for commercial wikis:
    – have a noble purpose
    – demonstrate value
    – be transparent
    – extract value where you provide value
    – set boundaries
    – be personally involved
    – run with the right crowd.

    I disagree with his chart about blogs, photos, wikis, and ego. (He measured blogs as contributing value mostly to the blogger’s ego!)

    A plug for Creative Commons. Let go. Go with the freest kinds of license. Citing the post-Katrina disaster relief sites with names and locations of people, as a noble purpose. (True, but more complicated than that, often.)

    Ways to add value: software development, systems admin for big wikis, community management, external promotion, carry the torch. Community management is becoming a profession.

    Transience of wiki communities. Typical user sticks around for a couple of months. But the community continuity has to be maintained.

    Being transparent is important. Any hint of bogusness, duplicity, tricking, exploiting, is awful. People go away because of that. You put up that wall, people are going to leave.

    Commercializing. Ads. Physical media that use the content, books. Any attempt to extract value out of hte user database itself is bad. They’re your community (not your spam target…)

    Set boundaries. The users can’t set your business decisions but they can set parameters and make decisions for their community. But the business also has to have boundaries to not set community policy or only set it so far.

    Personal involvement. Have a user page with a picture. Be present. Run with the right crowd, be part of open content, open source communty. People judge you based on who you hang out with. Find partners, find projects that you would like to work with.

    Commercial wikis are healthy additions to the net and to free/open content. The commercialization should be mindful and careful.

  • SXSWi notes: High Class, Low Class Web Design

    Notes on High Class and Low Class Web Design.

    Respecting your audience. Do you treat them as equals? Culturally, educationally? What if they’re not your peer group? People who call their audience “marks”. Fans officially, but the treatment in the industry is “marks”.

    This is the 2nd panel that has used this carny terminology. Evan Prodromou was also critiquing the mindset that treats an audience as marks or suckers.

    The room is very large and crowded, so I can’t tell who is speaking. Someone’s talking again about being too class conscious and how that leads to a lack of respect.

    Methods of making design decisions. Measuring sales with varying design in publishing and in web design and with usability studies. Liz Danzico is talking about usability, class, and layout.

    Web sites and products targeted at “lower classes” use statistical methods of determining good and bad design, while stuff for “upper classes” rely on personal expertise for design. That maps to other high end products like fashion and luxury goods. For high end they’re designed and they see what happens, while for “lower” they are the product of testing. Steve Jobs mentioned…

    (I think that it’s pretty funny that this panel purports to be respectful, but they’re using terminology like “high” and “low” which I find inherently disrespectful. And I would talk about “working class” not low class or “unwashed masses”. Jeez!!!)

    Khoi Vinh talks about the NY Times and their testing process. He disagrees, I think, that the NYT is high class, but also says that if you think it is “high class”, he would like people to know that they do do testing and usability studies.

    Appropriate design and aspiration. If you are designing for an audience that is different than you, do you aim for uplifting their sensibilities? Or do you design based on what you know they already like? A question for designers in the audience to consider.

    Liz Danzico talks about how to tell how much is too much. When you’ve gone over someone’s comfort level. The toothpaste ad with toothpaste smeared on the guy’s chest. (Audience laughter)

    Brant talks about his experience at WWE. Expanding the design for a wider audience who would not be embarrassed to pick the magazine up. Men in their 20s.

    Starsky and Hutch, Dukes of Hazzard, int he past. Now we have Sorpranos, Lost. Complicated shows. People stopped looking down on their audience. TV is better than it was 20 years ago. Quote from Paul Rand. The Language of design. The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to perefer bad design… The new becomes threatening, the old reassuring.” You’re exposed to a certain design style your whole life. Is this design taste related to class, what you learn ? Or is there an inherent goodness or badness that transcends?

    This question relates well to a book I’ve been thinking about all year, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. It explains a lot of class conversations and expectations in relation to class. Working class geographies of understanding the world are based on people and trust of people. Middle class geographies of importance are rooted in stuff, in brands and quality of stuff. Upper class geographies prioritize aesthetics and discernment. Aesthetics is a tool often used to establish and maintain class boundaries.

    Wow, Peter from Adaptive Path just made that very point about aesthetics and class mobility. Aesthetics is used to prevent that class mobility! I was just thinking about Widmerpool’s overcoat from Dance to the Music of Time; he gets it subtly wrong and the upper class characters know it and shun him; he can’t ever really pass. IMHO, in the U.S. this is also used to maintain race and gender boundaries that connect to class status.

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    Wikchix meetup, Thurs. March 1

    If you’re in the Bay Area and are a wiki-ish person, you might like to swing by the Wikichix meetup tonight. Add yourself on this wiki page or on the wikichix page if you’re registered there; either way. So far, only about 5 people have actually signed up.

    We’ll have another meetup in April, because over email, people have shown a lot of interest. I’d love to pull in some Woolfcampers and Feminist SF wiki contributors as well as Wikimedia-focused people, to share ideas about wiki theory and community politics as well as tech tips or whatever else people end up bringing to the meetup.

    I was just reading over Annalee’s article on the Wikichix on Alternet, reading the comments, and marvelling anew at the huge misunderstandings. It is very strange to me that so many people (incorrectly) see such a group as having an agenda of creating an alternate feminist version of Wikipedia; when actually its purpose is more to share stories and talk about the experience of being female in a specific male-dominated environment, a purpose that is hardly new and that has Linuxchix as a model. Part of what many women experience online in highly male-dominated environments is:

    – the discounting of the substance of what they’re saying
    – the demand that women be always calm and care-taking, while guys have permission to get angry
    – the demand that women never be wrong, while guys can be wrong and correct themselves, be corrected, or change their minds
    – never-ending commentary about looks, sexual banter and references to sexual tension, sexual commoditization, remarks on one’s girl-ness
    – the assumption that what guys consider is important is The Important Thing and what women consider important is trivial and can be dismissed
    – always having your credentials and knowledge and background questioned; having to prove yourself over and over; basic competence, much less expertise, constantly doubted; condescension
    – the struggle women have against internalizing all of the above.

    All of that is worth discussing in women-only forums. I called this Wikichix meetup but didn’t call it as women-only. The wiki and mailing list are women only, though.

    Wikithon next week

    Hey y’all. I’m going to be at the Socialtext Wikithon next Wednesday – here’s the signup on Upcoming. & there’s more information here

    Even if you’re having trouble thinking of anything to work on, come on by and see if you can lend someone else a hand. We’re eagerly looking forward to some cool new Socialtext plugins and hopefully some new API clients. We’ll have some folks hanging out who are familiar with Socialtext internals, to help you get started on your widget.

    We’re going to have two contests during the Wikithon – best Socialtext Plugin or best new Socialtext API Client. Prizes are still to be determined, but we hope to encourage our hackers to come up with cool new ways to extend and use our application.

    I’m not going to be hacking any widgets, I don’t think, (yet – but at some point yes I will) but I’ll be there listening, learning, contributing ideas, taking notes, and probably running through the process to get my own install on a server where I have control. And the party should be fun!

    Women in Open Source

    Women in Open Source – at SCALE in LA next weekend. Stormy Peters, Jean T. Anderson, Strata Chalup, Celeste Paul, Bdale Garbee, Randi Harper, and Dru Lavigne.

    The Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) will host a Women in Open Source Event as part of their upcoming 2007 conference, SCALE 5x.

    The focus of this event is on the women in the open source and free software communities. The goal of this event is to encourage women to use technology, open source and free software, and to explore the obstacles that women face in breaking into the technology industry. The Women in Open Source event will be held on February 9, 2007 at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel.

    I’m so tempted to go…I could probably get a plane ticket and fly down there and back the same day. Or, Strata said she could put me up in her hotel room if going back and forth on the same day would be too exhausting.

    Liveblogging from "She's Such a Geek" reading

    I’m at Modern Times bookstore on Valencia in San Francisco & we’re all being extremely geeky. Passing around this strange blobby white musical toy with spikey shapes… Giggling about the perils of installing LaTeX on one’s Macbook… Me and Corie and Ellen and Cynthia decided that instead of the Geek Hierarchy we should create a Geek Matrix (keeping in mind that “matrix” means “womb”… and not-necessarily-hierarchical network) with different areas or spectra of grrl-geekitude. That way we can avoid feeling that physics trumps sf-geekery, or genetics kicks the ass of Dungeons and Dragons.

    There’s a huge crowd – standing room only! Tonight a group of more science and tech oriented geeks will be reading from the book. Annalee talks about the germ of the idea for the book. She and Charlie were at a hacker conference in New York, Annalee was presenting with another woman on a panel, and were introduced by the MC as “the only 2 chicks at the conference.” She stood up and flipped the guy off. When he said it, Annalee had looked out at the audience and saw all the women in the audience get this look on their faces like “Oh, okaayyyy, we’ve heard that fucking joke before.” With that sort of statement the women who *are* there get erased. People aren’t expecting to see them and don’t hear their voices. Charlie was there in the audience… and from that experience we wanted to make the point that we’re here, we’ve been here for ages. And not to let people forget we’re here at the conference and are not the only 2 chicks.

    Charlie: Seal Press asked us at the proposal stage to tell them how the other books in the genre did. You know, the books about women who are geeks and stuff? We went online and we searched. And we searched and searched and we searched. And we found like one book, Geek Girl, that sold like 2 copies, from 1992. The only book about female geeks… And we put out our call for submissions and were astonished at the response we got. It got blogged everywhere and people had been waiting a long time for this!

    Annalee: Defining what we mean by “geek”. Technical, scientific, cultural arcana. Physicists, biologists, programmers, Harry Potter role playing games. Talking about the ways various areas are male-dominated and what it’s like to be a woman in that environment.

    First reader: Kristin Abkemeier. Has a phd in experimental condensed matter physics. Radioactive Banana is her blog. And at

    Kristin: How did I become a geek? Job security…. (Kristin reads her essay from the book.) Her mom tells her she’ll always have a job.. and how her own parents hadn’t encouraged her in science. Kristin loved reading and books and drawing – but was discouraged… Compared to this other kid, “wonder boy John”… And ended up testing into a 7th grade math.

    [I must note that I begged my parents to take that same exam in the early 80s, because all the guys I competed with in math class for the top grades were taking it and got to go to a summer school – but my parents couldn’t figure out how I would get to the school, which was an hour away in downtown Houston.]

    Next up! Ellen Spertus, Associate Prof of Computer Science at Mills College – & she also works at Google. She’s written for the Chronicle of Higher Education and Glamour…

    Her original title for this article was “From Male-Identified Misogynist to Sexiest Geek Alive”. The best way to have status in her household & family was to disdain anything feminine and act like a male.

    [God… me too. This is one of the essays from the book that I read just nodding and then shrieking ME TOO over and over!] Went to one of the first computer camps in 1981. The male/female ratio was 6 to 1. Ellen told an Infoworld reporter she was disappointed there weren’t more girls. And was misquoted by that reporter as saying she was disappointed there weren’t more boys.

    [the whole audiences hisses and goes “wooooo” angrily.]

    Jenn Shreve reads her article…. On growing up fundamentalist… was taught that evolution was evil and wrong… ATM cards and the mark of the beast… Then rejected all that. Took to the Internet immediately… sneered at poeple who couldn’t deal with Pine or HTML. And yet stayed in the Humanities… though I scored way higher on the math than on the verbal sections of the SAT….


    Corie Ralston – BS in physics from Berkeley and phd in biophysics. Works at Lawrence Berkeley Labs… IROSF, the Internet Review of Science Fiction, as well.

    [ I swoon… I totally love Corie… ]

    Corie: My unofficial title is “Beamline Scientist” – how cool is that. I’m one of only 3 beamline scientst out of 200. At first my job title was “beam boy.” I lobbied to be called “super duper beam chick” but it never caught on. The filming of The Incredible Hulk took place there.. The synchroton does not produce gamma radiation… but if it did, and you were exposed to it, you would die – not mutate! *everyone cracks up* I love working every day in a place that reminds people of comic books. How did I get to be there? It certainly wasn’t anything like becoming the mutant hero of a comic book. Physics teacher in high school… Reading Heinlein & Asimov etc. without really noticing how every female character in Heinlein books at some point become hysterical and have to be slapped around by the men. (About Asimov:) If you can imagine intergalactic space superhighways why can’t you imagine a female astronaut? (huge applause from audience) I dealt with this by identifying with the male characters.

    [GOD… me too.]

    Annalee then introduces Charlie Anders, author of the award-winning novel Choir Boy. Writing in McSweeney’s, Punk Planet, Wall Street Journal, Tikkun, etc. and is the publisher for Other magazine & runs Writers With Drinks. Which happens next month at the Makeout room Feb. 10.

    Charlie: I’m a policy wonk…

    [Kristen whispers to me that “we used to talk about wonks in the Clinton era. Nobody does anymore. Nobody THINKS anymore…”

    I want to tell Kristen that that’s exactly what one of Charlie’s novels is about… Clinton-era wonks and their wonkitude. ]

    Charlie: Minutae of health care field. Weird complicated things to learn. Managed care. Weird permutation, intricate structures that actually *mattered* to everyone. This was all about hard-charging guys chasing *hard* news. My pursuit of arcane policy issues distracted me from my socially assigned gender role as a male reporter. My gender discomfort finally spiked on the day my inner palace of wonkdom came crashing down…. “We don’t want any of this “what does it mean shit.” ” A bomb went off in my head… New job – my new boss liked wonkitude… Every day was like Christmas… My co-workers were used to me hopping around the office excited, “Wooo! I found a new crazy thing on page 900 of the Federal Register!!” Fast forward, I’m legally a woman, on hormones and with a drivers’ license that says F… ambition… to make a serious wonkish contribution to the world… feminism.. child care and faulty gender assumptions.

    Charlie then introduces Annalee Newitz, science writer, contributing editor at Wired, Salon, Newscientist, Techsploitation syndicated column. Editor of other magazine.

    Annalee: “When Diana Prince takes off her Glasses”
    Geeks – bbses… Wiznet – chat rooms! On the BBS I had a gender-neutral handle, Shockwaverider. Everyone assumes I’m male and I don’t bother to correct them. Cracking… breaking copy protection. I get them to teach me about assembly language and
    cracking mac software… phreaking… Linux… Linux Cabal. As a journalist… suddenly I realize I’m the only woman in the room full of journalists and one of them is asking me “how did you get him to *tell* you that…” I suddenly hear the implication in the reporter’s voice and respond… “I flirted with him that’s how…” Why didn’t I tell him the truth, I spent weeks hanging out… made Cthulhu jokes… I could have said, if you actually take the time to talk with people and get to know them, they talk with you. That’s my philosophy of reporting. A few weeks later I decide to write a biosci article using only female sources. Each source referred me to more amazing women… Fruit fly gemone searching tool…

    [That’s my friend! Well, my ex… really… the fruit fly genome geek… *glow of pride* She’s such a geek!]

    Woman from the Audience: Thank you for the book! We want a sequel at least on the web, we want more stories, we want to contribute!

    Annalee & Charlie: Yes! Lovely! blog it! Stick it on the web!

    Me: Tag it “shessuchageek”

    Kristin: We could have a she’s such a geek blog carnival.

    Guy from audience: What would you say the environment is today for 15-17 year old girls?

    Annalee: The teenager from the book isn’t here tonight

    Ellen Spertus: Yes it’s somehwat better… And at Mills… (I missed her answer)

    Kristin: Larry Summers did women a real favor by being a jerk 2 years ago… in the 70s it was all “hey women can do anything!” and no acknowledgement that there are factors that affect women… women who say “i need a wife”… child care… atmosphere.. finally being discussed, thanks to larry summers.

    Corie: Summers, ex-pres of Harvard … said that there are just fewer women at the super elite end of science… not putting in the 80 hours a week necessary to be tenured… and said there was no sexism in the field…

    Annalee: and he said that women’s brains were different. He said this at a conference about women in science. It was what got him drummed out..

    Ellen: That’s not the full story.. he had done many other offensive things and that was just the last straw.

    Annalee: yes. and since then a lot of money has gone into studies…

    [Liz’s note: Here is a great compilation of links and stories about the Summers controversy: Summers on Women in Science, from WISELI, the Women in Science & Engineering Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison.]

    Woman in audience: Is that just in the united states? Now, in other countries the situation is different.

    Annalee: Not just, but it’s worse… and in the US it’s worse among white people; white women lag more behind white men… than women do [in other races/cultures/ethnicities]

    Woman in audience: Women in India in sciences, engineering… it’s considered to be a ‘developing country” but things are much better there for women in science …

    [Liz’s note: Here’s a link on women at IIT in India – and another with stats over several years]

    guy in back: You can see it just going to Toys R Us…all the creativity and science is on one side of the story, vs. the other side which is all pink.

    *murmur from audience*

    Charlie: You can do a lot of creative things with dolls, you know!

    Annalee: I’ve seen some amazing women hack on dolls…

    Woman from audience: I teach science at a college… photos on the walls… 1890 to today. 1890 to 1940 is half women and half men. 1950s all men. 60s, 70s, 80s, few women – and now, about 1/3 women. WWII and backlash against women… men in the 50s… and the war.

    Woman in audience: A comment on that in WWII they were using more women in science and research in RUssia – math and sci education for women but then the women went more into being educators…

    Annalee: There’s some great studies of women in computing.. they were actually called “computers”… during the war in the U.S. and no one knew if ocmputers woudl become a big deal…

    [Liz: here’s a ink from the IEEE Virtual MuseumWomen Computers in World War II.]

    Jason: Do you feel like men’s attitudes have changed or gotten better?

    Corie: Men now, male students, are more accepting of women…as fellow students and as their teachers and mentors… than they were when I was in school. They’re more okay with it.

    Ellen: My mom was totally wrong that going into computer science would be a bad way to meet men. And now I talk to high school girls… and project photos of good looking comp sci guys … there’s this calendar…. of good looking computer geek guys… and I tell them, “he’s a good cook…”

    OMG she just broke me… hahahah! [Which calendar? The Studmuffins of Science ones? Or is there a special computer geek one?]

    Guy in audience: Computer geek culture, it’s all about being outsiders, alienation, outside mainstream, not jocks, etc. So why isn’t geek culture more of a clean slate in terms of gender?

    [Liz: I could talk about that forever, and would really like to know.]

    Annalee: Boys growing up as geeks, unfortunately being called fags, etc. Instead of creating cultures that were more friendly to women and the feminine, a lot of them reacted by creating an even more macho culture, especially in engineering and some of the sciences. There’s a lot of dick-measuring, jockeying. Even the language used in hacking, penetration testing, popping the cherry of the machine. It’s part of the slang. You fuck the ass of someone else’s computer. And of course computers are “boxes”… and we all know what a box is. The jocks picked on us and now we’re a macho enclave…. But that is changing. What’s missing is networking and these men have friends who are men, and if they did have friends who were women there would be better… we can build networks of friendship. Bridges…

    Corie: If you’re male and a geek you’re important and smart. If you’re a woman it’s all about your value based on your looks. They don’t get the same sort of treatment in the outside world.

    Barton: (from Mills) my perception of what is geek comes from th 50s science fiction and the production that came after that. what do you think about geek as a notion evolving. how is that changning in the future?

    Jenn Shreve: the fact that I’m up here shows it’s changing; i’m not a physicist… I’m a writer. But i have a passion for these things and for tech… and that tech is more ubiquitous opens the door… it becomes more acceptable. Now everyone .. takes part in things that were narrow before… like chat rooms… so the definition is changing.

    Woman in back: What exactly is a geek? I think of library science geeks…

    Charlie: Were you here at the beginning? We defined what we thought geek was

    Annalee: We loved the librarians, we had a whole contingent…we could have a whole book of librarian geeks. But it’s not really male dominated… we didn’t include it but we wanted to focus on the areas in culture where people would think of a guy when they think of somone in that area. Comic books, various sciences…

    Loren: Back in the 80s I was a contractor. Most of the agencies i worked for were run by women and dominated by women. Best business to be in for women b/c it was the most flexible and had the best pay, flexible hours, for women to be in if they had children. But that isn’t true anymore.

    Women in audience : I disagree, it’s a great field to be in to work from home and to make a lot o
    f money if you have kids… as a programmer.

    [Note: two other women in the audience came up to me after the reading and agreed that computer science was still the best thing for working at home as a professional and making money.]

    Guy in audience: Please come to Google and talk to us about this and how to get this message out more broadly and maybe on a video on Youtube, or something like that. Girls in high school, get it to a broader audience, they would be inspired by it.

    Charlie: That would rock! We have a video of another reading and can send you the link… and would love to come to Google.

    Guy from audience: Are there any women you know who are into pro sports, except for baseball…

    Charlie: Stanford women’s basketball rocks….

    Jenn: Sports reporters… very macho culture… I was the only woman and that’s when I’d really feel that only woman int he room feeling.

    Annalee: I’ve heard women talk about being a jock and a geek … various sports… prepared them for the endurance to say, program all night.

    Charlie: In fact Jessica who was supposed to be here is a wrestler and when people question her geekitude she just beats them up.

    Annalee: Yay, thanks for coming, go buy the book!

    The guy behind me begs Ellen for a photo of her in her circuit board corset…

    [Earlier, as I laced Ellen into her corset I thought of Violet Blue’s article “Web Celebs and My Rainbow-Flag Bikini – which I highly recommend –

    A bit of my own geek story, about growing up a computer nerd, women’s networks, and helping out with tech stuff in disaster relief, was in Other magazine # 9 but isn’t in the book (for those of you who asked!) As I liveblogged this reading, taking photos and emailing them to Flickr, browsing on the spot to find links to add for the readers, and chatting in another window at the same time, and posting to Twitter… which is my normal level of blog-geek multitasking around friends, it was funny to field the questions of women around me who were not quite so bloggy or Web 2.0-ish (or “annoying and technopretentious”). At least I amused them!

    One reaction I’ve heard a lot from women as I go around talking about the book and showing it off – is that many women who are geeks thought about submitting a story to it, but then kind of sighed and figured they weren’t geeky enough. I’ve heard women a hundred times geekier than I am say this, with geek street cred that would blow your mind. And then there’s an even more complex reaction as women realize that their disbelief in their own geek studliness is part of their own internalized misogyny, and they get angry (at themselves and at the rest of the world) and it’s a very hard thing to look at. The essays in the book are empowering, and make people very happy by letting them know they’re not alone in their geekitude, but some elements of the essays can also get people on a train of thought that is sad, anger-triggering, or difficult — The thing is, it’s a very productive difficulty. I felt the same reaction happening among readers to the Tiptree biography last year.

    It was a great reading, the audience stuck around for ages, talking and full of positive energy, getting signatures and telling some of their own stories. I hope we can hear some of those, maybe on the She’s Such a Geek blog in interviews or guest posts!

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    Writers With Drinks report, Saturday Dec. 9

    Writers With Drinks, at the Makeout Room in San Francisco, was fabulous again. Indigo Moor, a poet from Sacramento, read first. He was a dynamic and clear speaker, funny, warm, with a lot of stage presence, and I enjoyed his poetry; he read a poem about the violent territorial nature of hummingbirds (“hollow bones… strung together by frayed nerves”), “Trigger”, “Pull”, a poem about a hunting trip (“…the way everyone… is trapped in love”), and “Apotheosis”. I especially liked the hunting poem.

    Laura Moriarty read two chapters from her experimental poetic bizarro science fiction novel Ultravioleta. I just heard her read from it for the anthology Paraspheres and am in the middle of the book. Wyatt, one of the human characters, gets all mixed up with Wyatt Earp and there are some good romantic slashy bits about him and Doc Holiday. There’s some aliens call “the I”. Gender and love and reality all screwed up and weird. It was hard to follow the thread of the reading; while I liked it, I think it would benefit hugely from being read aloud in a livelier way. It just occurred to me that while I just bitchily wrote “It’s not like postmodernism is a language from Mars” in another context (on a Wikipedia talk page on an article on Donna Haraway, the author of The Cyborg Manifesto) actually Moriarty’s book is kind of about postmodernist language from Mars.

    Kevin Monroe, the stand up comedian in WWD’s genre mixup, was hilarious, with routines about prayer, god, and spam; Jesus’ capacity for protecting people when he wasn’t too hot on self-defense; the missing bastards of the Iraq war as compared to the Korean and Vietnam wars (the bit of race-based that made the audience the most uncomfortable, for sure), and back-alley assisted suicide. He made fun of the idea that God cares about prayers, for a minute being God, “Increase the size of your penis? What the fuck? That’s the 12th prayer on that I’ve gotten today…” leading to something that cracked me up by its outrageousness, “Fuck Nigeria. Their main export is fraud.” And then “You can’t hide an afro under a burqua.” “Malt liquor – the gatorade of street combat” and the funny bit about assisted suicide. “What? You only got 50 bucks? I hope you live, motherfucker!”

    Charlie had a particularly hilarious interlude about how we were going to have a new thing at Writers With Drinks: 2 minute dates in which we all pair up and establish who’s dominant and who’s submissive, then rotate. When we’ve figured out who ranks where, the most dominant will cook and eat the most submissive while everyone else masturbates, as is customary at a literary event. There was something in here about the vanishing middle class, but I’ve forgotten… it was funny, anyway, as I contemplated literary feuds and how so many people behave like annoying divas. As usual Charlie’s humor exposes something true and interesting in a way that isn’t mean or bitter (which is so rare in humor, especially standup comedy).

    After the break, Stephen Elliott read an excerpt from his novel Happy Baby – a guy sees a former guard or employee from juvenile hall who used to rape him and abuse him and “protect him” and follows him home on the bus while thinking of then and now and his current girlfriend. It was really good! I had a nice time talking with Stephen – had never met him before but I have a short story coming out in his upcoming anthology about sex in America.

    At some point I met a dude named Yoz who was very bouncy and fun …

    At dinner afterwards at Esperpento… (to be finished later… oops must go upstairs for jury duty)

    As usual, Writers With Drinks was well attended — crowded — despite the heavy rain that prevented two of the readers from coming. (One, Grace Davis, on the wrong side of the mountains and reluctant to come over Highway 17, and the other, Lally Winston, stuck in traffic for two hours in blinding driving rain.)

    Liveblogging: Blogging Feminism panel, Barnard, NYC

    blogging feminism flyer
    Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

    Panelists: Jessica Valenti (feministing), Liza Sabater, (Culture Kitchen), Alice Marwick (Tiara), Lauren Spees, and Michelle Riblett (Hollaback), Gwendolyn Beetham (NCRW).


    Intro by Janet R. Jakobsen from the Center for Research on Women.

    I just came yesterday from a 70s feminism event, the Veteran Feminists of America, a book release for Feminists Who Changed America about second-wave feminism. But this, blogs, is carrying on feminism in new generation in a new medium. Gwendoyn and Jessica are co-moderating and co-editing the Scholar & Feminist Online. We’re videotaping for that journal issue. The current issue is on women & sport. Full issue on blogging will be out in the spring.

    Intro for Gwendolyn: She’s involved with the U.N. [task force on…?] and the Real Hot 100. Founding member of Younger Women’s task force, contributing editor for 3rd Wave Feminism Encyclopedia. And training institute for … in the Dominican Republic. Graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science. And BA from Kenyon. “My gosh, you don’t look old enough to have done all that.” *laughter*

    Jessica Valenti. Feministing, NARAL, MA from Rutgers, Legal Momentum, NOW, Planned Parenthood, Ms. Magazine. Co-founder of Real Hot 100. Contributing author to We don’t need another wave from Seal Press. (List of publications). Currently writing a book about younger women. Forthcoming from Seal Press.

    Gwen: Thank you, thank you to Barnard and for being so supportive. Thanks for coming. Background: We propsed this idea to Barnard a year ago. At that time blogs were still edging their way into the mainstream. Today blogs are everywhere. all the major US news outlets have blogs. Also around the world. Where I’m doing my project on the UN the Sudanese govt used comments on a blog as an excuse to kick an envoy out…. Direct diplomacy. More liberal bloggers meant that blogs had jumped the shark. If even the UN is using blogs then we have a problem with using blogs for radical change,. Are blogs obsolete? Then what are we doing here? If you look at last week’s election results you can see blogs are alive and well. One thing that hasn’t changed a lot over the past year is the way that women are talked about in the blogosophere. The way that white males still get talked about most and dominate the political blogosophere. This is being examined in academia. Anyway, now over to Jessica, my co-moderator…

    Jessica: We do everything together. It’s like we’re “heterosexual life partners”. Let’s hear brief intros from the other panelists.

    Alice Marwick: Hi I’m Alice. I’m a phd at NYU, studying online communication… working in communications since 1995.

    Liza Sabater – I publish Culture Kitchen and the Daily Gotham among other blogs. I’m an academic maroon, I ran away from phd program at NYU in neobaroque latin american literature.

    Lauren Larken Spees, co-founder of Hollaback NYC. Also a found of Artistic Evolucion, non profit, social activism using art, technology, and bicycles. [Link?] Media arts. USC for undergrad in theater.

    Michelle Riblett: I went to high school with Lauren.

    Lauren: We were in boarding school together!

    Michelle: BA from Barnard. Philosophy… worked in Rape Crisis center and anti-violence. Interested in feminist interpretations of disability, media studies, queer theory.

    Jessica: A few words on why we wanted to do this panel and this issue. Why we think it’s important. Vibrant community of feminist blogs out there. While there’s an ongoing conversation online about feminist blogging, there hasn’t been much offline. We need to communicate that there’s a cohesive body of work. We wanted to make something available to academics and start a conversation between bloggers and academia and get the discourse doing. We have an amazing opoprtunity in front of us as feminists with blogs. How can we find those intersections where academia, feminsim, blogging come together?

    Alice: Doing a broad survey of 2 things. academics and blogs; feminism and technology. I’m an academic who blogs, not a “blogger” . Why academics think blogs are interesting.
    – they’re easy to analyze; they’re public.
    – blogs tend to encourage values academics like interactivity: comments.
    – egalitarian, anyone with internet access can blog
    – resistance, ideology of resistance.
    – academics do blog a lot. we love to hear ourselves talk.
    – trend right now is to write huge paper then say “blogs are the answer”.

    We study effects of media consolidation on news practices. Emphasis on advertiser friendly stories, etc. Gail Tuchman “multiplicity of voices principle”- free speech is not enough. Must have diverse voices in media. Blogs posited as solution. Also as a solution to political participation. Horserace vs. analysis of the issues; blogs allow grassroots discussion of issues in depth. Even if pts of view are minority viewpoints.

    What are academics saying? – analyzing blogs as journalism. Warblogging. Studies claim that blogs are changing journalistic practice; changing democracy. Academics write about blogs changing academia. A way to get out of the ivory tower. Start discourse with regular people outside the academy. 2 year delay on academic papers before they get into journals where no one reads them anyway. 3rd thing is blogs and gender. Indiana study – women. Are blogs “democratic”? Public discourse about blogs is gendered male, white, heterosexual. privileged over activities that are gendered female. Blogs seen as authoritative, if male. Women’s blogs are given labels of gossipy, private, trivial, etc. Top political blogs written by men. Why? Because women don’t write about politics? Or because women’s plitical blogs are crappy? Neither is true. They found that men all link to each other and pay attention to each other and what is “good” is waht men say when men say it. [Is this referring to Herring & Scheidt paper…?]

    2nd – 12 percent of world population is online. What happens when we posit this as a solution when people don’t have access. When people are worrying about sanitation etc. Class based. Public libraries, filtering software. Social tech inequality in itself. The original idea was sort of that minds would commune on this pure level, disembodiment hypothesis. This viewpoint resulted in the white male subject being seen as the norm. if you identified as not white male etc. then you were seen as “playing the race card”. Online stuff reproduces dominant cultu
    re’s stereotypes. Female characters in games… where “fag” is the most common word thrown around as an insults. Quote from an article about “breast physics” and buttocks in gaming. *laughter* Power imbalance within tech industry. 30% of the workers are women but they are in marketing, proj management, but are not in decision making positions about features in a product. Enrollment in comp sci programs for women is dropping. Young girls to have access to tech. blogging is a good way for that.

    We need structural change. We can’t depend on blogging. But we need more women in tech and comp sci. Media loves political women bloggers bc they fit the maninstream definition… But we need diversity without ghettoization. Mainstream bloggers focus on each other. and think that the women and the queers will just deal with everything else, so they don’t need to do it.

    Nevertheless i think feminist blogging is very important. Networks of activists, writers, tech, has allowed me to inferace with other women in the industry. Validation of our politics when femism is left out of media. Blogs are today what zines were for me when i was a teenager. Women who are not corporate sponsored like ivillage or like barbie or fashion or chick lit or other consumer narratives of what it means to be a woman today. Important online to foster these feminist communities. Other communities can be very hostlie homophobic etc. Foster political changes. Thanks.


    Lisa Sabater:

    I have a different opinion about niche publishing. BLOGWAR!!! *laughter* It’s a good conversation. I’ve been in the business of being online for 10 years. When I left academia… my then boyfriend was experimenting with these things that ended up being net art. Movement of painters and sculptors who happened to have day jobs as software developers. They expermented with web browsers… in ways that looked like art. *sees a familiar face in the audience* Oh! Hi Margo! She’s part of the net art community! *waves* [Liz’s note: I think Liza is talking about Rhizome]

    At the time you had to be very skilled in coding. for me it was waiting to see what would come for someone who was a writer like me to get online. Years later blogs came and there’s this thing called the blog revolution. I go from panel to panel talking about blogging. I’m trying to make a living blogging. Everyone talks about the blog revolution but no one can describe what it is. What is it about blogs that makes them revolutionary? I’ve been thinking about this for years.

    Going back to one essay I read in a feminist lit course in NYU years ago. Las Tretas de debil. cfrom collection from collection called Tretas del debil by Josefina Ludmer. “The tricks of the weak”. Essay is about Sor juana Inez de la Cruz – who is the reason I call my blog culture kitchen btw. [Liz’s note: if you want to get what Liza is talking about, and you should, see “filosofías de cocina“.] Defense againt inquisition. Told to stop writing about poetry, philosophy and science. Essay is fantastic, it talks about rebellion and revolution in terms of spaces. Not a metaphor. Not a gesture. About creating spaces where science and technology and knowledge are NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. Inquisition, nunnery, vow of silence, still opportunity for her to think aobut philosophy, think about physics, science, and to really find powerful spaces, spaces of power. And so, Let me read this… feminist of the politics of the personal turned public. Power is not about a fixed dialectical opposition, strong vs. weak. Power is about making spaces for expressions. Letters, autobiographies, diaries. At least in Latin American literature. Blogs fit nicely into this space. Personal realities. Deleuze and Guattari – Kafka towards a minor literature. Through thinking about that, we can understand how power dynamics are subverted by blogs. What Deleuzeand Guattari say about “becoming minor”, in business speak on the web, it’s called niche blogging. A minor literature is political, collective, revolutionary, and even spatial. It takes away territory. It takes away ethniticy, reace, state, country. A minor literature goes further, there’s no subject, it’s not Liza the person who is writing Culture Kitchen. Liza is an archetype for people to relate to this person online. It takes the idea of me online being not just a subject but an archetype, It’s free to move around. There’s this freedom to move around and be outside my blog, my body, my country, my race, my ethnicity, and can travel through the net as ideas and conversations. This idea of minor lit escapes signification and representation. To me this is really important. People think of niche writing as this very specific small reflexive way of writing, I actually see it as something much more powerful, giving a voice to stories that have been suppressed. Blogging makes that possible, the structure of blogging makes that possible. Power realtionships are altered. Four things related to minor lit and Deleuze and Guattari: vernacular language, vehicular, referential, mythic language.

    (Well, that was 10, 15 years ago, ha, I’m really old! )

    With Web 2.0, the permalink came about. When you post… can we get a web page up? now b/c of permalinks there’s a map, this is not just a page. A web page nowadays is a whole map of relationships. It’s not just relating to itself, it’s relating outside itself. Media, big media, is about concentrating controlling the spreading of information, making it scares, impossible, for “the people” to take and participate in it. That’s what tv, broadcasting is about, radio. With blogging you can say i’m going to refer to this particular part of the page, put in an email and send it somewhere. Now there’s not just a space. There’s a vehicular media like email or rss. You can read a blog outside of itself, blasting it through “crackberries”, email, whatever. You can move a blog anywhere. Referential language – categories. It’s not just a category for you but it opens up the whole web to looking…, Multiplicity of identites. Not just a feminist blog, it’s a space where feminism expresses heatlh, sex, love, technology, politics, it expresses a whole myriad of different conversations with people who might not be interested in feminism at all. For an example one of my most hit posts, one of my writers wrote about forced pregnancy and celebrity porn. So people looking for celebrity porn came to feminism. The mythic language – memes. [Liza explains memes. I, the transcriber, rest my fingers.]


    Lauren Spees: What Hollaback is. It’s a campaign that makes a space for women to take photos of street harrassment, encounters, and post those stories online. Boston Globe wrote and article and refused to publish the address of Hollaback Boston. As a matter of policy, Boston Globe does not publish links to sexually explicit content. *groans from audience*

    Michele: i wrote back to them that unfortunately, sexual violent statements are not acceptable to the women who receive them on the street … [that’s what we’re fighting]. We asked for a copy of that policy. We love the exposure from the Globe but for them to refuse us an online link that was very critical. In online news if something isn’t cited as a link it virtually doesn’t exist. Defeated the purpose of exposing us to our potential audience. In contrast… a blog post on [??] generated thousands of hits for us.

    Lauren: Big media is at a disadvantage compared to bloggers and their speed of response. [….?] when she took photo of subway masturbator… the
    police didn’t answer but as soon as she put it on her blog, Daily News picked it up. [Which helped lead to Dan Hoyt’s arrest.] Blogs helping and becoming our major ally… cyber critical mass – media consolidation is a reality but we’re firing away at it. Hollaback offers a quick response.

    Michelle: Blogging, photos captures the moment, anger, fear, reactions, in immediate way, not abstract and way later. It’s easier for me to identify with them, to recognize the daily infrigements on my body i may experience. Hollaback allows this experience to be interpreted as if they’d experienced it personally.

    Lauren – It’s accessible, it’s free. Something that happened to me – i was at the speakout against sexual assault in Union Square. They introduced us as the most exciting feminsit activists around. At the time i didnt’ know i was a feminist OR an activist. Allows people to do the activity even if they don’t identify with the word.

    Michelle: Women who don’t have anything in common other than having been harrassed can all post. They’re relating the experience as their own.

    Michelle and Lauren read some posts from Hollaback:
    Post about the “professional menu distribution associate for caribbean flavors restaurant”.

    Then he pursued me down a few steps of the subway entrance getting really close to my face and leaning in,”Marry me!” I put down my bag and grabbed my cell phone, he protests, “No. Why are you taking my picture? Oh oh, I see you want my picture so that you can go home and wack off to it.”

    Holla Herzegovina post. Video post. Vlog.
    (firefox crashes.) Oops!

    The “fuck your own ass” post of the guy on the train platform. Then, “i want to be your toilet paper“.

    [I can’t remember which one said this, Lauren or Michelle, but, damn, it’s GOOD.]
    What you might notice from the posts. When we read the posts, from our experiences, we cant help notice this seems so wrong. Hollaback doesn’t define for others what counts as street harrassment. The tone matters, the intention and translation matters. All the posts come together to show the slippery and icky stuff of gendered power relations. These interactions are not about sex. They are about using and wielding sex to express power.


    Liza : You mentioned that the fastest way to get your story out there is to put it on a blog. The one complaint i have about that is it depends on how big your networks are. Who are the people i would trust with something i write online? it puts it into perspective you need other people.

    Jessica – With feminist blogging we run into that a lot when you’re writing anything political, particularly feminists, you’re leaving yourself open, you’re going to get some really nasty comments. Anyone can come on. It’s a dangerous place to be and it’s a scary place to be for a lot of feminist bloggers. There’s been a lot of discussion about how to support each other. Trolls. Horrible stuff, like “fuck you you dyke bitch”, or whatever. And it helps for 20 other feminist bloggers to be like “oh yeah fuck you too go to hell” to them. Comment registration, etc. can also help, [but doesn’t stop it all].

    2 Questions from a guy standing in the back:
    – question [I missed the first question. I think something about editing/censoring.]
    – Why blogs, why not just web sites or bulletin boards, whey are they so appealing, fashionable. Why not bulletin boards which are more interactive? Why blogs?

    Michele – We state in our site we reserve the right to edit for clarity. We have statements about race and class on our site. Replacing sexism with racism or classism is not a proper way to hollaback. I am referring to historical stereotypes of men of lower socioectonomic status, men of color, as being stereotpyed as sexually violent. [It’s not useful and Hollaback doesn’t allow it and will edit it out of posts.]

    Liza – Two tracks on my blog. Contributors and contributing editors – then other articles on sidebar. i sometimes move stuff to front page [for emphasis]. There’s different ways to read it.

    Jessica – On feministing there’s no editing, there’s 6 contributors and they post what they want. it depends on the blog, though.

    Alice – Web sites that were personal homepages required people to know some html. There was a technical barrier to entry that you had to teach yourself. i taught myself html when i was working as a secretary. Why journals, diaries, etc. online? Women journaling online since late 90s. But only once you got blogosophere gendered male that people pay attention to it. BUT also blogging tools became very easy to use, and that opened barriers.

    Jessica – Comments section on blogs, interactive that way. Conversation. LIke a bulletin board. But what’s exciting about blogs is the immediacy. Blogs updated a lot. Blogs important for femininst activism, for example when the Bureau of Labor Statistics decided not to report on women [its Women Workers Data Series: more here] anymore and I blogged and months later i got an action report from NOW. If we had been working together we could have taken action quickly.

    Woman in audience; I think alice said 12% of the world is online?

    Alice: It’s a stat from a resesarcher, africa… [I missed the citation]

    Woman in audience: Class analysis of blogging. Higher income white feminists? Are blogs contributing to that legacy? Are lower income people being involved in blogosphere

    Jessica: Yeah.

    Lauren: Anyone who owns a cellphone has a remote ip address. Anyone who owns a cellphone can blog.

    Liza – i’m suspicious of stats that say 12% of people are online. People have crackberry. They pay 300 bucks for blackberry, high but less than paying 1000 bucks for a computer, and a landline. They’re online, but not counted. There ‘s a core group of colored bloggers, the digital ethnorati, we have higher incomes but we also have, we happen to be in these social-class-blended families. There’s a lot more people of color with access to the internet through cell phones and pdas. Recently I was at a conference with ESPN Mobile. The fastest growing segment of population was Latinos followed by Asians and African Americans. Digital divide – we have to stop thnking that way. We have to stop thinking of computers. You can read a blog on this (holds up phone). You can post.

    Alice – You can post from your pda, i do it all the time

    Liza – i don’t have the patience.

    Alice – Big differentials between [styles, patterns of] access , asia, europe, north america. Internet cafes. Different patterns of usage. One person in a community has a computer and they charge other people to come use it.

    Guy in front row – Alice you mentioned that very few top political blogs are written by women b/c of the men linking only to each other. Michelle Malkin, Pandagon, firedoglake. I mean, 2 years ago Pandagon didn’t have Amanda Marcotte on it! What changed?

    Jessica: I bitched about it. Bitch enough and they throw you a link.

    Liza: Shelley Powers is someone who is a must read… burningbird [
    archives] is a must read for anyone interested in the hisotory of the blogsophere. Speaking from the margins to power. She nails it over the head what happenes with tech bloggers is just what happens with political bloggers. There was this ad, feminist pie wars, women on reality shows, ad on daily kos. Some women on daily kos got really offended. why do we have this ad on daily kos? Markos said with typical charm, you smelly hippies, sanctimonious women’s studies, have no place on this blog. It created a whole shitstorm. [Good explanation here with links to major feminist blogs discussing it.] At the time in this country we were getting ready, Katrina hadn’t happened yet btw. Right before Katrina. We already heard that Justices were coming down, Alito, Robertson. I wrote this post about why diversity is even an issue. He front paged it. [Liz: Is it this post on “no black bloggers”?] Of course he doesn’t talk to me anymore… After Katrina, after Supreme court… they know they need us. They need feminist bloggers. We wrote a manifesto as feminist bloggers against Robertson. [link?]

    Jessica: that’s not to say we get the credit we deserve, still.

    Liza: No. *laughter*

    Jessica: Who does the nytimes talk about when they mention a blogger? The same 3 guys over and over. We did it ourselves – we linked to each other and supported each other. […] blogs revoulutionized feminist politics. Top male bloggers, aasking them dont you think it’s a problem, all the top bloggers are men. They said “No.” The conversation for them ends there.

    Liza: Organizations encourage that. Working Assets has media training… they found someone to get this grant. Only 5 bloggers were going to be trained to go in front of media. Markos, Atrios, same people who appear as face of the blogosphere. Now Mary Scott Oconnor [of My Left Wing, a woman from firedoglake. No people of color. And this was done by Working Assets, not a right wing organization. That’s problematic. I feel that for the future of feminist blogs and future of progressive politics in the US it’s up to us to look at ways of organizing. There is power in actually having a flock or an aggregate of bloggers sharing resources, sharing access, and power. If we’re going to wait for someone to give it to us it’s not going to happen. The tech allows for coalescing, creating different power structures.

    Jessica: We don’t want to recreate the same sexist racist homophobic paradigms in our new structures. At a conference -that panel – on the “power of the blog” – all white men. Sausagefest! and as soon as the mic came around to a woman (it was …. ] and said you’re talking about power but you’re sitting up there all men. And they said what do you want us to do, back off and not be on the panel and say no [to being on it]?

    Liza : I’m on the board of BlogHer, an organization to raise the profiles of blogging women. Estroswarms around tech and political conferences. Get a whole bunch of women and drop them there.

    Lauren: There’s one thing with the net and with the grassroots. You have to be both. Tou have to do more than online. Some of the most success we found getting mentioned in media have been from attending or creating different performative events. We did the idiotarod. *laughter* A crazy shopping cart event in NYC. We got our first media attention there. New York Metro Daily. She [who?) wrote an article. Talk to people. I volunteer at Bluestockings, a political bookstore, and [meet interesting feminists all the time there.]

    Woman in audience: What are these political blogs – list some. You all seem to know each other. How? Who?

    Jessica: You’ll have a huge blogroll on the issue of the magazine. If you go to our blogs and look at our blogrolls.

    Liza – three categories of feminist blogs
    – ones like Lauren and jill at feministe – they talk about feminsm
    – activist blogs like Hollaback
    – then people like me, in the middle – I dont write about feminism, i write about everything from a feminist perspective. it’s a praxis more than anything esle. Even if there’s a blogger who’s a lawyer, there’s law profs, photographers, artists, technologists, mommybloggers, they identify as feminists, transgender bloggers as well. And men btw, men who call themselves feminists . Alas a Blog. publisher is a guy. Barry Deutsche.

    Audience question: What is it that… (i missed the question)

    Lauren: I found a community. I didn’t realize – I didn’t know what I was missing and then I realize that all the different parts of myself fit into this way of activism and feminism.

    Margo, in audience, the artist: What do you think about discussions in blogs, in their discussions, so public, the kind of language that’s emerging, the way of empowering each other, perhaps some of that content, has cultural difference, can you comment on that.

    Alice – people are putting themselves out there. a lot of cultural anxiety around information aggregation. In 15 years you’re going to regret it, i’m so glad there was no internet when i was 13. Or people getting fired for their Myspace. The social practices have not caught up with the technology yet. Privacy is a big one. People are willing to provide a ton of personal information. sites asking what your income, your gender, sell your data. That really is a big concern. it’s a little too early to say what the overall cultural impact is going to be. i can’t speak to the linguistics aspect.

    Liza – speaking with (Mark?) last night. Extended consciousness. No such thing as a separation between virtual and real. An extension of who we are. This flesh we carry. It should be treated as material. What you put there may have more of a life than you. Even if you take down your blog, do scrubs, the wayback machine, somebody in some place in the world might have a scrapbook copy of your site because they like it. Or, porn people scoop my site, because of my google ranking. So what you put online is the closest thing to immortality.

    Lauren- My mom’s found all sorts of things about me online.

    Liza – My own children. I made a distinct decison to not give away their privacy when they had no choice in the matter. I talk about Thing1 and Thing2 once in a while, and I put that we went to Puerto Rico and how they were pretending to be Coppertone […..] but I never identify them by name. Because they don’t have any choice in the matter.

    Woman in audience – Definition of a blog? Different properties, having links, being updated multiple times per day? i’m a little bit fuzzy.

    [Liz/transcriber: Okay, here I just *have* to leap in and say I would answer this question from this person simply by saying: a blog is a web page you control, that is structured so you can update it very easily with frequent posts, and many have features that make it easy for people to leave comments on what you post. )

    Liza – A blog is a group of software that resides in a server and it’s, there’s three elements. The script that produces the web pages – could be written in anything form perl to php. The two main languages in which blogs are written. You have a database, you need a database in where you write is going to reside. Databases are software, they’re soft machines. The third element that mkes them different froma livejournal diary, is that you can pretty up your blog. You can design it and do CSS and the html. And th
    at’s why it’s web 2.0. Because web 1.0 was all hard coded… on a page it might turn into 15, 20 printed pages… whereas a blog, it dynamically puts those things together.

    Jessica: Liza’s a real geek, I wish I understood that stuff… but that’s not how I define it. When i define blogs I say it’s the immediacy, it’s the updated frequently. Comments section. i don’t think it’s really a blog if it doesn’t have comments. And a sense of community. Having a blogroll, linking to other bloggers, having online relationships. Not so much for the tech.

    Lauren: it’s so easy, we could have sat here right now and made an awesome blog about this panel.

    Liza – i’m from the first wave and i have to install it myself.!!

    Thanks – applause –