That sounds exactly like Hacker School. So I applied for the autumn batch, and I've been accepted. I will therefore be taking an unpaid personal leave of absence from the Wikimedia Foundation via our sabbatical program. My last workday before my leave will be Friday, September 27. I plan to be on leave all of October, November, and December, returning to WMF in January. During my absence, Quim Gil will be the temporary head of the Engineering Community Team. I'll spend much of September turning over responsibilities to him. Over the next month I'll be saying no to a lot of requests so I can ensure I take care of all my commitments by September 27th, when I'll be turning off my wikimedia.org email.
When I'm in the zone, growing my programming skills, time is a blur, I feel powerful, and I am in awe of what we can make. And the more I think about doing Hacker School, having that feeling for weeks at a stretch, the more excited I get. So I'm thrilled that I can take three months off my job to come to Hacker School, so I can make tools to make my life easier, and so I can be a better community manager for MediaWiki (calling out easy bugs for newbies, running stats, packaging and customizing tools, etc.). I want to nurture the programmer side of myself, because programming is heady fun, and because the skillset will supercharge everything else I do. I'll be a more effective citizen, coach, and leader if I increase my fluency in code.
After all, it's going to take a lot of energy and innovation to improve the quality of open source software. We need open source software that ordinary people can use, with documentation in the languages users speak, and whose design addresses the needs of women and men worldwide. Whatever approach I take to that problem -- mentorship, platform-building, recruiting specific demographics, media-making -- I anticipate wanting to hack a lot of dashboards, APIs, courseware, wiki templates, poorly formatted datasets, CRMs, and helpful little scripts along the way.
Thank you, WMF, for the sabbatical program, and thanks to my team (especially Engineering Community Team's Quim Gil, Andre Klapper, Guillaume Paumier, and my boss Rob Lanphier) for supporting me on this; I couldn't do this without you. And thanks to the women-in-open-source community, especially the Ada Initiative, for helping me gain the confidence to take this step. (The Ada Initiative's trying to finish its fundraiser, in case you can help.)
If there's anything else I can do to minimize inconvenience, please let me know. And wish me courage!
Cross-posted to Cogito, Ergo Sumana.
My parents came to the US from Karnataka, in south India, in the 1970s, and they were lonely. They spoke Kannada and English and Farsi and Hindi and Sanskrit, but Kannada was their mother tongue, and they arrived in Oklahoma and found no Kannadiga community to speak of. (Go ahead and groan. My dad passed on his love of terrible puns to me.)
I'm not saying they were the first Kannada speakers in the US. There were definitely already Kannadigas in the US in the 1970s. Indians had been immigrating here for decades.* There were letters and long-distance phone calls and occasional visits, a few families getting together, the adults laughing and swapping tips in Kannada while kids ran around. But the Kannada-speaking diaspora was scattered and had no central place to talk with each other. A bunch of people who shared a characteristic, but not really a community.
So my parents did some community organizing, in their spare time, in between working and raising my sister and me. How did they get Kannada speakers together? They started "Kannada Koota" local organizations (like user groups). "Koota" means "meeting" in Kannada. They basically started a grassroots network of Kannadiga meetups. How did they get these folks talking to each other, all across the country? They started a bimonthly magazine, Amerikannada, and ran it for 7 and a half years, until their money and energy ran out. It had great fiction, and articles from the literary magazines back home. And it included ads for those Kannada Koota meetups, "how I started a Kannada Koota" articles, and tutorial exercises for "how to learn Kannada", for parents to teach their kids. My parents were sharing best practices, talking meta, inspiring people all over.
I didn't really know that, as a kid. As my parents processed subscriptions, recruited articles and ads, wrote, and edited, my sister and I stapled, stamped, glued, and sealed bits of paper in languages we couldn't quite yet read. We had a rubber stamp with the logo: a griffin-like creature, half-lion, half-bald eagle. I gleefully deployed those magical bulk-mail stickers, red and orange and green with single-letter codes, and piled envelopes into burlap sacks and plastic bins for the frequent trips to the post office.
It was always my Dad who took the Amerikannada mail to the post office. He was strong in those days, heaving the great bags of mail like an Indian Santa Claus (mustache yes, beard no) alongside the blue-uniformed workers on the loading dock, the part of the post office most people never use or even see. My sister and I came along, not to help -- how could we? -- but to keep my Dad company.
At home, while toying with BASIC on a PC Jr, I overheard the shouted long-distance phone calls in mixed Kannada and English. Stuff like "Go ahead and give me the directions to the venue, and I'll tell it to Veena." or "Well you know who you should talk to? Raj is going to be over there around then...." Weekend after weekend I spent reading science fiction in some corner at a Kannada Koota.**
The funny thing is that I thought I was rebelling against my parents by taking the path I did. I majored in political science at Berkeley instead of engineering, and fell in with open source hippies. I used AbiWord on Caldera Linux to write papers about nineteenth-century American political theory and naturalization rates among Indians in Silicon Valley. I fell away from coding and saw that other things needed doing more urgently: tech writing, testing, teaching, marketing, management.
And here I am now, a community organizer like them, finally appreciating what they did, what they made, what they gave up. My dad had to work to support us; he couldn't edit Amerikannada full-time, even if that would have been a better use of his talents, and a greater service to the world. My parents couldn't find enough ads and subscribers to pay for the cost of keeping the magazine going. I appreciate WordPress and PayPal all the more because I see that Amerikannada folded (partly) for the lack of them.
What if one of my parents had been able to bring in income from the community we were building? What if it had been sustainable?
Today, the community that I most identify with is that of women in open source and open culture. We've talked to each other in pockets and locally for decades - hats off to LinuxChix and VividCon, for instance - but in the last few years, The Ada Initiative has brought us more resources, a stronger community, and faster progress than ever. And this is possible because the Ada Initiative's staff is full-time.
So, here's the surprise: Leonard and I will match every donation to the Ada Initiative up to a total of USD$10,000 until midnight August 27th PDT, one week from today. Yes, again. And this time, if the community matches the full amount, we'll chip in an extra thousand dollars.
The Ada Initiative's work is useful in our own lives. When I needed an anti-harassment policy for my workplace's technical events, and when Leonard wanted resources to advise his technical communities on diversity, we consulted the Ada Initiative's resources. AdaCamp brings together, teaches, and inspires women from all over, including me. And the network I found via the Ada Initiative helped me write a keynote speech and respond to unwanted touch at a hackathon.
But more than that, we know that we're improving our world and helping science fiction, open source, and Wikipedia live up to our values. We believe in inclusiveness, compassion, empowerment, and equal and fair treatment for all, and the Ada Initiative opens the doors for more women to get to enjoy those values in the places we love.
And my parents taught me that I should give back. It feels so much better to give back than to give up.
* One couple who moved from Gujarat to California in 1958 had a son who's now a Congressman.
** Nowadays I get to be the only Kannadiga at science fiction conventions.
Leonard was about to head off to brunch, and I knew I'd feel better if I also went outside, to ensure that I left the flat at least once today. Bleh, I don't wanna, inertia said, but I reminded it that I'd be happier if I did. And along the way I should drop off that neglected dry-cleaning. Bleh, I don't wanna, procrastination said, but I mentally replied that if I didn't do this errand, it wouldn't magically get done.
Holy crap! I viscerally felt the proper relationship between the bratty kid inside me and the adult I am. I can listen to the kid, but it also listens to me. I knew that those urges only sometimes represented a neglected inner child, but now I have another useful analogy that will help me manage them properly: mailing list flamers. The voices of perfectionism, anxiety, impatience, cruelty, and laziness are just frequent posters on sumana-l. I'm not going to killfile any of them, just try to skim, roll my eyes, and move on.
I walked Leonard to brunch. The dry cleaning place was closed, so I'll try again tomorrow. I came inside just long enough to drop the bag and grab tea and my book: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson. I sat outside on my apartment building's stoop and read for a while. My neighbors came and went and I chatted with them. A light rain started, stopped, started, and stopped again. I came back inside to write this.
Last week the project lead (skud) also posted some plans to "talk to a whole range of people and get a sense of what's important and what we should be prioritising." I'll be interested to see how her product management process goes, and have already enjoyed reading questions she will be asking gardeners. It makes me happy to help nurture a small business that is doing things right on lots of levels.
Anyway, Growstuff is cool, so check out growstuff_blog_feed for more updates.
I dent and tweet but do not tumbl, book faces, pin, plus, buzz, and probably other things I have forgotten.
This is why he and I are pledging to match up to USD$10,000 of donations to the Ada Initiative made before November 1, 2012.
The Ada Initiative works to increase the participation of women in open technology and culture. They gave me the wording and support I needed to create Wikimedia Foundation's Friendly Space Policy for technical events, which helps everyone at a Wikimedia hackathon feel safer so they can concentrate on rockin' out. If you liked "Be Bold: An Origin Story", the keynote I delivered at Open Source Bridge this year, thank the Ada Initiative, whose advisors helped me shape it. Everyone who wants to grow the open source community benefits from the Ada Initiative's work, and so donating to TAI is like investing in a good piece of machinery; TAI's going to make my work easier for a long time to come.
Please join us in donating to the Ada Initiative, especially if you've also gotten a good career out of open source.
I still have 15 things on my TODO list. Fuck me is the saying, I think.
It's a giant hike with lots of walking every day. Gods help me keep my stamina up!
....Out of the sky comes the Constellation: a swarm of anarchist anthropologists, exploring our seas, cataloguing our plants, editing our wikis and eating our Twinkies. No one knows how to respond--except for nerds like Ariel who've been reading, role-playing and wargaming first-contact scenarios their entire lives. Ariel sees the aliens' computers, and he knows that wherever there are computers, there are video games.
Ariel just wants to start a business translating alien games so they can be played on human computers. But a simple cultural exchange turns up ancient secrets, government conspiracies, and unconventional anthropology techniques that threaten humanity as we know it. If Ariel wants his species to have a future, he's going to have to take the step that nothing on Earth could make him take.
He'll have to grow up.
Constellation Games is a novel by my spouse, Leonard Richardson, "about space aliens and video games and love and computer programming." You can read the first two chapters for free. It's available for purchase as a serial -- for USD$5, total, you'll get access to the 28 chapters posted so far, then a chapter in your email every week till it finishes in August, and then an all-in-one ebook at the end. If you pay a little more, you'll get a print paperback right now, bonus stories and a phrasebook in August, and so on. And for free, anyone can read the author's commentary, Twitter feed, &c.
This is a great book. There are chapter titles like "Their First Contact Was Better." There are instant messenger conversations and blog entries like:
Other people are comparing it to Douglas Adams, Kelly Link, Neal Stephenson, and Douglas Coupland. You should try it out. I encourage you to read those sample chapters and I hope you'll decide to subscribe.
ABlum: who can i thank for translating this?
Curic: I will send you an achievement graph.
ABlum: no your achievement graphs have 10 million nodes
i don't want to thank the whole damn constellation
just tell me the name of one person who i can buy a beer
Curic: If you looked at the graph you would see a distinctive bottleneck: the Small Batch Data Cleanup Overlay, who translated between old versions of SAME and various human languages at the request of the History of Life Overlay.
ABlum: ok who is in charge of the data cleanup overlay?
Curic: That's not a real question.
ANYHOW, I offer big thanks to a randomly selected member of the Small Batch Data Cleanup Overlay. That'd be Jeroen Vivekananda of Peregrini Ring, Ring City. I would buy you a beer, Jeroen, but your body heat would vaporize the beer before you could swallow it. So, instead, accept this mention on my blog.
Not until today, skimming a Jezebel piece about how women who get angry get marginalized and criticized for their anger (not news), did I realize -- my boss has never criticized my anger.
I like my boss.
Browse Wikimedia Commons for photos to insert into new posts
On the New Post and Edit pages, give the user the ability to browse freely licensed photos from Wikimedia Commons to insert into their posts. ... It would be nice to give users the ability to dress up their more text-heavy posts with graphics. Wikimedia Commons is a useful source of freely licensed graphics.
Go vote in the poll & comment there if you'd like that.
I care about:
- Freedom (I want root on my phone without having to jailbreak it)
- Hardware quality
- Operating system quality (random crashiness is not acceptable)
- Operating system longevity & upgradability (Maemo and Meego went away pretty fast, and I don't want to buy a device that will never see another OS upgrade)
I'd rather have a physical keyboard, either in addition to or instead of a touchscreen, but I can stand not having one. And I have basically no hope that I could get a device made under fair labor practices and with any attentiveness to the environmental impacts of its manufacture, but am willing to be surprised.
I really do not care how many apps are available for a phone -- I'll be fine if it browses the web, makes and received phone calls, and it would be lovely if it takes mediocre photos and plays music. And it can be big and heavy and ugly and I don't mind as long as the hardware is robust.
I am planning on buying a device, that is, buying an unlocked one separately from getting a data/voice plan from a carrier (see again: my interest in freedom). I acknowledge that I am being picky here so I'm fine with spending commensurately. And I live in the US but am willing to purchase devices from abroad. For example, if multiple people have tried the Geeksphone Zero and can recommend it, I'm willing to pony up.
(Crosspost from Ask MetaFilter.)
"So in what follows I describe Wikipedia as a problematic monopoly. I don't ignore its positive sides, but they don't play any role in this text."
Then there's really no point in critiquing it, is there? The point of such a rant is not to be fair or to point a way forward, but to present a bunch of assertions without having to back them up.
I'll argue about this if people want to hear my thoughts on some particular point.
 I say "and on me" in that the author argues that, since unpaid volunteers make Wikimedia's content and maintain its community processes, it is wrong to pay Foundation and Chapter workers: it is "the payment to some 100 people that makes the unpaid work of every other contributor so shameful [sic] abusive".
Weirdest nap in a while.
Blogged about history of technology & WikiLeaks the other day.
The request: if you have a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, will you test our new Wikipedia mobile gateway on it? Thanks.