Dinner, aka, too impatient to wait for a real loaf to rise
Testing Instagram/ifttt/wordpress/DW integration
The Pathway to Inclusion
Lately I’ve been working on how to make groups, events, and projects more inclusive. This goes beyond diversity — having a demographic mix of participants — and gets to the heart of how and why people get involved, or don’t get involved, with things.
As I see it, there are six steps everyone needs to pass through, to get from never having heard of a thing to being deeply involved in it.
These six steps happen in chronological order, starting from someone who knows nothing about your thing.
“I’ve heard of this thing.” Perhaps I’ve seen mention of it on social media, or heard a friend talking about it. This is the first step to becoming involved: I have to be aware of your thing to move on to the following stages.
“I understand what this is about.” The next step is for me to understand what your thing is, and what it might be like for me to be involved. Here’s where you get to be descriptive. Anything from your thing’s name, to the information on the website, to the language and visuals you use in your promotional materials can help me understand.
“I can see myself doing this.” Once I understand what your thing is, I’ll make a decision about whether or not it’s for me. If you want to be inclusive, your job here is to make sure that I can imagine myself as part of your group/event/project, by showing how I could use or benefit from what it offers, or by showing me other people like me who are already involved.
“I can physically, logistically, and financially do this.” Here we’re looking at where and when your thing occurs, how much it costs, how much advance notice is given, physical accessibility (for people with disabilities or other such needs), childcare, transportation, how I would actually sign up for the thing, and how all of these interact with my own needs, schedule, finances, and so on.
“I feel like I fit in here.” Assuming I get to this stage and join your thing, will I feel like I belong and am part of it? This is distinct from “identification” because identification is about imagining the future, while belonging is about my experience of the present. Are the organisers and other participants welcoming? Is the space safe? Are activities and facilities designed to support all participants? Am I feeling comfortable and having a good time?
“I care enough to take responsibility for this.” If I belong, and have been involved for a while, I may begin to take ownership or responsibility. For instance, I might volunteer my time or skills, serve on the leadership team, or offer to run an activity. People in ownership roles are well placed to make sure that others make it through the inclusion pathway, to belonging and ownership.
If you’re interested in participating in an inclusivity workshop or would like to hire me to help your group, project, or event be more inclusive, get in touch.
Grace Hopper prints now available
I’ve been making linocuts.
Meet Grace Hopper. She’s a complete badass.
(click image for a larger view)
She was 37 years old and working as a mathematics professor when Pearl Harbour happened. She joined the Navy and was set to work on the first ever general-purpose electro-mechanical computer, the Harvard Mark I. She invented the compiler (used to translate computer programs written by humans into ones and zeroes that the computer can understand), created one of the most widely used programming languages of the 20th century, and was the first to use the term “bug” to describe computer errors, after a literal bug was caught in the relays of the machine she was working on.
After WW2 she left the Navy and worked for various tech companies, but kept serving in the Naval Reserve. As was usual, she retired from the Reserves at 60, but she was recalled to active duty by special executive order, and eventually rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. When she retired (again) she kept working as a consultant until the age of 85. She also did this great Letterman interview at the age of 80.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you women can’t computer, or that you’re too old to computer. Grace knows better.
I’m selling these prints as a fundraiser over on Indiegogo, in part to offset this Gittip bullshit and the costs associated with attending a bunch of tech/feminist conferences in the US just recently.
The basic print (black on white) is $40 including international shipping, and there are other options available. If you’d like one you’d better get in quick — there’s only 10 standard prints left (though the other options are still wide open).
Queer intersectionality reading list
I recently put together this reading list on queer intersectionality for a local LGBTIQ group, as part of thinking about how we can serve a wider community of same-sex attracted and gender diverse folks. I thought it might be useful to share it more widely.
For context, this is a 101 level reading list for people with a bare understanding of the concept of intersectionality. If you’re not familiar with that you might want to read Wikipedia’s article on intersectionality.
Interview with Kimberlé Crenshaw, who named and popularised the concept of intersectionality — I think it’s important that we remember and give credit to Professor Crenshaw and the black movements whose ideas we’re using, which is why I’m including this link first.
Intersectionality draws attention to invisibilities that exist in feminism, in anti-racism, in class politics, so obviously it takes a lot of work to consistently challenge ourselves to be attentive to aspects of power that we don’t ourselves experience.” But, she stresses, this has been the project of black feminism since its very inception: drawing attention to the erasures, to the ways that “women of colour are invisible in plain sight”.
“Within any power system,” she continues, “there is always a moment – and sometimes it lasts a century – of resistance to the implications of that. So we shouldn’t really be surprised about it.”
An excellent article about the New York group Queers for Economic Justice:
“You would never know that poverty or class is a queer issue,” said Amber Hollibaugh, QEJ Executive Director and founding member. She continued: “Founding QEJ was, for many of us that were part of it, a statement of …wanting to try to build something that assumed a different set of priorities [than the mainstream gay equality movement]: that talked about homelessness, that talked about poverty, that talked about race and sexuality and didn’t divide those things as if they were separate identities. And most of us that were founding members couldn’t find that anywhere else.”
An interesting personal reflection on intersectionality by a queer Asian woman in NZ:
On the other side, if I’m having issues in my queer relationship with my white partner the discourse my mum uses is that same-gender relationships just don’t work and aren’t supposed to work. Find a (Chinese) man, get married and have babies like she did. You don’t have to love him to begin with but you will grow to love him. Like my mum did, apparently. It’s like if you’re queer and there’s problems in your relationship it’s because you’re queer and the solution is to be heterosexual. If you’re Chinese and there’s problems with your family it’s because Chinese culture is just more conservative or backward and the solution is to distance yourself away from it or try to assimilate into Pakeha culture. It shouldn’t have to be like this.
An article about intersectionality and climate justice (not very queer-oriented but some interesting stuff to think about):
On a personal level, we have to slow down and educate ourselves so that we can name the toxic systems within which we exist. We have to relearn the real histories of the land, of resistance movements and what it has taken for communities survive. We must also take the time to talk through all of the connections so that we can build a deeper analysis of the crises we face. During this process, it’s important that we commit to the slow time of genuine relationship-building, especially as we learn to walk into communities that we’re not a part of in respectful ways. From there, we create space to truly hear each other’s stories and bring people together in ways that, as Dayaneni says, “we can see ourselves in each other.”
A speech about queerness and disability:
This gathering has been very white and for the most part has neglected issues of race and racism. All of us here in this room today need to listen to queer disabled people of color and their experiences. We need to fit race and racism into the matrix of queerness and disability. I need to ask myself, not only “What does it mean to be a pansexual tranny with a long butch dyke history, a walkie with a disability that I acquired at birth,” but also, “What does it mean to be a white queer crip?”
We haven’t asked enough questions about class, about the experiences of being poor and disabled, of struggling with hunger, homelessness, and a lack of the most basic healthcare. I want to hear from working class folks who learned about disability from bone-breaking work in the factory or mine or sweatshop.
We need more exploration of gender identity and disability. How do the two inform each other? I can feel the sparks fly as disabled trans people are just beginning to find each other. We need to listen more to Deaf culture, to people with psych disabilities, cognitive disability, to young people and old people. We need not to re-create here in this space, in this budding community, the hierarchies that exist in other disability communities, other queer communities.
And finally, Beyond the Queer Alphabet (ebook) — an entire book on the subject of queer intersectionality.
If you’ve got any other recommended reading, I’d appreciate hearing about it.
Meanwhile, in an alternate universe…
I like to think that in another, better, universe, it went like this:
When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of people who matched our expectations about what a “real” person was, but excluded many other real people, with real identities and real names that we didn’t understand.
We apologise unreservedly to those people, who through our actions were marginalised, denied access to services, and whose identities we treated as lesser. We especially apologise to those who were already marginalised, discriminated against, or unsafe, such as queer youth or victims of domestic violence, whose already difficult situations were worsened through our actions. We also apologise specifically to those whose accounts were banned, not only for refusing them access to our services, but for the poor treatment they received from our staff when they sought support.
Everyone is entitled to their own identity, to use the name that they are given or choose to use, without being told that their name is unacceptable. Everyone is entitled to safety online. Everyone is entitled to be themselves, without fear, and without having to contort themselves to meet arbitrary standards.
As of today, all name restrictions on Google+ have been lifted, and you may use your own name, whatever it is, or a chosen nickname or pseudonym to identify yourself on our service. We believe that this is the only just and right thing to do, and that it can only strengthen our community.
As a company, and as individuals within Google, we have done a lot of hard thinking and had a lot of difficult discussions. We realise that we are still learning, and while we appreciate feedback and suggestions in this regard, we have also undertaken to educate ourselves. We are partnering with LGBTQ groups, sexual abuse survivor groups, immigrant groups, and others to provide workshops to our staff to help them better understand the needs of all our users.
We also wish to let you know that we have ensured that no copies of identification documents (such as drivers’ licenses and passports), which were required of users whose names we did not approve, have been kept on our servers. The deletion of these materials has been done in accordance with the highest standards.
If you have any questions about these changes, you may contact our support/PR team at the following address (you do not require a Google account to do so). If you are unhappy, further support can be found through our Google User Ombuds, who advocates on behalf of our users and can assist in resolving any problems.
I’m glad they made the policy change. But I sure would have liked to see some recognition of the harm done, and a clearer demonstration that they don’t think that “real people” and “people who were excluded” are non-intersecting sets.
Three realisations about community
I gave talks, ran unconference sessions, and sat on panels at each event, as well as talking to lots of smart people doing good stuff. In between, I hung out with remote colleagues and met new ones in spaces like San Francisco’s feminist hackerspace Double Union.
Along the way, I made three realisations, all of which are related to community in some way.
Especially at AdaCamp and OSB, I found myself looking at the schedule and considering which talks and sessions were right for me.
I find I’m no longer interested in most of the tech talks — if I want to learn about a specific technology, I can usually do so more effectively online when I need it. I used to go to those sessions out of a sense of duty, but now I’m out of the tech industry and working for myself, I don’t have to fake it any more. I still go to some tech talks, but usually to see what cool stuff other people are working on, not because it’s particularly relevant to my work.
Then there were the community sessions, ones covering topics like how to create a welcoming environment for newbies to your open source project, moderation strategies for online forums, and distributed agile development. All interesting and worthwhile topics, but ones I’ve been dealing with for years.
Back in 2009, I attended SXSW (and hated it, but that’s another story) and went to a session for first-timers, where someone gave the advice: “Never attend a session whose subject you already know about.” You’ll sit in the audience either bored, or frustrated. Without wanting to denigrate the excellent community sessions at the conferences I went to, I do have to say that a lot of them fell into this category for me. I attended to support my friends who were speaking, and I certainly picked up a few interesting tips, but if my goal was to learn new things then I’m not really sure these sessions were worth my time.
My realisation, over lunch on the first day of OSB (and thanks to Sara Smollett for helping me figure this out), is that I’m a mid-career community organiser. This is why open tech/culture events aren’t working for me — the tech content is no longer particularly useful to me, and the community content tends toward the 101 level.
So, how can I advance my skills and experience as a community organiser? Community management events in the tech field aren’t going to do it. I need to look wider, at fields with more established community theory and practice: social work, activism, politics, organisational behaviour, social psychology, just to name a few. So this is what I’m doing now: trying to learn and level up my community skills by reading and studying in these areas. Next year, I hope I’ll find a way to get to conferences that cover those areas in depth.
The second realisation I had is around terminology.
Management is a business term. Organizing is a political one. I’m more interested in community organizing — helping people come together to achieve social change — than in managing people for business purposes.
I came to this realisation through my efforts to study things from outside the online/tech community management field. I’m re-reading Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, which talks about what makes effective neighbourhoods. Jacobs was instrumental in organising her neighbourhood community to resist having a freeway put through it in the 1950s. Reading about her on Wikipedia I found that she appreciated the work of Saul Alinksky, considered to be the founder of modern community organizing.
That’s when it clicked for me. Community organising is a practice with a long and successful history of working for social and political change, and community organisers aren’t afraid to upset those in power to make a better world.
So, from now on I am using the term “community organiser” rather than “community manager” about my own work. Reframing it this way has given me a new perspective and momentum. I have a lot to learn, but at least I’m clear on what direction I’m heading in.
Back in 2011 I wrote Why I’m not an open source person any more, and reading back over it, it still holds true… mostly.
At AdaCamp someone requested an “introduction to open source” session in the 101 timeslots, and I since I wasn’t interested in most of the of the other 101 sessions and knew the subject well, I stepped up to run it. I talked about licensing, culture, and software development practices. I hope it was useful to the people who attended, but I felt unsatisfied by it. It’s not what I wanted to be doing.
The next day, someone asked me if I would help them promote their open source outreach program in Australia. I said, regretfully, that I wasn’t up for that. Open source isn’t my thing any more, and I don’t have the enthusiasm to do a good job of it. She pushed me, and I pushed back, and I came away really frustrated — partly that I hadn’t been listened to, but also partly because I had had trouble expressing my own boundaries and needs, because I didn’t really understand them myself.
Well, reframing my community work as political has helped me figure that out. For me, open source is a tool for social change. Specifically, I’m interested in social justice and sustainability, and I use open source toward those ends.
If someone asks me to do something simply “because it’s open source” (or open data, or open access, or whatever other kind of open stuff), I’m not going to be into that. I’ll need a lot of convincing that open source is a worthwhile end goal in its own right.
If someone asks me to do something open-source related that’s for another social or political goal that I support (say, government transparency, or individual privacy) then I’ll wish them well and help spread the word, but it’s not where my focus is.
I use open source and other open-licensed stuff as a tool for social change, especially in the areas of social justice and sustainability. But it’s just one part of my toolkit. I’m not an open source person any more. I’m a community organiser who uses open source.
My talks from Open Source Bridge
I finally got around to uploading the second set of slides from my talks at Open Source Bridge, so here they are.
First up, Knitting for Programmers teaches you how to knit something more interesting than a rectangle, using geometry and common design patterns.
Secondly, Feminist Point of View: A Geek Feminist Retrospective was a review of the 6 years of the Geek Feminism wiki and blog, and the lessons we’ve learned from doing this.
Finally, I also ran an unconference session on “Advanced” community management (link leads to wiki notes from the session), where we discussed how to level-up our skills in community management and related fields, beyond the 101 level that’s often discussed at tech events like OSB.
Open Source Bridge is a great event, focusing on “open source citizenship”, and has a fantastic mix of talks and activities beyond what you normally find at a tech conference. Both the organising team and speaker roster are pretty diverse, and they go out of their way to make the event accessible and inclusive.
Coral Sheldon-Hess wrote a great post on conference inclusiveness which really shows how effective events like this can be. Julie Pagano’s conference recap also gives a good sense of the event, and reviews some of the other talks given there.
If you’re able to get to Portland next year, I highly recommend attending.
What I’m working on
I emerged from WisCon last weekend invigorated and inspired (and, okay, a bit sleep deprived). I have a whole lot of new things I want to work on, in addition to all the things I’m already doing, and I thought I might just take the time to write down what my current projects are, since I realised that even I don’t have a clear idea of them all, let alone making them clear to other people.
I think that’s most of what I’ve been up to this year. No wonder I feel busy.
Many/most of these projects are open/community-based and welcome volunteers — if you’re interested, drop me a line.
Or, you can help support my work through Gittip. I find it hard to ask for money this way, but your support really does make a difference to my ability to do non-commercial/open/community-based stuff, so if you value my work please consider tossing a few bucks my way.
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.
If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!