Camille, Lately

Every time I see my good friend Sumana, we try catch up on books we are reading and other things that we have been excited about since last we met. I mentioned a book that I thought she really ought to read and she said, “Hey, why don’t you blog about it?” And I was reminded that I hadn’t blogged in a while. SO here is a roundup of things I’ve been reading, watching, listening to as of late. Kinda for you….but mostly for Sumana. 🙂

I was recently on vacation. It was pretty perfect and I didn’t really want to come back to America. Ack!

Recent Reads

  • Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday — The whole “growth hacking” thing is annoying to me too but hey I work at a startup and I need to know this stuff. The people I work for ain’t about that growth hacking life, but the book did give me a lot to think about in terms of getting creative when your drive is big but your budget is small.
  • Do It! Marketing by David Newman — Well written book with lots of actionable ideas although it does get repetitive in places. I’d recommend it to others in the B2B space but recommend it even more to people running their own small business or personal consultancy. I did bristle at the one mention of Donald Trump but hey it was written well before he become an unfortunate part of our daily news cycle.
  • I Love You More Than My Dog by Jeanne Bliss — This book is less of a how-to and more a series of brief case studies on what others have done. That said, if you read it with your current processes in mind, you can start to look at places where your approach might be more fine-tuned or personalized. As the main “customer-facing person” at my org, I am acutely aware of how important interactions with our support desk are for customer retention and overall perception of our brand. Users who reach out to us and have a good experience are users who stay on and refer us to others. While not everyone can be Tony Hsieh (of Zappos) or the folks over at Trader Joes (especially if you are working in B2B), beginning to run more company and product questions through the “customer love filter” can help you make decisions that will keep your business growing.

Recent Listens

  • This episode of the Track Changes podcast on the topic of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) was surprisingly riveting. I have a lifelong, unwavering passion for the clean lines and unprejudiced sterility of tedious paperwork and I’ve issued, scanned, and signed a great number of NDAs in my days, but I appreciated this humorous takedown of the whole practice. Paul and Rich are fast becoming the Jerry and George of the tech industry and I love it!
  • I can’t stop listening to Along the Coast by Azaelia Banks and Long Live the Chief by Jidenna. Summer? Jammed!

Recently Watched

  • Episode 4, Season 3 of Bojack Horseman on Netflix is a work of pure art. Stop what you are doing and watch it. You don’t have to watch any of the episodes that preceded it or any after. Just watch that one.
  • Joshua Kerievsky’s talk on Modern Agile from the Agile2016 conference is a revelation. I am not a person who really cares a whole heap about agile stuff, but I found his talk engaging from start to finish. I was particularly moved by his emphasis on psychological safety in the workplace, and think it dovetails very well with a lot of the dialogue around fostering diversity in tech and moving beyond the pipeline. Curious to see how/if other orgs implement this.

What have YOU been watching? Reading? Listening to?

Talk the Talk

This year I’m making a greater effort to try and speak at conferences. It appears to me that it is one of the popular paths towards tech stardom (for better or worse).

Here are topics that I am (currently) interested in talking about in a conference format:

– Graceful Exits (see blogpost on this topic here)
– Customer Success and Product Feedback (recent posts here and here)
– Coop Building and Tech Challenges (I’m planning on pulling together a blogpost or a talk proposal about the housing and food coops I’ve been involved with over the past near 20 years and the messy story of building, maintaining, and phasing out homebrewed software. Contact me if you’ve got a horror story!)

I’m also open to other suggestions. That said, I am NOT interested in talking publicly about being black or female in tech. I am not interested in talking about diversity in tech at all.

I will continue to submit to CFPs and we’ll see where this goes.  Thanks!

Codes of Conduct Are for Men! (even young, cisgender, straight, white, "able-bodied", upper class ones!)

This is Part II of my series “Codes of Conduct are For Everyone!” (read Part I here)

What “MySpace Tom” Thinks of HBO’s Silicon Valley

Changing the Ratio – Changing the Culture
A quick scan of most GitHub repos, project steering committees, company parties, and conferences reveals that men make up the great majority of most tech companies and communities. A strong code of conduct signals that while the organization/forum/community/event may look very “monochrome” or exclusive on the outset, it is (at least) attempting to make strides towards greater participation and inclusion. The CoC also gives clear guidelines for appropriate behavior with other community members. If organizations are truly serious about “changing the ratio” and bringing under-represented groups in, then the culture will necessarily change and guidelines and protections MUST be in place.


Take It Like A (Hu)man
Though when talking about men in western contexts we often think of the stereotypical young, white, straight, upper-middle class, “able bodied” cismales, men come in many shapes, sizes, sexualities, gender expressions, abilities, and socioeconomic classes. Men can be violated, offended, excluded and hurt. Men can have complaints. Men can (and should!) file complaints if they feel they have been the victim of in the presence of a code of conduct breach.

Compile the Code, Elevate the Community
As the dominant group in many of our spaces, men can be crucial allies and agents for substantial organizational changes. The process of drafting, discussing, and ultimately adopting a code of conduct can be an exceedingly educational time for all involved, and agreeing to adhere to those terms either by staying on board or ticking a box during a registration process can be a moment that is transformative not only for the organization but also for the individual. A strong code of conduct can be a true eye opener, making men (even the young, cisgender, straight, white, “able-bodied”, upper class ones!) more aware of the bias in their immediate communities and possibly spurn them on to be allies and advocates both within and outside of the tech space.

Until the next post, I highly recommend you check out the following posts: 

Codes of Conduct Are for EVERYONE – Part I

Changing the Ratio – Changing the Culture
As a black woman working in technology, I am encouraged by all the challenging discussions about tech company and community culture, as well as the exciting efforts to increase inclusion and tackle problems with retention. I’ve supported such efforts (with my time and money) and enjoy watching groups evolve through the adoption of these values and practices. In the face of increasing reports of offensive speech and harassment (both online and in person), many groups have rushed to draft and adopt Codes of Conduct to broadcast to their community and the wider public that they are taking a tough stance on such behavior. Some of the most popular models and guidelines for codes of conduct have come from (predominantly white feminist) organizations such as Linuxchix,  The Ada Intiative, and Geek Feminism (with GF having probably the most comprehensive online resources on how to create not only a code of conduct but also enforcement policies).

While I appreciate all the work (paid and unpaid) that these groups have and continue to do around this issue, I find that in some circles the mere fact that the work has been so vehemently championed by predominantly white feminists leads people to the belief that CoCs are predominantly/ just FOR white feminists and, as such, those people have cast the CoC as a replacement or redundant anti-sexual harassment policy. I fully recognize and uphold the importance of preventing and addressing sexual harassment in our spaces but I don’t believe this is what the CoC is truly intended to be and is a misunderstanding and possible underestimation of what a CoC can be. Thus, I am writing this piece in hopes that we can symbolically “widen” the space for CoCs to not only be about the prevention and response to the sex/gender-focused Bad Thing but also about the promotion of a myriad of Good Things (e.g. increased access, participation, inclusion, retention). I truly believe that a good CoC should be in dialogue with the organization’s stated mission in an effort to enact practice and protocol that elevate the effort and it members/participants. As Sumana alludes to in her fantastic piece on Crooked Timber, codes of conduct are very much sort of where open source licenses were 10 to 15 years ago; everyone is writing their own and standards are emerging through practice. With the understanding that I, too, believe we are very much in early days — crucial days for debate in our various “town squares” — I hope that this series can help to inform the discussions.


Over the next few days, I’ll be publishing the next few chunks of my thoughts on this. They will (likely) be titled as follows (unless I make some on the fly edits…which I might) :

In the meantime, I HIGHLY recommend Sally Shepard’s ” Looking Beyond A Code of Conduct” here – http://www.mostgood.net/blog/2015/5/31/looking-beyond-a-code-of-conduct. (Bonus points for being a brilliant remix of the Joel test.)

Grin and Bear It?: On Staying in the Picture

Once upon a time I had the privilege of co-working out of the well-appointed offices of a mid-sized Manhattan tech non-profit. From the moment I walked in I was taken aback by two things: first, the breathtaking views from the penthouse level office and second, how shockingly white and male the office was. Women were few and far between and on first (and second and third!) glance I didn’t see a single person of color. This non-profit was a far cry from the sort I was used to, but I was there to co-work and I was glad to keep my head down and be able to do it in such a lovely place.

Well, one day word got around to me that a photographer was coming that afternoon to take pictures in and around the office. And, I tell you, you’ve never seen someone gather their things and hustle out of a place quicker than I did. As grateful as I was for the hospitality there (the free desk and the free wi-fi and all), I simply did not want to volunteer my likeness to the cause. I did not work for this non-profit and didn’t want anyone assuming I worked there and photographing me to present me as someone who worked there.

Now for those of you who are confused at this, it may come as a shock for you to hear that this is only one of many many times where I have either been asked to be photographed or just outright photographed in order to provide some “local color”. The truth is lots of young progressive or innovative organizations want their public facing image to be more like this

Photo by Elisabeth Fall/fallfoto.com

but when it comes to hiring, recruitment and retention, they can’t or don’t want to do the actual work  and/or they just want to hire their friends. This often results in a staff that looks more like this.

Picture from The Atlantic

As a black woman in free software/free culture (what I guess could be called a Double Unicorn?), I find that I am often The Only One In The Room and — as one can imagine — there is a certain amount of discomfort/unwanted attention that comes with that. So when it comes to pictures, if the group is truly progressive/diverse or has it’s heart t in the right place and seems to be making strides towards inclusiveness then I am mostly fine for my image to be used to signal to the world that “Hey, this is an inclusive bunch” and further to signal to other black women like me “Come on in, the water is warm (or at least not icy cold!)”. However, if the group is less than hospitable and/or does not seem like something I’d want anyone I care about putting time into to, then I do my best to dodge the lens. And so time and time again in different meetups and gatherings, at work and at play,  I’ve literally had to take a moment to determine whether I should “Give a grin or get going”.

For this and so many reasons, I am grateful to The Ada Initiative. From one of my earliest encounters with The Ada Initiative (the 2012 AdaCamp in DC), I was impressed that they had a clear photo policy where they asked your permission before photographing you and sharing your image and also were very gracious about getting your permission before using your likeness for promotional purposes. Treating people with respect…what a refreshing revelation! For this and so many more reasons, I am glad to support The Ada Initiative in the ongoing and  crucial work of supporting, recruiting, developing, and retaining women in all areas of open source, open culture and all around geekiness.

Me with fellow TAI advisor, the fabulous MarinaZ!

If you (and I hope you do!) believe in this work and their mission, please get in the picture and give to The Ada Initiative during the month-long campaign.

A Few Links to Stuff I’d Talk to You About If We Were Together Somewhere

As mentioned a few months back, I was a proud backer of Kathryn Rotondo’s Motherboard Podcast where she interviews mothers working in tech. So I’m excited to announce that she has debuted her first episode. It’s an interview with Red Hat’s ever-brilliant and you can check it out here. –  Listen, subscribe, promote, support!

Fast Company’s list of 6 Ways to Scare Technical Women Away From Your Company

Professor, MSNBC host and fairy nerdmother, Melissa Harris Perry recently spoke to Think Progress on the state of motherhood in America and her great ten point program for improving it.

I get the daily newsletter from Red Hat’s Opensource.com, and it’s always chock full of useful information especially for the open source newbie. I am ever-intrigued by the growth in Linux use and the meteoric rise of Red Hat, so I really enjoyed this piece called “Three Moments  That Moved Linux Forward“.

Let’s hang out soon, OK?

Why Government Technology Procurement Sucks…And How It Can Stop Sucking

“Startups may have great ideas and great technology, but they’re not necessarily built to make it through the procurement process.”

 Instead, the procurement system often favors large, entrenched vendors. As a result, government may be missing some of the most innovative solutions. 
I’m in Sales here at my company and a big part of my job is dealing with government procurement, from tiny counties to large federal agencies and the process is almost always long, convoluted and unpleasant so it was with much glee that I read this Government Technology article that gives good background on the origin of these policies and processes, a breakdown of many of the ways the system is broken and good ideas from how it can be improved. It sounds dry and dull but it goes to the heart of why so many large corporations wield so much power over the government….well that and rampant corruption.

Linked Out

Here are links to a few things I’ve liked in the past few days

1) My friend Benjamin Haas of Control Group wrote a great blog post “What Women in Technology Means to Me“on his company blog. It warms the cockles of my heart for men to stand up as allies in this way. It reminds me of that talk where Harper Reed spoke about the importance of having women and non-Asian people of color in tech. I guess I am a pushover!

2) My friend recently dropped me a line to tell me about a Kickstarter she started as part of a group creating a new tech lab space St. Claude Lab in New Orleans’s 9th Ward.  In her words

New Orleans is interesting in that people here barely use cell phones, much less facebook or email, they still roll by each other’s houses. Besides tradition, a lot of the reason is that so many people here don’t have access (40% of the city doesn’t have high speed internet!) 

We’re hoping our lab will have open hours and workforce training for adults, mentorship for teenagers, and professional training for mid-career artists and designers. I’m working with Civic Center, a really amazing design studio, on curriculum and instructors (ps – we would love some visiting guest teachers next year!!)  

 
While I know many of us may have Kickstarter fatigue (I kinda do!), please do check out the video above and Kickstarter page and support if you can anyway!

3) Speaking of Kickstarter, another project I recently supported is the Motherboard Podcast, a new show that will cover the harrowing (and close to home!) topic of being a a mom in tech. Check it out, give money and love.

 4) And finally, just to be super-meta, I am linking to a post I wrote (but not here, on my company blog! )I recently about an exciting new service we offer at Boundless and how it attempts to make the lives of poor dear sys admins a little easier, check it out!

The Elevator Pitch

FLOSS Seems to Love the Number Four

Along with my old boss, Karl Fogel, and my coworker Paul Ramsey, Sumana is high on my list of people I know (and admire!) who can synthesize big ideas in a way that is thoughtful, entertaining and easy to remember. She’s currently attending Hacker School, and while she soldiers on towards becoming a Python master, she is gracing her fellow classmates (many who have little to no experience with FLOSS) with her vast knowledge of open source and how it works. Yesterday she recounted a recent experience where she rattled off what to my ears was probably the best schpiel on FLOSS and its approach to the four forms of intellectual property (patent, trade secret, trademark, and copyrights). I literally was mouth ajar. To paraphrase, she said: “There’s patents which FLOSS isn’t wild about, trade secret which isn’t even possible, trademark which is just necessary, and copyright which open source licenses hack.”* Brilliant! Can someone make a handy infographic of this please?

Being An Open Source Citizen
Speaking of the good Mr. Ramsey, he recently gave the keynote at the annual Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) and it was such a worldwide hit that we had him give an abbreviated version at our all-staff a few weeks later. Now, for your viewing pleasure, the speech is here on this little blog.

//player.vimeo.com/video/76365035

Say It FOSS, Say It Fast
At work, we’re always looking for new and quick ways to talk about the value of open source. Phrases like “You get what everyone pays for.” and “More eyeballs make all bugs shallow.” are popular ones. I recently heard (on the D&G Show), “Nobody is as smart as everybody”. I should keep these somewhere; my brain is not a reliable place for these things anymore.

*Correct me if I got anything wrong here, Sumana.