If A Tree Falls in The Woods

I recently spoke with a friend who told me that they were interviewing a potential developer with other members of her team. After the interview, the friend sat with her teammates and discussed the candidate. Some moments later, their boss walked into the room and informed them that they needed to interview a different person for the position because he wanted this position to be a “diversity hire.”

My friend and her teammates were confused. This is the first she and her colleagues had heard about this position being a “diversity hire”; in fact, it was the first time she or any one of them had heard about any sort of diversity efforts at the company at all. So naturally their response was, “WTF?!” They weren’t at all opposed to the idea of diversity, in fact they were strongly committed to it, but the approach seemed entirely out of left field and altogether questionable.

When my friend related the story to me the conclusions I drew were manifold, here are a few:

  1. If your company has a diversity policy that no one has ever seen or heard of, then your company does not have a diversity policy
  2. If you don’t have a professional HR department and structures in place for employees to be educated about and report discrimination that occurs on the job site, you do not have “plan for diversity”. 
  3. If you are trying to hire “for diversity” and you have no clear plan, then you are not “hiring for diversity”. You are hiring to assuage guilt or stroke your ego. Or (most likely) hiring to create some stock image of diversity that you can gaze your eyes upon and pat your back about. 
  4. Just because you have hired (or feel strongly that you’d like to hire) a person from an underrepresented group in tech doesn’t mean you have any commitment to diversity.
  5. Using the word “diversity” a lot does not mean you care about diversity. 

This picture in and of itself is NOT the goal. 

Speak Up!

 UPDATE (24 March 2016)

I am no longer interested in giving talks on any of these topics or on anything related to tech diversity. For a list of topics, I would be interested in giving presentations on or (preferably) discussing a panel/roundtable session, see here.


I just subscribed to the Technically Speaking mailing list  thinking I’d be helpful and keep an eye out for potential conferences to which our developers might want to submit abstracts/proposals. However, one item towards the bottom caught my interest enough to click. It was Chiu-Ki’s blog post from January 2012 where she resolved to be a public speaker. While I am not quite prepared to make such a resolution since I am still struggling with a tinge of imposter syndrome. I do think it might be helpful to at least outline some topics that I could talk about should I ever go out on a limb and try to speak on any regular basis.

Stuff I Could Talk About If I Wanted To Talk About Stuff

Free Culture and Open Licenses 
I did a highly educational and fulfilling stint at Question Copyyright where I was fully indoctrinated by a merry band of copyleft radicals. I actually did a lightning talk on the topic for a company gathering and (hey!) I even have a slidedeck. See below.

How To Contribute To Open Source When You Don’t Really Know How to Code

While I was lucky enough to have jumped into open source before  I realized it was supposed to be scary, I know a lot of people feel that while they are peripherally involved (via their companies or something else) that it isn’t really *for* them or that they don’t have anything to contribute. I actually have a whole blogpost on this topic and could add even more ideas to that old list.

Working With Remote Teams
I’ve worked as part of the Operations team for a very small but very geographically dispersed company for almost fours years. I think my concrete experiences and suggestions about this could be interesting to someone somewhere. No?

How Not to Contribute to Open Source 

Over the years I have witnessed and heard many horror stories about absolute fails in companies contributing to open source. I could share some worst practices and then also share some best practices and strategies for course correction.

Why Women Should Contribute to Open Source Even Though It Is Oftentimes Unpleasant 
I actually have a slidedeck for this one too since I gave this talk in 2013 at Write Speak Code to a lovely and receptive group of women.

New Year – New Links

Interesting Links & Recent Thoughts

  • Save time this year (and always) with Betteridge’s Law –  Betteridge’s law of headlines is an adage that states: “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.” It is named after Ian Betteridge, a British technology journalist, although the general concept is much older. The observation has also been called “Davis’ law or just the “journalistic principle”. (Thanks, Gunnar!)
  • Location Based Messaging? My family recently got back from vacation in California. It would have been really helpful to send out a note of some sort or an email or a text to everyone I know who lives there or happened to be there at the time so I could let them know I was there and then perhaps coordinate to meet. Does anyone know of any sort of location based friend-messaging service? Maybe from Google?
  • Open Source Finishing School – I just mentioned to dear friend Karl Fogel that I think there is a valid market out there for organizations who want to use open source but are afraid and people who want to sell open source but are uncertain of how to assuage aforementioned fears. In my experience, most lawyers dealing with tech are either fervent cheerleaders for traditional IP approaches, clueless and/or wary of open source. More guidance is needed! The work Karl is doing at Open Tech Strategies is surely one organization doing this sort of thing, but they are a small shop. Does anyone know of any other such organizations? Also, Karl, when can we expect some case studies and customer testimonials?
  • More Leaning In About Lean InPalo Alto Software’s Sabrina Parsons weighs in on the neverending Lean In debate. 

    “So, lean in, but do so while nursing your baby, or while your son sleeps on the couch in your office because he’s feeling sick — and don’t apologize for it. Pursue your goals, take risks, and go above and beyond, but don’t give up your role as a mother, wife (or husband, for that matter), and community member to do so. We can do better.” 

Posts I Would Post If I DId Post

I know I need to update, but I’m currently vacationing in the Alpine paradise I used to call home and can’t bring myself to do it, so instead here are the titles and summaries of a few posts I would post if I did post:

  1. A Complete Guide to Making Anyone Who Isn’t A Straight White Dude Totally  Uncomfortable At Your Tech-Industry Conference or Company – Coverage of this issue is reaching fever pitch but I can’t help the feeling that it is all trendy hype and nothing is *really* changing all that much all that quickly. I think there is a lot of focus on the sensationally wrong shit that happens but not on the little needling everyday things that make women and people of color feel isolated. I really think it comes down to most straight white dudes not having any clue how to connect to people who aren’t straight white dudes. I particularly liked this discussion on radio station WNYC between authors Baratunde Thurston (“How to Be Black”) and Tanner Colby (Some of My Best Friends Are Black) about interracial friendships, where Colby says: “People say we need to have a conversation about race but white people don’t have the vocabulary to talk about it on any meaningful level.” I feel like the vocabulary that is being used to talk about this is off. I think it just reeks of 90s diversityspeak rather than any real challenge to the racist/sexist status quo. I’d say more but this isn’t a real post.
    (NPR) Sexism In The Tech Industry Takes Center Stage
    (New York mag) How Do You Change a Bro-Dominated Culture?
  2. Politely Listen to the Talkers, Then Copy the Do-ers – A particularly colleague of mine recently gave a keynote on diversity that made me want to jump out a window. This person has done nothing really to promote diversity within her organization of origin but has all of a sudden become sort of overnight champion of diversity within a particular FLOSS community. This hypocrisy made me wonder how many conference speakers are talkers and how many are do-ers. I have a feeling quite a few of them are all talk. PowerPoint addiction is real; some people love to create and present slides ALL DAY LONG. More power(point?) to them, but I’m making a commitment/ (renewing my commitment?) now to emulating the people who actually do stuff and show results. It’s not full of sexy transitions and beautiful infographics but doing stuff gets stuff done.
  3. FLOSS Guilt: I’ve recently been having occasional twinges of guilt that I am not more involved in any one FLOSS project. I feel like I need to roll my sleeves up and get back into a project so I feel like I am “legitimately” in the community, but then I remember that I work at an open source company (btw, we’re hiring!) and that I am promoting open source solutions like Drupal and CiviCRM as head of the tech committee in my newly forming neighborhood food co-op and frankly that is *more* than enough. I don’t have to be in the middle of a flame war with Linus Torvalds or at a hackathon to be part of the FLOSS community; I just am. 
OK, that’s it for now. Turned out to be more of a post than I expected…anyway, back to vacationing.

So You Say You Wanna Support Women in FLOSS, do ya?

So you gripe about the lack of women in FLOSS and crack wise about meetups being “boys’ clubs” and make some vague intimations about the need for diversity in our communities, but have you done about it? Watcha gonna do about it? Well here’s one thing you can do about it here and now. Give to The Ada Intiative TODAY.

This is a picture of my smiling face last year at AdaCamp in Washington, DC (standing next to the ever-brilliant Marina Z. from Red Hat and the GNOME Outreach Program for Women!).
AdaCamp was an inspiring, educational, and uplifting event for women in free software, free culture, and free stuff and it was one of the first time I realized and truly felt like I was part of the FLOSS community. I made connections, I gained skills, I spoke about what I know and what I’ve done and people listened to me and I in turn listened to them. We laughed, we gasped, we cheered and sometimes jeered. I met truly incredible women from around the country and around the world and we all left there even more committed to lifting women up in our respective areas and throughout the world of open stuff — with our words, voices, actions, and (when possible) our funds!

Donate now

Ada Initative not only produces Ada Camp. Here is a list of other cool things they do/have done:

  • Created and continue to champion a template conference anti-harassment policy
  • Conduct regular ally trainings to teach men in our communities to better support our work and our spaces and they also work to train the impostor syndrome out of brilliant women and girls 
  • Provide a mailing list and other spaces for AdaCamp alumni to come together, ask questions, spread news, share resources, and put up job postings
I am an Ada Initiative donor. I set up a recurring Paypal donation that just takes the cash from my account every month. No muss, no fuss. Or you could do what my good pals Sumana and Leonard did and give a huge lump sum by setting up a matching challenge. Or you could leave a bequest. Or you could just toss them a coupla bucks. Whatever you do, do it now! Put your money where your mouth is by clicking that big red button and supporting The Ada Initiative!

Through The Looking Glass

I’m still with the same company, but we recently moved to a new office. Lots of great changes are afoot and this is the third office we’ve worked out of in the two years I’ve been there…and the third office in a row with no private rooms. The issue of privacy bugged me a bit before I had a kid, but now that I am a working and pumping mother it has become absolutely crucial. I need a clean, quiet, and wired (electrical and internet) place to pump for 20 minutes, two times a day. I can pump hands-free so whenever possible I’d like to be able to take my laptop with me and keep on Leaning In and shit. I’d like to know that I can sit somewhere, undisturbed and un-spied on for forty minutes a day. I can only imagine there are other people, pumping and non, who would like the same.

Transparency is good. Open doors and visible co-workers, that’s all great.  But sometimes we need privacy. Sometimes we need to have uncomfortable conversations, sometimes we need to hammer out the details of Top Secret Project X. Why do media/tech companies keep designing offices where that can’t (shouldn’t?) happen?

I recently heard this interview on CBC’s Radio Q with architect Raphael Sperry who’s organized other architects to stop designing solitary confinement cells in prisons. He says that architects have a social responsibility to uphold human rights. I agree with him wholly (in fact I think architects should stop designing prisons full stop!), and I’d argue that architects also have a responsibility to push for spaces that work for many different types of use cases, not just when 20-something year old dudes are programming together, drinking beer and getting along famously with no need for any privacy. I don’t know any companies where that is the case all day long, five days a week, do you?

If you have any thoughts, just ping me. I’ll be sitting on the bathroom floor pumping.


(WSJ) Indecent Exposure: The Downsides of Working in a Glass Office 
(BusinessWeek) Working Moms Need More Than Subsidized Breast Pumps 
(Yahoo Finance) A woman’s place is in the home and the office: The case for breastmilk pumping stations in public spaces 
(Why Is Her So Stroppy Blog) The silent breast pump and other lies by power mums