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This is a crosspost from Chez Skud. You can comment here or there.

Remember when, back in the day, I used to post pics of my market haul? I was inspired by the excellent book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats which shows photographs of families from around the world with a week’s groceries.

Well, today I did what passes for a Christmas shop at my place, which is to say I went to the shops with the main intention of buying tasty things to see me through the next week or so, and without being too finicky about the budget. I wound up spending $93, which is about the national average for an adult’s food for the week, but way more than my usual (which is half that or less). That’s okay; I got lots of tasty stuff, plus I restocked a few pricier items that I’ve run out of lately.

groceries laid out on a table

The full haul: $93 worth.

Read the rest of this entry  )

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This is a crosspost from Chez Skud. You can comment here or there.

It’s a cliche to blog about how seldom you blog, so I won’t. Instead I’ll just take the opportunity to reflect a bit on 2014 in terms of my home life.

It’s been a dog of a year. It’s been difficult to focus on anything much, let alone communicate about it. The first half of the year I was buried in personal stuff, and the second half of the year had more of that and then a lot of travel and busy-ness piled on top.

Most days I’m happy if I eat regular meals. I’ve had some great food this year, but mostly it just seems like a slog, trying to balance my body’s need for fuel, my inner self’s food-related hangups and issues, and the logistics of having food in the house, and having space and time to prepare it. I’ve had to cut myself a fair bit of slack on convenience foods and on food waste. Sometimes it’s better to buy a pile of fruit and vegetables just so I have them as an option, even if in the end I don’t eat them all and some of them wind up in the compost. Or to open a jar of something perishable so I can eat well now, even if I’m going away tomorrow or the next day and know I can’t finish it.

When times are hard I just keep trying to slog through it, do what I can, and remember nobody’s standing over me with a clipboard awarding points or writing down criticisms in red pen.

Some things I cooked/ate this year and didn’t post to the blog:

broad beans and leek from the garden, with ham, on homemade sourdough

broad beans and leek from the garden, with ham, on homemade sourdough

salad with red rice, sprouted lentils, tomato, kale, fetta, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts

salad with red rice, sprouted lentils, tomato, kale, fetta, olives, and marinated artichoke hearts

nettle soup

virulently green nettle soup with potato and ham


nachos with black beans and fresh jalapeno peppers from the garden

birthday lunch of ethical pork and beef ribs, corn bread, and coleslaw (eaten in a blanket fort! best birthday lunch!)

birthday lunch of ethical pork and beef ribs, corn bread, and coleslaw (eaten in a blanket fort! best birthday lunch!)

I’ve been doing a lot, a lot, of knitting and other crafts. Not least because I’ve had periods where all I can do is watch soothing TV and do something calm and repetitive. I’ve not been good at posting about it, though, nor updating Ravelry, and I have to admit that I’ve been casting on an awful lot of things for the “whee!” feeling of a new project, and not completing them. By my count I currently have at least 17 WIPs, most of which haven’t yet hit the “half done” mark.

I’ve instituted a kanban board on the wall of my living room for my craft projects (with an extra, innovative “> 1/2 DONE” column, because casting on and then putting it aside is a big issue for me) so I can see how many I have to finish. Sadly, it doesn’t work all that well to stop me casting on new things, because I just conveniently “forget” to add a sticker for the new project. Sigh. Oh well, at least every so often I can bring it up to date and it helps me remember what I have going, better than a pile of mystery project bags in the coffee table drawers ever could.

A week or so back I decided to try and reduce my WIPs considerably. My new rule (and let’s see how long I stick to it) is to have one large and one small/portable project out and work-on-able at any time, choosing the easiest to complete at any given time, according to the debt snowball method. Right now I’m working on a pair of fingerless mitts made from the tail ends of two colours of Mountain Colors Bearfoot, and a deathly dull product-knitting slog: a black hoodie in Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 8 ply and in mostly stocking stitch. Both are made-up patterns, the hoodie being vaguely EPS-based, and the mittens basically just tubes with thumb-trick thumbs.

half-finished black hoodie

boring hoodie of boringness

red and brown striped fingerless mitts in progress

slightly less boring, but only just

My only escape from the “get through some bloody WIPs” effort is that I’ve told myself that I can knit hats for charity using wool from my charity-knitting basket, which I gathered up from all the odd scattered places and put in one pile last week. A hat usually takes about 2 evenings and is a quick distraction if I really must cast on something new. There’s at least a dozen hats worth of wool there, or roughly one for each reasonably-finishable project on the WIP list. (Some of the WIPs aren’t reasonably finishable, as they’re things like a mitred sock yarn blanket that will take years to gather odds and ends to make, or are super low priority, like the charming half-finished Scandinavian cross stitch table runner I found at a craft swap day — I have no qualms about that sitting quietly where it is for a long time.)

As for the garden… it’s a mess, and I’m late with planting everything, and that’s okay. I’m eating from it if not every day, then definitely every few days, and I have tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant coming along nicely for later in the summer. No clipboard, no red pen, right?

One thing that has been going well for me is that I’ve been making a pretty steady practice of getting rid of stuff. Somehow I’ve got to a point where it gives me a good, clean feeling to finish something and not have it any more, or to put something unused in the pile for the op shop (which seldom gets bigger than I can carry in my bike basket). Yesterday I had a momentary bout of “what if I applied for this amazing job and had to move house again?” and it made me think even more about how much stuff I have that I don’t need. I’m not going to apply for the job, but it did give me a kick in the pants about all my stuff.

A friend’s recently been talking up a decluttering guru who talks about getting rid of things that don’t spark joy, and it’s been good for me to think of my excess stuff in that way. It makes it much easier to say “no”. I don’t think I’m anywhere near Japanese minimalism (lol, no) but it does make it easier to get rid of things I’m keeping out of a sense of “ought”.

Finally, today I got a cleaner in, and she’s going to be coming regularly. I’ll be interested to see how much it changes my sense of overwhelmedness and whether it helps me get back on a more even keel with some of the other stuff I want to spend my energy on. I’ll give it a few months and then evaluate the costs/benefits; it’s a big chunk of my fairly tight budget, but I hope a worthwhile one for my mental health, which in turn is good for my so-called “actual” work.

I’m not going to make any new year’s resolutions, because they don’t work well for me. But here’s hoping 2015 is a good one!

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I'm afraid I'm going to have to mostly bail on [personal profile] liv's question, asking me to talk about "when mainstream feminism goes around reproducing lots of other hierarchies and oppressions", because I've been turning it over for a few days and I'm really not sure what to say.

I guess the short answer is: this is something I've been learning about and working on for the past 5 years, and I've been trying to improve my own practice around it, and to speak to people when they do faily things and I think I can usefully help out as an ally. The other thing, I suppose, is that I don't really engage much with "mainstream feminism" if by that you mean the sort of institutionally established liberal feminism that's out there; my feminism is Internet feminism, informed by fandom and geekdom and twitter and tumblr, and I'm not very involved in the stuff that actually gets covered in mainstream media or gets funding from mainstream bodies or whatever. And the feminism I am involved in is pretty aware of "other hierarchies and oppressions" most of the time, I hope.

Anyway I think this answer crosses over a bit with what I wrote for [personal profile] transcendancing under how my feminism has changed over time so I'll just point you there as well.

Sorry I couldn't write more :(
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Structured procrastination du jour

* sent email to someone who's involved in a large seed-sharing project in India, to talk to them about their data use etc
* sought an introduction to someone who founded an open food project centred on nutrition data
* talked with some people on IRC about Growstuff values and with another set of people about attracting and onboarding designers in open source projects
* finished writing up report for work I did last month (project X woooot!)
* phone meeting re: work for the first quarter of next year
* sent out emails about next year's work (being vague on purpose!)
* womanfully avoided getting into a heated discussion about trigger warnings as an accessibility measure (and thanked someone who stepped up to say the thing I wanted to say, but said it much more calmly)
* made a decision about dropping some work I don't seem to be able to do effectively, and made some steps toward finding a replacement (a different project X potentially off my plate! also woot!)
* arranged time with lawn mower (for vague definition of "arranged" as the time seems to be constantly being pushed back)
* went to shops/ATM to get cash for lawn mower person (and also snacks and gin)
* ate snacks, drank gin
* phonecall with project X that I'm dropping, let them know I'm dropping them, offered to help find replacement, chatted a bit with friend who is my contact there
* improved Growstuff's README to have more information on contributing for designers, writers, etc (it previously only had information for coders)
* wrote fairly epic Get involved page for Growstuff wiki
* decided that since I've been enjoying the December posting meme, I might do a monthly blogging plan thing for the future; set up google spreadsheet for this
* read interesting blog posts about UX and design and stuff

(to be updated as I do stuff)

Done did

Dec. 16th, 2014 11:54 am
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I've been feeling really unproductive/unfocused lately, with a tendency to zone out and do nothing in particular for hours on end. I let myself have a week or so of that, because I figured I was exhausted from all the recent travel and events and stuff, but now I need to snap out of it.

I don't want to force myself to the point of burnout or anything like that, but I do want to redirect my energy a little. So the other day I made a couple of small decisions about that, mostly around practicing structured procrastination: if I'm going to goof off from project X, then I should fall back to lower-priority project Y, rather than to doing nothing-in-particular. It's not as if I'm lacking in Project Ys of all kinds, many of them relaxing or pleasant. For instance, I should have been working on some boring sysadminny stuff recently, and I've been procrastinating by watching TV; instead, I could procrastinate by gardening, or shredding papers, or working on a fun part of Growstuff.

Also, if I'm going to spend time reading/knitting/etc, I'm going to try and do it outdoors now the weather is really nice, rather than sitting inside out of habit.

Anyway, I think I'm going to make a list of things I've done, even if they weren't project X, so that I don't keep beating myself up over how I wasted a day by not doing X.


* dishes
* watered garden
* formed sourdough loaf (bake tonight)
* triaged knitting projects, hid all except two (going to try and have no more than 1 big/1 small actively in progress at any time)
* put away excess knitting needles/tools that were piled up all over the dining table
* tidied knitting mess next to TV
* generally tidy-up around my desk
* took down unconf schedule from skudcamp so i can use my whiteboard again
* shredded papers
* had a conversation with [personal profile] brainwane about design and open source, sent followup email
* drew a mindmap of "Growstuff Values" on my newly-cleaned whiteboard, and posted a question about the topic to see what other people think
* put some socks which no longer spark joy (if they ever did) in the op shop pile
* contacted someone about mowing my lawn (since this is one of the things I keep procrastinating on)
* started putting together an actual up to date resume (haven't needed a real one for years and years; need one now for a fellowship application)
* knit a little bit on the fingerless mitts that are the project I have that's closest to completion (what does it say that I'm prioritising my knitting WIPs via the debt snowball method?)
* tidied a bit in my bedroom, hung up clothes
* took out trash
* actually baked bread (hurry uuuupppppp i'm hungry)
* tidied up for craft night
* found a vendor who sells big blocks of pure olive oil soap at a decent price

(to be updated throughout the day)
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[personal profile] brainwane asks for my thoughts on/reactions to various foods, for the December posting meme.

Oatmeal: Pretty much my most hated food. I can't handle the combination of bland and mushy/slimy. Would eat it if starving, but not otherwise. Lots of people tried to tell me that I would prefer steel cut oats, so I tried that one time, and it was even worse. I felt like I was going to throw up after two mouthfuls. A world of no. (I have come around to congee, though, after reading a really good blog post about a whole-grain version of it. Just the description of the strongly flavoured toppings was enough to make me want to try it. I made some for myself the next time I had a free range chicken, and it was fine. The toppings helped a lot. However, since I so seldom have chicken and have never seen free range chicken congee or multigrain congee available in restaurants etc, it's not something I have often.)

Miso (soup or other): I like miso soup but not when it comes as a little bowl on the side of a Japanese meal. I would rather have a big bowlful of it as a meal in itself, or else that powdered packet stuff as a quick low-effort snack (especially when I had an office job); the side-soup thing is just too in-between for me. Lately I've started learning to use miso in cooking. This blog has delicious looking recipes (oat porridge excepted!) and I'd like to try a bunch of them. I'd also like to learn how to make miso-based salad dressings, as that would probably fit my eating habits pretty well, and extra protein and umami are always welcome in my salads!

Licorice (black and/or red): When I was about 11 years old, I got a licorice showbag at the Royal Melbourne Show and ate most of it in a very short time period. My poo was black for two days afterwards. Now I can never eat black licorice without thinking of that. I still like licorice but I don't eat it often, I guess because I don't eat candy often. Red licorice, ehhh, it's not such a thing here, and I'm not a particular fan. The scandinavian ammonia licorice stuff horrifies me just on general principle and I wouldn't try it even if offered.

Hollandaise sauce: One of the most important foods in the world! Vital part of eggs benedict (or florentine, the vegetarian version with spinach instead of eggs, which is what I usually order) and an Australian cafe brunch staple. My nearest cafe does an ok hollandaise but honestly I think it's just a smidge too tart. The other cafe I sometimes go to does a perfect hollandaise but serves their eggs bennie (which I get there because they use local artisan ham) on local artisan sourdough which NO, I want a muffin dammit, that's what eggs bennie *is*. The abominations I saw masquerading as hollondaise or as eggs bennie in American diners and brunch places make me shudder; the worst I recall was at a diner in Chicago, where I really should have known better. Hollandaise in the US usually tastes flabby and has no sharpness; sometimes it seems to have separated; and on at least one occasion, when I should have had hollondaise, it seemed to have cheese sauce (like on mac and cheese) instead. I no longer order eggs bennie when I'm in North America; huevos rancheros takes their place. (Wikipedia tells me that EB was invented in the US. Maybe I'm missing something, but in my experience, it is far more common and far better made in Australia than anywhere I've seen in North America.) On a related note, there's a pub in Melbourne that does an amazing kangaroo with bearnaise sauce and excellent shoestring fries; I love to take foreign visitors there for dinner.

Coconut milk: Important pantry staple, vital to a couple of my standard dinners (the most common of which is Thai curry with tofu and veg, made from the one true curry paste, which I also always have on hand). When I shop for coconut milk I always read labels and try to get the ones with the least additives, which can be surprisingly difficult at times. I often find myself wishing I had easy access to coconuts to make my own.
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[personal profile] serene asked: "What can a person who is not a programmer do on Growstuff or other projects that will (a) help them become a programmer; and (b) not make everyone who already knows how to do it irritated."

What a great leading question ;)

Firstly, wrt Growstuff, we have a pretty high barrier for irritation, and "learning to program" isn't usually one of our triggers, no matter how slow or how many questions you ask. But I know that sort of reassurance doesn't really count for much, so here are some practical things you can do, too. I'm going to break them into three sections. You will probably want to work on the three sections kind of in parallel, starting with the basics in all of them, and then working up. I mean, you don't have to finish all the coding stuff before getting involved in Growstuff. Think of it like being enrolled in three 101-level courses simultaneously.

Learning the basics of coding

This isn't really what you asked for, but it's part of the picture, so I'm going to dump some generally useful learning-programming resources on you. I'm assuming you're starting from zero, but skip ahead if not. This is stuff that's not Growstuff-specific, but which you'll probably want to learn in parallel with getting involved with the project itself.

  • Play with one of the very basic 15 minute programming intros online. tryruby is popular (and Growstuff is written in Ruby, so it's relevant too), but there are others around as well. All you're trying to do is get the idea of making the computer do your bidding by typing code at it. If that's fun, you'll want to move on to the next thing.
  • If your interests incline that way (i.e. you think you want to build webpages and you care about how they look and the user interface), learn some HTML, CSS, and/or JavaScript. CodeAcademy seems popular and has interactive online resources. Codeschool is more about video lectures if that's your thing, and their front end foundations would be a good place to start. w3schools has good references and tutorials for all three.
  • If you think you're more of a backend person (you want to work in the engineroom, making things go, and don't much care how it looks) you should focus on learning Ruby and Rails instead. If you've never programmed before you'll want to learn the Ruby language a bit first. CodeAcademy has a Ruby track (which you do in your browser). Learn Ruby the Hard Way is kind of didactic and a bit of a pain in the ass, but it teaches from first principles and doesn't sugar-coat things, and will set you up well for real coding.
  • You should probably do at least the basics of both the above steps (HTML/CSS/Javascript, and Ruby), and at some point you should go in depth on one or the other. It's not necessarily a pre-requisite for other stuff though.
  • Work through a simple Rails tutorial like Rails for Zombies so you kinda know what a Rails app looks like.
  • Work thorugh a simple Git tutorial like Try Git to get a bit of a sense for what that's about.
  • Along the line you've probably learned a bit about using a command line and a text editor, but if not, you should get good at both these things. SublimeText is a good and powerful text editor and worth learning how to use well. Googling for "sublimetext tutorial" or "sublimetext tips" will get you lots of good resources. To learn how to use the command line, it depends a bit on what operating system you're on, and to be honest I couldn't find any tutorials I'd wholeheartedly recommend. Maybe someone in comments can help? But this is also stuff you pick up via tips from other programmers, over the course of your programming life. I am still picking stuff up after 20+ years. So you don't need to know everything up front.

Getting to know Growstuff, its code, and its community

  • Sign up for Growstuff itself and start using it. If you don't have a veggie garden yourself and don't want to enter dummy data in the live site, you can sign up on the staging website instead (or as well). Get an idea for the different parts of the website, the main actions available, and the mental model of how things are connected to other things. For instance, "a member can make posts, plantings, harvests", or "my profile has X Y and Z info", or "it looks like the site is using the same maps in multiple places", etc.
  • If something bugs you, is broken, or looks like it needs improvement, let someone know! You can post on Growstuff itself (I read all posts there), or on Growstuff Talk in the Problem or Idea categories. Or drop me a note privately. We'll take suggestions wherever we find them, in any format. Later, as you get more confident, you can learn how to make suggestions directly into the issue tracker that programmers use, but you don't have to up front (unless you want to).
  • Look at the code. It probably won't make much sense at first, but just take a cruise round and see if anything catches your eye. Pretend you're watching foreign films without subtitles. You won't necessarily understand everything that's going on, but you might catch bits here and there, and start to pick up on the storyline. You're not trying to understand every word yet, just get a sense for what things look like, and make some connections between the concepts on the site itself, and where they are in the code.
  • Hang out where the programmers hang out, and follow their discussions as well as you can. You don't necessarily have to dive in to them, but just absorb and notice the things that programmers talk about, the terms they use, the rhythm and processes of software development, etc. Follow any links they post. Google for terms you don't understand. For Growstuff, the main places where programmers discuss programmery things are this developer forum and our IRC channel. You should also watch this github repo to get notifications of issues, pull requests, etc which often have developers discussing/commenting on them; these are often the most nitty-gritty code discussions.
  • Cruise around the Development section of the wiki, and do the same absorption process. Not everything will make sense, but bits of it may settle in your subconscious, and you'll remember to come back and look again.
  • If you're feeling chatty, introduce yourself and socialise a bit. Here's an intro thread on our discussion forum, or just say "hi" on IRC and see who's around. We often talk about gardening, food, travel, making stuff, hobbies, and life in general, so don't feel like you need to only talk about programming. However, if you want to ask programming questions or let people know you're learning to program, you'll probably get plenty of advice and support, too.
  • You might like to ask someone to give you a code tour or to do a show-and-tell of what they're working on. Here's a thread to find a pair programming partner, where you could say you want to set up a first intro-level session. Be upfront that you're just learning -- on Growstuff, that's generally an incentive rather than the reverse.

Starting to contribute, as someone who knows zero-to-very-little programming but is learning

  • Help out in the testing threads, trying out new features. Try to break stuff, and think about how things might break, eg. try it on your phone, or put ridiculous things in the form fields, or try to do things you shouldn't have permission to do. When things break, see if you can hone in on what specifically is breaking, and describe it in precise terms. A precise bug report is half way to a fix.
  • Having done that, go look at the related pull request in Github (should be listed here) and see if you can match what's going wrong, to the bit of code where you think the problem might be. You can leave a comment if you like, on or around the problem line, saying "I think the problem might be here" (and why, if you have any ideas). This will help the developer find their fix. You don't have to if you're not sure though.
  • Look to see if there's a written test in the pull request. It will be in a file starting with "spec/" and will describe what should be happening. If there's a bug, and the test is passing, then the test is wrong. See if you can spot the error, and leave a comment. Or maybe there is no test! In that case, see if you can imagine what test should have been written, and leave a note saying "A test for X might have picked up the problem I found while testing this" or similar. (Again, if you feel awkward or unsure leaving comments, it's not required. Just reviewing the code is a learning exercise.)
  • Do a code review when someone submits a pull request. Even if you're inexperienced, you can still notice inconsistencies, or say when something is especially confusing to you as a beginner, which is actually helpful to know! Also think about the things people have said in previous code reviews (that you've been reading), and see if any of them apply. For instance, you might have heard that code isn't "DRY" (DRY = Don't repeat yourself, "not DRY" means the code is repetitive). So if the code you're reading does seem repetitive, you might comment on that. If you understand it all and don't see any problems, you can leave a comment saying "Looks good to me" or similar.
  • If you like doing front-end stuff (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) you can save copies of Growstuff pages locally and fiddle with them to try to improve them. You might want to try fixing something that's in our issue tracker or just something that personally bugs you (maybe create an issue first, in that case!) If you've made an improvement, drop a note on the forums or somewhere, and see if you can upload/send it to someone to integrate into the site (or skip ahead to setting up a dev environment to do it yourself).
  • You can do all the above without setting up a Growstuff dev environment, but the time will come when you want to do that. Here are the Getting Started docs. There's a reasonable chance you'll get stuck, so it's good to have a window open to the IRC channel, or be ready to post for help on the development forum, or have a friend you can drop an email to. We're usually happy to set up a pairing session to help you get set up, too (see link above). Or you could find a friend to do it with (perhaps someone more experienced at command line stuff, even if not specifically at Rails), or see if there's a local OpenHack or similar friendly/supportive coding event where you can ask for help if needed.
  • When you're ready to start coding on Growstuff, using the full development environment, look at our beginner-friendly tasks for starters (hmm, we need more of those!) These are ones that you should be able to figure out, perhaps with some help, if you've been through some tutorials like I listed above; they're generally between 1 character and a few lines of code. Look at our Coding session docs on the wiki to guide you through all the steps from "I want to do something" to "I've done it and submitted it". Again, you might want to set up a pairing session or do it with a friend, or at least be ready to ask on IRC or the forums if you get stuck. We'd rather answer simple questions than have you sit there frustrated not knowing what to do!
  • A good next step, if you want to get more familiar with Rails, are our railsy tasks which give you a good overview of how Rails basically works (models, views, controllers, migrations, etc). But really, what you do next will depend on your interests and what enthuses you!

I have rambled on a LOT here but hopefully there are some concrete steps and some reassurance. We really do like beginners, FWIW, and will do whatever we can to make your experience fun and productive.

I think you can probably apply a lot of this to other projects as well, but I'd also point you at my December meme post for [personal profile] melannen the other day, who asked for advice on contributing to a larger open source project, as most of that will apply to you as well. Be sure to check the comments, where [personal profile] brainwane links to a great description of how to evaluate a project in 5 minutes (this will help you find where the developers hang out, where to read the code, etc), and also a great template for how to introduce yourself to a new project in a really productive way.

Thanks to [personal profile] pozorvlak and Taylor (two other Growstuff devs) who contributed suggestions to this post when I asked for ideas on IRC :)
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As part of the December meme, [personal profile] melannen asks me to write about, "Advice for someone who wants to level up from coding stuff like simple javascript toys to working on large-scale open-source projects?" I'm a bit late (as I took an honest to god vacation for a few days, and then got delayed on the way home) but better late than never, right?

I'd say there are two main skills you need to get involved in larger open source projects, and those are communication tools/media, and distributed version control.

For the former: all large open source projects have some kind of communication channel, whether it be a mailing list, IRC channel, web-based forum, or something else. I think it's important to know how the technical side of these works (eg. to get comfortable using IRC or mailing lists), and also to absorb some of the culture of those communication channels, if you want to get involved in a project.

I would say that if you want to do well in an open source project, you should probably spend as much time communicating as you do coding. I imagine there are plenty of people that would disagree with me, but I doubt they're reading this DW journal ;) Some of the things I count under communicating include:

  • reading/replying to threads on mailing lists/forums
  • using IRC to get real-time advice/help or just to chat with other project members
  • commenting on bugs/issues/feature requests
  • reviewing and commenting on other people's code
  • following/being followed by/interacting with other project members on social media
  • writing up reports of work you've done (either for your own blog, or the project forum/mailing list, or wherever)
  • writing documentation or notes that other people might find useful
  • etc.

At first your communication will be lots of question-asking and basic stuff, but the more of that you get out of the way early on, the quicker you'll be able to communicate at a more advanced level, so don't be afraid of asking too many questions or whatever.

(Caveat: if the other people on the project make you feel bad for asking questions, or are rude about it, then they are being assholes. This is on them, not on you.)

The second skill I mentioned is distributed version control. Most open source projects use some form of it these days, and the majority (in my experience) use git, especially github. Others use git with a different host for their central repository, or use a different DVCS (eg. Mercurial), but generally speaking if you know how to use github, you can apply those skills anywhere.

Git's underlying engineering might be brilliant but its user interface -- the commands you need to type to make it do things -- is one of the worst-designed pieces of crap I've ever had to deal with. It is a pain in the backside to learn, and once you've learned it you'll have to keep re-learning bits of it because it has no consistency and laughs at your attempts to remember its syntax. If you find git complicated and frustrating, it's not you. But you still have to learn it, sorry. And you'll have to learn a bit more than most intro tutorials will teach you, too, because many intros assume you're working solo but large open source projects will have more complexity of branching/forking/cloning/pushing/pulling/etc. Best way to learn this IMHO is to find someone to slowly walk you through how your chosen project does it, and take copious notes which you can refer to later (and/or set your shell to record your history, and save it somewhere, annotated if possible.)

So yeah, those two skills, I think, will get you a long way towards working on larger open source projects generally. Beyond that, I think it depends a lot on what project you choose, and what tools/techniques/etc they are into.

There's something I wanted to link you to but I can't find it. I think it was a presentation done by [personal profile] brainwane (or maybe just linked by her?) where she demonstrated how, in 5 minutes, you can review the public face of an open source project and get a sense for its health and find out how to get involved. Anyway, hopefully brainwane will see this and pipe up in comments!
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[personal profile] nixwilliams asked for "top 5 veg to grow in pots or small spaces (and a rec for recipes using them if you have time)".

So here we go:

  1. Rainbow chard. Very easy to grow and hard to kill, will grow year-round in temperate climates, and is somewhat shade tolerant (though doesn't do well in complete shade). Get a big tub and plant lots of seeds (just toss a handful of them in and rake up the top of the soil with your fingers so they're buried about 1/2 to 1cm deep, then press them down gently), then pull out some of them and thin them down to 2-3 plants per tub as they get bigger. You can eat the thinnings raw in salads or generally any other way you'd eat baby spinach. When mature, the greens are great sauted, in omelettes and scrambles, in spinach pies (spanakopita, quiches, frittatas, whatever), or chopped into curries and the like. Try curried chickpeas/tomatoes/chard over the grain of your choice.
  2. Nasturtiums. Another hard-to-kill crop, which flourishes on crappy soil and neglect. A good way to use worn-out potting mix from old pots, as low nutrient soil actually helps nasturtiums to thrive. The leaves are mildly peppery and great in salads -- I prefer them to rocket, and just tear them roughly into a leaf mix -- and they look decorative too, with colourful edible flowers. You can also pickle the seeds and use them like capers (though I have to admit I've never done this yet). I like to grow them in largish pots and let them trail around the place, but there are compact/dwarf varieties that will do ok in more cramped conditions.
  3. Flat-leaf parsley. Easy to grow from seed, hard to kill, doesn't need much TLC, and will grow in quite small pots (but you'll have to water frequently). Probably the best money-saver/flavour enhancer you can grow in a tiny space. You can use the herb for a gazillion different things, and save heaps of money vs buying bunches of it at the supermarket. Example uses: torn into salads (especially robust ones with roasted veg, eg. roasted beets/orange/parsley is a good combo, or roasted carrot/raisins/nuts/parsley), chopped into scrambled eggs, stirred into pasta sauces, or blended with nuts into a winter pesto (great with potatoes) or with lemon to make gremolata (great mixed into minestrone and similar soups). Save the stems (in a plastic bag in the freezer, along with other veg scraps) for making stock.
  4. Mint. Best grown from a cutting (put a stalk about 10cm long in a glass of water until it grows roots, then transplant into a pot.) It'll handle quite a bit of shade, and likes lots of moisture, so keep it watered well. I like the ordinary "common mint" better than fancy flavoured varieties, as it's more adaptable to different recipes. Once you have mint on hand you can use it for so many things -- most of which you'd never consider actually buying it for. For instance, I love it in salads, especially grainy ones -- try wheat berries, apples (dunk them in lemon water to prevent browning), radishes, and mint. Or tear the leaves into a delicate spring leaf salad for a little burst of flavour. Or use it in Asian style things, eg. with beansprouts and mango. A mix of mint, parsley, and/or coriander gives a great Middle Eastern/North African flavour to all sorts of things. For instance I stir mint and parsley through a roasted red pepper and chickpea soup, and I make my tabbouleh with a mix of mint and parsley. It's also great with yoghurt and cucumber (scoop the cucumber seeds out, grate, then squeeze in a teatowel to get rid of excess moisture) in a tzatziki or raita. And of course a few leaves are fancy in a jug of water, or you can pour boiling water over them to make a mint tea.
  5. Chilli peppers. These take a little more TLC than the herbs and greens listed above, but still aren't all that hard to grow. Use a pot around 20-30cm in diameter and focus on smaller chillis like thai birds-eye ones, or jalapenos; large bell peppers and the like don't grow so well in pots, in my experience. These are very much seasonal and will like as much heat and humidity as you can give them, especially in your cool temperate climate, so I'd go for a really sunny corner if you've got one. Pick them regularly to keep them producing more fruit. My favourite use for jalapenos and similar smallish green chillis is simply chopped, raw, over beans and rice with salsa and other toppings. If you can't use all the ones you get, you can freeze them: thai chillis I just pop into a little ziploc bag, and jalapenos etc you can chop before freezing, or blend with garlic and ginger to make an Indian curry base and freeze that in icecubes -- saute an onion, add a cube or two of the garlic/ginger/chilli mix, and then add your curry spices and heat until fragrant before adding your main curry ingredients (eg. cooked lentils and their liquid for dal, or chickpeas and tomatoes, or mixed veg, or whatever -- route79 has step-by-step instructions for many Indian recipes that use this blend). Use a finely chopped Thai chilli or two wherever an Australian recipe calls for sambal oelek.

    I hope that's helpful! They're not recipes as such but hopefully usable.
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This one is for [personal profile] transcendancing who asked for "feminism and how yours has changed over time (also what do you find most difficult about your feminism at this point in time?)".

To start with, I have pretty much always considered myself a feminist. I never quite realised it was meant to be a "bad word" and never did much of that "I'm not a feminist, but..." stuff. However, I had a really rudimentary understanding of feminism, just based on the very rough understanding I'd picked up as a teenager and from the odd bit of reading here and there. So in the 1990s I considered myself a feminist but basically didn't have any strong theoretical underpinning for that. Just more or less, "well, of COURSE women should be equal, and it sucks that people are sexist." I was fairly aligned with 3rd wave feminism I guess (because that's the era I was in) but sort of in a pop culture way, also informed by my queer/kinky/etc identity... so I was clear that I was a sex-positive feminist, but I hadn't thought that through in much depth, for instance, and probably couldn't have made a coherent argument in favour of, say, sex workers' rights or women-produced porn. I was in favour of them, but my reasoning was a mess.

My feminism went through a massive change in the late 2000s, as a result of two things. One was that I started reading a bunch of feminist blogs, and the other was Racefail. Between the they gave me a lot of tools for understanding feminism, kyriarchy, oppression, intersectionality, etc, and gave me a much broader view of feminism and how it tied into other systems of oppression. I learned a lot of big words which, previously, I would have had a huge inferiority complex about because I didn't have an Arts degree. (I blame a few obnoxious parties I went to with Melbourne Uni arts students in the 90s where they smugly talked about postmodernism and sneered at anyone who didn't have the lingo down pat. It took me a good 15 years to mostly get over that.) It was great to be able to learn this stuff via LJ/DW and the like, rather than trying to plough through dense academic texts, and being able to see discussion of the ideas flowing back and forth in my own language.

All this feminist self-education was very closely tied in with the creation of Geek Feminism -- I set up the wiki in 2008 and the blog in 2009. Part of what I was doing with the wiki, when I first started it, was trying to gather together the various info and resources I knew were on the Internet, and put the in one place. That's what led me to looking at feminist blogs, and then building up my conceptual vocabulary, and then attempting to document those concepts in a geek-relevant way, using language and examples familiar to people who (like me) didn't have a background in humanities/gender studies/etc, but were more likely to be familiar with computer programming or science fiction.

At present the thing I find most difficult about my feminism is balancing activism with self-care. I'm mostly on hiatus from making a big feminist noise in public spaces, and now I either do stuff that is less public (smaller events, private forums, safer spaces), or stuff that is less blatantly feminist while still being underpinned by a feminist sensibility (eg. organising or writing about inclusive communities and events). I shy away from some of the really dramatic stuff going on, and my harassment levels are down to... well, I block a couple of people on Twitter each week, I guess, which is not so bad.

Also, for self-care reasons, I've had to reduce my intake of feminist media/discussion/reading in general, largely because of timezones. My problem was that I was pretty hooked in to the US (especially SF Bay Area) tech feminist scene, and all the activity/discussion in that scene happens while I'm asleep. So I would wake up each morning to find that all this stuff had happened and it was too late for me to really engage and do anything productive, so I'd just feel frustrated and upset by the shittiness going on... all this before my first cup of tea in the morning. It would taint my whole day, almost every day.

So yeah, things are definitely different for me than they were in say 2009 when I was living in San Francisco and starting Geek Feminism and really energetic in my feminist activism, and there were only one or two death-threat-wielding harassers interested in the stuff we were talking about. I remember when I was just ramping up into this stuff, I met [personal profile] vaurora for the first time, and she was in a burnout phase and said something really bitter and discouraging which I think she'd probably be more tactful about now, tbh, but she was more or less right -- that women in open source were taking turns at getting up in public and talking about this stuff until we burnt out, and that she was burnt to a crisp and completely done with it, and it was my turn now, and good luck to me, but she didn't want to talk about it. (We went for drinks after and it was all fine. But wow, that was some discouraging stuff to have dumped on me at that particular moment. She was right though: I did do 2 years of it before I burned out, hard.)

These days Val is working full time for a feminist non-profit (The Ada Initiative) that was founded, in part, to circumvent this volunteer burnout stuff through the novel idea of paying women for their valuable time rather than making them do it as a second shift. So I guess that's another thing that's changed about my feminism in the last few years, too: I get paid for more of it (I contract with The Ada Initiative to run their AdaCamps) or, when I'm not getting paid, I'm more careful about how I commit my time.

Hopefully that's the kind of answer you're looking for!

If anyone still wants to ask me for something for the December meme, I'm still taking requests.
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This is my first answer to the December meme, for [personal profile] wychwood. I'm still taking requests if you want to ask anything!

What I like about growing things, hmmm...

It's not just one thing for me. It's a bunch of different aspects that all tie into identity and wellbeing in this really complex way. I can try to break them down but it'll lose the interconnection.

But first, let me mention what I grow. Basically I grow veggies. I can grow food plants reasonably successfully, but I'm really crap at growing non-food plants. If it's not edible, I tend to kill it. I have been known to kill cactus by UNDER-watering, seriously.

So the question really becomes, "what I like about growing food", and if I were to just bullet-point it, some of the points would be:

* sense of self-reliance
* nerdy pleasure in understanding complex systems
* sense of achievement at making things for myself
* knowing the origin of my food and how it was treated (minimal pesticides etc)
* less reliance on shops (esp. evil supermarkets)
* convenience of having ingredients right nearby
* convenience of being able to pick just a small amount of something
* opportunity to go outside regularly and do something away from a screen
* improved flavour/freshness of ingredients
* availability of harder-to-find ingredients
* sense of connection to tradition/grandparents/etc
* pleasure in having a productive space rather than wasteful and largely unused lawn
* environmental benefits (micro and macro, eg. support bees/pollinators, increase biodiversity, reduce waste)

mention of eating disorders, nothing detailed )
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Rec me TV shows?

Currently I'm watching lots of stupid superheroes (eg. Arrow), cheesey American procedurals (eg. Castle, god, it's STILL GOING), and social history documentaries (everything Lucy Worsley has ever done, also O HAI [personal profile] oursin).

I feel like I could do with some cosy murder mysteries, but I may have exhausted most of the usual suspects (Miss Fisher, Doctor Blake, and Lewis are the most recent series I've watched and enjoyed).

Nothing too realistically dramatic, plz. I don't want to watch normal-seeming people having a shitty time. Unrealistically dramatic (in space! in crinolines! in SPACE CRINOLINES!) is fine. Also no reality shows with a competitive element, as this is actually too realistically dramatic for me. Seriously, I have low drama tolerance at present.
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This is a crosspost from Infotropism. You can comment here or there.

I seem to have had this discussion a few times lately, so I’m going to save myself the trouble of repeating it and just write down all the problems I have with hackathons. (Yes, I know lots of people have previously posted about what they don’t like about hackathons; I’ve linked some of them at the bottom of this post, if you want some other opinions too.)

They’re too much commitment

Me: I’m kind of interested in your thing. How can I get involved?
Them: We have a hackathon coming up. You should come!

Here’s how that sounds to me:

Me: I’d like to get a little more physically active.
Them: You should come run a marathon on the weekend!

The suffix “-athon” should tip you off here. Hackathons are intense and exhausting, and they’re meant to be. They’re usually a whole weekend of focused work, often with insufficient sleep, and too much encouragement to use masses of caffeine to stay awake and coding for 48 hours.

Sorry, but I’m not going to do that for my projects, let alone yours.

They exclude people with lives and responsibilities

This follows naturally from the marathon nature. A hackathon usually takes up a whole weekend, often starting Friday night and going through until Sunday evening. Sometimes you’re expected or encouraged to stay on-site overnight, or sometimes the norm is to go home to sleep, but either way it chews up multiple consecutive days.

I have other things going on in my life: errands to run, friends to see, a veggie garden to keep watered, and other community events and commitments to schedule around. Attending a weekend-long event means massively rearranging my life. And I don’t have kids or other people to care for; if I did, it would be pretty much impossible.

That exclusion is not evenly distributed

I see fathers of kids at hackathons pretty often, perhaps because their wives are looking after the kids. I see mothers far less often. Domestic and carer responsibilities are unevenly distributed, which means women are more likely to be too busy to attend hackathons than men are.

Until I did some research for this post, I’d never yet seen a hackathon with childcare or which provides information or assistance for parents; not even the women-only hackathon held recently in a city near me. (After some research, I now have heard of one.)

Sure, most younger women don’t yet have childcare responsibilities, but that just points out another unequal exclusion: the older you are, the more responsibilities you are likely to have, and the less energy you have for all-night Red Bull fuelled hacking sessions. Unsurprisingly, hackathon participants are generally on the young side.

It’s well documented that diverse teams have more creative ideas. So why exclude entire categories of people by holding an event that is hard for them to participate in?

They’re unhealthy

I’ve been to a few of these events, and I’ve never yet felt like I didn’t come out of it less healthy than I went in. Speaking for myself, I like daylight, moving around, eating lots of veggies, and drinking lots of water. I work at a standing desk part of the day (looking out the window at trees and birds), take lots of breaks to clear my mind and move my body, and usually make lunch with homebaked bread and something from my garden. I also like getting a good night’s sleep.

I’m not saying that everyone can or should do what I do. It’s entirely up to you to do what makes your body feel good, or to balance feeling good with other priorities. But I know that for me, when I attend a hackathon, if I spend two long days in poor lighting and poor ventilation, sitting hunched over my laptop at a meeting table in an uncomfortable chair, eating pretty average catering food or pizza (almost always especially mediocre because I go for the vegetarian option), I feel like crap.

Now, sometimes I’m prepared to feel like crap for a weekend for a good cause. But it has to be a pretty convincing cause.

Competition, meh.

One thing that doesn’t convince me: competition. For so many hackathons, the end-game is “create the best X and win a prize”. I really, really don’t care. In fact it puts me off, and makes me less likely to attend.

To start with, I know how to do a cost-benefit analysis. The last hackathon in my area, I think the average prize awarded per attendee (i.e. dividing the prizes won by the number of people present) was around $100. Though, of course, most attendees actually got zero. I might be broke, but not broke enough to consider that a good use of two whole days of my time.

Surprise: extrinsic motivation isn’t all that motivating!

Quite apart from that, though, I’m not motivated by competition. Tell me you’re going to judge whose hack is the “best” and I get crippled by stereotype threat, instantly flashing back to being the last picked for the team in gym class. And I’m a developer with 20 years’ experience under my belt, who’s worked with dozens of APIs in several languages, and is comfortable with everything from wireframing to git. Imagine if I was new and less sure of my abilities?

You can tell me all you like about how collaborative the atmosphere of your event is, but if you are awarding prizes for the “best X”, you just sound hypocritical. If you want me to believe the event is collaborative, don’t make it a competition.

Why can’t I work on an existing project?

Every hackathon I’ve been to has required that you come up with a new idea to hack on. At some hackathons, I’ve seen people complain that teams are cheating if they come with anything prepared or have done any work ahead of time.

I spend most of my time working on projects that I think are important and worthwhile. My head is full of them, I know my way around my toolkit and the codebase, and I have endless ideas for improvements and new features I want to work on.

Now you want me to show up at your event, put aside all the investment and focus I’ve built up for my project, and work on some new toy for the weekend.

They’re just toys

The result is that people build quick hacks that are cute and flashy, but have little depth. Meh.

And then they’re gone.

People say that hackathon projects are just prototypes, and that great things can later emerge from them. However, hackathon projects seldom survive beyond the weekend of the hack. Sure, I see hackathon organisers trying to take steps to ensure that projects have longevity but does this actually work?

I reviewed a handful of hacks, including many of the prize-winners, from the last hackathon I was at — the one with the longevity page linked above — and found not a single one with a code commit since the hackathon five months ago.

Here’s why: hackathons intentionally select for people who work intensely for a weekend, then give prizes for the flashiest results that can be produced in that short time. There are no incentives for sustainable projects, long-term collaboration, or maintainable code. Therefore, none of those things happen.

So what are hackathons good for?

They can be a pretty good PR exercise.

They can raise awareness of new technologies, APIs, or datasets among developers and give them a space to experiment with them.

They can be stimulate your creativity, if your creativity happens to be stimulated by short deadlines and so on.

They can be a feel-good networking experience for the (overwhelmingly self-confident, young, and male) participants.

Here’s what I want instead

Ongoing projects, that are maintained and used over several years.

A welcoming environment for people of all skill and confidence levels, with opportunity for mentorship, learning, and working at your own pace.

A schedule that makes it possible to participate without having to make heroic efforts to juggle your other responsibilities.

My main project, Growstuff, holds a monthly get-together called “Hackstuff” to work on Growstuff or any other project people care to bring along. It seems to be working well for us so far, and we have several participants who have become regular contributors to the project. I’d like to set up a similar civic hacking meetup in my town, if I can find a suitable venue.

I’d love to hear whether anyone else has experience running recurring, collaborative, low-commitment civic hacking events. If you’re doing something like that, please get in touch and tell me about it!

And some links

Who’s (not) welcome at hackathons?

Finding childcare for a UX sprint showed up when I searched for childcare and hackathons, and I was delighted to find that almost every woman named in the article is a friend of mine :)

Hackathons and minimal viable prototypes talks about what you can actually build at a hackathon (it’s not a product).

On hackathons and solutionism (do hackathons actually solve problems?)

National Day of Hacking your own Assumptions and Entitlement (a spot on satire).

Why Hackathons Suck from Thoughtworks, who I note sponsor an awful lot of hackathons. Huh?

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Ehhh whatever, let's give this December meme a shot. Give me topics to post about in December (ETA: and pick a date for me to post them on). I can't 100% guarantee I'll do them promptly (there's a chance I might be taking an honest to god vacation for a few days sometime in there) but I'll do my best.

Some things you might want to ask me about, as hints:

* travel and living in other countries
* running events
* open source and related topics
* feminism and related topics
* moving to a smaller town
* domesticity/food/textiles
* life story/history
* favourite X

list of days )
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This is a crosspost from Infotropism. You can comment here or there.

I often hear that making an event more accessible, or even providing information about accessibility, is “too hard” for event organisers. I contest that.

I make basic efforts toward accessibility for almost every event I run, mostly in the form of documentation, and it’s not that time-consuming or difficult. I estimate I spend about 20 minutes on it for a small event at a new venue, and less than five minutes if we’re running a second or subsequent event at the same place. It’s hardly anything in the overall scheme of things.

Handy accessibility documentation checklist

  • Make a section on the event page titled “Accessibility”, and under that heading, note the physical access to the venue, including:
    • What floor is it on?
    • Is there an elevator to higher floors, or do you have to use stairs? Does the elevator require a key?
    • Do you need to go up or down steps anywhere between the entrance and the space where the action is taking place (eg. one step at the front door)?
    • Is there a separate accessible entrance? Where is it?
    • Is there rough ground to cover (eg. steep pathways, gravel)
    • Are there buttons to automatically open doors into the venue?
    • Is there a wheelchair-accessible toilet?
  • Also under “Accessibility”, make some notes about the style of the event and the content that will be delivered, with attention to how accessible it would be to hearing- or vision-impaired attendees, eg.
    • Will there be a speaker? Will the speaker’s words be transcribed/available in written form, such as handouts or slides?
    • Will materials be made available online, or minutes or proceedings posted, after the event?
    • Will any video or audio materials be transcribed or interpreted?
  • Also under “Accessibility”, mention any dietary needs, common allergies, or other health considerations:
    • If food is provided, what dietary requirements will be met automatically (eg. vegetarian, gluten free, and nut free)? If an attendee has other dietary requirements, who should they contact and by what date?
    • Especially if the event is a private home, are there any pets that people might have allergies to?
    • Are there any other materials that may cause allergic reactions or other health problems? Any environmental factors that may have health implications? Eg. fumes, noise, extreme heat, flashing strobe lights.
  • Provide an email/phone contact for any accessibility related enquiries not already covered by the above.
  • Under “Transportation”, note ways of getting to the venue, including:
    • Car parking – distance from venue, costs
    • Bicycle parking – indoor/outdoor, secure?
    • Public transportation – nearest routes/stops, time of first/last service
    • Ride sharing – especially for areas with poor public transport coverage, are there arrangements for people to share rides? Where should someone ask to find a ride, or offer a ride? (eg. Facebook group)
  • Under “Children”, note the following:
    • Is the event suitable for children? (Eg. mention if it will be unsafe)
    • Is there childcare provided?
    • Are there facilities for baby changing, feeding, etc?

Here’s a sample for an event I recently attended, based on my recollection of the venue and proceedings, and a little bit of online research:


Physical accessibility: The workshop will be held on a rural property. Part of the workshop will be held up a steep and narrow flight of stairs. The rest of the workshop will be held around the property, with rough ground and unfinished paths between different areas. Access to the toilet is via a rough path and a few stairs. This event is not suitable for people with wheelchairs/scooters and may not be suitable for others with mobility impairments.

Workshop content: The morning speaker will provide written/illustrated notes covering most of the workshop material. No other transcription/interpretation is planned.

Allergies: Due to the nature of the workshop and the ourdoor venue, people with seasonal or animal allergies may wish to medicate accordingly.

If you have other accessibility needs or inquiries, feel free to email (email address).


There is ample car and bike parking onsite.

There is no public transport to the venue.

Ride shares can be arranged via our Facebook group (link); please post there if you are able to offer a ride, or are looking for one.


For safety reasons, this event is not suitable for young children; older children/teens may attend under the supervision of an adult. No childcare will be provided.

Babies may be changed in the bathroom at the main venue. Refrigeration/heating for baby food are available in the kitchen.

I timed it; that took me 25 minutes to research and write, and I was eating dinner and watching TV at the same time.

For future events at the same venue, simply copy-paste and make changes as necessary. It should take less than 5 minutes.

You may think that this hardly counts as “making your event accessible”, since so much of it is simply stating the lack of accessiblity, but even that much information is such a huge step above what most events provide that people will thank you for it.

Besides, awareness is most of the battle. Once you get in the habit of thinking about these things for every event, you’ll start to notice if you’re excluding people from attending. You might not have intended to exclude them, and done it without thinking; that’s pretty common, and most of us start out there. Now you’ll be more conscious of it, and you can begin to think about what further steps you could take.

At the very least, you’ll have saved a potential attendee from having to email a stranger (or worse, post on a public forum), disclosing a bunch of personal information just to find out whether they can attend or not.

Here are some examples of other events that provide accessiblity information:

  • AdaCamp Bangalore — this is an event I’m organising remotely, at a venue I’ve never seen, in another country. I still managed to provide this information without too much difficulty, by sending a list of questions to someone local and having them walk through the space.
  • Wiscon is a science fiction convention held in the same hotel year after year. They have managed to build up an amazing set of accessibility resources over the years.

And a few quick “don’ts”:

  • Don’t make people email you with any/all accessibility requests; it puts the onus on them, rather than you, and can invade their privacy. Take the effort to answer the most likely questions ahead of time.
  • Don’t hide the venue’s location from attendees unless absolutely needed for privacy reasons. At the very least, give the general location to within a kilometre or two, and let attendees know as promptly as possible after they register. Knowing where an event is to be held is an important piece of information to help people make decisions.
  • Don’t use offensive language around disabilities. Avoid “handicapped”, “crippled”, “sufferer/suffering”, “victim”, “wheelchair-bound”. Usually-safe terms include: “people with disabilities”, “mobility/visual/hearing impairment”, “wheelchair/scooter user”, “mobility aid”.
  • Don’t get defensive when people ask you to make your event more accessible. Listen, take their suggestions onboard, and honestly weigh the costs (in time, effort, or money) against the benefits (wider reach, greater diversity, and simply doing the right thing). Consider whether you make a partial effort to solve some of the accessibility problems, for a lower cost. If the tradeoff simply can’t work given the resources you have, apologise in a straightforward way, and say you’ll keep it in mind for the future (ideally at a specified date).
  • Don’t put the onus on people who require accommodations to educate you, to advocate for accessibility, or to do all the work toward it. They have enough on their plate as it is, and they don’t want to have to put in so much more effort than other attendees, just to be able to take part in an event. Make it easy for them to attend, and then once you’ve got them engaged and excited, perhaps they will choose to volunteer as an organiser.

This is still a learning process for me, as it is for most people. I know I’ve done a crap job of this in the past, but I hope I’ll do a better job in future. If you have any suggestions about how I can improve the way I approach event accessibilty, please feel free to contact me.

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This is a crosspost from Infotropism. You can comment here or there.

As I mentioned earlier today, I’m off to Europe shortly for AdaCamp Berlin, then in November I’m going to India for AdaCamp Bangalore. I’ll be leading both events, which means I get to welcome everyone and set the stage for the unconference, make sure the sessions and workshops run smoothly, and that the culture of AdaCamp meets its usual high standards.

The Ada Initiative just posted this announcement and interview where I talk a bit about my experience with AdaCamp, running various community events, and what I’ll bring to these ones.

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This is a crosspost from Infotropism. You can comment here or there.

I haven’t mentioned this on here yet so I thought I’d better do so before I actually, you know, board the plane.

I’m heading over to Europe next week and the week after. The main reason I’m going is AdaCamp in Berlin, which I will be helping run, but before and after that I’ll also be spending some time in the UK and running this Growstuff event, to get stuck into some serious code with some of our UK-based developers, in London on Oct 18-19.

If you are in the UK and are interested in food innovation, open data, technology for social good, sustainability, inclusive open source projects, or related fields, I would love to meet you! If you can’t make it to the Growstuff code sprint but would like to catch up for a coffee or something, drop me a line.

skud: (Default)
This is a crosspost from Infotropism. You can comment here or there.

tl;dr – if we usually talk on IM/GTalk you won’t see me around any more. Use IRC, email, or other mechanisms (listed at bottom of this post) to contact me.

Background: Google stopped supporting open standards for IM a few years ago.

Other background: when I changed my name in 2011 I grabbed a GMail account with that name, just in case it would be useful. I didn’t use it, though — instead I forwarded any mail from it to my actual email address, the one I’ve had since the turn of the century:, and set that address as my default for everything I could find.

Unfortunately Google didn’t honour those preferences, and kept exposing my unused GMail address to people. When I signed up for Google Groups, it would be exposed. When I shared Google Docs, it would be exposed. I presume it was being exposed all kinds of other ways, too, because people kept seeing my GMail address and thinking it was the right way to contact me. So in addition to the forwarding I also set up a vacation reminder telling anyone who emailed me there to use my actual address and not to use the Google one.

But Google wasn’t done yet. They kept dropping stuff into my GMail account and not forwarding it. Comments on Google docs. Invitations. Administrative notices. IM logs that I most definitely did not want archived. These were all piling up silently in an account I never logged into.

Eventually, after I missed out on several messages from a volunteer offering to help with Growstuff, I got fed up and found out how to completely delete a GMail account. I did this few weeks ago.

Fast forward to last night, when my Internet connection flaked out right before I went to bed. I looked at all my disconnected, blank windows, shrugged, and crashed for the night. This morning, everything was better and all my apps set about reconnecting.

Except that Adium, the app I use for instant messaging, was asking me for the GTalk password for Weird, I thought, but I had the password saved in my keychain and resubmitted it. Adium, or more properly GTalk, didn’t like it. I tried a few more times, including resetting my app password (I use two-factor auth). No luck.

Eventually I found the problem. Via this Adium bug report I learned that a GMail account is required to use GTalk. Even if you don’t use (and have never used) your GMail address to login to it, and don’t give people a GMail address to add you as a contact.

So, my choices at this point are:

  1. Sign up again for GMail, continue to have an unused and unwanted email address exposed to the public, miss important messages, and risk security/privacy problems with archiving of stuff I don’t want archived; or,
  2. Set up Jabber/XMPP, which will take a fair amount of messing around (advice NOT wanted, I know what is involved), and which will only let me talk to friends who don’t use GMail/GTalk (a small minority); or,
  3. Not be available on IM.

For now I am going with option 3. If you are used to talking to me via IM at my address, you can now contact me as follows.

IRC: I am Skud on and on some other specialist networks. On Freenode I habitually hang around on #growstuff and intermittently on other channels. Message me any time; if I’m not awake/online I’ll see it when I return.

Email: as ever, or for Growstuff and related work.

Social media: I’m on social media hiatus and won’t be using it to chat at length, but still check mentions/messages semi-regularly.

Text/SMS: If you have my number, you know where to find me.

Voice/video (including phone, Skype, etc): By arrangement. Email me if you want to set something up.

To my good friends who I used to chat to all the time and now won’t see around so much: please let me know if you use Jabber/XMPP and if so what your address is; if you do, then I’ll prioritise getting that set up.

skud: (Default)
This is a crosspost from Infotropism. You can comment here or there.

This is a post I made on Growstuff Talk to propose some initial steps towards interoperability for open food projects. If you have comments, probably best to make them on that post.

I wanted to post about some concepts from my past open data work which have been very much in my mind when working on Growstuff, but which I’m not sure I’ve ever expressed in a way that helps everyone understand their importance.

Just for background: from 2007-2011 I worked on Freebase, a massive general-purpose open data repository which was acquired by Google in 2010 and now forms part of their “Knowledge” area. While working at Google I also worked as a liaison between Google search/knowledge and the Wikimedia Foundation, and presented at a Wikimedia data summit where we proposed the first stages of what would become Wikidata — an entity-based data store for all of Wikimedia’s other projects.

Freebase and Wikidata are part of what is broadly known as the Semantic Web, which has to do with providing data and meaning via web technologies, using common data formats etc.

Read the rest of this entry  )

skud: (Default)
This is a crosspost from Infotropism. You can comment here or there.

A story I got from someone who says she got it from an older Dutch woman. I wouldn’t mention the Dutch woman thing except that this story just seems so Dutch to me. Anyway.

Two frogs fell into a bowl of cream. They swam and swam trying to get out, round and around in the cream, for hours.

Eventually one frog gave up, stopped swimming, and drowned.

The other frog kept swimming, refusing to give up. Finally the frog’s activity, splashing around in the cream, turned it to butter. It became solid in the bowl, and the frog was able to climb out.

The moral, I’m told, is that sometimes if you just keep kicking things will magically solidify under you and you’re can step up out of the trouble and move on. Also, apparently I’m frog #2. Trust me when I say it’s exhausting.

December 2014

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