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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.

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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: skud@infotrope.net, 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 skud@infotrope.net. 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 skud@infotrope.net address, you can now contact me as follows.

IRC: I am Skud on irc.freenode.net 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: skud@infotrope.net as ever, or skud@growstuff.org 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.

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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  )

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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.

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I get a bit of gastric reflux and it’s definitely not my favourite thing. When it flares up, it hurts to eat, especially to swallow. I’m a big fan of actual drugs (which work pretty well for me), but I also find that simple food helps, or at least hurts less: rice, broth, fruit that’s not too acidic, basic sweet biscuits/cookies (I like Arnotts teddybears), etc. I try to eat small portions. Ginger tea also helps.

Tonight I invented (or “unvented” as Elizabeth Zimmermann would have put it) a carrot-ginger risotto that hit all the right spots for me. It goes down easily, it’s just a little bit sweet and salty, it’s got a vegetable in it so it feels more like real food than plain rice would, and the ginger helps it sit more easily.

This isn’t a fully fledged recipe, it’s more of an outline for someone who already knows how to make risotto. If you know how, then you should be able to work from this. If you need more detailed instructions, my version is loosely based on this one.

Anyway.

Saute an onion in a tiny bit of oil — I tried to minimise it because of the reflux — until translucent.

Peel a carrot or two (I used two medium ones) and a good sized knob of ginger and either grate them or mince in a food processor. Chuck these in the pan with the onion, along with (optionally) half a teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin.

Then add a cup or so of arborio rice and do the thing you do with veggie stock until it’s risotto. I also added a whole star anise to simmer along with it (also optional) and pulled it out at the end.

Pinch of salt to taste.

Eat a small bowlful slowly with a spoon. Appreciate being able to swallow without discomfort.

Needless to say, there’s no photo for this one, as it’s a bowlful of orangey slop and really not very photogenic. If you wanted to be fancy, you could sprinkle some coriander leaves, microgreens, or pea shoots on top, or have it as a side dish to some Asian-flavoured protein. Obviously I did not do these things. Chicken might be nice, though.

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I make these pancakes whenever I have guests, and sometimes when I don’t. They’re made from the same starter/sponge as my sourdough bread, and I quite often make them the day before I bake my bread, while the starter is bubbling at room temperature.

pancakes served with banana and maple syrup

These are American style fluffy pancakes, based on various “Yukon gold rush” recipes I found online, where miners supposedly kept their sourdough starter inside their shirts to keep it alive and bubbling in the cold climate. I prefer this style to the thinner crepe-like pancakes that are common in Australia, and I think you will too. They’re easier to flip, for one thing.

The recipe is incredibly simple:

  • 1 cup bubbling sourdough starter or sponge (fed and raised at room temperature, not from the fridge)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tblsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt

Whisk everything together into a sloppy batter. Add a touch more milk if it’s not thin enough to pour from a ladle.

Feed your starter again with 1/2 cup strong baker’s flour and 1/2 cup
filtered water.

Lightly oil a frying pan and heat to medium-hot. You’ll get to know the right temperature on your own stove with a bit of practice.

Pour the batter into the about 1/2 cup at a time to make medium sized pancakes. For me, my soup ladle holds about 3/4 cup so I use that but don’t fill it.

Cook until bubbles rise to the top and form holes that don’t disappear, then flip with a spatula and cook a little longer on the other side.

As they are cooked, put them on a plate, and keep warm in a low oven with a sheet of foil over them. Or serve them as they come out of the pan, of course.

This makes enough to feed about three people normally, or for two to stuff themselves. Serve with whatever you like on top. I’ve got a banana and maple habit lately.

Leftover pancakes keep okay for a couple of days on the fridge, and can be reheated by warming quickly on each side in a hot pan. They’re not as good as fresh, but they’re not bad either, and make for a quick hot breakfast. One batch of pancakes serves me for three days this way, and makes it workable for just me living alone. (Please don’t ask about the time I tried to eat a whole batch in one morning. My stomach still aches at the memory.)

Schedules for making these pancakes

Some people told me they found the schedules in my original bread post useful, so here’s how my schedule looks for bread+pancakes, in winter (i.e. with a coolish house, around 10C most of the time). The trick is to just keep the sponge a little warmer and livelier, and to take out a cupful of sponge and refeed it in the middle of the sponge stage.

Evening, day 1: make sponge, feed starter and put it back in the fridge. Put the sponge somewhere relatively warm, like the living room, to get it bubbling more vigorously.

Morning, day 2: take out a cup of sponge and make pancakes. Top up the sponge with 1/2 cup strong baker’s flour and 1/2 cup water, and continue to keep it somewhere relatively warm.

Evening, day 2: make dough and form loaf. Rise overnight in a cold/unheated room.

Morning, day 3: bake bread.

Or of course there’s the alternate version, aka “I forgot I was meant to be making bread and now I’m almost ready for bed and can’t be bothered” on the evening of day 2. This happens to me more often than I’d like to admit.

Evening, day 1: as above.

Evening, day 2: instead of making the dough, just feed the starter again with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water and go to bed.

Morning, day 3: make pancakes.

Evening, day 3: make dough and form loaf.

Morning, day 4: bake bread.

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I wanted to post a short, simple version of my sourdough bread instructions — no fancy stuff or options, unlike the earlier rather confusing post that I made — so that I can point people at it when I give them some of my starter.

So here goes. How to make a standard sourdough loaf the way I do.

Basic sourdough starter feeding

  1. When you get the sourdough home, put it in a large jar with lid or covering that will let it breath. I like using one of those flip-top jars and removing the rubber ring so it’s not airtight.
  2. Feed it 1/2 cup of strong white bakers flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water. Give it a stir. It should have the approximate consistency of cake batter.
  3. You have two options now, depending on your schedule and how much bread you consume:
    • Leave it 12-24 hours at room temperature, or
    • Leave it for longer (up to a couple of weeks, easily) in the fridge

Making the sponge

  1. Start the following steps about 36 hours before you want your loaf of bread.
  2. Take the starter and pour most of it out of the jar into a large bowl. Don’t scrape the jar or make too much effort to pour everything out — you want some left to keep the starter going.
  3. Add 1/2 cup strong baker’s flour and 1/2 cup filtered water back to the jar, stir, and put it aside until you want to make another loaf (as above – it’s fine on the benchtop for a day, or in the fridge for a week or more).
  4. In the bowl, you should have about 1 cup of starter. It’s not exact, so don’t sweat the details.
  5. Add 1 cup strong baker’s flour and 1 cup filtered water and give it a good stir to incorporate. You’re looking for approximately cake batter consistency. This is the sponge.
  6. Leave the sponge at room temperature for 24 hours, covered with a cloth (I use a clean tea towel).
  7. At the end of this period, it should be bubbly and smell yeasty.

Making the dough and forming the loaf

  1. The next day, make the dough. First add about a teaspoon of salt. Then add strong baker’s flour, starting with about a cup and adding a bit more at a time, mixing with each addition, until you get to the “shaggy dough” stage, which is when it sort of breaks into stringy clumps.
  2. Put some flour on your counter or work surface. I use a generous handful.
  3. While you’re at it, grease and flour a loaf tin. I do this now so I can dump the excess flour out onto the counter with the rest.
  4. Turn the dough out of the bowl, scraping the sides, and make a heap on the counter. Sprinkle a little more flour on top.
  5. Fold and knead for just a few minutes. I usually start by folding and gently shaping it a few times until it forms a cohesive lump, and then gently pushing/kneading it until the dough is nice and smooth and stretchy. It doesn’t need long or energetic kneading like traditional yeast bread does.
  6. Add more flour if it’s sticking to the counter, but try not to let it get too dry.
  7. Form into a loaf shape. I do this by pulling the dough into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of A4 or letter paper, and then folding it in thirds, like how you’d fold a letter to put in an envelope.
  8. Turn this upside down so the join is underneath, and dump it into your loaf pan.
  9. Sprinkle flour on top to make a non-stick surface. I just use a small handful lightly dusted over it.
  10. Cover again with a cloth (I use the same tea towel) and leave for 6-12 hours, depending on room temperature. In warmer weather, you’ll want to leave it a shorter period. You want it to approximately double in size.

Baking

  1. Bake at 220C for 30 minutes.
  2. Turn out of the tin and tap the bottom. If it doesn’t sound hollow, stick it back in the oven for another 5
    minutes.
  3. Cool on a rack. Leave for at least 15 mins before slicing.
a plain loaf of sourdough cooling on a rack

My first sourdough loaf, made with this process just over a year ago.

The hardest thing, early on, is finding your rhythm or schedule. So here are a couple of schedules that work for me.

My winter schedule (~10 hour rise):

Evening, day 1: make sponge, feed starter and put it back in the fridge.

Evening, day 2: make dough and form loaf. Rise overnight in an unheated room, which in my climate means down around 10 degrees C or even lower.

Morning, day 3: bake, and appreciate how it warms up the kitchen and you get a nice hot breakfast.

My summer schedule (~6 hour rise, ):

Morning, day 1: make sponge, feed starter and put it back in the fridge.

Morning, day 2: make dough and form loaf. Rise during the day, keeping an eye on it after 4 hours or so as it can go quite quickly in warm weather.

Afternoon/evening, day 2: bake.

In my climate, I keep an eye on the weather forecast and aim to bake on cooler days (in the 20s celsius) when it’s not torture to run the oven. If it’s hotter than that, I’m more likely to make flatbread or just eat something else.

Some people suggest letting it rise in the fridge overnight if the weather is hot. I’ve tried it and don’t much like it, but you might find it works for you.

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I’m going through a bit of a cash-starved phase at the moment so I’m looking at what I can cook from my pantry, freezer and garden without shopping for groceries.

I thought I’d take a few minutes to write up what’s currently scrawled in green marker across the whiteboard in my kitchen, as I’m quite pleased with how much I think I can manage with what I already have.

Dinners:

  • brown rice gratin with sausage, squash and silverbeet
  • mujaddara served with spicy chutney and yoghurt
  • lentil and sorrel risotto
  • pasta with tuna, tomato, olives, and parsley
  • slow cooked bbq pork with rice

Brunch/lunch/snack/light meals:

  • sauted red beans, sausage, and kale (to eat with with toast)
  • tabbouleh-esque salad with chickpeas
  • hummus
  • potato-and-greens frittata
  • soba noodles with broccoli and peanuts
  • miso soup with shiitakes and greens over black rice

The distinction between dinner vs brunch/lunch/light meal is pretty arbitrary, but this is just how I’d choose to eat those dishes at this time of year. In summer, a substantial salad might be a dinner, but not at the tail end of winter when the nights are still cold.

I figure I’m good for 2 weeks at least, and maybe more, based on cooking something every day or so and having leftovers for the meals in between.

My shopping list, to get me through this menu, reads:

  • celery (to go into home made veg stock from scraps in a bag in my freezer, and also into the lentil risotto, and then to snack on whatever’s left)
  • onions (I have a few but will probably need more)

Everything else is already in the house or garden. I’ve also got a couple of frozen containers of soup and leftovers, and some snackable bits and pieces, in case I don’t feel like cooking. It’ll be interesting to see how tough it is to resist shopping, though. I’m pretty sure I’ll start wishing for more eggs and dairy quite soon, though I don’t strictly need them.

You’ll note there’s a few meat meals listed there. I’m using up the last two packets of pork from my Jonai Farms ethical meat CSA membership, which ended a little while ago. There’s a packet of spicy chorizo sausages which I cooked yesterday and have been chopping up into various dishes, and a chunk of pork shoulder that will be great slow-cooked and served with some leftover chipotle BBQ sauce from my birthday rib extravaganza, that I have frozen in containers.

By the time I’m done with this exercise, I suspect my pantry will be getting close to bare. It’s interesting doing this right now, in late winter/early spring in the southern hemisphere. This time of year, in the northern hemisphere, is Lent, a traditional period of fasting in the Christian calendar. How convenient that Lent just happens to be the time of year when people’s supplies are low, the chickens aren’t laying yet, the livestock were either killed off before the weather got too cold or else are pregnant and not producing milk right now, and basically all you have to live on are greens and root veg from the garden and whatever’s in your pantry.

I’m not abstaining from animal products over these next weeks but I’m certainly going to be using them sparingly. It’s a kind of secular Lent for me, as well as a bit of a pre-emptive spring clean for my pantry, finishing off a lot of half-jars and tail ends of this and that. It actually feels kind of appropriate to the season.

Wish me luck!

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

Lately I’ve been working on how to make groups, events, and projects more inclusive. This goes beyond diversity — having a demographic mix of participants — and gets to the heart of how and why people get involved, or don’t get involved, with things.

As I see it, there are six steps everyone needs to pass through, to get from never having heard of a thing to being deeply involved in it.

pathway to inclusion - see below for transcript and more details

These six steps happen in chronological order, starting from someone who knows nothing about your thing.

Awareness

“I’ve heard of this thing.” Perhaps I’ve seen mention of it on social media, or heard a friend talking about it. This is the first step to becoming involved: I have to be aware of your thing to move on to the following stages.

Understanding

“I understand what this is about.” The next step is for me to understand what your thing is, and what it might be like for me to be involved. Here’s where you get to be descriptive. Anything from your thing’s name, to the information on the website, to the language and visuals you use in your promotional materials can help me understand.

Identification

“I can see myself doing this.” Once I understand what your thing is, I’ll make a decision about whether or not it’s for me. If you want to be inclusive, your job here is to make sure that I can imagine myself as part of your group/event/project, by showing how I could use or benefit from what it offers, or by showing me other people like me who are already involved.

Access

“I can physically, logistically, and financially do this.” Here we’re looking at where and when your thing occurs, how much it costs, how much advance notice is given, physical accessibility (for people with disabilities or other such needs), childcare, transportation, how I would actually sign up for the thing, and how all of these interact with my own needs, schedule, finances, and so on.

Belonging

“I feel like I fit in here.” Assuming I get to this stage and join your thing, will I feel like I belong and am part of it? This is distinct from “identification” because identification is about imagining the future, while belonging is about my experience of the present. Are the organisers and other participants welcoming? Is the space safe? Are activities and facilities designed to support all participants? Am I feeling comfortable and having a good time?

Ownership

“I care enough to take responsibility for this.” If I belong, and have been involved for a while, I may begin to take ownership or responsibility. For instance, I might volunteer my time or skills, serve on the leadership team, or offer to run an activity. People in ownership roles are well placed to make sure that others make it through the inclusion pathway, to belonging and ownership.


If you’re interested in participating in an inclusivity workshop or would like to hire me to help your group, project, or event be more inclusive, get in touch.

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I’ve been making linocuts.

Meet Grace Hopper. She’s a complete badass.

Grace Hopper print by Alex Skud Bayley 2014

(click image for a larger view)

She was 37 years old and working as a mathematics professor when Pearl Harbour happened. She joined the Navy and was set to work on the first ever general-purpose electro-mechanical computer, the Harvard Mark I. She invented the compiler (used to translate computer programs written by humans into ones and zeroes that the computer can understand), created one of the most widely used programming languages of the 20th century, and was the first to use the term “bug” to describe computer errors, after a literal bug was caught in the relays of the machine she was working on.

After WW2 she left the Navy and worked for various tech companies, but kept serving in the Naval Reserve. As was usual, she retired from the Reserves at 60, but she was recalled to active duty by special executive order, and eventually rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. When she retired (again) she kept working as a consultant until the age of 85. She also did this great Letterman interview at the age of 80.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you women can’t computer, or that you’re too old to computer. Grace knows better.

Buy a print

I’m selling these prints as a fundraiser over on Indiegogo, in part to offset this Gittip bullshit and the costs associated with attending a bunch of tech/feminist conferences in the US just recently.

The basic print (black on white) is $40 including international shipping, and there are other options available. If you’d like one you’d better get in quick — there’s only 10 standard prints left (though the other options are still wide open).

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I recently put together this reading list on queer intersectionality for a local LGBTIQ group, as part of thinking about how we can serve a wider community of same-sex attracted and gender diverse folks. I thought it might be useful to share it more widely.

For context, this is a 101 level reading list for people with a bare understanding of the concept of intersectionality. If you’re not familiar with that you might want to read Wikipedia’s article on intersectionality.

Interview with Kimberlé Crenshaw, who named and popularised the concept of intersectionality — I think it’s important that we remember and give credit to Professor Crenshaw and the black movements whose ideas we’re using, which is why I’m including this link first.

Intersectionality draws attention to invisibilities that exist in feminism, in anti-racism, in class politics, so obviously it takes a lot of work to consistently challenge ourselves to be attentive to aspects of power that we don’t ourselves experience.” But, she stresses, this has been the project of black feminism since its very inception: drawing attention to the erasures, to the ways that “women of colour are invisible in plain sight”.

“Within any power system,” she continues, “there is always a moment – and sometimes it lasts a century – of resistance to the implications of that. So we shouldn’t really be surprised about it.”

An excellent article about the New York group Queers for Economic Justice:

“You would never know that poverty or class is a queer issue,” said Amber Hollibaugh, QEJ Executive Director and founding member. She continued: “Founding QEJ was, for many of us that were part of it, a statement of …wanting to try to build something that assumed a different set of priorities [than the mainstream gay equality movement]: that talked about homelessness, that talked about poverty, that talked about race and sexuality and didn’t divide those things as if they were separate identities. And most of us that were founding members couldn’t find that anywhere else.”

An interesting personal reflection on intersectionality by a queer Asian woman in NZ:

On the other side, if I’m having issues in my queer relationship with my white partner the discourse my mum uses is that same-gender relationships just don’t work and aren’t supposed to work. Find a (Chinese) man, get married and have babies like she did. You don’t have to love him to begin with but you will grow to love him. Like my mum did, apparently. It’s like if you’re queer and there’s problems in your relationship it’s because you’re queer and the solution is to be heterosexual. If you’re Chinese and there’s problems with your family it’s because Chinese culture is just more conservative or backward and the solution is to distance yourself away from it or try to assimilate into Pakeha culture. It shouldn’t have to be like this.

An article about intersectionality and climate justice (not very queer-oriented but some interesting stuff to think about):

On a personal level, we have to slow down and educate ourselves so that we can name the toxic systems within which we exist. We have to relearn the real histories of the land, of resistance movements and what it has taken for communities survive. We must also take the time to talk through all of the connections so that we can build a deeper analysis of the crises we face. During this process, it’s important that we commit to the slow time of genuine relationship-building, especially as we learn to walk into communities that we’re not a part of in respectful ways. From there, we create space to truly hear each other’s stories and bring people together in ways that, as Dayaneni says, “we can see ourselves in each other.”

A speech about queerness and disability:

This gathering has been very white and for the most part has neglected issues of race and racism. All of us here in this room today need to listen to queer disabled people of color and their experiences. We need to fit race and racism into the matrix of queerness and disability. I need to ask myself, not only “What does it mean to be a pansexual tranny with a long butch dyke history, a walkie with a disability that I acquired at birth,” but also, “What does it mean to be a white queer crip?”

We haven’t asked enough questions about class, about the experiences of being poor and disabled, of struggling with hunger, homelessness, and a lack of the most basic healthcare. I want to hear from working class folks who learned about disability from bone-breaking work in the factory or mine or sweatshop.

We need more exploration of gender identity and disability. How do the two inform each other? I can feel the sparks fly as disabled trans people are just beginning to find each other. We need to listen more to Deaf culture, to people with psych disabilities, cognitive disability, to young people and old people. We need not to re-create here in this space, in this budding community, the hierarchies that exist in other disability communities, other queer communities.

And finally, Beyond the Queer Alphabet (ebook) — an entire book on the subject of queer intersectionality.

If you’ve got any other recommended reading, I’d appreciate hearing about it.

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So this happened.

I like to think that in another, better, universe, it went like this:

When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of people who matched our expectations about what a “real” person was, but excluded many other real people, with real identities and real names that we didn’t understand.

We apologise unreservedly to those people, who through our actions were marginalised, denied access to services, and whose identities we treated as lesser. We especially apologise to those who were already marginalised, discriminated against, or unsafe, such as queer youth or victims of domestic violence, whose already difficult situations were worsened through our actions. We also apologise specifically to those whose accounts were banned, not only for refusing them access to our services, but for the poor treatment they received from our staff when they sought support.

Everyone is entitled to their own identity, to use the name that they are given or choose to use, without being told that their name is unacceptable. Everyone is entitled to safety online. Everyone is entitled to be themselves, without fear, and without having to contort themselves to meet arbitrary standards.

As of today, all name restrictions on Google+ have been lifted, and you may use your own name, whatever it is, or a chosen nickname or pseudonym to identify yourself on our service. We believe that this is the only just and right thing to do, and that it can only strengthen our community.

As a company, and as individuals within Google, we have done a lot of hard thinking and had a lot of difficult discussions. We realise that we are still learning, and while we appreciate feedback and suggestions in this regard, we have also undertaken to educate ourselves. We are partnering with LGBTQ groups, sexual abuse survivor groups, immigrant groups, and others to provide workshops to our staff to help them better understand the needs of all our users.

We also wish to let you know that we have ensured that no copies of identification documents (such as drivers’ licenses and passports), which were required of users whose names we did not approve, have been kept on our servers. The deletion of these materials has been done in accordance with the highest standards.

If you have any questions about these changes, you may contact our support/PR team at the following address (you do not require a Google account to do so). If you are unhappy, further support can be found through our Google User Ombuds, who advocates on behalf of our users and can assist in resolving any problems.

I’m glad they made the policy change. But I sure would have liked to see some recognition of the harm done, and a clearer demonstration that they don’t think that “real people” and “people who were excluded” are non-intersecting sets.

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

Through May/June I was travelling in the US, to a number of feminist and tech events including WisCon, AdaCamp and Open Source Bridge.

I gave talks, ran unconference sessions, and sat on panels at each event, as well as talking to lots of smart people doing good stuff. In between, I hung out with remote colleagues and met new ones in spaces like San Francisco’s feminist hackerspace Double Union.

Along the way, I made three realisations, all of which are related to community in some way.

1. Community is my career, now

Especially at AdaCamp and OSB, I found myself looking at the schedule and considering which talks and sessions were right for me.

I find I’m no longer interested in most of the tech talks — if I want to learn about a specific technology, I can usually do so more effectively online when I need it. I used to go to those sessions out of a sense of duty, but now I’m out of the tech industry and working for myself, I don’t have to fake it any more. I still go to some tech talks, but usually to see what cool stuff other people are working on, not because it’s particularly relevant to my work.

Then there were the community sessions, ones covering topics like how to create a welcoming environment for newbies to your open source project, moderation strategies for online forums, and distributed agile development. All interesting and worthwhile topics, but ones I’ve been dealing with for years.

Back in 2009, I attended SXSW (and hated it, but that’s another story) and went to a session for first-timers, where someone gave the advice: “Never attend a session whose subject you already know about.” You’ll sit in the audience either bored, or frustrated. Without wanting to denigrate the excellent community sessions at the conferences I went to, I do have to say that a lot of them fell into this category for me. I attended to support my friends who were speaking, and I certainly picked up a few interesting tips, but if my goal was to learn new things then I’m not really sure these sessions were worth my time.

My realisation, over lunch on the first day of OSB (and thanks to Sara Smollett for helping me figure this out), is that I’m a mid-career community organiser. This is why open tech/culture events aren’t working for me — the tech content is no longer particularly useful to me, and the community content tends toward the 101 level.

So, how can I advance my skills and experience as a community organiser? Community management events in the tech field aren’t going to do it. I need to look wider, at fields with more established community theory and practice: social work, activism, politics, organisational behaviour, social psychology, just to name a few. So this is what I’m doing now: trying to learn and level up my community skills by reading and studying in these areas. Next year, I hope I’ll find a way to get to conferences that cover those areas in depth.

2. Community organiser, not community manager

The second realisation I had is around terminology.

Management is a business term. Organizing is a political one. I’m more interested in community organizing — helping people come together to achieve social change — than in managing people for business purposes.

I came to this realisation through my efforts to study things from outside the online/tech community management field. I’m re-reading Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, which talks about what makes effective neighbourhoods. Jacobs was instrumental in organising her neighbourhood community to resist having a freeway put through it in the 1950s. Reading about her on Wikipedia I found that she appreciated the work of Saul Alinksky, considered to be the founder of modern community organizing.

That’s when it clicked for me. Community organising is a practice with a long and successful history of working for social and political change, and community organisers aren’t afraid to upset those in power to make a better world. That’s what I want to be doing.

So, from now on I am using the term “community organiser” rather than “community manager” about my own work. Reframing it this way has given me a new perspective and momentum. I have a lot to learn, but at least I’m clear on what direction I’m heading in.

3. I’m still not an open source person

Back in 2011 I wrote Why I’m not an open source person any more, and reading back over it, it still holds true… mostly.

At AdaCamp someone requested an “introduction to open source” session in the 101 timeslots, and I since I wasn’t interested in most of the of the other 101 sessions and knew the subject well, I stepped up to run it. I talked about licensing, culture, and software development practices. I hope it was useful to the people who attended, but I felt unsatisfied by it. It’s not what I wanted to be doing.

The next day, someone asked me if I would help them promote their open source outreach program in Australia. I said, regretfully, that I wasn’t up for that. Open source isn’t my thing any more, and I don’t have the enthusiasm to do a good job of it. She pushed me, and I pushed back, and I came away really frustrated — partly that I hadn’t been listened to, but also partly because I had had trouble expressing my own boundaries and needs, because I didn’t really understand them myself.

Well, reframing my community work as political has helped me figure that out. For me, open source is a tool for social change. Specifically, I’m interested in social justice and sustainability, and I use open source toward those ends.

If someone asks me to do something simply “because it’s open source” (or open data, or open access, or whatever other kind of open stuff), I’m not going to be into that. I’ll need a lot of convincing that open source is a worthwhile end goal in its own right.

If someone asks me to do something open-source related that’s for another social or political goal that I support (say, government transparency, or individual privacy) then I’ll wish them well and help spread the word, but it’s not where my focus is.

I use open source and other open-licensed stuff as a tool for social change, especially in the areas of social justice and sustainability. But it’s just one part of my toolkit. I’m not an open source person any more. I’m a community organiser who uses open source.

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

I finally got around to uploading the second set of slides from my talks at Open Source Bridge, so here they are.

First up, Knitting for Programmers teaches you how to knit something more interesting than a rectangle, using geometry and common design patterns.

You can also view on Speakerdeck or download the PDF.

Secondly, Feminist Point of View: A Geek Feminist Retrospective was a review of the 6 years of the Geek Feminism wiki and blog, and the lessons we’ve learned from doing this.

View on Speakerdeck, download the PDF, or view the interactive HTML slides (which contain all the links to related content, so I recommend you do that if you want to read more.)

Finally, I also ran an unconference session on “Advanced” community management (link leads to wiki notes from the session), where we discussed how to level-up our skills in community management and related fields, beyond the 101 level that’s often discussed at tech events like OSB.


Open Source Bridge is a great event, focusing on “open source citizenship”, and has a fantastic mix of talks and activities beyond what you normally find at a tech conference. Both the organising team and speaker roster are pretty diverse, and they go out of their way to make the event accessible and inclusive.

Coral Sheldon-Hess wrote a great post on conference inclusiveness which really shows how effective events like this can be. Julie Pagano’s conference recap also gives a good sense of the event, and reviews some of the other talks given there.

If you’re able to get to Portland next year, I highly recommend attending.

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

I emerged from WisCon last weekend invigorated and inspired (and, okay, a bit sleep deprived). I have a whole lot of new things I want to work on, in addition to all the things I’m already doing, and I thought I might just take the time to write down what my current projects are, since I realised that even I don’t have a clear idea of them all, let alone making them clear to other people.

And so:

  • Growstuff – founder and tech lead on this open source/open data project for people who grow their own food.
    • Working on a combination of features and developer experience (i.e. making it nicer/easier for developers to contribute)
    • We have/had a side-project app, Pear, for arranging pair programming sessions across different timezones, but it wasn’t entirely working out for us, so I’m not sure what its future is; still, I think it was a good concept and I’m hoping we can find the time/inspiration to make it more useful.
    • By the way, Growstuff is having a hack night in San Francisco on the 18th of June.
  • 3000 Acres – tech lead for this non-profit which is helping people in Melbourne start community gardens on vacant land
    • I’ve mostly been working on features but now I’m shifting my efforts more toward…
    • … nurturing our nascent volunteer tech community, documenting our code and processes, etc, so that the project can be maintained beyond the initial government grant funding.
    • Soon, I hope this platform will be rolling out to other Australian cities and that I can be involved with that.
  • I do some tech work for Appropedia, a wiki of sustainable solutions to the world’s problems. It’s Semantic Mediawiki and my work is a mix of sysadmin, wiki admin, and semantic ontology stuff.
  • I just volunteered to help WisCon with their open source app for managing conventions; WisCon’s programming is democratic and mostly panel-based, and their code is used by at least one other SFF convention, but if improved could be used by more cons and attract more developers. I’m particularly interested in developer experience (DX), best practices for open source projects, and making it easier for people to contribute. Not sure where this will lead but I have a lot of ideas buzzing, and I’m looking forward to talking more with them about it.
  • As an offshoot of working on various non-profit tech projects, I wrote I want to help!, a set of questionaires to help techies talk to non-profits or other such orgs about their tech needs, rather than just swanning in with an “I know what you need!” attitude (something I struggle with myself).
  • I founded and am still actively involved in the Geek Feminism wiki and blog, although I have stepped down from some of my administrative duties there (and I’m really glad we are finding more sustainable/higher-bus-number ways of admining those resources/communities!).
    • One resource I’m working on at present (we started the draft at WisCon) is a document of resources for therapists, aka a FAQ/101 document on misogyny in tech/geek circles that you can give to your therapist to bring them up to speed, because we’re all sick of explaining this stuff over and over again. We also hope to make a list of tech-misogyny-aware therapists so that those of us facing harassment/etc can find support without having to do a heap of education first.
    • I am co-organising a gathering of Australian feminists (especially those within a degree or two of separation from Geek Feminism) to be held later this year. I’m hoping this weekend-long event will be an incubator for more geeky feminist stuff in Australia.
  • I co-founded a women’s tech meetup group in Melbourne called the Disreputable Order of Hopperites. It’s on hiatus as all the organisers moved away, but I don’t consider it dead and am wondering how/whether to revive it, either locally or as a concept that can be spread to other geographical areas. I really loved the format (women + guests, short talks on technical subjects, grassroots/non-commercial, and aimed at a variety of skill levels) and wish there were more of that around.
  • In collaboration with a handful of artists and beta-readers, I’m working on a zine about genderqueer/non-binary genders/etc, probably about 40 pages long, full of 101-level information and resources for people who are exploring non-binary gender or for their friends/family/associates/allies to understand them better.
  • I am also working on a zine about sandwiches, which is actually a stealth manifesto about home cooking. It’s aimed at people who are daunted and frustrated by trying to learn to cook and by “easy”/”beginner” cookbooks that assume too much. Making sandwiches is pretty un-daunting, though, and you can learn an awful lot by doing it, if you just realise that even things as basic as going to the supermarket, estimating quantities, choosing flavours you enjoy, and knowing what’s in your fridge/pantry are skills that you can learn and improve.
  • I run a monthly craft night at my house. This is my first step in trying to open my home up to a variety of community activities/gatherings. I have the space for it and love hosting, so I want more of this. (I also host ad-hoc food preservation days, and hope to do more of that.)
  • I’m preparing two talks for Open Source Bridge this year:
    • a history of Geek Feminism and lessons learned so far; as part of this I have been preparing the Geek Feminism Family Tree documenting which geeky/feminist/women-in-blah orgs influenced which others, and so on.
    • “knitting for programmers” — teaching design patterns in knitting so that if you know the basic stitches, you can knit any garment
  • I co-created and maintain Written? Kitten!, a writing productivity tool used by about 30,000 writers every month (and more around november during NaNoWriMo). You write 100 words, you get rewarded by a cute fuzzy kitten (or puppy or bunny or whatever). Surprisingly, and yet unsurprisingly, popular!
  • A few months ago, I taught at the first iteration of the Fitzroy Institute of Getting Shit Done, a bootcamp style event for people who want to learn how to, well, do what it says on the tin. I was their “technology expert” (I feel funny saying that, but probably shouldn’t) and taught a mostly non-technical class about how to communicate about technical ideas, choose tech platforms/products, manage tech projects, and spread their ideas through openness (licensing, APIs, etc). I really want to teach this, or something like it, again — especially to social enterprises, non-profits, and others doing Good Things.

I think that’s most of what I’ve been up to this year. No wonder I feel busy.

Many/most of these projects are open/community-based and welcome volunteers — if you’re interested, drop me a line.

Or, you can help support my work through Gittip. I find it hard to ask for money this way, but your support really does make a difference to my ability to do non-commercial/open/community-based stuff, so if you value my work please consider tossing a few bucks my way. I am no longer using Gittip after this bullshit by its founder.

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I'm off to the US tomorrow. My itinerary is roughly:

May 16-18: San Francisco (jetlagged, low-key)
May 19-June 5: Madison (including WisCon)
June 6-19: San Francisco again
June 20-29: Portland (AdaCamp and Open Source Bridge)

If anyone would like to catch up while I'm there please let me know! Obviously I'll see a bunch of you at the various conferences and things, but apart from that, yeah. Especially in Madison and SF; PDX is likely to be booked pretty tightly already as I'm basically just there for the confs.

There will be some Growstuff... stuff... while I'm there. Haven't figured out exact details yet but if you are a Growstuff person and would like to be kept in the loop lmk. (Likely: a meal or other social gathering around WisCon, and a more technical hack night or something in SF. Would also be interested in visiting any community gardens or connecting with other projects along those lines!)
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I know there's some crossover between people involved in Growstuff and those attending WisCon at the end of the month.

If you're in that crossover group, can you raise your hand? I would love to catch up with you when I'm there. And if there are enough of us, maybe we could arrange an informal gathering at some point? Maybe a group meal?

October 2014

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