[opensource] Women in Software: Open Source, Cold Shoulder

Isaac Jones ijones at syntaxpolice.org
Tue Jan 18 01:24:24 EST 2005

I don't know if it's just me, but I only just received this email...

"B A Bair" <bbair at cse.ohio-state.edu> writes:

> Our aim is not to complain yet again about gender imbalance in
> computing. 

I sure would like to read something about what your typical
open-source hacker can do to make things better.  "Don't be a jerk" is
a good starting place I guess.

> Instead, we believe that the gender skew in FLOSS is the most
> visible symptom of a fundamental unfriendliness in that community. 

I think this is a very interesting correlation.  There's a group
called "debian-women" which is, from what I hear, a pretty good place
to ask general questions about Debian without getting flamed.  Debian
is a particularly flameful organization.  Here's one of my all-time
favorite flames (names removed to protect the guilty):

>> I have nothing against flamewars, have all of them you want, because you 
>> are right, one man's flamewar is another's rational discussion.  Just 
>> don't try to pretend that they don't exist.
> They exist only in your mind. You sound paranoid-delusional to
> me. Strangely enough, around here we *don't* all mindlessly flame each
> other all the time. People like that rapidly burn out and go away.
> People who spend all their time in hand-wringing about how everybody
> is mindlessly flaming each other all the time, unfortunately only burn
> out and go away slowly; if we could get rid of these impediments to
> useful communication faster then we'd get things done a bit more
> smoothly. But they're still self-destructive and go away with time.

Yes, that's someone calling someone else "paranoid-delusional" because
he thinks that there are flamewars on the debian-devel mailing list.

I'm having trouble following the quotes becuase they aren't rendered
correctly for me, but:

> Twenty years later, FLOSS has become a haven for the antisocial
> singular-interest geek: a club where they are safe from the jeers of
> high school jocks and the pity of college peers who actually have
> something to do on Friday nights. Challenges to this culture are
> often taken very personally;

um. why in the world would anyone take something like that personally.
I mean... it's not as though the author just insulted us personally or

> anyone who points out that it’s an unwelcoming environment for
> most people (male as well as female)

I see a bit of a contradiction here.  A "haven" is a safe place, but
the open source world is anything but safe.  You have to have a really
thick skin to get along, as the author seems to be pointing out.

> LinuxChix is just one example of a community formed by and for women 

Debian-women is another one:


> We certainly aren’t welcome at Slashdot.” 

Slashdot is not representative of the free software "community".



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