tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Writing this down mostly because it took me a long time to find all these links...

Zinnia Jones is a popular Internet commentator who was mentioned lately due to her past misgendering of Chelsea Manning (despite having said the two of them were online "friends").

Here's a screenshot from reddit of rmuser (Zinnia Jones' Reddit username -- the two names are already publicly linked, by the way) using the phrase "outright denial of transphobia". The deleted comments make it hard to tell what she's talking about, but she is referring to this thread on SRSGSM. The "outright denial of transphobia" she is referring to amounts to a trans person of color pointing out that "die cis scum" is a slogan for white trans people. So according to her, it's "outright denial of transphobia" for a trans person who isn't white to speak at all.

SRSGSM, by the way, is a subreddit that was started as an offshoot of ShitRedditSays (SRS). ShitRedditSays started out as a way to make fun of the people in Reddit's main demographic (white cis heterosexual men in their twenties who want only two things out of life: legalized pot, and a way to rationalize raping 13-year-old girls), but it eventually got to be sort of an ableist and transphobic trainwreck itself. In the meantime, people in gender and sexual minorities who were also in the SRS community (the similarity to the acronym for "sex reassignment surgery" is accidental) started SRSGSM specifically to have a more progressive space for discussion than the main LGBT subreddit (/r/lgbt, of which rmuser is one of the moderators).

rmuser and SilentAgony (SilentAgony is a co-moderator of /r/lgbt as well as being rmuser's significant other) were banned from SRSGSM for being racist on this thread; purely in retaliation for that, they banned Erika_Mustermann (one of the mods of SRSGSM) from /r/lgbt.

Here's the entire thread that the screenshot is from.

This may seem like petty drama, not to mention being oldmeme, to people who make good life decisions and therefore have never read Reddit. I think it matters because Jones (and the brand of anti-intersectional white trans feminism she represents) still has plenty of Internet popularity and she is currently denying ever having said the things she said above. (Which also means she hasn't apologized for saying them or indicated that she's learned something in the past year since making those comments, since you can't apologize for something you never said!)

Also, for a bit more context: I'm white, and I thought the "die cis scum" slogan was great at first. I thought that it was perfectly okay for trans people to express anger about transphobic violence, given that in practice, it's cis people who kill trans people, not the other way around. Talking about killing people, especially when it's people in a powerful group and not specific ones, is not as bad as killing people; I hope we can all agree on that. But thanks to the thread on SRSGSM, I realized that I was wrong -- because of my privilege, I was overlooking the fact that viewing cis/trans as the only or main axis of oppression along which one is oppressed is a luxury that only white people have. The slogan implicitly denies how violence against trans people affects trans women and trans people of color disproportionately. It posits affluent white trans men like me as being "on the same side" as trans women of color living in poverty, when, in fact, my good fortune is at their expense even though we're both trans. Once I read that discussion, I understood this. I let go of a meme I considered useful because I saw that it was racist and I hadn't examined my privilege. That really wasn't so hard for me, yet some white trans people are still hanging onto it.

Edit: On Twitter, [twitter.com profile] LoriAdorable pointed out that Jones also misgendered [tumblr.com profile] jobhaver, a trans woman who does sex work, repeatedly because (apparently) the existence of sex workers makes her uncomfortable: 1, 2, 3. Since she continued misgendering [tumblr.com profile] jobhaver after being asked to stop, it does appear that Jones uses misgendering as a punishment for disagreeing with her.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Well, Jesus was a homeless lad
With an unwed mother and an absent dad
And I really don't think he would have gotten that far
If Newt, Pat and Jesse had followed that star
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

When Jesus taught the people he
Would never charge a tuition fee
He just took some fishes and some bread
And made up free school lunches instead
So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

He healed the blind and made them see
He brought the lame folks to their feet
Rich and poor, any time, anywhere
Just pioneering that free health care
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Jesus hung with a low-life crowd
But those working stiffs sure did him proud
Some were murderers, thieves and whores
But at least they didn't do it as legislators
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Jesus lived in troubled times
the religious right was on the rise
Oh what could have saved him from his terrible fate?
Separation of church and state.
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Sometimes I fall into deep despair
When I hear those hypocrites on the air
But every Sunday gives me hope
When pastor, deacon, priest, and pope
Are all singing out their praises to
Some longhaired radical socialist Jew.

They're all singing out their praises to....
Some longhaired radical socialist Jew.

-- Hugh Blumenfeld

tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Cross-posted to geekfeminism.org

This is an expanded version of a comment I wrote to a woman who doesn't work in software and was wondering what was wrong with using "he" as a default pronoun to refer to a programmer whose identity is unknown, since after all, most programmers are male.

Okay, suppose I was a woman, and somebody said this to me. The 'he' would be one more tiny reminder, to me, that everyone in my field assumes that people like me don't do computer science. That would make me feel just a tiny bit more discouraged and, maybe, eventually I would look for a different field, one where I don't have to prove I belong.

So when somebody makes this choice -- "most programmers are male, so I'll use 'he'" -- their language ceases to just describe reality. It creates reality, by reminding me that I don't belong. The 'he' is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm not saying that hypothetical female me, or any woman, would change careers over one dodgy pronoun. It's the cumulative effect of many microaggressions that has a disparate impact on women in a male-dominated field.

In software, we literally use programming languages to make things happen, so I am constantly disappointed when other people in my field fail to understand how their language doesn't just describe reality, but also constructs it. In general, the structure of the English language (and other natural languages in which "he" is often used to refer to a generic person) creates a reality in which people are men, and men are people. A man can appear wherever a person is expected, but a woman cannot appear wherever a generic person is expected; women are second-class. Just as if a particular programming language is too awkward to write code in, we can fork it and modify its syntax and semantics, or even create a new language, we do not have to accept this aspect of English. We can choose to use language in a way that reflects what we believe, instead of using it to uphold traditions we find repugnant.

A related example is when somebody uses "guys" to refer to a group of programmers: either in the second person ("hi guys, I have a question") or the third ("oh, the compiler guys at Apple will fix that"). I think this usage implies even more strongly that women ought to be glad to be misgendered, since using "ladies" to address a mixed group would always seem bizarre and, in some circles, would be taken as very insulting.

It costs nothing to say "folks", "y'all", "engineers", or "team" instead of guys. And yet, some people vociferously defend their usage of "guys" in this manner. The benefits of using a gender-neutral collective noun are, through ripple effects, potentially huge. Every time a woman or genderqueer person (especially one who's just starting out) hears someone acknowledge that they know that not all programmers are guys, it's a microprogression: a tiny bit of encouragement. I can't think of what the benefits of continuing to use guys might be, unless you think it's beneficial to continue driving women out of your field.

Margaret Burnett once described what it's like to be a woman studying computer science something like this: "Imagine you walk into a classroom and everybody else is three and a half feet tall. You're the only one who's six feet tall. Would you feel like you ought to be there?" Using "he" or "guys" to refer to programmers of unknown gender creates that same kind of space online -- a space where everybody else is three and a half feet tall and you're not, and you're suddenly reminded of that. It takes a place that was inclusive and -- for no particularly good reason -- makes some people uncomfortable just being there at all.

Especially when talking in a public forum online, you usually don't know who your entire audience is, and you usually don't know if -- at this specific moment -- you could be the difference between reminding someone of the extra work they have to do (just because of their gender) to prove that they're accepted and respected as a programmer, and reminding them that they are just as likely to be a good programmer as anyone else is.
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
A comment on [blogspot.com profile] lambdamaphone's post about obstacles to learning typed functional programming, in which I attempt to dissect the antipathy that some programmers have towards math, encumbered by as little evidence as possible. I wanted to preserve it someplace.
Rank speculation: A lot of people have traumatic experiences associated with math, because math is frequently taught in elementary school (computer science rarely is). In particular, math teachers at that level are usually poorly trained (due to the structural disincentives for people with math education to enter K-12 teaching) and/or lack enthusiasm for the subject.

Moreover, at that time in a person's schooling, it's common for a student to be shamed (publicly or privately) and told they're "not good at math". Because socially, math isn't considered a necessary skill (unlike reading), it's easy for a student to deal with this kind of treatment through avoidance rather than mastery. This is completely understandable for a child who has never been told why math is worth doing and has only been taught that it's a tool that will be used to humiliate them and demonstrate their inadequacy, by the way.

So when many adults -- even adults who have enough analytical reasoning ability to be programmers -- hear the word "math", they think back to those experiences, to the time when they were told "you're no good at this", and they freeze up, or else feel the need to prove why math is some useless ivory-tower theory garbage, because of their own feelings of insecurity to do with the disservice that their school system did them.

This is rank speculation because I didn't go to school until college, but I did tutor high school dropouts for a brief period of time, and over and over I'd run into a student who kept saying "I'm not good at math" even though I was there to help them be better at it.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Edit: I've reached my goal of donations from 30 people, but don't let that stop you :-D

I had some grand plans to write blog posts as part of encouraging folks to donate, but over the weekend I caught a case of the creeping crud, and other stuff happened. Even so, at this point 22 people have donated, which means I just need 8 six five three more people one more person to donate by 23:59 PM Pacific time on December 18 in order to say that I achieved my goal of getting 30 people to donate to the Ada Initiative by my birthday!

In lieu of a longer post, here's a short one that connects two of the topics I mentioned earlier.

I'm male, obviously, so you might think I wouldn't care on a personal level whether or not the open-source community is 2% women (as the best estimates currently place it) or 50%. Sure, I used to be perceived as female, and for obvious reasons, that made it less comfortable for me to study computer science and to participate in open-source projects than it would have been if I'd been recognized as male all along. But, you might think, everything's okay now, right? I might still want the scene to be safer for women out of some abstract moral obligation, but it certainly wouldn't bother me on a personal level to not see any women in the room.

You would be wrong if you thought that, because when I'm at work or at a conference and notice that the people doing work on my level are all men, or almost all men, I wonder why. I wonder what else is going on, what I may not have noticed yet that is happening to drive women away. I wonder what I'm being complicit with without even knowing it. Perhaps more than any of those things, I notice the tone of conversations (both work-related and not) and how, in a strongly male-dominated environment, the tone reflects the lack of gender balance. No, I don't mean that guys at software companies are putting up Playboy calendars and sitting around scratching their crotches all day... not usually, anyhow. I'm referring to more subtle things, like whether a project meeting resembles a group of people cooperating towards a shared goal, or whether it looks more like a contest to see who can display the most knowledge and prove himself the winner. And I'm also referring to whether, during lunches or happy hours, people on a team are capable of talking about anything at all with each other besides just work.

It's not that I think women are intrinsically non-competitive or that they're less likely to be singularly obsessed with work. I do think that given the ways women and men are rewarded and punished for certain behaviors, women in tech are more likely to have interests outside tech and less likely to prioritize displaying how much they know ahead of getting a job done.

I find it depressing and toxic when the only people I work with are men. And I find that to be a distraction from getting my job done. Some people might see it as a distraction when I bring up sexism in my workplace -- for me, it's just something I'm doing in the hopes of creating an environment where I can do my job better, like getting an ergonomic keyboard or sitting near a window. It's not that women's place in tech is just to make guys like me happier, of course. Rather, gender ratios are something that can be measured and that are quite likely to be one proxy for a workplace that's functioning well. A company whose hiring process systematically excludes women is likely to be one whose hiring processes are broken in many other ways as well, and more broadly, that has a culture that's hurting productivity in more ways than just gender imbalance. (Gender imbalance hurts a project or company because it means that people who could contribute more are being pushed out in favor of people who can't contribute as much, just because they're the wrong gender -- and gender is a trait that's irrelevant to performance as a programmer.)

Nothing is going to change without concerted effort, because many men feel they benefit from a professional culture where they don't have to work as hard because they don't have to compete with women. And as I wrote before, one of the groups that's most likely to be remembered as having had an effect is the Ada Initiative.

Thanks again to the people who have donated so far:
  1. [twitter.com profile] Angry_Lawyer
  2. [twitter.com profile] josephcorcoran
  3. [twitter.com profile] ffee_machine
  4. [twitter.com profile] ArdaTisya
  5. [twitter.com profile] nerdonica
  6. [twitter.com profile] chrisleague
  7. [personal profile] cynthia1960
  8. [personal profile] nou
  9. [personal profile] substitute
  10. +n tung (gatoatigrado)
  11. [personal profile] miang
  12. [livejournal.com profile] anemone
  13. Eugene Kirpichov
  14. [twitter.com profile] scouttle
  15. [twitter.com profile] sixty4k
  16. [twitter.com profile] atombeast
  17. Eli Lebow
  18. [twitter.com profile] etrolleybus
  19. [twitter.com profile] aeolianharp
  20. Summer and Carl
  21. [twitter.com profile] acfoltzer
  22. [personal profile] nentuaby
  23. [twitter.com profile] sebfisch
  24. [twitter.com profile] Rohboto
  25. [personal profile] flippac
  26. [twitter.com profile] kowey
  27. [personal profile] gfish
  28. [profile] gwillen
  29. [twitter.com profile] ImreFitos
  30. [personal profile] pseudomonas
  31. [personal profile] yam
  32. [twitter.com profile] PerceptibleBlue
  33. [personal profile] callmesquinky
  34. [livejournal.com profile] rjmccall
  35. [twitter.com profile] musingvirtual
  36. [personal profile] karlht
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Reposting what I posted on Facebook and G+:

Reminder: for my 33rd birthday, I'm trying to raise funds for the Ada Initiative from 30 people. So far, 1213 (awesome) people have donated. (See my previous birthday wish post for the list of people.) I only have a week left till my birthday, so please don't hesitate!

On the off chance that you missed it, the Ada Initiative works to make it possible for women to contribute to open-source software and to free culture initiatives (like Wikipedia) of all kinds. In a very short period of time, their work has been critical in encouraging more technical conferences to have meaningful codes of conduct, which can be the difference between women realistically expecting that they will be harassed just for existing at any technical conference they attend, and harassment no longer being the norm. They also organize hands-on sessions to help women strategize about handling impostor syndrome, and help companies that want to hire women but don't know how. Especially if you are privileged enough to work in the tech industry, and if you recognize that part of your good fortune arises not from your own merit but from the unearned advantages that have accrued to you socially (such as male privilege, white privilege, cis privilege, heterosexual privilege, abled privilege, or all of the above), consider giving something back to help more people live the life you live. And if you do, let me know so I can thank you!

I intended to write an interesting TAI-related blog post every day until I reached my goal of 30 people donating, but you know what intentions are worth. Still, if I get to it this weekend, expect to see posts about some of the following:
  1. Technical confidence, overconfidence, and codes of conduct
  2. What I didn't say (at times when I've been told things like "your views are too aggressive" and "you're making people uncomfortable)
  3. Microaggressions at the Mozilla Summit
  4. Having to earn the right to criticize
  5. Why having every professional space be male-dominated hurts me, and why I'm probably not the only man who feels that way
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
If one wishes to promote the life of language, one must promote the life of the community---a discipline many times more trying, difficult, and long than that of linguistics, but having at least the virtue of hopefulness. It escapes the despair always implicit in specializations: the cultivation of discrete parts without respect or responsibility for the whole.

-- Wendell Berry, "Standing By Words"

Programmers, of all people, ought to understand the power of language. The desktop, laptop or mobile computer you are using to read this blog post would be useless without software, which -- uniquely among the various types of things engineers build -- is constructed solely from language. The magical thing about programming, the thing that drew me to it 18 years ago, is that it turns ideas into reality.

Yet a lot of programmers seem to have a selective lack of understanding of how ideas, as expressed through language (particularly gendered language), construct reality. I find that somewhat curious, given how much time programmers can spend arguing over whether a certain programming language should use a semicolon or a comma for a particular language construct.

When the news about the libuv gendered pronouns patch dispute broke last week, I was going to write a blog post about it. It was going to be a lengthy one, as is my style. But because reasons, I kept putting off actually writing that post. I also avoided reading others' posts about it, because I had some specific things in mind to say and I didn't want to confuse myself.

Today, though, I read Bryan Cantrill's post "The Power of a Pronoun". Bryan is the VP of Engineering at Joyent, the company that sponsors libuv. As Bryan points out, Ben Noordhuis -- the libuv contributor who reverted the patch -- was a volunteer, and thus can't be fired. (At least not straightforwardly.) And, in fact, Ben ended up leaving the project voluntarily after all of this went down. But, Bryan says

But while Isaac is a Joyent employee, Ben is not—and if he had been, he wouldn't be as of this morning: to reject a pull request that eliminates a gendered pronoun on the principle that pronouns should in fact be gendered would constitute a fireable offense for me and for Joyent. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous (absurd, perhaps) to fire someone over a pronoun -- but to characterize it that way would be a gross oversimplification: it's not the use of the gendered pronoun that's at issue (that's just sloppy), but rather the insistence that pronouns should in fact be gendered. To me, that insistence can only come from one place: that gender—specifically, masculinity—is inextricably linked to software, and that's not an attitude that Joyent tolerates. This isn't merely a legalistic concern (though that too, certainly), but also a technical one: we believe that empathy is a core engineering value—and that an engineer that has so little empathy as to not understand why the use of gendered pronouns is a concern almost certainly makes poor technical decisions as well.
In this post, Bryan Cantrill shows he understands something that's woven into the fabric of daily life for many of us: the little things matter, and as I've written before, the little offenses lay the groundwork for the big ones. (Thanks to Valerie Aurora and Leigh Honeywell for their insights in the posts that my own blog posts just elaborate on.) Assuming that Bryan's attitude displayed here is consistent and is part of the culture at Joyent, that means Joyent is a company I would be happy to work at someday.

Contrast this with my most recent former employer, Mozilla. While there are many individuals at Mozilla I could name who share a commitment to inclusion, I'm sorry to say that the company as a whole lacks any such commitment -- and I mean a commitment that is expressed through actions and not just aspirations. I wrote about one such example at great length. But a more recent one happened after I told one of the other members of the Rust team that I was considering leaving Mozilla.

I asked this person (who will remain nameless, since it isn't my intent here to single out individuals or to invite accusations that I'm starting a witch hunt, rallying a pitchfork-wielding feminist mob, or any of the hyperbolic cliches that people terrified of losing privilege use to shame people like me into silence) if there was anything he thought I should know before making up my mind over whether to accept my offer from another company. We spent some time first talking about issues that were (at least superficially) unrelated to the topic of this post. But then he told me that he thought I should know that other people on the team were "uncomfortable" with my "offputting" views about gender. He said that everybody on the team agreed with my views on feminism, it was just that some of them disagreed with how I expressed them. (This is a common derailing tactic.) I can't know whether he was speaking only for himself or whether several other people on the team truly do agree with him, since he didn't name any of the other people who he was citing to back up this statement. In any case, the sole concrete example that my now-former colleague gave of just what was "off-putting" about my views was that several times, I had asked people on the #rust IRC channel not to use "guys" to refer to the members of the channel collectively (as in, "Hey, guys, I have a question..."), since there are people of various genders who spend time on the IRC channel. He said that he felt this was hurting the community because it made people "uncomfortable".

This, by the way, happened not long after Lindsey Kuper, a long-time Rust contributor, wrote about her experience with harassment on #rust, as well as another woman who is a regular in #rust reported that she had received a sexual advance via private /msg from someone who was, presumably, scrolling through the list of users in #rust and looking for the first female-coded name to target for harassment. And so it was clear to me that when my former colleague said he was worried that asking people to use inclusive language would make them "uncomfortable", he was not speaking out of concern for the comfort of either Lindsey, or the woman who another #rust member hit on via private message, or for any other women who contribute to Rust, or for any women who might want to. Rather, he was speaking out of concern for the comfort of people who have male privilege and are so very sensitive about it that a request to think about how other people feel about the language they use would affect their desire to use a programming language.

On the one hand, Mozilla's stated mission is to "keep the Internet alive and accessible, so people worldwide can be informed contributors and creators of the Web". On the other, if we look at actions and not at aspirations, Mozilla's enforcement -- and lack of enforcement -- regarding appropriate professional conduct seems tailor-made for protecting wealth and privilege, for ensuring that even if anyone can contribute to the Web, a privileged few (those who are mostly white, mostly North American and Western European, mostly male, and mostly heterosexual) will retain control over it. I left. I couldn't manage the cognitive dissonance anymore.

In the world of open-source companies, are more of them like Joyent -- asserting empathy as a core value -- or are more of them like Mozilla -- too concerned with privileged programmers' comfort to carry out justice? (Note that if you're too afraid to ask for non-sexist conduct because of who you are afraid you'll alienate, you are implicitly saying that you believe your project cannot survive without the contributions of sexist and willfully ignorant men.) I really don't know the answer. But I do know that empathy won't spread by itself, and that social change takes sustained and diligent effort.

So, for a third time: it's my 33rd birthday in twelve days. If you have more than $1 to spare, you can make it a good one by donating to the Ada Initiative. I already wrote about why I think TAI has had an effect and will continue to have one -- with your support. You can join the ranks of those who have donated so far if you just let me know!

See a more recent post for the list of awesome folks who have donated so far.

Remembering

Dec. 6th, 2013 03:16 pm
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
In lieu of a longer post towards my birthday wish for donations to the Ada Initiative, I'll quote Leigh Honeywell on the 24th anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre:
While Montreal stands out in our timeline as one of the few acts of outright violence documented there, we must remember that the “tits or GTFO”s of the world exist on a spectrum of micro- and macro-aggressions, oppression, and violence that we must be vigilant for in our communities, online and offline.
Every active refusal to use language that includes women; every rape apologist who continues to be a respected leader in the open-source community; every time that men terrorize a company into firing a woman for protesting sexist conduct makes it harder for women to feel safe working in technology, in a way that is more complicated but no less real than the way in which a man with a gun did so in 1989 in Montreal. Every one of these instances is about men defending their turf and protecting the high status of their field from women whose presence might make it less comfortable and lucrative for gender-normative men with traditional attitudes about gender roles.

If you want to help make technology a safer industry to work in for everyone who isn't a white heterosexual abled cis man, then please consider making a donation to the Ada Initiative and letting me know that you did so!
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (computers)
Edit: I've reached my goal of donations from 30 people, but don't let that stop you :-D

For the second year in a row, I'm fundraising for the Ada Initiative (TAI) for my birthday. I'll be 0x21 years old on December 18 (that's 33 in base ten, but who's counting?) If you would like to celebrate with me, please make a donation and let me know. Since I'm turning 33, I suggest a donation of $33 if you can afford it -- but seriously, any amount matters, even $1.

My post from last year about why I support TAI still applies. The events of the past year have just strengthened that conviction. From the harassment and firing of Adria Richards for daring to be a Black woman in tech who spoke up against inappropriate behavior at a software conference, to last month's appalling dispute about whether or not software documentation should marginalize women, to the news that open-source community leader Michael Schwern committed domestic violence, to some stuff in my own life that I'm not quite ready to write about yet, it's been clear that there's a lot more work that remains to make it safe for women to work in the tech industry, especially intersectionally marginalized women.

The Ada Initiative is one of the few groups that exists solely to work on that problem, and they have been very effective at it so far. TAI "specifically welcomes trans women and genderqueer women" and "[strives] to be an intersectional social justice organization" (quoting directly from the About Us page).

As with last year, I'm asking that people donate directly to TAI, using their donation form, and then let me know. My goal for this year is for 30 people to donate (why 30? Last year, my goal was 20, but 27 people actually donated, so I think I can improve on that this year). If you don't let me know, I won't be able to know if I reached my goal, and I'll be sad. You can let me know by commenting on this post, tweeting at me or commenting on my Facebook wall, or -- if you prefer to be private -- emailing me (catamorphism at gmail.com) or sending me a private message on any of the services I use. Also, I will assume it's okay to thank you in a public post by the name or pseudonym that I know you by unless you tell me otherwise. You don't have to tell me the amount that you donated.

If you've donated to the Ada Initiative this year already, great! If you can, please donate a little more for my sake :-)

As with last year, I am going to try to post something on my blog every day until I reach my goal of 30 donors, even if it's a link to a post written by someone else or an older post of mine. I'll have the first installment -- my thoughts on the aforementioned libuv gendered pronouns patch dispute -- up either tonight or tomorrow!

To make things more fun, I'm issuing a challenge: write a blog post (doesn't have to be long) about anything related to diversity and inclusion in open-source, software more generally, computer science academia, or free culture (e.g. Wikipedia), broadly construed. Then, comment here with a link to it, before 00:01 Pacific time on December 18. I happen to have an extra Ada's Angel T-shirt that I will send to the person who writes the best post (in my opinion). Another option is to add a page to the Geek Feminism Wiki or improve an existing one -- in that case, leave a link to your edit. The T-shirt is black, size XL straight-cut, with the Ada's Angel design on the back and a smaller design at the hip.

Thanks!
ETA: Thanks to those who have donated so far -- see a more recent post for the current list.
tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
A work of parody by Tim Chevalier, based on "Hackers and Painters" by Paul Graham.

The following is a work of fiction.

When I finished grad school in computer science, I decided I had just wasted eight years, and went to firefighter school to become a firefighter. A lot of people seemed surprised that someone interested in computers would also be interested in fighting fires. They seemed to think that hacking and firefighting were very different kinds of work: that hacking was an inner-directed pursuit of personal pleasure (a little like doing drugs, but slightly more socially acceptable), while firefighting involves self-sacrifice and taking risks for the benefit of others.

Both of these images are wrong. Hacking and firefighting have a lot in common. In fact, of all the different types of people I've known, hackers and firefighters are among the most alike.

What hackers and firefighters have in common is that they both like to jump into situations that most sensible people would steer clear of. Along with doctors, nurses, and traffic cops, what hackers and firefighters are trying to do, at least in part, is save other people from the consequences of their poor life decisions (without passing judgment on those decisions; or, at least, doing so quietly among friends after one gets the job done). They're not doing research per se, though if in the course of trying to mitigate disasters they discover some new technique, so much the better.

Hackers need to understand the theory of computation about as much as firefighters need to understand thermodynamics. You need to know how to calculate time and space complexity and about Turing completeness. You might also want to remember at least the concept of a state machine, in case you have to write a parser or a regular expression library. Firefighters in fact have to remember a good deal more about physics and chemistry than that.

I've found that the best sources of ideas are not the other fields that have the word "computer" in their names, but the other fields inhabited by public servants. Firefighting has been a much richer source of ideas than the theory of computation.
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tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Tonight, I'm remembering a horribly inappropriate TDOR celebration at Portland State University that I attended in 2010 (genderqueer acrobatics? Really?)

I'm remembering how my income has more than doubled since I transitioned.

I'm remembering the time, not very long ago, when I thought that I was at risk of violence for being trans. I genuinely thought that if I walked into a public men's restroom and somebody glanced at me and thought they weren't seeing a man, that there was a real chance I could be assaulted or worse. I didn't realize that the overwhelming majority of trans people who get murdered are women, specifically are women of color, that many are sex workers who don't have other economic alternatives, that many have been homeless, and none of that is a coincidence.

I'm a man. I'm white. I've never had trouble finding a job, and when I've considered doing sex work it would have been for fun or politics and not because nobody would hire me to do work that isn't against the law. I've never been homeless. All of this means I'm very likely to continue not being the target against what sometimes gets called transphobic violence, but is really the intersection of several systems of oppression.

I now know that it would be ludicrous for me to claim to be at that intersection. I realize that as an affluent white tech worker in Silicon Valley, I have far more in common with people who benefit from the continuing war on all women -- a war that targets intersectionally marginalized trans women with special violence -- than with the people who suffer from that war. I realize that I am one of the people who benefits from that war. I realize that it would be obscene for me to stand someplace and light a candle mourning those who died so that I can live the comfortable life that I live, regardless of whether those people are trans or cis. I owe a large part of my current comfortable status to the advantages that I enjoy as a man working in technology. And the high status of the specific kind of work that I do has a lot to do with the gendered nature of that work. Even within technology, work is divided along gendered lines, and the line of work that I'm in (requiring specialized knowledge that women are largely prevented from acquiring) is both particularly male-dominated and particularly remunerative. That's not a coincidence.

The high cultural valuation of masculinity owes itself to the devaluation of femininity, which is not an abstraction. For me, the decision to affirm my male identity to the world and not just privately was a decision that has resulted in greater happiness for me and more money in my bank account. Contrast that with how every person who was coercively assigned male at birth and rejects that assignment has to choose between private suffering, and the very real threat of public violence.

It would be wrong for me to utter the phrase "transgender people" and imply that I have more in common with CeCe MacDonald than I do with Mark Zuckerberg. It would be wrong for me to cry false tears about the deaths of women who I did not stand in solidarity with when they were alive. It would also be wrong for me to abuse the name of Brandon Teena, a working-class rural trans man who affirmed his gender as a teenager and died because of gendered violence (it just happened to be violence that didn't target his actual gender) to clumsily equate my own situation -- playing life as a person who was assigned the wrong sex at birth on the easiest possible level -- with that of every or any trans woman and/or genderqueer CAMAB person.

I've already said too much. You should read what these people have to say instead:

erica, inchoate: nihil de nobis, sine nobis: trans women of color and Remembering Your Dead

Alyssa Caparas: Why I Didn't Attend TDoR 2011

CeCe MacDonald: On Trans Day of Remembrance: A Proposal

[edited to add:] fakecisgirl: TDoR For, By, and About Trans Women Of Color Now
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Six weeks short of what would have been my two-year anniversary as a Mozilla full-timer (January 1, 2014), I've decided to leave Mozilla to work at a startup, AlephCloud. I've worked at Mozilla for longer than I've worked at any other full-time job: first six months as an intern, and now a year and ten months as a Research Engineer.

Some people leave a job and say that they're ready to move on. I wasn't ready, and I still had a lot to contribute to Rust. I just didn't see any way that I could continue contributing to it as a Mozilla employee. I'm unlikely to elaborate on that further except in private over a beer or a cup of tea.

I still hope to contribute to Rust as a volunteer. I know it's BS to say "hope" when talking about work; if I end up feeling like I want to do it enough, I know that I will, and if I don't, I know that I won't. That said, if I find myself with time to contribute to any open source project at all, it'll be Rust. For sure, I'm committed to mentoring a Rust intern through GNOME OPW, and I'll still be committed to doing that even as a volunteer. Thus, I'll still be the contact person for anyone still interested in working on a Rust project through OPW. Larissa Shapiro will take over the role coordinator for this round of Mozilla's participation in OPW.

That said, I can't commit to continuing my work on rustpkg while a volunteer, so I'm hoping to be able to identify a new owner for it. I've talked with one person on the core team who would like to take over ownership, and will try to settle the question before my last day.

On a personal level, I've grown a lot over the past two years. I mean both that I've learned a lot about software, and that I've grown as a person. Moreover, I think I understand a lot more about how the software industry works than I did at the beginning of 2011. In general, my colleagues on the Mozilla Research team have set an example both for how to build software, and how to build a community. I wish nothing but success to the Rust project, and what's more, I intend to continue to be there to help the project advance, even if it'll be for a smaller percentage of my time.

My last day as a Mozilla employee will be Friday, November 15, and with just a weekend in between, I'm starting at AlephCloud on Monday, November 18, in the role of Principal Software Engineer. At AlephCloud, I will be programming in Haskell full-time. I wasn't exactly ever expecting to be active in the Haskell community again, but I look forward to doing work that is central to the mission of my company, and it's icing on the cake that the company's language of choice happens to be Haskell. Though I expect I'll be working from various locations, my new office will be in Sunnyvale, so I'm not going far. Especially since my two closest future colleagues both work remotely (outside the Bay Area), I'm hoping to experiment with living outside the Bay Area for a while (student loans don't pay themselves), but I'll only consider that after a couple of months from now.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Content warning: discussion of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and victim-blaming in linked-to articles.

I'm about to submit I just submitted a pull request to add my name to the Tech Event Attendance Pledge. Specifically:

  1. I will not attend any tech events where Joe O'Brien (also known as @objo) is in attendance.
  2. I will not attend any tech events without a clear code of conduct and/or anti-harassment policy.

For me, the first item is likely to be a moot point, since I'm not a Rubyist (although I play one on TVpodcasts). Even so, I think it's important for me to explicitly say that a space that's unsafe for women is a space that's unsafe for me. And a space that accepts harassers, abusers, or rapists who have not been held accountable or shown remorse for their actions -- whether we're talking about Joe O'Brien, Michael Schwern, or Thomas Dubuisson, just to pick a few out of many examples -- is an unsafe space.

The second item is more likely to affect my day-to-day activities, but fortunately, the two conferences I'm most likely to attend in the future already have anti-harassment policies. Open Source Bridge's code of conduct is a model for all other events of its kind. And ICFP (along with all other SIGPLAN conferences) has an anti-harassment policy. At this point, there's no reason for any conference organizers to not have already done the work of establishing an anti-harassment policy (and it's not much work, since the Citizen Code of Conduct is available and Creative-Commons-licensed to permit derivative works; it's the basis for Open Source Bridge's code of conduct), so there's no reason for me to speak at or attend a conference that doesn't have one.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I've mostly been quiet lately since a lot of what I've been doing is wrestling with Linux test bots that behave slightly differently from other Linux test bots, and that's not very useful to write about (plus, if I did, it would mostly be swearing). However, I do want to make an exciting announcement! Copied verbatim from the mailing list:
Hello,

This year, the Rust and Servo projects are participating in the GNOME
Outreach Program for Women (OPW). OPW is an opportunity for women to
take on a paid, full-time, three-month internship working on one of
several open-source projects. Interns can be located anywhere in the
world and will primarily work from home; some funding will be available
to travel to meet with the project mentors for a brief period of time.

This is the third time that Mozilla has participated as a source of
project mentors, but it's the first time that the Rust and Servo
projects specifically have participated. We're very excited about this
and encourage you to apply if you're a woman who's interested in Rust.
(OPW is an inclusive program: as per their information for applicants,
"This program is open to anyone who is a female assigned at birth and
anyone who identifies as a woman, genderqueer, genderfluid, or
genderfree regardless of gender presentation or assigned sex at birth.
Participants must be at least 18 years old at the start date of the
internship.") If you're not eligible, please spread the word to any
eligible individuals you know who have any interest in Rust or Servo.

No previous experience with Rust is required, but we do request some
experience with C and systems programming, and of course people who have
previously used Rust may make faster progress.

The deadline to apply is November 11.

The details are available at:

https://wiki.mozilla.org/GNOME_Outreach_December2013 (specific to Mozilla)
https://wiki.gnome.org/OutreachProgramForWomen (applying to OPW)

If you are not a woman, but interested in an internship working on Rust,
never fear! If you are currently enrolled in an undergraduate or
graduate program, you can apply for an internship at Mozilla Research
for the winter, spring, or summer term. (Note that OPW is open to both
students and non-students.) We will be announcing this program to the
mailing list as well as soon as the details are finalized.

If you have any questions, please join #opw on irc.mozilla.org and/or
contact Tim Chevalier (tchevalier at mozilla.com, tjc on IRC) (Rust contact
person) or Lars Bergstrom (lbergstrom at mozilla.com, lbergstrom on IRC)
(Servo contact person).
I'm coordinating Mozilla's involvement in OPW this year as well as any potential Rust projects (others may end up mentoring interns depending on the intern's preferred project, but the buck stops with me), so I'd be very grateful if readers would publicize this notice to relevant venues, as well as direct any questions to me (via email, IRC, or in a comment on this post).
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
I wrote this comment on a LinkedIn forum thread a few weeks ago for alums of my undergrad school, and I wanted to save the comment somewhere less ephemeral. Most of it is replying to another comment that I won't quote directly since it was posted to a private forum, but it's from a faculty member who I respect very much.
I haven't read the blog post Daniel linked to yet, but I would suspect that the reasons based on humanities/social science apply to us as CS people more than you might think.

As far as [REDACTED]'s points: I don't know of any CS Ph.D programs that will put you into debt either... well, sort of. I went from having ~ $5000 in student loans post-Wellesley to having ~ $40000 in student loans after being a Ph.D student at Portland State for 4 years (and not graduating). Why? Because my grant didn't pay for health insurance, so I had to pay for that out-of-pocket (and the cost of student health insurance went up from about $1200/year to $4000/year over that four years). I had a lot of other expenses, mostly medical, that I couldn't pay for just out of my grad student stipend either. So while a CS Ph.D program may seem like it's not going to cost you anything, you also have to think about the opportunity cost of spending 4-10 years making $15K-$25K/year, most likely with no benefits (since RAs and TAs at many schools are hired at 0.45 FTE so the university won't have to give them benefits -- the exception is schools where RAs and TAs are unionized, which anyone looking to go to grad school should seek out). Especially for CS majors, those 4-10 years could be critical in your career -- people who don't go to grad school spend them developing and gaining experience that you're likely going to have to start over with anyway if/when you leave or graduate and can't or don't want to work in academia.

I agree that being your own boss is very appealing, and it's a big reason why i once wanted to be a professor. But it's not quite right to say that professors get to decide what they work on, and especially not grad students. Applying for grants limits what you can work on and also means you have to do a little or a lot of "spin" to make your work sound like something that will "help the war fight" (at least if you're applying for defense funding, which is what a lot of CS funding is). For some people, this may feel dishonest.

Teaching and mentoring are also appealing. There are many jobs that have mentoring as a component.

I think there should be more women in CS, but I also wouldn't want to make any individual woman deciding on a career feel like she *has* to do something that's difficult, costly (financially and emotionally), and will likely expose her to various kinds of harassment just to further the cause of equality. Ultimately, it's men's job to stop driving women out of CS.

In the end, I think if somebody reads all of this stuff and makes an informed decision that they still want to go to grad school, then they should go. That's why I went, two separate times! I won't exactly say that I wish I hadn't, but I also wonder how it could have been if I had spent those years working on projects with clear goals and expectations where I would have been compensated fairly.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
It took me about six weeks, but I finally finished reading Samuel Delany's recent novel _Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders_. Maybe I just have a kink for long books -- it's 804 pages and, like _Infinite Jest_ (which is even longer), I suspect it's going to be one of those books that keeps being important to me for a really long time. (The third one like that is _A Suitable Boy_ by Vikram Seth, though it hasn't stayed with me quite the same way _Infinite Jest_ has; I've also only read it once.)

In lieu of more thoughts, some quotations from it:

"'There ain't no normal," Shit said. 'That's what he always told me.' With his scruffy beard, Shit pointed his chin toward Dynamite. 'There's just comfortable and uncomfortable. And I like to be comfortable with pretty much everything.'" (p. 305)

"'Well--' Eric looked back up and put his hand on Shit's warm shoulder--'state supported marriage comes with a whole lot of assumptions about how it's gonna be, a history of who has to obey who, when you're justified in callin' it quits, all sorts of things like that. Now, you could agree with each other to change some of those things or do 'em differently, but for thousands and thousands of years gay men and women didn't have even that--except for a few Christian monasteries here and there, where the monks were allowed to marry each other. But nobody likes to think about those. For us, decidin' to be with someone else wasn't a matter of acceptin' a ready-made set of assumptions. You had to work 'em all out from the bottom up, every time--whether you was gonna be monogamous or open; and if you was gonna be open, how you was gonna do it so that it didn't bother the other person and even helped the relationship along. Workin' all that stuff out for yourselves was half the reason you went into a relationship with somebody else. We had some friends once--back when we lived in the Dump--that was faithful for ten months out the year, but for two months they'd go on vacation and do all their tom-cattin' around.' He realized he was making that up, but hell, it was plausible. 'Then they'd be faithful again. But that's how they liked to do it. Then there were guys like us that just had to make real sure that the other person was feelin' good about things, when they did it and knew they were number one and didn't mind. See, that's what people who get married don't have. Or don't have in the same way." (p. 785-786)

"'Bein' a pervert was the only was I ever learned anything worth knowin'.'" (p. 792)

There's also this epigraph, which, if I ever wrote papers anymore, I would try to include in a paper about GC:

"Except there's garbage, which is part of what we're trying to include in our work and our thought, which is to say, we are attentive still to what remains, what gets tossed away and off. We want to include the trash in many ways, thinking of this refuse according to all sorts of disposal systems." -- Avital Ronell
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
The last five days have been one full day of travel, preceded by three full days of Mozilla Summit in Toronto, preceded by another full day of travel. It's been quite a time, with not much sleep involved, but (for me) a surprising amount of code getting written and interesting sessions being attended and pure fun being had (karaoke night Friday and dance party Sunday -- if any of the organizers were reading, both of those were really good ideas). Actually, watching "Code Rush" -- a documentary made in 2000 about the very early history of Mozilla -- with Mozilla folks was quite an experience as well. You can watch it for free online; it's only about an hour, and I encourage you to if you have any interest at all in where we came from. (Passive sexism and other kinds of isms aside.)

So far as sessions, one of the highlights was Jack's talk on the Servo strategy on Saturday -- featuring about 30 minutes of lecture followed by a full 80 minutes of Q&A. The questions were the most focused, on-topic, respectful set of questions I've heard after any talk I've been to in recent memory (and it wasn't just because Jack prepared a list of suggested questions to ask in advance!) The other highlight for me was the excellent "Designing your project for participation" session with David Eaves, Emma Irwin, and Jess Klein on Sunday. One of the reasons why this session was so great was that it was mostly small-group discussion, so everybody got to be more engaged than they might have been if most of the time had been sitting and listening. I came away with a better understanding that a lot of different people are thinking about how to make the volunteer experience better in their specific project, and there are lessons to learn about that that are transferable. For example: volunteers are much more likely to keep participating if they get a prompt review for their first bug; and, it might actually be okay to ask volunteers to commit to finishing a particular task by a deadline.

During downtime, I got a few pull requests in, some of which even landed. One of the bigger ones, though, was #9732, for making automatically checked-out source files read-only and overhauling where rustpkg keeps temporary files. (That one hasn't been reviewed yet.) #9736, making it easier to get started with rustpkg by not requiring a workspace to be created (it will build files in the current directory if there's a crate file with the right name) is also important to me -- alas, it bounced on the Linux bot, like so many of my pull requests have been doing lately, so I'll have to investigate that when I'm back on the office network and able to log in to that bot tomorrow. Finally, I was excited to be able to fix #9756, an error-message-quality bug that's been biting me a lot lately, while I was on the plane back to San Francisco, and surprised that the fix was so easy!

Finally, I request that anyone reading this who's part of the Rust community read Lindsey Kuper's blog post about the IRC channel and how we should be treating each other. Lindsey notes, and I agree, that the incident that she describes is an anomaly in an otherwise very respectful and decorous IRC channel. However, as the Rust community grows, it's my job, and the job of the other core Rust team members, to keep it that way. I know that communities don't stay healthy by themselves -- every community, no matter how small, exists within a kyriarchy that rewards everybody for exercising unearned power and privilege. Stopping people from following those patterns of non-consensual domination and submission -- whether in such a (seemingly) small way as inappropriately calling attention to another person's gender on IRC, or in larger ways like sexual assault at conferences -- requires active effort. I can't change the world as a whole on my own, but I do have a lot of influence over a very small part of the world -- the same is true of most other human beings. So, I'm still thinking about how to put in that effort for Rust. The same is true for community processes as for code: patches welcome.
tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 31


Which of the following vegetables would you generally peel before cooking with?

View Answers

potatoes
7 (22.6%)

parsnips
18 (58.1%)

carrots
17 (54.8%)

beets
12 (38.7%)

ginger
21 (67.7%)

butternut squash
21 (67.7%)

zucchini
1 (3.2%)

kabocha squash
10 (32.3%)

pumpkin
19 (61.3%)

cucumbers
4 (12.9%)

None of the above
0 (0.0%)

I have never cooked any of these vegetables
0 (0.0%)

I don't eat vegetables
0 (0.0%)

I don't cook
1 (3.2%)

I don't eat
0 (0.0%)

Which of the following fruits would you generally peel before eating (raw)?

View Answers

mangoes
22 (73.3%)

peaches
6 (20.0%)

plums
0 (0.0%)

apricots
2 (6.7%)

kiwi fruit
16 (53.3%)

apples
2 (6.7%)

grapes
0 (0.0%)

None of the above
5 (16.7%)

I have never eaten any of these fruits
0 (0.0%)

I don't eat fruit
1 (3.3%)

I don't eat
0 (0.0%)

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Once #9654 lands (after ~ 24 hours in the queue, it finally started building only to fail because of an overly long line... and I thought I checked that every time I pushed a new version, but apparently not), we'll have completed the "build Servo with rustpkg" milestone. The next milestone is the first part of community adoption, which, roughly speaking, is the list of features we think rustpkg has to have in order for it to get widespread use in the Rust community (such as it is).

The first thing on that list, which I started working on today, is #6480: making locally-cached copies of source files that rustpkg automatically fetched from github (or, in the future, elsewhere) read-only. The intent behind this bug is to prevent a sad situation -- that really happened to a Go developer, and could happen again with a similar package manager -- where somebody makes local changes to packages that their projects depends on without realizing they're editing automatically-fetched files, and then loses those changes when they redistribute the code (without their local changes).

One solution is for rustpkg to make any source files that it automatically fetches read-only. Of course, anybody can just change the permissions, but that requires deliberate action and (with hope) will remind people that they might be making a poor life decision. That's easy enough to implement, and in fact, I implemented it today.

But I realized that this really goes along with another issue I filed, #9514. Servo depends on many packages that the Servo developers are also hacking on in tandem with hacking on Servo -- so if we started making everything read-only, that would make it hard to work with local (uncommitted) changes.

I think the right thing to do (and as per discussion in meetings, it sounds like it's the general consensus) is to make rustpkg do two things differently: (1) store fetched sources in a subdirectory of a workspace's build directory, not its src directly (it's less confusing if src is only things you created yourself); and (2) always search for sources under src before searching under build. That way, if you want to make local changes to a package that you refer to with an extern mod that points to a remote package, you can manually git clone the sources for it under a workspace's src directory, and then rustpkg will automatically find your locally-changed copy (which it will also never overwrite with newly fetched sources).

I looked at what Go does, and it looks like it does more or less what I want to do in rustpkg: "By default, get uses the network to check out missing packages but does not use it to look for updates to existing packages." So, the only case where rustpkg will pull a fresh copy of a repository off github is if there's no local copy of the sources, or installed version of the binaries for it, that can be found by searching the RUST_PATH.

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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

August 2014

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