On December 13th, 2006, author Bruce Byfield reflected on why he thought Free and Open Source Software (F.O.S.S.) was not on activist agendas. My interpretation of his views are that a knowledge barrier about technology makes FOSS less accessible, the insular nature of activism makes collaboration difficult, and FOSS activists reaching out to other activists with shared values should be encouraged. On December 13th, 2019, is FOSS on activist agendas? The answer is not black or white, but a gray somewhere in the middle. This is my response to Byfield’s article, thirteen years later, on what he got right but also what he left out.
Sometimes the people we exclude are the ones we did not realize were there. Screen readers are an essential tool for blind and visually-impaired people to use software and browse the Internet. In open source projects and communities, Markdown is a lightweight markup language used to format text. It is also used in many other places. Often you need to embed an image into whatever you are writing (a picture, a diagram, or some useful visual aid to get your point across). One of the lesser-known and used features of Markdown are alt tags for images.
Growing up with easy access to the Internet grants the privilege of experiencing effortless knowledge and high availability of information. Wikipedia is an example of 21st century cooperation and collaboration. For many, it represents a beacon of free information and self-education. Some might credit it for charting wider participation in the movement towards free content and open resources.
Yet Wikipedia remains a tool of power and privilege, absent for many as societal myths perpetuate in the lives of children. As children are exposed to the Internet at earlier ages, their comprehension and correlation to the real world is in the context of living in a digitized society. In simpler words, everything they ever know always has technology, tablets, smart-phones, and smart devices present. There is no split experience of going from have-nots to haves.
I can’t help but feel this period in history is significant, if only for what is yet to come of this global political climate. Each day I read the news, a mix of positive and negative connotations blurs through my subconscious: paragraphs of words about people far away, words about events that happened when I was asleep. Heavy paragraphs and words that seem void of emotion, but carry all the weight of a freight train. These articles, paragraphs, and collection of words are the paint of perspective, and as much as they are overwhelming, they are also equally so liberating.
Across this spectrum of bold headlines and addicting scrolling, I began to wonder about identity. What determines how we choose to identify where we originate from? What makes us decide to disassociate from our birthplace? What parts of our culture make us proud and content and what parts are like fresh wounds withheld from time and space needed to heal? I started to wonder about my own identity and what it means to me to be defined as an American.
Team picture of the Diversity Team members (left to right: Brian Exelbierd, Amita Sharma, Radka Janek, Jona Azizaj, Bhagyashree Padalkar, Justin W. Flory)
The Fedora Diversity FAD (a.k.a. Fedora Activity Day, or a sprint) took place during the weekend of DevConf, 27-29 January. The original planning for this FAD started in August 2016, after the Flock 2016 conference. At Flock, the Diversity Team held a panel with open discussion about diversity and inclusion efforts in Fedora. Based on the feedback received during and after the panel, it was a priority for us to continue working on the objectives we had established before Flock. For the FAD, a majority of the Fedora Diversity Team was present along with a few others.
We made significant progress in accomplishing our larger objectives and to contribute to the Fedora Project mission and goals. The primary objectives we established for our FAD were completing plans for the demographic survey, building a campaign based on those results, and analyzing our Code of Conduct to find ways to better impact the community. This report covers each of these objectives, what we accomplished, and what we plan to do next.
Logic model used for preliminary planning and mapping out the activities and impact of the Fedora Diversity FAD
Two weekends ago, from February 27th to the 28th, the Women in Computing program at the Rochester Institute of Technology hosted their third annual WiCHacks hackathon. WiCHacks is a women-only hackathon open to university students and high school juniors and seniors. WiCHacks is a collaborative event bringing women together from across RIT, the country, and even the world (including attendees from Germany). The participants are in a supportive and empowering environment to build something awesome and present it to everyone else in the span of one weekend.
So why am I writing about WiCHacks? I signed up as a volunteer for the event this year. I would help with the setup, running the event, and packing it up. During my experience as a volunteer, I met some other awesome people, saw some really cool projects, and discovered an inviting and inclusive community on campus.