mfioretti: brogrammers*

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  1. The point is not that making a world to accommodate oneself is bad, but that when one has as much power over the rest of the world as the tech sector does, over folks who don’t naturally share its worldview, then there is a risk of a strange imbalance. The tech world is predominantly male—very much so. Testosterone combined with a drive to eliminate as much interaction with real humans as possible—do the math, and there’s the future.

    We’ve gotten used to service personnel and staff who have no interest or participation in the businesses where they work. They have no incentive to make the products or the services better. This is a long legacy of the assembly line, standardising, franchising and other practices that increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s a small step then from a worker that doesn’t care to a robot. To consumers, it doesn’t seem like a big loss.

    Those who oversee the AI and robots will, not coincidentally, make a lot of money as this trend towards less human interaction continues and accelerates—as many of the products produced above are hugely and addictively convenient. Google, Facebook and other companies are powerful and yes, innovative, but the innovation curiously seems to have had an invisible trajectory. Our imaginations are constrained by who and what we are. We are biased in our drives, which in some ways is good, but maybe some diversity in what influences the world might be reasonable and may be beneficial to all.

    To repeat what I wrote above—humans are capricious, erratic, emotional, irrational and biased in what sometimes seem like counterproductive ways. I’d argue that though those might seem like liabilities, many of those attributes actually work in our favor. Many of our emotional responses have evolved over millennia, and they are based on the probability that our responses, often prodded by an emotion, will more likely than not offer the best way to deal with a situation.

    Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. Damasio concluded that though we think decision-making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

    With humans being somewhat unpredictable (well, until an algorithm completely removes that illusion), we get the benefit of surprises, happy accidents and unexpected connections and intuitions. Interaction, cooperation and collaboration with others multiplies those opportunities.

    We’re a social species—we benefit from passing discoveries on, and we benefit from our tendency to cooperate to achieve what we cannot alone. In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Harari claims this is what allowed us to be so successful. He also claims that this cooperation was often facilitated by a possibility to believe in “fictions” such as nations, money, religions and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions, or not yet anyway. That’s not to say they won’t surpass us, but if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock. If less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

    Our random accidents and odd behaviors are fun—they make life enjoyable. I’m wondering what we’re left with when there are fewer and fewer human interactions. Remove humans from the equation and we are less complete as people or as a society. “We” do not exist as isolated individuals—we as individuals are inhabitants of networks, we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive.
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  2. In the past two decades, the open source community has evolved from an obscure grass-roots movement of wild-eyed crusaders, indigent grad students, and spare-time hobbyists to an unprecedented worldwide collaboration of full-time professionals and extraordinarily committed volunteers. We pride ourselves on our openness to new contributors, from any country or social background, and most often describe the power structure of open source projects as a meritocracy. Many of us believe that open source is inherently progressive - a way to level the playing field that operates across all social categories and class boundaries.

    And yet, here it is, the year 2010, and my female friends and I are still being insulted, harassed, and groped at at open source conferences. Some people argue that if women really want to be involved in open source (or computing, or corporate management, etc.), they will put up with being stalked, leered at, and physically assaulted at conferences. But many of us argue instead that putting up extra barriers to the participation of women will only harm the open source community. We want more people in open source, not fewer.

    In this article, we will first explore the current state of harassment in open source through interviews with ten women (including myself) about their experiences at open source conferences. Then we will describe some concrete, simple actions anyone can take to help reduce harassment for everyone, not just women (who have no monopoly on being the target of harassment). In particular, we'll discuss the recently released generic anti-harassment policy for open source conferences - basically, HOWTO Not Be A Jerk At A Conference.
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  3. The short version is: if you are any kind of open-source leader or senior figure who is male, do not be alone with any female, ever, at a technical conference. Try to avoid even being alone, ever, because there is a chance that a “women in tech” advocacy group is going to try to collect your scalp.
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  4. The assumption of our white knight friends is that 24-37% is the result of sexism, but this is debunked as soon as you realise that the most equal societies in the world (in Scandinavia for example) have the largest gender gap in tech. Women, in general, are just not interested in sitting behind a screen all day. In more comfortable societies where people have a much greater choice of what to do, women choose to do things they enjoy which usually does not involve tech. It’s tempting to think that our different desires are nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with upbringing, but any reasonable individual can see it is a mix and most likely biology having the bigger influence. See this documentary:

    The most curious thing about the white knight is he will spend forever pushing for more women in the tech sector, but make no effort getting more men in the education sector which has an even worse gender gap. This shows his true bias. Surely educating the next generation is way more important than what gadgets we carry around? Think of all the great ideas men could bring to education. There would be a much greater emphasis on tech, for example. Boys generally spend most of their formative years in the company of women; mother at home, teacher at school. For many, the role models tend to be those on TV, and we all know how men are portrayed in the media, especially advertising. Boys are falling behind at school (only 40% of university intake) and this is good only for the white knight to rise above the competition
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-08-24)
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  5. It’s generally accepted that making demands of other people’s volunteer work is a bad thing, which to some extent is a reasonable position. There is a problem when this is taken to extremes, Debian has over 1000 developers who have to work together so sometimes it’s a question of who gets to do the extra work to make the parts of the distribution fit together. The issue of who gets to do the work is often based on what parts are the defaults or most commonly used options. For my work on SE Linux I often have to do a lot of extra work because it’s not part of the default install and I have to make my requests for changes to other packages be as small and simple as possible.

    So part of the decision to make Systemd be the default init is essentially a decision to impose slightly more development effort on the people who maintain SysVInit if they are to provide the same level of support – of course given the lack of overall development on SysVInit the level of support provided may decrease. It also means slightly less development effort for the people who maintain Systemd as developers of daemon packages MUST make them work with it. Another part of this issue is the fact that DDs who maintain daemon packages need to maintain init.d scripts (for SysVInit) and systemd scripts, presumably most DDs will have a preference for one init system and do less testing for the other one. Therefore the choice of systemd as the default means that slightly less developer effort will go into init.d scripts. On average this will slightly increase the amount of sysadmin effort that will be required to run systems with SysVInit as the scripts will on average be less well tested. This isn’t going to be a problem in the short term as the current scripts are working reasonably well, but over the course of years bugs may creep in and a proposed solution to this is to have SysVInit scripts generated from systemd config files.

    We did have a long debate within Debian about the issue of default init systems and many Debian Developers disagree about this. But there is a big difference between volunteers debating about their work and external people who don’t contribute but believe that they are entitled to tell us what to do. Especially when the non-contributors abuse the people who do the work.

    For some reason the men in the Linux community who hate women the most seem to have taken a dislike to systemd. I understand that being “conservative” might mean not wanting changes to software as well as not wanting changes to inequality in society but even so this surprised me. My last blog post about systemd has probably set a personal record for the amount of misogynistic and homophobic abuse I received in the comments. More gender and sexuality related abuse than I usually receive when posting about the issues of gender and sexuality in the context of the FOSS community! For the record this doesn’t bother me, when I get such abuse I’m just going to write more about the topic in question.

    While the issue of which init system to use by default in Debian was being discussed we had a lot of hostility from unimportant people who for some reason thought that they might get their way by being abusive and threatening people. As expected that didn’t give the result they desired, but it did result in a small trend towards people who are less concerned about the reactions of users taking on development work related to init systems.

    The next thing that they did was to announce a “fork” of Debian. Forking software means maintaining a separate version due to a serious disagreement about how it should be maintained. Doing that requires a significant amount of work in compiling all the source code and testing the results. The sensible option would be to just maintain a separate repository

    COMMENT: Hey, I was a little perturbed at your post, especially the part about how people who hate SystemD are also people who hate women. I think this is totally a very untrue statement. First, I dont think there are very many people in the Linux community that ḧate women¨, but even fewer that also hate SystemD. I personally dislike SystemD because it is slow, bloated, tries too much, and if you want to take a quick look at the source code, it looks like complete spaghetti. On top of that, SysVinit and all the other tools that SystemD absorbed/replaced where just fine on their own, and in some places had more functionality. It is really unlike the Linux and UNIX philosophy to attempt to create a tool that replaces lots of other smaller tools, especially when the other tools work better. The only reason a load of distros are switching over to SystemD is because it is easier for them to have one maintainer taking care of all of these tools instead of multiple smaller maintainers who may drop off the map any minuet. This is easier for Debian and Arch, not their users.

    am a Devuan developer.

    First, you should know from the Geek Feminism wiki (and other OSS projects’ mailing lists, if you look around) that MikeeUSA is a well-known troll, and does not represent anyone but himself. He is in no way affiliated with Devuan. In fact, he was promptly banned Devuan’s mailing list and IRC channels for the *very same reasons* he got banned elsewhere–he showed up and started harassing people. Frankly, I find your suggestion that Devuan is filled with racist misogynistic homophobes because MikeeUSA claims to hate systemd and like Devuan to be about as ridiculous as me suggesting that the systemd developers are filled with racist misogynistic homophobes because weev has positive things to say about systemd.
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  6. BI Director James Comey famously said last year that it is difficult to hire cyber security experts because, “those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview.”

    Lisa Monaco, chief counterterrorism adviser to the president, later implied the government may be willing to look the other way on some low-level crimes like smoking weed in order to recruit top talent. According to, Allenby making these kinds of allowances will be necessary if the US hopes to strengthen the cyber side of its military warfare efforts in the future.

    “What we need to do is figure out is how to get this very complex or culturally different mix to work together without impeding what makes them unique,” Allenby said. “In other words, how do you militarize American soft power without destroying the very thing that makes the soft power powerful? We have a lot of learning to do.”
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  7. According to the industry group, computing jobs will more than double by 2020, to 1.4 million. If women continue to leave the field, an already dire shortage of qualified tech workers will grow worse. Last summer, Google, Facebook, Apple and other big tech companies released figures showing that men outnumbered women 4 to 1 or more in their technical sectors.

    It's why the industry is so eager to hire women and minorities. For decades tech companies have relied on a workforce of whites and Asians, most of them men.

    Plenty of programs now encourage girls and minorities to embrace technology at a young age. But amid all the publicity for those efforts, one truth is little discussed: Qualified women are leaving the tech industry in droves.

    Women in tech say filling the pipeline of talent won't do much good if women keep quitting — it's like trying to fill a leaking bucket.

    "It's a really frustrating thing," said Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation. "The pipeline may not improve much unless women can look ahead and see it's a valuable investment."
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    A Harvard Business Review study from 2008 found that as many as 50% of women working in science, engineering and technology will, over time, leave because of hostile work environments.
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  8. That’s bad for equality, and bad for business. There are plenty of good hires out there that don’t fit the “startup dude” stereotype. Older developers, for example, bring a lot to the table. One study found that developers actually get better with age.

    “I think there’s a lifestyle mismatch between the demands of software companies and the needs of mature developers who have kids or other responsibilities,” says Doug Neumann, the senior director of systems management at the Raleigh, North Carolina-based tech company Bandwidth. “That particular mismatch means that those engineers aren’t making themselves available to certain software companies.”

    In other words, change your culture, and higher some older workers, some women, some minorities and some people who, well, don’t quite fit in. BThat might mean cutting back on the alcohol and violent video games at work, and encouraging people to actually go home in the evenings. But so be it.
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