Debian Women IRC meeting, 20th November 2004
The meeting was moderated by Erinn Clark (helix), minutes and summary written by Helen Faulkner (helen).
A brief summary of the main points of discussion is followed below by the more detailed minutes of the meeting.
Summary of the Meeting
Part 1: Introduction
Most people on the channel were present and active in the meeting. 24 people introduced themselves and told us briefly what their involvement in or use of Debian was.
Part 2: Discussion
The following questions were discussed.
What do people like about the Debian Women project?
- You meet pleasant and interesting people.
- The Debian Women project doesn't discriminate against anybody.
- It is a supportive environment.
- The Debian Women project is already succeeding in its goals.
- The IRC channel discussions are enjoyable.
- The Debian Women project has roughly equal numbers of men and women involved.
- The Debian Women project is a good entrance point for women to be more involved in Debian.
- It is important for men to respect the need women have for a space where they feel comfortable. The Debian Women project provides such a space.
- An important aim of the Debian Women project is to help women learn to be stronger and more confident.
- The need for the Debian Women project as a particularly women-friendly space will hopefully disappear with time, and greater involvement of women in Debian.
- The number of women entering NM is encouraging.
Will the Debian Women project improve Debian in the long run and is that a goal?
- Yes, improving Debian is one of the main goals. The other main goal is to make Debian more accessible to women.
- Yes, the Debian Women project will improve Debian because it will involve more diverse people, who can offer different viewpoints, talents and ways of interacting with computers. Women are currently so rare in Debian that they have a lot to offer.
- Yes, because inclusion of under-represented groups of people is generally good for projects like Debian.
- Yes, because the Debian Women project will help make Debian more welcoming to all people, not just women. How can we reach out to people?
- We can translate information about the Debian Women project into other languages.
- We can access the media to advertise the Debian Women project, however not all possible publicity is good publicity.
- We can use word of mouth and become advocates to women we meet personally.
- We can inform Linux User Groups, Linuxchix meetings, university clubs and schools.
- We can tell Debian Weekly News about our activities.
How can we reach out to people who are interested but who don't speak English?
- The Debian Women project is already attracting speakers of many different languages, especially Spanish speakers.
- We would like to make the Debian Women project accessible to non English speakers.
- Multi-lingual lists would have some benefits and some disadvantages, and would be hard to administer. They might also fragment the Debian Women project.
- Since the Debian Women project has many Spanish speakers, a Spanish irc channel will be started.
- Regular cross-language bulletins are planned for the mailing lists.
Minutes of the Meeting
The meeting started at 21:02 UTC on 20th November 2004.
Part 1: Introductions
DD = Debian Developer, NM = New Maintainer (i.e. someone who is applying to become a DD), AM = Application Manager (ie someone who supervises the progress of a NM).
Helix asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell us a little about where they are, what they are interested in within Debian, what they are currently doing. The summarised responses are:
- helix is Erinn Clark, the leader of this project. She maintains lyx and is in the NM queue.
- helen is Helen Faulkner. She maintains a few packages, is involved in the Debian Women project and is in the NM queue.
- kandinski is Javier Candeira. He is a founder of Barrapunto, a Debian user and he wants to become a DD so he can vote in Debian.
- mechtilde is a new Debian user. She lives in Germany and is transferring a database from windows to linux.
- alys is Alys Lucas-Williams. She lives in the UK, works in a secondary school and has been using Debian since 2001.
- Madkiss is Martin Loschwitz, he writes linux articles for newspapers.
- mones is Ricardo Mones. He is Spanish, has used linux for several years and is in the NM queue.
- Nafallo is Christian Bjälevik. He is from Sweden, is a student and is interested in contributing to linux.
- Naima is Magni Onsøien. She lives in Norway, has used Debian in the past, and is interested in why there are so few female open source developers.
- nanda is Fernanda Weiden. She is from Brazil, has used linux since 1997, helped to organize debconf4, and is involved in feminist projects to teach women about free software.
- moray is in Scotland. He is a DD and an AM for the new maintainer process.
- stargirl is Hanna Wallach. She has been using Debian since 1999 and co-maintains two Debian packages, but hasn't been through the NM process yet.
- alonika is Sasha. She is from Spain and has used linux since 2001. She is studying computer engineering.
- maxx is Martin Würtele. He is from Austria, and has been using debian since Slink. He works for an ISP.
- sTone_heAd is Rudy Godoy. He is from Peru. He has been using linux for 6 year and working in debian for 3 years, mostly in spanich l10n. He is in the NM queue and maintains a few packages.
- womble is Matthew Palmer, from Australia. He is a DD and an AM, maintaining several packages and is upstream author for some of those.
- akk is Akkana Peck. She has used debian for 3 years and is a software developer. She is thinking about applying for NM.
- mush is Geordie Birch. He is in Canada and has been using Debian since 1999.
- anja is Ana Guerrero. She lives in Spain, is studying computer-science, has been using Debian for a year and he helping with translations and the Debian Women wiki.
- Atari-Frosch is Sabine Engelhardt. She lives in Germany, has used Debian since 1997 and is a network administrator.
- bab is Ben Burton, from Australia. He has been using Debian for several years, is a DD and maintains mostly KDE and mathematics packages.
- Baby is Miriam Ruiz, from Spain. She has used linux for a while and is a free software evangelist.
- burbuja is Lorena Giraldo, from Colombia. She has been using Debian since 2002, packages PLR and has applied for NM.
- daf is Dafydd Harries from Wales. He is the Welsh translation team for Debian, maintains a few packages, and is in NM.
Part 2: Discussion
Helix started the discussion by explaining that the Debian Women project was started by herself and Amaya as a result of some discussions on Debian lists about how to get more women into Debian. She pointed out that it helps to feel welcomed by a group, as the number of people at this meeting demonstrates. She said that we are lacking clarity about how to get more women involved.
Alys said that she feels intimidated by #debian. Helix and helen agreed that this can happen and people can behave badly. Bab said that he felt the same way in the beginning with #debian-devel, but then he realised it was the same couple of people over and over again.
Akk was discouraged by the early trolling on the #debian-women mailing list, but thinks this channel is great.
Helix then asked everyone what they like about the Debian Women project and how can we reach out to people and improve it? Will this improve Debian in the long run and is that a goal of ours?
- Alys loves this channel because you meet nice people.
- Akk thinks the project will improve Debian, because Debian has lots of projects that are not well maintained, and getting different sorts of people involved as DDs will help. Naima agrees with this, saying that participation from all user groups improves the quality of a product. Bab commented that getting feedback from helen on software he has written has been useful in the past, because she was interacting with the computer in a different way to him. Helen agreed that women in Debian are currently so rare that we have a lot to offer by comparison, just by being a little different, on average.
- Maxx thinks the trolls are not the majority in Debian.
- Atari-Frosch only heard about the project yesterday and thinks that it's great.
- Kandinski pointed out that the Debian Women project has two roles to play. Representing Debian towards women and representing women towards Debian. He pointed out that most of the discussion in the channel has been centred on making Debian culture more palatable to women. The other role is making Debian as a project realise that women (or any other under-represented group) are good for the health of a project.
- Helen added that this project has the potential to make Debian more welcoming towards anyone, not just women. Many people agreed with this and with kandinski's comments.
- Burbuja likes the Debian Women project because it doesn't discriminate against anybody. Helix and nanda point out that the mailing list seems to be about equally subscribed by men and women.
- Kandinski commented that Debian's apparently heirarchical structure seems to be missing the benefit of ad-hoc collaboration, and is offputting to many people. Bab disagreed with this, but observed that some people in Debian behave as though the hierarchical structure were there.
- Nanda said that if we have a mailing list or a group to include more women in Debian projects, it is important for the men to respect the need for a space where women feel comfortable to discuss the problems they are having. Helix agreed, but reminded us that one of the objectives of the project is to help the women to become stronger. Helen hopes that the need for a particularly women-friendly space will disappear over time. Nanda thinks this will take a long time. Helen observed that the rate of change of women entering NM is very encouraging.
- Daf commented that having more women in the project will make the project better, but that having women involved in Debian is a worthy goal in and of itself, and should not be seen merely as a way to improve Debian. Several people agreed with this.
- sTone_heAd sees Debian Women as an entrance and meeting point for people (especially women) into Debian. Once they feel comfortable with Debian they will have much to offer. Helix agreed with this.
Helix then posed the question of how we can get word out about Debian Women without attracting trolls or being slashdotted.
- Bab agreed that not all publicity is good publicity.
- Daf wondered what Debian Women's message to the world is, and whether Debian Women can succeed without lots of attention from the outside world.
- Atari-Frosch offered to translate texts into German.
- Kandinski suggested outreach programs to schools to send the message that Debian is not just for boys. He also suggested that it is important to make an impact on young people, before they are set in their ways, and that female role models are needed.
- Burbuja suggested a streaming radio program for publicity to get more women involved.
- Naima pointed out that since only 1% of Debian Developers are women, getting that up to say 2% will be an important goal.
- Helix said that the problem is in two parts. First to let women know that they are strong enough and welcome to contribute, and secondly to let people know that Debian is not a boys club any more. She observed that there are new women joining the Debian Women project on a daily basis, but that we need many more people involved before we can think of extensive outreach activities.
Helix then asked the meeting what can Debian Women do in the immediate future that we are not doing already?
- Helen said that we can encourage interested people to think harder about becoming developers. Several people seem to be interested in joining the NM queue in the near future. Anja said that the first step is to teach people about how Debian works. Maxx pointed out that the NM process is slow at the moment anyway. Kandinski commented that networking is an important part of the NM process.
- Daf asked whether the Debian Women will go on forever, or whether the goal is to make itself redundant by changing things so that it is no longer necessary. Helix said that ideally yes, the project would make itself redundant in the long term.
- Atari-Frosch suggested, as a first step, speaking with women who use computers privately, to encourage them to use linux. Helix suggested a "random acts of evangelism" day, and wondered where we could locate interested women. sTone_heAd said that it happens to her often anyway. Helix suggested making a document that could be passed to people in real life. Kandinski suggested going to university clubs. Anja suggested local Linux User Groups. Various people agreed with both these suggestions. Using linuxchix meetings as a starting point was also suggested. mechtilde suggested publishing a list of Linux User Groups where women would already be present. Helix agreed that this should go onto the wiki, where people can add their own groups in.
- Daf pointed out that we can all be advocates to the women we meet personally. Helix was concerned that some women could feel insulted by the suggestion that they need support from the Debian Women project, but that most don't feel that way once they have interacted with the project. Helen suggested that we should aim to get people reading the mailing list or interacting on irc, and go from there.
- sTone_heAd suggested publishing a monthly bulletin about Debian Women activities.
- Naima said that visibility of the project is important and that the Debian Women project members should be supportive of one another. Helix agreed that visibility is important but difficult to achieve.
- Daf said that in his opinion the Debian Women project is already a success, although the work is not finished yet.
Helix then commented that many of the Debian Women are Spanish speakers. Would a Spanish list be helpful? It is difficult to gauge the situation with non-English speakers because they don't interact with the project.
- Kandinski believes such a list would be necessary to get Spanish speakers involved. Helix asked whether the Spanish speakers present could set up a list? Anja thinks this could be possible.
- Daf reminded us that there was a previous discussion about having a multi-lingual list. He thinks that would be better than having multiple lists. Helix asked what people think about having the main Debian Women list be multilingual. Several people think this is a good idea, depending on the volume of email. Daf would enjoy it.
- Helen suggested that the linguists on the list could help by translating non-English emails into English afterwards. Daf agrees that this should and would happen. Atari-Frosch said this might be too much work.
- Kandinski thinks that multilingual lists are frustrating unless everyone speaks all the languages. Moray said it might scare people off. Helix agrees that moray has a reasonable concern. Anja thinks that a multi-lingual list is not a good idea.
- Helix summarised the situation that we can either have several lists, which people would have to run, or have a multi-lingual list, which several people disagree with. Either way, there will be difficulties with coordination, requiring translations or posting between lists. Naima, helix and daf expressed concern that the project might fragment if we had multiple lists. Kandinski points out that if the project gets too big to handle and fragments it is a success.
- Baby wondered whether it is actually possible to join Debian if you don't speak English. If it is not possible, maybe it is not a good idea to try to attract people who do not speak English to Debian.
- Several people believe it is not really possible to join Debian without English. Daf suggested that maybe it should be possible, but that is a separate matter. Moray agreed with daf, seeing as Debian's multilingual focus is more aimed at users, whereas Debian Women is primarily about getting people involved as DDs. Helen pointed out that there are ways to contribute to Debian without becoming a DD, but agreed that knowing English is essential.
- Naima pointed out that it depends on what is meant by "joining Debian", since it is possible to use it without knowing English.
Kandinski offered to arrange hosting for a debian-women-es list on barrapunto. Moray pointed out that alioth could be used to host lists. Daf said that lists on alioth might be perceived as second class. Maxx suggested that many people own servers and that hosting a list is not going to be a problem. Helix is concerned about trying to get a firstname.lastname@example.org list, since it might be controversial. Helen asked whether splitting the list into two to create a Spanish list would be well received within Debian or not, and whether it would help Debian or not. Bab commented that most of the language-specific lists on lists.debian.org are for users rather than developers, and that it might be better to register the list somewhere else, to avoid conflict. He also said that several lists specific to different regions are already being hosted elsewhere, such as debian-au, and that there would be no bad implications in doing that.
- Daf suggested that reaching out to speakers of other languages should be brought up on the mailing list again, rather than trying to come to a conclusion about it now. Anja suggested that creating an irc channel for Spanish speakers would be a good idea. Several people agreed with this.
sTone_heAd suggested getting Debian-Women's activities included in Debian Weekly News. Maxx agreed with this idea. Helix is worried about the idea of having a specific section for Debian Women in DWN. Maxx summarised with the suggestion that a DWN-like newsletter or summary, with translations to several non-English languages is a preferred option at this stage. Helix agreed with this, along with a #debian-mujeres (Spanish debian women) irc channel.
- The meeting diverted to a discussion about where and when and how the minutes would be posted. Naima is doing research into this topic and may contact people privately in the future. The point that public logs of the meeting may not be posted was reiterated, and people were reminded that these minutes would be posted to the wiki.
Helix declared that the meeting was closed as of 22:51 UTC.
Much cheerful conversation ensued for at least the next few hours