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2010 July 1 [Thursday]


UPDATE :: It was pointed out to me that the person impersonating "lut4rp" to leave the "die bitch" comment on my blog does not deserve his privacy as he tried to get an innocent person (lut4rp) into trouble. This is to clarify that Ajay Kumar (ajuonline), left the "die bitch" comment on my blog. [End UPDATE]

Its incredibly funny when some Indians suffering with illusions of "internet == anonymity" think that they can get away with online harassment. Trolling is an art so if a troll does a bad job of using the technology properly, its difficult to write this post with a straight face.

IP Information -
IP address:
Reverse DNS: [No reverse DNS entry per ns11.bsnl.in.]
Reverse DNS authenticity: [Unknown]
ASN: 9829
ASN Name: BSNL-NIB (National Internet Backbone)
IP range connectivity: 1
Registrar (per ASN): APNIC
Country (per IP registrar): IN [India]
Country Currency: INR [India Rupees]
Country IP Range: to
Country fraud profile: Normal
City (per outside source): Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Country (per outside source): IN [India]
Private (internal) IP? No
IP address registrar: whois.apnic.net
Known Proxy? No

Ajuonline, impersonating another person while revealing your identity is hardly 'chatur' online.

from Troll101 import CommonSense

2010 March 9 [Tuesday]


At the recently concluded PyCon-2010, there were some discussions about diversity, women, etc... I suppose, much of my energy would have been saved if I had published this mail earlier or even blogged about individual sexist behaviors i've experienced within the Indian floss community. Na, its not fear, rather why would I want to think about evil creepy stuff on a personal space like my blog!? However, during various discussions, I realized that many folks dont know what you experience on an individual level on $random-foolist (or off-line harassment) within the floss community, unless you talk about it...Talking is the first step....

Hi $PersonsName,

As I write this mail the words "Out the creeps publicly" uttered by a devel (who shall go nameless) comes to my mind and hence i'd prefer to not be anon and back my words under the pseudonym 'svaksha'. Do feel free to trim my long train of thoughts and I wont be offended if it does'nt make it to your article as /self is too late in all probability :) -- my mental resources are wound up around a lexical parser atm.

Initially when i used to hear all the women speak about their experiences i took comfort in the fact that i am not alone in hoping for change. But i had not factored in the possibility that change is tougher when "clueless new idiots" follow in the steps of "sexist old timers". Over the years the attitudes towards diversity still remains sexist, especially within the Indian community where cronyism is normal.

My observations are largely India-centric salted with some experiences on international lists and sans a timeline ...

The usual personal mails asking for personal details under the guise of "i want to volunteer" or guised as a personal interview (since when did marital status become relevant to floss contribution?). Another peculiar one was a guy writing emails in different scripts despite my requests that i didnt understand them. It was when i requested a friend to translate them that i realised why -- personal questions in a non-english script meant fewer people would know he was asking personal questions.

Then there was this instance of a jerk trying to crack into my server when he became aware of my gender. I was happy with the anonymity --- Very very few folks (i trusted) knew my location and real name but that changed when I founded the Ubuntu-Women project, was termed a "militant feminist" (a pejorative term for Feminazi?). 

This pejorative was echoed in the Indichix (LC-India) mailing lists in 2008 to avoid answering the question of 'controlling a woman's group by proxy' - hmm...cronyism and elitism is gender-neutral ;-) These personal attacks descended into personal life queries (hint:: the coffee, splenda thread) by one Indian male who subscribed to a grrls-only mailing list by pretending to be a woman. So much for the "cultured_Indian"! 

Other experiences include, an smtp header spoof of my mail id to send a sex-related email to Ubuntu lists ; an indian gentoo devel in his interview wanted to be stuck in a lift with me even while he admits to never having met me. Another was the death threats from "mikeeeeusa" on DW which went off-list ~~ IIRC around 5 women were the initial targets but Clytie (an AU contributor) had threats sent to her teenage daughter too.

http://eaves.ca/2009/07/06/structurelessness-feminism-and-open/ has a point I could relate to viz.elites and cronyism -- both of which are true as far as the local Indian floss community is concerned. I've heard past incidents of getting cronies to use social engineering (a bully's crony will pretend to be your friend and find out where you work, etc..) and use pressure tactics (complaining to your superiors/boss@work --the easiest way to bully an individual who fears losing his/her livelihood) to silence disagreeing voices -- This may probably not be sexist as it happened to an indian male (who shall remain anonymous) floss volunteer, but i'm writing this to highlight a deeper and more serious problem within the fragmented Indian floss community.

Pretending to support women racks up the good_publicity_karma (hence commercially lucrative via corporate sponsorship for privately controlled commercial conferences pretending to be a community event) while one can continue to be being elitist and deny decision making power via "cronyism" (the elites will use red herrings and out-shout newbies or anyone who disagrees with them with cries of "show me the code") on the side -- a very subtle game that is hard to decipher on a superficial level.

However, when subtle aggressiveness is reserved for the local community members only very few folks outside that circle are aware of it. This small subset of highly aggressive Indian men will never exhibit this negative attitude on the international project lists and irc channels where they _do_ participate, because it will permanently damage their reputation. This is never good for business or landing a job in future. Also, international lists and irc channels have lesser bystanders[0] taking care of SEP[1].

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somebody_Else%27s_Problem]

If readers are thinking its a malaise with the whole Indian community or a cultural baggage, its not. There is a lot of positive stuff happening thanks to many individuals who are polite and respectful and dont feel threatened by (wo)men. There are many men and women who continue their good work on an individual basis but unfortunately they are relegated to the  back-burner by pompous self-promoting jerks. I'm personally hoping to see a truly open community initiative like LCA or debconf (and others like it) happen in India.

Regarding including links and threads, i am undecided. The marketing gimmick "bad publicity is still free publicity" is another reason why I prefer to avoid blogging too much about negative behavior as it can acquire a cult-like halo and an easy way to fame for other men or newbies, especially when they see peers getting away with it. While technical misdemeanors (like a ddos attack,...) are punished quickly i've not yet heard an a$$hat being ostracized or boycotted from the community and this despite there being discussion and more discussion and protests about the said negative behavior.

Besides, the online world is so small that there is the danger of forming a mental picture of an individual and getting over-familiar via blogs, twitter, irc, lists, etc... Its possible that judging folks during real life meetings based on these preconceived assumptions is another cause of social behaviour problems.

I dont have any magic answers and have always believed that community action is the best way to solve the problem. Yet, getting women to speak-up openly against the negative attitude is a lot harder, especially when they feel they will not get any support as the lone voice, statistically speaking.  Few folks will want to waste their time tackling a regular barrage of red-herrings and logical fallacies. Example: Using the term "we" is purposely misinterpreted as taking over control and using "I" is interpreted as "the problem is singular in nature" and since _one_ person is statistically too small to figure in change, the status quo continues --This tactic works very well in situations when no change is desired.

Y'all probably are aware of all this so i'll stop as i've got to leave now.


As you've probably guessed, the above was my mail sent to a private un-archived women-only list. I'm also reproducing (with permission) an exchange with another floss contributor who wrote after he read the above e-mail:

Devel: And you cant have a community of human beings and donkeys right? That's why I refuse to believe most of the Indian FLOSS communities are communities at all. I dont care and I dont bother.

Me: That is the scary bit...everybody stops caring. When I stop caring its just downhill then. Somewhere we have to make an effort to build the community, sustain it and grow.

Devel: You have to make sure the community is worth it. [emphasis mine]

Wow, that last line really hit me hard and brought me to my senses. His thoughts were echoed by another person, "dont beat your head against a wall, it will bleed".
Both said words that I cannot forget.

Do some people behave differently in public and in private? Yes, my (Indian) floss experience proves this is true. Pretense is an individual's negative attitude and India is not exactly famous for the way it treats its women-folk. That these negative social attitudes magnify themselves on the internet is not at all surprising because evils minds will learn to use tools like tor and fake email id's/online profiles to stalk women online. They dont have the courage to do it in the open with their real identity and face the ensuing repercussions.

Why expect women to say *Stop harassing, stop stalking* ? Given the low female participation, women are an even smaller percentage in the existing scheme of things and the lack of space to speak up within projects is another crucial point that gets overlooked.  Instead of telling women how to adjust to sexist bullying, men within a project must learn to speak up if they wish to see change. Most times that action is taken against those who manage to offend those in power, else in floss communities sometimes one can get away with any negative behaviour with zero repercussions.

In my years within most Libre software projects, the common thought that surfaces is the expectation that "change is slow" because positive results with respect to reducing sexist behaviour takes time. I disagree.  Is it that women have to be offended with negative attitudes or sexism for action to be taken? Why cant a lone individual (irrespective of gender, nationality or any other criteria) say "stop being a jerk" and get tons of community support. If there is a lack of community support, its due to apathy and a lack of firmness and strong action with low tolerance to negative behaviour by every person involved in the floss community.  This is not as easy as typing this blog entry was, since it needs impartial and strong leadership qualities. 

If we dont want a gesellschaft instead of a community where people care for others, then attitudinal change on an individual level is the need of the hour. FOSS Communities are mostly made up of individual people who use the same technology they create and although women (add foo-group of choice) are a subset, they should not be the diversity tokenism card for spin doctors trying to prevent a PR disaster!

2008 October 6 [Monday]

Privately controlled FOSS.IN is not a community conference

My previous post, elicted a fairly long clarification from Tejas (thanks) and since a tiny comment box is insufficient for a reply, here goes...

TEJAS: I whole heartedly agree. FOSS.IN is one of many many many indian FOSS events. Many of these FOSS events have a completely different focus than FOSS.IN

ME: Right, different events should have different focus. As I wrote earlier "Maybe the intention is generate more blue-blooded kernel code from India. Good for them". Any private event organiser has carte blanch freedom to decide the focus for his event, even at the risk of alienating the same community which contributes to the distro he uses. I suppose the distro you use would indeed be very usable minus the artwork, translation and other assorted grunt work since they are NOT considered equivalent to "real code".

Freedom works both ways and the Libre community users, contributors, and other by-standers who do the grunt work will either decide to attend if they feel wanted, else boycott the event. It would be their choice, hence freedom (as in speech).

TEJAS: Team FOSS.IN, like the head of other major FOSS projects is a meritocracy. I joined the team after I volunteered in 2005, and was asked to lead the volunteers team in subsequent years. If someone wanted to be on Team FOSS.IN, they should have proven themselves in some way. And in fact, that is how every member of the team was picked up.

ME: Great to know that you have a wonderfully organised event, with due credit to all the organizers. BUT This is the kind of financial transparency one expects in any community event, especially if it is touted as the event of the Indian FLOSS community, because its not really a community event. Feel free to talk to folks across the world who are involved in organising and managing a LIBRE software community event, where openness and transparency is the norm. Be it Debconf, linux.conf.au, or any other Libre SW event, every part of organising the event is always discussed publicly (which usually includes the bidding, finance and sponsorship rates, etc...) within the community and public archived. From what I have heard of foss.in, this is not a practice that is followed -- no transparent financial or organisational election process exists. But being an organiser you would be in a better position to throw light on whether this was (or is) being done with foss.in. So please do provide links (and archive url's on the foss.in mailing list?) to those discussions and I shall update my blog entry to reflect your corrections.

[UPDATE : Being a community project the Gnome foundation openly discusses its budget on the mailing list whilst candidate elections to the board is yet another example of a transparent process. Fwiw, past foundation members include Indians too. Some upstream best practices are worth emulating locally too.]

TEJAS: It isn't elitist arrogance. We are focusing on FOSS development efforts. There are enough and more events all over india focusing on translation and bug fixing and so on and so forth.

ME: Please do define the terminology "FOSS development efforts" AND what they would entail? In your definition, where do people who manage servers, do bug testing, do packaging, backend work or maintain the online communication channels, help out with localization and translations and produce all those funky icons and beautiful artwork ; figure in the scheme of things?

For a lot of people the above is not a part of earning daily bread -- read, they are NOT paid but they do it nevertheless because _they want to_, not because foo-bar MNC is paying them as part of the day job to hack on the kernel or translate 500 strings per day. If people who really work for free (no salary or financial gain) are not welcome, it is propagating the elitist and arrogant stance that only a kernel hacker is a real contributor and the remaining efforts are worthless. While you/foss.in are free (as in speech, not beer) to focus on anything you like, dismissing and insulting contributors by twisting terminology is not very friendly. Feel free to choose to ignore the difference, whence, we are not even discussing things on the same page.

TEJAS: Every event, has a focus. That's what makes it a memorable event. The focus of FOSS.IN has been becoming narrower and narrower, as other events have been coming up.

ME: I've replied to this earlier so wont repeat it.

TEJAS: In 2007, FOSS.IN strictly had no talks that were not related to some FOSS project, and about getting involved (ie, there were no more "How to get FOSS in govt" and "How to get FOSS in education" talks). By this time, there were a stack of other community events, a few of which Team FOSS.IN offered to sponsor (as a silent sponsor)

ME: I know, I attended them.

TEJAS: In 2008, we have reached the stage where there are loads of community events out there, and FOSS.IN can focus on what it wants.

ME: TBH, I would have thought that is a decision for the community to make. Its obviously not  in your case.  Anyway the moot objection is about foss.in's arrogance with 'show me the code' attitude, giving credence to kernel commits (in which case it should be called a kernel-summit), etc.. The objection arises when you start judging others contributions by your yardstick and whether it fits your objective or idea of what a true contribution is. That is arrogant and unfriendly and helps alienate and push the community people away. You are a better judge of your event goals but its NOT acceptable to judge others by your yardstick.

Also, 'Freedom' is no excuse to diss on contributors who dont measure upto YOUR standards. That is negative community karma but if that is the route the event organiser wishes to take, so be it. There is not a single upstream project which discriminates against non-coders so blatantly and all this under the guise of increasing contributions. Either way the Indian floss community will vote with their freedom : to attend or not. Fair enough.

TEJAS: Does the indian public really need one more event on the same thing? It's quite simple.

ME: See above

TEJAS: I think you, like so many other people, are missing the definition of (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/...) "Low Hanging Fruit"

ME: ah, NOT at all !! Other than questioning the English skills of everyone who protested, questioning their sanity levels and falling short of irreverently dismissing them as 'dumb' or calling them 'stupid', Mr. Atul Chitnis was being his usual arrogant, egoistical and dismissive self. Old stuff, nothing unexpected and I say that from first-hand experience, as the recipient of archived abuse on the Indichix list, in the not too recent past.

TEJAS: I don't see how this is remotely true. Every single detail of this change has been explained in the various lists. Just because we made a decision you didn't like doesn't make us a closed and non-transparent conference.

ME: Feel free to make any decision you like but dont confuse that with openness and transparency in community functionings. For the rest of your charge, Ditto from above ..... BUT This is the kind of transparency one expects in an event, especially if it is touted as the biggest free software event in India, albeit a wonderfully organised event IMO, with due credit to all the volunteers hard work. Well, feel free to talk to anyone across the world who is involved in organising and managing a LIBRE software event, where openness and transparency is the norm. Be it Debconf, linux.conf.au, or any other Libre SW event, where every part of organising the event is always discussed publicly (which usually includes the bidding, finance and sponsorship rates,etc...) within the community and public archived. From what I have heard of foss.in, this is not a practice followed BUT being an organiser you would be in a better position to throw light on whether this was (or is) being done with foss.in. So please do provide links (or archive url's on the foss.in mailing list?) to those discussions and I shall update my blog entry to reflect your corrections.

TEJAS: I'm sorry that you feel this way. I'd encourage you to form another event, with another focus, if you feel that is appropriate.

ME: Thanks for the encouragement, but as you said there are many events and its much more productive to redirect the 600 bucks there instead. I'm sure I'll hear a 'thankyou' at the very least.

TEJAS: Let me just warn you, from personal experience, that leading a volunteer team (which is exactly what FOSS.IN is) is a LOT of hard work. Often working sleepless nights on the CfP when you have an exam next day, and start studying for it at four in the morning. Do you know why we do it? Because at the end of the day, we know that we ARE boosting the contributions from India. Last time we boosted the number of contributors. This time, we are boosting the volume.

ME: Would love to see the latter happen but like others have said people who are contributing will continue to do so, despite being unwelcome at foss.in. Anyway, whatever gave you the impression that another volunteer does not put in hardwork ..... just because its not kernel code?

2008 October 5 [Sunday]

A Vegetarian Volunteer vents about FOSS.IN

Contributions in Libre software projects !?

I had attended foss.in 2007 for the first time because LinuxChix-India had a BoF and most importantly to meet friends who were speakers and gave talks. I also attended talks on some topics which were of interest to me personally. This year, ever since the organisers have taken a "holier than thou", "show me the code (and only 'real code' counts)" route, there has been a lot of heated debate over this partisan attitude.

Christian, your analysis is spot on, but here are some facts that are not otherwise evident :

#1. This is not the *only* major Libre event in India.

- The organisers team at foss.in, for the most part, hardly changes and is never publicly elected, let alone publicly discussed. Its privately controlled so, its definitely unfair to compare it with other international community-run conferences like Fosdem, Debconf, http://linux.conf.au/ and suchlike nor compare it with other Indian events mentioned below.

- Each year, Indians are treated to fossconf.in@Chennai, Freed.in@Delhi, mukt.in@Hyderabad (at which i spoke) and Gnunify@Pune, among the various local events held contiguously all over India. Its unfair to bill these events as any less since they are free, open and transparent. Besides, the biggest issue some of these events face is chasing sponsors before each event. Why? I've heard some organisers say the big IT companies out there dont want to support small libre community events in India. The marketing department will ask for past attendee numbers. A blinkered attitude IMHO.

Ideally every major IT firm _should_ be encouraging the smaller events to grow and creating variety by sponsoring freedom. This will reduce the pressure the volunteers undergo in worrying about 'funds', 'management', and suchlike. Another possibility is to hold a debconf or fossconf event in India but that is tough for a lot of reasons.

So why not sponsor {add project name here} speakers/participants for smaller events like gnunify, mukt.in and freed, which will increase interaction and participation in the local Indian community!!

#2. Contributions, Freedom and you.

- Secondly Christian, maybe the organisers goal is NOT to encourage more "Karolin, Ana, Miriam or Clytie to be part of Indian FLOSS game" but well, they are free to promote elitist arrogance, even if women's groups have been fighting against it all these years and just about succeeded in making libre software projects more inclusive and friendly.

- Most major projects encourage contributions such as localization, packaging and bug squashing which are important tasks in the evolution of a libre software project.  Apparently _that_ is not good enough and foss.in wants to focus on people who code and only 'real' code while condemning bug testers, translators and such like which according to their definition are low hanging fruits (read un-important tasks?). Maybe the intention is generate more blue-blooded kernel code from India. Good for them.

Aditya Godbole summed it up quite well here among other folks who dared to raise their dissentive voices (but I feel lazy to scout for links on a Sunday afternoon).  He is partly right, one ought to think if you really need a conference to prove oneself !?

The beauty of the Libre community is such that *you* get to decide how much you want to contribute. Just as they are free to dismiss "low-hanging" fruits, we are just as free to attend another conference which is truly free, open and transparent. So if one wants to contribute please go *directly* to the respective project and start whatever work you want to do according to your time constraints and interest.

That said, I would respect those who respect me, my time and my contributions. If someone thinks my contributions dont measure upto their blue-blooded standards, its their choice, just as I can choose how I spend my 600 bucks this year. Being a vegetarian, i dont eat omlette's, but fruits are very good for health so join us and help us pick some low-hanging fruits,  There's more... but I guess you know your way around Libre software projects by now which is freedom defined by you :)

2007 December 24 [Monday]


Anant, lift or island ?

2007 April 18 [Wednesday]

Women in the FLOSS community

While typing the title I was thinking "there we go again..." but ignoring does not make a problem disappear. Jono is meeting with UW members for a discussion about the issues women face whilst volunteering online, discuss, address and probably find a path to minimise the problems and reduce misunderstandings (perceived or otherwise). Not everyone has the same experience but many women around the world have experienced it in different forms. Sadly women restrict it to discussions on lists or irc, rarely do we decide to be proactive and do something about it. Worse, sometimes women who do speak-up are told not to over-react, even ignore such things - Is that in the hope that the abusive and harassing person will go away or stop indulging in such nastiness? However, I found that ignoring does not work as most Indian men equate silence with fear, hence a validation that they are correct. Victory!

Discussing it with other chix on a non-archived LC list last year, I was surprised to see many women respond with a "yeah, I experienced it too", "We want some document we can link to in the case of inappropriate behaviour", and so on...
Taking it a step further I proposed a "online behaviour guidelines" , something along the lines of a "How-to encourage women in Linux" which does not address such issues in depth but the LC site was (is) still being reworked so its in a limbo state as of now. For lack of a home currently Chris hosts the draft on her wiki.

The first step toward a solution is always "recognising and accepting a problem exists" but before meeting Jono I hope we can come up with some "workable" ideas on how to address the problems, find solutions, mitigate (if not eliminate) the issues to a larger extent. I hope UW members will discuss the draft, improve, add comments and critically analyze it, both on the list and in the forums so that maximum number of women (and men) can give their feedback.

Some weeks ago I became the KDE-women list admin. Its a very quiet list so I hope to juggle it with other volunteer stuff.

2006 July 18 [Tuesday]

Willful mis-interpretation of reality

Baishampayan Ghose, if you opine the Ubuntu-Women project is sexist and useless ; then why list yourself as a UW mentor, especially when you were never subscribed to the mailing list, nor participated, nor read or understood the goals of the UW and the Mentoring project in the first place. So what was the real purpose of subscribing to the list on the same day as this mail asking to be listed as a mentor in UW, after which you never bothered to reply to the mentoring survey, nor reply to this mail asking you to do so.
People are free to think whatever they like about *-women groups and I would not waste my time in explaining its existence or try to convince those who willfully choose to mis-interpret reality. Anyone seeking more answers with regards to the founding of the UW project can ask him why he approved it, or better still raise an agenda at the CC meeting. That is the official Ubuntu way!

2006 July 17 [Monday]

Militant Feminism and FOSS

My earlier entry on women in floss has earned me the dubious title of "militant feminist" [#].

Mr. Soumyadip Modak, for the record, some truths need to be stated.

0} The Indian Floss arena is not (was never/will not be) isolated and has many volunteers from Debian, Fedora, KDE, Gnome/Novell, and more who have synergized their working with the upstream and local community. I rarely see them flaming people every five minutes on mailing lists.

1} The Flosspols report, a well-respected statistical analysis funded by the EU, covers all aspects of points quoted vis-a-vis IRC, ESR, and hacker culture et al. Maybe its easier to shoot off a rude, mis-informed email than make an effort to read and understand what empirical studies and their statistical findings state, notwithstanding personal bias.

2} I did leave Ubuntu-IN because of the constant flaming indulged in from my first post announcing its creation. Flaming repeatedly (especially in disagreement), spoofing my email ID, are a violation of the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, which an Ubuntu Member after signing the COC has broken repeatedly. On that basis alone I could have escalated the matter with the Council and chose not to when given the choice by one of the CC members. The list archives are available as are my other posts so if asking for openness and transparency is wrong you should have taken it up with the Community Council, which I understand is the final authority in Ubuntu.

Also I could have easily blogged this a long time ago (circa March 2006) but the Loco team was just starting out and decided not to do that out of consideration for other Ubuntu members.

3] I never took credit for anything more than I did....

1:28 G0SUB Hello, we are here to apply for `official status' for the Indian LoCo

but its easier to use my name when required to form the loco team (CC meeting log dated 2006-03-07 ) but deny everything else thereafter. I wonder why that is not very surprising.

4} Regarding the mailing list :

you were never the appropriate person to handle its mailing lists in the first place.

If anyone felt that I was not fit to hold the position they could have easily contacted Jeff Waugh and voiced their objections. I am not used to 10 mails per day (private and public) demanding the same thing over and over again so fed-up of the harassment I handed admin rights in less than 24 hours to the 3 people who asked for it on the list. That was not a community decision and I took the precaution of checking with Jeff Waugh and I still rate his opinion above yours.

5} The Community Structure : I had suggested many comments on the mailing list [March2006 archives] itself which is transparent and open but you were busy accusing me of sabotaging work (or some such equally ridiculous crap because the list wasnt under your control?). Less time would have been wasted if you and the 2 others had cared to try and understand what was being said in the first place.

6} Oh... feel free to "point fingers at me directly or otherwise", and here are some more points to ponder for my readers :

  • Does contributing to the community mean you can use community resources to host your private blog on Ubuntu servers : http://people.ubuntu-in.org/~soumyadip/blog
  • Do you care to extend the same largesse to others involved in the Ubuntu-IN loco team?
  • How many Indian chapters or volunteers are encouraged or allowed to host pages for Ubuntu-local communities?

Why a seperate yardstick for other members in the community vis-a-vis the loco Council members whose rules were so carefully framed that it becomes impossible for newcomers to actually start somewhere. Remember, there is a first time for everyone and you just need to trust newcomers a bit more.

Does the Loco community really make the rules or a few in their name? If that is your definition of freedom... well... I rest my case.

Feel free to start flaming again....

[#] If someone knows what that means please leave a comment (moderated, but I assure that all comments, except spam will be approved).

2006 July 16 [Sunday]

Women in FLOSS

Murray, instead of the mailing list, I am belatedly blogging a longer response. It is true that very few Indian women volunteer in Floss projects, even though many women use free software at work or in their daily lives. There will always be nay-sayers when this fact is highlighted, with some claiming that equal opportunity exists in the world of technology. Does it really ? Look closely at the lives of the women around to see the difference, rather it will be a stark contrasting experience in terms of time, prejudice, perceptions and lost opportunities.

1. Women volunteers vs. women in IT

When speaking of women in the IT industry, it is not uncommon for many folks to (un)knowingly confuse unpaid women volunteers in FLOSS with women working in the IT industry for a monetary consideration. There is a huge distinction as the former are in it simply because they may love the philosophy of GPL, quality software, the freedom bug, passion, interest or whatever, which does not mean they don't care about earning a living, rather they are giving their precious spare time for free just like any other male Floss volunteer(s). However, the latter in the IT industry constitute a workforce who earn a living (or contribute via the workplace), which can be said about men too. This is the most distinctive attribute which easily accounts for the disparity between FLOSS and the rest if the Indian IT business.

This is not to portray women (or men) who work in IT for a paycheck in a negative light. Far from it ... as to a large extent, other economies allow greater freedom, choice and luxury of better standards when it comes to professions and this results in higher geek/non-geek programmer ratio. In India, people don't have that luxury nor the exposure and access to hi-tech advanced systems. Besides this corruption at grass-root levels ensures a harsher and tougher life with less avenues/choices. Even if people follow the money (so to speak) as far as career choices go, for good reason(s), they still have to work hard to get those skills in the first place. Too many factors to explain in a single post....

2. Online atmosphere in Indian LUG's

The atmosphere in the Indian LUG's is such that sarcasm flows like water and the key to survival is "be aggressive and arrogant" about one's technical expertise. I have seen men being mercilessly flamed and/or trolled over trivial things. Check the archives of any major Indian LUG and you will know what I am talking about.

Being rude is a prerequisite to survival. Is it any surprise that women avoid participating and prefer to lurk or ocassionally dare to ask questions. Strangely the same flamers would not behave rudely on an international list, so yes a kind of reverse hierarchy is at play.

Regarding women concealing their gender online, I have mixed feelings about this as I have used a nick earlier and never faced any flaming/trolling on international lists.... The experience with Indian men and Loco lists are a different matter alltogether, where once your gender is known, expect to be fair game for anything including private messages/emails, personal questions, stalking, and the like... In short if they can get away with that behaviour they will.

Of the few Indian women who do volunteer, most are directly contributing to the upstream communities. To the best of my knowledge, no woman moderates (if they do they are not visible) in any of the local LUG's and the Indian chapter of LinuxChix is the only community started by women. So maybe negative behaviour online is an important factor contributing to the decline and disinterest for women (and sometimes men) to volunteer in Floss.

3. Responsibility without Authority.

The Flosspols report" states :

4.1 Women are actively (if unconsciously) excluded rather than passively disinterested. The effect lies within F/LOSS cultural and social arrangements. The exclusion happens among people who often do not mean to appear, and who do not interpret their own actions, as hostile to women. The effect is an outcome of the importance given to the individual as the sole carrier of agency.

This is largely true since women posting or simply lurking online are fine but anything more, for instance even something simple like moderating a mailing list requires years of experience and probably an engineering degree to boot. I was repeatedly flamed in the Ubuntu-IN loco community for suggesting that women newcomers should be encouraged to moderate the list. Later the flaming continued repeatedly when I asked for an open and transparent decision-making process in the mailing list instead of decisions being made on unarchived IRC meetings. How does hanging on IRC all day, signify a larger contribution to the Floss community or is that priviledge reserved to the most vocal, self-proclaimed Floss fanatic.
Within a few days, I decided to leave the Ubuntu-IN loco team as being flamed for every suggestion was not worth my time and effort but the best outcome before leaving was adding a women moderater to volunteer on the Ubuntu-IN mailing list.
Most people think *-women groups are general chit-chat lists or sexist groups but yet want to mentor women in the sexist group . I find this attitude strange and wonder what the true motivation behind volunteering to mentor for the *-women group is? What is so attractive about the "I am a mentor at *-woman group" tag while not really understanding the crux of the problem. If I did not believe in the goals of any -group I would choose not to join it in the first place.

In Ubuntu-Women we have men and women sharing responsibility, who have never met each other, and yet work together and get along fantastically. The real problem, I guess, lies in "Responsibility without Authority", where women are expected to take the responsibility of working to get the job done but are denied a voice in making decisions (which signifies power and authority) on the basis that they dont possess enough technical expertise (whatever that is supposed to mean :-/). The invisible glass ceiling is the root of the problem.

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