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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!

2009 July 3 [Friday]

linuxchix-india moves to india.linuxchix.org

Its been some months since LCIN got a new home on Ketan's server and moved to a wiki at :

LC India Chapter website : http://india.linuxchix.org/
Planet : http://india.linuxchix.org/planet
Mailing list : http://mailman.linuxchix.org/mailman/listinfo/indichix
IRC : #indichix on the server irc.linuxchix.org

Well, Terri updated the official chapter page for India, so its high time Radha (i need your blog uri please !?) and Kadambari who completed the move and admin the server with Ram and Ketan helping them all along, got due credit. Thanks a ton folks - y'all r0ck :)

Lazy /me should have blogged about it earlier but i've been preoccupied with stuff. After wrestling with it for ages I finally started putting down my thoughts on all the linguistics stuff on a second blog earlier -- gee, i hardly have the patience to scribble on this blog and here i am creating another maintenance blackhole. *sigh* what was i thinking !!

Atm, in all probability it will remain a private space for me to distill my thoughts from the pen and paper khichidi which was turning me scatter-brained each time i ask someone for their opinions and thoughts.  Last week, MM and me were out and over-enthusiastic 'me' spent all my cash on some books (not that there are many great publications by Indian authors, but...duh !!), instead of that dress i wanted.

I was planning to attend the fosscomm meet in delhi, mainly as an excuse to meet Hassath, an LC'er with whom i've only corresponded online in the last 5 years. Maybe on Sunday, which gives me a day to extract my money's worth from the dead-tree versions before the trip.

2009 February 24 [Tuesday]

National coalition for Libre software

Nah, I didnt have a free weekend nor did I go out as planned, the crick in my neck and painful shoulder not withstanding. Rather, I spent this weekend attending two Libre software events. I use the term "Libre" to denote "free software" simply because the latter confuses many people into the "i-dont-need-to-pay-money" mode which is very misleading and erroneous description. Hmm... who does not like free stuff but the English word, "Free" != "phukat/muft" and the term "libre" is more close to the Indian translation of philosophical "liberation".

  • LUG meet

It was a meet i was gonna miss but things got sorted and I walked in at 6:30 pm to find the meet was still going on. Err.. imagine listening to Manish for 2+ hours....poor attendees :P ! A coffee break later (which I'm sure the listeners craved by now) Ritesh spoke about DM and we wound up at 9 pm. Yeah, its inconvenient for a lot of folks. Completely agree with kingsly that we need a bouncer to pull speakers off the stage. Any volunteers :-D? I saw a number of new faces, so we are definitely growing. Yippieeeee !

  • National Coalition for Free software

Initiated by IT for change, CIS-India hosted a meetup in Bangalore on Sunday where the objective was to get feedback from different groups working and volunteering in Freesoftware communities. Leaving my friends at MG Road with a promise to return in an hour, I walked out at 7pm :). When I walked in there was a pre-meeting going on and later the room filled to around 35-40 people. Currently many individuals and organizations are acting in isolation and that dilutes the effort so this meet was to find out how we can collaborate and help each other out. COOL !!

Met Kenneth, Radha dropped by, as did Sriram and Kingsly, besides many other folks I had met at different time spans including Prashant from AltLaw forum and 2 more lawyers. Vinay who was taking minutes of the meeting has a complete picture captured in words. I am waiting for Vinays synopsis of  Sunday's confabulations to hit the list:). 

Introductions started and Abhas was perhaps the only company there with the rest of the motley crowd comprising of volunteers and NGO representatives. Each of us spoke about our contributions to Libre software, discussed the challenges we faced and the common recurring theme was lack of support on the ground level. Kenneth spoke about the work NRC-Foss was doing in smaller 2/3- tier cities and how they promote learning and sharing via wiki's, which received a sum total of 3 lines worth of content contribution in the last 2 years of its existence, if i remember his words correctly. Kingsly suggested we should have smaller events all around the year to increase the participation and reach. I had spoken about the lack of women contributors/volunteers in libre software, where I do draw a distinction between people paid to work in Free software and those that do it in their spare time. Both are important but there is a significantly less amount of spare time the non-paid female volunteer gets and that is where the "be nice, be polite" LC philosophy helps in making the transition easy.  While there are many female Linux users, the contributors are definitely a smaller subset of this set.

While encouraging more people to adopt Linux is important, Sebastian and Yann echoed others with "Increase contributors, not just consumers of Linux". They summed this up towards the end but I highlight this here because the first thing a volunteer/contributor encounters is the community which is largely via the mailing lists/IRC and forums. If she encounters a hostile atmosphere where aggressive flaming and posturing is indulged in by a handful of vocal flamers, it is bound to turn this person to be a passive observer, lurk quietly and most people (including men) usually leave quietly, all of which are a loss. Yeah, feel free to disagree that you are immune to nastiness and that assholes should be ignored. Umm...naa, I dont have to tolerate assholes to use Linux/Libre software, much less while contributing my time for free. No one should have to tolerate assholes. Period !! For a change, stand-up to bullies around you and say "Stop being an Asshole". It works.

License issues arose but by and large the most common and recurrent theme in the discussion was the lack of support, with almost everyone agreeing that Linux support sucks, commercial and community alike. They are right, there is no local framework where people can communicate face-to-face. IMHO, a local lug is perfect space to plug this gap. I touched upon why its important to have more local meets and more sessions, install fests aimed at newbies where they can have face-to-face community interactions and participation and this was in the "what do we plan to do" section.  There are probably lakhs of people who dont know how to use a mailing list and/or IRC. Hey, I certainly dont expect my family members to log onto IRC to ask for help and would rather help them out. Nah, I dont think they should not have to RTFM, google or any other bull-shit that one gets to hear from nerdy geeks. Well these are the folks that would solve a Linux problem for their own kith and kin so why not others?  What of those folks who would still be open to trying out Linux but dont have kids to help them out. Suparna was explaining how hard it was for her to make this switch to Linux and she ploughs on because she has nice people around her willing to help her out.

Libre software in Education was discussed and related an incident of ICSE schools treating computer education as a money-spinner. Heck, education has become a "get-rich-quick" scheme instead of the original goal, that of imparting knowledge. Somewhere in the rat race we seem to have allowed education to be overtaken with money and greed. *sigh* !!  There were many good ideas and a number of people signed up to various tasks.  Another suggestion I had was regarding the  the government encouraging small and medium scale entrepreneurs in Libre software (not just the large software export houses). If the manufacturing industry can gets tons of sops for women entrepreneurs why not replicate the same model for women in Libre/Free software which is a great start-up enabler. Besides Tax-incentives, this would also solve the problem of women leaving the work pool after marriage/kids. It will also allow the creation of more jobs and increase the employment rate since Libre software needs a learning attitude more than fancy expensive degrees.  The benefits are many but this needs a detailed analysis, so I'll pen those in a separate blog entry.

When it came to a coalition, most opined that it would be better to have and independent NGO for this purpose and many organisations would not be comfortable to go under any existing banner. For example, FSF-India has a limited agenda and would not be interested in local meet-ups and such like. When the question of signatories was thrown up, I mentioned that since LC and UW are not registered entities, I am not an elected representative holding any office of power so I cannot represent the project legally or aim to speak on its behalf unless authorized to do so. I was just a volunteer donating my valuable time. This was true for many individual contributors who are now welcome into the coalition. It was also suggested that atleast one such meeting be held in Chennai (which KG agreed to do), Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkatta. Sunil was the most gracious host with pastries, samosas, patties, and coffee being served to each guest and we wound up by 7pm, with the post-meeting discussions being very interesting too.

But right now I need to go pen a rant on why I hate this city's one-way roads. No really they suck big time... starting with a nice kick for that idiot auto driver  for giving me directions to Frazer town from Cunningham road, instead of MG Road. Neither do I have that bad an accent and nor does MG road sound like Frazer town. Sheesh, can someone start a "NO Oneway roads" campaign please !!

2008 September 22 [Monday]

Linuxchix Jobposts list

At the OCC meetup on Sunday, I met folks who mentioned the tough time they had finding women who were comfortable working on the Linux platform in their startups. Naturally I asked them to use the job-posts list at LinuxChix if they were not picky about a physical presence in Bangalore.

WHAT is ... ?

LinuxChix is global, and Job-posts can do better if we have a bigger range of jobs, thence being the resource for LC'xers all over the world in the computing field. As a company you can advertise junior and intermediate positions on this list.

WHAT to do?

Post your job requirements to jobposts AT linuxchix DOT org ! (You do NOT need to be subscribed to mail us-- even if you are, your message will be held for approval, so there's no point subscribing.)  Even if your job is open to, say, Indian citizens only and requires that people move to Bangalore without relocation expenses, that's OK (although you should state that in your mail-ad).

If you are looking to hire for your company, just send a copy of your ad to jobposts@linuxchix.org with this information ::

- specify the country you are in and if international applicants are eligible to apply.

- would they need to relocate to your city/country, etc...

- do you accept applicants without current work visas (or telecommuters).

- provide an email id people doing the hiring can be contacted.

UPDATE : a longer set of guidelines for this list is available here.

2008 September 15 [Monday]


Its fantastic to see an idea grow and carried forward because other people believe in it. Thrilled to announce that we have a new addition to the LC family -- Labs in DELHI :-) YAY !!

FAT-net has agreed to host the space and bandwidth and its open to women learners only but men are allowed to conduct technical talks. Check the 'fat-net.org' website for their addres. Contact Hassath [hassath gmail com] and AjayKumar [ajuonline gmail com]for more details. With Delhi its 4 Indian metros covered ...the others being :

2.MUMBAI: At the Bigadda office in Malad. Contact Jayashree Pare [Jayashree DOT Pare # GMAIL DOT] or Warren Noronha - Email: warren.noronha AT gmail.com { Phone: +91-989-280-6204}

3.PUNE :  Contact Swatee Karpe (swateekarpe # GMAIL dot COM) for further details.

4.BANGALORE : DeepRoot Linux Pvt. Ltd., #93/4, First Floor, Nandidurga Road, Bangalore - 560 046 INDIA Phone: +91 (80) 4112 4781 / 82 / 85. Contact Mr. Abhas Abhinav or me.

2008 August 27 [Wednesday]

its live

On Monday, Abhas, Tania and me met at the Deeproot office  ...yeah I should have blogged earlier.... pfft. but I dislike writing reports. so here is Tania's summary of the meeting to the indichix list :

Though I went to the meeting mainly as an observant, I wanted to share with the list what I found was an important input to the project: the idea of setting up labs not only as technical learning environments, but as project learning environments in which women (and men, Vid, please react/correct me if this was not a point agreed or discussed with Abhas) can contribute to the development of social projects which would be  enhanced by the use of free software. The advantage is that that contribution becomes itself a way of learning about FLOSS for those who are joining the labs. It is a two way process!!! It is a colaborative learning environment, set up not just for the sake to participate in the FLOSS community, but to doing it so, as a way to help others, to enhance community building around FLOSS, a community that goes beyond expert users. WOW! sorry, I really think is a great idea and I believe it completely fits into LC philosophy.

Besides DeepRoot has already a network of nonprofit organisations that would work as a starting point for this (http://www.deeproot.co.in/deepofix/users).

Unfortunately I could not stay till the end of the meeting, perhaps I could say something more if I would have ... but anyway, I hope in the other cities this labs are opening up great opportunities for you girls to develop new understandings and possibilities of what LC is about in India, just like I felt it started to happened yesterday at DeepRoot.

Tania's very eloquent mail saved me the task of writing most of this blog entry :-P so now i return to worrying about the coming weekend activity : how many hours will i waste to drape this ? Am missing the experts so much now :(

2008 August 25 [Monday]

linuxchix bangalore meet-up

Abhas of DeepRoot Linux expressed an interest in hosting LC-labs at bangalore and we are having a meet-up at his office at 4pm today. This should give each woman an opportunity to discuss their individual interests, find out what options are available and how she can make the best use of the facilities at hand.

The Deeproot office is near Cantonment station which I hope is not very inconvenient and yet central for women to access. Here is the office address : #93/4, First Floor, Nandidurga Road, Bangalore - 560046 INDIA

See you there !!

2008 August 15 [Friday]

LC Labs sponsors

At any given point my draft box tends to overflow with half-finished entries, some of which i discard if i aint in the blogging mood. To maintaiin the semblance of a regular blogger, i finally got around to using the weasel method of auto publishing while away enjoying the Independence day weekend. Happy 15Aug !

In the libre community the easiest way to ensure the growth of an idea or project is to allow people wanting to participate to take it further. So at Pune we have Swatee Karpe (PLUG) sponsoring the labs for weekdays and weekends and if you are in Mumbai you can get in touch with Jayashree Pare and Warren Noronha :
Email: warren.noronha AT gmail.com
Blog: http://www.hyperionreactor.net
Phone: +1-415-620-8700
Phone: +91-989-280-6204

While these spaces are open to the public, its not a random walk-in audience-oriented space. Rather, it is an opportunity for women (and men who support them) who usually collaborate online to work together, in person, on specific tasks. If interested, get in touch with the person(s) listed above to find out the timings. They will be managing the whole show locally.

If you have and idea, space or want to donate machines, here is a list of people whom you can contact for the following cities :

1] Delhi : Hassath [hassath gmail com] and AjayKumar [ajuonline gmail com]
Requirements: Space + infrastructure

2] Bangalore : me [vid at this domain]
Requirements: Space + infrastructure

For Chennai, Hyderabad and Mangalore we have people interested in being mentors and mentees but since this is the Free/Libre community feel free to take the initiative to find sponsors for space and infrastructure. Here is the standard format I use for writing to prospective sponsors.

--------- Letter --------

Dear Sir/Madam,

[Here, add your name and intro, unless you know the person, inwhich case, not required]

As per our discussion, this is a formal request to [add the company name] to provide us with a small room for conducting mentoring
sessions on Libre software in your organisation.  LinuxChix is a community for women who like Linux, and for anyone who wants to support women in computing. We are an international group of Libre Software users and developers, founded in 1999 with the aim of "supporting women in Linux". We have several local chapters [0] across each continent.

[0] http://www.linuxchix.org/regional-chapters.html

Having LC labs is an experiment, mainly aimed at increasing women participation in Libre software communities. Since the number of women contributing to libre software is very low (~2% ) when compared to men. In contrast the proprietary ICT industry has 28% participation, further balanced at around 50% in India, but yet few Indian women volunteer with Free/Libre software. We are trying to bridge this skewed gender gap and experiment with possible solutions.

Due to low ICT adoption in India, especially Libre software, we would like to earmark a sponsored local space which will be open to women of any age, irrespective of their financial, social or educational background to use. Since Libre software is freely available anyone is free to learn to use and contribute to it.

Thus far, LinuxChix has largely been an online interaction experience via IRC and mailing lists. This effort is meant to provide women the opportunity for periodical meetings, arrange regular sessions and workshops to contribute to Libre software. Currently, for Mumbai planning and execution is underway with Pune being the second city to follow.  The focus is on contributing upstream (Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, etc... ) and our activities would mainly revolve around :

- learning to do packaging,
- learning the dependency cycle,
- creating patches,
- bug squashing,
- localisation/translation of libre s/w
- conducting hack sessions,
- etc....

The LinuxChix-India Chapter was also featured in the ET recently :


We have no age restrictions or qualification limits and any woman with a desire to learn is welcome. We hope [add company name]  can support us in this endevour and help us turn this into a successful experiment to inspire others to contribute and create Libre software and not limit it to Indians being mere consumers of Libre software.

Awaiting a positive reply !

Thanks for reading.


[add your name]
Team LinuxChix-India

2008 August 7 [Thursday]

The chix-IN-Linux

Controversial ...absolutely!! The name LinuxChix evokes mixed feelings amongst women on mailing lists and one can be sure to be asked (usually by men) "Isnt it derogatory". Not really. In India, English is not the lingua-franca used to harass women...rather,  the local languages are more colorful, if you must. On the streets you will have heard atleast some of these "indian words" commonly used to de-humanise women in daily life, which can make your grandma turn beet red. Its something any woman would encounter on Indian streets across any Indian city and its hard to escape it and here context matters a lot, but I digress.

IIRC, the "chix" terminology is all about taking a term with negative connotations and giving it a spin, psychological empowering if you must. It is also a p(h)un twist on UnIX. But most of all, I love the attitude, the zing and pizzaz that the women (and men) bring to the LinuxChix lists, beyond the work they do locally. I just like the aspect of LinuxChix being for women who use, support Gnu/Linux and men who want to support women in computing. Its that simple.

For the most part, we as women get and give respect in the technology space via the work we do. That power is within us, via our actions. It definitely does not come from having the appropriate cultural name or a perfect name. The latter does not exist and IMHO "culture" is a vague and arbitrary term (mis)used in India to control people in the absence of rationality and logical argument.

Having seen Christian "bubulle" Perrier wearing a Debian Women tee, I was curious. He said that was his way of showing support and I thought 'hah, most men would wear a man's tee even if it had the logo of a women's group'. To my surprise NO, Debian-Women had NOT printed men's tee's, so Christian was wearing a women's Tee, albeit one his size. That stuck in my head for a long time and he even posed for snaps wearing the DW tee. C00L :-). I had given him some IndiChix tee's last year and he wanted to know if we printed men's T's and when I replied in the negative he nodded happily and promised to wear them as is.

At mukt.in, not a single female student questioned the name, the only questions were from men. That says a lot to me. So I had a precondition for giving away tee's to the men - Wear it right now. Nope, its not a present for your girlfriend/wife/friend. If you support women, show it off!!

Talking of Indichix, the situation is peculiar, we have volunteers for the Indichix Labs in cities where we need sponsors (Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mangalore, etc.. and no volunteers  where we have sponsors (Mumbai and Pune).  Strange...I always thought space would be a premium in Mumbai. My talk/presentation slides on "women in Libre software communities" is available here.

2008 August 5 [Tuesday]

An idea grows

Besides the pleasant weather another way to recognise I am in Bangalore is when there is a powercut. And what timing, precisely when i am working on the machine or need to fix dinner. Nice try BESCOM. </end infrastructure rant>

So far the responses to yesterday's request have been good, got some mails and an interesting comment. There was a request for Indichix labs in Mangalore and Bangalore BUT I never knew it would be so tough to get space in Bangalore. That is a surprise for sure.

I also got an office space for Pune and found a mentor in Chennai, Sudarsan Santiappan, who's comment had pertinent questions which may help us evaluate things. My reply to his comment was so long that I think its best converted into another blog post as I was repeating most of the following in each individual mails. Am I lazy or wot ^_^ ?

So here goes...

SSudarsan: If I understand correctly, this is typically equivalent to setting up a company which would target to deliver OSS. In the process of delivery, the team gets matured as OSS contributors.

Yes, in a sense its comparable, but the differentiator is none would earn a salary as we are non-profit project :-)  Jokes apart, for example, the goal is NOT to learn/create an "Indian" or a "pink" distro. Instead mentors can teach about the dependency cycle, package management, packaging across platform, and help to improve/develop/maintain the existing distro's, bug squashing/patching, and so on... Since LinuxChix is distro-agnostic, any experienced volunteer from the Debian, Ubuntu, Kde, Gnome, Python, Suse, etc ... communities can conduct talks, demos, take live sessions to encourage IndiChix. Most importantly sharing and learning in a group is fun and we develop new skills besides the knowledge gained during the learning process, plus the peer recognition and meeting nice people. So coolness factor is high !!

SSudarsan: The best places to start such an endeavor are the following;
1. Houses that can accommodate few computers and people with Internet support.
2. Computer centers of Schools and Colleges, which can hired at subsidized cost.
3. Tie-ups with Software Learning centers.

Cafe Coffee Day is not exactly the best venue for meetings nor conducive to learning packaging. So if we can provide an environment where they can come during weekends to learn for a few hours it would be a worthwhile experiment. In a nutshell the challenges and pressures are different and yet similar across different Indian cities; Also we are not-for-profit and have no inflow of revenue so hiring is a long shot at the moment, unless we find a generous sponsor :)

SSudarsan: One needs to have the following but not limited to; to sustain such an endeavor are the following:
0. Understanding the Vision

Contribute upstream. To add and expand, the moot idea is to reduce the challenges, as the knowledge divide for women is higher. With this experiment we can try to bridge this with help from like-minded people. Unlike other developed nations, in India, we have a number of women working in the proprietary software industry, which may be equivalent to men, but yet we have few (maybe around 100+) giving back to the Libre community. I met many newbies who are confused about:

+ where to start contributing, how to start, etc...

+ self-doubts about being good enough,

+ lack of knowledge about existing projects, or

+ Even wonder what to do at projectA, does my skill set match, do i have enough experience, etc... 

SSudarsan: 0a. Are you going to do service ?

Service ---> "upstream"  projects.

SSudarsan: 0b. Are you going to develop free s/w for the community ?

Absolutely, YES. Creating islands of excellence seems counter-productive.

SSudarsan: 0c. Are you going to commercialize the s/w developed ?

Not sure I understand what you mean but ...; I am no lawyer but I suppose; the existing license of the upstream project will prevail. This may change depending on the project too. :-8

SSudarsan: 0d. Are you having enough money flow to sustain this operation ?

As mentioned earlier, we are not-for-profit and generating revenue is not exactly on the top of the list right now. Besides the legal implications there are enough challenges, as is, to solve :)

SSudarsan: 0e. Who are the beneficiaries ?

Any (wo)man interested in helping and contributing to IndiChix, upstream projects, sponsors (you get to evaluate potential dedicated, hardworking technically adept women).

SSudarsan: 1. A Business model to sustain software development. Preferably a revenue model for sustained operation covering inflow and outflow.
2. A team of mentors/managers to train contributors and execute projects.
3. A detailed plan for people, projects, revenue in terms of growth and prospects.

and more...

If such a system is setup in Chennai, I would be willing offer mentorship.

The revenue model is too early imho, as
We (are a not-for-profit org and it has legal implications. Currently we will have to find a way to survive on sponsors aka charity.  Thanks for offering to mentor in Chennai.

To subscribe to IndiChix list, visit the list http://mailman.linuxchix.org/mailman/listinfo/indichix

2008 August 4 [Monday]

libre labs for indichix

A few weeks ago I had asked if there was any IT firm in India willing to host Free Software Labs just for women ? Many people wrote and asked what it would entail and I had suggested:

#1. Requirements :
1.1 Libre computer labs equipped with machines and an Internet connection.
1.2 Centrally located within city limits.

#2. Goals :
2.1 These labs ensure a static space so women dont have to travel far or to lonely places for local meets.
2.2  It would enable local FSF/GNU volunteers to introduce and teach them packaging, translation, bug-squashing, etc...
2.3  Increase contribution to upstream projects like Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Gentoo, Suse, KDE, Gnome, etc...

#3. Do's and Dont's :
3.1 Not meant to be used for personal use (downloading movies/songs, chatting, etc...)
3.2 Currently restricted to women participants.

#4. Managing and growing the Idea :

Managing and decision making (how many days a week, who will talk, what talks, etc....) is left entirely to the women volunteers in the city.

4.1 Mumbai :  Although I had started out looking for space in Bangalore, I have an interesting proposal from an MNC in Mumbai who are willing to lend space, infrastructure etc). BUT at this point, I would like to know if chix in Mumbai are willing to take this further.I would not be able to do that from another city and neither am I interested in micro-managing things. I would prefer if local chix took initiative in this regard. So is anyone up to the challenge ?

4.2 Bangalore : Currently, machines are available but space is a challenge. At Mukt.in a few alternatives were suggested so let me see how things pan out.

4.3 Delhi : Not much except I found a committed volunteer (again at mukt.in) who is willing to help out with this. Any Delhi-chix interested ?

4.4 Other cities: Please reply to the list if you want a similar lab in your city.

The whole idea is centered around sharing and learning together. With a systematic effort we may reduce and hopefully eliminate the "how do I start" which is the common question every newcomer has.  That said,this needs your co-operation and depends entirely on your interest levels.

So I hope we pull this off as a team !!  Do add your thoughts /suggestions to improve it.


/end mail......................

That was the mail I had sent a little earlier to the Indichix mailing list. I just came back from Hyderabad today morning, where I was attending mukt.in from Friday. To my utter surprise things fell into place at and I have a lot to blog about, the event and the fun I had :-P

2008 July 14 [Monday]

linuxchix-india in the news

Tweeting and denting helped this last month and now its back to blogging ?? .... dunno, but I have definitely been slow in blogging about LCIN being in the news. A few weeks ago Fred had written to the mailing list (along with a long questionnaire :-)) wanting to write an article on IndiChix (the Indian chapter of LC). His article on Indichix has now been syndicated in the Economic times and Siliconindia,and many other publications ...someone even dugg it. Nice, thanks Fred !!

Besides the other challenges that women face its no surprise that you will find access to infrastructure a real issue. This may be a common problem for a lot of women all across the world but in India its worse. Without getting into the reasons as I dont think they can be analysed, quantified and solved easily. Rather than dwell on the "why" I had suggested this idea on the list :

Ask IT MNC's in India as part of their CSR (corporate social activities) to sponsor small 'libre-learning-for-women-labs' in their office premises which should be open to any woman to use and learn about Gnu/Linux. These Libre computer labs should be equipped with machines and an Internet connection which would enable local FSF volunteers to introduce and teach them packaging, translation, bug-squashing, etc...

Is there any IT firm in India willing to host Free Software Labs just for women ??

2008 January 23 [Wednesday]

indichix needs you

When it rains, it pours. How true ...

Starting week3 of the new year sick has echoes of the past which morphed into a crashed desktop disk and spiced things up with the Ubuntu kernel trouble on the lapy. Subtracted power last weekend for good measure and salted with patchy internet (/me being pro-active, changed it :)) when bestowed with power....boiled over to me wondering if i should have gone for it after all. Since i didnt, it was time for the IndiChix meetup last saturday with Ankita, Vikram and Balu (the Bangalore Mirror reporter) in attendance. Maybe its the location(*)... do we need to find a convenient, central venue in the city ? What the heck, i tend to go around in circles anyway. /eye roll.

Anyway the article that was supposed to be about women in Technology somehow landed up in the entertainment section of Bangalore Mirror. [/me cringes] So if anyone did read about us on Jan19 in the Bangalore Mirror, kindly fill in the blanks, since they dont have a website and Balu was not able to get a copy (sold out he said) that day.
Not that there was a deluge of applicants for this call ; which I announced today, making it easier to focus on stuff i really care about. I also posted the meet-up minutes to the list for further discussion. We had feedback that our website (which is a wiki) is very confusing for newcomers to navigate. Sheesh...... I have to agree that information is difficult to find but a wiki is always like that, in a constant state of flux. A static site is not inclusive and a wiki allows even a newbie to voice themselves. That is not an excuse, but the fact remains that none of the i'chix have ssh access to the private servers where the site is hosted (by Vaibhav) so we depend on him a lot at the moment, and cant keep demanding changes daily without proper planning. That is not practical in the long run. We still need to get the planet up and running, kwim ?
It makes more sense to get a team working right at the start (I understand when Sulamita talks about burn-out, time issues, etc..), something I'd rather not see happen with IndiChix. For this we have to increase the circle of trust and the faster we do it the better it is for the group. Also currently the women dont own the site domain which is ironical, being a grrls group and all that. Not sure about others but I find it absurd to call it a woman's group when women are playing second fiddle (read, scared of speaking their mind). Maybe women fear making mistakes (i know i do too) and being judged harshly on that prevents them from trying in the first place. In the technical world its almost rare to see women stepping up. Strangely, I rarely see men who commit -mistakes- blunders worrying about their image. i digress.

responsibility - authority == no show

One of the aim is to get women involved in every level in the community @ IndiChix, in which case we need to initiate open and transparent communication (which is very difficult as is, and almost impossible if one is constantly going to worry about inadvertently offending people) just like open source code.

Kick-starting that I mailed the IndiChix list (only subscribers can read archives) about the domain being transfered to atleast 2 grrls locally. Names suggested : Archana, Runa, Aneesha, Barkha, and Ankita. I guess responsibility without authority does not scale well in the free software community.... and since its a community it should be a community decision. So subscribe to the list and vote for any 2 grrls you prefer or if you are a 'chix, suggest your name and take over the responsibility. The third name I suggested was one of the TresChix, incase we local 'chix go MIA :)

Folks reading this, if you know grrls interested in web-development please ask them to join us and holler about themselves on the list and suggest ideas there.

(*) For most Bangalorean's distance is everything but here a commute of 15 km is a huge no-no, which is surprising for me. Well Mumbai has a reliable and efficient (albeit crowded) rail system, so people dont balk at travelling 68 km (incl. return trip/up-down) almost daily for work from Borivali to Churchgate (and back). But then folks there are the spirit of the city. There is no melting pot like it elsewhere.

2008 January 8 [Tuesday]

when in rome...

..do as the romans !

The thread on grrl-talk list about Japanese social/business etiquettes reminds me how we as humans (social beings) do go out of the way and learn some things from other cultures/customs whether while doing business or just social interaction with tourists. Mirroring their social behaviour makes us stand out less as a sore thumb and opens doors (and hearts) easily.

With the FarEast erring on the conservative side was a better option than a faux pas which may be the end of doing business ... and they have customs/ rituals for almost every aspect of daily life so learning was largely by observation, tips from friends and mirroring compared to today when an array of "what not to do" material is available online, unlike the help books and corporate training given to staff today on whether to use a fork or finger ? I'd prefer the latter anyday with a strong dash of bluntness. Business is fine but at the end of the day i'd pick 'being honest to self' over tact and diplomacy. The latter, sweetness of tongue, does have financial advantages and is as close one can get to developing diabetes of the non-physical kind.

My patchy internet connection has been jinxed every time i start blogging....annoying. As i type this , a lovely abhang in Kannada is playing on the radio. Since i caught the song halfway i dont know the name of the person singing it but he has the perfect voice, perfect base, pitch, control, ... wish i knew a teacher who could teach me abhang and hindustani classical in bangalore.

2007 December 23 [Sunday]

indichix list and bangalore meetup

Yay ! We just got our new mailing-list (thanks Terri :-)) which is being moved out of the yahoo groups (yahoo appends each mail with spammy links and whatnot, incredibly annoying...)

Last week Archu had sent me a file with all the subscribers, so i just finished mass subscribing them to the new list. But I am not aware if any new folks joined the list since that day (i am not an admin on the old yahoogroups list). Created a netiquette page (borrowed from here) on the wiki, but it needs work on the IRC and wiki editing guidelines. Am too sleepy to do it now [err.. its 4 am and i need to actually log off and get some sleep, rather than just thinking about it..... ]

Some hours ago I had suggested we do a meet-up in BLR. We are open to ideas, suggestions, need place to conduct meets regularly, so feel free to chime in. An oh, if anyone reading this wants to present their technical libre s-w work please reply to this thread. I had suggested this to Kushal (waiting for that mail) and he offered to help us out. See you there Kushal !
Besides the lovely weather in Bangalore, I find its easier to do things when you dont spend half your life travelling (read Mumbai) ...that alone gives some time to pursue other interests in life. I always envied folks back in Chennai (any city besides killer traffic Mumbai) who could catch a theatre or music concert on a week-day... simply unimaginable for a Mumbaikar !

2007 December 10 [Monday]

foss07 days

After the first day of foss.in, i never got the time to blog. Yeah i could have used the time between the talks to blog but wifi on my Compaq Presario 6000 series does not work on Ubuntu. Crap .......

| DAY 2 |

started with meeting Christian, Sam, Kartik, Pradeepto, Kushal, Alex, Tejas, Aslam, Ramky, Parthan and ?? ... Any missed names are unintentional... its just too many people these last few days so have not really connected each face with their nicks, gotchis and/or mail id's. After we had lunch I attended a talk on Dhvani: Indian Language Text to Speech System by Santhosh Thottingal and also Speech recognition and using CMU sphinx to build ASRs by ShyamK. I found these interesting but it would have been nicer if Santhosh had also kept another talk with some technical details explaining how they create unit selection synthesis, concatenation and collection of speech in the DB, the phonotactics of language which is different for each language and other stuff which i need to think about.

| DAY 3 |

Linuxchix BOF .... The previous night I created a few slides with minimalism in mind, so each slide did not have more than 3-4 words but apparently in any BoF the audience or participants control the discussion flow and since i have never done a BOF earlier, it was decided to let our participants hold fort. I was curious... By 3:35pm we had a decent crowd and for the first 2-3 minutes the women (and men) were reluctant to talk. I am not sure if it was the result of a heavy lunch but soon a discussion of sorts started off around different suggestions and ideas creating a nice web. Among other things, we discussed about women using nicks (btw, using a gender neutral nick != changing gender or pretending to be a man), which i support since its very easy to get away with harassment in India and the last thing I want to see happening to a woman since she would not know what to do about it. The general rule of thumb is that private mail should not be published on a list but imo, women can blog about it and people who abuse private mail lose their right to privacy. As Danese said the next day : "Dont be an a**.".... succinctly put !!

I had related an experience which occurred earlier in the day... We had kept linuxchix stickers at our stall and most folks used to exchange them with a bunch of their 'foo-project' stickers on our table which we didnt remove. Most of us were casually hanging around talking when up walked random dude, asked if he could take 'foo-project' stickers and i gently reminded him to take the lc-in stickers. He picks it up and says "linuxchix" (emphasis, as heard) rolls eyes upward and drops them onto the table and walks away. Ofcourse, 'foo-project' volunteer quickly removed his project stickers but irrespective of whether those other stickers lay there or not this person would have behaved the way he did. Classic case of a closed mind judging us here. Preconceived notions are hard to change so i would not waste my time in educating those unwilling to listen.

During the BoF, Runa & me were mc'ing and Aneesha, Ankita and Barkha did the hard task of taking notes and stuff. I have time and again observed that the commercial (not just propreitary) Indian IT industry has a gender ratio of 50:50 and yet Indian women contributors to the Free software movement is still in single digits. This is where the challenge lies, very unlike the issues faced by other nations. We did find new blood willing to participate and Runa announced the logo contest ... so all the artists reading this can get cracking. Please also remember :

- This is an India specific logo, and even if India lies in Asia, your design cannot be used internationally or for Asia.
- Yeah we want an Indian-ish logo, preferably abstract art.
Do describe your design theme/representation in a few lines along with your logo submissions.

An interesting discussion was after the BoF ... it was pointed out how gradually by the time the BoF was nearing the end the men started 'telling' us what we should be doing... despite a guy saying that he learnt to listen more by stepping back. That kind of sums up the whole thing for me !

| DAY 4 |

After attending Danese's talk which was merrily entertaining, well paced and interesting, C, S and me went shopping and i was too tired to do anything.

| DAY 5 |

Started with attending Sam's talk on the Debian Project, and i kinda agree with the stuff he had to say... Debian needs younger blood where existing members can be excellent mentors. Second, a point i had mentioned in the BoF, we have just 4 DD's from India and this from a country that has the IT industry as its economic backbone. Rather than focus on the 'why' i shall try to enumerate on the 'how to change' in my next post.

Ford_prefect tried to get wireless working but it was time for Rusty's talk and i had to leave for my music class. Thus ended foss.in'07 which i enjoyed and wish i had more time to attend all the talks. Some overlap is to be expected given the short time. Hmm... what about having 24/7 sessions, which has its disadvantages but that might give people more opportunity and time. Maybe a foss.in at 11 other states or cities across India. Now that would be super !

Eek... something went wrong and now all my old entries are in BOLD letters. i am trying but am unable to change it... (thence solved,2007dec11)

2007 November 23 [Friday]


I had started reading a book on 'applied discrete structures' about a month ago and just managed to finish combinatorics and logic... shucks....or maybe i should try blogging my slow progress but then i am an irregular blogger ;-) and i still have not reached the best part : graph theory, trees, boolean algebra.

Logic is interesting but only 5 pages per day is an unrealistic target, but the problem is that its not a novel whose pages can be flipped and I miss cross-referencing which makes it easier to understand stuff.

The problem lies in the fact that there is much to do and learn - a Postgresql course by MichelleMurrain over the next few weeks ...bad timing for me..., but its spread over till Feb 08, so i will have tons to catchup and learn.

Right now, its 4 am...time for some shut-eye !!

2007 November 17 [Saturday]

swag != freeware

My last post for sticker sponsors, was solved within a few hours but there was a problem with Sulamita's server and I could not blog about it. Thanks Atul (our sticker sponsor) !! I have to agree with Pradeepto that swag does not come free, and just like FreeSoftware (even if given away free, the developer's time costs money in terms of time and resources, hence lost earnings) someone somewhere has footed the bill for it.

I remember Sulamita saying the LC-Brazil tees were so popular that they got over in a flash and Runa mentioned that there was demand for LC-India Tees too. For company sponsored events its easy to get corporate sponsors but in the floss world most of the volunteers shoulder the hardwork, organising, fund-raising (sometimes its personal funds), to keep the flame burning.

While its great to get a free sticker or Tee, when you attend Foss.in please remember to ask the volunteer who hands out a sticker or Tee if you can donate/contribute to the project instead. Won't you feel nice knowing you/your girlfriend/fiance/wife/sister is not wearing a tee paid for by Pradeepto /Runa /Ananth /Sharan /....add contributor name.., think about it...!!

2007 November 13 [Tuesday]

indichix bof

LC-India is having a BoF on 2007-12-06 as part of Foss.in at Bangalore and Runa had called me yesterday to talk about the banners and stickers that she has done for the event promotion. She has put in a lot of work and I especially liked the stickers ...now if only we could find sponsors for printing the stickers !!

Besides lamenting discussing the lack of female volunteers in India, low interest rates in volunteering as a whole and other aspects of the community, we may also have to deal with low attendance rates at the BoF which kind of kills the very spirit of the whole thing.

Considering the fact that there is no dearth of skilled women in the Indian IT industry I am curious as to what keeps them away from libre software. Is it the lack of motivation or just that companies dont foster a "giving" attitude, rather than a "take" attitude?

This weekend I had a bad migrane thanks to the polluting fumes from all the Deepavali cracker-bursting, not to mention the noise levels. Weirdly a strong cup of kaapi helps but neither caffeine nor chocolates worked this time. Sleep did.

2007 May 18 [Friday]


The Indian chapter of LinuxChix started almost two years ago, largely restricted to a mailing list. Recently when the main LC site was being restructured we were awoken from our slumber and things started moving. Runa kickstarted the website initiative a few weeks ago and there was talk of building an already registered site but we were unable to get a response from the site owner. So she pinged Aneesha and me about registering an irc channel. I got #indichix registered on irc.linuxchix.org, which she announced this week. Its exciting to see the community grow and move forward together, so come and talk to us on #indichix on irc.linuxchix.org (thanks LC :))

2007 May 15 [Tuesday]

freedom and freewill

I remember reading an interesting post on "freedom without freewill" (which is unavailable now) but IIRC it spoke about "freedom" vis-a-vis hardware, certain aspects which are not really in our control and so on and so forth.

Reflecting on the human side, freedom, extended beyond the tech aspects, being abstract, is not easily defined, certainly open to (mis)interpretation and highly over-rated if not over simplified. I find that to be true for many situations and instances in our lives too.

Last week, Carla Schroder was featured on Ubuntu Weekly News - issue #40, for writing an article in Linuxtoday where she commends the Ubuntu community for enforcing the CoC by not giving carte blanche freedom to abstract notions of "freedom of speech".

There have been instances where offensive behaviour has not been tolerated with swift action being taken asap. I enjoy volunteering for a community which actually listens to less than 2% of its volunteers so seriously.

2007 April 27 [Friday]

spineful living

The following is by Carla Schroder who is conducting an online course at LinuxChix.

1. The right to feel good about yourself
2. The right to act in ways that promote your dignity and self-respect as long as others' rights are not violated in the process
3. The right to be treated with respect
4. The right to say "No!" and not feel guilty
5. The right to experience and to express your feelings
6. The right to slow down and think
7. The right to change your mind
8. The right to ask for what you want
9. The right to do less than you are humanly capable of doing
10. The right to ask for information
11. The right to make mistakes

She calls it "Basic Human Rights" but if logically and philosophically (minus the religious, socio-political connotations) analysed, it is what we call "karma" !

In a different context it reminds me of all those discussions, intense (yet polite) debates I used to frequently indulge in with the heads of some Buddhist and Hindu circles. Surprisingly each of them said that I was the only person with whom they enjoyed tarkam (logical arguments), exchanged ideas, viewpoints and information they were reluctant to pass it on to the average lay person who in all probability did not want to listen either -- I was asked to write for their magazine(s) but declined, for various reasons, chiefly because as Nini put it  succintly "Most people use red herrings to argue for the sake of arguing -- This is when _logic and understanding_ flies out the window and all the energy is concentrated on verbally brow-beating the opposite person into agreeing with us only".

it would be impossible to be completely truthful about getting the message across without sugar-coating or pandering to people's preconceived biases and illogical notions of Religion -- which as we know (or are taught/learn/practice) in todays socio-political scenario is vastly different from what it was meant to be in my personal opinion. But hey, are are individuals interested or ready to accept the truth? Ahh.. not when you can use it as a _control_ tool. 

2006 January 6 [Friday]

An AussieChix visiting India

I went to meet Claudine today who has come to India on a 3-week study trip and had a great time chatting with her.  I do hope her Indian trip is not as scary as she has been made to feel.

PS: Yeah, I am guilty of it too but standard safety tips for women is applicable all over the world I guess.