2007: LinuxChix women’s mini-conference

The Chix miniconf was a six session mini-conference on the 16th of January. I originally proposed it as a way for women to find out what other women hack on, essentially. I sort of missed the point as it turns out; women geeks just want to see other women, more or less. At least at this kind of conference. A lot of women come reluctantly to LinuxChix thinking that they don’t actually like other women. Val Henson usually tells them that that’s because they haven’t met geeky women yet, and once they have, they will identify less fully as a geeky man in an inappropriate body.

Another thing I learned: always bring powerboards to events you organise.

We had a fifty person room and I was expecting about thirty people, but we had about fifty five for most sessions. We weren’t as crowded as some other miniconfs though, so we didn’t get a new room. The audience was about 10–20% male (can men come? questions were still coming in during the conference), except in Kristen’s talk, where it was probably more than 50% male.

Unfortunately, the smaller miniconfs didn’t have video recording. Some of the same speakers are appearing in the main conference, and those should be taped.

I gave an five minute introduction talk (PDF slides) describing LinuxChix and mentioning a few things of interest; for example the Blue Mountains trip on Sunday and the SydneyChix meeting on Monday.

The rest of the first talk slot was Sulamita Garcia on Is Free Software a Macho thing? Women and FOSS, which she has given at various places several times, although usually in Portuguese. It’s a good first talk for any event like this, to set the scene.

Akkana Peck gave the second talk, Bug Fixing for Non-Programmers (HTML slides), which was actually (sssh, don’t tell anyone) introductory programming, in a way. Not so much the this is an if statement style of introductory programming, more in the sense of finding bits of the code that have caused the bug you’re fixing, and changing them without fully understanding them, which is actually very programmerly… but also accessible. I didn’t know about lxr and the lxr sites (eg Mozilla Cross-reference), which is hyperlinked code browsing and searching.

Kristen Carlson Accardi gave the third talk, De-mystifying PCI. This actually worried the organisers a bit, because it was up against Show and Tell in the very popular Kernel miniconf and they were worried about a migration. However, the room did not overflow, and Kristen showed us her name in the MAINTAINERS file and talks about poking around for PCI information in userspace. I didn’t know that lspci takes a -v flag, let alone a -vvvv flag, and likewise -xxxx.

The fourth session was lightning talks:

  1. Valerie Henson on the Stupid Linux Rater;
  2. Lucy Lee on writing malware signatures for ClamAV;
  3. Donna Benjamin on 2008 in Melbourne and FOSS-VELS;
  4. Alice Boxhall and Leslie Hawthorn on Open Source Software at Google, and by Google; and
  5. Pia Waugh on getting girls into IT and prejudice in IT.

The fifth session had two talks. The first was Jacinta Richardson on Social Networking for Fun and Profit, essentially, about how to meet people you don’t want to be friends with. Like the following talk, I was kind of sad that we squeezed this into twenty minutes, because discussion would have been interesting.

The second talk in the fifth session was Valerie Henson on Closing the Gender Pay Gap One Salary at a Time. She asked the audience to describe reasons they don’t negotiate, or don’t get, pay rises, and then discussed each one. Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever’s book Women Don’t Ask, and Val’s own guide to HOWTO negotiate your salary and benefits ― for women are a good guide to this.

In the sixth session we headed out to the grass to break into small groups to talk about women and negotiation and similar issues. I asked men beforehand to keep in mind that in mixed groups, even in mixed groups where both men and women think wow this is a woman friendly discussion, how equal and wonderful! that men utter about 90% of the words. And I asked them not to do this. As expected, this had mixed success (I wasn’t the Mary running Paul Way’s group though); I’m also told that Paul Fenwick was seen with his lips moving a lot… but even so, it was, I think, very successful. I wasn’t part of the groups, since I wanted to keep them flowing along. I wish I had felt able to.

Some thank yous:

  • 2007 for our venue, website, equipment, schedule and transport and accommodation for many of our speakers;
  • Sara Falamaki, who did a substantial part of the organisation, including all the shirt printing, helped with talk selection and is organising the Blue Mountains trip on Sunday;
  • Stephanie Miller, who helped with organisation and talk selection and lots of enthusiasm, and who did the initial flyers that I adapted for the shirt design later;
  • Lindsay Holmwood, who did further work on the flyers;
  • the subscribers to the wlca list, who helped with initial planning in particular;
  • the speakers and lightning speakers;
  • the discussion leaders: Val, Jacinta, Sulamita, Lucy, Leslie, Suzy Hodge, Anne Cregan and Mary Cudmore; and
  • the attendees.