This week, I gave my first talk at a local Python meetup group. Granted, it was just a lightning talk, but I’m pretty happy with how it went. (I even remembered to smile!) As the topic of the meetup was Python for Beginners, I shared some advice and resources that I’ve found useful in my own journey as I’ve been learning to code.
The group is in Barcelona, Spain which added an interesting element of language to the event. It’s pretty reasonable to expect people to know two or more languages; Catalan, Spanish, English are the top 3 most common languages, and programmers especially are more likely to know English, as much of the documentation and terminology used in Python is in English. There are many immigrants in Barcelona from other parts of the world, and like most of Europe, English is used as the common language when it’s a mixed-nationality group. For this reason, at PyBCN meetups, presenters are given the option to present in any of the 3 primary languages, as long as the slides are in English. While that policy is fine for an audience that already is comfortable with their programming skills and through programming skills comfortable with English as well, this is a fine policy. However I’m not sure it’s appropriate for beginners, who have less programming knowledge to draw from to infer things they don’t understand, and are more likely to get discouraged. Through my involvement with PyLadies, lurking in OpenHatch discussions, and other groups that are especially attuned to creating learning environments that are welcoming for beginners, choosing what language to speak for the presentation weighed heavily on me. However it was impossible to know the language composition of the audience ahead of time, and as it was my first such presentation, I decided to do it in my own native language, English. Additionally, the theme had never been clarified as to whether it was for beginning programmers, or for people who already program in other languages and learning Python as an additional programming language.
As it turns out, the majority of the audience was in the latter category, learning Python as an additional programming language, so perhaps my presentation was too rudimentary for most of them, but hopefully at least a few people came away feeling a little less lost as to how to find help, especially when they’re working on their own projects.
You can view my slides from the presentation here:
And for those who are interested in learning more about getting involved in Open Source (per my recommendation on the last slide), I am also sharing this video presentation where Aaron Patterson goes into more detail about the why and how of contributing to Open Source technology.
2014 is well underway, and I’ve been more actively working on several projects after a busy 2013 that included selling my house, moving to another continent, getting married, and decompressing from all of the above!
While it was an exciting year for me personally, I’ve been frustrated with my lack of progress as far as learning code and other skills that will hopefully move me closer to a career in tech. My learning has been a bit sporadic, so in the fall I completed a MOOC to refresh my existing knowledge and build upon it. Now I’m coming back to some existing projects as well as starting some new ones:
Now I’m coming back to my work on Planeteria, the project that I started working on during my OPW internship a year ago, and am able to understand a lot of things that were a struggle for me when I started. That doesn’t mean I understand *everything*, but I’m at least feeling less overwhelmed.
I still struggle with scope. I’m a big-picture kind of person, and with Planeteria, there is so much to do. I have a long wishlist of things I’d like to improve, and as I start working on one, I find myself tempted to add other things to it, but I just keep reminding myself that open source is incremental. Baby steps.
Women in Free Software Planet Management
Planet management has been coasting for a while, with few changes other than adding the new OPW interns at the start of each internship round. The planet has exploded in size in the last year as the OPW program has grown in participation, which is incredibly exciting to read so many new and talented voices in the feed, but does require a lot of work to manage the feed. I’ve flagged some improvements that can be made to the site to help streamline the process of adding feeds, as well as making a few changes to the process for WFS administration with the help of a couple new volunteers, Siobhan Bamer and Aarti Dwivedi, for whom I’m ever so grateful (thank you!!). This year I hope to more actively manage this growing planet, and to start recruiting more bloggers doing great things in the FOSS community. I’ll be seeking requests for bloggers to add to the planet soon – so put your thinking caps on :)
I attended my first FOSDEM last weekend, which was a great introduction to the FOSS community here in Europe. I was especially curious to see the ratio of women:men and observe any gender dynamics to be aware of. This is partly due to my ongoing curiosity/personal research of what to be aware of as I enter this world as a woman. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were quite a few women there; I’m guessing around 20% but that is a very rough ballpark based only on my personal observation. However the ratio varied greatly from room to room. In the sessions I went to, I found that the Python track had only two women besides myself in an overcrowded room (perhaps because Pyladies isn’t as present in Europe as it is in the US – more on that below). The Mozilla dev room and Legal Issues tracks had a much higher ratio of women. I was especially thrilled to see such high attendance in the Women in Technology talk given by another OPW alum, Priyanka Nag, who only had 1/2 hour to address such a broad topic. I appreciated learning a bit more about WoMoz and hearing some of the questions and comments from the audience, but I’d love to see more talks at FOSDEM that explicitly address outreach both to women and more broadly. The only other talk I saw on this topic was Deb Nicholson’s talk “Non-Coders Wanted” which made the case for the value of non-technical contributors and had some great tips for how to recruit them to any FOSS project.
I appreciated the non-commercial nature and the accessibility of the event, being all-volunteer run with no registration fee at all. One shortcoming of a free conference is the lack of nametags, which can help facilitate conversations and connections with others at the conference. As someone still pretty new to this community, I could’ve really used them to identify people who would be especially helpful to talk to unless someone was introduced to me. That being said, I found most people to be quite approachable, and ended up striking up conversations with complete strangers and had some interesting and unexpected conversations as a result.
After benefiting greatly from the support of a fantastic community of PyLadies in Portland and then meeting many others at PyCon last year, I moved to Barcelona with the intention of helping facilitate a similar group in Barcelona. Concurrently, interest has been growing here in Spain. Last November, a group of ladies met informally during the first PyCon España to discuss starting a PyLadies on Spanish soil. We’ve held two meetups in Barcelona so far, and though it’s still just a fledgeling, it’s a fantastic group of people, and I’m excited to see where this will go. I’m especially inspired to see that women’s participation at PyCon has skyrocketed in recent years, in part due to the efforts of PyLadies in the US. PyLadies chapters are now starting to crop up here in Europe. Let’s see what happens!
I’ve fallen way behind on blogging, and have so much to share, but won’t be able to go into much depth today because I am trying to stay focused on getting the redesign launched for planeteria.org by the end of the OPW internship, which is just a week and a half away now (eek!). The main changes included in the redesign are the addition of tags and a responsive design so that it’s readable in a browser on mobile devices.
The road map for Planeteria has been posted on the Github repo, based on feedback received from the user survey. The intention of the Road Map is to give people a brief overview of the project, what’s going on now, and what want to happen next. I’m happy to answer questions if people want additional information, and will be setting up a Google Groups list soon for Planeteria – related discussion.
I’ve been enjoying working on Planeteria in various roles: as a planet curator/admin, community organizer, and developer. I have so many ideas for it that I didn’t have time to work on for my internship, and now that more people have learned about Planeteria I’m excited to see more people creating planets and using the site. I plan to continue working on it beyond the internship and look forward to sharing my ideas for the site with this little fledgeling community, and work with them to help the site grow and flourish.
I was at PyCon last week and had a wonderful time meeting other OPW interns and mentors, working the Pyladies table and meeting other Pyladies, hanging out at the Ada Initiative hacker lounge, and of course learning some great tips and tricks through the numerous sessions and tutorials. The organizers made a great effort to increase diversity amongst the attendees (particularly increasing women’s attendance). They achieved just under 20% female participation, which is a significant accomplishment for any tech conference. The fact that this is so significant, however, makes it clear to me that there’s still a long way to go in the broader tech community. I found the community to be incredibly welcoming to me and other women, and after my experience there I am looking into the possibility of attending Euro PyCon this summer. I hope that organizers of other conferences can look to the US PyCon 2013 as an example of how to increase female participation at other conferences. I’m sure it’s at least in part due to the growing number of Pyladies chapters that are creating a safe environment for women like me to learn to code and providing stepping stones toward participating in the broader tech community. Hynek Schlawack wrote a fantastic blog post which explains the value of Pyladies from a male perspective, and in my experience, having entered the programming world with the help of Pyladies, it’s spot on.