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Welcome to DW (was: Re: DW (was: Re: [gnome-women] Getting a Web Site Up & Logo Contest status)

I'll try to answer this. I do find long posts difficult to understand, so please allow for confusion.

On 12/08/2005, at 12:10 AM, Erinn Clark wrote:

Well, one thing you fail to recognize is that there is a difficult
balance to maintain.

No, I do realize that. That's why I joined in the discussion on gnome-
women (of which I am a contributing member), and pointed out that
some things were or were not working for D-W. We can learn from each
other's experience. There wouldn't be much to learn from if we didn't
make mistakes.

Yeah, but you didn't really point out what wasn't working, you just
vaguely referenced us not being nice to newbies (which I actually
disagree with).

I said, specifically (entire post, in response to Gnome Women queries about getting started, website etc.):

Do you want help with the site?

I'm OK in basic html/css.

I'm also happy to get a translation going for the site, so I could translate text as it's created, if you like.

I think getting Gnome themselves, as well as the other womens' OSS groups, to mention us, is a good idea. :)

I've seen one or two women translators on the gnome-i18n list whom I'd like to invite here. It will be a lot easier when we have a website to which we can point.

We also need to get some helpful information up there, and start some discussions here. Maybe an IRC channel, some quick tutes to help people get started or solve common issues. These are all the things that work for Debian-Women, so I'm keen to get them started here.

One thing that doesn't work for D-W is that it has become a far too vehement site, where newbies and many women in general don't feel comfortable posting. I would really like to see this group stay low- key in that respect: yes, we can discuss technical issues and social issues affecting us, but let's give people a bit of elbow- room, be tolerant of mistakes and encourage new people.

My 5c for now (no 2c coins in Australia these days). :)

I really don't see that as insulting D-W.

Erinn, I _have_ tried to bring up some of these issues, but the
response is so vehement, and ignores so much of what I said in the
original email, assumes so much of what I definitely _haven't_ said,
that I am not game to keep trying with the topic.

So let me see what I can find in my archives because I don't deal well
with hypothetical situations.

When you were new to the list, you posted several things about how
welcoming we were, how happy to have found us you were, and how you
thought the website was very informative, personal, and easy to navigate:


Yes, I really appreciated being invited here, and I liked the idea. I probably reacted more out of my own idea of what the place would be like, but I certainly tried hard. This is not about just me, you know. It wouldn't be worth me putting in this much effort if it were just about one person: I can't afford it.

There were several discussions about the wiki and website translations
which discovered issues we were unaware of but appear to have been
rectified in a pleasant enough way:


In general, yes. I repeat, this is not about just me. Why would it be?? <puzzled>

I could see how not having appropriate technical infrastructure may be a
problem for newbies, but I'm not sure how situations like the above
could've been prevented.

Erinn, without referencing more posts in detail (which is beyond my capabilities), I have tried to summarize. I can't do more than that, sorry. I didn't want this to be a finger-pointing exercise (I was just making what I hoped would be helpful suggestions to G-W), which I think becomes non-useful. I would like this to be a more welcoming and comfortable place both for new people and for current members. I am willing to work towards that. I am also willing to work towards the same aims on G-W. I think it's worth the effort.

The main issue (I think?) has been your trouble with baz for comitting
changes to the website:


I don't think I objected to it, but I probably said I can't do it. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. I don't have choices there. There'd be no point in covering that up. I would really prefer you know that I don't do something because I can't, rather than because I can't be bothered.

Given the distributed nature of website commits and so forth, I think
baz is pretty OK, but darcs may be easier? We could think about that.

I repeat, this is not about just me. It's not about what technology we use. It's about how we encourage people to participate.

As well as people being curious about your reasoning for wanting a new


I did find that difficult. I had a positive suggestion, and had found a need for it, but when I asked for help here on setting it up, the responses were confusing, and, it seemed to me, far stronger in tone than made sense, certainly far stronger than I was comfortable with. It took me several goes before anyone even answered my question. People are probably not going to make suggestions, and be willing to back them with personal effort, when they get a response like that. I still have no idea where most of that was coming from. What's wrong with setting up a small sub-list enough people want? Beats me.

So fwiw, it doesn't seem like the issue of whether we're welcoming to
newbies has been approached in a very head-on way, so I'm not entirely
sure what you're talking about here. Indeed, your experiences differ
from what I'd expect from someone who's making these claims.

It's not culturally appropriate for me to approach things in a head- on way, but I will try to do so if it helps. (We do need to bear in mind that people from different cultures have different values and behaviours. It is extremely inappropriate in my culture to say, "I'm not happy with this, specifically, and I want change." The appropriate thing to do is to make alternative suggestions, reinforce positive behaviour, and try to improve the social environment without, ever, confronting anyone. I'll do my best, however.)

I like the idea of this group. I have really enjoyed talking to some of the members personally, and I have found some of the posts very informative. However, I do not feel comfortable posting here. I don't feel that my posts will be accepted as genuine effort, and respected as such, nor that there will be tolerance for mistakes I make. The response I would really like to get is something like:

"X thinks this is important, and has put effort into it, so I'll respect that (thankyou Herman), even if I disagree. I will be tolerant of mistakes, different cultural behaviour (I will ask polite questions if I am unsure about this) and any individual barriers with which she may be dealing. I'll give her room to explain, and appreciate what she does."

(It's hard to explain properly, so sorry if I haven't done that. ) There just isn't elbow room to learn, on this list. Making mistakes is part of learning. Accepting who people are gives them confidence to take the risks involved in learning. People need to feel accepted, welcomed, appreciated. Abrupt questions, and adversary behaviour, is very discouraging to most people.

I wish I could explain this better. :( Women in my culture, for example, even if I can get them here, will probably not come back. This grieves me. I want it to work for them. I can try to do it myself, but a list is judged on majority behaviour. I would (if I hadn't already tried this) suggest forming a sub-list for my culture, to mentor people into the main list. It would most likely work. However, I am not game to try suggesting something like that again. :(

You also claimed a few times (in the baz thread) that some of the
problems were related to your illness -- so I'm not sure what level of
encouragement we should give to people across the board when their needs
differ so much.

I am not making claims, Erinn. I have no axe to grind here, nothing that will help me. I am personally uncomfortable here, but I keep on trying. Please look at what I do, and stop trying to pick holes in what I say.

I have had to apologize for things I can't do, due to my disability. This is my problem. However, when I do make people aware of what is difficult for me, I rather hope they will make some allowances. I do not want it seen as "claims" of any kind. It gets me nothing except extreme public embarrassment, but it seems worth doing in order to increase awareness so other disabled people will be more comfortable here. If I can't do something, please don't expect it of me. Please allow for the fact that I may not perform up to "normal" standards. That's all. I'll do my best: the trouble is, it's not very good. :(

And BTW, the responses do not seem very vehement to me, but YMMV.

If they did, you probably wouldn't post often. ;)

We need to look at how many people do post often, how many people we would like to see participate, and how to make that happen. I think a friendler, more tolerant tone in posts would help a lot. I think welcoming people and appreciating their achievements, valuing who they are and what they do, would help a lot. I do speak from experience here: I spent many years running projects that needed to encourage people to participate. I have also taught adults for many years. A relaxed and welcoming atmosphere allows for more learning, for greater lateral development in thought.

This is my opinion, based on my professional and personal experience. I hope it will be useful. Added to the opinions of all our members, it might create a useful profile.

It does distress me that I could be assumed to be attacking D-W, when
I have evidently put a lot of my time into following the list, trying
to encourage new members, working on the main site and the wiki. It
doesn't make sense. :(

Eh? There was no assumption and no claim of an attack; and people insult
projects they happily contribute to all the time. Venting's OK, but
constructive criticism and feedback tends to be more appreciated.

Evidently we have different values for "insult". In my culture, an insult is a direct attack. I would never insult anyone, let alone D- W. I found such as assumption distressing. :(

I'm can't write much more, but I hope what I have done is constructive and useful.

Let's look at what we are doing to encourage new members, people
lurking, who may not have enough confidence to take part here. Why is
this? What can we do to encourage them? How would they like us to
respond? Do they feel welcome here, safe to express opinion, and to
make occasional mistakes, or not to have the same level of experience
and knowledge as others?

So I'm wondering: how do we encourage people who have not expressed an
opinion? Is it really safe to cater to people we don't know rather than
the existing members who've spoken up? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm
all for doing stuff to get new people involved, but I'm unable and
unwilling to assume that I have any idea what kind of support they need
or want from us based on some close approximation of potentiailly
similar anecdotal experience. That way lies madness.

I haven't quite got there, yet. ;) I'll keep you posted. "Insanity from the Inside". We could syndicate it. :D

You can certainly make useful judgements based on actual participation and what feedback you do get. Do we get new posters regularly? Do first-time posters keep posting? Do they contribute their own experience, share what they do? Does our participating- member base reflect the actual user population? How does the way we behave fit with our aims?

Let's all bring a new person to D-W in the next month, and see how they go. _Not_ in the "sink or swim" mode, but only if we are willing to support that person, and to welcome other people's invitees. I'd really like to see new people here speaking up, saying what they think and feel, and having that respected. I'd like to see more sharing of achievements, celebrating what we do do, and how we do it. I'd like to see us appreciating each other more.

And to the lurkers who haven't spoken up: please do so. If you think it
is difficult to contribute or that we are not friendly enough or what
have you, realize that you have the power to change things.

Please do speak up. You're not on your own, and we appreciate what you have to say. We do really want D-W to be a welcoming and comfortable place for all of you, so we need to hear who you are, and how we can help you. We all learn from each other, you know. ;)

I would particularly like to hear from any Asian women who are reading this list. You can email me directly if you find it too difficult to post here, but I would really like to help you get over that difficulty. I want to see your posts here. svashka and I are feeling very lonely! Help us out, please. :)

Let's hear from every culture, every way to use computers, every part of the world! Tell us where you are, what you do, and especially, who you are. We want to know. :)

So simply a post like this:
I'm Clytie, from South Australia. I mostly speak Vietnamese. I do some translation. I use my computer mostly for email and translating. I'm disabled, I love music and my family is very important to me. This is how you say Hello in my language: Chào bạn. :)

would be fine. Everybody has to start somewhere. :)

You may not feel that you have much to say, but we'd love to hear from you anyway. Then we can find out how you can join in and enjoy the group. What would you like to learn? Is there any information you have trouble finding, any computing situation that puzzles you? Would you like to try something in Debian or elsewhere in the computing world, but you're not sure how, or need some help?

Tell us, please. :)

from Clytie (vi-VN, Vietnamese free-software translation team / nhóm Việt hóa phần mềm tự do)

Awareness note: this email took several hours for me to think and type.

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