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Attending the LinuxChix.org.in BOF at FOSS.in (informal report)

Hello folks,

I think it might be of some interest for you to get some input from
that event I attended here in Bangalore, during FOSS.in.

A general report will probably be cooked along with Sam Hocevar and
myself, later.

A Linuxchix.org.in BOF was organised during the conference and indeed
filled in a 90-seats room, lasting for about 1:30.

I didn't take notes, so the lines below are mostly my own impressions
from the BOF and certainly not an extensive report.

Vidya Ayer and Runa were leading the discussion which was essentially
a discussion around "LinuxChix.org.in exists and now what should we do
with it?".

After an hesitant start by the audience, which was about 75%male-25%
female (LC members were distributing stickers and had a stall in the
conference halls where they actively promoted the BOF and invited
interested people to show up), ideas began popping
out, mostly from the attending women in the audience.

Most were describing their experience of either involvement in FLOSS
or learning FLOSS or being a member of the FLOSS community.

It has been my impression that the women attneding the BOF had very
variable expectations: several of them obviously have a strong
technical background in either computer science, but also in
artistic-related matters. A few others were regular users of Free

The exchanges were very active which is already a success as talking
in public in a non women-only environment is something that's not
necessarily natural for some of the attendees.

Ideas were not very clear with suggestions obviously going into many
directions. After a while, I personnally saw two main families of

- focus on technical work and work on "involving more women in FLOSS"
- build a place where women can feel comfortable working and/or using

(for D-W early contributors, that will not be a surprise as such
"strategical choices" were also faced in the beginning of the
project...with a clear choice on the first alternative, with

"Unfortunately", a moment happened in the BOF where the discussion
slightly switched and was kinda "kidnapped" by the attending men.

Most of them (I essentially stayed quiet in most of that part) were
seeming to show some sympathy for the concept but, as obviously the
ideas were still vague, several attempted to 'help' the women in the
audience to decide what they should focus the project on.

The discussion went really caricatural at some moment with most males
"stealing" the speech (still wanting to show some sympathy for the
project...noone was actively fighting it the way it happened in the
past when D-W began) and even interrupting women when discussing, to
mush their ideas instead of listening.

At some moment after the discussion was running around like a headless
chicken, Vidya kindly invited me to bring the topic elsewhere (at
least, this is what I intepreted, she didn't say so explicitely). 

Thus, I introducied D-W and its goals (with a very clear and affirmed
orientation towards "*bring* more women to *Debian*"), repeating that
these goals had been set by the initiators of the project and, for the
most essential part, by and for women (who I was just trying to be
theproxy for).... I then put focus on the
results of the project (increase in the number of female DD, while
still being ridiculously low, tutorials...) including the benefit for
the rest of the project, changing our perception of our own beaviour
and way to interact. After all, what I experienced during that BOF is
more or less what happened in the very beginning of D-W (Erinn's talk
in porto Alegre, for instance).

The last point I tried to make was still repeating that only the LC.org.in
people could really define their goals, projects and ways to go...and
that I had no damn idea of what they should do..:)

The discussion was still then continuing on setting goals, with always
that very same tendency for the attending men to try driving the
discussion and find solutions to propose to the attending women when
their contributions in the debate were showing indecisions or
doubts. As you may deduce easily, that has shocked quite a lot (me at least).

Vidya intelligently exploited this to point that noone attending this
BOF could be now convinced that "women groups are useless in our
beautiful and friendly world of FLOSS". Again, no intents to be rude
from the people who were attending this BOF...but, imho, the result
was rude and did quite diverge the discussion.

I'd suggest to maybe restrict the invited people for upcoming meetings
and maybe make some gender-related selection. At least for launching
the project, this could give the project members more freedom of
speech and allow them to do what *they* want with *their* ideas.

At the end, the paperboard ended up covered with ideas and
topics...which should give the LC.org.in ladies quite some

As a wider view, I have been impressed by the gender ratio encountered
there. While still *very* far the 50/50 ratio of a perfect world, it
was way above the typical ratio one encounters in FLOSS. Similarly,
there were significant proeminent talks given by women (though *very*
few given by Indian women).

Most of the attending women were also quite young and most being in
their graduation/studies cycle. I think that both Sam and I will still
remember that young lady coming at the end of the talk and simply
saying that she indeeds wants to contribute to FLOSS by...working on
kernel hacking (actually, India has a great role model wrt that matter
with Suparna Bhattacharya). Not being real experts for this, we
redirect her to James Morris and Rusty Russel who were attending the

Indeed, Rusty did a demo of "how to become a kernel hacker" later
during the conference, during the closing ceremony, which involved one
of the tireless organizers, Sheela, who was turned into a kernel
hacker in a few minutes.

The motivation to have a strong and active chapter for LC in India
seems indeed quite high and, without any doubt, that one will be an
active one.

I think that a more formal report will be sent by Runa and Vidya in
the main Linuxchix mailing list.

And, indeed, many around (see the general "report") were using Debian
(or Ubuntu, OK....but, here also, see our general report).


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