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Re: Updating stats, thinking about what to do

On 19/04/11 4:31 AM, Steve Langasek wrote:

> Maybe we need to recreate the circumstances from the early days of
> debian-women?
>  - get someone to post unbelievably sexist remarks on debian-devel
>  - summon our righteous indignation about this behavior, drawing attention
>    with blogs, etc.
>  - make it clear that this sexism is an intolerable minority view and that
>    the majority welcomes involvement in Debian by people of all genders,
>    making women aware that debian-women exists as a resource to help them
>    get involved in Debian

Some truth in this, I think.  Having an "enemy" is very motivating...

When I was more involved in Debian Women (and, in fact, in Debian), I had the
opinion that keeping Debian Women "moving" as a community was crucial to attract
and hold the attention of people who might become involved as contributers to
Debian in the future.  To that end there was quite a lot of effort put in (by a
small number of people including me), in those early months, to making sure that
there was always stuff going on on the mailing list and on the irc channel.

Now my life has moved on and I am barely involved in Debian at all these days
(in truth I dither between thinking that I need to make the time to get back
into it properly and thinking that I ought to just resign gracefully).  And I do
think that the Debian community has moved on, online communities in general have
moved on, and the Debian Women community has changed.

One of the symptoms of the changing nature of Debian Women is, I think, that
sometimes there are days at a time with no discussion on the lists, and hours or
days at a time with no activity on the irc channel (as far as I can tell - I'm
not on irc much these days anyway). I think this means that people who might be
interested in becoming involved look elsewhere for a community that is more
active, and there are plenty of those online.

I'm not sure whether Debian itself has changed enough to be more welcoming to
women than it was all those years ago.  There is less overt sexism, for sure (at
least as far as I know), but the more subtle hurdles that women can face in
their involvement with F/OSS are, in my opinion, probably still there. There was
a lot of discussion about these things in the early days, I wonder what anyone
else thinks about whether this is still important.

So, if Debian is still about as difficult to get involved with as it ever was,
but Debian Women is less active, it's not particuarly suprising that things have
slowed down.

I don't think this is anyone's fault. It is something that can happen with
volunteer-based communities, and even those women who are very active in Debian
may not have much time available for Debian Women.  I do think that the
situation might be improved if a small number of people are willing to put in a
great deal of time and effort into facilitating the DW community - that is how
things got going in the first place.

If you were to ask me (and I do realise that my opinion is not the one sought) I
would be suggesting the following:

- make sure there is conversation on IRC most of the time in most timezones.
Make certain that there is at least someone there who can respond to newcomers
in a friendly and timely way.

- make sure that there are new topics posted regularly on the mailing list and
help facilitate lively discussions about these

- are there other ways to communicate, other than irc and mailing lists, that
should be happening?  I don't mean facebook exactly, but maybe something else
that could be used to raise the profile of Debian Women?

- organise activities (like the irc tutorials) as often as possible, publicise
these as widely as possible, and accept that turnout may be low at first, but
you still have to do this stuff in order to have an active community.

- accept that it may be really slow going at first.

All of this takes a lot of time and effort.   And some of these things are
certainly already happening.  But maybe more of them need to happen more often?

(There are a whole lot of parallels, in my opinion, between the effort required
to keep something like Debian Women going and the effort required to keep one of
my current pet projects going, which is a Spanish-speaking playgroup we are
trying to run in a part of Melbourne with very few Spanish speakers - in
entirely different contexts the set of problems is actually suprisingly similar...)

It's also just barely possible that of the people out there who are likely
candidates to get involved in Debian, only about 1% of them are women.  This
seems unlikely to me, but you never know.

What are the stats for old/new/retiring male developers?  I would be interested
to compare the turnover rate for men.


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