This month I had the privilege and the pleasure of participating in AdaCamp Berlin, a weekend-long unconference of women in open source software and open culture, held at Wikimedia Deutschland. The event brought together women from all over Europe and beyond, from a variety of different backgrounds. There were developers and other specialists working on open source projects, women running hackerspaces and coding education events, and writers and academics working in open information and fan culture. I attended as an open source contributor and organiser of coding education events (ClojureBridge, Learn Tech Edinburgh), and I’m grateful for the support of Wikimedia UK to do so.
The sessions developed by the delegates covered topics of culture, diversity and safer spaces in open source, feminism, activism, careers, and privacy and security. It was this last topic which I found most interesting, particularly in the context of the doxxing and other harassment of women in GamerGate, and the decision of Kathy Sierra and Julie Pagano to withdraw from engagement with the tech community. Securing your online presence to minimise these risks is a reasonable precaution in a world where being a woman in tech (with opinions!) can attract some very unwanted attention, and has the added benefit of protecting you from financial crime and other exploits. I would like to run a workshop on privacy and security in the future, so please get in touch if you’d like to help.
There was some criticism of the event in the wider open source community for ‘solving sexism with more sexism’ (by excluding men). It can be hard for people who have not experienced being in the minority to understand the reasons for having safer spaces and events where a group can discuss the unique issues they face. I know many good men in the tech community who make good contributions to discussions concerned with gender equality, but there are opportunities elsewhere to do that. The presence of people who do not share a common experience can deter those present from fully sharing their stories, so events for minority groups (gender/race/sexual orientation etc) are needed in addition to inclusive events open to all.
AdaCamp Berlin was a fantastic experience, and I’d recommend it to any woman interested in open software and culture. The Ada Initiative plan to run more of the events next year, and I hope that one of these will be in the UK (Scotland please!). I’m also keen to bring what I learned to making the tech scene in Scotland more welcoming to women and other under-represented groups, so very happy to speak to anyone who organises events and meetups.