Quick questions: women-friendly tech news, women-friendly open source projects

2010 September 27

These are Ask a Geek Feminist questions for our commenters.

Since these two are short and sweet and linky, I’m running them in one post.

Other than Geek Feminism, what blogs and sites do you follow for a steady stream of tech news? The best-known ones (Hacker News, Slashdot, Wired, TechCrunch) all seem very guy-oriented to me.

I don’t have a good answer to this. I tend to stick to sites where the articles themselves are fairly meaty and thus I don’t need to read or participate in comments. Thus, I read LWN for Linux and Free Software news, and, less often, Ars Technica. But LWN has had many a faily comment thread and I’ve never ventured into Ars Technica’s comments. Does anyone have better recommendations? Are there any tech news sites that have an enforced comment policy that’s feminist and so on?

Can you recommend an open source project I could work on that has a female-friendly community?

Some project leaders who want to be women friendly can be found in our post GF classifieds: Google Summer of Code edition, but I don’t think we’ve asked this question of Open Source participants and community members rather than leaders. If you, as an Open Source participant from occasional contributor to project lead, recommend your community to women, comment here. (Also, if someone recommends a project that you have not found to be women-friendly, you are welcome to reply to their comment.)

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This post was written by mary.

Mary is a Free Software contributor, computational linguistics research student and programmer at large. She can also be found at puzzling.org and Hoyden About Town.

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22 Responses
  1. Carla Schroder permalink
    September 27, 2010

    Give LXer.com a try. It’s a Linux news aggregation site with some original articles, and a good smart friendly community. Just a nice, reasonably civilized place to hangout.

  2. jemimah ruhala permalink
    September 27, 2010

    I am a woman and I maintain a lightweight Linux distro for netbooks based on Puppy Linux. I definitely need help with everything from the artwork to the kernel.

    I’ve found the Puppy community to be open and collaborative, and a bit disorganized, but always fun, with lots to do and and plenty of empty niches.


  3. covert vector permalink
    September 27, 2010

    Dreamwidth!! at dreamwidth.org, great development community with a majority of female developers. Very friendly to women(obviously) but also very friendly to beginners and fandomers. (it’s basically a better clone of livejournal.com, but more fandom-friendly and without the stupid and arbitrary rules the new Six Apart leadership has brought to livejournal.) Could possibly be a bit perplexing to someone who knows nothing about fandom, but they’re very friendly in any case.

    • Mary permalink
      September 27, 2010

      Just as a factual correction, LiveJournal hasn’t been owned by Six Apart for a few years: it was sold to SUP in December 2007, and is run by a US-based SUP subsidiary LiveJournal Inc.

    • Jennie permalink
      September 28, 2010


  4. Emily permalink
    September 27, 2010

    I’ve worked with Dreamwidth.org, a blogging platform; and the Organization for Transformative Works, which work on a range of fan-centric archiving/wikiing/etc projects. They’re both dominated by female contributors, are super fun and friendly to work with, and generally great with inclusiveness beyond gender, too.

    • moose permalink
      September 28, 2010

      Ditto for OTW. I (more or less) volunteer with the systems group [sysadmins]. It’s a pleasant and supportive working environment.

  5. Lesley permalink
    September 27, 2010

    I have to take this opportunity to promote the Debian Women Mentoring Program.

    The Debian Women Project exists to promote women’s activities in the Debian project and has recently reinstated the mentoring program. The whole idea is that women can find a supportive female friendly environment in which to develop their interest in contributing to the Debian project via anything from packaging to translation.

    Anyone interested can follow the links to find out more about the Debian Women project and its Mentoring Program.

  6. loonytoons permalink
    September 28, 2010

    If you’re into PHP then the PHP Women site has a list of OS projects that need help and have partnered with PHP women to help encourage more women to contribute and feel welcome contributing.

  7. pfctdayelise permalink
    September 28, 2010

    I am not a GNOME developer, but I constantly notice their outreach efforts which lead me to think they are probably pretty cool. See GNOME Women and the GNOME Outreach Program for Women (which is aligned with the southern hemisphere summer, yay; deadlines close Oct 25).

    GNOME also do a good job of recognising the contributions of people other than coders which is nice.

  8. Michael Louis Thaler permalink
    September 28, 2010

    ThinkUp. PHP/MySQL, run by Gina Trapani (founder of lifehacker.com), and as she’s recently pointed out on Twitter, 80% of the commits to it were from women.

  9. Lukas permalink
    September 28, 2010

    what blogs and sites do you follow for a steady stream of tech news

    I’ve found the blog aggregator Planet Debian to be a gem. Lots of super-competent people, I regularly stumble over valuable hints and information there. E.g., I first heard of the Varnish Cache (reverse proxy software) through Planet Debian because someone posted a message there who joined the company behind it. On another occasion, someone mentioned Github’s job board which I hadn’t heard of before and which is hot. Planet Debian also syndicates the blogs of several women involved with Debian as well as the blogs of Geekfeminism contributors Matt Zimmermann and Matthew Garrett.

  10. Gloria W permalink
    September 29, 2010

    Kamaelia! It’s a Python concurrency tool that makes concurrency easy to implement.
    The community is awesome, Michael Sparks is amazingly welcoming. The web site is going through a transition right now, but the Google group is up.

    • Mackenzie permalink
      September 29, 2010

      I thought Python’s concurrency was of the “stop this thread and wait for that one” variety, not true concurrency?

      • Mary permalink
        September 29, 2010

        Given that Kamaelia and Twisted contributors are in this thread, there can probably be extensive answers to this question… but it would be a derail.

        Taking it to email. Please no further replies about concurrency in Python separate from “here’s a project I recommend to women.” (Mackenzie if you want to learn more about it, perhaps a post at your own blog?)

  11. Glyph Lefkowitz permalink
    September 29, 2010


    We have some female contributors, and although we don’t have many, we are enthusiastic about diversifying our community further. Well, really, about any opportunity to expand our developer community in any way! :)

    If you have suggestions for how we might make our project more friendly or welcoming to potential female contributors, please feel free to get in touch.

    • Jessica McKellar permalink
      September 30, 2010

      As a female Twisted developer, let me second Twisted.

      I’ve always been treated as an equal by the other developers. Everyone is proactive about keeping the community an inviting and respectful place for anyone to ask questions or contribute.

      Twisted has been around for a while, and over time has developed a really effective, responsive, well-documented contribution infrastructure. This is great for any new or shy contributor, regardless of gender.

      Want to talk more or want help getting started with Twisted development? Find me (jesstess) on freenode or shoot me an e-mail.

  12. Mackenzie permalink
    September 29, 2010

    I guess I should plug Ubuntu. I’ve found the developer community to be mostly warm & fuzzy, but I’ve also been around a few years now, so it’s possible I’m not aware of issues for new people. In any case, Ubuntu Women exists as a safe and supportive space for women who use or contribute to Ubuntu.

  13. John C Barstow permalink
    September 30, 2010

    I find the people in the Bazaar project to be very welcoming to newcomers. We also had a productive and polite discussion on IRC when I brought up the lack of women currently in the core team and I was encouraged by the project lead to reach out – none of the hostility that has erupted in other IRC channels I’ve been on.

  14. Mirabai Knight permalink
    October 1, 2010

    We’re about a week away from our first really functional release, but once the code is up, the Plover Project (the first open source stenography program) is definitely looking for contributors. I’m a (female) professional stenographer/Python novice. The main programmer on the project is a guy. But I’ve devoted almost a year and about $2,000 of my own money into this, and it’s finally about to bear some real fruit, which is exciting. If any of you want to contribute (or even just want to learn steno so you can type 240 words per minute — details here), I’d be honored.

    The Plover Blog

  15. Terri permalink*
    October 1, 2010

    I’ll plug my own project, GNU Mailman. (I’m on the steering committee there.) For those not familiar with Mailman, it’s very popular electronic mailing list software. Many open source projects and other communities use it: I’d guess hundreds of thousands of mailing lists and millions of users. I like to tell people that it helps build communities of all sizes and allows them to discuss and get stuff done. In many ways, I find it’s just a project where gender is a non-issue and people are generally friendly even if discussions get heated.

    If you’re looking for a specifically woman-friendly entry point, there are a number of women at Systers who have been working on development as part of the Google Summer of Code project and I’m hoping we’ll have more students next year, so keep an eye out for the call! Our discussion list is here but it’s currently pretty quiet since the summer wrapped up.

    I mentored for Systers this summer, and I’m happy to do some more mentoring informally if anyone would like a friendly face to help them get involved and answer questions quietly by email (terri at zone12.com) as long as you can wait a day or two for a response. My next big task involves working on integrating the code my GSoC students made into Mailman 3, and I’d love help with that, but I have a variety of other projects of various sizes I’d like to do including some wiki gardening, the creation of some documentation about standard mailing list etiquette, some creation of prettier themes for the interface (esp. the archives), usability, forum integration, etc.

  16. Mackenzie permalink
    October 1, 2010

    Duh, I don’t know why I didn’t say this, but hey, I wouldn’t mind some help with my project! I’m still pretty new to PyKDE (thank goodness for API docs), but if you’re interested in Python, I wouldn’t mind putting two heads together. The project is Gally, and it’s for teaching sign languages.

    For programming work, if you can come up with a list of lessons and what signs should be taught in them, that’d be immensely helpful. Turning those lists into XML files will be needed too. And of course, converting those lesson plans into videos of yourself signing (if you know how) would also be great.

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