Author: bee2502

Hi, I am Bee. I love to crunch numbers and analyse data especially if it's to improve the user experience/gain insights about user behavior. My interests lie at the conjunction of Machine Learning , Natural Language Processing and Social Media Analysis. I am also broadly interested in Information Retrieval and Recommender Systems. I also contribute to the Fedora Commops team on metrics related tasks. When I am not finding stories in data, I am daydreaming about food or European cities.

Fedora Diversity FAD 2017

At Fedora, we are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the community. With this in mind, the Fedora Diversity Team together with the Diversity Advisor work on planning and implementation of diversity and inclusion(D&I) efforts such as the enforcement of the code of conduct, highlighting the diverse community in Fedora and offering workshops and fostering communication between Fedora sub-projects. I am lucky to have been a part of this team since some time now. Big thanks to Amita Sharma who invited me to join the Diversity team.

At FLOCK 2016, we had a Fedora Diversity Panel Discussion where we discussed key issues affecting Diversity and Inclusion in Fedora with the Fedora community and heard their concerns. Post FLOCK, we have been working on devising a strategy to address some of the critical issues related to D&I in Fedora. From Jan 27- 29, we conducted our first FAD (like an in-person work meet) in Brno, CZ where Fedora Diversity Team got together in-person to fast-track some of  the critical issues relevant to our goals. We also invited Fedora Community Action and Impact Co-ordinator, Brian Exelbird to join us  in this FAD.

You can take a look at the logic model detailing our goals for the FAD here.  While the agenda was a bit aggressive, having a detailed plan help us delegate our time effectively and look at critical issues.

survey

Fedora Community Survey

The FAD had a massive impact on the progress of the survey. We looked at past community surveys in open source communities, identified and selected questions we wanted to ask, designed the survey and identified the platforms, sketched a timeline for it’s implementation and future tasks.

The biggest decision we probably made was to move away from a survey faced towards just Diversity and Inclusion and focus it more towards Fedora community and it’s composition. Since such a thing has never been done before, we do not have much data about Fedora community and this survey holds the key to achieving that. This also made us move away from any implicit exclusion that might have resulted from our pre-conceived notions of diversity and inclusion.

I feel that Brian did a great job in summarizing the key questions we are looking to answer :

  • Are there pockets of people we can energize to help us further our progress on objectives and missions in ways we don’t realize?
  • How do we compare to other communities?
  • Are there changes we should consider to better serve our community, for example, providing information for localization efforts

Each question and it’s options were scrutinized intensively to assess which new information the question offered to answer and how relevant was it to our current goals, whether it’s language was positive and inclusive of our community and if the options offered were such that they would capture the maximum information possible. We also designed the options to ensure that we were not too penetrative while gathering information but at the same time the survey wouldn’t end up mostly blank. A ‘Prefer Not to Say’ option was hence included instead of making the question optional. Time is of utmost value and hence, we conducted a final voting to ensure that the survey length was ideal for participants. A final list of questions was drafted and is currently awaiting legal review before pushing to production.

fad2.jpg

Fedora Appreciation Week

Contributors are extremely valuable to open source projects and we at Fedora want to thank the community and appreciate their hard work and valuable contributions without which we wouldn’t be here today. Along these lines, we decided to have a “Fedora Appreciation Week” – a week long celebration of our contributors and their value to the project. We had some great discussions around these and sketched out a rough plan about how it would be implemented using Fedora Badges, Thank You messages and revolving these around the core values of Fedora – Friends. Freedom. Features. First. Stay tuned for more information about this.

Joining Forces with other Open Source communities

Creating diverse and inclusive communities is not a one-man task. It requires the involvement of entire community. We however feel that it shouldn’t be limited to single communities either. Open Source Communities can learn from each other and build from their research so that resources are utilized to their full potential. Our team is currently researching into findings and strategies of other open source communities and if you know any such community which you want us to look into and learn from, don’t hesitate to talk to us via our mailing list diversity@lists.fedoraproject.org

Get involved with Fedora Diveristy

Are you interested in the work we do? Do you want to get involved with Fedora Diversity ? Do you have suggestions for Diversity team about our methods or things we should look into?  Do you want to know what Fedora Diversity Team is currently working on ?

Feel free to drop by our biweekly meetings on Freenode #fedora-meeting-1 on Wednesdays at 12:00 UTC.

Thanks

A huge thanks to Fedora Project Leader, Matthew Miller and Fedora Council for making this possible. To Marina Z. and Tatica for joining us remotely and providing their valuable inputs even though the timings were sometimes less than suitable. To Brain for keeping us on track, questioning and re-questioning every small and large decision. To Justin, for the awesome logic model without which gave us a sense of purpose and reminded us of our goals. To Amita, for all the pre-planning before FAD and post FAD – which was definitely a lot-  without you we wouldn’t have had a FAD. To Jona, for her inputs and learning on Albanian community and non-technical aspects of Fedora. To Rhea, for the awesome restaurant suggestions along with taking care of all logistics – without you we would have been dead or sick in Brno. To all of you, for making this FAD a huge success.

fad3

[Outreachy] Why I took up a non-technical internship after getting Math and CS (STEM) degree

I have talked about Outreachy in the past  and how the Outreachy program is helping grow diversity in Open Source community. However, some people have been asking me why I opted for a non-technical internship even though I know programming and have studied Math and CS.  Isn’t this directly in opposition to the cause I am championing – bring more women into STEM and tech?

I don’t agree. At all. I have always been interested in understanding people. How they process information, make decisions, behave in a certain way, engage with others etc. My STEM degree hasn’t inhibited my primary interest in understanding humans – rather, it has helped me develop my rational thinking abilities and grow my passion towards it. Data Science has empowered me to try to find patterns in behavior and use them to not only learn and grow but help others. I feel that my internship at Mozilla is a natural follow up to my previous decisions in my quest to develop my understanding of people. Plus, how can I pass up an opportunity to bring more women and other minorities in tech ?!

At Mozilla, I haven’t given up my work related to data analytics. Instead, I am using data to derive insights into Diversity and Inclusion in Mozilla Community and drive strategic decision making. Having the satisfaction of working on something so impactful for the future generations is what drives me everyday and learning things ranging from succesful interviewing and communication to management – things I would not get the opportunity to learn in a technical role – are just a few of the additional perks along the way 🙂

mozilla_berlin_01

So what do I do all day then ?

Mozilla’s mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent [1].

At the heart of Mozilla is people — Mozilla is committed to a community that invites in and empowers people to participate fully, introduce new ideas and inspire others, regardless of background, family status, gender, gender identity or expression, sex, sexual orientation, native language, age, ability, race and ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, religion, geographic location or any other dimension of diversity [2]. In lines with this, Mozilla is currently working towards creating a Diversity and Inclusion strategy for Participation.

Focus Groups and Interviewing for Mozilla

In the first phase, Mozilla is  asking Mozillians to self-nominate, or nominate others for a series of focus groups with D&I topics relevant to regional leadership, events, project design and participation in projects and beyond. These insights will generate initiatives and experiments that lead to a first version of the strategy. I have been working with Emma Irwin who has been leading this project on Participation side for Mozilla on understanding Focus Groups, their importance and how to conduct them. In short, surveys assume that people know how they feel. But sometimes they really don’t. Sometimes it takes listening to the opinions of others in a small and safe group setting before they form thoughts and opinions. Focus groups are well suited for those situations. You can read more about Focus Groups here.

We also had a mock Focus Group Sessions, reviewed the script for Focus Groups and learnt about the best practises for Interviewing. Apart from English, we are also trying to conduct Focus Groups in first language in some regions so that language doesn’t lead to exclusion. It is highly important for the interviewees/ focus group candidates to feel connected and comfortable with the interviewer and this has been my prime focus in my research and contributions related to Focus Groups till date. I am also working on conducting Focus Groups in/around India – especially, in person at Bangalore, if possible.

Research on succesful Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in India

At Mozilla D&I team, we are working towards building a library of curated best resources for Diversity and Inclusion from different parts of the world. To have a world wide impact related to Diversity and Inclusion, we need to understand the community’s cultural, historical, national and language contexts and tailor the initiative accordingly. We need to learn from programs beyond FOSS an Open Source and bring the learnings from those into FOSS constructs. India being such a vast and diverse country offers immense opportunity to learn from different programs and ongoing initiatives – to understand their succeses and failures. Currently, I have divided my research into two main focus areas :

  1. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives started in India.
  2. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives started outside India, adopted in Indian context.

Programs like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ by Government of India which encourages girl child education, Loreal India Young Women in Science program which offer scholarships for women pursuing STEM degrees are some of the programs which fall in the first category.

Other programs like Grace Hopper Conference India, Girls in Tech , Women Who Code and so on which are mainly programs started in the US and have succesful chapters or initiatives in India fall in the second category. I am also especially interested in understanding the huge success of Outreachy in India.

If you know of any other active/inactive tech/non-tech Diversity and Inclusion programs in India, do let me know and I would be happy to include them in my research. To know more about my findings, keep tuned – I plan to release a blog post every week.

I have also been working on Diversity and Inclusion oriented community metrics. However, I plan to write a more in-depth post on it and hence I have decided to cover this topic in my next post.

Till then, Sayonara !

Diversity in FOSS : Outreachy

 

tldr ; As a part of my work with Mozilla, I try to analyse different programs working towards diversity and inclusion in FOSS and their successes and failures. I wanted to collect some statistics for Outreachy and understand how it has helped increase the diversity in FOSS projects.

From Outreach Program for Women(OPW) to Outreachy..

Like the rest of the tech industry, the number of women participating in FOSS projects too is generally low. Outreach Program for Women were started to bridge this gap in FOSS projects and bring more women onboard. Women contact the FOSS organizations in the program they want to work with and write up a project proposal for the summer. If accepted, they are mentored by organization members over the duration of the program on their project.

The GNOME Foundation first started the internships program with one round in 2006, and then resumed the effort in 2010 with rounds organized twice a year and is currently in it’s thirteenth round. For the May 2015 round, the program was renamed to Outreachy with the goal of expanding to engage people from various underrepresented groups and was moved to Software Freedom Conservancy as its organizational home. In the December 2015 round, the program opened to people of color from groups underrepresented in technology in the United States, in addition to being open to women (cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people internationally.

How Outreachy has helped women

By having a program targeted specifically towards women, the Outreachy organizers have found that they reached talented and passionate participants, who were uncertain about how to start otherwise.

According to the organizers, the program is a welcoming link that will connect you with people working on individual projects in various FOSS organizations and guide you through your first contribution.

Personally, I couldn’t agree more with these two points. Outreachy has surely helped reduce the apprehension women face while first contributing to a FOSS project and feel more included. Additionally, I also feel that the program provides you with a nurturing community and network which remains with you beyond the program.

Impact of Outreachy in numbers and graphs

I wanted to collect some statistics for Outreachy and how it has helped increase the diversity in FOSS projects.

Till now, there have been 13 rounds of Outreachy (including Outreach Program for Women) and 368 women have taken part in the program and worked with FOSS organizations.

To understand the growth of the program and its impact in introducing women to FOSS projects, I created a graph showing the number of organizations participating in each round and number of selected participants.

outreachy_stats

Some numbers for Outreachy Round 13..

45 participants were selected to work on 41 different projects offered by 14 different organizations in this round like Linux Kernel, Fedora, Mozilla, OpenStack, Wikimedia, Zulip etc.

The following map shows the distribution of Outreachy participants in Round 13 according to their location.

mapsdataexport-2017-01-091

India topped the list with 16 women being selected in the program(40% of total selections) and North America followed behind with 9. I was particularly astonished to see Brazil being 4th in the list with 3 participants ! The selected participants truly form a diverse community with participants from all parts of the globe like Australia, Africa(Cameroon), Russia and even smaller countries like Albania and Philippines. Together there were 9 selections from European continent !

Here is a table showing the number of selected participants with their country :

1 INDIA 16
2 NORTH AMERICA 9
3 CANADA 4
4 BRAZIL 3
5 GERMANY 2
6 CAMEROON 1
7 POLAND 1
8 CHINA 1
9 SRI LANKA 1
10 PHILLIPINES 1
11 TURKEY 1
12 UK 1
13 FINLAND 1
14 RUSSIA 1
15 AUSTRALIA 1
16 ALBANIA 1
17 ROMANIA 1
18 SPAIN 1

 

Diversity in projects

From what I could understand, projects were mainly offered in these four categories : software development, research, UI – UX/ design, documentation and data analytics. UI – UX and data analytics projects involved some coding but didn’t seem to be completely development based and hence I have mentioned them separately.

Development 32
UI – UX 5
Research 4
Documentation 2
Data Analytics 2

 

Does this diversity extend to mentors and program co-ordinators ?

Two-thirds of the program co-ordinators (12 out of 18) from each organization were women. Overall, 12 mentors for different projects were women. Just to note, while the numbers are same – while there are some intersections, not all women mentors are co-ordinators and vica versa 🙂

Conclusion

In a short span of six years, the program has been successful increased the participation of women in FOSS projects and I feel has played a major role in not just working towards bridging the gender gap in FOSS community.

 

 

Outreachy – FOSS beyond coding !

I have been selected for Outreachy Round Dec-March 2017 and will be working with Mozilla on a Diversity and Inclusion related project. The project consists of identifying and documenting examples of successful inclusive teams and communities within Mozilla and learn from them. I had never contributed to Mozilla before but have been a Firefox user since I can remember and this project is a wonderful opportunity to not only to contribute to a FOSS project I love but also to a cause I deeply care about – of improving diversity and inclusion in FOSS communities. I also hope to apply my learnings from the project to other FOSS communities and groups I am involved with.

You don’t need to know coding to contribute to Open Source !

I would also like to repeat again here – that not you do not need to know code to contribute to FOSS projects. There are many non-technical tasks like Translation, Writing, Marketing, Outreach, Design, Diversity and Community Operations in FOSS projects which thrive on support of volunteers. Also, you can contribute to FOSS according to your free time and gain a lot of knowledge and valuable experience while doing it.

You can also contribute to FOSS through programs like Outreachy .

Outreachy (formerly known as Outreachy Program for Women) connects and helps people from underrepresented groups (women, trans male, minority groups in U.S. like Hispanic etc) with equal opportunities to participate and get involved in various free and open source software projects. It’s organized by GNOME and many Open Source Projects offer three month internships(technical and non-technical) through Outreachy twice a year.

If interested, you can also look into other similar programs like Mozilla Winter of Security, Google Summer of Code , Tor summer of privacy , Rails Summer of Code . Tapasweni Pathak, a former GSoC-er, has compiled a list of these programs here.

Different ways to screw up Outreachy and/or GSoC applications..

I have wondered countless number of times since the past two years* about the moment when I see my name on the Outreachy selected participants page. I might have also given a thought or two (more like two hundred, if you want me to be honest) about writing this post. Would I start the post describing the happiness I felt when I saw my name on the Outreachy selections page?  Would I act all cool instead and say I casually checked the results and was surprised to find my name?  Would I give advice to other newcomers to the program ? Now, when the moment is finally here – I have decided to be completely honest !

*For those who don’t know, this was my fourth time applying for Outreachy/GSoC. I have screwed up my selections in GSoC and Outreachy in all possible ways like being accepted by the organization and being deemed ineligible for Outreachy due to my course commitments and  being accepted by the organization and being deemed ineligible for GSoC due to not uploading my student ID. During the time I had forgot to upload my student ID, I had completed the application and had stared at it for one whole hour to find any faults with it – I didnt want any fiascos to happen again. The portal showed application complete and yet, I somehow missed the box on left side asking to upload my student ID. In retrospective, it was all for good but at that time – it hurt the most. I cried the whole night and wasted the whole day even though I had finals on the day after. (More info on how to not screw up in GSoC/Outreachy in another post coming soon..)

Selecting a project to work on for Outreachy

Needless to say, I was very anxious about the Outreachy results this time. I was counting the days one week before the results and by the time just one day was left, I was a nervous wreck. I had narrowed down a few projects for Outreachy – on diversity and inclusion project and another one on data science by Mozilla and a few UI – UX projects (I have always been interested in UI/UX) by other orgs. I ended up only applying to Mozilla. While I am still interested in contributing to UI/UX, I didn’t know much about it – or even HTML/CSS – when I started working on the patches and being involved with a full-time internship left me with little time to learn. I also fell sick during the Outreachy application period and it prompted my decision to concentrate and apply to only one or two projects which I would really really want to work on over the internship. The ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ project with Mozilla was my first choice given various factors like the large number of things to be learnt during the project, non-technical project (my life has been full of code contributions and I wanted to explore..), my growing interest in making FOSS communities more diverse and inclusive, opportunity to apply my learnings in Fedora community post the internship, awesome team, being a part of Mozilla community and the fact that I had worked on most of my initial contribution before falling sick.

My initial contribution for Outreachy for Mozilla’s Diversity and Inclusion related project

The main project involved research, surveys and talking to volunteers in different Mozilla communities to know more about diversity and inclusion related activities.As a result, I decided to conduct a short diversity and inclusion related survey as my initial contribution. You can find the work sample with my learnings from the survey here.

When you are not selected.. but then you are..

I had been glued to the screen refreshing the results since one hour before the results. When  the results were announced, my name wasn’t in the list of selected participants. I was very sad but decided not to cry even though I couldn’t figure out where I went wrong during my application. I was eligible, had done the initial contribution to my best and even interacted with the mentor regularly. I began second guessing my abilities. I didnt have the guts to tell my boyfriend that I hadn’t been selected . He had been through my side during the past three application fiascos for GSoC and Outreachy. When he called to know about the results, I said I had been selected (I know I have a cruel sense of humor, but I didnt want any sympathy again! ). However seeing his happiness and excitement, I couldn’t keep up the pretense any longer so I broke down. He was so sure that I would be selected this time that he checked and rechecked the results page multiple times and it was looking like I would have to end up consoling him 😛 However, sometime during that, the page was updated to announce a final list of participants and lo and behold, I had been selected ! I was finally going to be a Mozillian working on diversity and inclusion ! Yaay..

outreachy

outreachy2

Other Outreachy Interns in this round

46 awesome women will be doing their internships with 14 different FOSS organizations as a part of Outreachy ! I am looking forward to getting to know them more and also their projects. You can check out their blogs about their work here. I am especially excited to know more about Zareen Farooqui and her Outreachy project with Wikimedia involving user-oriented data analytics (cause it’s community-oriented analytics, duh!) and Suzzane Hillman and her work with UX of Fedora Hubs (Fedora Hubs is a project I have seen grow since I first joined Fedora more than a year ago and I am really interested in learning how UX makes it better.)

My first week of Outreachy

Since I will be wrapping up my internship in Berlin till Dec 23, Outreachy organizers have kindly agreed to help postpone my evaluations by three weeks so that I can give my best to both the projects. During the first week, the mentors are way on a Mozilla all-hands onsite week but I will be getting familiar with the tools and resources neccesary, setting up my Mozilla account and getting to know more about Mozilla, it’s mission and the community. I will also be finalizing the kinks of the project I will be working on and I can’t wait to get started with my Outreachy internship soon 🙂

LinuxCon EU 2016

LinuxCon EU 2016  took place from Oct 4-6 in Berlin, Germany. LinuxCon is one of the biggest FOSS conference where developers, sys admins, architects and all levels of technical talent gather together under one roof for three days. Since I am currently living in Berlin, there was no way I could miss this conference – even though the tickets for attending the full conference were around 1000 euros and way out of my league as a student researcher. Thankfully, I was awarded the Minority scholarship by Linux Foundation to attend the conference (including the talks and workshops) – and also the Women in Open Source Lunch and some other evening events ! I was also a part of the Fedora ‘crew’ at LinuxCon and helping out with Fedora Booth !

Fedora at LinuxCon

fedora-crew-linuxcon

Our Fedora booth ‘crew’ consisted mainly of three members – JiriZach and me. Jiri and Zach are Fedora Ambassadors for EMEA region. But we were not the only booth with some Fedora content. Red Hat had a booth on the other side of the room. People could see Fedora and meet Fedora contributors there too. We were also joined by RedHat ‘gang’ involved in Fedora sometimes – mostly Adam (who currently works on Fedora Modularity, but is one of the lead developers and designers of the awesome Fedora Developer Portal) and also Brain Exelbird (Bex)  – the Fedora Community Action and Impact Co-ordinator (yes, it’s F-CAIC or F-CAKE depending on how much you like desserts 😛 ) . You can know more about the Fedora impact at LinuxCon + ContainerCon EU 2016 by reading Jiri’s report on LinuxCon EU 2016 on Fedora Community Blog here.

Impact of LinuxCon on Fedora

While we were able to create a special Fedora badge for LinuxCon EU attendees to gauge the impact of the event, out of the 16 times it was awarded , there was only one new contributor ganto and Jiri has talked about the reasons why this happened in his post on Fedora Community Blog.

That being said, there were many people interested in using and/or contributing to Fedora and we were able to point them in the right direction. If you are reading this post and are interested in contributing to Fedora Project but don’t know how to start ? or are confused about which team to join ? – check out Fedora website to help new contributors. If you still have any queries, you can contact one of us (or definitely me).

There were a few common troublepoints for us at the Fedora booth at LinuxCon –

  • There were quite a few people who felt the Fedora logo looked similar to Facebook.
  • Some people couldn’t understand that it was Fedora booth as the Fedora logo was at the bottom of the banners. (I think some people were hesitant in approaching the booth because of this too)
  • People were interested in installing Fedora but couldn’t take the workstation DVDs as their computers had no CD drives. I am not sure how many of those actually went home and downloaded Fedora.
  • Many were doubtful as why Fedora had a  booth separate from RedHat ? (Fedora booth was organized by the community and not Red Hat) and if so, why was it so away ? (Fedora and RedHat booths were at opposite ends of the hall. )

All of us had discussions during LinuxCon about how to improve visibility of Fedora at such events and quite a few interesting points came up including creating swag for interested contributors. Adam even worked on a design for a new Fedora banner with increased visibility. There were also quite a few technical discussions about ongoing developments in Fedora OS, modularity in Fedora and how we were working on it and so on. We also discussed amongst ourselves about different issues affecting Fedora Community including diversity and inclusion in Fedora community.

We ended the conference by going out for dinner at an Indian restaurant with Red Hat ‘gang’ where I ended up having ‘Vindaloo’ for the first time – even though I am an Indian ! 😛

My Takeaways as a Fedora contributor

On a personal note, I feel that conferences are not only a great way to help onboard new users and/or contributors but also a great learning opportunity for existing contributors about different parts of the project, meeting different community members, raising questions about a variety of issues related to the project, learning why some things are taking place in a certain way and sometimes even having a suggestion or idea which could potentially impact the system for better. In case of projects like Fedora where most of the contributions are virtual, it definitely ‘humanizes’ the project i.e. for me, I have began to understand that barriers for entry in FOSS are not unnecessarily high and I don’t have to be an expert in the area I contribute or I don’t need to have loads of free time – all I need is an avid interest and the rest will be taken care of !

LinuxCon EU talks and events

30077856536_c5a7c658ac_c

I didn’t know anything about containers before attending LinuxCon + ContainerCon but after attending some elementary talks on containers, I can definitely say I know the basics and can deploy a kubernetes module 😛

Apart from container-related talks, some other talks I found pretty interesting were

‘Gender-diversity analysis of technical contributions’ by dizquierdo from Bitergia.  The talk combined my two interests – metrics and diversity and really helps make sense of the diversity issue in FOSS by supporting it with numbers. I wanted to meet Daniel after the talk to discuss about the diversity metrics, the work Bitergia is doing and it’s similarity with my work involving community metrics in Fedora (on contributor engagement, impact of attending events on contributors and community, improving contributor retention rates and diversity related metrics) but somehow between being at Fedora booth and attending talks, I could never find him. So @dizquierdo, if you read this – however unlikely that is, I am a fan of Bitergia and would love to discuss more about metrics Bitergia compiles and analyses 🙂 (Slides for the talk are here )
The talk on ‘FOSS Involvement of Google’ was also very interesting. I always knew Google had some Open Source projects and even used them but never knew that Google actually contributed to LinuxKernel.  (Slides for the talk are here)
Other talks which I found interesting were ‘Outreachy Linux Kernel Internship Report’ by Julia Lawall and other past Outreachy interns, ‘Corporate Trends in Open Source Engagement’ by Nithya Ruff, ‘IF YOU BUILD IT,THEY WON’T COME’  about non-technical aspects of FOSS projects by Ruth Suehle, ‘Graphite@Scale:How to store million metrics per second’ by Vladimir Smirnov of Booking.com . I couldn’t attend all of these talks but the slides were informative and I hope the videos are uploaded soon.
You can find the slides for all talks here.

Networking is tough ! Or maybe, it’s all about curiousity

index

As with all conferences, LinuxCon is a great opportunity for networking. However, I am a dummy at ‘networking’ since I recently graduated from my college in India where networking was not in anybody’s vocabulary. While I did visit booths, collected swag, talked about job opportunities – I wasn’t able to forge any contacts. We had a networking event in evening at Charlottenberg Palace and I remember everybody talking and laughing with glasses of wine and me wondering about the right question to start a conversation. While I did manage to talk with different people by the end of the evening, I realised I forged contacts when I was actually interested and curious about the product and wasn’t just asking someone for jobs. I was able to talk to people working in different FOSS organizations, know about their experiences and the products they were working on, how they used data analytics and Machine Learning – and sometimes walk away with job opportunities – all because I was curious and interested in their organization, and not just looking for a job ! It was tougher to initiate personal contact at booths though since booths had multiple people at times and personal contacts were hard to make. However, I was able to learn a lot about the ongoing projects at organizations, the opportunities and work environment at the booths. I was especially fascinated by a Unity game made by a Business Administration intern at HP during his summer internship – it just shows the diversity of opportunities you have at such workplaces. I also took part in some raffle contents, but never won anything! (Zach won a game though – like Legos, but not as interesting – is all I could understand about it 😛 )

Research Opportunities and Scholarships

Since I am interested in pursuing a PhD, I was interested in exploring research collaborations with FOSS projects and organizations – via a research project with mentor in the organization, collecting data from the organization, scholarships or support for FOSS related research work or joint PhD programs with research institution and the FOSS organization but couldn’t find much opportunities in this area. Afaik, Red Hat Brno sometimes has students working for thesis with them but it is generally OS-development related and not for data analytics. Ping me, if you know something !

Marketing

Sponsors for conferences at LinuxCon spend a lot of money for the booths, the swag and goodies at the booth (giving away T-Shirts at booths was common and some even had USBs and power banks), and many more including the expenses of the employees who represent the organization at the event. The expenses are huge, but do organizations get returns for what they spent ? The rational answer is that they do, otherwise why else would they come back ? But isn’t there a better of evaluating the impact at these events ? Bex and I had a long discussion about the different costs a organization like Red Hat incurs for being a part of LinuxCon but I would love to know more about how they measure the impact they have at a particular event.

Women in Open Source

Diversity and Inclusion in FOSS is one of the topics very close to my heart and I was extremely excited to be given an opportunity to be a part of the Women in Open Source Lunch at LinuxCon. Since I am also a part of Diversity Team at Fedora and involved with FOSSWave (an outreach initiative for new FOSS contributors in India), I felt this would be a great learning opportunity where I could apply the learnings directly towards the benefit of the FOSS community.

Lunch and Discussion, Meeting Role models

cube5svvmaakbii-jpglarge

Over lunch, girls and women from different phases of their career and involved with different FOSS projects discussed about different issues related to diversity and inclusion in FOSS communities. The 50 or so group of women were divided around 8-10 tables with each table discussing a particular issue(question). At the end of the lunch, a moderator from each table spoke in brief about the ideas or solutions they had come up regarding the issue.The questions we discussed ranged from ‘What diversity or inclusivity programs do you see working and how can FOSS communities adopt those ? Programs from software, propreitery companies, FOSS companies etc‘(which was my table), ‘How can women support other women in community?‘ to ‘What does safety mean in online communities? What can we do to ensure communities are safe ?

I found the format especially helpful and efficient when conducting such a diversity related panel/QA session at conferences. I have compiled a list of the topics we discussed and the solutions other women came up with here which you can edit with your own comments on the issue.

My key takeaways from the discussion were :

  1. Start young – start breaking down the stereotypes in high school. The root of the problem starts in high schools and it is easier to tackle at the earliest stage. Also, when doing this , involve not just students but also parents and teachers as they make up the environment and community which shapes the individuals perceptions !
  2. Start small ! Speak up! – If you see something wrong – don’t ignore or let it slide even if it is not technically harmful. Small disruptions lead to big changes. Share your success stories, mentor someone from your community – every small bit counts.
  3. Provide role models and mentors – Many succesful programs involve mentorship. Helps ease the transition and feels good to have a support system and know people who have done it, you don’t feel alone.
  4. We need a dedicated and active support channel for diversity and inclusion related issues across projects and communities.

During the lunch, I was also able to meet a lot of my role models from FOSS communites and learnt about the experiences of some awesome women in Open Source like Nithya Ruff of Western Digital, Julia Lawall of Linux Kernal and many past Outreachy interns as well as FOSS contributors.

Along with the awesome lunch, goodies by Sandisk (I desperately needed a pen drive, thank you!) and beautiful birds-eye view of Berlin from 13th floor of the hotel, the event also had some fun activities like raffle in the end – and surprisingly, I got lucky and won a Berlin Bear ! Yaay !

Diversity Survey, Talking to different organizations and people

There are multiple ongoing efforts across different FOSS projects and organizations to improve diversity and promote workplace inclusion for minority groups in their respective communities. However, these efforts are not consolidated and do not look towards analyzing the impact of those strategies – about what is working and what isn’t ! With this in mind, I have started a  Diversity and Inclusion study (more details here) to get an overview of diversity and inclusion practices across different FOSS projects, communities or organizations and learn from their success and failures too and share it with other FOSS organizations and projects so that the same mistakes don’t get repeated again and again ! The study is still in it’s nascent stage and I am working on the shortcomings to better develop the study however, I talked to different people and organizations(representatives at Booths) to learn about their experiences and/or how their organization is working towards this. I learnt quite a few interesting things and if you would love to be a part of this study, please ping me so we can discuss more.

To sum it up, LinuxCon was an awesome learning experience, full of fun – I wish I could have attended more talks and talked to more people(especially those from Bitergia and Fitbit) – but I gained knowledge about a lot of new stuff like Containers, learnt about new FOSS projects and organizations, helped onboard some new contributors to Fedora and brainstormed about some community issues, gained a fresh perspective on diversity and inclusion in FOSS – all while collecting some awesome swag and a Berlin bear along the way !

Software Freedom Kosova 2016

Software Freedom Kosova (SFK) 2016 took place in Prishtina from October 21-23, 2016. We were able to push a special Fedora badge for SFK  to be awarded to SFK attendees who vist the Fedora booth. The badge was awarded 14 times out of which 12 were existing contributors while 2 new contributors were onboarded at the event ! Yaay – we look forward to seeing you in the community nafieshehu and marianab.

I was supposed to be speaking on ‘What is Machine Learning and how FOSS Organizations use it?’ at SFK. However, there were problems with my visa and Easyjet crew wouldn’t let me board my flight to Prishtina. The SFK organizers (most of them contributors from FLOSSK) were really understanding and helpful. I was able to finally conduct my talk remotely. I am especially thankful to Jona Azizaj and Ardian Haxha .

The talk was about –

  • What is Machine Learning ? and it’s applications.
  • Basic Machine Learning Algorithms with examples
  • Case Studies of FOSS organizations : How do FOSS organizations like Fedora, Wikimedia, Mozilla use Machine Learning ?
  • Interested in Machine Learning ? Resources

You can find the preliminary version of slides for the talk here

The talk aimed at introducing Machine Learning to the audience and I would love to interact with anyone interested in knowing more about learning Machine Learning or contributing to FOSS organizations in this area.

Jona and I were also going to conduct a workshop on Introduction to Non Technical Contributions in Free and Open Source Software. It is a common misconception that you need to know programming to contribute to FLOSS organizations and that contributors only work on technical tasks. This workshop aimed to bust this myths by introducing participants to non coding tasks in FLOSS organizations and mainly Fedora. We (Jona and I) were going to talk about diverse non technical contribution opportunities in FOSS by taking example of Fedora like Marketing, Translation, Design, Writing articles for Fedora Magazine or contributing to Community Operations. Jona went on to conduct the workshop with other Fedora contributors at SFK like Giannis K. , Anxhela H, Elio Qoshi and others.

The slides for the workshop are here. You can view it better after you download it.

Even though I couldn’t attend SFK, I could feel it to be a huge success all the way to Berlin !

I hope to learn from the presentations of the talks I wanted to but couldn’t attend – especially ‘Hacking the tenders data: the quest for public spending patterns’ by Victor Netu and ‘Using Open Source Technology for Social Change’ by Blinera Merta. I also planned to visit FLOSSK , Prishtina Hackerspace and Girls Coding Kosova – which are some awesome FOSS communities in Prishtina and learn about their ongoing projects, their journey (Prishtina Hackerspace was founded by crowdsourcing the funds!) and hoped to apply those learnings in India – but better luck next time (maybe during next SFK).

Shihemi se shpejti, Prishtina !

 

 

My FOSS Journey and Why I am applying for a Toptal Scholarship

When I graduated from my high school in India, our class had an almost 50-50 ratio of boys-to-girls. My graduating class in one of India’s premier engineering institutions had less than 10%. It was even more interesting to see that there were more than 20% girls enrolled in Bachelors in Design (which offered courses like Product Design, Human Computer Interaction and User Experience Research) while there were none in Mechanical Engineering since the last three graduating classes. Was it that Design was considered a relatively non-technical course ? While I have never been openly discouraged from pursuing a career in technology – a predominantly male-populated field – there has always been an unconscious bias even from within my family. When I wanted to apply for a degree course in Mechanical Engineering, I was asked to take some more time to think about my future – was gently nudged towards more female-friendly engineering fields like Computer Science which wouldn’t involve as much strenuous physical effort. Was it even sublte experiences like this which had contributed towards the gender gap ? This feeling of being an ‘outsider’ in a predominantly male field never left till I started contributing to Open Source.
I first learnt about Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) via Outreachy, a program designed to increase participation of minorities in FOSS. I liked the fact that the program had no knowledge prerequisites so that anyone interested in contributing to FOSS could be a part of it. I started contributing to the Fedora Community Operations team and even though I wasn’t selected to be a part of Outreachy for Fedora due to some technical reasons, I had finally felt ‘included’ in a FOSS community and decided to stick around. My contributions to FOSS have mainly been in three areas :

1. Community Research involving Data Analytics

My contributions to Fedora Community Operations have been on developing metrics to understand and help the community. I have worked on developing metrics to understand contributor engagement in the community, analyze the impact of attending events on the activity of an individual contributor as well as in organization as a whole (resource utilization, number of newcomers onboarded etc). This has helped Fedora leadership in decision-making process. Recently, I have been working on metrics to improve contributor retention rates in the Fedora community. Newcomer onboarding in FOSS projects in important, but retaining them is critical. According to statistics I collected about Fedora Project community, more than half of the contributors (who made atleast one technical or non technical contribution to the project) drop out within their first three months. If these people are interested in contributing, why do they leave ? My research tries to identify the root causes behind these ‘drop-out’ cases. It also suggests easily adoptable methods for the organization, community and individual contributors so that more newcomers are retained and even existing contributors find it easy to contribute to the project.
You can find my talk about it at the annual Fedora contributors conference Flock  here. Link to the github repository for the project is here and link to blog posts about the work here.

2. Efforts to promote Diversity in Open Source

I am also involved with the Fedora Diversity Team where I collect statistics to understand diversity in Fedora community. I work closely with the Fedora Diversity Adviser and Diversity Team on identifying target areas and devising strategies to positively impact these identified areas. Apart from this, I recently started conducting a Diversity and Workplace Inclusion Survey about FOSS projects, organizations and communities. There are multiple ongoing efforts across different FOSS projects and organizations to improve diversity and promote workplace inclusion for minority groups in their respective communities. However, these efforts are not consolidated and do not look towards analyzing the impact of those strategies – about what is working and what isn’t ! With this study, I wanted to get an overview of diversity and inclusion practices across different FOSS projects, communities or organizations and learn from their success and failures too and share it with other FOSS organizations and projects so that the same mistakes don’t get repeated again and again !

You can find the link to the  Github project for Diversity study here. More interviews will be uploaded if interviewees dont mind making the interviews public.

3. Outreach Efforts

I am involved with FOSSWave, a mentorship program to help university students in India to contribute to FOSS projects. Contributing to FOSS organizations and projects seems pretty daunting to newcomers. FOSSWave helps to ease this process by providing mentors to interested students by conducting workshops and talks in universities across India. By being a part of FOSSWave, I hope to engage with the open source community as a female role model and plan to mentor more students and women into contributing to FOSS. In this direction, FOSSWave has recently started a program named Women in Technology to mentor more female students interested in FOSS. You can read more about programs by FOSSWave here and here.

Learnings from my experience in FOSS

It has been about one year since my first contribution to FOSS now. Within such a short span, I have not only immensely improved my programming and data science skills but have also learnt a lot about commitment, team work, mentorship and leadership, how to create a positive community and the joy of sharing and giving that is Open Source. Most importantly, I have gained confidence in myself and my skills. All this has further motivated me to continue contributing to FOSS, while also working on outreach and diversity efforts, so that more people – especially women – are able to be a part of this great experience.

What will I gain from a Toptal Scholarship ?

As a result, I have been desperately searching for a mentorship program which would not want me to compromise my dreams of pursuing research and doing a PhD (mostly related to understanding humans) one day while contributing to FOSS. That’s how less than eight hours before the application deadline, I stumbled across Toptal STEM Scholarship for Women. As a result, while all of the contributions I have mentioned are during the application period, none of my FOSS contributions were done keeping in mind the Toptal scholarship program but instead are about the projects or issues I deeply care about. However, the mentorship from the experienced Toptal engineers would be helpful in providing unique and helpful insights on further develop this research on FOSS communities, to maximize it’s potential impact and help apply it in industry by developing tools for FOSS organizations to understand and improve their communities as well as allocate their resources in a more efficient manner. I also plan to utilize extensive Open Source developer network of Toptal to understand diversity and workplace inclusion initiatives – including successes and pitfalls across a wide variety of tech organizations. This scholarship will also help develop the FOSSWave program by providing a wide an extensive network of role models in the industry, especially for interested female contributors. The mentorship from the Toptal community would be helpful to providing unique and helpful insights on how to further develop FOSSWave program too.