AdaCamp DC 2012
The second AdaCamp wrapped up in Washington, DC on Wednesday, July 11th. The first AdaCamp was held in Melbourne, Australia in January 2012. AdaCamp is an Ada Initiative unconference focused on increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. The invitation-only event gathered professionals, fans, hobbyists, academics, and activists to build community, discuss issues impacting women across open technology, and strategize ways to inspire positive change and build community resources. Attendees came from government, non-profits, corporations, volunteer communities, small businesses, and educational institutions. The event was orchestrated by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner from the Ada Initiative.
Included among the participants were technologists utilizing open source software, Wikipedia and other wiki projects, open data, open government, fan/remix culture, and open archives. Attendees, who represented all genders and sexual orientations, were selected from qualified applicants through an online open application. Approximately 100 people attended, from at least 10 countries, including Japan, Myanmar, Argentina, India, Spain, the UK, Italy, Australia, Canada, and across the US. Ages ranged from 18 years old to over 50.
[To protect the privacy of the participants, we were allowed to opt out from being photographed and were discouraged from using names in blogs, tweets, and public posts. For this reason names have been omitted from this post unless specifically permitted.]
There were over 40 sessions during the 2 day unconference. The sessions were brainstormed and scheduled at the beginning of each day. Each session included a volunteer gatekeeper, time keeper, and note taker. Each day concluded with an hour-long feedback session in which attendees had the opportunity to offer praise and constructive criticism about the event. These got very touchy-feely despite the waning energy level of the attendees (in a good way). Notes for all the sessions were documented on a shared PiratePad accessible to all attendees (there are plans to move these notes to a Wikipedia page).
Session topics included:
- Women editing Wikipedia
- Burnout and Lifehacking
- Feminism, LGBTQ and Social Change
- Hardware Hacking and Soft Circuits
- Fanworks and Open Things
- Job Seeking
- Open Education and Curriculum
- Feminist Hackathons
- Python Workshops
Day 1 concluded with a series of 90 second lightning talks, in which presenters rapidly discussed browser security vulnerabilities, learning musical instruments with the aid of web resources, gender and legos, the value of gratitude, cool facts about Washington, DC, and natural uranium fission reactors.
The most popular session at AdaCamp (in fact so popular there were at least four separate sessions to allow for maximum attendance) was “Imposter Syndrome.” Imposter syndrome is the psychological phenomenon in which people fail to internalize their accomplishments. During these sessions participants were able to open up about their own struggles with imposter syndrome, as well as brainstorm ways in which to mitigate IP for themselves, colleagues, and employees.
Two fun brainchilds from the sessions included a “Wall of Compliments” – offspring of one of the Imposter Syndrome sessions. In order to combat Impostor’s Syndrome compliments were written on sticky notes and posted on a wall under the heading “take a compliment.” Also, following end of day two sessions, a timeline of negative and positive milestones was posted (also on sticky notes), grouped by age.
Some interesting takeaways from the experience:
- Only about 9-13% of Wikipedia editors are women internationally. The foundation has the goal to close this gender gap. How can we close this gap and recruit a more diverse range of editors? Strategies centered on reaching out to existing professional and academic networks.
- Discussion of intersecting Fandom and Open Source, promoting Fan archives and protecting ownership. Why don’t fans participate more in open source? One suggested answer: “bronies” and “machinima,” male-dominated technology communities.
- Discussion of how to maintain careers in technology and be mothers. Concerns included the stress of travel, stress and workload, concerns over making time for family. Suggestions included creating mom-friendly spaces, conference child-care, and maternity/paternity leave
- Where are the mentors for women who want to pursue careers in technology? Discussion included the differences between male and female mentors, the traits of a positive mentor, and cool aunts.
- How to avoid and manage burnout? Technologists working in high-stress, high-workload jobs suffer emotional and personal side effects. Suggestions: have a life outside of work, establish boundaries between work and personal, stop constantly checking your email and phone, concerns around “job-security” is a trap.
- Experiences of LGBTQ and women in hostile work environments. Discussion included protections in the work-place and work-place communities/group, creation of a consortium of professional/academic groups, generating visibility.
- Action items for tackling a lack of diversity in Computer Science education. Items included open curriculum and syllabi, creating kick-ass CS curriculum, pilot programs and more research on diversity gaps.
- Ethiopian and Lebanese food was provided for lunch, catering to a diverse range of dietary preferences – the food was amazing. All conferences should be inspired to creatively brainstorm beyond boxed sandwiches and chips.
Some of my favorite quotes included:
- “When you have not been affirmed in your real life, it is hard to participate in a space where you also don’t expect to be affirmed.” – reference to gender gap in Wikipedia.
- “That would be an interesting session. A séance for Ada.” – in response to a suggestion that Ada needs to be more “present.”
- “If you feel worthy to attend the imposter syndrome session, please go to…”
- “Gender is a text-box.” – referencing the bias of gender drop-downs on forms.
- “Does Apple have an LGBTQ group? ‘The Oranges’?” – in reference to building a consortium of LGBTQ technology professionals across organizations/companies.
- “I LOVE this idea of taking control of your house!” – in reference to hardware hacking home appliances.
Conference organizers included Caroline Simard, Deb Nicholson, Kellie Brownell, Noírín Shirley, Sarah Stierch, Katie Bechtold, Denise Paolucci, Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner.Tags: adacamp, conference, feminist, hacking, open source, wikipedia