This is loosely related to libraries, but it is related to FOSS [free and open source software] which many libraries are using or contemplating. One of the things that is consistently stressed as a benefit of open source stuff is that when you pay for people to work on your software, you are hiring talent, not paying for licenses at giant megacorporations. For some of us, this is an unqualified good thing. However, compared to megacorporation software projects, there are many fewer women working on open source projects.
Some of this has to do with the nature of the open source community, some of it has to do with technology generally. When my little video got a ton of views on YouTube, I sort of made a joke that I would know it was a success when the marriage proposals started trickling in. Other non-techies looked at me strangely when I said this, but sure enough when you look at the comments, you’ll see it. I find it all pretty amusing and not some sort of “evidence” of any sort of sexism, but I do think it points out that a woman with even a passing competency in this areana [and I'm techie but nothing like, say, Karen Coombs] is such an anomaly that people just stop and stare. I’d like more nerdy lady friends who do this sort of stuff, so I’ve been reading up on it. I found a few good things to read and I’d like to share them with you.
- An old HOWTO about HOWTO encourage women in Linux.
- Women in FLOSS – a presentation by Angela Byron. It’s a big pdf with 100 slides and it’s totally captivating and interesting.
- Susie’s blog talks about a few of these topics and linked to my video originally which is how I got started on this topic for today.
FLOSS is an acronym standing for Free/Libre Open Source Software and it’s the term people use when they’re trying to describe the intersection of what’s free and what’s open source. Eric Goldhagen gave a great talk about FLOSS (ppt) at the Simmons Skillshare and sent us off with a list of FLOSS tools that can replace what we’re already using in libraries, from Open Source IM clients to whole free operating systems. It made me happy, then, to read about Howard County Library in Maryland moving to a user experience on their computers that they call Groovix. This web4lib post has the details but it’s an ubuntu-based system that covers all the bases of what people use PACs for using free (not always open source) tools. They end their post with this note
Howard County Library is a pioneer in Maryland in using Open Source software on public and staff machines. Because Open Source software is available free or at a very modest cost, the Library can provide public computers at a fraction of the cost using comparable commercially-available software.
Sounds neat, doesn’t it? I’ve often though, and said in my talks, that a lot of software problems are management issues disguised as money issues. We say we can’t afford to change, when what we mean is that we don’t know how. FLOSS-curious? Check out this Wikipedia Free Software portal. Yeah I said Wikipedia, for all of its flaws, at least they’re not trying to sell you anything.