The Planet FLOSS India site caught my eye due to the very tacky post by Soumyadip linking back to this post. As is the nature of spending a leisure filled day (don’t let that give you all the wrong ideas) reading this and this along side the report I must confess that I will perhaps end up doing what I planned not to do – make a FLOSS posting on this blog.

I am uniquely unqualified to comment on the posts, I am not an woman and I fear that I have the same bias and prejudices that Vid mentions in her blog. You would need not go further than just poking Runa about their existence. There are however two aspects that tend to put me off. One, the somewhat patronising tone in which let’s get some girls doing FLOSS is tossed around. Two, the lack of an attempt to tackle the root cause.

It is true that the notion of a hacker culture is somewhat strongly masculine however it is also very much true that this myth has been perpetuated, well fed and snowballed into a willing suspension of disbelief. So much so that the current crop of FLOSS contributors (and note that I do not use the term hackers which in my opinion has been abused to such an extent that it does not really merit any mention at all). FLOSS contributions should be bereft of gender bias and FLOSS projects should provide equal opportunity for all to contribute. The glass ceiling is normally put in place either through an implied higher entry barrier or through the perception of an “all male locker room” mentality which in no small time tends to put off a lot of folks being active participant.

Getting special forums wherein a form of mentorship can be undertaken is not something that will possibly solve the problem. Look at the statistics, every year a whole gaggle of students of whom a substantial number are women graduate from the academic institutions specialising in Computer Sciences/Information Technology or their subject-cousins. Yet there is a surprisingly low number of them getting into Free/Open Source Software. So obviously while the message is not being sent out at the right time, a more confused message is sent out to potential contributors. The one thing you cannot simply do is put off potential contributors by doling out so much help that they are implicitly made “special” and thus singled out for potential ridicule.

Like I said earlier, I don’t have solutions but off and on I keep on thinking about it. From the tactless posting of Surjo on the BLUG nontech list to the current issue which has been put across in various forums – it makes one sit up and take notice. Technology per se does not have any maleness associated – however the decades of loading of metadata into our subconscious culture has made a lot of content inherently male. The privacy of the “male space” when faced with the prospect of sharing it with female tends to react aggressively (the “rude” ness which Soumyadip disagrees is present) leading to a conflict not of ideals but of behavior.

Would subverting them terms under which various projects are conducted help ? I don’t know. But given the state of affairs today I would be more than willing to give it a whole hearted shot.

Do please read through all the links above before you decide to make a comment and I would love to have comments on this (for a change).

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A sense of (be)longing

In the past 2 years and a few odd months I have changed 4 cities – Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and now Bangalore, have travelled frequently to Pune and infrequently to Jaipur, Dehradun among others. And I have lost my sense of (be)longing. Living out of a suitcase with most meagre furniture or what passes for furniture can be unsettling. There are days when I might be sitting in Bangalore (nowadays I travel very rarely) and while musing about the weather of the city go into a subsconscious inevitable comparison with the weather of all the cities I have seen. Is this a need to attempt and identify myself with some particular anchor. I read somewhere I cannot recall that if you live life like a flotsam sooner or later you get this irrestible urge to feel part of something – to tell yourself that you belong and consequently you matter.

While talking with my friends from Kolkata I realise how much detached I have become from the culture and social fabric of the city. I have lived in Kolkata, studied, consulted, fallen in love, evangelised, intellectualised in that city. And now the same city seems so alien to me. What some consider the perspective advantage of a distant relation is jarring. I cannot make subjective judgements and conclusions seem to be taken in snap and thus biased by the very tinted glasses of living away. The mien of the society seems to be very different from what I saw, experienced and internalised.

Am I growing old ? Or am just too tired to accept the fact that I have become a part of the legion of professionals who seem cursed to be not to belong ?