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My GNOME Outreach Program for Women internship is now over. My project was the JavaScript app developer documentation. When I started, it was woefully out-of-date and incomplete, and extremely poorly organized.

So how is it now?

Still really bad, in my opinion. Especially compared to Apple or Android's developer docs.

You can see, on the page I was working on, the beginnings of a curriculum. It tells you what you need to do to get started, and then starts to walk you through GNOME app development before giving you lots of code samples for specific widgets. But there are some experiments and approaches I took that I think were questionable, like the Switch widget example that covered AboutDialogs in more detail than Switches, or the starting lesson which jumps straight into Webkit.

When I started this project, I knew things had to be better but I didn't fully know how to get there. I used a lot of trial and error, writing code sample after code sample and refining my approach in each one. After attending the Open Help conference and sprint, I had a much clearer idea of where to go, and you can see the outline for my "App Guide" project on the live.gnome.org wiki.

I hope to complete the first draft of this guide in time for the next round of Outreach Program interns, and I hope to become a mentor for some of them. Whether they're working to improve developer docs, or writing their own GNOME apps.

Taryn's take on the Outreach Program

It was one of the best experiences of my life. It was confusing and frustrating at first, especially once I found out that GNOME app development wasn't as simple as I'd been led to believe by the existing tutorials. But I found my footing quickly, I think, even if that involved asking a ton of questions on IRC.

The parts that I'll always remember include all the technical triumphs, the encouragement from my mentor and the other interns and people involved in the program, and meeting up with people at Open Help. And in the #gnome-women IRC meeting where we gave feedback on the program, I said that one of the best things about it was how open-ended it was, because of how it let me understand the problem and approach it in my own way.

Since then, though, I realized another big thing about the program that helps make it successful:

Money

We've probably all seen the research on what motivates us, and how money is not a big part of it. But you know who's really motivated by money? People who don't have enough.

Women, disabled people, gender and sexual / romantic minorities, ethnic and cultural minorities ... all these groups are more likely to have a hard time making ends meet financially. And the opportunity cost for them to volunteer for Free Software is a lot greater than it is for a white, abled, male, non-queer hacker, who's being paid a decent salary and has health insurance.

Just as an example, the time I spent dealing with autistic shutdown and widespread intolerance, and trying to explain feminism 101 concepts to deter trolls from attacking me and others, are all things that most hackers don't have to deal with. They're practically a second job for many ... to say nothing of the women who are still expected to be the primary (or sole) caretakers for their children.

The Outreach Program's $5,000 payment is barely enough to maintain a minimal first-world standard of living over three months. But for me, it was more than enough. I was finally living my dreams, and being paid to work on what most excited me. And I could set aside other work that I didn't have the spoons (emotional energy) for, so that I could concentrate on this.

One of the reasons I'm going to continue working on GNOME is because I'm hoping to sell the App Developer's Guide as a Creative Commons-licensed book, and make some money from it. I'm hoping that once "GNOME OS" becomes more widespread, more people will want to learn to write apps for it, and that this guide will be there for them.

But another huge reason is because, once the problem of "how do I pay rent and buy food?" was taken care of for a few months, I saw how much I loved being a part of the GNOME community and helping with my part of it. So that stipend provided the activation energy for what will hopefully become a chain reaction, as I mentor other women who may go on to help others in turn.

I'm hoping to show them that they can be a part of GNOME too; that GNOME needs them, and that they can have fun contributing to GNOME. And while it may seem vulgar to talk about if you're explaining the program to people who don't need the money, as someone who's been there that stipend really helps sell the program to people who do.

Wrapping things up

Many thanks to the GNOME Foundation, Google, Mozilla, Collabora, the Free Software Foundation, and Red Hat for sponsoring my internship. I had a lot of fun with it, and I hope I made (or am) something that's worth it.

Many thanks to my mentor, Tiffany Antopolski, for answering so many weird questions and doing so much work to find out how to make the JavaScript code work right, especially for her version of the "Hello, GNOME" tutorial which hasn't gone live yet. Seriously, she went the extra kilometre, especially since mentors aren't paid.

Many thanks to her, Radina Matic, and Marta Maria Casetti, for being extremely supportive either on my journal or in person at Open Help. I needed a lot of encouragement and reassurance, and it was an amazing feeling to be validated and accepted there. If I'd known this would happen, I would've tried to raise money to go to GUADEC too somehow.

Many thanks to Shaun McCance for running the Open Help conference, and to him and Ryan Lortie for answering my questions there and helping me figure out what the App Guide should cover. Also just for being awesome. You guys rock.

Finally, many thanks to Marina Zhurakhinskaya and Karen Sandler for running the Outreach Program, and to Karen for helping make it possible as the GNOME Foundation's Executive Director. This may be the most welcoming Free Software community for women (including trans women) that I know of, right up there with Dreamwidth.

Here's hoping, and helping, that it just gets better from here.
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