jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
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 When I started, it was woefully out-of-date and incomplete, and extremely poorly organized.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 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:


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.
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
I went out in public twice at Open Help while presenting as female, for lunch and dinner. The second time around involved a lot of walking around downtown Cincinnati, on sort of a tour by our host and to visit a local ice cream place after dinner (where I got a fruit sorbet).

Content note: Possible trans-related TMI.

Read more... )
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
So I stayed for the rest of Open Help, and am glad I did.

The technical aspect

I did a lot of brainstorming. It looked like this, and was apparently a thing of awe.

A whiteboard covered in detailed, individually-numbered, colour-coded notes, describing a series of GNOME JavaScript developer tutorials.
(Click here and here for detailed closeups.)

Letting my mentor Tiffany Antopolski have access to my computer resolved some annoying problems with git very quickly. Talking to Shaun McCance about Mallard (and getting his printed cheat sheet) gave me a ton of ideas for ways to format tutorials. And being able to talk to him and Ryan Lortie in person at the same time really helped me with doing the above brainstorming, and deciding what all needs to make it into the outline for my next project: The GNOME App Developer Guide.

I feel like my whole internship was just training to write it, and learning (partly through trial and error) what's needed and why. I also feel like it needs to be written. There isn't a real starting point for people who love GNOME, and who want to write apps for their favourite platform, but who aren't highly technical insiders already. And after the past few months, I feel like I'm both qualified and motivated to write it.

Now that I have a better idea of the scope of the project, I want to have at least the first draft ready in time for the next round of the Outreach Program for Women. I want to be able to mentor people who want to write JavaScript apps; I've been helping [personal profile] ausbatlyssavirus a little bit with setting up GNOME and learning JavaScript, and she's expressed an interest in the Outreach Program, as well as the Google Code-In.

Oh, yes. I also learned that it's pronounced "guh-NOME," the same as GNU.

The personal aspect

(Warning for possible trans-related TMI and abuse survivor emotional issues.)

After writing my last post about the conference I was terrified, and felt like I'd be punished for it. I largely felt that way about it because I feel that way about everything. I wasn't prepared for the amount of support I received afterwards, including from the person whose actions partly caused the earlier post.

It felt amazing to be accepted there, especially as a trans woman. I had no idea it would be possible to go out in public in female mode without being terrified. Or how much I needed to be seen as one of "the girls," and accepted matter-of-factly as though it'd be creepy and weird to do otherwise. Even when I had to do things like present as male at first because I couldn't bring myself to wear gender-appropriate clothes, or shave before going out to eat, or stop trying to talk in a semi-female register because my voice was getting hoarse, it didn't seem to faze anyone. That helped me so much in getting over my nervousness.

Many thanks to Tiffany and to Radina Matic for helping me feel more confident (and for the free food and for signing my yearbook). I'm extremely grateful to everyone who made the conference possible. It was an experience I'd like to have again sometime.
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
Last night my journal was deleted, and the last few entries on Planet GNOME were lost. I had to restore them sans comments, but I have an email log of the comments received.

I am sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you all for the comments and email replies. I will try to attend the rest of the writing sprint.
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
Open Help is a conference about Free Software documentation. Today was the last day of formal sessions, and for the rest of the conference everyone will be doing a writing sprint.

I wasn't able to go to the reception on Friday, because I had to recuperate after a 24-hour bus ride and was nervous about being somewhere with a lot of noise and alcohol. I was nervous about going to the first day of sessions, too, but I had a lot of fun and learned a great deal. I especially enjoyed Janet Swisher's presentations about Kuma and Mozilla Popcorn, and Jean Weber's presentation about LibreOffice documentation. My mentor, Tiffany Antopolski, was extremely supportive, and also presented me with the GNOME Outreach Program yearbook that I didn't get because I wasn't at GUADEC.

I continued to participate through the first half of the second day of sessions. Midway through, some of us were talking about positive experiences we'd had in the GNOME Outreach Program for Women, and Florian Nadge from Red Hat expressed his opinion that the Outreach Program is a waste of time and that the money would be better spent on some unspecified programs to get girls in school into technology.

I already felt like an impostor on account of being trans, and because I feel like I haven't done nearly enough work for GNOME. Upon hearing his remarks I became extremely depressed, and went into autistic shutdown. I made it to the hotel and went to sleep, and felt better enough afterwards to try to go back out to a late-night documentation sprint but shutdown again soon afterwards.

I am feeling extremely unwell now, and will probably not be able to go out again for the rest of the conference. I will participate remotely from the hotel room, and will do my best to complete the GNOME JavaScript developer documentation.

I hope that everyone has a productive series of sprints. Many thanks to Red Hat, Mozilla, and the W3C for sponsoring the event, and to the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring my travel here and internship.
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
I'm going to be attending the Open Help conference this week, to learn about Free Software documentation and hopefully do some intense writing for it.

The good news is that I live close enough that I'll be able to go there by bus, so I won't have to be seen naked or groped by a man. The bad news is that I'm an autistic, transgender abuse survivor, with PTSD and OCD. I'm also basically vegan. Because of this, I've had to do a lot of planning for this trip, and generally making a pest of myself on IRC asking questions and things. (Sorry, Shawn!)

Here's what I've had to take precautions for. I'm open to suggestions if there's anything I've left out.

Accomodating autistic people

Being autistic means, in my case, that lights, sounds, and physical sensations are a lot more intense than they are for most people. It also means I have trouble making out spoken words, especially when things are noisy. If I'm forced to remain in a stressful situation, I may reach a state of "sensory overload" and shut down, going nonverbal or emotionless.

I'm bringing sunglasses and a ton of earplugs, along with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant herbs to help moderate the effects of the external environment -- Valerian and St. John's Wort, respectively. (Unfortunately, the country I live in has chosen to make the actual medications I need unaffordable.) I'm keeping my tablet and smartphone with me at all times, in case I need to write out a message, and I'm bringing an emergency plushie -- these should be in every autistic's survival kit, seriously.

Beyond that, I am going to avoid extremely loud environments like restaurants and bars; these are terrifying and physically painful for me to be in, and I won't be able to hear anything anyone else is saying either. This pretty much excludes me from all socialization, unfortunately, but I'm given to understand this is par for the course for a Free Software conference.

Accomodating transgender people

I'm just beginning my transition, and am not used to presenting as female in public ... this will be only the second time that I've done so. I'm not too worried about being around the other people attending the conference, but going between the hotel and the conference center is going to cause Mortal Terror.

To mitigate its effects, I'm going to travel exclusively in groups, and will always make sure at least one other person is with me when going between the hotel and the center. (I'm hoping this doesn't cause a huge logistical problem.) I'll also wear sunglasses and sound-dampening earbuds, and play music as loud as I can stand it to distract me from where I am. If I have to, I may just present as male, but I would prefer to avoid doing that. I'll be doing so on the bus, at any rate.

Fortunately, the conference rooms appear to have their own restrooms, which may mean I won't be reliving my "being smuggled out of Soviet Russia" levels of fear from the last time I tried this. Hopefully, no one will be too weirded out if I shave and re-apply makeup there before heading back to the hotel. I am nervous that the conference doesn't have an anti-harassment policy, however, considering the Free Software community's reputation for undesirable behaviour.

Accomodating vegans

A lot has already been said about this. I'll just say that I will be bringing a ton of peanut butter and bread.

Kinda wish I didn't have to do all this

Being trans would be a lot less stressful if I didn't have to hide it from everyone outside of my social group, and being misgendered was the social equivalent of being told my shoelaces were untied instead of a dangerous situation. And being autistic would be less of an inconvenience if people had any idea that autistic adults exist, or what kind of accomodations we need.

At the moment, being autistic in the States is like being quadriplegic in a country with no wheelchair ramps, and I feel extremely uncomfortable every time I have to ask someone to lift me up onto the sidewalk. Hopefully, it won't cause any issues ... beyond my taking up lots of time dealing with them and spamming everyone else with them, anyway. :P

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