That's the way Free Software idealists say software development should work. You get everything for free in Linux, including the code. If you don't like how something works, you change it and "submit your patch upstream," thus incorporating it into the whole. That way everyone benefits from everyone's creativity.
The problem is, this disenfranchises everyone who doesn't have both the technical ability to do that, and the social standing to be allowed to do that. Which means the Linux world is, and always has been, just a playground for technically proficient people who meet a particular demographic profile, and who keep making changes that affect everyone without consulting the people affected.
The only way to have your interests represented is to be part of the in-group, which means being a white cismale with unusual technical skills and enough money and free time to work on this stuff without pay. That, or a job that lets you get paid for it.
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Mormon theology holds that freedom is a product of obedience to Mormon leaders and teachings. The line of reasoning goes something like this:
You can choose to obey and be happy, or you can choose to disobey and be sad. The more you disobey, the more it takes away your ability to make future choices, through chains of addiction and bad consequences. But obeying increases your freedom and opens up new choices to you. So always choose to obey.
Sometimes, disobeying leads to immediate negative consequences. Like being eaten by crocodiles. (Content note: violence, predation, jump scares)
That's why you should only want to have "good, clean, wholesome, Latter-day Saint fun," like these identically-dressed youth. (Content note: cringe-inducing)
You know why they're having fun? Because when you're scared to death that breaking the rules will get you gruesomely eaten, you are freaking desperate for your needs to be satisfied in a way that the rules will allow. (This is also why Mormons marry for all of eternity at 19, after six-week courtships.)
How desperate? This desperate.
A lot of people use Free Software desktop operating systems for reasons that make perfect sense. I didn't. I was a PC gamer and a creative, and the desktop designed to set hackers free left me in chains.
"They cannot help their neighbours"
I had written an entire real-time strategy game in Visual BASIC on Windows 98, using 3d graphics I rendered myself, when I was 16 years old. I always told myself I would learn to do something like that again, this time with completely Free Software. But I never did. Instead I spent years installing and reinstalling distros, and when I finally set out to learn Linux app programming I found that I had to write the documentation myself. Worse, no one else would ever read it.
Add to that the politics, the sexism, the white cismale good ol' boys' network (they call it a "meritocracy"), and the grotesquely rude billionaire in charge of the biggest Free Software OS, and suddenly the cult didn't seem so appealing anymore.
I switched completely over to Windows 8 a few days ago. Immediately afterwards, my laptop got infected with malware when I tried to install a dodgy utility. I knew it was my fault, just like everything bad that's happened to me since I left the Mormon church has been my fault. Has been God's punishment, Satan's having his way with me, spiritual crocodiles snapping their jaws around my neck.
I'm supposed to go crawling back
To the people who shamed me for liking things they didn't, told me to ignore needs that they didn't have, and didn't think it was a problem that pretty much no one like me was making decisions in their world.
But the rest of the world isn't like that. It's okay to like different things. It's okay to have needs that aren't met by one particular church or OS, even if lots of other people like them. It doesn't mean that you're broken or terrible. It doesn't mean you have to sacrifice everything you like, just to make them comfortable. And it doesn't mean you have to give up your dreams, in order to do work that they don't even value.
I'm glad that the GNOME Foundation's sponsors paid me, and that my mentor and the people who left me kind comments encouraged me to develop my skills. I just wish that it'd been the kind of culture that would've chastised the trolls, instead of letting them run loose and say mean, clueless things in the same room and in the same comment threads. And I wish that it'd been the kind of culture that valued newbie documentation enough to have already had it in place, instead of delegating it to an intern years down the road and then promptly burying it.
Microsoft's offering money for apps
And they are all about their app developers.
I don't know what I'm going to be using or writing a year from now, but I like what I've done so far and I want to keep going. I'll let you all know what happens.
In the meantime, I have at least one story commission to work on, and I've also been working on the fursonarpg. We still don't have a start date set, but it's been awesome to see so many people excited about it.
If you want to apply for the next round: https://live.gnome.org/
You don't have to apply to work on GNOME, either. Several other Free Software projects are involved. It is a paid internship.
There's also http://sf.adacamp.org/
They close to applications tomorrow.
We applied to go and get funding assistance, but aren't holding our breath.
They think you're a worthless sinner now, and that you're going to go all out on hookers and booze now that you've left the church. Prove them wrong! Keep being the awesome successful person you are, except now without Mormonism to hold you back. Show them you're just as nice and caring as you ever were, and make their brains break when they see how you're doing and realize the other shoe may never drop.Closely related is the idea that Mormonism itself is somehow good. That yes, it's a manipulative cult, but that it "teaches good principles," and that "clean living" has value. The people who hold this idea, like Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin, genuinely love and cherish Mormon culture to some degree. They just wish the Mormon church hadn't lied to them and hurt people they care about.
I'm not so sure you can separate the two, though.
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Feelings of inadequacy
- Very soon after our internship started, our mentor was baffled by our incompetence, and admitted to having expected we wouldn't be having this kind of trouble. We realized that we had misled them as to our level of expertise, and while she tried to encourage us afterwards we felt like a poser pretty much the entire time we were there.
- We're severely depressed and dysphoric, and surrounded in-person by people who hate us, yell at us, and talk casually about letting us die. We should be on disability benefits, not grasping at straws for tech writing chances. We didn't get as much work as we wanted to done because of this.
- Pretty much every blog post we made on Planet GNOME drew a ton of negative comments, especially the ones about sexism in tech. And that's even with anonymous commenting disabled. It got to the point where we set it to not email us and had our boyfriend screen comments for us.
- At Open Help, a Red Hat employee talked openly about how the Outreach Program was a terrible idea and the money should not have been given to us. This caused a day-long depressive episode in the middle of the conference. Trying to talk to our mentor about it made us feel even more alienated, as she didn't understand our concerns and it was painfully obvious that she was trying to be polite.
- We had to go home alone from one evening out at Open Help because the others there started talking in ways that made us uncomfortable while they were drinking.
- After the conference, one person (that we liked and thought we had gotten along well with) wrote a blog post summarizing their experience at it, in which they used language that showed how weirded out they were by us and considered some of the topics we discussed there to be very inappropriate.
- The whole time, we felt like a tag-along who didn't really belong there.
- Bugs that we filed and comments we made on IRC went completely ignored, including ones about pointless and simple regressions which cost us important functionality.
All we know is that a thing that we were excited about turned out to be a horrible idea, and we're extremely depressed about it now. We don't really want to get involved in any more open-source projects in the future, if they have any of the kind of people who commented in our blog contributing to them. Some people encouraged us, but a lot of people discouraged us, and no one did anything about them.
Which may have been just as well.
I feel like all I did was get them to subsidize my lifestyle and my depression, and give me a stage from which to preach controversy and argue with real GNOME users and contributors. I can't believe they spent so much to ship me to another state so I could have a depressive episode and embarrass them all in public, and let me say the embarrassing things that I did on their aggregator.
I shouldn't have applied to their program, I shouldn't have promised to do anything afterwards, I shouldn't have continued to blog there when I was doing nothing for them, and I shouldn't have tried to do something so out of my league. I'm a terrible fox, and it was wrong of me to pretend to be anything else.
I deleted the tag, and filed a bug report to be removed. I should delete all the entries I posted. I'll get around to that later.
I'm sorry. I don't know how to deal with depression, and I shouldn't have made myself out to be someone they ought to bring along when I'm dealing with it. I'm also completely inept socially and very easily scarred, and shouldn't have gone to their in-person event to begin with.
I'm watching a presentation about PlayStation Home given at GDC (Game Developers' Conference) 2010, and what amazes me is how easy it seems to be to make stuff for Sony's version of Second Life. It uses industry-standard 3d modeling software (sadly not Blender), and simple Lua scripts to hold everything together. The guy giving the presentation explicitly said he wanted a graphic artist to be able to try out the developer's kit and have a good idea of what they could make from it very quickly, and at every step there are tons of examples and validators which point out potential problems.
The end result is decidedly niche, since it only runs on the PlayStation 3 and takes forever to load (both Home itself and each "scene" in it). I've personally had a lot of fun with it, though, because it's even easier to play than it is to develop for. If Second Life is like a hardcore custom KDE or Windows 7 desktop (running in classic mode!), Home's more like GNOME 3 in that it's extremely simple to play and easy to control and customize your avatar.
SL makes darned near anything possible, but everything's clicky and difficult, and the end result is like a 3d modeling app crossed with a chatroom with bad lag. Home makes a number of trade-offs versus SL that make it more usable:
- Your avatar can perform fewer actions, but they're all much easier to select.
- It automatically sorts your inventory into folders, based on how you wear something or what kind of object it is.
- Instead of rendering scenes or avatars gradually, it takes up to a minute to load each scene fully, and displays a transparent "ghost" person for avatars which haven't loaded completely yet.
- Scenes themselves are completely self-contained. They can connect with each other through doors or teleporters, but there is no "mainland" area.
- There's a dedicated game API for developers who want to make games in Home, which is less flexible than SL's open-endedness but makes it a lot easier to write games.
Very few people use Home or SL regularly, and the ones who do tend to be hardcore fans. In SL's case, the interface turns people off, along with how pointless it feels if you don't have friends there or aren't into kink. In Home's case, the long loading times (worse than other PS3 titles) don't help, plus the fact that it's basically a platform for Facebook-style social games where you play as yourself. Plus the fact that it's only on one game console, and isn't that heavily promoted. All of these factors limit Home's audience.
What Home does, though, it does better than Second Life IMO. Even if you toss out Linden Lab's marketing and take SL for the 3d modeling chatroom it is, it's just plain incredibly clunky to use. You have to really be captivated by it to even learn the basic controls. Whereas with Home, you can pick up a controller and play immediately if you can stand the long loading times. I just wish they'd tell people "you can use USB keyboards" when they log in, because one of my friends didn't know that.
Home's biggest limitations are that, from a player's point of view, it's tied to the PlayStation 3; and from a developer's point of view, it's tied to Sony. You need to be a Sony-approved developer, and pay a few thousand dollars for a dev kit. It's not like SL where anyone can jump in and start designing outfits. And while it's also not a griefer's paradise (with a large red light district) like SL is, there's still a lot of harassment in it.
PlayStation Home: Of the devil?
In the Free Software community, we might say that Home is immoral because of how proprietary it is. Tying your stuff to one platform and company is only one way to limit freedom, though, and Home seems to empower both users and developers in ways that (for instance) OpenSim doesn't. Partly because of the network effects and built-in PS3 audience, but also partly because that's what it was made to do, was be simple and widely accessible.
Learning to write GNOME applications, I was struck by how basic it seemed at its core. That a few lines of code, in a simple language, could create an elegant app. I just had to go through a lot of IMO unnecessary work in order to find out how to make that happen to begin with.
I documented what I learned, with the help of my mentor, but it hasn't been nearly enough. I want the best Free Software desktop to also be the most accessible to novice developers, even those who just want to write apps and aren't interested in "contributing to the community." Because requiring someone to be an established C guru, who fits in on GNOME IRC, in order to start writing apps isn't really that different from Sony's gatekeeping. Not from the perspective of someone who wants to create something and hasn't a clue where to start.
Let's make things better
I'm going to try to add some things to his post without going on for too long. Specifically, I'm going to address ideas we have and stuff we take for granted that makes the experience of being depressed much, much worse.
The "Just World" fallacy
This is a fancy name for the idea that people tend to get what they deserve. Here in the States, we call it "liberty" and "objectivism" and "reducing dependence on government." In the Linux and Free Software communities, we call it "meritocracy."
It's an extremely convenient belief to have if you're at the top of your pecking order. It tells you that you deserve to be there, because of how awesome you are. And it tells you not to worry about anybody beneath you, because if they're deserving they'll make it eventually. And if they're not, well, don't worry about it. It's their fault, and helping them will just keep them dependent on you. Better to throw them out of the nest and watch their carcasses smear on the rocks, until you find one that can fly like you could.
This mindset stigmatizes being weak or in need of help. It turns being a newb, at life or at Linux, into something to be ashamed of. And when you have this mindset yourself, and are weak or injured, you're ashamed of everything. You have a desperate need to please others and show that your life is worthwhile. You're afraid to admit failure, to yourself or to anyone else, because you know that you'll be destroyed and it'll be your fault.
Preordained winners and losers
If you aren't so conscientious, of course, none of that matters. Of course you'll get the help you need. Of course you deserve it. Ayn Rand herself went on Social Security. My parents have no qualms about getting cheques from the government, via dad's military retirement. But I sold off almost all my possessions to keep from needing to apply for "food stamps," which are one of the only reliable social welfare programs here for people who aren't senior citizens. I didn't want to be a burden.
And that's what these beliefs are all about. They take people who care about others, who want to help others, who want to be part of a team and community and work together to do something awesome, and very often make them into nervous, self-loathing wrecks. At their best and most productive, they may have impostor syndrome and depression, may fail to promote themselves and their projects, and may put up with crap no one should. At their worse, they may want to kill themselves, like I almost did a few years ago after being thrown out of the house.
The fact that my parents let me back in an hour or so later didn't change anything. There was no apology. The status quo, in which this event wasn't even surprising and I just needed to live with it, did not change. And my family laughed and joked with each other later that day, without saying a word about what'd happened, as I went catatonic right there on the couch. I knew now that I was worthless, and no matter how much reassurance or encouragement I get from others that "fact" is still the core of my being.
I guess what I'm trying to say is,
The idea of "meritocracy" causes depression and kills people
And so whenever I see people glorify it, I know right away that to the degree that they take this belief seriously I'm looking at a good ol' boys' network with preordained winners and losers. Where people they like and consider worthwhile get rewarded and get away with anything, and people they dislike get blamed for their "failures" and punished.
This is why there's historically been so much hostility towards Apple, and towards everything in GNOME and Free Software and politics that tries to make stuff easier for newbs or bring new people into the fold. The people complaining have decided who's a "real" hacker or gamer or contributor or American, and who's undeserving of the label. They want the undeserving to run off somewhere that they don't have to see them, and they close their eyes so they don't see the smeared carcasses on the rocks.
When you grow up with this mindset and then realize that you're undeserving, you want to die.
I guess that's all.
Case in point: World of GNOME's recent review of Fedora 18, which earlier today included a paragraphs-long joke (right after the winking smiley) about how it can be a good or bad thing that Fedora's more stable now depending on if "you" have a "hot" or "ugly" girlfriend, because a more stable distro = fewer visits to do "tech support."
A lot of people left annoyed comments on that version of the post, unsurprisingly including Fedora (and Red Hat)'s resident UX expert Máirín Duffy. It's unsurprising because when you put a lot of time and effort into a Free Software project you love, you really don't want to hear "jokes" which suggest that you suck at it; that you're only here with your boyfriend; and that you're only worth anything if you're "hot."
The post, as originally written, created a sickening grunch which reminded WoGue's female readers that we are women first and geeks second, if at all. Which made many of us feel like the blog's only written for guys, even if they interview women (including my awesome mentor from the 2012 OPW), and that we will always be out of place there.
WoGue has removed and apologized for the offensive material. Author Alex Diavatis deserves (and has received, in the comments) credit for doing so. This post isn't meant to shame him. It's meant to let people who may have read the original article know what's happened since it was posted, and to draw attention to a comment made by Bess Sadler:
I am baffled at how someone who programs computers can make the argument, "I know I said x, but I MEANT y, doesn't that count?" No, in natural language, like in computer code, it is what you ACTUALLY SAY that matters. Regardless of your intent, you have written something that is damaging to women. When you write software that has a bug in it, and someone helpfully points that out, you probably don't respond defensively and claim that because your intentions were good the bug doesn't need fixing. Please extend that logic to your non-code writing as well.Bess left this comment for Alex because his first reaction was the same one a lot of people have when they're called out for doing something hurtful: Saying "but I'm not a bad person!" as though that undoes the hurt they just did.
This is not the correct response to a syntax error.
The correct response is to take bug reports seriously, patch the bugs when they come up, and apologize for your mistake. Because whether or not you personally think you're a "good person," or a "good programmer," or even "totally not sexist," ceases to matter if the code doesn't compile.
All you can do is fix it.