[syndicated profile] female_cs_feed

Posted by Gail Carmichael

Invited technical speaker Lyndsay Pearson spoke at Grace Hopper this week about inclusive game design. Lyndsay has, as she puts it, grown up with The Sims, having working on the game in various capacities since nearly the beginning of the franchise. She shared some universally applicable advice on inclusive game design while sharing examples from The Sims.

By Dinosaur918 (Own work)

The first lesson, of course, is that the players are out there. Long gone are the days of believing all players are high-volume males in their late twenties whose central hobby is gaming. With such a huge diversity in players, there's an opportunity to develop games for even more inclusive audiences. To do that, we need to expand beyond the current factors most values in games: time, money, and number of games played.

So what can we do? Respect all players, invite different opinions, and intentionally build relatable experiences.

Respect All Players

Respecting players means truly recognizing them and their diversity. Coming to a game for a different reason that "most" gamers doesn't make you less valuable. Designers should ask themselves: how can I continue to connect with that player and relate to them? First impressions matter, which is why The Sims offered more options for body type and so on in their character creation.

Invite Different Opinions

The thing is that you have to do this even when it's uncomfortable. "We need to help bring people in and help them not bounce out," as Lyndsay puts it.

One example of this is ensuring you tune yourself to cultural sensitivity. For example, the Sims team learned that women were not allowed on game boxes in Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact they really didn't want to, they created a box with all men so that the game could be sold, and still be accessible in all the same ways to people in that country (especially women!).

Another example is religious sensitivity. They thought The Sims was good at avoiding overtly religious objects, but they later realized that the ghosts and voodoo dolls they included in the game also have religious origins. Thus, they realized were actually consistently inconsistent in this area. They had to own the fact they had no clean line and try to make decisions as consciously as possible.

The bottom line is that you need to get uncomfortable with these kinds of conversations. Do know that you get better at it the more you do it, though.

Build Relatable Experiences

Connect, relate, and interact with current world experiences. What's going on in the world that can be incorporated into the game? A nice example is finally incorporating women's team into the FIFA game. When they decided to do that, they became fully invested, considering all kinds of new possibilities, like a player leaving partway through a season to have a baby. The Sims also now has much more fluidity in its gender selection, helping break gender norms as we are trying to do in real life.


Lyndsay gave us a lot to think about when it comes to designing inclusive games, but as she pointed out, the lessons apply to all software design. Let's all make sure to keep these things in mind in our own endeavours.
[syndicated profile] valerie_fenwick_blog_feed

Posted by Valerie Fenwick

A panel discussion with PFLAG members: Formerly Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

Mitzi Henderson, Past National PFLAG President 
Rosemary Malvey, PFLAG Speaker's Bureau (Parent)
Joyce Miller, Straight Spouse Support Group
Windsor Smith, PFLAG San Jose Vice President
Moderated by Cynthia Chin-Lee, OPEN Ally team lead

The event is hosted by Oracle's OPEN group (Oracle Pride Employee Network), a resource for gay, lesbian, transgender, queer and questioning employees.

Cynthia Chin-Lee published a book about Prop 8 called Operation Marriage five years ago, which was since made into a movie! 

Having allies is important, and Oracle is a big ally for their employees. In some US states, you can still be fired for being a homosexual, in some countries you can be killed.

Mitzi Henderson was distressed when she discovered that her church, and other churches, would not provide pastoral services around gay and lesbian issues, which drove her to get involved with PFLAG.

Joyce Miller is a retired nurse and grief counselor, she is a member of the straight spouse support group. Some people were celebrating their gay and lesbian children, but discovered it wasn't always a shared emotion across both parents, which inspired her to get involved in the straight spouse group.

Rosemary Malvey volunteers for Mission Hospice, 12 step programs, and PLFAG. When her son came out to her, she was full of supportive words, but she was full of trepidition about his health, job prospects and safety.  

Windsor Smith attended the Robert E. Lee high school (home of the rebels), and later came out to all of his family and friends in one fell swoop, and quickly learned about various support groups.

Mitzi recalls a terrible story about a gay man arrested in NYC that was arrested and beaten by police just before the gay pride parade, so his mother marched in the parade with a sign asking parents to support their gay children.  She started a support group in NYC, then reached out to other groups and formed a national organization, PFLAG.  They wanted rules that the groups could not be exclusive - ie only for one religion, only for people with gay sons, etc.  It's important for parents to be proud of their children, no matter what their sexual orientation is.

Mitzi had a chance to go to congress to testify on the national issues facing their children to subcommittees in congress. Other research showed that many states had even more restrictive laws than the federal government., and PLFAG is trying to work on this.

When Joyce's son came out to her, when he had finished college and was living abroad, he was very careful to right away to tell her that it was nothing she had done and that it had nothing to do with her recent divorce from his father.  She was concerned about AIDS, at that time it was an out of control epidemic.  She found a lot of support from the other parents in PFLAG. She had been sending her son packages full of pamphlets about AIDS, but she found out that was not going to help her continue to build her relationship with her son.  Her son is now 55 years old and recently married to his partner of 15 years.

Joyce used to handle the hotline phone line for PFLAG for the Bay Area.  She had been getting calls from people who had discovered their husband or wife was actually gay or lesbian.  The straight spouse goes through very different issues than a parent of a gay or lesbian child.  The straight spouse support group doesn't have many "long timers" as it were, as they get their needed healing, they can move on.

Rosemary Malvey has been a PFLAG member for nearly 20 years - she had never heard of PFLAG until she needed PFLAG.   When her son came out to her, he did it by telling her that he was in love and happier than he's ever been.  She was happy he shared this with her, and was very supportive while she was visiting him.  But, after she left, she cried the entire flight home. She worried about her son suffering for his sexual orientation both socially and in his career.  Fortunately, a friend pointed her to PFLAG and told her "it's no big deal" and to get over it.

Rosemary's daughter didn't realize she was a lesbian until she was 35!  Finally, many pieces of her life have fallen into place, and she was finally happen

Windsor Smith likes being involved with PFLAG and wants people know that they also welcome gay, lesbian and transgender members - not only parents.

A question from the audience: is there a place for siblings to go for support? Resounding answer: PGLAG! Open to all.

A great question about pronouns if your child comes out as transgender. There are many clever pronouns, like "they" in the singular sense, and many other options (zhe/zer/etc). But, the best way is to ask what pronouns the individual prefers.  Some people, including Windsor, put their preferred pronouns in their email signature.

Another question about differing cultural issues - coming out in a conservative culture (religion, ethnicity, etc). If your parents cannot accept you or come to PFLAG, Rosemary still encourages you to go to PFLAG yourself and find a surrogate accepting parent.

PFLAG is a great place to find allies of all sorts. Many of our loved ones are biased, and it's good to challenge them when you can and know you can find an ally.

For younger folks, most junior highs, high schools and colleges have support groups specifically for youths.

At the end of the day, PFLAG is an excellent resource for parents and anyone with questions. If they aren't the right place, they will likely know the direction to point you.

[syndicated profile] jeremiahgrossman_feed

Posted by Jeremiah Grossman

It’s common for long-time information experts like myself to be asked what keeps us in the security industry. Some say it’s a good stable job that nicely pays the bills. Others find the work interesting and enjoy the constant intellectual challenge. Some the like the people, the community, the culture, and exchange of ideas. Of course for many, it be some combination of all these things. For myself, while each of the above plays a part, I must admit those haven’t been my core reasons to stay on for a long time now.

Like I’ve said many times in the past, the Internet is single greatest invention we’re likely to witness in our lifetime. The Internet is a place that now connects over 2 billion people. The Internet is how we communicate and keep up with friends and family. It’s where we shop. It’s how we learn about ourselves and the world. It’s where bank and pay bills. It’s what entertains us and how we get from place to place. It’s how we better ourselves. Entire economies are now dependent on the Internet. If you think about it, we’re often more open and honest about our most intimate secrets with the Google search box than any our closest confidants. There is not a single person among us, or perhaps anyone we know, that won’t be online today. Something this important, this vital to the world and to humanity, must be protected. The Internet.

The time each of us has in this life is limited and far too short. Every day is a gift. And in that time few people ever get an opportunity to be a part of something greater than themselves. A chance to make an impact and to do something that truly matters. Internet security matters. So for me, to play even a small part in helping to protect the Internet and the billions of people connected feels like a good way to spend ones life time. That’s why I’m still here.

In the immortal words of Dan Geer, “There is never enough time. Thank you for yours.”

Part-time Power

Oct. 19th, 2016 08:12 pm
[syndicated profile] hypatia_dot_ca_feed

Posted by Leigh Honeywell

Background: Y Combinator (YC) is an influential seed accelerator and VC firm founded by Paul Graham and run by Sam Altman. Sam may remember me from the time I counted how many women he follows on Twitter. One of YC’s part-time partners is Peter Thiel, who spoke at the Republican National Convention. He also donated $1.25 million to Trump’s presidential campaign in mid-October after more than a dozen women accused the candidate of sexual assault and Trump once again repeated his calls for imprisonment of five innocent black men. For more details, see Project Include’s post on the topic, or Erica Baker, Nicole Sanchez, and Maciej Cegłowski’s numerous and wise tweets around it.

One of the things I teach in the Ally Skills workshop is a concept in moral philosophy called the Paradox of Tolerance – in short, the one thing a tolerant society must be intolerant of is intolerance. It’s really helped me frame how I’ve been thinking about this situation – to consider whether or not Thiel’s support of Trump puts him into the “intolerable intolerance” camp or not. It wasn’t a particularly tough call for me – were I in Altman’s shoes, I’d ask for Thiel’s resignation. But there’s part of the situation that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere.

When you bring someone into your organization as an advisor/mentor/office-hour-holder (which is what Thiel’s role at YC seems to consist of), you are doing three things:

  • Giving them power over the people in your organization that they are tasked with advising
  • Endorsing their advice as being something that people in your organization should follow
  • Sharing your social capital with them

Now, obviously, Thiel has those first two powers in droves in his various other capacities, but in keeping him on as a “part-time partner”, YC is both saying that they value the advice he can give their founders as well as implicitly giving him a position of power over them – the power of making introductions or not, writing letters of recommendation or not, and so on – the power of a sanctioned mentoring role.

They are also saying that they trust him to not discriminate against the people they are giving him power over – the founders in their program – in ways that are not aligned with YC’s values. Thiel has made it clear through decades of public writing and actions what his values are. He wrote a book called “The Diversity Myth”, for starters. Thiel also considers women having the vote to have “rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ an oxymoron“. This hits me particularly hard as I can’t vote right now – I am in the US on a visa, not yet a citizen, and as a non-resident can no longer vote in Canada.

One last thing: I stressed for two days about writing this post, knowing that Thiel is willing to fund multi-million dollar lawsuits against his critics. I have no connection to him and he has no other power over me. Imagine how it would feel should any of his mentees need to criticize him.

We all get to make a choice as to what constitutes “intolerable intolerance”. YC has made it clear that Thiel’s actions and words are tolerable enough to them to continue to give him power over people in their organization, and I find this unconscionable.

[syndicated profile] sumana_feed

half-scratched-out bpython logo, Python code, and technical prose written and drawn on paper, with notebook and pen, on a wooden table that also has a mug and a laptop on it

MergeSort, the feminist maker meetup I co-organize, had a table at Maker Faire earlier this month. Last year we'd given away (and taught people how to cut and fold) a few of my zines, and people enjoyed that. A week before Maker Faire this year, I was attempting to nap when I was struck with the conviction that I ought to make a Python zine to give out this year.

So I did! Below is Playing with Python: 2 of my favorite lenses. (As you can see from the photos of the drafting process, I thought about mentioning pdb, various cool libraries, and other great parts of the Python ecology, but narrowed my focus to bpython and python -i.)

Zine cover; transcription below

Playing with Python
2 of my favorite lenses
[magnifying glass and eyeglass icons]

by Sumana Harihareswara

Second and third pages of zine; transcription below

When I'm getting a Python program running for the 1st time, playing around & lightly sketching or prototyping to figure out what I want to do, I [heart]:
bpython & python -i

[illustrations: sketch of a house, outline of a house in dots]

Fourth and fifth pages of zine; transcription below

bpython is an exploratory Python interpreter. It shows what you can do with an object:

>>> dogs = ["Fido", "Toto"]
>>> dogs.
append count extend index insert pop remove reverse sort

And, you can use Control-R to undo!

[illustrations: bpython logo, pointer to cursor after dogs.]

Sixth and seventh pages of zine; transcription below

Use the -i flag when running a script, and when it finishes or crashes, you'll get an interactive Python session so you can inspect the state of your program at that moment!

$ python -i example.py
Traceback (most recent call last):
    File "example.py", line 5, in 
        toprint = varname + "entries"
TypeError: unsupported operand type(s) for + : 'int' and 'str'
>>> varname
>>> type(varname)

[illustration: pointer to type(varname) asking, "wanna make a guess?"]

Back cover of zine; transcription below

More: "A Few Python Tips"
This zine made in honor of
NYC's feminist makerspace!

CC BY-SA 2016 Sumana Harihareswara
harihareswara.net @brainwane

Everyone has something to teach;
everyone has something to learn.

Laptop displaying bpython logo next to half-scratched-out bpython logo, Python code, and technical prose written and drawn on paper, with notebook and pen and mug, on a wooden table

Here's the directory that contains those thumbnails, plus a PDF to print out and turn into an eight-page booklet with one center cut and a bit of folding. That directory also contains a screenshot of the bpython logo with a grid overlaid, in case you ever want to hand-draw it. Hand-drawing the bpython logo was the hardest thing about making this zine (beating "fitting a sample error message into the width allotted" by a narrow margin).

Libby Horacek and Anne DeCusatis not only volunteered at the MergeSort table -- they also created zines right there and then! (Libby, Anne.) The software zine heritage of The Whole Earth Software Review, 2600, BubbleSort, Julia Evans, The Recompiler, et alia continues!

(I know about bpython and python -i because I learned about them at the Recurse Center. Want to become a better programmer? Join the Recurse Center!)

[syndicated profile] sumana_feed
Some thrown-together thoughts towards a more comprehensive writeup. It's advice on about how to get along better as a new open source participant, based on the fundamental wisdom that you weren't the first person here and you won't be the last.

We aren't just making code. We are working in a shared workplace, even if it's an online place rather than a physical office or laboratory, making stuff together. The work includes not just writing functions and classes, but experiments and planning and coming up with "we ought to do this" ideas. And we try to make it so that anyone coming into our shared workplace -- or anyone who's working on a different part of the project than they're already used to -- can take a look at what we've already said and done, and reuse the work that's been done already.

We aren't just making code. We're making history. And we're making a usable history, one that you can use, and one that the contributor next year can use.

So if you're contributing now, you have to learn to learn from history. We put a certain kind of work in our code repositories, both code and notes about the code. git grep idea searches a code repository's code and comments for the word "idea", git log --grep="idea" searches the commit history for times we've used the word "idea" in a commit message, and git blame codefile.py shows you who last changed every line of that codefile, and when. And we put a certain kind of work into our conversations, in our mailing lists and our bug/issue trackers. We say "I tried this and it didn't work" or "here's how someone else should implement this" or "I am currently working on this". You will, with practice, get better at finding and looking at these clues, at finding the bits of code and conversation that are relevant to your question.

And you have to learn to contribute to history. This is why we want you to ask your questions in public -- so that when we answer them, someone today or next week or next year can also learn from the answer. This is why we want you to write emails to our mailing lists where you explain what you're doing. This is why we ask you to use proper English when you write code comments, and why we have rules for the formatting and phrasing of commit messages, so it's easier for someone in the future to grep and skim and understand. This is why a good question or a good answer has enough context that other people, a year from now, can see whether it's relevant to them.

Relatedly: the scientific method is for teaching as well as for troubleshooting. I compared an open source project to a lab before. In the code work we do, we often use the scientific method. In order for someone else to help you, they have to create, test, and prove or disprove theories -- about what you already know, about what your code is doing, about the configuration on your computer. And when you see me asking a million questions, asking you to try something out, asking what you have already tried, and so on, that's what I'm doing. I'm generally using the scientific method. I'm coming up with a question and a hypothesis and I'm testing it, or asking you to test it, so we can look at that data together and draw conclusions and use them to find new interesting questions to pursue.


  • Expected result: doing run-dev.py on your machine will give you the same results as on mine.
  • Actual observation: you get a different result, specifically, an error that includes a permissions problem.
  • Hypothesis: the relevant directories or users aren't set up with the permissions they need.
  • Next step: Request for further data to prove or disprove hypothesis.
So I'll ask a question to try and prove or disprove my hypothesis. And if you never reply to my question, or you say "oh I fixed it" but don't say how, or if you say "no that's not the problem" but you don't share the evidence that led you to that conclusion, it's harder for me to help you. And similarly, if I'm trying to figure out what you already know so that I can help you solve a problem, I'm going to ask a lot of diagnostic questions about whether you know how to do this or that. And it's ok not to know things! I want to teach you. And then you'll teach someone else.

In our coding work, it's a shared responsibility to generate hypotheses and to investigate them, to put them to the test, and to share data publicly to help others with their investigations. And it's more fruitful to pursue hypotheses, to ask "I tried ___ and it's not working; could the reason be this?", than it is to merely ask "what's going on?" and push the responsibility of hypothesizing and investigation onto others.

This is a part of balancing self-sufficiency and interdependence. You must try, and then you must ask. Use the scientific method and come up with some hypotheses, then ask for help -- and ask for help in a way that helps contribute to our shared history, and is more likely to help ensure a return-on-investment for other people's time.

So it's likely to go like this:

  1. you try to solve your problem until you get stuck, including looking through our code and our documentation, then start formulating your request for help
  2. you ask your question
  3. someone directs you to a document
  4. you go read that document, and try to use it to answer your question
  5. you find you are confused about a new thing
  6. you ask another question
  7. now that you have demonstrated that you have the ability to read, think, and learn new things, someone has a longer talk with you to answer your new specific question
  8. you and the other person collaborate to improve the document that you read in step 4 :-)

This helps us make a balance between person-to-person discussion and documentation that everyone can read, so we save time answering common questions but also get everyone the personal help they need. This will help you understand the rhythm of help we provide in livechat -- including why we prefer to give you help in public mailing lists and channels, instead of in one-on-one private messages or email. We prefer to hear from you and respond to you in public places so more people have a chance to answer the question, and to see and benefit from the answer.

We want you to learn and grow. And your success is going to include a day when you see how we should be doing things better, not just with a new feature or a bugfix in the code, but in our processes, in how we're organizing and running the lab. I also deeply want for you to take the lessons you learn -- about how a group can organize itself to empower everyone, about seeing and hacking systems, about what scaffolding makes people more capable -- to the rest of your life, so you can be freer, stronger, a better leader, a disruptive influence in the oppressive and needless hierarchies you encounter. That's success too. You are part of our history and we are part of yours, even if you part ways with us, even if the project goes defunct.

This is where I should say something about not just making a diff but a difference, or something about the changelog of your life, but I am already super late to go on my morning jog and this was meant to be a quick-and-rough braindump anyway...

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