terriko: (Default)
I'm mildly discombobulated since my flight got in quite delayed last night and I swear, there wasn't enough time between travel even though I had more than a week, but here's updates:

(1) GSoC Mentor Summit was amazing, filled with open source folk who were also passionate about mentoring. It was cool having lots in common with every person I talked to all weekend.

(2) I have pictures, largely of playing powerpoint karaoke yesterday. Also of some of the guys playing rugby in the hot tub. ;) (Well, okay, just tossing a ball around, but still!) They need some serious culling so expect most of them later in the week. Arc pulled the best ones off my camera and they're here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109741359399131092509/posts/VHbodBCsBPJ (Thanks to Denis of Gentoo for being our photographer!)

(3) Oh yeah, the big announcement is that I'm going to be the Org admin for the Python Software Foundation next year. Doomed! So yeah, I go from managing my 3 students, 7 mentors for Mailman (and backup managing another 3 students from Systers), to around 30 students spread across a pile of sub-organizations. Should be fun. Or terrifying. :) I'll probably write more about this later once it's had more time to sink in.

(4) I need to also make time to encourage folk to come to Pycon. There is financial aid available and the application is up. I'm going to be sending more personal notes out to my new contributors from GHC12 and my GSoC students from Systers and Mailman. The Mailman sprint last year was probably the most satisfying hacking event I've ever attended, and I want others to have that experience. :)

(5) I did get all my GHC12 pictures up before I left: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/terrio/sets/72157631687919350/

(6) My last official GHC12 blog post (about the open source day hackathon) is pending now that I have photos to go with it. I've got notes for a few more, but not sure I'll have time to write them.

In theory, I'll be home in New Mexico and not traveling again 'till December. Which is good, because I need to put together academic applications, write a paper with my remaining thesis research (the tech report got cited twice already, which is a sign that I should have something more peer-reviewed out there), and get the research done for my next paper. Plus, you know, squash all the open bugs/add all the missing features in Postorius, make sure the port of dynamic sublists to Mailman 3 is finished, and purchase flights for my trip home in December.

I feel like I should be a lot more stressed about all that I've got on my plate, but after a weekend with open source folk, I'm feeling pretty relaxed and pleasant and like it's all going to work out somehow. And to be honest, that feeling may be the most important thing I'm bringing back from Mountain View this week. :)
terriko: (Default)
Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. This international day of celebration helps people learn about the achievements of women in STEM, inspiring others and creating new role models for young and old alike.

When I first met Robin Jeffries, I had no idea how important she was. My friend Jen said, "hey, you need to talk to Robin about this" and the three of us sat down and chatted about technical stuff for an hour or so in the middle of a busy conference. It didn't hit me until much later that I'd just spent a time geeking it up with a woman who half the women at GHC would have loved to shake hands with, let alone get a whole lunch with.

Robin has just retired as Her Systers Keeper, a role she took over from Anita Borg when Anita's health was failing. She's not wrong in calling managing a community like this a job of cat herding, but with her guidance Systers has long been a list with an unusually high signal to noise ratio, and one that many technical women turn to when they need advice, want to share a story, or want to rant about the latest news piece about women in computing. I started realizing how much of a role model Robin herself has been to so many when I'd mention her and people would go, "wait, you know Robin Jeffries? I've always wanted to meet her in person!" These were women who were inspired by the stories she shares and her ability to get to the heart of the matter when it comes to the experience of technical women.

I've been fortunate enough to work with Robin doing Google Summer of Code mentoring for Systers, where we've been doing modifications on an open source project dear to my heart, GNU Mailman. She's got an uncanny ability to find good chunks of technical work that our students can manage, a knack for inspiring the people she works with, a good system for managing us all and keeping us to our deadlines, and every time we sit down to talk about how to fix a problem she impresses me with her insights into better architectures and designs. I've rarely had the chance to work with someone of Robin's experience in human computer interaction (read her bio, but in short, she's crazy accomplished and I probably would have been way intimidated if I'd known how much so when I first met her). I'm constantly in awe of how easily she not only applies that experience, but how good she is at conveying it to others and how willing she is to share her skills.

We're probably all benefiting from her knowledge as she applies it to her job at Google, but it's the more direct personal experiences that really get me. For example, despite being in great demand with the Systers 25th anniversary celebrations at GHC12 this year, she came out to help me run Open Source Day activities for women interested in hacking with Systers and Mailman, quickly adopting a whole table of prospective volunteers and walking them through the first stages of evaluating and contributing to an open source project. She regularly makes me wish I'd spent more time studying HCI myself, and forces me to re-evaluate how I design software. We've got one big feature we want to see in Mailman and I'm really looking forwards to working with her on making it happen.

I admire Robin for her amazing technical expertise, for her support of women in computing, and for her ability to balance the two as part of her own busy life for so many years. It has most definitely been my privilege to work with such an amazingly talented woman, and I hope that some day I can approach her level of professional and personal accomplishment.
terriko: (Pi)
GHC12

This may have been the most directly practical of the sessions I attended! My raw notes are on the GHC12 wiki (and they're quite interesting, including a lot of questions from the audience) but here's some take home messages:

When job hunting, make sure to excel at the following:

(The speaker joked about this as "win all steps, all the time")

1. Resume and web presence

If you don't have an online presence, you can get passed over. Nowadays, this includes LinkedIn, and the speaker (as a LinkedIn employee) told us that filling in more information is generally better, and that your LinkedIn profile can be used to supplement a shorter resume with greater detail if you so desire.

2. Meeting the recruiter

A recruiter is interested in your passions, your fit with the company and company culture, so articulate your interests and show your personality!


3. Phone screen.

Be prepared and do research on the company. The worst thing is to be unprepared, so make sure you learn about the company and have questions ready. Show your passion during the interview, and let the interviewer push you in the right direction -- if you're not a great fit for one position, they might know of others. And make sure, even if you're not sure if you want the job that you treat it seriously: it's good practice and you don't know if you might want to apply for another position in the organization.

4. Onsite interviews.

For tech interviews, you need to be comfortable writing on a whiteboard, so practice doing it, and practice articulating your ideas as you write. This is the way to show your interviewer how you think!

GHC12

When writing a Technical resume, make sure to excel at the following:
1. Fundamentals.

Make sure you've proofread and had others proofread for spelling and other mistakes, and make sure the formatting is organized and consistent.

2. What did you contribute or learn

Women especially want to focus on the team effort, but companies want to know about you, so focus on what you did to affect the outcome of a project. Make sure to differentiate yourself: don't just list skills, talk about how you applied them.

3. What value was added in the end result?

Think about the bigger picture and talk about how your work impacted the project, your company, the world. If you can, quantify what you did whether that's percent speed up, dollars saved, or increased value of the project.

4. Differentiate yourself, authentically

Highlight ways you stand out, especially as a leader. Did you take on additional responsibilities? Negotiate between two groups? Do exceptional community service? You shouldn't over-embellish, but make sure you demonstrate what makes you awesome and unique.

5. Does your resume convey your personal brand?

One way to check this is to have someone read it and ask them to summarize you in two sentences or 5 keywords. If what they say doesn't match up with what you'd hoped to convey, maybe you're sending the wrong message and need to revisit.


There were a lot of really interesting questions at the end of this session, and if you're interested my raw notes are on the GHC12 wiki, including all those questions.

Note: If you're one of the speakers and feel I accidentally mis-represented your talk or want me to remove a photo of you for any reason, please contact me at terri(a)zone12.com and I'd be happy to get things fixed for you!
terriko: (Pi)
Enhancing security and privacy in online social networks
Sonia Jahid

GHC12
Social networks have traditionally had some strange ways of dealing with security and privacy, and bring new challenges. How do we handle it if you leave a comment on a private photo and that later becomes public? Right now many networks would make the comment public, but does that make sense?

Sonia Jahid notes that one of the oddities of the social network is that traditionally we don't go through a 3rd party to talk to our friends, and some of the challenges towards a private and secure social network stem from that change. She proposes looking at a more decentralized model, but this forces us to make new decisions and answer new questions. For example, where is data going to be stored? (will I keep it myself? what if I'm offline?) What does access control mean for social networks? How do those models change if the network is decentralized? How can one efficiently provide something like a news feed for a distributed network?

I think one of the key insights of this talk is that while these questions may not seem that urgent for a facebook status update (what if you don't care about those?), many of these questions come up in other applications. For example, medical record sharing can be likened to a social network, where patients, doctors, hospitals, specialists, etc. all want to share some data while keeping other data private. And bringing the problem into the healthcare space brings other challenges: what if we need a "in case of emergency break glass" policy where if the patient is hospitalized while traveling, her medical data can still be accessed by the hospital that admits her. What if the patient wishes to see an audit listing everyone who has accessed her data? (How can we make that possible while keeping that information private from other folk?)

There's clearly some really interesting problems in this space!

Securing Online Reputation Systems
Yuhong Liu

GHC12

Trust exists between people who know each other, but what if we want to trust people we may not know? This is the goal of reputation systems, but these ratings can be easily manipulated. Yuhong Liu points out a movie rating that was exceptionally high while the movie was during its promotional period, but fell rapidly once it had been out a while. Her research includes detecting such ratings manipulation.

For a single attacker, common strategies include increasing the cost of obtaining single userids, investigating statistically aberrant ratings, or giving users trust values, but all of these can be worked around, so Yuhong Liu's research includes a defense where she builds a statistical model based on the idea that items have intrinsic quality which is unlikely to change rapidly. She found that colluding users often share statistical patterns, making it possible to detect them.

One of the interesting things about this talk was a question from the audience about the complexity of this model: Because the first pass of the model uses a threshold to determine areas of interest in the ratings, we can avoid doing larger checks constantly and can focus only on regions of interest, making this much more feasible as far as run time goes. Handy!

On Detecting Deception
Sadia Afroz

GHC12

Deception: adversarial behaviour that disrupts regular behaviour of a system

Sadia Afroz's work involves detecting deception three areas:
1. in writing where an author pretends to be another author.
2. websites pretending to be other webites (phishing)
3. blog comments (are the legit or are they spam?)

All of these are interesting cases, but I was most fascinated by the fact that her algorithm was fairly good at detecting short-term detection (e.g. a single article aping someone else's style) but had more difficulty detecting long-term deception like in the case of Amina/Thomas MacMaster. (This might be interesting to [personal profile] badgerbag?) Are long-term personas actually a different type of "deception" ?

---

All in all, lots of food for thought in this session. I've also uploaded my raw notes to the GHC12 wiki in case anyone wants a bit more detail than in this blog post.

Note: If you're one of the speakers and feel I accidentally mis-represented your talk or want me to remove a photo of you for any reason, please contact me at terri(a)zone12.com and I'd be happy to get things fixed for you!
terriko: (Pi)
I've got a year left in my postdoc at the University of New Mexico, which means, sadly, that it's nearly time for me to start getting serious about job hunting. If all things were equal, I'd like to wait longer and spend more time concentrating on my awesome work here or maybe take the time off for open source work that I'd promised myself after my PhD but didn't get, but things are not all equal, and between the constraints of academic calendars, my visiting scholar visa (which can be transferred between institutions but not if I wait too long between jobs) and a few other factors, it's about time to dive into the job search.

One of the nicer reasons to start the job hunt in October is that I'll be attending GHC12 and I'll be able to take advantage of their mentoring sessions and career fair. And it's that job fair I've been thinking about today, because of a recent PNAS study that found that Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Now, as someone who's probably going to interview at some universities, that is one heck of a depressing result to hear just before kicking off a job search.

I've seen a few write-ups about their results on top of reading the paper itself, but this write up from a Scientific American blog is probably my favourite because it doesn't pull any punches:

Whenever the subject of women in science comes up, there are people fiercely committed to the idea that sexism does not exist. They will point to everything and anything else to explain differences while becoming angry and condescending if you even suggest that discrimination could be a factor. But these people are wrong. This data shows they are wrong. And if you encounter them, you can now use this study to inform them they’re wrong. You can say that a study found that absolutely all other factors held equal, females are discriminated against in science. Sexism exists. It’s real. Certainly, you cannot and should not argue it’s everything. But no longer can you argue it’s nothing.

We are not talking about equality of outcomes here; this result shows bias thwarts equality of opportunity.


They controlled for many factors often used as reasons for disparity and gave people identical resumes to evaluate, some with a female name attached, some with a male name. (If this sounds familiar, it may be because a similar tactic was used in widely-reported tests that demonstrated racial discrimination in hiring. I'm pretty sure I've seen similar tests for other types of hiring discrimination too, but this one focused specifically on scientists.)

Interestingly, the discrimination came from women as well as men, and it appears to have been unintentional, perhaps a side effect of cultural bias that ranks female candidates as less competent than males in this area. Which is awfully disappointing, but maybe not surprising to anyone who's done some research in the area. However, that doesn't mean this is a hopeless situation:

I’m willing to bet that many in the study, just like people who take Implicit Association Tests, would be upset to learn they subconsciously discriminate against women, and they would want to fix it. Implicit biases cannot be overcome until they are realized, and this study accomplishes that key first step: awareness.


And here's where I come back to why I'm so excited to kick off my job hunt at the GHC12 career fair: these are companies that have reached the point of awareness that they aren't hiring as many women as they like. So even in the face of research that is pretty upsetting for someone like me just starting on a job hunt, I've still got a nice opportunity to start off with organizations who are aware and actively trying to combat hiring biases.

Not everyone can make it out to the GHC career fair (GHC tickets are sold out!) but you can take a look at the sponsors and the career fair guide and think, "hey, these companies care." It's easy to get inundated with "and now let's thank our sponsors!" moments at a conference, but it's worth recognizing that these companies are demonstrating not only a financial commitment but also a social one when they choose what conferences to sponsor. I like to think that it says something really great when they choose to sponsor the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
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