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The dark side of open source conferences

Dec 04, 2010, 09:02 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Valerie Aurora)

"In the past two decades, the open source community has evolved from an obscure grass-roots movement of wild-eyed crusaders, indigent grad students, and spare-time hobbyists to an unprecedented worldwide collaboration of full-time professionals and extraordinarily committed volunteers. We pride ourselves on our openness to new contributors, from any country or social background, and most often describe the power structure of open source projects as a meritocracy. Many of us believe that open source is inherently progressive - a way to level the playing field that operates across all social categories and class boundaries.

"And yet, here it is, the year 2010, and my female friends and I are still being insulted, harassed, and groped at at open source conferences. Some people argue that if women really want to be involved in open source (or computing, or corporate management, etc.), they will put up with being stalked, leered at, and physically assaulted at conferences. But many of us argue instead that putting up extra barriers to the participation of women will only harm the open source community. We want more people in open source, not fewer.

"In this article, we will first explore the current state of harassment in open source through interviews with ten women (including myself) about their experiences at open source conferences. Then we will describe some concrete, simple actions anyone can take to help reduce harassment for everyone"

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