From OSCON to BlogHer!

From OSCON to BlogHer!

This week I bounced from a technical conference in San Jose, all the way to BlogHer in Chicago, and I'd like to highlight some of the great talks and the women I met at both conferences! At OSCON, O'Reilly's open source software convention, I especially enjoyed Kirrily Robert's keynote on Women in Open Source developer communities (video and summary). On her blog at Infotrope Kirrily writes about coding, open source, and geek culture, and she's a founder of the excellent Geek Feminism Wiki.

I think it's important for us as bloggers and as women to participate in open source. We use a lot of software. And just like we want to be able to open up the hood of our cars, and be able to study and fix the engine, or at least know enough so that our mechanics don't rip us off, we need to know something about our computers and software, the tools we use every day. Not only that, we can join in to make those tools better. FLOSS or Free/Libre Open Source Software is a movement that helps make that possible, but as Kirrily Robert explains in her 15-minute keynote, women are not well represented in most open source projects.

As part of Ignite OSCON, I gave a 5 minute lightning talk, "Your Flying Jetpack", along with Kirrily's textile geek talk, Sandy Jen from Meebo, Librarian Avenger on film ratings, and Selena Deckelmann's super inspiring talk "How a Bunch of Normal People Used Technology to Repair a Rigged Election".

Another highlight of the conference was talking with Denise Paolucci, one of the two founders of Dreamwidth, a blogging site based on LiveJournal. Denise and her business partner Mark released the open beta of Dreamwidth this April, raising thousands of dollars from the sale of seed accounts. Though she started out as "the suit" for the company, Denise has learned to code and filed 50 patches in the last code release. Dreamwidth is unusual in being an open source project with a majority of women developers. Its friendly developer community, great step by step documentation, and hosted developer environments make it a good project for women who want to learn to code, to work with others, or just to get the warm fuzzy feeling you get from contributing to open source software to make it better, fix its bugs, and add cool features.

Denise Paolucci and Liz Henry at OSCON

I also met Akkana Peck who did a good session on fixing bugs, Val Aurora, Emma Jane Hogbin, and my friend Kirsten Jones from Applied Minds. There was a Women 2.0 meetup on Thursday evening, but I missed it!

At BlogHer '09 I've been camped out in the Geek Lab. We had small, short sessions on HTML, CSS, beginning blogging, video blogging, Typepad, Expression Engine, Squarespace, Dreamwidth, Photoshop, making blogs accessible, social media mashups, Apache and .htaccess, Unix one-liners, and PHP. The several WordPress sessions were especially popular!

Though I missed the sessions, I heard from many people that the HTML and CSS by Virginia DeBolt and WebGrrls CTO Nelly Yuspova were well attended and appreciated! I talked with bloggers afterwards who said "I had no idea it was that easy to build my own web sites from scratch. I thought it would be hard!" Sarah Dopp headed a general discussion of CMS tools, and then Shazia Mistry demoed some ways to make useful layout modifications in WordPress by using template tags. I could see people looking at the Stepping into Templates page in the Codex and lightbulbs going on over their heads. Shazia is not only a kickass php and WordPress coder, she's also a great designer. I also caught part of Skye Kilaen's talk on creating accessible web sites and thought that Skye presented with fantastic clarity!

Around 15 people came to Nelly Yusupova's talk on the php behind WordPress. We looked at the index.php file that you can find in any WordPress template, and went through line by line with very basic explanations of what's happening on each line. Some people here don't have any programming experience, others have a little they've taught themselves, and a couple of people are programmers who don't know much php but are curious to check it out.

Last but not least! Gena Haskett's presentations for the Video Geek Lab were amazing and she has great write-ups: Core Skills for Video Resources, Creating Instructional Tutorials for Users, and using video blogging for documentary videography and citizen journalism.

Gena Haskett's videoblogging class, BlogHer '09

On Day 1 the Geek Lab room layout was a bit confusing. Sarah Dopp and and a few others asked for that to change, and as always BlogHer's conference organizers responded with amazing speed. On day 2 the room was more welcoming and a good place for people to meet and hang out as well as to come to sessions. I love to teach, I learned something in every session, I love coding with other people and believe it or not I also love fixing stuff for people, especially at BlogHer! My vision for next year is that we have the possibility to keep expanding the "Geek Lab" part of the conference to have longer workshops and classes. Many BlogHer members are web designers and developers, and it would be great to get all of them involved in this project. There was talk of having some more local BlogHer meetups specifically for coding, looking at each others' blog templates and so on, and sharing information in a peer to peer way rather than teacher-with-students style.

I also had mad thoughts about a BlogHer posse going to OSCON next year, and vice versa. And inviting some of the more bloggeriffic DevChix and LinuxChix. And swarming into smaller, less expensive conferences like Open Source Bridge and WordCamps together, full force, so that we feel supported and have someone we know we can talk to at these conferences. What do you think?

Thank you to everyone who taught and learned and hung out at our Geek Lab room at BlogHer! Please comment and leave your feedback if you participated, and let us know what you'd like to happen next year!

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