Yesterday I received a small rush of SPAM mails, all of which were 419 scams, and all of them sent by "Mrs Elizabeth PETERSEN".
It struck me that I can't think of ever receiving a legitimate mail from a "Mrs XXX [YYY]", but I was too busy to check.
Today I've done so. Of the 38,553 emails I've received during the month of October 2014 I've got a hell of a lot of mails with a From address including a "Mrs" prefix:"Mrs.Clanzo Amaki" <firstname.lastname@example.org> "Mrs Sarah Mamadou"<email@example.com> "Mrs Abia Abrahim" <firstname.lastname@example.org> "Mrs. Josie Wilson" <email@example.com> "Mrs. Theresa Luis"<firstname.lastname@example.org>
There are thousands more. Not a single one of them was legitimate.
I have one false-positive when repeating the search for a Mr-prefix. I have one friend who has set his sender-address to "Mr Bob Smith", which always reads weirdly to me, but every single other email with a Mr-prefix was SPAM.
I'm not going to use this in any way, since I'm happy with my mail-filtering setup, but it was interesting observation.
Names are funny. My wife changed her surname post-marriage, but that was done largely on the basis that introducing herself as "Doctor Kemp" was simpler than "Doctor Foreign-Name", she'd certainly never introduce herself ever as Mrs Kemp.
Trivia: In Finnish the word for "Man" and "Husband" is the same (mies), but the word for "Woman" (nainen) is different than the word for "Wife" (vaimo).
Debian is thrilled to participate in the 9th round of the GNOME FOSS Outreach Program. While OPW is similar to Google Summer of Code it has a winter session in addition to a summer session and is open to non-students.
We have reached out to several corporate sponsors and are thrilled that so far Intel has agreed to fund an intern slot (in addition to the slot offered by the DPL)! While that makes two funded slots we have a third sponsor that has offered a challenge match: for each dollar donated by an individual to Debian the sponsor will donate another dollar for Debian OPW.
This is where we need your help! If we can raise $3,125 by October 22 that means we can mentor a third intern ($6,250). Please spread the word and donate today if you can at: http://debian.ch/opw2014/
If you'd like to participate as intern, the application deadline is the same (October 22nd). You can find out more on the Debian Wiki.
On Thursday 9th, after weeks of low-level frustration at having to press “close” on every login, I sent a complaint to Barclays asking them to stop asking me on every single login to switch to paperless statements with a dialog box that has only two options:
This morning they replied:
Please be advised that it is currently not possible for us to remove the switch to paperless statements advert.
So, uh, I suppose if you’re a web developer who thinks that it’s acceptable to ask a question on every login and not supply any means for the user to say, “stop asking me this question”, there is still a job for you in the banking industry. No one there will at any point tell you that this is awful user experience. They will probably just tell you, “good job”, from their jacuzzi full of cash that they got from charging people £5.80 a month to have a bank account, of which £0.30 is for posting a bank statement.
Meanwhile, on another part of their site, I attempt to tell them to send me letters by email not post, but the web site does not allow me to because it thinks I do not have an email address set. Even though the same screen shows my set email address which has been set for years.
After light mocking on Twitter they asked me to try using a different browser, before completely misunderstanding what I was talking about, at which point I gave up.
There’s an interesting post about diversity at a tech conference. It is itself a response to a number of tweets by an attendee, so you should read both those things, and probably all of the other comments first.
I’ve now tried twice to add a comment to this article, but each time my comment disappears into the ether. Mark tells me that he is not seeing the comments, i.e. they are not being held for moderation, so I just assume some bit of tech somewhere is failing. Yes, I do get the captcha challenge thing and do complete it successfully. Blog comment systems are awful aren’t they?
So anyway, here’s the most recent version of the comment I tried to add:
I originally wrote this comment on the evening of the 6th, but the blog appears to have eaten it, and I no longer have a copy of it so I’ll have to try to re-type it from memory. Also since then I note a number of other comments which are highly opposed to what I wrote, so you’ll have to take my word for it that this is genuine comment and not an attempt to cause strife.
I do not believe that OggCamp specifically has a problem and I agree with much of what Mark has written, particularly that the unconference format is not in fact used to excuse lack of diversity (though it can be, and doubtless will be, by someone). I do believe that OggCamp has tried quite hard to be welcoming to all, and in many ways has succeeded. There seems to be a slightly larger percentage of female attendees at OggCamp compared to other tech conferences I have been to. I feel strongly that there is a larger percentage of female speakers at OggCamp.
I do however believe the widespread observation that tech conferences and tech in general do have a problem with attracting people who aren’t white males. I do believe that any group organising a conference are obligated to try to fix this, which means that the organisers of OggCamp are.
Stating that there is no such problem and that everyone is welcome is not going to fix it. Clearly there is a problem here, there’s people reporting that there’s a problem and they don’t think you’re doing all that you could do to be welcoming. There’s a word for telling people who say they’re subject to an unwelcoming environment that they in fact are wrong about how they feel, and I’d really like for this not to go there.
However I do not think that many of the things that Mark has proposed will actually make any difference, as well-intentioned as they are. To help improve matters I think that OggCamp should do some things that Mark (and many others in these comments, apparently) will not like.
I am in favour of positive reinforcement / affirmative action / speaker quotas / whatever you want to refer to it as, as part of a diversity statement. Like, aspirational. To be regarded as a sort of “could do better” if it wasn’t achieved. I believe it has shown to be effective.
My first suggestion is to have some sort of diversity goal, perhaps one like, “ideally at least one largest-stage slot per day will be taken by a person who is not a white male”. If we assume one largest stage, two slots each on morning and afternoon, that’s four per day so that’s aiming for 25% main stage representation of speakers who aren’t white males. I believe the gender split alone (before we consider race or other marginalised attributes) in the tech industry is something like 80/20 so this doesn’t sound outrageous.
My second suggestion—and I feel this is possibly more important than the first—is to get more diversity in the group of people selecting the invited speakers. I think a bunch of white males (like myself) sitting about pontificating about diversity isn’t very much better than not doing anything at all. Put those decisions into the hands of the demographic we are trying to encourage.
So, I suggest asking zenaynay to speak at the next OggCamp, and I suggest asking zenaynay if they know any other people who aren’t white males who would like to speak at a future OggCamp.
I do not think that merely marketing OggCamp in more places will fix much. People that aren’t white males tend to be put off from speaking at events like OggCamp and the only way to change their minds is to directly contact them. More diverse speakers will lead to more diverse attendees.
In the same vein, there’s the code of conduct issue. We tend to believe that we are all really nice guys doing the best we can; we would never offend or upset anyone, we would never exclude anyone. The thing is, people who aren’t like us have a very different experience of the world. So just saying that we’re not like that isn’t really enough. Codes of conduct for conferences are a good idea for this reason. Many people who are not white males will not attend a conference that doesn’t have one, because they feel like there is no commitment there and they’re not welcome (or in many cases, safe).
Ashe Dryden compiled a useful page of tips for increasing diversity at tech conferences. If there is genuine desire to do this then I think you have to come up with a great counter-argument as to why it isn’t worth trying the things that Ashe Dryden has said have worked for others. Codes of conduct and diversity goals are in there. As is personally inviting speakers.
“We don’t have time to run a full CFP process” seems like one of the stronger counter-arguments to all of this, to which I think there are two answers:
Shanley Kane wrote a great collection of essays called Your Startup is Broken. Of course this is about startups (and a US-centric slant, too) not conferences, but it is a great read nontheless and touches upon all the sorts of issues that are relevant here. I really recommend it. It’s only $10.
Finally, I feel that many of the commentors are being a little too defensive. Try to take it as an indictment of the tech sector, not an indictment of OggCamp, and try to use it as feedback to improve things.