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Outreachy's Year in Review: 2018 was a Big Year for Outreachy!

by Outreachy Team on December 20, 2018

As in previous years, Outreachy's goal is to increase diversity in free software. Between May 2018 and December 2018 internship rounds, we supported 86 interns from around the world, paying and expecting to pay $473,000 in internship stipends.

Lidza Louina at the Outreachy booth at Tapia, 2016.

The Outreachy interns worked with mentors from 27 free software communities: Bahmni, Ceph, Cloud Native Computing Foundation Tracing, Debian, Discourse, Fedora, Free Software Foundation, Git, GNOME, GNU Guix, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Jenkins, JupyterHub, Kubernetes, LibreHealth, Linux Kernel, Mozilla, mUzima, Open Bioinformatics Foundation, Open Data Kit, Open Humans, Open Robotics, OpenStack, Public Lab, QEMU, Tor Project, and Wikimedia.

Our non-profit home, Software Freedom Conservancy, makes possible all this work on free software done via Outreachy, as well as work done via Conservancy's nearly fifty other member projects. Now is the time you can support Conservancy by donating to its yearly fundraiser and having your donation matched by generous donors. Please consider becoming a Conservancy Supporter today!

Outreachy Website

Outreachy made some big changes in 2018. Outreachy launched a new Outreachy website based on Django, the free software Python-based web framework. The website is licensed GPL v3, with the source code released on GitHub.

Our website allows Outreachy organizers and mentors to review applications, approve communities to participate in the round, review intern selections, and collect intern and mentor agreements. The website also allows mentors to list the projects applicants can work on.

One of the goals of the Outreachy website was to encourage Outreachy mentors to better support people with impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is caused by several factors: unrelenting standards for yourself, systemic discrimination sowing doubt in your mind about whether you belong in your field, and discrimination that makes you work twice as hard to get the same level of recognition. Imposter syndrome makes people who are from groups under-represented in tech feel like they aren't good enough, or that all their accomplishments are due to luck.

Outreachy organizers watched applicants struggle with impostor syndrome when they were picking a project. They would often ask, "But do I need to be an expert in Python to apply to this internship?" This is fairly common, as people with impostor syndrome are less likely to apply to a job if they don't meet 100% of the criteria.

Urvika Gola, former Outreachy intern, hacks on the open source Android application, Lumicall, with former Google Summer of Code intern, Pranav Jain.

The new Outreachy website encouraged mentors to break down project skills in two ways: What impact does this skill have on intern selection, and how experienced does someone have to be in this skill? Mentors now list whether a project skill is required, preferred, or a bonus. Mentors also list what experience level the applicant needs in that skill. That could range from "no experience necessary, we'll teach you" to "this is a challenge and you'll be expanding your skills independently".

Outreachy organizers saw an immediate decrease in the number of questions about project selection sent to the mentors mailing list after the new website was put into place. The only questions about project selections were whether we would add any more projects with a particular type of technology or skill. In interviews with Outreachy December 2018 interns at the Mozilla All Hands, they mentioned that finding projects that fit their skills was much easier. Success!

Outreachy At DjangoCon

Outreachy organizer Sage Sharp presented their work on the Outreachy website at DjangoCon U.S. The video from the talk "Herding Cats with Django: Technical and Social Tools to Incentivize Participation" can be watched on the DjangoConwebsite

Sage also participated in the DjangoCon hackathon. Djangonauts solved several issues with CSS and suggested ways to tackle new projects. It was amazing for Outreachy to get involved with the Django community after being supported by their thorough documentation for so long!

Outreachy at Tapia

Sage Sharp, along with three former Outreachy interns, also attended the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing conference. Tapia is a conference that allows undergraduate and graduate students in Computer Science to celebrate the diversity that exists in computing and connect with peers, academics, and industry professionals who share their backgrounds, ethnicities, disabilities, and gender identities.

Tapia is the perfect conference to introduce free software and Outreachy to a diverse group of Computer Science students and educators. Outreachy had a booth at the conference again this year. We collected over one hundred signups for our announcement mailing list, and heard about Tapia attendees spreading the word to their university groups about Outreachy. This is Outreachy's third year with a booth at Tapia.

Outreachy booth at Tapia, 2016. Diversifying Outreachy

Racial diversity among Outreachy applicants has continued to increase, partially thanks to our outreach to communities and events like Tapia. In the December 2017 round there were 61 applicants from the United States, and 34% of those applicants (21 people) were Black/African American, Hispanic/Latin@, Native American/American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander. In the December 2018 round, there were 140 applicants from the United States, and 52% of those applicants (73 people) were Black/African American, Hispanic/Latin@, Native American/American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

It's amazing to see Outreachy's U.S. applicant racial diversity increase from 34% to 52%. Applicants of color from the United States made up for 8.3% of the total approved Outreachy applicants in the December 2017 round, and 11.2% of the total approved Outreachy applicants in the December 2018 round. We don't track racial demographics for applicants outside the United States, so it's unknown how many applicants of color from other countries applied.

Looking at gender diversity, Outreachy tracks the percentage of approved applicants who are women, as well as the percentage of people who are transgender and genderqueer. In the May 2018 round, 89% of applicants were women, 8% of applicants were genderqueer, and 4% were transgender. In the December 2018 round, 83% of applicants were women, 13% of applicants were genderqueer, and 6% of applicants were transgender.

Outreachy Supporting Broader Diversity

For a long time, Outreachy's goal has been to expand to additional groups of people who are underrepresented in free software. In September 2018, Outreachy made changes to the application process to invite anyone who faces under-representation, systemic bias, or discrimination in the technology industry of their country to apply.

Outreachy added initial application essay questions, which make it easy for applicants not familiar with diversity and inclusion concepts to relate key circumstances relevant to them being from a group underrepresented in tech. Essay questions asked whether the applicants' learning environment has few people who share their identity or background, what systematic bias or discrimination applicants have faced while building their skills, and what barriers or concerns kept applicants from contributing to free software. The Outreachy organizers will continue to refine the essay questions with lessons learned from the most recent application round.

Outreachy still expressly invites applications from women (both cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people from around the world, as well as residents and nationals of the United States of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latin@, Native American/American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

Outreachy Payment Changes

This year, Outreachy made a change to our intern payment structure in order to better support people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Our goal was to ensure that interns got slightly more money up front, in order to make sure that people who were financially relying on the internship stipend would have an easier time supporting themselves. Interns receive the larger payment after two weeks of work, which is enough time for mentors and organizers to determine they have successfully started their internships. Our full announcement on payment changes can be found here.

Outreachy Finances

Outreachy received several big donations this year!

In August, Outreachy [received a $100,000 donation from Handshake. Handshake donated to the Outreachy general fund, which supports program administration and increasing awareness of opportunities in free software among people from underrepresented groups in tech.

In November, Outreachy was received $50,000 in support from Ford Foundation. This supports Outreachy's efforts to improve our program's documentation. We have a lot of plans for this grant, including improving our instructions for our applicants, creating translations of our website and promotional materials, writing more blog posts, and creating videos to support and promote our program.

Outreachy also received over $123,000 in general fund sponsorship from Bloomberg, Google, Microsoft, DigitalOcean, Tidelift, Codethink, Indeed, and the Linux Foundation.

The Outreachy general fund is essential to ensuring Outreachy continues running. The Outreachy general fund pays for administrative tasks, such as the Outreachy organizers keeping 20 coordinators, 60 mentors, and 1,000+ applicants on track during the Outreachy application period. The Outreachy general fund also pays for time and travel costs for promoting the program.

The Outreachy general fund is also used by the participating free software communities when they find more exceptional interns than they have sponsorship for. Free software communities with funding for at least one intern can ask for these funds. Outreachy provides $6,500 per intern from the general fund to approved interns from these communities.

In 2018, the Outreachy general fund was used for budget items like:

  • $32,500 on funding 5 interns from the general fund for Jenkins, Free Software Foundation, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Linux Kernel, and Open Robotics
  • $12,948 on conference travel, the Tapia conference sponsorship, and booth promotional items
  • 683 hours on developing the Outreachy website (released under GPL v3)
  • 453 hours on program organization
  • 63 hours on documentation
  • 14 hours on graphic design

Outreachy internships (aside from the ones sponsorsed by the general fund) are funded by sponsorship from organizations and companies committed to increasing diversity in tech and free software. The funds from our generous sponsors provided 81 Outreachy interns with $445,500 in internship stipends and $10,696 in travel reimbursements.

Outreachy Applicant Helpers

The combination of these two grants, as well as Outreachy's general fund sponsors allowed Outreachy to hire two additional part-time staff members!

Anna e só is a former Outreachy intern with Wikimedia in the December 2017 to March 2018 round. Anna lives in Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil and uses they/them pronouns. Anna's internship with Wikimedia involved identifying issues that new Wikimedia translators face, and creating guides to help them. Anna is involved in the disability activism community in Brazil.

Bethany Lister has a Masters in Public Affairs, with a concentration in non-profit management. Bethany lives in Portland, Oregon, USA, and uses she/her pronouns. She was a Community Engagement Manager for NTEN, which supports non-profits in using technology to achieve their goals. The Outreachy organizers loved Bethany's experience in building up community and building relationships with NTEN conference attendees, sponsors, and partners.

Anna and Bethany proved to be invaluable in reviewing the essay questions in over 900 initial applications. They have provided fresh perspective on places for improvement in the Outreachy documentation, processes, and website. We look forward to working more closely with Bethany and Anna in 2019!

What's next?

Outreachy continues to provide rock solid support for over 80 interns a year. We look forward to improving our internship processes, website, and documentation, and to working closely with our two new part-time staff members.

Outreachy internships would not be possible without the support of our fiscal sponsor, Software Freedom Conservancy. Conservancy provides support for paying interns in countries around the world. Conservancy helps Outreachy secure funds, like the Ford Foundation grant and Handshake donation, and find sponsors to support Outreachy interns. Conservancy also promotes the Outreachy program at conferences, provides legal support, and provides a non-profit home for our program.

Software Freedom Conservancy does a lot to support Outreachy interns, and now it's your turn to support them! Conservancy is running its yearly donation drive, and your donation is matched by other generous donors. Please consider donating to Conservancy today!

"Outreachy at Tapia 2016" and "Outreachy booth at Tapia" are both by Sage Sharp and are available under a CC.BY.SA license and "Urvika Gola and Pranav Jain" is also by Sage Sharp is available under a CC-BY-NC-SA license.

Tags: conservancy, Outreachy

Conservancy's Member Projects are Building the Next Generation of the Free Software Movement

by Deb Nicholson on December 19, 2018

In order for free software to succeed, we must always be bringing new people to free software. In addition to bringing in developers, we need non-coding contributors and learners of all ages for our software to fulfill the promise of our movement. We love helping our member projects as they reach out to non-coding users and learners of all ages.

Conservancy is well-known for our work to support developers which is obviously super important -- there's no free software without well, people writing software. In fact, it's tough to build truly free software without free tools. So tools and code are critically important for software freedom, but I don't believe we can build a successful free software movement without conscientiously bringing in end-users. Many of our member projects focus on building amazing software for end-users, and maybe (while you're fixing computers for family over the holidays?) one of them can help you bring someone into the free software fold.

Several of our projects don't maintain code at all and/or work solely on helping people learn more about free software. MicroBlocks is a new programming language that enables kids and lifelong learners to start building toys or tools right away. Teaching Open Source collects and advises on curricula that helps college students understand open source development and its legal underpinnings. North Bay Python is a community-driven conference serving local Python developers -- including beginners. Outreachy brings people from underrepresented groups into free software via paid internships. The longevity of the free software movement depends on our collective ability to bring in young people and new people so we are proud to support educational efforts.

Two of our newest projects maintain code bases specifically for people who work at non-profits. Non-profit folks love stuff that is free as in cost and while they appreciate free as in freedom -- they also need code that does not need a lot of tinkering to be deployed. Backdrop CMS is a lightweight, easy to deploy Drupal fork specifically designed for small businesses and non-profits. Houdini helps organizations manage every aspect of their fundraising work. Free software is a good mission match for change organizations so it was great to welcome in two projects this year that are working intentionally to serve this sector.

Of course, we believe that software freedom is for everyone and a few Conservancy projects provide tools that can be used by anyone at all. Etherpad is shared note-taking platform that we use nearly every day in our work at Conservancy. Inkscape can be used for serious artists or those just dabbling in design. There are loads of tutorial videos to help new folks get acclimated and productive. Need a band flyer or church program? There's free software for that!

We even have projects at Conservancy that help people who are just beginning to explore free software. Homebrew enables users to install free software on their Apple systems while Wine helps people use a Windows program on a free operating systems. If you don't work at somewhere like the Conservancy, it can be difficult to ditch proprietary software. Projects like Homebrew and Wine help users find ways to use free software where they can and find a way to transition away from the non-free stuff at their own pace.

So wherever you are in your software freedom journey, Conservancy might have a project that can help. We look forward to helping our member projects do even more to bring in new fans, users and supporters of their work in 2019. Help us help them, by donating to Conservancy today! And be sure to let us know if one of our member projects helped you turn a new person into a free software user -- we love those stories.

Tags: conservancy, Wine, Homebrew, Outreachy, inkscape

Josh Triplett: Free Software Optimist

by Deb Nicholson on December 18, 2018

This is part of our ongoing series on generous matching donors. With roots in the Debian community and a contributor to a number of free software projects, Josh is a passionate software freedom advocate. Working at a large company involved in free software has brought Josh a deep understanding if the issues concerning the corporate use of open source. Josh and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering $90K in matching funds to Conservancy for our continued work to provide both support for important free software and a clear voice in favor of community-driven licensing and governance practices.

Josh Triplett, head shot

Deb: What's the most exciting thing you've seen recently in free software?

The Rust project. It's the first language with a credible ability to replace C anywhere you can use C, while providing all the features of a modern programming language and many pioneering innovations not yet seen elsewhere. And it's the most welcoming and energizing community I've ever been part of; it's an absolute joy to work with Rust and help it grow. Rust gives me so much hope for the future of computing.

Deb: Do you have a favorite Conservancy project and/or one that is indispensable to your own work?

Conservancy is home to so many incredible projects that it's hard to choose. I love Reproducible Builds and Outreachy, and the ways in which they continue to change the world. Reproducible Builds represents one of those ideas where the goal seems obvious and yet the execution requires an incredible and pervasive effort across the industry, and the people working on it have done an amazing job. Outreachy brings so many people into computing, provides wonderful opportunities, and in the process helps show projects how to be more inclusive. And QEMU and Git are both incredibly useful for me.

Deb: What do you hope to see Conservancy accomplish in the next five years?

Josh: I'd encourage many more projects to make Conservancy their home. The best time to join a foundation is before you need one, and Conservancy is the best possible home for almost any Free Software project. Apart from that, I'd love to see Conservancy succeed in its ongoing GPL compliance efforts, as well as continuing its many behind-the-scenes efforts to improve industry practices around FOSS. And Conservancy serves as the shining example of principles and good stewardship among FOSS foundations. I've seen what Conservancy can do at their current size; I'd love to see what Conservancy could do with more resources.

Deb: Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm thrilled to be able to sponsor Conservancy with this donation matching campaign. Please consider becoming a Conservancy supporter.

Check if your employer offers donation matching as well, which can make your donation twice as effective. And if you can, use a bit of your social capital within your employer to get them to support the home of so many projects you and they depend on regularly.

And if you have a Free Software project with more than one maintainer, consider joining Conservancy.

Tags: conservancy

Matthew Garrett: Software Freedom Activist

by Deb Nicholson on December 13, 2018

This is part of our ongoing series on generous matching donors. Matthew Garrett is a security-focused developer and software freedom activist who received a Free Software Award for his work on Secure Boot, UEFI and the linux kernel in 2014. If you are not worried about the security of practically all your devices, it is only because you haven't seen Matthew speak about low-level vulnerabilities. Matthew and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering $90K in matching funds to Conservancy for our continued work to provide both support for important free software and a clear voice in favor of community-driven licensing and governance practices.

Garrett in 2016, standing outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London holding a sign saying

Deb: What's the most worrying thing you've seen recently in free software?

Matthew: I'm concerned about the perception that it's impossible for development of free software to be financially self supporting, and that the only way to handle this is to develop new licenses that forbid certain use cases. There's a real problem where individual developers are left with little reward for developing code that giant commercial enterprises depend on, but we're largely seeing this push come from venture capital firms who just want a larger return on their investment. The free software community needs to come up with an answer to this that doesn't involve trying to extort money out of companies in order for them to be able to legally exercise the freedoms that free software should guarantee, but I don't know what that answer is yet.

Deb: What do you think non-profits are uniquely positioned to accomplish in free software?

Matthew: Non-profits are part of the solution to the above. Free software needs to be supported in order to prosper - and that means that someone needs to be able to provide resources to free software projects without being motivated by whether or not they can profit from the exercise. Conservancy is an example of an organisation that provides resources to and reduces friction for a number of free software projects, and it's hard to imagine a for-profit entity being able to achieve the same.

Deb: Is there a free software project that you wish existed but (as far as you know) no one has started working on?

Matthew: I'd love to see a free software TV stack. The majority of modern TVs run Linux, but there's no realistic way to replace most of the vendor provided code. The ability to provide a full featured, user controlled experience that improved upon the functionality provided by the manufacturer would be an amazing way to increase awareness of the power of free software, while also reducing the amount of personal information that users are currently giving up (frequently without even knowing what they're giving up!)

Deb: What do you hope to see Conservancy accomplish in the next five years?

Matthew: I'd love to see more projects under the Conservancy umbrella and for Conservancy to be a strong representative voice that can push back against the profit-oriented arguments against free software that are becoming louder.

Please take a minute to help Conservancy continue to spread the good news about free software and meet this exciting year-end match, today!

Matthew Garrett "You're not even a wiki" is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license, from Wikipedia by tef.

Tags: conservancy

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