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Displaying posts tagged Outreachy

Sage Weil: Challenges and Hope

by Deb Nicholson on January 9, 2019

This is part of our ongoing series on generous matching donors. Sage is the principal architect of Ceph, a completely distributed free software storage platform. Sage serves on the advisory board for CROSS, a program that turns technology created through student research into successful free and open source projects. He even won the O'Reilly Open Source Award in 2013 for his work. Sage and several other outstanding individuals are joining Private Internet Access and a big anonymous donor in offering a total of $90K in matching funds (just through January 15th!) to Conservancy for our continued work to support community-driven licensing and governance practices.

Sage helping his daughter ride a bike.

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

Sage: There are two key free software trends that give me hope. The first is the recent traction in open hardware, most notably with RISC-V, which moves us closer to being able to build a completely free and open hardware *and* software stack. The second is continued commitments to open source from governments around the world, most recently with the EU's bug bounties on a few critical projects.

Deb: Tell us about the moment you decided to become a Conservancy supporter.

Sage: When I learned about Conservancy's involvement in Christoph Hellwig's GPL suit against VMWare I realized that Conservancy was more concerned with user freedom than industry politics and/or the business interests of its supporters. It's because Conservancy is a grassroots organization, supported by individual donors, that it is able to fight unequivocally for free software principles and software freedom.

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

Sage: Conservancy's support for Outreachy and its willingness to tackle the diversity challenges in open source communities is a huge contribution to the free software movement. The lack of diversity in the communities I work most closely with is (in my view) one of the greatest risks to the long-term health and success of the relevant projects.

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

Sage: I would love to see Outreachy continue to expand its reach and scope, and I look forward to seeing the GPL litigation demonstrate that copyleft licenses can't be willfully violated with impunity. Most importantly, though, I would like to see Conservancy continue to serve as a living example of what true open source advocacy looks like as a challenge and model for other free software organizations.

Deb: Anything else you'd like to add?

Sage: The two technology trends that most concern me are the continued erosion of online privacy (and relatively scarcity of freely available tools to help protect private communications and anonymity online) and the growth of public cloud providers as new instruments of software lock-in. Free software is a key component of any strategy to push back against both of these trends, and I am happy to support organizations like Conservancy that are focused on preserving the user freedoms that we often take for granted.

Do you share Sage's vision of a diverse, vibrant and community-driven free software future? Please donate today! Or if you've already donated, share stories about our work and let folks know that we depend on grassroots support to do all the work that we do. Thanks!

The photo of Sage and his daughter is used here courtesy of Sage Weil.

Tags: conservancy, diversity, Outreachy

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

Highlighting Some of Our Leaders in the Linux Kernel

by Karen Sandler on September 20, 2018

This week has shown two interesting events related to Linux. Yesterday, the New Yorker published an article pointing out that abusive behavior in the Linux project specifically has created an unfriendly and unwelcoming environment for underrepresented groups. Linus Torvalds, Linux Foundation Fellow and leader of the Linux project, after having been contacted by the New Yorker in connection with the article, admitted his past behavior has been problematic and is taking time off from the project.

While these moves are a step forward, they cannot alone change the problematic culture we have in technology generally, and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in particular. One press article and one leader temporarily stepping aside can only take one small step toward reversing decades of unfriendly culture, where abusive language and conflict are often considered the appropriate way to resolve disputes. We at Conservancy, particularly in its Outreachy project, do our best to help improve this situation for FOSS.

Outreachy provides mentors and coordinators a method and process to promote inclusive culture in their FOSS projects. Our program would not be possible without a lot of key FOSS contributors who behave professionally and are deeply committed to improving the situation. We thank all the people who have contributed to great experiences for Outreachy mentees and hope that recent news helps more people in the community take heart that change is possible. I contacted a few of these people to highlight here.

picture of Vaishali Thakkar

Vaishali Thakkar, Outreachy internship graduate who now co-coordinates of kernel internships commented:

"Outreachy is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I came from an education system where asking questions didn't always end up in positive encounters but rather we were made fun of because not knowing things isn't normal. My first friendly encounters with bunch of mentors in outreachy kernel mailing list also helped me to understand that open learning and open education is not only normal here [in open source] but is also something you are celebrated for. Which was really a huge thing for me at that time because it helped me to build my confidence and make my space in the open source industry.

Lately, I've been giving a lot of Linux Kernel contribution workshops in Indian universities [offline] and in Kenya [online] to spread the word about the wonderful opportunities the program provides with a hope to increase more diverse set of contributors in the kernel community. Outreachy is touching so many lives at so many levels ranging from giving equal pay opportunity to people traditionally underrepresented in open source to help building a welcoming and diverse communities. My motivation for volunteering as a coordinator is merely an expression of saying thanks to all wonderful people who has helped me reach at where I am today and also about enjoying a feeling that comes from playing a role in building welcoming communities together."

picture of Shraddha Barke

Shraddha Barke, who is also an Outreachy internship graduate and now co-coordinates kernel internships with the Outreachy project added:

"During my undergrad, I was desperately looking for opportunities to work on real problems. That's when I got the chance to intern with Outreachy and that exposed me to the wonderful Linux community and gave me lifelong mentors and friends. Julia Lawall has mentored me for the past few years, right from Outreachy to my graduate school. Outreachy opened more doors for me than I could've imagined.

My motivation to volunteer stems from the feeling to give back to the community that has given me so much. Outreachy provides a supportive platform for people underrepresented in technology. I love knowing that I'm playing a small role in the worldwide impact Outreachy is having today! And I'm excited to see how big it will grow. :)"

picture of Julia Lawall

Julia Lawall, who has previously coordinated Outreachy participation in Linux, and continues to mentor noted:

"As a former teacher and as a researcher, I have observed that many female students who start in computer science become discouraged and drop out during or after their studies. Thus, complementarily to my research activities, over the past four years, I have been active as a mentor and then as the coordinator for Linux for the Outreachy Internship program. Providing female students in computer science with the opportunity to interact with and get feedback from top-quality well-known developers helps build their confidence making it possible to move beyond the inevitable discouraging moments. There were 71 applications for Linux internships while I was coordinator for Linux, and 30 internships offered. After their internships, interns have gotten jobs at companies such as Red Hat, Intel, Bloomberg, Oracle and Collabora. Several interns have instead opted for further studies, including two who are starting as PhD students at UCSD and Columbia this fall. Former interns have also been active in outreach, both through informal events that they have organized on their own and through Outreachy itself."

picture of Daniel Vetter

Daniel Vetter, who mentors Outreachy interns in the Linux Kernel's GPU driver subsystem adds:

"The Outreachy program is the best program we have to improve diversity and inclusiveness in FOSS long-term. While Linux as a project is deeply problematic, there are pockets of sub-communities who really care about creating inclusive spaces and can provide Outreachy participants a great internship experience contributing to critical technology low in the stack.

I am very glad to provide my help supporting Outreachy participants as a mentor and Outreachy's critical role in building better communities and a diverse and inclusive FOSS culture."

We hope the events of this week indicate that times are changing, and the status quo of behavior fails as an adequate standard for civility, inclusiveness and diversity. We thank all those who have spent years, both behind the scenes and in the public fray, pointing out and pushing for inclusiveness in Linux and all other FOSS communities. We welcome mentors, coordinators and sponsors to get involved in Outreachy and we hope to continue working on related issues and supporting those of you who are working behind the scenes to make free software a place for everyone.

Tags: conservancy, diversity, Outreachy

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