August 27th, 2005

pce

The Dream of a Lifetime

Bill Joy reviews the book `What the Dormouse said...' by John Markoff. The book deals with the early history of `modern day' computing, concentrating on the work of the pioneering Doug Engelbart.

Read the review. Very interesting!

pce

Women in Free and Open Source Software Development

The top Linux event in India, Linux Bangalore, has got a facelift - it's foss.in this year; and the change is not just in the name - there is a lot of work going in making the event a fitting tribute to the vibrant FOSS culture. I have been listening to the discussions on the event mailing list for the past few days - the current hot topic is why are there no women in Free Software?.

It's true; there are so few women free software developers. Not just that, there are few women hackers. Strange; at least in India, there seem to be as many women involved in commercial software development as there are men - why doesn't this ratio carry over to the hacker/foss domain?

Reasons:

  1. Women don't have what it takes to write *real* code, so they do ^C^V in TCS/Infy/Satyam whatever - I am sure many men would like this to be true - but sorry guys, it isn't. In terms of raw skills and talent, I have never felt that males are in any way superior; I speak from my experience as a teacher.
  2. Women are generally not excited by technology - True. After explaining something interesting in class, I often observe a `glow' on the face of a few male students (I stress *a few*) whereas the ladies simply give you a `so what?' look. Why is this? I don't know - maybe, `social conditioning'.
  3. There are no female role models for future female hackers - True; but there is nothing wrong in female hackers considering male hackers as their `Guru's' and role models. If sufficient female hackers do that, then the next generation wouldn't have to complain!

I can't really think of any good reason other than (2) above. And if that really is the reason, how do we bring about a change?