Diversity: continuous improvement

A post was split to a new topic: Speak up about what is in place to foster diversity

To: vandana@utk.edu
Subject: Bootstraping a diverse community in a new Free Software project


A software forge federation[0] project starts this month and your advice on how to best bootstrap a diverse community would be much appreciated. I listened to your webinar published a few days and it was inspiring, thank you for taking the time. That motivated me to browse your web site[1] and followup on your invitation to get in touch.

The fedeproxy community is unique in how it relates to horizontality: it is not incorporated, there is no spokesperson and no hierarchy. Reason why I speak using the first person and undertake actions towards improving diversity on my own. Other people involved in fedeproxy, who also care about diversity, have different approaches and actions.

So far what I do is quite simple:

  • I ask for advice on how to maintain diversity with people around me or online
  • Whenever I need to reach out to someone for whatever reason (at the moment it’s User Research mostly), I explicitly look for people who belong to minorities usually under represented in IT. It takes longer because, by definition, they are rare
  • Every day I work on fedeproxy I act to improve diversity and publicly record my action (I work 50% on fedeproxy so it’s not daily)

Do you have any advice for me and other people involved in fedeproxy? What could we do better?

To be more precise, since you already provided actionable advice in your slides, I’m primary worried that what I do is not good enough. Although I think I’m doing the right thing, the lack of feedback worries me. It could be that nothing is wrong with the approach and it just takes time (which make the iterative approach you suggest particularly challenging). Connecting with a small percentage of the population is a long process. Or it could be that I’m doing something that, instead of being welcoming, repels minorities.


[0] https://fedeproxy.eu
[1] https://sis.utk.edu/vandana/

Hi, I am not quite sure how I get here, most likely there was involved a link @aschrijver posted somewhere.

I’d like to help, more with the input and insights then code this time, as I am trying to focus on https://fedihospex.github.io project right now.

From demographics perspective, I am dyslexic, happen to be a women (mother since sept. 2019), software engineer (with M.Sc of CS from Jagiellonian University and ENS de Lyon and ~8 years of non-linear professional experience from IBM and elsewhere), with some backgrounds in social anthropology (2 years of undergrad studies after my graduation from CS), cultures observer as a vivid traveller and with experiences from living and working as a software engineer in France (4 months of internship), Poland (5years) with some time spent in India (onboarding dev teams to our project based in Poland), and the US (2 years). Currently contributing to OSS projects.

I am also a great believer and supporter of decentralization (in software architecture, organizational structures, economy and countries governance, the problems and solutions are isomorphic for all these domains, imho).

I’ll try to look around but let me know if there was any user research I could participate in or feedback I could give on something specific.


@mariha I like sharing my home and being a digital nomad: what you’re doing at https://fedihospex.github.io is much needed. Thank you!

Since you recently discovered the fedeproxy project, it would be great to have your first impression regarding diversity. This is work in progress and there is no handbook for Free Software projects to help them bootstrap a diverse community. Your advice on how to improve would also be very welcome :slight_smile:

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That won’t be very helpful, but I think you are doing great!

I read some of your posts and descriptions and haven’t found anything that I would consider a barrier or wouldn’t seem in any way inclusive to me.

I thought it was interesting how strongly you put on individuality, most project that I looked at emphasize collective aspect of the community that builds them. For example that everyone is free to apply for a grant to found their own work but as an organization you don’t facilitate or take a task of redistributing resources - in some way it’s very smart and liberating from so many issues down the road.


Not sure if this would be in scope of your project, probably not that much, somehow related though so I’ll share one wild idea that I have, might be worth some further user research: I strongly believe in code readability as an important characteristic of any code. Source code is a common communication protocol between people and computers and needs to be easily understandable and readable as much for compilers and computer processors as for human brains. Any piece of code is read many more time then it is written. There are for example metrics of cognitive code complexity which measure code structure. There are languages which are more and more expressive (for example assembler, C, C++, Java, Kotlin evolution). And I think it goes as deep and simple at the same time as a font being used to display a code.

One of the worst tasks that I was ever given was to analyze logs of a server running in production. Letters and lines all jumping around! In static text, it’s hard to follow from line to the new one without loosing the context not saying about all so similar monospaced letters moving down the screen. Even analyzing logs of a not-running app I’ve found to be an extremely overwhelming activity hard to do for any longer than a few minutes.

Common practice of using mono space fonts and character-fixed width of lines to display source code seems to me like a remaining of old times when there was nothing more then DOS and simple text terminals fitting exactly 80 chars. I know it’s something that devs have strong feelings about, black screen with monospaced text is part of geeks identity.

Never the less, in found it most comfortable to read code in the OpenDyslexic font, normal (not monospaced) with 1.5 space between lines. This is what I use in my IDE. Would be interesting to see if other devs with dyslexia found it easier to work with it too, and if so, maybe one day we will have a forge themed for dyslexics, with simple UI with little distractions and code displayed in more human friendly font.


This very encouraging, thank you :sweat_smile:

I’m glad you find that smart and liberating but I can’t take credit. It is by construction because there is no organization at all (to handle funds or hold any kind of power).

I share the sentiment of having strong feelings about how I like to read code. Not black but monospaced indeed:


I learned something today but I’ve known for a long time that accessibility is often overlooked. Having a theme amicable to devs with dyslexia falls in the “accessibility” category, doesn’t it?

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Although I could keep exploring the literature and the organizations related to diversity in Free Software, I’m under the impression that it won’t help fedeproxy in any measurable way. As explained in the article written about three weeks ago, when bootstrapping a Free Sofware project, the creators are on their own with regard to diversity.

I’ll try a completely different approach (inspired by @aschrijver) and now spend my time looking for a developer willing to dedicate time to be an early adopter of fedeproxy. It is a little early for that, of course, but I think it is a sensible way to work toward diversity and there is merit in doing it sooner rather than later.

  • Publish a call for early adopters
  • Advertise the call via the same channels as the Affinity Mapping
  • Reach out to people who belong to underrepresented groups
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