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I received a surprising 13 responses to my previous post, which was certainly more than I expected and is one reason it's taken me a few days to follow up on it. (How do you pick someone from a group of 13 people based on just a paragraph or two? Clearly I'd like for someone to help all of these people get involved in Debian, but to do so solely by myself would be making a commitment that I just don't have time to come through on. So, it ends up being quite arbitrary. I pick who I think I'd most like working with and could make the most out of the opportunity, and even that is an arbitrary judgement based on very little.)

One question asked by one of the people who emailed me was, "Why did you ask for someone who isn't involved in Debian already and who doesn't necessarily have the technical skills needed?"

The answer to this question has several facets.

For one, people already involved in a free software project tend to be busy people. The workload in projects tends to be concentrated in few hands, and many of those people who are already involved in a project don't need or want any more work. So, asking for someone not already involved in Debian increases the pool of people who might respond to such a request and actually be able to follow up on it.

While this a valid reason, it still doesn't explain why I didn't just say, "it's okay if you're not already involved in Debian or don't know python" and not state a preference as to the skill level of the person who would respond to such a request.

I did, however, have a specific reason for stating my preference. I asked specifically for someone who wasn't already involved in Debian and who didn't necessarily know python or consider themselves a competent programmer because I wanted to encourage people who don't consider themselves to already know enough to be a useful comaintainer to contact me. I've picked up a lot from following Geek Feminism on what sort of language turns minority groups like women away, and I wanted to ask in such a way that it didn't turn away people who aren't good at self-promotion or who are less sure of their skills, or who don't yet have the skills, men and women alike. Even I still sometimes internally question my own competence as a programmer, and my self-confidence has increased over the past few years.

(For the curious, the responses I received were, at my guess, 85% male, 15% female. Whether that's a success or not depends on the demographics of those who read the post, but it is better than the ~98% male involvement in the FLOSS world altogether.)

And I do think it's more of a contribution to the project to help someone new get involved than to try to convince someone who's already overcome the barrier to entry to take on some more work. We'll see how it turns out in the end. I have high hopes. (No pressure, soon-to-be-selected mentee.)

Posted Sat 23 Jan 2010 10:50:20 PM UTC Tags: tags/feminism