Since 2010, I’ve been paid to work in free and open source stuff, in various fields, sub-fields, and roles. Sometimes I hear people talk about how they want to work in free software as well, and sometimes I get asked about how I ended up here. It was pretty easy: I spent a lot of time paying to do things other people get paid to do.

I’m proud that I am on the Open Source Initiative board. I think it is a serious accomplishment. It is also tied very directly to me spending thousands of dollars a year on things related to free software–namely travel.

This past February I had my first trip of the year–I went to Brussels for FOSDEM. In March, there was LibrePlanet (more on this later). In April I’m going to Paris to lecture at two universities. May is Linux Fest Northwest and OSCON–so I’m doing the two-for of going from one directly to the next. In August, DebConf and Wikimania are both in Montréal     (at approximately the same time), so I submitted talks to both.

I spent 96 days of 2016 out of Boston and 74 in 2015. Among my friends in the field, I don’t actually travel all that much.

I live a fabulous life in one of the most expensive cities in America. I also have student loans and not a lot of savings.

I can’t make a good average guess about how much I spend per conference. I usually stay with friends who live in town, or a friend kindly lets me sleep in the hotel room their company is paying for. C3 and DebConf have been the exceptions (though, I paid for my accommodations at LCA 2016 after a miscommunication with my employer at the time). Other than C3, I only go to conferences that don’t have a fee–which means I only go to one if I’m speaking or volunteering.

Conferences mean having to eat out. They mean coffee from shops and carts. They mean late nights at bars and, not infrequently, car service back to where I’m staying. LibrePlanet 2017 was in Boston, where I live. Still, I ended up not having the time or energy to eat at home, and, most nights, threw myself into a car I paid for.

I have self-funded nearly all of my travel.

As I post this, I am at Linux Fest Northwest and it’s Sunday. My flight cost around $300. I got a ride with a friend from Seattle to Bellingham. I’m staying at someone else’s hotel. Breakfast this morning cost $8, and lunch yesterday cost about $15. Post-dinner drinks ran $11–someone else expensed dinner. Friday night dinner was provided by the conference (that’s rare). With some other miscellaneous charges, the conference itself has run me about $350. That’s with a lot of help from friends, which I have because I’ve been doing this for a few years now. As I read that number, $350 doesn’t seem that bad, but then I remember it’s half of my rent and not actually the total cost of just the Seattle portion of this trip and this is a very cheap trip.

I do this because I want to have a career in free software–I want to progress and grow. I want to see the movement be successful.

When you work in a small field, being known is important. It gives you “the edge” over others when you’re being considered for jobs. It gives you cred. Recently, in a totally unrelated meeting, someone referred to me as an “expert” on something–without ever really having talked to me about it, because he knows I go places to speak about it.

That’s the secret to having a free software career: work really hard and spend a lot of money self-funding travel.

What i listened to this week: 2/27 – 3/5

Music from: 2/27 – 3/05

I’ve been listening to more podcasts, and am taking suggestions. My favorite ones so far are fiction that sounds like an investigative NPR report, or an episode of This American Lif

Blacktapes, Pacific Northwest Stories

Blacktapes Podcast

Bright Sessions, Lauren Shippen, Julia Morizawa, and Briggon Snow

This started a bit slow, but picked up.
Brightsessions – Podcast

Betti-Cola, Cub

Confidence, Elvis Presley

Oversleepers International, Emperor X

Not actually out yet, but there are some singles. Okay, two.
Oversleepers International

Mural, Lupe Fiasco


Long youtube adventures with Mitski.

Nevermind Shellac, Here’s David Yow, Shellac and David Yow


Youtube adventures in Slothrust.


I listened to this like a week ago, actually, but it was super good.
Limetown – Podcast


F as in Freedom: Codes of Conduct & Community Guidelines

I haven’t read the code of conduct, but I’m pretty sure I’m about to violate it

Presented at FOSDEM 2017, Brussels, Belgium

This year I attended my first FOSDEM, which was my first European community organized free software conference. It turns out that if you add enough classifiers, anything can be your first something. There were some great sessions.

I gave a talk!

In early 2016, I gave a humor talk on the use of “bad language” and the words “open source” and “frees software” in various combinations on twitter. It was a party. Since then, I adapted the general premise into a very un-scientific study on the use of slurs on mailing lists (specifically the Linux Kernel Mailing List), and the possible role rules and guidelines might have on these things.

Thanks to the Legal and Policy Issues DevRoom team at FOSDEM 2017, I had an excuse to delve into this more.

When I was preparing this talk, I wanted people to leave the room knowing:

  1. what awfulness can actually look like, and
  2. that policies are important to providing infrastructure for reporting and acceptable behavior.

Now, almost a month on, I think the most important takeaways are:

  1. Bad things are actually a pretty small part of all the things, but
  2. we cannot let this be an excuse to not actively make ourselves do better.

The talk was a little more spastic than I would have liked it to be—there was, frankly, too much ground I tried to cover. Part of this was an attempt to keep it at least slightly lighthearted by adding some humor, but it was also the overwhelming sense that a lot of things are important and I had to get them all out at once.

Some deets about said talk

To create a shared foundation, we discussed what sorts of things dictate behavior within communities:

  • standards (and other formal policies)
  • best practices
  • social contracts
  • norms

It is at least depicted that a lot of what happens on the internet (or cyber, as I think the politicos are calling it these days) revolves around people being mean. It is commonly accepted that this actually isn’t most of what happens, but it does happen (a lot) and garners a lot of attention. Why it happens is on a case by case basis and the people perpetrating meanness frequently can be categorized as:

  • a desire to “be correct” or “fix wrongness”
  • lack of repercussions
  • group think
  • culture norms
  • mental health, lacking sense of self
  • some people are just mean

This is also where I threw in a Taylor Swift reference and apparently someone in the audience legit did not know who Taytay is. I hope dude got himself some Swiftamine.

The next section of my talk contained a number of examples of the way people talk about free software and how people within free software communities talk to one another. I used examples because I like making people laugh, but also because providing individual cases is more compelling than throwing out charts and graphs and numbers. One death is a tragedy, a thousand a statistic. Or something like that. This was contextualized in various policies used concerning behavior and enforcement. My focus shifted into terms I identified as slurs–words that are treated as insults based on someone’s demographic identifiers or deeply held beliefs (like “gay” or “feminist”).

I briefly touched on codes of conduct, anti-harassment policies, and some rough numbers on incident reports from conferences, looking at what I could pre/post the adoption of a behavioral policy. This was even less scientific, even more scattered, and something I would LOVE to do more of.

I’m really hoping to do more poking around at this and these ideas. If you run a conference or event and are willing to (as anonymously as you are interested in) talk about harassment at your event, please contact me. I’m planning on doing more poking around on mailing lists too, since the LKML is really only one case and super unscientific.


Slides: (FOSDEM 2017) – mdb

Video: F as in Freedom: Codes of Conduct and Community Guidelines

What I listened to this week: 12/19 – 12/23

I forgot my headphones at home most of the week, so it was a light week.

Redd Blood Cells, the White Stripes w/ Redd Kross.

To me, this one is a classic. I love it. Steven McDonald took White Blood Cells (drums & guitar) and added a bass line. It’s pretty amazing. This came out in 2002, when I was in the early days of really discovering music for myself–outside of the influence of my parents.

Chronologically, Anna E. Garman (and friends)


This is not called Chronologically. It’s some contemporary, classical composition someone who knows someone I know did. I’m into it. There’s bassoon.

Demo, Transpiler (or Xpiler)


Some of our friends started a band. This is that band.

happy forever EP, Fern Mayo

happy forever

Here’s some Fern Mayo, including happy forever. I am so into it. SO INTO IT.

Major Arcana, Speedy Ortiz

Major Arcana

Fern Mayo made me think about Speedy Ortiz. Speedy Ortiz is one flavor of perfection.

Flood, They Might Be Giants

Flood is also a classic, to me and my people at least. I played this while cooking dinner, and did a little dancing, because that’s how we roll at the PSA.

Bonus song: Sugarman, Rodriguez

Got this song stuck in my head somehow. Did not realize how much about drugs it was.

What I listened to this week: 12/12 – 12/16

Tiny Desk Concert, The Front Bottoms

I pulled this old one out because I had Au Revoir/Adios stuck in my head. Did not get it unstuck. Also, kind of sick of Maps by this point. Still love these dudes.

Playlist, Kate Micucci

I actually was listening to the Ducktails Theme as sung by the new cast and was reminded of how much I love Kate Micucci. Sang along to myself, stopped when I realized how unfunctional this was.

Fetch, Melt Banana

The start of this album, while it has a lot of noise to start, feels like it’s building to something. It pulled my attention at the start, and I felt that sensation of waiting, of holding my breath and feeling my body push forward into the sound. Waiting. Something about the repetition of sounds and patterns on this album also leads itself to expecting lyrics–like the music is, again, leading to something.

There are lyrics. They are, as far as I can tell, in Japanese and completely unintelligible to my “I studied Japanese in college seven years ago” ears. It took me a bit to work on tuning out the noise around this, but I liked it. I liked how dadaist it was–how rather than the vocals meaning anything, it’s just another use of noise and phoneme to make music.

Into it. Biggest downside: Made me want to dance.

Come to Mexico, Totorro

I like this album a lot, in part because it’s easy to totally tune out while making a particular type of friendly rock noise. There are no lyrics, even though I keep expecting the to come (musically that is). At times there are brass sections that sound like they’re singing.

Cute music, incredibly listenable, have already played more than once.

MollyGive 2016

Since I lost my job over the summer, I figured I wouldn’t do a MollyGive this year. However, as we’ve been moving through the final weeks, I started feeling sad about this.

My favorite thing about December is donating the money I saved throughout the year. So far it’s been to Casa Myrna, Free Software Foundation, Open Source Initiative, and Software Freedom Conservancy. (Also Parts & Crafts earlier in 2016.) Giving makes me happy, and giving is important to sustain and support the important (an frequently necessary) work of non-profits.

With that in mind, I want to spend the last two weeks of 2016 doing what I’ve done for the past few years: matching donations.

Make a donation of up to $100 to your favorite nonprofit(s), and I will match it until I am out of funds. Even if you think you’re too busy to volunteer, go to meetings, or participate in actions, you’re not too busy to make a major difference!

Here is last year’s MollyGive announcement, for some more info:


One of the hardest things about speaking at a conference (beyond getting over anxiety, a fear of public speaking, and imposter syndrome) is doing a write up about the conference and, more specifically, your talk. You want to provide a useful summary of your thesis, some details, and maybe a joke or two to convince people that they should watch your talk. Post-conference video views are important: you can beat your friends by having more views or judge your self-worth by how many people responded positively to your presentation–or both!

I was talking with Spencer Krum (credit where credit is due) about these problems. Presented below is a slightly less late-night, post-dinner-lull inspired solution than the one we originally came up with.

I’ve found that when I’ve needed content from people, it was extremely effective to give out surveys or conduct interviews using a set of questions designed to touch on the major important points.

By the end of the conversation, we agreed that conferences should send you a post-talk survey (as opposed or in addition to a pre-conference interview). Filling out this survey would give you a basis for a blogpost, and the conference a little more content for their blog. In theory, you would get this along with a link for the video to your talk.

Here are some ideas I had about what would make some good questions.

  1. Talk Title
  2. Organization or project represented in the talk or at the event
  3. Conference presented at, including year and location
  4. What was the thesis of your talk?
  5. Why did you want to present this talk? Why this conference was a good venue, or why was it relevant to the audience?
  6. Do you have an outline of important points? What do you think are the most important takeaways–either big ideas or details–from this talk?
  7. What do you want people who attended the presentation to understand or walk away with, that they might not have known before?
  8. Did you get any great questions or valuable feedback?
  9. Did you learn anything in preparing or presenting?
  10. Would you be interested  in giving the same or a similar presentation at another event in the future?
  11. Is there anything else you think is super important to know about your talk?

Some of these questions are kind of similar (4, 6, and 7), but I think they can help you think about the content of your talk in different ways, in order to create a more in-depth understanding of what was important.

I’m going to try and go back to the talk Deb and I gave at HOPE and see what I can come up with using these questions.

Giving Away Things to Give Away Things

Welcome to draft one! I greatly appreciate feedback, questions, and help making it better!

Brief Background on Free and Open Source Software

The term “open source” was coined in 1998 by Christine Peterson to create a business friendly replacement to “free software.” Both of these phrases referred to software released under a license that ensures and protects the Four Freedoms of Free Software, which were originally outlined by Richard Stallman in 1986.

  1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

These freedoms provide a basis to understand ownership and force us to examine the concepts of property and access in the context of software. Software licenses, at first blush, are about software and source code–who owns the code, who can use it, what they can do with it–but they also cover the same philosophical and theoretical ground of any law or policy used to convey and protect ownership. Software licenses, like all intellectual property licenses, attempt to deconstruct and make sense of the difficulty in defining ownership of the ephemeral: ideas, thoughts, time, and labor.

Software licenses matter because they identify who owns the bits that make up software, and how much they get to dictate what you do with it. This includes the software that runs your computer, your car, your smartphone, coffeemaker, pacemaker, printer, nuclear development facilities, and much more.

Today, the Open Source Initiative maintains a list of licenses that are considered “open source.” The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of licenses called “free.” These lists overlap almost entirely. All of these licenses are balanced against these four freedoms. WIth the FSF, this relationship is explicit and openly philosophical. The OSI, instead, uses the Open Source Definition to create it’s list, which describes the anatomy of what an open source license looks like in practice. At the heart of every license we call “open” or “free” is a deep and unrelenting commitment to the rights of every individual who interacts with the world through computers.

In business especially, we frequently talk about open source as a development model: we are able to build a contributor community that does the work we cannot or will not do; anyone can use a platform or piece of software to do what they want; it spreads the medium and the message. While frequently discussed as such, open source is not a developmental model. The development model we use is enabled by the ideals of open source, due to the licenses we use that actualize these ideals.

Free and Open in Education

The relevance of free and open source software (FOSS) in education is predicated on the understanding that education is a human right that must be protected, empowered, and enabled against social restrictions (governments, societal norms), resource restrictions (infrastructure, materials, access to teachers), and restrictions in ability (dyslexia, blindness, other neuroatypicalities).

There are practical benefits that come from using FOSS licenses when we–as organizations and individuals–create education technology. We can build a strong ecosystem of development and features We have different perspectives on education, and a broad knowledge of pedagogy and best practices that influence design and implementation. Mixed-contributor software, with many stakeholders who have their own values and audiences, is strengthened by the same things that often create messy code and complicate interactions between technologies: a diverse, engaged community.

There are also “non-technical” (a term I hate) practical implications to the relationship between FOSS and education. When discussing content, open licenses enable wonderful things, like translations of course materials, and use in classrooms, all of which broaden the impact of educators and education opportunities to learners.

The tools used to protect freedoms and rights form their own symbiotic relationship. The First Amendment, in part, relies upon the integrity of the fourth (unlawful search and seizure). It is impossible to have the freedom to discuss and formulate ideas if you don’t have spaces where you can do so without fear of reprisal. Similarly, the ability to give away education (to enable the rights of the learner), relies on giving away the tools that make this possible. Giving away the software that enables learning is only worthwhile if others have the resources to know how to use it.

But the larger issue is that which takes us from the conversations about multi-stakeholder development and access to resources to the philosophies underlying our mission.

Philosophical Stuff

Our work as educators and those building tools to support educators is based on the understanding that education is necessary for the present and future, for progress and the constant search for Good, and Doing and Being Better. This mission has put universities, especially, in a position where they are not just protecting the idea of education as a human right, but supporting it and furthering the cause.

The Important Part

You cannot truly have access to education if the tools and systems used to deliver it are things which, by their very nature, restrict your rights. By ensuring that the platform and materials used to change the ways we share knowledge are open and accessible to everyone, we create a world where no one’s education can be restricted or taken from them. In doing so, we create a new standard for how the world teaches itself and each other.

We’re working hard: we are creating course hosting systems and learning management systems with FOSS licenses. We are making platforms for hosting, exhibiting, and sharing all forms of content used in teaching and learning. Though using FOSS licenses, we are giving away things that enable others to give away things–by making these tools and resources free, open, and accessible, it is possible for educators and education institutions to give everyone what they need in order to learn. Let’s keep it up.

Further Reading

This is a random list of things that have inspired some of these ideas.

Coffee (01)

One of the first things JP told me about Finland is that Finns drink the most coffee in the world, by weight, per capita. He then told me virtually all of this coffee is disgusting. It is, he described, light and weak, which is why they need to consume so much of it–that and the somewhat binary nature of their winters and summers, with brief twilights punctuating darkness and seemingly endless days of light strung together such that you (or I, at least, as a visitor) forgot that there even was such a thing as a dark night. The internet, of course, tells a different story, with pages, blog entries, reviews, and articles dedicated with love, appreciation, and a self-aware pretentiousness of the Helsinki coffee scene. Some of the best baristas in the world, they claim, are from Scandinavia. While, technically, Finland is not a part of Scandinavia, I think they are generally included in this statement. (Note: over 17 years of World Barista Championships, Norway has won twice, and Denmark three times.)

2010 estimates put Finnish coffee consumption at 12.33kg per coffee drinking Finn per year. (Keurig also cites this number (12kg) in marketing materials. Those are my efforts for confirmation.) More than 90% of this coffee (again, random internet article) is “light roast,” and Finnish coffee is considered to be some of the “lightest in the world.”

By comparison, the US drinks about 4kg per coffee drinking American per year. I couldn’t find something on the percent of coffee that is light, medium, or dark roast in the US, but I did learn that a medium roast is also called an American roast.

My experience with US coffee is fairly specific, based in hip, urban areas and my parents’ kitchen. Based on brief visits to gas stations and Wawas, beyond quantity, the US actually handles coffee similar to Finland–there is a “low bar” for the majority of coffee consumed, with “quality” (care or intention are likely better words) raising in cities, college towns, and other places where people Care About Their Coffee. Starbucks has led to a trend for darker roasts–producing a culture where Darker is Better. This is anecdotal, of course, but I feel as though small batch roasters began producing darker (and darker) roasts. More recently, this has begun to change (Stumptown, for example, doesn’t produce a really dark roast, and medium roasts are coming back into vogue), and we are slowly creeping out of these dirt colored beans to a brighter, smoother future.

Back to the story.

When I went to FInland, I was excited to become acquainted with Finnish coffee. I made a list of places I was interested in trying–based on reviews I found on various websites. Before I give some overall impressions, I want to give a bit of a disclaimer:

I’m kind of proud of my sense of taste. This is to say, for someone with only half a functioning tongue (my right half has been numb since a dental surgery in 2011), I can taste things surprisingly well. The start, the middle, the end, the aftertaste, the flavor in the tip of the tongue through the back of the throat. I can’t say anything -intelligent- or -educated- about flavor, I don’t have a refined palate (I, in fact, had to look up how to spell that correctly), and I am very, very easily overwhelmed. I can appreciate complexity and skill, I just don’t like it. My preferences are pretty simple, rather plain, and very childish. My favorite things to eat include cucumber and mayonnaise on otherwise plain bread, yogurt with peanut butter and bananas, and lettuce with oil, lemon, and pepper. And ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

It is with a heavy heart I must say that after going to three of the best cafés, one random place, and brewing my own, mass produced beans, I don’t like Finnish coffee. (Several of the places I wanted to go were closed–I’d like to try more.) Two of the places served beans from the same place.

I could appreciate the coffee, I could identify the interesting flavors in it, and tell you how it was supposed to be good, but I didn’t like it. It was just too dark for me. It was as though Finnish coffee-hipster culture responded to the state of most coffee being “some of the lightest roasts in the world” by burning the beans into a char.

Even sitting at home, with my own coarser grind, and pour over preferences, I find the coffee just too damn bitter.


Still, I almost liked a cappuccino (made with a medium espresso) at La Torrefazione–made with oatmilk and honey to cut through the bitterness. There are more places to try, roasters to consider, and experiments to conduct over coffee in and around Helsinki.


Subtitled: All My Heroes Are Women Because I Can’t Trust Men Not to Rape

I was at LibrePlanet in March when I realized that all my free software heroes are women. I am lucky among people from traditionally marginalized demographics: the people I respect the most in my field all look kind of like me.

A number of people I know are currently coping with the news that one of their heroes is a rapist.(1) Their reaction has, in its own way, been inspiring. They aren’t hiding from it, denying it or turning victims into liars as people have done countless other instances of sexual assault around the world. They aren’t abandoning the fight for digital rights, nor are they trying to separate the works from the individual, using philosophical and technological success as an excuse for horrible, horrible actions. My community is facing something difficult head on, accepting a harsh truth.

Heroes are important to us because we can share them with others. They inspire us and drive us and help us understand who we are, how we fit into our causes, how our causes fit into the world. My heroes give me hope that the world can be a better place and that I can be a part of it.

The world of digital rights has lost a hero. We have lost a hero who showed us he never deserved to be one in the first place.

We need new heroes. We need better heroes. We need heroes we can trust people who are good as well as driven and passionate and wildly unrepentant in their works. We need people whose ideals extend beyond their single cause, who truly live their values.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t want to be heroes. It takes a certain amount of egotism to not only share your own work, but to declare that your philosophies are so correct that everyone else should adopt them as well. Especially in front of a room of people (or the internet). However, the requirement of ego also puts some in positions where they believe they are entitled to things–including the bodies of others, regardless of consent.

This is true across disciplines–musical, academic, political, literary, business–my friends continue to find themselves disappointed when they learn that their heroes are rapists. These are men who use power, coercion, and even violence, taking advantage of their status and the respect given to them to violate, harm, and damage others in pursuit of their own personal and sexual satisfaction.

My heroes don’t do that.

Yes, I do know that women rape. I know that women rape women, and women rape men. I know that women take advantage of their positions. I know that men suffer as well. But, that does not in any way make my point less relevant. Significantly more men do this than women. As an absolute value and per capita.

I beseech my community to find new heroes. Find better heroes. Find people you can trust in not just their single cause, but their whole selves. Find people who are good. Find people you can be proud to admire. Find people who inspire you and who you can use to inspire others. If our heroes fail us, we need to let them go and replace them with people who deserve us.

Admire the strength of character that drove Chelsea Manning’s selfless actions. Acquaint yourself with the activism and powerful language of Cade Crockford and Evan Greer. Meet Shari Steele and her decades of devotion to extending our human rights to digital spaces. Look at the work and advocacy of Deb Bryant, Cindy Cohn, Sue Gardner, Leslie Hawthorn, Deb Nicholson, Allison Randall, Rainey Reitman, Karen Sandler, Runa Sandvik, Megan Smith, Parisa Tabriz, Yan Zhu, Marina Zhurakhinskaya, and so so so many others I can’t name them all.(2)

Let’s support their works and voices. Let’s be inspired.

(1) At first I thought I should say “allegedly” or “has been accused of” or something, but then decided against it. Take my claims at whatever value you want.

(2) Okay, here are some really awesome men too: Chris Webber, Matthew Garrett, MC McGrath, Ned Batchelder, Stefano Zacchiroli


I was asked: I’m a little confused about what you mean, are you saying you can only feel comfortable looking up to women because you can’t trust men?  

I thought about this for a while and realized that while there are men I look up to–John Darnielle and Chad Matheny are two of my music idols–I don’t feel as though I, in good conscious, tell anyone to look at a man as a hero unless I am actually confident in them not being rapists or abusers–which translates to “Unless I actually know and trust them.”