Tag Archives: thoughts


How much does it cost to get dinner for 200 people? Someone estimated $10k, which seemed ridiculously high to me, but it comes out to $50/per person. I can easily spend that on a nice night out with friends. With a salad, dinner, and dessert–coffee and wine to our hearts’ delight–$50 no longer seems that unreasonable.

Tampons cost about $0.20/each. A tampon dispenser runs about $750. One of these stores about 50 tampons. Assuming you have to refill it periodically (let’s say it costs a generous $20.00 to have someone refill it), we get:

[20*(tampons/50)] + 750 + .20(tampons) = 10,000

Which, I think, comes out to about 8,400 tampons.

In a typical menstruation period, people use about 20 tampons. This $10,000 could provide tampons for an estimated 420 cycles.

Why are we using tampons? Access to tampons is a huge issue for the homeless.

In some ways, 420 cycles doesn’t seem like a whole lot–there are more homeless people menstruating in any given major US city right now.

Food scales pretty well, when looking at spending $10,000. GenerationOn estimates that this could buy 40,000 meals.

Massachusetts gets reimbursed $3.16 per meal by the federal government for free student lunch. This $10k could also get us about 3,160 school lunches in MA.

I enjoy getting nice, free dinners with my friends. The networking is cool, but I really like just sitting with the people I like, talking about things we care about, and not having to pay for dinner on an already expensive trip.

I’m not saying we should stop having speaker dinners at conferences. Nor am I condemning spending money for fun, or calling these things frivolous. My roommate, in response to the avocado toast debacle, and someone calling her out on drinking expensive lattes, argued that the joy she gets from those things is sometimes something she needs to deal with all the stress of living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States.

I do think we need to consider whether this is the best use of the $10,000, and if instead we should be doing something else. It’s unlikely that any major tech company would be interested in buying tampons for a bunch of homeless women or lunch for a bunch of students–the ROI on it is pretty insignificant compared to the overall industry benefits of building a strong, more connected community of “thought leaders” in technology.

But sometimes, as I turn down the piece of cheesecake someone already cut and plated for me, as I ask the waiter for another bottle of wine for the table, or as I play with the little card announcing to the organizers that I am a vegetarian, I wonder if it’s the right thing for me to be at this meal.

quick thoughts (on free software)

Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself recently about free software. I don’t check the comments (I should just turn them off) due to spam. Feel free to e-mail or hit me up on IRC, social media, etc, if you want to chat more.

I have some intuitive answers to these questions, but will refrain from listing them, as so not to affect your first thoughts.

Are we making the right policies?

One of the things we emphasize when we talk about free software is community. We emphasize the creation of policies (community guidelines, anti-harassment, etc) in order to manage this. Frequently, these policies are based around the work of organizations like Geek Feminism, the Ada Initiative, and Outreachy.

In general, I think these policies are effective. There was a drop in use of slurs/offensive language on the Linux Kernel Mailing List after the institution of a community policy. But, I wonder what they need to cover, what they should include, and what vulnerable people need from these policies.

Are conferences good?

Unsurprisingly, my instinct to this is yes. I go to them, I speak, I hang out with my friends. I organize them, I feel good watching a room full of people chatter, I hang out with my friends. People enjoy these events. Some of us attend a lot of them. We rack up airline miles, hotel points, and spend good will to find couches and guest beds in exciting locations all around the world.

Is having so many–and attending so many–a good use of our resources? Should we be focusing on other things? If so, what should we be focusing on? Conferences are expensive and not only have a lot of the same speakers, but the same topics discussed.

Where should we draw the lines between fun and work?

Free software is the majority of my life. Even when I’m not in the office, I spend most of my time “working.” I put finger quotes around that because I don’t get paid for the emotional, organizational, and intellectual labor I put into free software outside of the ~40 hour a week I give to my employer.

My employer benefits from this. Is this fair to my other coworkers? Is this setting a bad precedent, in terms of the labor expected from my employer? Is this unfair to myself?

Is it fair to use my roommates’ Amazon Prime account or have someone else order an Uber or Lyft?

I am a staunch believer that Amazon is an evil company and try to use them as infrequently as possible. This is increasingly difficult as they take on more of a market share and hide their involvement in other fields. Still, we’re watching Legion in my house.

Uber and Lyft, in addition to being problematic in other ways, are pieces of proprietary software. Is it fair to expect other people to use proprietary software to make my life easier? I’ve switched from ride apps to taking cabs (more expensive). Can I expect this from others, who might not be able to afford it?

Do we need to have women in technical roles?

Through questionable survey and statistical practices, I say with a medium level of confidence that, among a set of women and among a set of men, a higher percent of individuals from the set of women are participating in community organizational and administrative activities than within the set of men. Incidentally, individuals who identify as enby or trans (that is to say, their trans status is a significant part of their identity) participate in technical and non-technical activities equally.

Are drones still an issue even if the software is free?

Yes. But, it’s not that simple. This question is really about what still isn’t okay, even if it’s free, and why it’s not okay.

Am I more interested in advancing user freedom or my own relevance?

This is a question we should all be asking ourselves.