Heavy Training

This isn't just a post about training hard in martial arts -- though it is about that -- it's about training hard when one is very overweight. In the past year, I've lost clothing sizes even faster than I've gained belt ranks, and thinking back on the process, much of it was non-obvious. So, tonight I'd like to collect some of my thoughts where they can be seen by other overweight martial artists and their teachers and ukes. If you can stand and walk, you can start training in martial arts. I spoke to my sensei last summer about two martial arts sessions I'd been asked to lead at a local nerdcon. I was having a major case of imposter syndrome, being only an orange belt[1] at the time and overweight to boot. Sensei chuckled and said he couldn't think of anyone better for the job. "As a general rule, the people who most need to study martial arts never will. Nobody in a room full of computer geeks and gamers is going to listen to a word I say, but you speak their language. They might listen to you." Sensei was right on both counts. The…

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The Drupal Support Gap

The Problem We lack a clear and inviting path from discovering Drupal and learning how to use it to becoming an active and productive contributor. As a result, our most active developers are plagued by the support demands of intermediate users who have outgrown the Drupal.org forums and don't know where to go. This effect is compounded both by our failure to attract and assimilate new highly qualified support-givers, and the myriad bad behaviors that newbies are learning in "newbie ghettos" such as the forums -- behaviors that make it difficult-to-impossible to adequately support them and bring them into the wider Drupal community. The Solution Phase out the Drupal.org forums in favor of a more straightforward Q&A format resource. Treat posts that resource as not just the answering of this question here and now, but building a useful searchable reference into the future. Be brutal in eliminating off-topic chatter and duplication (but as kind as possible in explaining why a question was closed) ala StackExchange. Provide easy gateways from that resource to more active participation in the Drupal community: IRC, issue queues, doc team, translation teams, GDO, etc. Improve the consistency of IRC and…

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Prerequisites

I was recently asked what one needs to know before becoming a Drupal developer. It's a tricky question, both because Drupal draws strength from the diversity of our community, and because it's hard to pinpoint the precise point where one becomes a dev. Below is my attempt at an answer; feel free to suggest additions or changes: The Basics Have Patience Rome wasn't built in a day, nor will your Drupal-fu be. Prepare for trial and error; it's part of life in the open source world. Speak Fluent English While Drupal itself has been translated for use in many languages, the lingua franca for development is English. English is spoken in the issue queues, on the [contributor IRC channel)(irc://irc.freenode.net/drupal-contribute), and at DrupalCons. If you don't speak, read, and write English fluently, you will miss out on most of what is going on, and you will never reach a high level of Drupal developer-fu. Use Drupal You might think this goes without saying, but we do get wanna-be devs who don't really grok what Drupal is or how to install it. It's not necessary to be an expert Drupal admin before your first issue queue visit,…

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Learn this--hacker culture is not optional

In the past couple of weeks, I've become increasingly aware of how much conflict younger open source projects I'm involved in have compared to more mature projects and projects run by folks with an extreme number of years in open source. Then I had to explain to my housemate who Donald Knuth is... ...and tell a fellow Drupalista what the Jargon File is... ...and define "grok" for a colleague from the XMPP community... ...and stifle a laugh while my 7-year-old tried to describe the wumpus to someone who should know better... ...after which I read Eric Raymond's recent post on the social utility of hacker humor. Then I grokked. In the projects that have been around for a dozen or more years, or those run by hackers who have been, there is a common culture and identity shared by all: we're hackers. Whatever else we are -- country bumpkins, urbanites, gay, straight, bi, male, female, transgender, a particular religion or nationality, old or young, single or married, parent or not, rich or poor -- we are hackers, and all we need to know to work together is that we share that cultural bond of hackerdom. In the younger…

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I usually don't write about feminism, but...

I rarely write about feminism. When I have, it has to point out the foolishness of pushing non-tech women into technology in the name of gender equality, and trying to obscure the ability gap by pressuring competent women to spend too much of their time with the incompetent ones. This time I'm writing about a brilliant article I came across on twitter (thanks @crell). The tech industry isn't closed to women, or girls for that matter. I was welcomed from the first day I wandered into the open source world, a self-conscious twelve-year-old farm girl with no feel for tech culture. The problem is that most 12yo girls don't feel like spending their nights in front of a computer screen and line after line of code. Jolie's article talks about what should be obvious, but no one talks about -- you can't raise a little girl with nail polish and baby dolls then expect her to magically become obsessed with tech at university. I'm sure my chemical sensitivities (which caused extreme illness when I was exposed to clothing stores, new clothes, make-up, etc) had something to do with my becoming a geek. Will all girls raised in a more varied…

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