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 open source…

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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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Protection vs. Preparation

A 7yo boy was kidnapped from someplace in Oregon. It's received the kind of coverage parents can only get when their missing child is cute enough to imply profitability to network news directors. During a one-year period studied by the DOJ (stat via missingkids.org), an average of 2,185 children were reported missing each day. Paring the news coverage down to the occassional poster child makes the subject more manageable, but it also gives the illusion that kidnapping is a rare occurrence. Commentary I heard today from parents I know -- really good parents -- was all along the lines of "I just want to hug my kids and never let them go" and "it makes me scared to let my children go anywhere". It's an understandable impulse -- as the parent of a kidnapped (and safely recovered) child, I certainly experienced the instinct to keep my child close at hand. Years later, I have an amazing and increasingly independent seven-year-old. He's got a year of formal martial arts training, and a lifetime of instruction on basic tactics. At seven years old, and as he grows up, Little Fish deserves both a little freedom, and the skills to deal…

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The Warrior Obsession

According to the latest ad for Kings Island amusement park, riding their roller coaster makes you a "ride warrior". I guess we can add it to the list with "road warrior" and "war on poverty". It's standard identity advertising -- that is, making people want something because they want to think of themselves as the kind of person who wants that thing. It's ridiculous, and it sells. There's a reason that the "warrior" image can sell Americans on just about anything these days, and it's a symptom of a real problem with some pretty terrifying results. There's big business in selling tactical gear to people who don't know how to use it, and convincing America that a thousand other mundane consumptions (roller coaster rides, taxes, etc) are empowering, but there's nothing you can buy or ride, and nothing that the government can take from someone else to give to you that will make you a warrior. Unfortunately, consumption is how mainstream America approaches life. The warrior ethos outright rejects passivity and non-responsibility. The warrior knows that with a trigger pull, a well-aimed slice, or a powerful strike, he or she can end someone's life. The resulting corpse will be equally…

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