Flossie 2013

From the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

Before my brain gets overloaded with Pi jam stuff this weekend, I figure I better blog about last weekend.

Last thursday I headed off to London for Flossie 2013. FLOSS stands for Free Libre Open Source Software, and FLOSSIE is an organisation of women interested in and working on projects in this area. The conference was hosted at Queen Mary’s University of London, and sponsored by Google, BCS and a few other companies.

Before the lectures began I was introduced to Isabelle, who works at ARM and I ended up talking to a fair amount during the codesprint – we were originally going to team up, but as I really had no idea what I was doing ended up working on separate things.

I also met Maz, who was planning on starting a business and wanted her software to be Open Source but wasn’t sure on licensing, and Stefania who’s the founder of HacKIDemia which is an organisation which runs hacking workshops for kids, so we had a gossip about arduinos and electronics platforms throughout the day. This truly is what I love about these events – meeting all these unique people who do awesome jobs and seeing what’s out there.

The theme this year was Internet of Things which greatly interests me what with the electronics projects I have going on, and the keynote was given by Alexandra DS, the ex-CEO of Tinker London, the first distributor of the Arduino. She spoke about how these objects which are getting connected to the internet are always designed by a Computer Scientist with an interest in Product Design, and should be more collaborative with actual product designers, which to me applies to any area of building a product with an element of CS: software and hardware are always going to be in collaboration with a business, be it Engineering, Banking or anything else, and oft times requirements aren’t properly understood because the expert of that field isn’t involved enough.

Anyhoo, next I went to the Codesprint intro given by Dr. Cornelia Boidyruff (I don’t think that’s spelt right) who lectures somewhere in London I believe. The sprint involved contributing to FLASK, which I mentioned in another blog. The first day I spent a long time stressing over setting up python on my surface, and eventually set it up whilst at my friend’s house because I had other things to do the afternoon at FLOSSIE.

After lunch, I went to the Wearable electronics workshop which…meh. I was hoping for better? I didn’t attend the paid part of the workshop as the first half was on arduino, but stuff I’d already done, so I was kind of bored. It was a good beginner’s workshop, but I realise even on arduino which I’ve barely scratched the surface of…I’m sadly no longer beginner enough to enjoy a workshop like that.

Afterward, Google were holding a raffle in the main reception area – during the two days google had a quiz of brainteasers which I entered, and they randomly gave out prizes to people for entering, as well as to people who got good scores. Somehow, I managed to win a google laptop bag which is pretty sweet and I shall treasure for a long time to come, and afterwards spoke to the Google recruiter, Farrah, who recognised me from the Lovelace Colloquium and the blog I wrote back then, which was nice.

I then went back to the lecture hall for a while, saw a talk on Miss Baltazar’s lab…my opinion on this is…conflicted. The thing is, that whilst I attend women only events, I attend them because they’re an opportunity to network and it’s an opportunity I should take, that doesn’t mean if events came up, I found them and they were unisex I wouldn’t take them. I don’t think we should go so far as to excluding the majority gender in everything, it’s just that female oriented conferences make women more confident to turn up, knowing that they won’t be alone.

Anyway, Miss Baltazar’s lab is a feminist hackerspace organisation. I’m conflicted because I know that women only conferences help ladies become more confident, myself included, and there will be some women hackers who don’t feel comfortable in a hackspace: I’ve never felt this way. The hackspace community is stupidly awesome – you walk into a hackspace and see all these inspiring projects, ask people what they’re up to and they’ll happily talk to you for hours and with passion. You start your own project and they’ll jump over the tables to see it, talk about it, advise you and give you help where you need it. If they’re sociable enough to venture out into the wide world with their hacking, which fundamentally is often a solo kind of “sit in my basement” sort of thing, then chances are, gender doesn’t matter to them and they’re not nervous or going to crowd you for being the only girl in the room: they’ve grown up. The majority of hackers are lovely, helpful, sociable people and none of this makes me feel intimidated in a hackspace, I feel right at home every week, and this is even when I’ve not been for a month because I’ve not had time. I feel the same on my course, now, but I felt a little crowded in first year before people properly knew me well enough.

But…each to their own I guess, but sometimes things like this make me afraid we’ll go too far the other way and block out another gender. We have a long way to go before that happens, but still.

Anyhoo, after that there was a talk on QS (Quantified Self) which means tracking elements of our own bodies, like food intake etc. which was rather interesting.

Day two rolled around, and I spent most of the day with the codesprint folk now that my tablet worked, and finally contributed to FLASK. I went into the lecture hall to see a few different talks, which were on OpenStreetMap, a Brazillian academic social network, and several others that are slipping from my memory.

Overall, a good two days, and a great introduction to Open Source. I feel much more confident about submitting to Open Source now that I’ve done it in that atmosphere, and am hoping to contribute to MuseScore which is a composition program, and if possible, Adafruit’s WebIDE as there’s a few features I’d like to see in there and I’d be proud to say I’d done something like that.

Also good to have my tablet set up for python development…

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