Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

Value of Open Source

Last evening I was in Toronto for the “Value of Open Source” panel at the University of Toronto’s School of Computer Science. The panel was one of a series being organized by the Free and Open Source Software Learning Center (FOSSLC).

The evening was almost more of a conversation than a traditional panel, with moderator Andrew Ross letting the audience largely drive the discussion. But it was a lot of fun and the feedback afterward was very positive.

As an aside, Mark Surman of the Mozilla Foundation was there on the panel. Richard Dice of the Perl Foundation was in the audience. It hadn’t really occurred to me before, but the Executive Directors/Presidents of Eclipse, Mozilla and Perl Foundations are all Canadians. Small world, eh?

The most challenging audience question came from Greg Wilson of UT who wondered about the missing gender in open source: women. I’m not sure of the source of his numbers, but as I recall he said that about 1 in 7 CompSci undergrads are women, while only 1 in 200 active open source committers are. I found those numbers quite startling, although I have certainly heard about the issue before. Although I believe that we have more than 1/200 in the Eclipse committer community, I don’t think we have 1/7. (The Eclipse Foundation itself is 7/17 which is probably close to most small software companies.) Ironically, there is really no easy way for us to tell because gender is not one of the things we track in our committer records. I guess the question to our community is: should we? Is there something the Eclipse Foundation could or should be doing on this front?

Thanks to Andrew Ross and the folks at Ingres for organizing and sponsoring the event. Also, thanks to Karen Reid for hosting the evening.

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Written by Mike Milinkovich

April 24, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Foundation

10 Responses

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  1. [...] the original post: Life at Eclipse » Blog Archive » Value of Open Source This entry was posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009 at 1:29 pm and is filed under Linux, Software, [...]

  2. [...] News and Information added an interesting post on Mike Milinkovich: Value of Open SourceHere’s a small excerptLast evening I was in Toronto for the “Value of Open Source” panel at the University of Toronto’s School of Computer Science. [...]

  3. Sounds like an interesting panel! I think that it’s an important issue. We talk so much about company diversity at Eclipse yet when it comes to gender the numbers are dismal. It would be easy to find the number of active female committers at eclipse. Just generate a list of active committers with first name and last name and then count the female first names. They are usually pretty self-evident :-) I wouldn’t be surprised if less than 2% of committers are female.

    As Michelle and Greg’s paper suggests, the problems are complex and relate to culture, lack of female role models/mentors and educational choices.
    http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~gvwilson/articles/open-source-cold-shoulder-2004.pdf

    As a community, we can help introduce girls to computer science and engineering by volunteering at schools and engineering type camps similar to EXITE. http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ibmgives/grant/education/camp.shtml. These programs help middle school girls consider engineering as a career and thus take the right prerequisites for university.

    In terms of mentors, other open source projects have mentoring projects that encourage women to contribute to the community such as Debian women http://women.debian.org/home/

    I often wonder why there haven’t been any female keynotes at Eclipsecon. This site is a great reference of women available to speak on technical topics. http://www.geekspeakr.com/

    Kim Moir

    April 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm

  4. I don’t see why we shouldn’t track it, but then some people might think it’s invasion of privacy. Make it opt-in/opt-out and it’s easy to satisfy both camps. Could add this to the existing request to collect more personal info, http://bugs.eclipse.org/197728

    Nick Boldt

    April 24, 2009 at 5:46 pm

  5. @Kim – I particularly like the idea of trying to find at least one female keynote speaker for EclipseCon. Thanks for that. We have actually approached at least one or two in the past, but it just has never quite worked out. As for trying to discern the females from the committer names, that actually only sort of works. There are definitely Eastern European and Asian names that (for example) that do not fit the North American naming patterns :-)

    @Nick – I will take a look at the bug. Thanks for the pointer.

    Mike Milinkovich

    April 24, 2009 at 8:13 pm

  6. [...] Coralville Courier placed an interesting blog post on Planet Eclipse: Mike Milinkovich: Value of Open SourceHere’s a brief overviewLast evening I was in Toronto for the “Value of Open Source” panel at the University of Toronto’s School of Computer Science. [...]

  7. [...] Coralville Courier added an interesting post on Mike Milinkovich: Value of Open SourceHere’s a small excerptLast evening I was in Toronto for the “Value of Open Source” panel at the University of Toronto’s School of Computer Science. [...]

  8. Sorry I missed it, Mike. One small nit is that I’ve never heard anyone say “UT”; it’s most commonly referred to as “U of T”. Or “UFT” if you say it fast :)

    Andrew Overholt

    April 28, 2009 at 9:15 am

  9. [...] Another fellow blogger put an intriguing blog post on Life at Eclipse » Blog Archive » Value of Open SourceHere’s a quick excerptNews and Information added an interesting post on Mike Milinkovich: Value of Open SourceHere’s a small excerptLast evening I was in Toronto for the “Value of Open Source” panel at the University of Toronto’s School of Computer Science. … [...]

  10. [...] to do or change at Eclipse to encourage more women?  Kim Moir has already raised some ideas in comments on Mike’s blog.  Are there other things we could be [...]


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