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EuroPython 2015: Django Girls Workshop

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We are happy to announce that we will be hosting a Django Girls Workshop during EuroPython 2015. It will take place on 20th of July, the first day of the conference.

We believe in the work that this group is doing to bring more women into technology, and we will work towards making EuroPython 2015 enjoyable and welcoming for these beginner programmers.

The workshop is free of charge and you must register through their registration form; some financial aid for travel to Bilbao can be provided. The application process closes on May 31st, 2015.

The workshop is organized and coached by volunteers. If you or your company would like to contribute by sponsoring, coaching, or any other help you can provide, please email the organizers at bilbao@djangogirls.org.

Check out their website for more information: http://djangogirls.org/europython2015/


Enjoy,

EuroPython 2015 Team

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pfctdayelise
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Nothing is more indicative of a bullshit job than the interview

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Technical interviews, as they stand, are at best a proxy for finding people exactly like the interviewer and at worst part of the systematic discrimination plaguing tech.

We have very little idea about what makes good code, so it should come as no surprise that we have little-to-no idea how to find people who are good at coding, along with the dozens of complementary skills. Tech interviews boil down to finding “people like us” and a quick glance amongst any startups team page should confirm this.

Along with finding “cultural fits”, there is nothing more terrifyingly common than an interviewer trying to trick you, in order to show how clever they are. Interviewers love algorithmic puzzles, even though they are not indicative of the work at hand.

Aside: The Wason selection task is one simple way to demonstrate that the framing of a problem determines the ability of people to solve it.

In one interview I had, the lazy interviewer forgot the problem he’d googled five minutes before the interview, stumbled through it, struggling to remember the tricky parts I was meant to guess.

Other asinine things I have been asked in interviews include guessing “how much teflon is there in the world” (and they didn’t like it very much when I challenged them on the relevance of the question). I’ve also been sent a dodgy, pirated, 300 page pdf of interview techniques to prepare for a Google interview.

Despite being asked to reverse a linked list in almost every interview i’ve had, I have only ever used linked lists for two things: a) computer science exams, and b) interviews by people who passed the former.

Sometimes algorithms are indicative of the work at hand — natural language parsing, numerical methods — and sometimes a simple algorithm is used as a filter to check you can actually implement a simple, specified problem.

However, asking questions which require a trick to solve correctly only serves to filter out candidates who have heard of the trick before.

Most developer jobs require applicants to come into an office conference room and answer puzzle-style programming questions on a whiteboard.

There are entire books full of strategies for whiteboard interviews. They list the types of questions you’ll get & give sample solutions.

These books are for developers, & they exist because whiteboarding is a skill completely separate from actual software development.

I mentor students at several coding boot camps. Every single school teaches “whiteboard skills” as a distinct unit.

They teach it separately because whiteboarding is a skill completely separate from actual software development

From @sarahmei’s excellent series of tweets

The amount of bullshit questions you are asked in the interview is directly proportionate to the bullshit in the job. Places with interesting puzzles to solve can and will rely on your intrinsic motivation to put up with their dysfunctional and toxic environments.

I really wish Liz Rush’s amazing “On Interviewing as a Junior Dev” was around when I was starting out—It took me forever to realise that interviews are as much about you judging the company, as they are about the company judging you.

I know being able to pick your job is a privilege few have, and I’ve fallen into a number of toxic jobs to keep a roof over my head and food on my plate, but maybe I wouldn’t have started a job with the naïve belief that the interesting work would save me from burning out.

In the end, you shouldn’t look for jobs where just the technical problems are interesting, but also for ones where the people are friendly—the work you do is more likely to change than the culture you work in.

Don’t forget: the correct answer to “How do you reverse a linked list” is “Thanks for your time but I’ll see myself out”.

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Theorizing the Web, Day 1: cache flow & code queering & racial standpoints & magic & music & concrete dust

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'The concrete is great here' - @craigdesson

‘The concrete is great here’ – @craigdesson

Theorizing the Web has been fascinating, but a bit of a shock to the system after AdaCamp. TtW is gloriously DIY, which has a lot of benefits: it’s particularly great to see an academic(ish) conference that’s open to activists and artists, and not hideously expensive to attend. I did miss the efforts AdaCamp went to in building a safe and inclusive space (including having a clear photo policy, pronouns on badges, and marked walkways for accessibility) – TtW has an anti-harassment policy, which is a great start, but I’d love to see a few more active steps around publicising and extending this policy.

As usual with events like this, I’ve tried to summarise a few of my notes for those who couldn’t make it (and Future Me), but I strongly suggest you check out the program, tweets, and livestream for the conference: there were so many great sessions I couldn’t go to, and of course my notes have been edited down (and tend to get shorter and shorter as the conference progresses).

The first session I went to, Cache Flow, kicked off with Zac Zimmer’s historical perspective on Bitcoin, linking the economic, environmental, and social impacts of sixteenth-century silver mining in the South American region of Potosí with Bitcoin. Zimmer pointed out that the ideology behind Bitcoin reveals a very particular (and circular) understanding of currency: Bitcoin is modelled on gold (and therefore scarce, and increasingly difficult to mine) because gold is seen as an archetypical currency, and gold is seen as an archetypical currency because it is scarce and increasingly difficult to mine. At the same time, this model demonstrates a lack of awareness of the environmental and social externalities involved in mining, which was horrifically destructive in Potosí.

Tardigrades: remarkably well-adapted to capitalism, unlike humans.

Trebor Scholz lightened the mood briefly by opening his talk, “Okay, tardigrades”, and pointing out that these microscopic animals are much more well-suited to the rigours of capitalism than us unsteady, exhausted humans. Scholz outlined some of the ways in which digital technologies are allowing for increasing surveillance and atomisation of workers, from Amazon warehouse workers fired for spending a few minutes standing ‘inactive’ to the Mechanical Turk. Online platforms become digital bottlenecks for insecure and precarious workers. Scholz ended by outlining some of the ways in which we might “rip out the algorithmic model” at the heart of the ‘sharing economy’ and make something different, taking the corporate mediation out of the picture and using apps or other digital technologies to build worker-run and/or unionised alternatives. Examples to check out include: Turkopticon and the Transunion car service in NYC.

Next up, Andrea Hunter talked about crowdfunding, Crackstarter, and changing journalistic norms. She argued that while many journalists are trying out crowdfunding, this isn’t a sustainable alternative to funding problems in the long term. Crowdfunding requires negotiating new ways of engaging with funders/audiences, and new ways of trying to preserve autonomy while building this engagement. Many journalists currently using crowdfunding are hoping to use it as a step towards setting up new arrangements with advertisers (based on crowdfunding as evidence of a substantial audience).

Finally, Reubenn Binns explored the idea of selling our own data as the answer to our privacy concerns. This talk raised some thought-provoking ideas about how we respond to and resist the incredible levels of data-gathering taking place today, often with the goal of more effectively marketing at us. He argued that while selling our data ourselves can be tempting, doing so undermines our autonomy (as it gives marketers tools with which to more effectively manipulate our desires). However, in doing so he referred to a set of goods and services which it is ‘inherently morally problematic’ to exchange, citing sex work along with voting, indentured labour, selling organs, and other examples – this reference to sex work as inherently problematic (and particularly the reference to sex work as ‘prostitution’) wasn’t necessary for the argument, and has many fierce critics.

The second session, Code Queering, open with Dorian Adams and Steven Losco‘s discussion of ‘Viral Martyrs: Gender Identity, Race, and the Digital Construction of Victimhood’. They argued that allies and media brought attention to the 2014 suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn while violence against so many trans people of colour is largely ignored in part because she was white, young, middle-class, and from the suburbs, and her parents could afford conversion therapy. This mean coverage and support for Alcorn “did not require acknowledging existing networks of domination beyond a bounded notion of transphobia”. In contrast, despite the fact that trans people of colour (and particularly Black women) make up 70% of LGBT-related murders in the US, public attention to these victims limited, with media coverage frequently misgendered them, and either implying or explicitly referring to a real or imagined history of sex work.

Max Thorntorn continued the discussion of trans issues, beginning by noting that Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note talked about being isolated from her online communities by her parents’ confiscation of her devices. The Web, Thornton argues, can become a prosthesis for trans people, not just in the sense of extending or supplementing the self, but also in a more transformative way. Social media accounts and online communities can offer trans people who are not able to safely come out a space in which they can explore their identity, and be recognised by others. The web doesn’t just extend the borders of the self, it dissipates them (we are all cyborgs now). This encourages us to divest ourselves of the fallacy of the discrete, atomised, individual self. Thornton argues that this isn’t just theoretical: we need to take trans people’s gender identities seriously, which means recognising that a laptop and wifi can keep people alive.

Next, Chelsea Summers (standing in for Fuck Theory) talked about gay cruising apps. She/they argued that while common understandings of cruising apps tend to create a binary between cruising online and cruising in person, the actual shift is from a mode of cruising in specific times and places to constantly and ever-presently cruising.

Hatsune Miku, who appears in an Oculus Rift game as a live-in girlfriend.

Hatsune Miku, who appears as a live-in girlfriend experience using Oculus Rift.

Finally, Dorothy Howard talked about gynoids and geminoid: falling in love with machines. She asked why, when we think about robots and AI, we’re usually asking questions about whether we’ll lose our humanity, rather than about the new forms of intimacy we might be creating? How do algorithms change love? And how, when we think about loving machines, might we explore issue of intimacy, social function, and alienation. (For those interested in these issues, I also recommend my colleague Eleanor Sandry’s Robots and Communication.)

The Racial Standpoints panel was in one of the upper rooms with pretty poor acoustics, so please excuse brevity/errors in my notes. Kyra Gaunt opened by dedicating her work on ‘The Bottomlines Project: YouTube, Segregation and Black Girls’ to Jaime Adedro Moore, who was involved in one of the original YouTube twerk teams and was murdered in 2014. Gaunt and her students have found and watched over 800 hours of twerking videos by black girls on YouTube. She notes that as twerking (which comes out of a number of different African-American and African dance traditions) has become more popular, there are more white girls sharing twerking videos online. Videos by white girls tend to get more views, and more supportive comments, than those by black girls. Perhaps most worryingly, videos by black girls are often posted by older white male users, and/or might share identifying information or receive comments from men trying to make contact with the dancers. Gaunt notes that there are some important ethical issues with this research, including how to present it without revealing information about the girls themselves.

In the next presentation Julia Michiko Hori discussed the ways in which TripAdvisor reveals (or conceals) the relationship between tourism and traumatic histories. Reviews on the site unmask both an anxiety about, and the banality of, systemic historical erasure. Even those who are engaging in ‘cultural heritage tourism’ often post about their experiences within a colonialist framework, in which they are explorers overcoming the challenges of mosquito bites, uncovered food, and overpriced gift shops. These reviews reveal a desire for all places to be welcoming to (Western) tourists, no matter how historically hunted they are.

The Facebook Demon, @lpromeranthro

The Facebook Demon, @lpromeranthro

Louis Philippe Römer‘s Caribbean Visions of Digital Dystopia looked at Facebook demons and trickster prostitutes. He opened by reviewing the history of the Caribbean as the ground-zero of european colonisation, and talking about the ways in which this has shaped ICT infrastructures in the Caribbean today: telegraph networks integral to colonial trade have been replaced by internet cable networks. This
has enabled rapid adoption of internet and other ICTs in the Caribbean. However, at the same time there’s often little support for, or recognition of, a local manifestation of Web communities: Facebook, for example, doesn’t even recognise Curaçao as a location.

Mikhel Proulx closed the session talking about ‘Digital Natives: Indigenous Cultures on the Early Web’. He opened with an acknowledgement of the Native history of Manhattan (the only acknowledgement of country I’ve heard at a North American conference, as far as I can remember). Proulx spoke both about the colonialism embedded in many Internet spaces (such as the resonances in browsers ‘Explorer’ and ‘Navigator’), and of early attempts by Native artists in particular to make room for indigenous perspectives online, including on CyberPowWow and the Zapatista’s Internet presence.

"five golden seals engraved with astrology charts for spy agencies, if you are into that" - @lifewinning

“five golden seals engraved with astrology charts for spy agencies, if you are into that” – @lifewinning

I was quite curious to see what Magic, Machines, and Metaphors would be about, and it turned out to be a fascinating exploration of the overlaps and disjunctures between how we think about (and practice?) magic and technology. I really can’t do justice to the beautiful, rambling, conversation here, and I recommend checking out the tweets from the session. Participants Ingrid Burrington, Melissa Gira Grant, Karen Gregory, Damien Williams, and Deb Chachra invoked magic as a metaphor for structures of power, but also for resistance. Williams spoke of both magic and technology as systems that are unknown to us, unworkable to us, unless we take the time to become initiated, and Chachra pointed out that for technology, that process of initiation is often made pointlessly difficult in ways that exclude many people.

Chachra has no interest in making technology seem like magic, making it more arcane and inaccessible than it already is. Burrington talked about how this technology-as-magic frame is simultaneously criticised by the crypto community (“crypto’s not magic, why don’t people use it properly?”) at the same time as many people imply that they’re wizards in the area. She also did a cool project looking at the NSA and the occult after seeing an astrology magazine doing star charts for Snowden and the NSA as a lens to talk about surveillance. “What does it mean to make a star chart for an institution? You have to give it a birthday for a start.” That might seem ridiculous, she says, but at the same time it makes about as much sense as killing people based on metadata.

I also liked the efforts to think through relationships between magic and capitalism. Karen Gregory’s work on Tarot practitioners tracked ways in which this was often a response to being pushed out of a precarious economy, with Tarot becoming a means of survival. Magic as a means of survival and resistance can take many forms – Burrington’s mention of bots as a way of conjuring familiars made me think of this recent anti-troll campaign, or heartbot. At the same time, we can’t forget that capital is always seeking expansion and enclosure, so talking about magic (or otherwise exposing our spaces of resistance) is always risking their commodification.

This linked in with discussions about anglocentrism and appropriation: what does it mean that many of the magical traditions that we draw on are so Western? What does it mean that when tech culture draws on other spiritual traditions, it often does it in ways that are appropriative, or about turning them into tools for productivity?

The keynote to wrap day one focused on Music and the Web. I admit I was a little exhausted at this stage and so I’m not going to try to draw on my rather-incoherent notes too much: again, I highly recommend checking out tweets from the session. Participants Sasha Geffen, Gavin Mueller, Robin James, Reggie Ugwu, and Naomi Zeichner brought up some great points about the changing nature of celebrity and fan labour, and about how social media is shifting practices around not just the sharing of music, but also how it’s composed and produced.

A panelist's view of Theorizing The Web - @mollycrabapple

A panelist’s view of Theorizing The Web – @mollycrabapple

If you’re just tuning in, don’t forget that you can follow Theorizing the Web on twitter, and the  livestream. There’s a bunch more cool stuff in the program, too!


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"When you think of what constitutes English, or French, or any other language, you probably think of..."

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When you think of what constitutes English, or French, or any other language, you probably think of books. You think of dictionaries, grammars, AUTHORITIES that tell you what the language is and isn’t.

But I’m here as a linguist to tell you that’s not what language is. Language is an open source project. Well, each language is its own open source project. And we’re all contributing to them all the time.

In fact, if you ask the dictionary-makers they’ll tell you the same thing. We’re the ones who collectively decide whether a word lives or dies – the dictionaries are just a record of how people are already using language. They’re help documentation.

But just because something’s open source doesn’t mean that everyone is equally welcomed to muck about in the source code. When you think about which types of language, which dialects are considered powerful, educated, correct, standard, proper, you’re not talking about any inherent features of the language itself. I can tell you that linguists have NEVER found this.

The prestigious forms of a language are really just those that are historically spoken by people who already in power. And if you think someone’s speech sounds dumb, or uneducated, or sloppy, or inarticulate, it’s because we as a society think the same thing of the people that speak it.

But both languages and open source projects are better when all kinds of people are contributing. Remix language!



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“Language is open source” (Text of a 90-second lightning talk I gave at AdaCamp Montreal)

For more on the lexicography point, see the TED talks of Erin McKean and Anne Curzan

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pfctdayelise
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(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

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(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻:
Women are leaving your tech company because you don’t deserve to keep us around. […] Fuck that, we’re done. It’s not us, it’s you.
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wmorrell
5 days ago
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Flipping a table seems a measured response compared to some of the misogyny I have seen (not to mention the multitude incidents that were carefully hidden from view). Flip on, my people.

The Quinoa Economy

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Within the last decade, the grain quinoa has emerged as an alleged “super food” in western dietary practices. Health food stores and upscale grocery chains have aisles dedicated to varieties of quinoa, packaged under many different brand labels, touting it to be a nutritional goldmine. A simple Google search of the word returns pages of results with buzzwords like “healthiest,” “organic,” and “wholesome.” Vegan and health-enthusiast subcultures swear by this expensive food product, and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) even declared the year 2013 International Year of the Quinoa, owing to the grain’s popularity.

The journey of the grain — as it makes it to the gourmet kitchen at upscale restaurants in countries like the United States — however, is often overlooked in mainstream discourse. It often begins in the Yellow Andes region of Bolivia, where the farmers that grow this crop have depended on it as almost a sole nutritional source for decades, if not centuries. The boom in western markets, with exceedingly high demands for this crop has caused it to transition from a traditional food crop to a major cash crop.

While critical global organizations like the FAO have been portraying this as positive, they tend to discount the challenge of participating in a demanding global market. Within-country inequality, skewed export/import dynamics, and capitalist trade practices that remain in the favor of the powerful player in these dynamics – the core consumer – cause new and difficult problems for Bolivian farmers, like not being able to afford to buy the food they have traditionally depended upon.

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Meanwhile, growing such large amounts of quinoa has been degrading the Andean soil: even the FAO outlines concerns for biodiversity, while otherwise touting the phenomenon.

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While efforts have been put in place by farmer unions, cooperatives and development initiatives to mitigate some negative effects on the primary producers of quinoa, they have not been enough to protect the food security of these Andean farmers. Increased consumer consciousness is therefore essential in ensuring that these farmers don’t continue to suffer because of Western dietary fads.

Cross-posted at Sociology Lens.

Aarushi Bhandari is a doctoral student at Stony Brook University interested in globalization and the impact of neoliberal policies on the developing world. She wants to study global food security within a global neoliberal framework and the world systems perspective.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

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pfctdayelise
3 days ago
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And what does "Increased consumer consciousness" mean precisely, "don't buy quinoa" or what?
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effingunicorns
4 days ago
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And that's why I'm not bothering to even try quinoa.
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