This was my first time attending FOSDEM and my first time in Europe as an adult. Being able to attend this conference was very exciting because I got a whole new perspective on the Mozilla project's community outside of North America and I met many folks in the l10n community which helps remind me that there are people attached to the RelEng Buildbot columns. In my time at Seneca, my internship, and now as a full time employee of Mozilla I mostly interact with employees and contractors so it's really great to be around folks who aren't paid to do this and yet love it as much as I do.
It wasn't until the second day of the conference that it really started to sink in how the driving forces of community were very different across the ocean. People I met told me how they were involved with open source for political reasons, and one pointed out that he could watch TV or do something that mattered, so for him contributing to Mozilla was a way of doing something important. If more people in America put down the remote (or game controller) and followed suit, imagine how many new contributors we could have! I loved hearing that for some of our European contributors, their time spent on Mozilla projects isn't volunteerism; it is essential to their daily lives.
I suspect that coming from countries that have at some point been governed by autocratic or dictatorial leaders has spurred many free-thinking people to want to personally work on openness and freedom in many areas, but especially in areas relating to technology, where web browsers become an important tool for managing identity and privacy. It's activism, it's political, and it's one of the reasons I'm here too.
My early roots of activism looked a lot more like this:
Invigorating but prone to burnout. Being crushed up against riot shields and poked with billy sticks loses its appeal fast especially when police crowd control tactics get more and more violent with every protest. So now my activism is more about finding positive, measurable, and constructive ways to help people. Hopefully free of riot gear and pepper spray.
Enter WoMoz. For folks who don't know, WoMoz is a new group in Mozilla aimed at increasing the visibility of women at Mozilla as well as increasing the number of women contributors. The main reason I attended FOSDEM was to participate in two days of planning sessions with other WoMoz members in order to lay a road map for the rest of this year. Up until now the WoMoz participants have only interacted through IRC, wiki, and mailing lists. It's nearly impossible to get a decent big picture that way, let alone get to know each other.
In the next couple of blog posts I'm going to write up my thoughts and ideas about directions that WoMoz can take and my goals for this project. I'll also post a quick 'n dirty video I've made featuring some of the women in open source that I met at FOSDEM.