As soon as I decided to write an Ada Lovelace Day tribute to a woman in computing, I almost immediately stumbled across Lana Brindley’s post on computer engineer Barbie. It was a nice serendipity. This week Lana’s posts on technical writing were both inspiring and directly helpful in terms of supplying content to a textbook we are working on. (Honestly, I’m also hoping she is interested enough to help us make that chapter the canonical upstream for practical textbook-like instructions on how to technical write for FOSS projects.)
So I thought about doing a post on Lana, even though our paths have barely crossed. She’s a great writer, she brings passion and dedication to technical writing, and is an excellent advocate for FOSS documentation. Aside from being one of the writers on the stellar Red Hat content team, Lana has been recognized as a top FOSS writer.
She also wrote a post today that was sort of an Ada Lovelace Day tribute. It was about the Unicorn Law.
Often, when a woman joins an all-male technical environment, they will look at her strangely. They might try and pretend that she’s a bloke, that she’s just ‘one of the boys’. They might ignore her. They might make a few distasteful jokes and then get on with the job. But mostly, what happens is that a woman is noticed.
Had my own cross with the Unicorn Law recently. The law states, “If you are a woman in Open Source, you will eventually give a talk about being a woman in Open Source.” I didn’t learn about this law until after I had agreed to have my daughters talk at SCALE 8x about … being girls in open source. *sigh* It was a great experience for them, and I’m sure mainly good will come from it, but the whole realization that I had pointed them out as unicorns without even realizing it was disturbing.
Today I’m feeling that same way about writing this post. I wanted to write something, I decided I wanted to write about Lana Brindley because she is a woman in FOSS computing and works in a field near and dear to me. She seems to have come to her writer’s passion honestly and serendipitously. Reading about her life, I realize in many cases I could substitute myself in to her story, it has so many similarities, all the way up to seeing pictures of her plans to build a chook shed in her backyard where she gardens, grows, and consumes slow food. (Hey! Just like us! We have a chook shed, too, although we Yanks call it a chicken coop, and some of our hens prefer to lay outdoors. We have an urban farm with underground restaurants and pop-up events. Small world.)
I’m not sure if Lana meant the irony in writing about unicorns today, most likely she did. It has made my writing experience today all the more ironic. It’s nearly Midnight here in California, my last chance to either finish this post or throw it away. I set out wanting to give tribute to a colleague whose work has helped and inspired me, and now I’m feeling as if I’m also calling out her as an Other in just writing this!
Anyway, I’m confused, but that’s just me, I’m a newbie geekfeminist, this is not entirely an Ada Lovelace Day tribute, and thanks Lana for the words and wisdom.