Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CAST 2012: The Meta Stuff

If you follow my twitter stream, you probably know that I was at CAST earlier this week. You probably also noticed that I sprained my ankle a couple weeks ago, and am very whiny about it. More likely, you stopped following me when I whined too much about the ankle.

Overall, I really enjoyed the conference. 6 of the 7 Software Test Pilots at the Omni Group attended this year, so it was not only a great learning experience, but also an opportunity for team-building. This is a new priority at Omni (to try to always send people to conferences in groups), and I think it's working. I also got to renew friendships and acquaintances from past testing conferences. (I've been to PNSQC twice and CAST once before, if I've kept proper count.)

This year I felt more like a peer and less like a child in a room full of adults. I didn't just sit at the feet of gurus, soaking up knowledge. I listened, but I also questioned. Some threads I started generated several yellow cards, so I think they were interesting, perhaps even valuable. The main thing that made me feel like I was a respected participant, though, was when the facilitators called on me by name rather than number. (Or maybe they just found it easy to recognize my scooter?)

Attending the conference with "alternate mobility" was an interesting experience. I've got an ankle boot that I wear almost all the time -- a plastic and velcro contraption. Then I've got a knee scooter that I use most of the time. I learned a bit about what it might be like to live with a permanent disability.*

I had just gotten comfortable maneuvering at home and work, where I know my way around and feel comfortable asking almost everyone for help. Traveling to an unfamiliar place, surrounded by strangers, was kind of exhausting. Every phase of the trip took extra attention. Help the van driver fit my scooter in the van. Climb into the van without hurting my foot. Check with airline personnel that I could take my scooter all the way to the gate. Go through security with my scooter and brace. Get my scooter carried up an escalator because the elevator was broken. And that was all before I left Seattle.

My traveling companions offered a lot of help, and even politely carried my bags when I voluntold them to. The hotel and conference staff made reasonable efforts to help me, but aisles were narrow, hallways were crowded, and my scooter wheels sank into the carpet making it harder to get anywhere. I became very self-conscious and caught myself saying "Sorry" just about every other sentence at some points.

My obvious injury proved to be great at starting conversations. Unfortunately, all those conversations were pretty much the same: "What happened?" "Is it broken?" "How long will you be stuck in that boot?" I know everyone meant well, but I was about ready to start making up answers: "I scored the winning goal in a soccer game while rescuing a baby from a burning building." "It's not broken, but if I remove the brace, my whole foot will just fall off." "Oh, I plan to keep wearing it indefinitely. I've asked for a green one for Christmas."

I aim to follow this up with some posts about the actual content of CAST over the next few days.

*Please forgive and correct me if I'm not using the currently preferred term here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Baby steps into Open Source

"You should get involved in Open Source. It'll help you network, and practice your skills, and bolster your resumé. And we need more women in Open Source."

To which I think "Hmm... that sounds complicated, and I don't know where to start and I'm busy and I'll get around to it someday."

Well, Someday showed up yesterday afternoon. I'd like to talk about 2 reasons why I think Someday showed up, and then I'll tell you how it went.

The first reason Someday showed up is that I found something I wanted to fix and cared enough about to actually go fix.

"Today has been a prime example of why productivity should never be measured in lines of code! Spent hours just to *move* a line to fix bug." -- Me, on Twitter, yesterday afternoon.

I was using this library for some internal testing at work. The gem version worked, but the latest on GitHub was failing. (Hurray for test cases I could easily run against both versions, toggling back & forth!)

I don't think I would have spent so many hours puzzling over this code just for the sake of working on Open Source. I have to be solving some problem that I care about. (Or at least that I care about getting paid for!)

Once I committed the code to the subversion repository at work, I could have said "Done!" But this is when Someday's other reason kicked in. For months (years?) now, DevChix women have been encouraging each other to get involved in Open Source projects, for all the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this post. And emphasizing how easy it was. And not letting each other get hung up on whether our code is good enough or other silly excuses. All this came flooding back to me as I tried to move on to the next piece of work. I kind of HAD to at least look at GitHub and see whether I might want to give this change back to the original project. Just check and see how hard it would be. 

I set up a GitHub account, and walked through their guide for installing git locally, forking a repository, (making a local change), and sending the original developer a change request. All of that took only about an hour. One hour. Seriously. (One and a half, if you count the time to write this blog post.) 

Thank you, GitHub, for making it so easy to contribute to a project. 
Thank you, DevChix, for encouraging me to dip my toes in an open source project. This is me maybe helping encourage the next person. 
As for finding a project you care about, I'm not sure what to suggest. But when it comes along, please join in. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Status: 503

I don't blog much, so I don't have WordPress or my own domain or anything. Just this low-maintenance blog.

So I can't do a real blackout like Wikipedia or the other big sites that are protesting SOPA and PIPA. This post will have to do.

I respect intellectual property. My paycheck depends on people paying for software instead of pirating it.
I would not mind if piracy were greatly reduced. But these bills that the House and Senate are debating put WAY too much power on the accuser's side. If pirated content is made available on a site, the whole site can be taken down immediately. The service provider and anyone else using the service are immediately cut off from it. The service provider will lose ad revenue, or user subscriptions, and probably spend a bunch of time with lawyers, trying to get their service re-instated. And everyone who uses the service will be rather inconvenienced. The pirate, on the other hand, will probably just wander along to some other site providing a similar service, relatively unscathed.

Beyond this particular pair of bills, Congress has got to start understanding the Internet! It is not enough to know it's a "series of tubes". Either get educated, or start listening to people who DO know how the internet works.