ROSE Blog Interviews: Con-Techie.com's Kendra "Admin" Schaefer

Rikki Kite

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Sep 16, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

Con-Techie is a promising new site serving up geeky event news. Site admin Kendra "Admin" Schaefer shares her views on how the open source community should approach the growth of FOSS.

Q: Who are you?

A: My name is Kendra "Admin" Schaefer, abandoner of social networking accounts, surreptitious eater of last years' Halloween candy, FOSS graphic design advocate, and Ubuntu fan girl.

Q: What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?

A: Along with some extremely competent volunteers, I edit, administrate, and write for http://con-techie.com, a new open source conference directory and tech events blog.

Not to get too rah-rah-dead-Victorian-people on you, but when I think of open source, I think of Emma Goldman. She was feminist before they'd really sorted the word out, she had a lot to say about the social order of things, and she wrote an autobiography that makes me remember why I like reading in the first place.

She said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution". So I think, if I can't dance, I don't wanna be part of your software. Open source lets me jitterbug.

Q: You're speaking to a group of women from other fields who are considering switching careers. Why should they consider moving into an open source-related career? What should they know about the open source environment to prepare them for the transition from a different field?

A: Well, I'll be honest. As a woman involved with open source, you're in a unique position. You don't have to be the first one to take the leap, there's already a support network – several support networks – of other smart, involved women there for you. You also get to be a bit of a novelty. And as a novelty, you place yourself in a position to pull other women up, and in, with you. As a novelty, you get to set an example. Open source is a career where women can still find plenty of uncharted territory.

On the flip side? "Here be dragons." And you are, as they say, particularly crunchy and good with ketchup.

Q: You're speaking to a group of high school students (male and female). Why should they consider exploring career options in open source?

A: Oh, man, convincing a classroom full of teenagers to do anything except squelch around in their own juices is beyond me. Tell them that shooting your co-workers with Nerf darts is part of the job description?

I don't think the challenge there is to get high school students to consider open source as a job description, because the ones that are already into tech are going to sidle that way if they're so inclined, but rather to let them know that it exists, and help them understand it, so when the non-geek kids hear the words "open source" somewhere down the line, they can go "oh, yeah, I know what that is." Defining and making the concept less oblique and lets open source companies exert a bit more gravitational pull on young talent. ...Muahaha.

Q: What question do you wish I'd asked? And how would you answer it?

A: I wish you'd asked how I think the open source community needs to approach the growth of FOSS, to which I would say, You're never going to get everyone in the world excited about, and willing to devote extra time to, your project. I mean, if I could only get six people to join my "I eat ice-cream in winter" Facebook group, no one's gonna be interested in your open source "telephony platform." Hah. Go-getters hate to hear this, but really, people are very attached to their apathy, and a healthy, popular, stable community has systems in place that allows for people to be as
'meh' as they need to be.

So it's up to the people with an inclination for activism, evangelism, and nerdiness to push open source platforms and software to the point that they're so works-out-of-the-box, so push-button, so commonplace and so viable that they're the easiest, most sensible thing to reach for. I don't
think we're 100% there yet. Some projects are, but not all. But we're on the way.

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