Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Over the years, I've been a member of several different women's organizations. I'm sure you've all heard of the Girl Guides, but how many of you have heard of LinuxChix?

LinuxChix is an online community for women who like Linux and anyone who wants to support women in computing. It's global, and aside from one women-only mailing list, men are also welcome to join. It was founded by Deb Richardson (then in Ottawa!), who wanted to provide an alternative to the "locker room atmosphere" shown in a lot of open source projects at the time. There are only two rules: "be polite" and "be helpful."

While the focus is on Linux, lots of people talk about other free software projects, programming, women, knitting, starting a business, advice regarding bad colleagues ... whatever tickles their fancy! There are a variety of different mailing lists on different topics, as well as an IRC server, blog aggregator, and people even run courses online. Some are on the sorts of topics you might expect: Linux kernel hacking, LaTeX, networking... But one of my favourite courses was one called "Spineful living" which was about how to stand up for yourself. I don't think advice on how to be assertive ever been so funny!

I love that it's a global community, so often when someone asks a question, we'll get responses from people in different places saying "wow, [that dubious thing your employer asked] is an illegal question here!" or offering other bits of advice based on their very different cultural backgrounds. I also love that it's not all tech or all women all the time, so people can share other little victories in their lives, be it learning to bake bread, or figuring out how to fix a car.

And I love that having a friendly community has given a lot of our members support and encouragement when it comes to not only using, but also contributing to open source projects. Open source projects claim to be a meritocracy, but it's very easy to be too shy to contribute, or feel intimidated by heated discussions. And sometimes people just don't realise they have the skills necessary to contribute until they hear the great things other people have been doing! When more people can contribute to free software, everyone wins!

For more information on LinuxChix, please check out our website, go take a look at the LinuxChix mailing lists or maybe stop by IRC to chat with other 'chix!