Stormy’s update: Week of September 14th and 21st

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation, reprinted from the GNOME Foundation blog. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

I spent a lot of my last week communicating with lots of people. (At one point I had three IM windows open in addition to my email conversations and IRC and the phone rang!) I've captured the results of some of those conversations below. Hopefully the other conversations will also prove as productive soon.

Two one on one meetings with Brian Cameron who is the board member who works most closely with me on goal planning and results. (This is to alleviate any confusion from having seven bosses, to make sure things move quickly and to keep me from filling their email boxes any more than I already do!) In one meeting we went over the last six months and year's results. In the other we talked about current issues and plans for the next couple of weeks.

Board of Directors meeting. We held our regular board of directors meeting, you can find the minutes online.

Women's mini-summit. I attended the FSF's Mini-Summit for Women in Free Software. Unfortunately I was on the phone instead of there in person but there were several other GNOME women in the room like Marina
Zhurakhinskaya, Mairin Duffy and Leslie Hawthorn. We came out with some concrete plans for the future and a mailing list for everyone interested that's already active.

Interviewed with Bruce Byfield about the women's minisummit.

Had a conversation with an advisory board member who is not happy with us. (Working on the follow up to that.) Followed up with several advisory board members on payments. Four haven't paid 2009 fees. Two are in process. I'm worried about two. (But over all our last year of income/donations looks very good!)

Talked to several advisory board members about a new initiative one of them would like to fund through the GNOME Foundation. (We also got a proposal for a hackfest from an advisory board member!)

Reviewed German's excellent written summary and explanation of the 2010 budget. It's all ready to send out.

Got list of patents from OIN. Also got advice that it's not in our best interests to review them.

I attended and was interviewed on Linux Link Tech show.

Joined the Planetaria FOSS Women Planet that James Vasile set up. (I think it's an awesome idea. FYI, he modeled it after Planet GNOME.)

Worked on getting quotes for new advisory board member press release. (Quotes are never easy to get approved at big companies.)

Wrote Software Freedom Day press release.

Reviewed GNOME Travel Policy.

Had a couple of follow ups with Dave Neary and Vincent Untz about OSiM. Thanks to both of them for representing GNOME there. Thanks for Vinicius for making a GNOME Mobile member sign and to our GNOME partners that displayed them in their booths, Igalia and Codethink.

Proposed a marketing hackfest. There is interest, now we just have to figure out a time and a place we can all meet.

Proposed and got enough takers to do a women's issue of GNOME Journal. An issue written all by women about what they are working on in GNOME or about things they find interesting in GNOME. It'll come out in November.

Proposed that the a11y team branch out to non software conferences to spread the word about GNOME and how it can help people with accessibility needs.

Did some twittering on behalf of GNOME.

Proposed CiviCRM for a CRM system for the GNOME Foundation.

Followed up on 401K plan. Only step left is a signed document and a check from Rosanna.

Attended the GUADEC IRC planning meeting that Srinivasa Ragavan put together. Thanks to all the previous GUADEC organizers that attended – there was some really good information shared during that 2.5 hour meeting! Srini is going to post the logs.

Was disappointed that the invitation to GNOME to attend the 2nd International Symposium on Computers and Arabic Language fell through. Khaled Hosney, Seif Lotfy and others were working to make sure that GNOME was represented. It sounds like they are no longer interested in funding free software projects though. I think it still might be worth having someone from GNOME attend though.


Sent thank you's to everyone who donated to GNOME.

Helped with the promotion plan for GNOME 2.28.

And although I didn't do it, I think it certainly worth mentioning that GNOME 2.28 released!

Who do you represent?

Chris pointed me at this cartoon as a comment to my It's not about not offending post and I keep finding myself looking at it. 


I almost always feel like I'm representing a group – if not more than one group. When we lived in Alaska, I represented Caucasians. When we lived in Spain, I represented all Americans. When I go to software conferences, I represent all women. When I go to software conferences in Europe, I represent women and Americans. Talk about pressure to do a good job! It's probably not true that I'm always representing all those groups, but I really feel the responsibility to do a good job for everyone I represent, not just myself.

I have a friend who turned down a promotion to management partially because she realized that all women were being promoted out of technical positions and she was worried there would be no technical female role models left. (Which as a manager who'd been promoted out of a technical position, immediately made me feel guilty!)

It's good to know I'm not alone in feeling that I represent my cohorts. For my part, I'm going to try to think of people more as individuals and less as representatives of their various groups.

Related posts:

It’s not about not offending

When talking about women in free software or political correctness in general, we seem to focus on saying things that "don't offend" the minority group. But that's not what it's about. It's about saying things that encourage people to join your group, that send the right message and represent our values. While not saying things that send them away. The focus should be on making the message welcoming, not on making the message "not offending."

Showing a woman in a bikini in your ad may not offend any women, but will it encourage them to join your project? If you are looking to bring women to your project, not showing the woman in a bikini is the first step. The next step – and the much harder one – is figuring out what to do to show them they are welcome.

It's not about not offending, it's about understanding, encouraging, relating, being welcoming.

There are a lot of groups that I'm not part of. Most of them have not offended me. I just don't feel any pull to join them.

An example of this would be Amazon and the Kindle. One of the Kindle's biggest customer groups is women. And Amazon shows lots of women in its Kindle ads. They are all lying on the beach or by the pool relaxing. The women I know that use Kindles use them after their kids go to bed or in doctors' offices or while waiting at their kid's soccer practice. Amazon is missing a chance to connect to those women.

Where are we missing the chance to connect and encourage groups to participate?

Related posts:

7 ways not to procrastinate

While I've learned not to procrastinate, the truth is that I do procrastinate every once in a while. This isn't a post about why I procrastinate but rather how I deal with it. Here's how I deal with my own procrastination:

  1. Do the first step. Sometimes I procrastinate because the task is too large to even know where to start. "Publish a GNOME quarterly report." That sounds like it's going to be a lot of work, so I put it off until tomorrow. Once I realize I'm doing that I stop and think about what's the first step? Deciding what's in the quarterly report. So I do just that step and then define the next one.
  2. Redefine the scope. Some times a task is just so big or so hard, it's unlikely you are ever going to make time for it. "Research CRM systems." I had in my head that this was going to mean installing 4-5 CRM systems or getting live demos, writing up a huge list of features in a spreadsheet and tracking with CRM system did what, gathering requirements and mapping those to the features. So I didn't do it for a long time. I finally realized that I had been talking about it long enough that I knew what we needed and I knew what people recommended, so I should just write up a quick proposal to recommend the recommended CRM system and to verify it did what we needed.
  3. Do it poorly – or at least not as well as I'd like. I like to do things well, so if I don't know how to do something or think I won't do a good job, I put it off. Every once in a while, I realize there's a task I've been putting off forever because I'm afraid I won't do it well. Then I just do it. And I put it out for review some where and cringe when I think of people seeing the unfinished work. But it gets done. (And the feedback I usually get is that it looks fine.)
  4. Decide to do it as a favor for someone else. Another reason I procrastinate is because I don't think something is important – someone else asked me to do it. In those cases (when I realize that's happening), I either tell them I'm not going to do it or I decide I'm going to do it for them. Even though I don't think it's important, it is to them and so I do it for them.
  5. Don't do it. Sometimes I procrastinate because I've really decided not to do it. There are two reasons I might decide not to do a task:
    • Sometimes I procrastinate on things because I've subconsciously decided they aren't important. Crossing them off my list relieves my stress.
    • Give it to someone else. Some times there are tasks that others can do
      more easily or with more joy. I really wasn't the right person for the job. If I can, I give it to them to do. You can trade. For example, I do the laundry and the dishes and not much of the cooking.
  6. Hold something hostage. I've been known to say I'm not eating lunch until this is done. That usually works. (It's best to pick something that doesn't make somebody else wait for you!)
  7. Promise someone else. Often I'll tell someone I'll do it and by when. Then I feel like I'm letting them down if I don't get it done. (Be careful. Some research shows that by publicly commiting to do something, you might be less likely to actually do it. Something about you already got the kudos for good intentions so now you don't need to do the task.)

How do you deal with tasks you keep putting off?

Stormy’s update: Week of September 7th

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation, reprinted from the GNOME Foundation blog. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

Monday was a US holiday.

Met with a company interested in using Linux and GNOME. (Actually using it but not as much as they'd like.) They had a lot of feedback for us and we talked about ways that they could get that type of feedback directly to the projects. One of the main issues was knowing where to submit bugs. They submitted a lot of bugs to the Linux distributions. Then they'd be told to resubmit the GNOME ones to the GNOME project … it would help if we could just forward them along to the right place.

Talked about upcoming events at the GNOME Advisory Board meeting. Mario Behling and Emily Chen talked about the GNOME.Asia Summit. Daniel Siegel and Seif Lotfy talked about the Zeitgeist hackfest and John Palmieri talked about the Boston Summit.

Worked on 2009 waterfall chart and 2010 budget with German. It is now ready to share with the board of directors and then board of advisors and the Foundation list.

Talked to several people about OIN's announcement about purchasing 22 patents from Microsoft. OIN is supposed to post the actual patent numbers.

Talked to Willie Walker about GNOME accessibility.

Met with Ruthe Farmer from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. They do studies about women in technology and publish best practices for how to encourage more women to take technology jobs and to stay in them. They would like to do a study around women in free software. They have recently written a study about the Culture of Open Source Computing (pdf) that points to a lot of resources about women in open source and developer motivations in open source and you can find their reports online.

Sent thank you letters to people who donated to the GNOME Foundation during the week.

Started studying Ford Foundation website to understand what types of programs they give grants for and how we might find a good fit for GNOME projects.

Followed up with an advisory board member who hasn't paid 2009 fees yet.

For this week. This is not the list of all the things I have to do but rather what I want to do this week.

  • Board of Directors meeting
  • 1:1 with Brian Cameron about my goals and results
  • Send finances out to advisory board. (All ready to go – waiting on Board of Directors feedback.)
  • Work on requirements for a CRM system so that sys admin team can install one.
  • Follow up with potential sponsors.
  • Follow up on 401K plan.
  • Follow up with International Cooperation, the group in Gran Canaria working with developing countries.
  • Fill out (draft for) form for applying for a Ford Foundation grant and run by appropriate GNOME mailing list.
  • Make sure that plans are in place to have a new US event box and get it to Utah Open Source Conference.
  • Finish following up with advisory board members whose 2009 payments haven't come in yet.

Kindle 2 Covers

I have also reviewed covers for the latest generation Kindle 3.


I don’t normally write product reviews but I had such a hard time finding the right Kindle 2 cover, that I ended buying three covers before I found one I liked! And the one I ended up with is not the one I would have expected to like.

(As to why I was buying a Kindle 2 cover … my original Kindle’s screen broke – under warranty – and I used the opportunity to upgrade. However, the Kindle 2 is a different size than the Kindle 1 and does not come with a cover. So I also ended up looking for a cover.)

The Amazon Kindle Leather Cover is really popular but I didn’t try it because I really didn’t like the Amazon cover for my first Kindle.

I tried out three covers: the M-Edge GO! Jacket, the OCTO Faux Leather Slip Cover and the M-edge Latitude Jacket.

M-EdgeGO 1. M-Edge GO! Jacket (Genuine Leather–Smooth Mocha). This is the cover I had for my first Kindle and I loved it. So when I needed a new cover, I ordered this one. But it wasn’t the same as the Kindle 1 cover. The leather is not as soft, the binding is much stiffer and most important of all, it weighs 5 ounces more than the Kindle 1 cover! This cover feels like it weighs as much as the Kindle itself. And it does. The Kindle weighs 10.2 ounces and this cover weighs 9 ounces. That was a no go.

OCTO 2. OCTO Faux Leather Slip Cover. My next try was for something very lightweight but nice looking. This Octovo cover is sleek. It slips on over the Kindle, taking up no extra room, weighs practically nothing and it looks nice. If I always carried my Kindle in my laptop bag or a purse, I would go with this one. My one complaint is that you have to take it completely out of the cover to read it. (Then you have to stash the cover some where while you’re reading.) I almost kept it just for using on business trips when I stash my Kindle in my laptop bag. ~2.5 ounces*

M-edgeLatitude 3. M-edge Latitude Jacket. When I ordered the Octovo, I also ordered the M-edge Latitude Jacket. Just to see it. And I love it. (I had been looking at the Belkin neoprene but the reviews didn’t look good.) The Latitude is light weight. (Although not as light as the Octovo one.) It zips all the way around – protecting the Kindle completely. And it has a pocket on the front that fits my G1 phone and wallet. And a pocket on the back that looks perfect for a boarding pass. I’m not sure why I like it so much but I think it’s perfect for doing things like taking the Kindle along to a kid’s football practice or to a doctor’s office or to a lunch meeting you think someone might be late to.~5.5 ounces*

* Warning: all weights taken on an inaccurate kitchen scale that has been serving as a kid’s toy.

Which Kindle 2 cover or case do you like?

See also Gifts for the Kindle user that has it all.

Why you shouldn’t do it all yourself

One of the hardest things to learn in management is how not to do it all yourself. People often call this a problem with "delegation". But the problem isn't with telling others what to do. The problem is learning how not to do it all yourself.

I talked earlier about how my style is to Trust and Empower, but I didn't talk about why that's hard or even why I chose that style.

Why is it hard not to do it yourself?

  • Satisfaction.You do it well and it's always satisfying to do something well.
  • Kudos. It's hard to give up kudos. People have always told you how well you do it, and now you are supposed to let someone else do it. And you won't get credit. (Actually, I think managers do get credit for what their teams do.
    Their job is to make sure their team actually gets the credit.)
  • Quality. If you were the expert, it might be a while before someone else on your team learns to do it as well.
  • Speed. It might take a while for someone else to learn how to do it. And they might do it slowly for a while.
  • Urgency. The issue might not seem as urgent to the person you delegated to. You might have to remind them a lot, which takes time. (They might also be slow because they are afraid to start, don't have the right tools, etc.)
  • Your way. When you give it to someone else to do, they might decide to do it differently. It might not be the way you've always done it. The way you know is right. (And you might be right. Or they might come up with something even better. Who knows?)
  • Your time. Sometimes giving it to someone else to do can take longer than if you'd just done it yourself. (Coaching, helping, reminding, …)

Sometimes I feel like people think I should do more and encourage others less. The reason I don't do more (even though there are times I'd really love to just do it myself) is:

  • Growing the team. If I do it all myself (write all the press releases, lead all the projects, make all the decisions) then we will be constrained by what I, one person, can do. (And just getting information from everyone and passing it on to the right people would mean that'd I'd spend all day sending emails or in meetings.) By delegating, or recruiting others, and empowering them, we grow the team to be much more than me.
  • Better results. If I do it all myself people are less likely to give me feedback. If we do it together, we get more people involved, more skills, more feedback and we end up with a better result. (And I have no doubts we already have an amazing team that can do not only more work than I can, but lots of things that I don't know how to do.)
  • More results. Don't break what already works. For example, GUADEC is an excellent all volunteer run conference. There is no reason for me to step in. It's better for me to let others continue to do a great job and I can help with other things that may not be working so well. (I did offer to work with sponsors as the sponsoring companies had told me that it's confusing to be approached by multiple people throughout the year for different events. That's something I can help with and hopefully build into a process that is less time intensive … see the next point.)
  • Success. If I do it all myself, the GNOME Foundation will always need me. I hope to be part of the GNOME community for a long time but I think you do the best job you can when you work yourself out of a job whether it's because you solved the original problem or you automate everything. There's always more work to do, more problems to solve. You shouldn't be solving the same problems year after year.

Encouraging, empowering (and reminding) people takes a lot of time. The more you work to get
others involved, the less time you have left to just do it yourself. But in the
end, you end up with more done overall. And an excited, motivated, knowledgeable team that can do way more than you could ever do by yourself.

So Trust and Empower. And encourage and remind.

Stormy’s update: Week of August 31st

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation, reprinted from the GNOME Foundation blog. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

If you measure productivity based on what gets done (as opposed to how hard you work), this was a frustrating week.

What I got done:

  • Got a new advisory board member invoiced. (Well, Rosanna invoiced them, not me, but I helped make it happen.) Working on quotes for press release. (Didn't actually get any yet.)
  • Got some feedback on financial waterfall.
  • Followed up with end user looking to use GNOME and GNU/Linux and running into problems.
  • Continued to push for Q3 quarterly report to be done.
  • Pinged sponsors and potential sponsors.
  • Pinged people holding up 401K setup.
  • Pinged press team to get started.
  • Met with Denise to talk about how the customer success stories are going. 
  • Met with Keith from the Open Invention Network to talk about how OIN and GNOME could work more closely together. He's looking for the community to help find prior art and to be advocates for them.
  • Posted Friends of GNOME August results.
  • Blogged about Funambol grants.
  • Attended Board of Directors meeting.
  • Planned Board of Advisors meetings. Meetings will most likely be:
    • September – events (Boston Summit, GNOME Asia, Zeitgeist hackfest)
    • October – finances
    • November – updates from advisory board members on things they are working on (list to come later)
    • December – update on how the Oct/Nov events went and future events

Things to be done (and this is a short week due to the Labor Day holiday): (Feel free to suggest other things or to help.)

  • Work on 2010 budget with treasurers. (More urgent than it sounds as our fiscal year starts in October and companies are planning their budgets now.)
  • Send finances out to advisory board.
  • Make sure press team takes off and starts working on some tasks.
  • Work on requirements for a CRM system so that sys admin team can install one.
  • Follow up with adboard members who are missing payments.
  • Follow up with potential sponsors.
  • Follow up on 401K plan.
  • Follow up with International Cooperation, the group in Gran Canaria working with developing countries.
  • Fill out form for applying for a Ford Foundation grant.
  • … and a bunch more stuff that will have to wait until next week.


Don’t let others limit you

When given choices in life, remember that there are always other (unspoken) options.

Here's a recent conversation with my 3 year old.

Me:  Would you like milk or water with dinner?

3yo: Gatorade!

Me:  Milk or water?

3yo: Gatorade, please.

Me:  Milk or water?

3yo: Chocolate milk?

So next time you're asked which team you'd like to be on or which task you'd like to do or what hours you'd like to work, remember there might be a few options that aren't mentioned. For example, see 20 things you can negotiate in a job offer for some options available when you are considering a new job.

Stacks of books are disappearing

IStock_000003968639XSmall Cushing Academy is replacing its library with TVs, a coffee shop and 18 digital readers. Why? Because students aren’t checking out books.

I can understand that if they library isn’t being used, it’s time to replace it and use the space wisely. However, there seem to be several assumptions here.

  1. Students aren’t reading paper books but they’ll read the digital books. Or perhaps they are thinking those few people that check out books will be happy with the digital readers. Maybe that’s why they only got 18 readers when they have over 400 students.
  2. Students aren’t reading so just give them the media (TVs and computers) that they are following.

Across the United States libraries are changing. They are carrying fewer books and more digital and multimedia options. From my perspective, it looks like we are reacting to a trend without understanding it. I’d like to know:

  1. Are people still reading books? (Maybe they are buying them instead of checking them out of the library.)
  2. If so, where are they getting those books and why do they get them from other places?
  3. If not, are they using the computer instead of reading?
  4. If so, what are they using the computer for?
  5. If they are using computers instead of reading books, and they aren’t reading on computers, do we want to fundamentally change what our libraries do?
  6. Is the purpose of a library to provide access to books or access to information?
  7. If it’s access to information, what does a library offer over the internet? Access to the internet for those that don’t have it at home? Help interpreting or sorting all the information out there?

I spent a lot of time in libraries growing up. As a matter of fact, I spent hours in the Cushing Academy library. (My parents taught there several summers.) Although I still love libraries and actually considered a job as director of our local library a few years ago, I no longer spend any significant time at the library.

Why don’t I spend time in libraries?

  1. They never have the books I am looking for. I think this is the Long Tail at work. I now hear about a lot of very specific niche business books. There’s not enough market for my local library to stock them. By contrast I can order them from Amazon and have them delivered tomorrow. (Or order it on my Kindle and read it now, just like I used to do at the library.)
  2. When the library has the book I am looking for it is usually a best seller and there is a really long wait for it. Then when I get it, I have to go pick it up immediately and I have to read it within a week – and I might be in the middle of another book. It isn’t convenient. I can order it from Amazon when I want to read it, have it delivered tomorrow, and turn around and sell it.
  3. It isn’t convenient. My local library is very tiny and doesn’t have any books I want to read. The closest decent size library is over seven miles away. Their online catalog is way worse than and they won’t put a hold on a book on the shelves. So if the book is in the library, I either have to drive up immediately or hope that nobody else checks it out in the meantime. If it’s not checked in, I have to wait for it and then immediately drive up when it’s available.

I think we spend too much time talking about how our libraries are going digital and how books are going away without stopping to ask what we want from our libraries.

I think instead the world has divided into people with different assumptions:

  1. those that think everyone will read books digitally in the future
  2. those that think reading is going away and libraries should evolve
  3. those that think reading is going away and libraries need to keep books and encourage people to read

I don’t think we know enough to know what our libraries should do.