On January 14, I attended the AdaCamp unconference at the CERES Community Environment Park. Adacamp is run by the Ada Initiative, “a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing participation of women in open technology and culture”. The sessions I attended ranged in topic from a holistic view of the philosophies of open computing and culture, through to a discussion of online and offline community and event management, and how to get more young women interested in working in IT. The attendees came industry, research, and that wonderfully nebulous in-between land where their geek cred is established after hours, and their day job is as boring as Clark Kent’s. The unconference model meant the day was relaxed and people were able to be creative and inspired in interactive sessions.
I was eager to lead a discussion about my PhD research topic, girls creating media on social networking sites and personal homepages. I hoped to get inspiration for how I think and write about how girls manage their personal data on social networking sites like Facebook, and how commercial interests can be at cross-purposes with the girls’ social and emotional needs. Well, I certainly got that inspiration - and a whole lot more throughout the day. I was fascinated by the potential clashes between how open movements usually work, and methods to improve women’s participation rates in IT. I empathised in the discussions about how important mentoring is in the IT community, and how difficult it can be to obtain when people rely too heavily on a DIY mentality. I even learnt about how the radio industry works in Australia, and how learnings from it can help us think about empowering and educating young people interested in working in IT.
Adacamp was the first event of the Ada Initiative, and based on the calibre of the attendees, the quality of conversations, the extent of networking, and the amount that I learnt, I know I can’t wait til the next one.
This post will be cross-posted at my employer’s blog at http://online.deloitte.com.au