What I’m Doing in Albania

A while ago, I came to the Albanian Open Source Conference. 2017 it was. I hadn’t been on the road to things like this for a while because at the time, and the 2 years preceding, I was very much focused on building up the Coko tech, dev team, dev processes, and community. As well as developing a product or two at the same time.

I wanted to come to Albania in 2017 because I felt I had exhausted my network. I had employed the people I knew and liked as part of the team. Plus I had made a commitment to find a woman dev and didn’t want to bring anyone else on until I could work that out.

It’s pretty hard to find woman devs comfortable working in open source. I have written about this on this blog a few times before (https://www.adamhyde.net/reading-on-diversity-in-open-source/ https://www.adamhyde.net/diversity-and-leadership/  https://www.adamhyde.net/leadership-diversity-and-sector-change-in-open-source/  https://www.adamhyde.net/death-of-the-benevolent-dictator/ https://www.adamhyde.net/things-i-think-open-source-needs/ ). The main problem being that while 33% of all employed developers in the world are women (a disappointingly low %), I believe the total number of women developers working exclusively on open source projects is probably around 1-10%. I believe it is closer to 1%. These figures are perhaps a little old as I did my research for this in 2017. It may have improved but I doubt it. I am sure there are many reasons for sad state of affairs, including the fact that many men with better employment prospects generally and higher paying prospects, have the time and money to be able to dedicate to working on open source. That’s not to suggest open source is a volunteer effort, many many devs are employed fulltime by open source projects these days (or to work on them in collaboration with other orgs) but often the way in is through your first volunteer commit of code or logging an issue etc.

On top of that, many open source projects are toxic cultures and especially so for women. One very good friend of mine will not use her real name in her github code repo because she doesn’t want to be identified as a woman in this community of communities. I’ts no secret that open source communities have had a bad history of exclusion. It’s improving, which is good to see, but I am sure it’s not improving fast enough.

Anyways… so finding women to work on OS projects is pretty hard. I found my network ran out of possible people I could employ, regardless of gender. But also, I like to employ people that are nice. People that are generous and know how to work with each other. These are hard things to determine from a CV. Which is why I generally employ people I already know, or that someone I know knows. So I asked also Jure and Yannis and the Athens team to look around but we really didn’t have much luck. I imposed a kinda informal hiring freeze on devs until we had bought on at least one woman front end dev to work on PubSweet platforms – its been in place for a year or more. I had, by the way, advertised for devs with varying success. I don’t like doing it this way for the reasons above. I prefer to know the folks first. I was almost successful a few times in finding someone but we didn’t quite get there. It is, after all, a very competitive market for developers and has been for some years. To make things a little harder, and ironic, the Free Software Foundation asked me to modify the advertisement looking for women developers because they said it was discriminatory on the basis of gender. Go figure.

So, I realised that I was just going to have to solve this the hard way – my network had dried up and so I had to make efforts to extend my network and if I wanted to employ women developers, I would have to make an additional effort to find them. In other words, I realised the failure was that my network was not wide enough and I needed to take responsibility for that. I would need to hit the road, so I hit the road. Which is why in 2017 I did a few open source conferences around the world. I think I also went to Open Source Lisbon and a few other places – PenguinCon in Detroit (great conf!), Linux Foundation Open Source Leadership Summit in lake Tahoe, another in Austin (Community Leadership Summit) and some others  I can’t remember the name of. It was a while ago and I was traveling a lot. I really hit the road hard to extend my network to find more programmers and particularly women devs.

Anyways… so, its a long slow road doing it this way and that is why I am back here. Extending my network so I can bring new people onboard. Its looking good so far, I have met many very nice people and we are looking at collaborations to work together. Let’s see how it goes…more to come on this topic soon!

Coming Up

Off to Digital Book World on Monday to present (Nashville). Then to Montreal, NYC and Boston for meetings. Also this!…


Very nice of Tim O’Reilly to promote the Open Publishing Awards. Please reshare!

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Entrepreneur

Here I am. Another country I have never been to, another city. Hoping I have the right clothes for whatever climate I am in. I guess I will find out tomorrow when I step outside for the first time since I got here.

Today I got up at 4am to get to the airport in time. I got coffee at the hotel in London, I had a sort of faux-camaraderie with the staff. They knew what kind of coffee to make me before I asked. I had been there for a week so I was kinda a local to them. They didn’t check my room number at breakfast anymore, they pretended to relax as if we knew each other. I played along with it as much as they did. It makes the days easier.

Not that the days are hard. I enjoy this way of working. Constantly moving, meeting new folks, jamming new collaborations, disarming people with my kookiness. I feel in my stride in this mode. It works, and I know how to work it.

Not that this life is without its challenges. I have plenty of friends but most of them don’t know each other. My closest friends are almost all on different continents. I check in on them when I am close by, but sometimes my schedule means I don’t know where I will be and when, and then they get mad when we couldn’t connect. And I don’t care, it means nothing to me because that’s just how it is. My stability is in passing through at unknown times. It becomes hard to empathise with those that need to know when to be home in case I turn up.

Sleep comes also like this. At odd times. I wonder if I should just jump out of bed at 3am and use my energy to do something, or if I should just lie there and try and make myself tired. Sometimes I simulate timezones, sometimes I fight them. I don’t know which strategy is best. The only thing I have worked out is that it doesn’t pay to stress about it. I listen to podcasts to keep me company.

And then there is the serial entrepreneur bit. The deliberately chosen hard road. I don’t just make things to sell, I make things that don’t make sense and then try to sell them. And then there is the ethical bit, the deliberate choice to make the hard road harder. So not only should you buy this thing that you aren’t really sure makes sense or even exists(!), but it comes with a whole load of caveats. 🙂 I find that kind of funny. …And then there is the normal entrepreneurial anxiety of mouths to feed and deals to make. Of wondering how to make it all work as one giant inter-connected system of ideas, people, money, value. How to make and sell crazy ideas with uncompromising attitudes. It’s harder than you think.

How to keep it all up in the air while also being, most of the time, up in the air. Learning to sleep sitting up. Finding solitude in headphones.

It’s sometimes all a little too much. But I can’t give up. I just don’t know any other way. And no matter how much I succeed it never feels like success. Except when I see what other people do with it. People I love and trust. Strangely, I find that very satisfying.

But generally I just keep wanting to make the road harder. I choose even harder routes, with bigger ideas, and even more uncompromising attitudes.

It’s just how I like it.