I’ve been thinking about Open Source and diversity. It is true that open source, in my experience, is largely populated by white men who can program. I think this would come as no surprise to most people reading this post. However, I have been stimulated to think about it a little more due to some very odd reactions on an email list I am subscribed to when I, very gently, pointed this out. The reactions to my comments were extremely negative and very personal. Over the last few weeks, in reaction to points I have made on the list (related to diversity and possible new models for open source projects), I have been accused of racism, questioned about my nationality, asked if I speak English, made fun of, and it has been suggested many times that the kind of work I am doing is fruitless.
I find these points say a whole lot more about the persons making them and the associated dominant power dynamic than anything else. Never-the-less, as a result of these comments, I have been prompted to reflect on, and refine, my position regarding diversity in open source.
Essentially, I see the lack of diversity as a problem on so many levels. I am disappointed, on a human level, that there isn’t a greater diversity of ethnicity, and gender, involved in open source projects. I also lament the lack of role and skill diversity in open source projects. I believe this lack of diversity hurts us as humans and hurts the effectiveness of open source. I wish to see a greater diversity in open source.
I am a white male and I am part of the dominant power demographic. I don’t feel guilty for being so, but I do believe, as someone that is part of the dominant power group, that I have a responsibility to address the imbalance. So, if I wish to see greater diversity in open source, then I should do something about it.
After pondering what I can do, I have come to two points, and they reflect how I see the yin/yang personal – political nature of this issue:
- I will endeavor to help produce greater diversity – in part I am doing this through my work with the Cabbage Tree Method. Odd as it may sound, I very much believe that the Cabbage Tree Method is not ‘just a design methodology’ but it is a template for a different model of open source organisation, one that requires, at its core, a more inclusive project culture.
- I take responsibility for my own networks – when I work on interesting projects I often bring in good people I know who do great work in the area. I have been very lucky to have met many wonderful people that also have great talents, and projects like Coko and Book Sprints reflect that. However most of the people I know come from a pretty homogeneous demographic, at least in terms of ethnicity. So, I need to take responsibility for that and diversify my networks.
In a way, there is nothing new here. But I needed to think this through a little to work out my own position regarding the issue of diversity. How I can better achieve the actions above is something I will need to work on (continually). I’ll ponder it more, and I welcome any thoughts you might have on the issue that can help me on my way.