27 Nov 2003 shlomif   » (Master)

dmoz.org

I finally became editor of the dmoz.org Linux User Groups category. I've been cleaning it up by accepting pending links, and handling errors. When I finish with all my current pending links, I'll probably post an editorial on Advogato, asking for people who are members of LUGs that do not appear them to submit them there. As it is, it is still very lacking.

Thoughs about XML

movement: I agree with you that Linus Torvalds does not understand too much what XML is all about. I don't think it's good for anything. I also, many times invented my own configuration syntaxes instead of using XML, because they were more human readable and maintainable or suitable for what I had to do.

Nonetheless, XML nested nature and the fact that you can apply arbitrary transformations to selected pieces of text, and that you also have attributes are sometimes priceless. Linus' indented example can only get you so far, before you start re-inventing a lot of XML and poorly.

Usually, XML is not very suitable for configuration files which need to be human editable. I don't know if the LM-Bench configuration syntax requires XML or not (I never used LM-Bench), but there are times people should use it. I defined my own XML syntax in two occasions already, create a lot of XHTML and DocBook documents and uses it indirectly in some programs (like OpenOffice).

Women in Linux

I hope I don't get flamed for this, because I really don't mean it, but here goes. After my discussion in the LinuxChix issues mailing list, I spent some time corresponding with one of them. One of the conclusions I reached was that until there were more women in prominent positions in the open source world, then female Linux enthusiasts will always suffer from being viewed as second class citizens by their male peers. (I'm not saying people should view them this way, but they will).

In a sense, in the open source world, as in other worlds, there is the iceberg effect, in which there is always a close to the spotlight elite. For example, in Holywood we hardly ever hear about someone who is not an Actor or a Director (or sometimes screenplay writer), even though the other people involved in producing movies are much more numerous.

If someone told me "Women can't write Novels", I could point him at a great deal of excellent Women Novelists out there. But if someone told me that "Women can't hack open source software", I'll have a harder time, because the examples are more isolated and few.

So my question is: why? The "Encouraging Women in Linux HOWTO" goes a great deal to dispel some of the common myths about why Women are and are not deterred from computers. But all these reasons can only go so far to explain why we see so few of them as project heads or first-class programmers.

Even if we assume that there are fewer Women Linux users than men, then we still have to accept the fact that the number of first class hackers who are female is even lower.

One thing I believe is true, is that less women believe that programming is fun. Many male software professionals share this view as well, but among women it is more severe. Even the correponsdant I talked to emphasized that she much prefers system administration to programming, because the former was more "social".

So, what can we do to convince people (men and women) that programming is fun?

Hacktivity

Worked a bit on the IGLU Jobs Tracker. It is almost ready for replacing the original one. There are still a lot of things on my to-do, but they are not as critical.

I also contributed some feedback and a few small patches to Yapcom, but have yet to do a substantial contribution for it. (partly because it does not work on my system for some reason).

Finally, I wrote an essay titled "The Joy of Perl", which explains why I like Perl so much. It is available upon request. (send me an E-mail)

Reading

Made some progress with "Extending and Embedding Perl". Also, read many things on the Net, among them Paul Graham's Java's Cover. The latter is an excellent article, as most of the things by Paul Graham. He was right that there was something very fishy about Java at the time. And I still think it is over-hyped and much less capable as a language than other languages I know.

Talks with Laymen

I went to the Barber on Sunday (finally - my hair was way too long). During the hair-cut, I had a conversation with him, told him about my degree and my projects, and started explaining about Open Source and what it was good for. ( he naturally could not understand why anyone would embark on a software project which he did not intend to sell) I could not explain anything I wanted within my time frame - maybe next time or I could stop by. At the end, another patron came in, who tried to help him with a computer problem he had. Turned out he worked in 012 support and knew Jess.

Yesterday, on the way back home, I talked with a woman on the ride back home. The conversation started from politics (a flat income tax, the settlements in the west bank, the poverty-reduction paradox), and I ended up telling about Neo-Tech, Julian Jaynes' Bicameral mind theory, "Feeling Good" and cognitive psychology, and finally open source software in a nutshell (for completeness sake). She actually knew about Mozilla and heard about Linux, and I explained her the four Freedoms of Free Software, etc. She agreed that most of what I told her indeed made sense, but naturally could not convince her of the my entire philosophy within the time frame.

She told me her son was now studying Math, Physics and CS in the Hebrew University as part of the IDF "Talpioth" project. (a famous project aimed to create very knowledgable and intelligent army researchers). The problem was that each year, several people whose grades are low are removed from the program, and so there's a lot of pressure to suceeed. I'm sure glad as hell that I don't have such constraints in my studies.

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