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Repeated online harassment, all of it based on her sex, has forced a prominent female open source developer and community organiser to quit the tech industry and also rethink her participation in LCA 2012.


Alex "Skud" Bayley, (until recently known as Kirrily Robert), a resident of Melbourne who was working on Freebase.com, an open data repository acquired by Google in 2010, is scheduled to give a talk on "Saving Australian music, the open source way" at the Australian national Linux conference in Ballarat in January.

Bayley wrote, in a blog entry for the Geek Feminist website, which she founded, that she feared harassment from an individual who goes by the online nomenclature Markus G.

Someone posting under the same moniker had sent an abusive email to a woman at the time when the issue of technologist Mark Pesce's keynote address to the 2011 Linux conference was being discussed; Pesce, as may be recalled, was censured by the conference organisers for the use of images deemed to be sexual in nature, to illustrate his talk.

In the post, Bayley traced her targetting for harassment back to an address to the O'Reilly Open Source Convention in 2009 about the participation of women in FOSS projects. Online, the text of the talk attracted a big audience, and among them were some who were apparently not prepared to let a woman speak her mind.

One of those who has harassed her and a number of other women has been an individual who goes by the moniker MikeeUSA, Bayley wrote. (This individual has also posted to the iTWire forums). A second had been a Wikipedia troll who had found his way to her employer's online database and tried to fill it with rubbish. And a third person kept phoning various people's workplaces and accusing them of being involved in child pornography.

Bayley and another woman were taken to task some time ago by open source luminary Eric Raymond when a complaint by one led to the removal of code belonging to MikeeUSA, whose real name is Mikhail Kvaratskhelia, from SourceForge. The complaint was made by Beth Lyn Eicher, a director of the Ohio LinuxFest. Raymond's intervention led to a decision to host the code on the Geek Feminism website.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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