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Wednesday, 21 October 2009 08:52

Geek feminists score a point over detractor

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Perl developer Kirrily Robert, who runs the Geek Feminism blog, has managed to score a couple of points over a male developer who has been posting nasty comments about women in FOSS to various online forums.

The man in question, who goes by the handle mikeeUSA, had all his projects deleted from the code-hosting site SourceForge a week or so ago, following a request made to the site by Beth Lynn Eicher, a director of the Ohio LinuxFest.

The man has been posting to various forums - including the iTWire discussion forums from which his posts were removed as they were found to contravene Australian media laws - justifying discrimination against women in FOSS.

In a sarcastic post, Robert wrote that since mikeeUSA did not appear to have a copy of his code anymore, and was inept at simple jobs like making back-ups.

"Good thing us feminists are here to help him out. It just so happens that we had a copy of some of the code that was deleted, so we’ve forked it under the terms of the GPL," she added.

Robert said the code was now available in a Mercurial repository at the Geek Feminism site.

But that wasn't the extent of the scorn which Robert vented on the man.

"But we didn’t just post his code as-is. We've improved it! As a Perl developer and veteran CPAN contributor, I was able to make a start at cleaning up the worst bits of his slots game, though I must admit that my work was slowed down by the urge to send almost every line of it to TheDailyWTF," she wrote.

TheDailyWTF is a website where people submit tales of incompetence in the technology sphere. CPAN is the canonical location for Perl codes and modules.

Allegations of sexism in the free and open source software community have been a hot topic of discussion recently, following keynotes by Free Software Founder Richard Stallman at the GNOME Desktop summit in Gran Canaria, Spain, and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth at LinuxCon in Portland Oregon, both of which were alleged to contain sexist references.

Proponents of both camps have been indulging in point-scoring exercises ever since and the debate has yet to die down.

However, to what extent this point-scoring is actually going to help increase the participation of women in free and open source software is open to debate.

Senior FOSS developer Russell Coker said he backed what Robert had done. "Sure they went on the attack in regard to code quality, but when someone goes around saying 'you can't do X' it doesn't seem unreasonable to say 'actually I can do X better than you and here's the proof'," he told iTWire.

"I would like to see a public debate between Mikee and one of the women in the Linux community. When it comes to such things women such as Kirrily are brave enough to publicly state their opinions in spite of the threats that they receive.

"Mikee should be brave enough to meet them and discuss the matter. I'm sure that someone like Jerry Springer would be happy to host such a debate."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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