Thursday Threads: Developer Genders, Facebook Release Engineering, Alcohol Among Technologists

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You’ll get the sense that this week’s Thursday Threads is stacked towards cultural awareness. First is the view of a developer of the female gender in a room of peers at a meeting of the Digital Public Library of America. The second thread is a pointer to a story about Facebook’s software release process, and it leads into a story about the role of alcohol in technology conferences and reflections from the library technology community.

DLTJ Thursday Threads is a weekly summary of technology, library, and publishing topics (and anything else that crosses my path that is worth calling out). Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. New this year is that Pinboard has replaced FriendFeed as my primary aggregation service. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my Pinboard bookmarks (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Items posted to are also sent out as tweets; you can follow me on Twitter. Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

An Inclusive Table

But here I am, with a constant background obsession, now, of how to get more librarians involved (and involved more deeply) in tech, how to foster collaboration on library technology projects, which is inseparable from the problem of how to get more women involved more deeply and collaboratively in technology. So I can’t not look at that room and see how the status lines fracture, along code mastery but coincidentally also gender, written in the physical geography of the room, where I’m the only one sitting at the table. I can’t not wonder, how can I create spaces which redraw those lines.

Andromeda attended the DPLA hackathon last Thursday and posted this very pointed view of the perceptions of women in library technology.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Facebook Release Engineering

I recently had a unique opportunity to visit Facebook headquarters and see that story in action. Facebook gave me an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the process it uses to deploy new functionality. I watched first-hand as the company’s release engineers rolled out the new “timeline” feature for brand pages.

That was where I met Chuck Rossi, the release engineering team’s leader. Rossi, whose workstation is conveniently located within arm’s reach of the hotfix bar’s plentiful supply of booze, is a software industry veteran who previously worked at Google and IBM. I spent a fascinating afternoon with Rossi and his team learning how they roll out Facebook updates—and why it’s important that they do so on a daily basis.

I’m pointing to this story for two reasons. First, it is a fascinating look at how one of the top internet operations manages its processes for rolling out new software. Second, how the wheels of the release process are greased feeds into the third story below.

Our Culture of Exclusion

Lately there have been a lot of great articles being written and discussion happening around sexism in the tech industry. And the flames are being fanned by
high profile incidents of people saying and doing just plain stupid things.

It reminded me of this draft post just sitting here, uncommitted. For quite a while I’ve been collecting links, tweets and other stuff to illustrate another problem that’s been affecting me (and other people, surely). I thought it was finally time to write the post and bring this up because, honestly, I feel excluded too.

- Our Culture of Exclusion, Ryan Funduk’s blog

The role of alcohol in technology events was a topic of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere at the end of last week. There is a term for this that I heard for the first time last week — brogrammer — and I don’t think it is a flattering persona for the technology profession. The way in which Facebook releases its code, described in the thread above, is one data point. Ryan’s message, quoted above, points to some high-profile conferences where alcohol seems to play a central part of the event. His article was the source of some introspection among the Code4Lib community as well.

Code4Lib Discussion of "Culture of Exclusion"

Prompted by Ryan Funduk’s "Culture of Exclusion" post (http://ryanfunduk.com/culture-of-exclusion/) about the prevelance of alcohol and alcohol extremes at technology conferences, members of the Code4Lib community pondered what this means for our own events.

Storified by Peter Murray · Wed, Apr 11 2012 23:09:38

"No piles of meat, bongs or lube either-none of this belongs in a place of business." On brogrammers. http://ryanfunduk.com/culture-of-exclusion/ HT @cazzerson #fbEmily M.
2 takes of ppl who don’t drink at conferences: http://ryanfunduk.com/culture-of-exclusion/ and http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/11/01/the-thanksgiving-advent-calendar-day-one-not-drinking-alcohol/ I’m personally more inclined to @scalzi’s.John Mark Ockerbloom
@JMarkOckerbloom Interesting to think about in terms of #code4lib, at least for me.Mark Matienzo
…but I can understand @rfunduk’s take too. Confs vary,, but at ones I go to ppl don’t give me grief for skipping the alcohol at socials.John Mark Ockerbloom
@anarchivist Haven’t made it to C4L, so can’t comment. Most confs I go to have events w alcohol, not everyone has it, & that seems fine.John Mark Ockerbloom
This post (thanks @JMarkOckerbloom!) resonated w me: http://ryanfunduk.com/culture-of-exclusion/ I like a good cocktail, but events shouldn’t be all about drinks.Leslie Johnston
@anarchivist @JMarkOckerbloom The bringing and drinking of specialty beers is one of the most visible #code4lib activities to those outside.Leslie Johnston
@anarchivist @JMarkOckerbloom And if you’re not already in the know about cask ales or regional producers, it can feel a bit exclusionary.Leslie Johnston
@lljohnston @anarchivist @JMarkOckerbloom I’ll admit when I read that, c4l was the first lib conference that came to mindSarah Shreeves
@sshreeves @lljohnston @jmarkockerbloom the craft beer drink up (as it was in 2011 and 2012) is a recent addition. Some ppl tried it [+]Mark Matienzo
@sshreeves @lljohnston @jmarkockerbloom because it was done at other confs. Not to say alcohol centric socializing didnt at c4l before. [-]Mark Matienzo
@anarchivist @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom I def know that. Just saying it’s become of the most visible events to non-attendees. (1/2)Leslie Johnston
@anarchivist @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom With the planning via twitter and tweeted images of loaded suitcases and rows of empty bottles.Leslie Johnston
@lljohnston @anarchivist @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom Also – totally not saying c4l is the only place this happens, or knocking c4l at all.Leslie Johnston
@lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom understood/agreed. I’m implicated as I have organized& promoted those parts. Still have concerns.Mark Matienzo
Skimming tweets about code4lib craft beer meetu. Ever concern about wine tastings at ALA being exclusionary to folks who don’t know wine?Jon Gorman
@codexmonkey I think as @lljohnston said it’s the visibility – totally agree this happens at other confsSarah Shreeves
@anarchivist @sshreeves @lljohnston @jmarkockerbloom the topic is fascinating to me. I always saw it as an inclusive, learning experience.Declan Fleming
@anarchivist @sshreeves @lljohnston @jmarkockerbloom interesting to see it cast as exclusive. Don’t like ppl feeling excluded.Declan Fleming
@lljohnston @anarchivist @JMarkOckerbloom: Fortunately folks behave well at these events. Should reinforce these are tastings not binges.Michael J. Giarlo
@lljohnston @anarchivist @JMarkOckerbloom: And I don’t react well to hearing our tastings are exclusive, so I’ll shut up at this point.Michael J. Giarlo
@anarchivist @sshreeves @lljohnston @jmarkockerbloom: Vegetarian-centric socializing happens as well though admittedly not at same scale.Michael J. Giarlo
@anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom: I agree w/ this, but some folks are extremely sensitive to alcohol & won’t be cmfrtblMichael J. Giarlo
@mjgiarlo @anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom next year: craft cheese.Dan
@danwho @anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom: But that excludes the lactose intolerant!Michael J. Giarlo
@danwho @anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom: Maybe we should have a "we breathe" or "let’s do taxes" gathering.Michael J. Giarlo
@mjgiarlo @anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom c4l does not condone intolerance.Dan
@JMarkOckerbloom @anarchivist I’ve been to academic conferences where alcohol is much more prevalent than in library conferences. 1/2Becky Yoose
@JMarkOckerbloom @anarchivist 2/2 There’s an academic conf where free alcohol flows for entire conf. Ex – business meetings have open bars.Becky Yoose
@mjgiarlo @JMarkOckerbloom @lljohnston @declan @danwho @yo_bj For the sake of arg; let’s say tasting = separate. Code4lib = super social [+]Mark Matienzo
@mjgiarlo @JMarkOckerbloom @lljohnston @declan @danwho @yo_bj conference. Some equate social w/ availability of alcohol; It’s obviously [+]Mark Matienzo
@mjgiarlo @JMarkOckerbloom @lljohnston @declan @danwho @yo_bj not necessarily "expected, but C4L = social & social @ c4l often invloves EtOHMark Matienzo
@danwho @mjgiarlo @anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom Well, we *will* be near Wisconsin next year. I have connections.Becky Yoose
@yo_bj @mjgiarlo @anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom barrel aged munster? ;)Dan
@anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @JMarkOckerbloom why? It already sells out instantly. Obv there is a big market for current style.Jenny Reiswig
Talk of #code4lib and social reminds me I’m hoping to play some board games for #code4lib13. Lot easier to bring when driving ;-)Jon Gorman
@anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @JMarkOckerbloom that’s halfway just a devils advocate reply btw.Jenny Reiswig
RE: discussions of C4L + Beer. I love the beer swaps, but think they are a bit exclusionary. No alternative gathering on same night/time [+]Tim Donohue
Maybe that handful of blog posts and tweet streams will alter human social behavior that spans cultures and generations, we’ll see.Michael J. Giarlo
Plus advertised as "come drink beer with us", rather than "come hang out & meet folks & if interested try some new beer" [-]Tim Donohue
@anarchivist @mjgiarlo @JMarkOckerbloom @declan @danwho @yo_bj Ad the super-social aspect is def one of its best qualities as a conference.Leslie Johnston
@mjgiarlo @danwho @anarchivist @lljohnston @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom http://cheese.about.com/od/cheesebasics/a/lactose_free.htmBecky Yoose
And now I’m craving fresh string cheese. Damn you, #code4lib.Becky Yoose
@mjgiarlo @danwho @jmarkockerbloom @lljohnston @sshreeves @yo_bj Honestly, I think that’s not a fair comparison, but whatevs.Mark Matienzo
Last comment on C4L + Beer. I think it’d do wonders to call it something like Code4Lib "Happy Hour" or "Social" rather than "DrinkUp"Tim Donohue
@anarchivist @danwho @jmarkockerbloom @lljohnston @sshreeves @yo_bj: It’s not. Maybe I’ve lost too many brain cells. I wonder how.Michael J. Giarlo
@mjgiarlo @danwho @jmarkockerbloom @lljohnston @sshreeves @yo_bj I blame the pork.Mark Matienzo
@timdonohue: That’s the great thing about code4lib: if anyone’s willing to step up and make that change, it’ll happen.Michael J. Giarlo
@anarchivist @mjgiarlo @jmarkockerbloom @lljohnston @sshreeves @yo_bj it hard to deconstruct an event (ritual?) that grew organically.Dan
@mjgiarlo just feedback to "owners" (usual organizers) of "DrinkUp". A bit part is just in how it is advertised. Emphasize social over beerTim Donohue
@timdonohue: No, I appreciate the feedback, Tim. Wasn’t trying to hit you with a "patches welcome." That is how #code4lib works, it seems.Michael J. Giarlo
@mjgiarlo that being said, I’m a huge fan of the craft beer parts. :)Tim Donohue
@mjgiarlo thanks for clarifying. Final thought: there is such a thing as "craft soda" too. Perhaps it need not be limited to beerTim Donohue
@timdonohue: It needn’t, I agree, and we’ve had plenty of folks bring soda, baked goods, snacks, eau de vie, etc.Michael J. Giarlo
@rfunduk Great blog post. You may be interested to know that librarians are a bit like that too. Restrained example: http://tigger.uic.edu/~kayiwa/code4lib.htmlEmily M.
@mjgiarlo coolio :) I didn’t realize that.Tim Donohue
Further thought: maybe ppl organize drinking events at confs to include newbies rather than have a secret clique event. @rfunduk @cazzersonEmily M.
@bradamant @rfunduk Drinking culture is prevalent beyond tech fields. I’ve been to academic confs where drinking went nonstop for days.Becky Yoose
This. RT @bradamant: Further thought: maybe ppl organize drinking events at confs to include newbies rather than have a secret clique eventMichael J. Giarlo
@bradamant @rfunduk I feel that US culture surrounding alcohol is a big perpetrator in conf drinking, but I would need to do more research.Becky Yoose
@yo_bj @bradamant @rfunduk: And it’s not just libraries, or academics. It spans industries, cultures, and generations.Michael J. Giarlo
@bradamant @rfunduk: Does that page strike you as brogrammer-y? Sure, beer is mentioned, but so is food, and nightlife, and the venue, etc.Michael J. Giarlo
@bradamant @rfunduk I also forgot to mention anime/fandom conventions. Those get dangerous fast, since there are more underage attendees.Becky Yoose
@mjgiarlo @bradamant @rfunduk Yep. For non-drinking folks like myself, I’m sometimes left scratching my head wondering how it got to this.Becky Yoose
@yo_bj @mjgiarlo @bradamant @rfunduk I think a lot of people just don’t have enough socializing in their day to day lives…Alexander O’Neill
@yo_bj @mjgiarlo @bradamant @rfunduk … So conferences full of people who ‘get’ them and no family, etc., are a temping chance to cut looseAlexander O’Neill
Following discussion about alcohol at conferences and in particular @code4lib. Could ppl add to https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m-9VtL7L_fUxl2hTF_YZSdFRfucaLtmHvLSzom6XPVM/edit with their thoughts?Margaret Heller
@alxp @yo_bj @bradamant: I’m also not convinced what @rfunduk wrote about happens at e.g. #code4lib. Different phenomenon.Michael J. Giarlo
@alxp @yo_bj @bradamant @rfunduk: Can we please hashtag this #brewhaha?Michael J. Giarlo
Uncomfortable at a bar? Fashion your own teetotaler conf culture instead of advocating the destruction of another. http://ryanfunduk.com/culture-of-exclusion/jimsafley
@mjgiarlo @yo_bj @danwho @anarchivist @sshreeves @jmarkockerbloom We do tend to grouse, it’s true.Leslie Johnston
@mjgiarlo @yo_bj @rfunduk Whoa, back from lunch! Good convo. I don’t think c4l is totally like that, but of all confs I attend: the most.Emily M.
@FeedJoelPie My feed is also talking about it, but for library code conferences.Margaret Heller
@mjgiarlo @yo_bj @rfunduk I’m no teetotaller, but find the seeming necessity of mentioning alcohol arrangements odd. Alcohol != socializing.Emily M.
@bradamant @yo_bj @rfunduk: Not sure which context you’re referring to here, "ours" (e.g. code4lib) or the IT brogrammer one.Michael J. Giarlo
@mjgiarlo @yo_bj @rfunduk Finally, re: expections and alcohol, I loved this article: http://archives.newyorker.com/default.aspx?iid=33105&startpage=page0000084#folio=070Emily M.
@mjgiarlo @yo_bj @rfunduk What I’m mulling is that a cross-profession culture/expectation of drinking is being reflected at prof events.Emily M.
@bradamant @yo_bj @rfunduk: I remember feeling quite alienated as a teetotaler (’til I was 26), till I realized I excluded *myself*.Michael J. Giarlo
@bradamant Now that I’ve read @rfunduk ‘s post I feel that those elements of C4L may come from code conference world a bit.Margaret Heller
@bradamant I wrote some of the copy on that page, but I want to make sure ppl have other low key social events. Hope to do cookie baking!Margaret Heller
@Margaret_Heller @bradamant At the Medical Library Association there’s a ton of drinking as well, but generally at vendor parties.Jenny Reiswig
@Margaret_Heller @bradamant a lot of folks do like a drink when they socialize. Not gonna lie, I’m one of them.Jenny Reiswig
@Margaret_Heller @bradamant But I do agree it needs to be optional and not expected, or the only social option.Jenny Reiswig
@Margaret_Heller @bradamant Most of the folks I know who drink at confs drink just as much at home. Not gonna lie, that’s me too.Jenny Reiswig
@jenfoolery @bradamant I agree & certainly I do drink socially and at home. But do worry about unhealthy culture this encourages.Margaret Heller
@jenfoolery @bradamant which is to say, I’ve ended up getting more drunk around professional colleagues than my friends, which is weird.Margaret Heller
@jenfoolery @bradamant And probably due to a) shyness b) enjoying parties and c) wanting to fit in d) all of the above.Margaret Heller
@jenfoolery @Margaret_Heller MLA parties feel different to me. Maybe I don’t go to the good ones? Alcohol perfunctory, not selling point?Emily M.
@bradamant @Margaret_Heller I haven’t been to MLA since about 2003… maybe it’s calmed down. I remember some crazy Ovid parties.Jenny Reiswig

The text was modified to update a link from http://dp.la/2012/04/06/dpla-hackathon-gives-developers-first-look-at-dpla-platform/ to http://dp.la/info/2012/04/06/dpla-hackathon-gives-developers-first-look-at-dpla-platform/ on September 26th, 2013.

(This post was updated on 26-Sep-2013.)