We frequently use these presentations to practice new presentations, try out heavily revised versions, and test out new ideas with a friendly audience. If you want to see a polished version checkout our group members’ talks at camps and cons. So if some of the content of these videos seems a bit rough please understand we are all learning all the time and we are open to constructive feedback.
When someone tries to insult you with what you often see as a compliment it is worth stopping to reflect. Am I an activist? If I’m not, should I be?
On Valentines Day this year my wife and I spent a few hours at DSS for a meeting related to some of the children we work with in the Guardian ad Litem program. In the course of a rather tense conversation a caseworker tossed out “Well, I am not an activist.” with the clear intention of implying that I am, and that activists are a problem.
It is the first time I can recall being called an Activist as an insult, and I’ve been a bit hung up on the topic ever since.
At AFSC I had colleagues who would argue if you haven’t been arrested for a cause you aren’t really an activist. We had critics who argued that because AFSC staff were paid they couldn’t be true activists. I didn’t then, nor now, fully agree with those arguments, but my point is that when someone calls me an “activist” those are the comparisons they are drawing in my mind.
My credentials as an activist on that scale are weak at best. The first time I spent a lot of time with activists was in 1999 during the Hague Appeal for Peace and a peace walk that followed. The group walked from the Peace Palace – home of the international criminal court – in The Hague, Netherlands to Nato Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. That picture of the water cannon firing on a crowd at the top of the page is mine, although I wasn’t willing to risk arrest that day (my sister was getting married the next week and my mother would have killed me if I’d missed it because I had been arrested in Europe – would a true activist be deterred by such things?). It was a great experience, but didn’t do a thing toward our goal of nuclear disarmament – I now live in a town supported by nuclear weapons maintenance (and soon pit production too).
After college I took a job at AFSC which consisted of largely back office functions of one type or another – while defining for my career and personally gratifying work there is an important difference between building the tools activists need to communicate and being the activist. In 2008 I was part of planning a peace conference in Philadelphia as part of the Peace and Concerns standing committee, but it is important to note that I objected to the civil disobedience that was part of that event (being a consensus driven process people feared I would block it entirely – but I stood aside so they could move forward).
Having spent much of my professional life supporting back office functions on nonprofits, and now interacting with DSS as a volunteer who has to be careful about what I share since I have to maintain the privacy of the kids we work with, I struggle to envision myself as an activist. I support activists sure, but I don’t see myself as one.
But when someone tries to insult you with what you often see as a compliment it is worth stopping to reflect. Am I an activist? If I’m not, should I be?
It occurred to me this case worker has a much lower standard of what it means to be an activist than I do – anyone who simply speaks against the status quo in favor of well established laws and precedents are activists in his book. To be fair he’s not far off the suggestion Bayard Rustin, and the committee who helped him write Speak Truth to Power, were making. And as much as I am sure they would deny it, the caseworkers are the most powerful people in the lives of children in foster care: they dictate where the children live, who they can talk to, if/when they see siblings, when they buy clothes, where they go to school, what doctors they see, and without an active advocate they shape how the courts see the children. And right now in South Carolina their power is being tested and reigned in because a group of Guardians ad Litem stood up a few years ago to the rampant systemic abuses. The ramifications of that class action are still being determined, and no one really knows what the lasting effect will be. But this case worker has inspired me to make sure we honor the sacrifices they made (all were forced to stop fighting for the named children because they were “distractions”).
I’m not sure I am an activist, but I promised those kids I would stay with them until the judge ordered me to stop. No matter what taunting I get from the case workers, their bosses, and others within the power structure I can speak truth to power as long as I must.
This year I took part in Hacktoberfest. Partially to see what all the fuss is about, partially to get myself involved in projects I didn’t know about, and partially for the free t-shirt (which do come in men’s and women’s cuts). If you haven’t run into this project before it’s an effort by Digital Ocean to get people to participate in open source projects. Once you sign up they count all public pull requests you make on Github toward a goal of 5. I participated both as a developer, and by tagging a few issues on my own projects so people would find them.
As a developer:
It was a great excuse to go find new projects and look at ways I can contribute. While I’d have plenty of experience on open source projects, often they have been outside Github or are repos I have commit access to – so I don’t open a lot of pull requests on Github. That meant that Hacktoberfest was a chance to find new projects and practice a basic process for contributing code to teams.
In that regard it was a pretty good success. I opened six PRs on four different projects. Mostly they were small stuff like linting code, updating packages, or tweaking a README file.
In terms of drawing me into projects we’ll see. I did keep up with one after I finished the 5 required (hence having six PRs), but I didn’t dive into anything truly hard on that project.
In terms of getting me to provide truly useful code think that was limited. The largest piece of code I wrote was initially rejected so I re-wrote in a different style, and then re-written by the project maintainer the day after he accepted the PR. He was really nice about it, and it helped him get something done that had been on the to-do list for a long time, but even that was example code to be used in classrooms (which was why he was so concerned about style – he didn’t want it to be idiomatically correct for Python he wanted to clear to beginners).
It did give me a chance to play around in other people’s code bases and I did resolve some issues for people that would have otherwise lingered longer than they already had. It also forced me to meet other people’s standards, lint to their specifications, and pass their automated tests – all good things for everyone to do now and again to see if there are solutions you like better than the ones you use every day.
As a project owner:
Once I got through the contributions I needed to get a shirt, I figured I’d look over my own projects to see if there were issues I could label for beginners to help them find ways to get started. I listed several issues are both Hacktoberfest and good first issues. Almost all the ones I flagged as good first issues got PRs opened – sometimes more than one.
I got two problems solved that I wouldn’t have known how to solve without a bit of research, and those were great. But most of the PRs were simple things that took me longer to solve collaboratively than it would have taken me to solve myself. That’s okay, in part because some of my PRs caused the same problem for their project maintainers, and because it forced me to final learn how to setup CircleCI so the code gets checked and tested automatically when PRs are opened in the future.
What I don’t expect it caused was anyone to be truly interested in the project and helping it move forward over time. So while I solved a couple small problems, I did not get new help that going to keep engaging. That made it useful as a sprint, but not useful to helping build great projects.
But even if there is room for improvement my shirt is ordered and on the way.
This is a guest post from my wife, and co-Guardian ad Litem, Elizabeth Georgian. You can read more about our Guardian ad Litem work in this previous post.
In a world that at times seems to grow increasingly uncaring, chaotic, and impossible to change, two sets of teenagers, a century apart, living remarkably different lives, may offer us a path forward.
On March 25, 1911, 145 textile workers perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. They died of smoke inhalation, flames, or from injuries sustained as they leapt down the elevator shaft or out of the ninth story windows. The factory owners had locked these young, largely immigrant women in their building so they could inspect their bags as they left and on that day no one remembered to free them.
Two years earlier, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory workers had gone on strike, as part of a larger effort on the part of textile workers across New York city. As these young women picketed, marched, and struck, police beat them, with the approval of many bystanders. The media paid little attention, except when a small number of wealthy women joined them in their protests.
Few non-working class New Yorkers cared that the children spent their days in factories not schools, immigrants lived in dire poverty, and working conditions were hazardous. It was only in death that they became human.
Newspapers, public officials, the wider world had begun to attach names to these Triangle workers by then: Rosie Bassino and her sister Irene; Max Lehrer and his brother Sam; Mary Goldstein; the Saracino sisters; Michela Marciano, who had survived an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius before emigrating to America; Rose Manofsky, whose little sister had lost her sole source of support; and Salvatore Maltese, who had buried every female in his household: his wife Catherine, his 20-year old daughter Lucia and his daughter Rosaria, who was – at 14 – the fire’s youngest victim.
Apathy and even hostility towards the labor movement finally changed to outrage, support, and eventually significant reform as these invisible women suddenly became visible.
One hundred years later, the official charge from the family court to Guardian ad Litems charges us with conducting an independent investigation so we can make recommendations to the court. To conduct those investigations, guardians have a right to sit in on all meetings about the teenagers we advocate for, visit their schools, talk to their teachers and doctors, and see where they live and meet with their caregivers. In doing so, I discovered to my amazement, that I have the power to make an invisible child–often poor, neglected or abused, afraid to open-up, justifiably suspicious of the system, and sometimes openly hostile–appear human. All of a sudden an angry school principle stops seeing a defiant, scary teenager in need of expulsion and instead sees a child afraid of the world and in need of help rebuilding trust.
Recently, while working with the staff in for-profit group homes, I have stumbled on the power of the language of motherhood. While I don’t actually consider the teenagers we work with children, I use that language, I describe them as my children and myself as their mother, at least figuratively. The effect is polarizing. For a few adults, the reminder that the person they are intent on punishing is a human being and someone’s child makes them angry. But more often than not, that language de-escalates tense situations, helps me refocus conversations around the children’s strengths rather than their perceived failings, and leads us out of confrontation into negotiation or even creative problem solving.
Increasingly I see part of my role as showing the teenagers that they don’t have to be invisible. That they have rights that deserve to be respected, needs that deserve to be met, feelings that deserve to be honored. And seeing me stick up for them helps them see themselves as more valuable and also more powerful. Sometimes I am rewarded by watching them learn to successfully advocate for themselves and make a difference in their lives, to see themselves as powerful.
Today, the anonymous victims of textile factory fires are still poor women, still invisible, but this time we ignore them because they live in foreign places that most of us have never seen: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, even while, like New Yorkers, we wear the clothes they make.
So who else am I still leaving invisible? Who are you making visible?
Like last year I’m keeping an extremely rough setup of notes from DrupalCon as a repository of things I’m picking up and tracking of sessions that looked like they would be interested but that I couldn’t attend because I was in another session. I’ll clean then up a bit and add to them over time.
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make the event a success.
I’ve assembled a playlist of the various sessions I though were good when I attended, or looked good but couldn’t attend.
Monday I attended the Community Summit, and while I had lots of great discussions, I didn’t take a lot of notes. The biggest two things I noted were that Western New York DUG is doing interesting stuff with online meetings that might be worth checking out and emulating for the SC DUG. And that Mid-Camp keeps a list of all the various channels that have videos of Drupal Camp sessions.
The current roadmap looks pretty cool, assuming everything comes together as well as we all hope it will:
This was a really good session on accessibility with both a real world set of examples and realistic discussions of what’s hard and what happens when things pass tests but don’t get tested by humans.
Major take aways:
Modern tools support JS and it no longer gets in the way of accessibility. WCAG 1.0 said this was a problem 20 years ago, but that’s not the current best practice.
There are constraints to the work because of accessibility, but it they don’t have.
“There are times that I go to use an interactive calendar on the web and all I hear is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and so on to 30 or 31…with no indication that these are dates…just a mass of numbers in the middle of the page.”
We used to test sites by disabling CSS/JS. Now it makes more sense to try to navigate the site with a keyboard and see what happens. Remember that just because something is possible it doesn’t mean it’s obvious or good. This doesn’t get you to a great site, but allows you to pick off errors before someone finds them for you later.
When you tab to things, the visual affordances some designers hate can be put back in as a compromise for people using accessibility tools.
I need to spend more time with the iPhone voice over tool so I can test things better.
This was a really interesting session on the Material Admin theme, and what’s been needed to make it work. It’s not perfect, and may or may not be ready for prime-time, but it looks like a great idea and show what we can do to make the admin much better.
This was a mini session that is worth watching if you’re unsure about the importance and value of having a code of conduct. The hope had been to have a discussion about the importance of Drupal’s CoC, but everyone who attended largely agreed about the broad strokes of the major issues that have been discussed lately in the community. We ended up talking more about how to broaden the discussion than about the CoC itself.
This session was an interesting look at the impact on ACLU’s D6 (yes that’s right) advocacy site running on Pantheon.
Moved to Pantheon in 2013. And that move dealt with limits of their old hosting solution. Unfortunately some of my old-timey knowledge of why that had that solution was so old they couldn’t tell me much about how they had managed to make that move.
“Crazy things happen all the time”
After the their ED made a Rachel Maddow appearance on 11/16/16 they saw an 85x traffic spike. Tag1 was called in to help sort out what happened.
They found it was database bound, which was very common on D6, but still something they see frequently.
Found queries with 3 table join with no indexes on the base table. Able to go from 200,000 rows being scanned, down to 76. They were responding in real-time in crisis response mode.
After the wave passed, they called Pantheon to help build out environments for testing using multi-dev.
During the spikes that followed for the first travel ban, which were even larger they worked to reroute errors to Fastly, which served a PayPal fundraising link: at least the donations kept coming but that wasn’t good enough.
They needed a botnet to replicate the traffic. Tag1 used: Locust to create load tests, SaltStack to organize the bots, and EC2 to be the bots. They were failing at ~600 requests per minute and they were able to get to ~5,000 requests per minute. At that point the payment gateways were also starting to buckle, which isn’t a thing most people see.
The final wave they discussed came after the Net Neutrality lose, which peaked around 1,900 form submissions/min.
ACLU needed more logging, but didn’t want them logging personal information. Turned out the payment gateway’s CDN was detecting a DDOS and blocking them. See curl_log and curl_loadbalance. They also intentionally shift load from MySQL to Redis and PHP(?!?) because they knew Pantheon could scale that are far and as fast as needed to handle the waves, but MySQL was a limiting factor.
Interesting to reflect that its about the process and the community, but not about the technology.
“Who here believes Facebook is unethical?” [hands rise] “Okay, who here has added a tracking pixel to a site at a client’s request?” [hands sheepishly rise] “Okay, now we return to the trolley problem…”
(Note: recording was intentionally stopped after the presentation but the discussion continued for quite a while).
Following Con last year Whitney Hess put forward some ideas, but it wasn’t clear where to go next.
It wasn’t clear that the DA should lead this, so it fell to the CWG cause they were last group standing.
Governance should evolve over time.
Need a values statement
Need to define the community and its membership.
Clearly document that structures and procedures.
CWG needs to improve CoC and enforcement.
Community needs to improve its global outreach.
DA should set higher standards.
Community matters should escalate to groups, not individuals.
We need community onboarding.
We should engage with other communities to discover best practices.
Dries stepped down as DA board chair.
DA hired Rachel Lawson.
DA created an updated CoC.
Dries is doing a round table on Thursday.
Trying to figure that out…
Need to determine if good feedback was gathered so far.
Need to figure out an ongoing and continuous feedback process.
The expected frustrations with Dries and the values statement were expressed. Communication between Dries and other folks continues to be a challenge. The bottleneck of single point of contact is making it hard to stop having a single point of contact.
The main discussion centered around what’s holding back D8 adoption and the ongoing sense that the main forces in the Drupal community no longer concern themselves with the nonprofit sector. This year’s BOF was small because NTC started today in New Orleans. From a rough head count if the people I new were in New Orleans had been at the BOF there would have been a similar number of people.
Automatic’s Support of Camps and staff to do so: It’s great, but it’s not in the budget (DA budget). He talked about creating it as a DA service that could be self-sustaining, but the WordPress model includes a donation of 8 FTEs.
What if your responsible for 1000 D7 sites? When we will know when there is a concrete answer to the question of the EOL for D7: This is an open issue without a good answer that needs a good answer. Move to D8? (but he doesn’t understand why that’s laughable without more detail).
What about the small shops and builders: He doesn’t feel like they were really left behind. Rachel also checked to what the DA could have done better with the new home page, but the language wasn’t a great choice.
"I don't think we're going to beat a Wix or a Squarespace. … Squarespace is really good at page-building, and we can look at them for inspiration. … We can do page-building that plays to our strength, like structured content."@Dries#AskDries#DrupalCon
What can a consumer do to preserve the open web: Not use Facebook. People read the web through Facebook like they do with Google. Don’t install an ad blocker.
Why don’t you hear more about Diversity issues from you? It’s important, and we have to do better. We aren’t were we should be, and I’m happy to show more leadership. I could do more by talking more about it in public and on twitter. Wants to think more about it, and doesn’t feel like an expert. He acknowledged his mistake in the DriesNote in Copanhagen. He also commented about shuttingdown after being called out because of how it was done. Wants understanding of the fact that he’ll make mistakes.
"Why don't you engage more in diversity and inclusion things online?" —@aburke626
"We need to do better, frankly. I'm happy to show more leadership there. … I can certainly do more. I'm going to take you up on that, you have my promise."
When are we moving to Github? A proof of concept is in place to move to GitLab! Our tools are better than GitLab in many ways, but GitLab wants to have our better strengths in their code base. So they are working on doing that for us and for all their users.
Is Drupal 7 Dead? No. Most sites are Drupal 7, and some new sites still launch there. But all the innovation is on 8.
Q: "Is Drupal 7 dead? Releases have slowed down…"@Dries: "Drupal 7 isn't dead…but I think a lot of the innovation has shifted to Drupal 8. People are still launching new websites on Drupal 7, and that's fine."#AskDries#Drupalcon
The new values and principles need work to more fully reflect the community. The process: a group together in December to review the community feedback. And it was clear he needed to do this. He’s been working on it since then, and has found it hard work. He wanted to make it Collabortive, but also wanted to put a stake in the ground. He knows that it needs work, but isn’t entirely sure of the next steps. Doesn’t want to the single owner. He would like to assemble a working group with a charter.
.@dries: "As a next step we're going to put together a working group…a diverse committee of people that can actually take it from here and carry it forward. My next step is to put together a charter for this group."#AskDries#DrupalCon
Will the new principles state that destructive beliefs, not just actions, will be banned. He defers to the working group.
Someone just asked if Drupal should police the "toxic beliefs" of community members. #askdries/@Dries has no, repeat no credibility on this topic as he was completely and totally complicit and responsible in the botched @Crell affair.
Rachel acknowledged the tweet, but didn’t know what to do with the fact that it actually called her out. “I wasn’t paying attention.” and then blamed questioners for not asking questions earlier. @drnikki was given a space, and directed people to DD&I meetings.
A really bad response from the audience calling on women lead. Tim Plunket responded appropriately.
"It's the responsibility… of the people in power and the people with privilege and the position and the voice to do this work for everyone else. I don't think it's fair to blame [under-represented people]" —@timplunkett#AskDries#DrupalCon
“Including people in community is more than saying, ‘you’re all included!’ A lot. It’s in our language and our symbols and how we present ourselves and how that communicates ‘what we do here’ to people who are watching.” @blackamazon at #DrupalCon
Yesterday my wife and I realized that there was a March for Our Lives being held here in Aiken. When we saw a friend of ours describe her 3-year-old’s first pre-school experience with an active shooter drill we realized that if the local teens could get up early on a Saturday to speak up for themselves, we could not justify staying home.
So I charged the camera battery, cleared the memory cards, and made sure I’d have pictures to share. Aiken is a small city in a state that’s hostile to gun control, so even a small crowd is an impressive turn out. The turn out was good, the people were energized, and the kids were clear in their ask: they want to be safe at school and they don’t think that should mean they have to be surrounded by armed guards (police or teachers).
My wife and I are fans of M*A*S*H. When B.J. first arrives in Korea Hawkeye takes him to Rosie’s Bar and tells him: “I can’t think of a single reason why we’re here, except that we’re needed.” Oddly I’ve found this to be true of a great many service opportunities in my life; often the most useful ways to serve my community seems to require doing a things that should be utterly unneeded.
Often it has been around medical care. A few years ago we had a friend who spent more than a year in long-term respiratory rehab. Her daughter wasn’t able to visit much, and so we started to go most weekends just to see her. Not only did her emotional state improve but because we started to leave markers of loving family (a handmade afghan, photos, window clings, and other similar things) her medical care improved. That these things made a difference to how the staff treated her shouldn’t be true. When our own family members are in the hospital we try to ensure they get as much visitation as possible for the same reason.
Most recently it’s been while supporting children in foster care.
My wife and I serve as volunteer Guardian ad Litems in South Carolina (other states call the program CASA). It means we are court appointed advocates for children in foster care. We are the only people in their lives tasked with being openly biased in their favor. In practice it means we go to lots of meetings with professionals who should be better trained than us, better resourced than we are, and try to make sure they do their jobs the way the law requires. All children in foster care in South Carolina have a right to a volunteer advocate because the professionals who used to be paid to do this work didn’t do it as well as volunteers – nothing about that should be a true statement, but in 2010 the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled it was and from everything we’ve seen it is. So instead of a lawyer, they get us.
With just a few hours of training, that covered lots of information but barely scratched the surface, we were cut loose to help kids fight to make their lives whole again – ideally even better than before. We became part of a system run by underpaid, under-trained, and overloaded professionals. We go to all the meetings that happen in the lives of these children. We go to school and their home(s); we talk to everyone who passes through their lives during their time in the system; we visit the juvenile detention center to meet with our kids and prisons to meet with mom or dad; talk to doctors, lawyers (ours, their parent’s, and DSS’s but the kids rarely get their own in family court), case workers, detectives, probation officers, teachers and principals, parents, grand parents, foster parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, and anyone else in their lives. Everyone else on that list worries about their own interests (like the parents do), other people in the family (like the case workers are federally obligately to do), are narrowly focused on one aspect of the child’s life (like their doctors are), or have worry about too many other people whose interests may conflict (like teachers must). My wife and I make sure we talk to more people than anyone else on the case, so that we can we represent the child’s interests and desires clearly and accurately.
We work with teenagers who have had all control of their lives taken away as they need to be learning to take more responsibility for their actions. The system is not designed well for the needs of teenagers, and so it falls to us to start helping these young people start to regain at least a little control of their destiny. The law requires us to meet with them once a month, but often it is more frequent (particularly with those prone to getting into trouble), and we become the only people they have who are both honest and unfailingly supportive. We are also too often the only people listening to their opinions about what’s happened and what they want to have happen next.
Our only real power, beyond being allowed into meetings, is that we are required to make recommendations to the court about what should happen. The court can ignore us, although they do so far less than people tell us to expect and the judges always listen with interest to to what we say. The vast majority of our impact happens outside of the court room, when professionals work harder just because they know we are watching.
Being a GAL is equal parts wonderful and infuriating, but at all times useful. We have discovered that just having a totally biased volunteer in the child’s life often makes the professionals more responsive to the child’s needs. Our schools are deeply under-resourced, and frequently seek to avoid providing legally mandated but expensive services so my wife is becoming an expert in education law to allow her to ensure the children’s rights are respected. But she has found that once she meets with the school administrators once or twice, and see that someone believes the kid is worth fighting for, they join us and help ensure the child is getting the support they need. Group homes, even terrible ones that openly allow their staff to beat children in ways that are banned for our prison guards (there is a true story behind that), are more careful when they know a volunteer is watching over a specific child and holding them legally accountable.
Sometimes just having a person around who cares, and thinks someone else is worth caring about, helps people who should do their jobs regardless of what’s happening, do their jobs better.