Asheesh of OpenHatch

Who are you?

Asheesh of OpenHatch!

What do you think about hackathons?

Haven’t been to many things which are now called hackathons. Favorite
They took my subculture and turned it into a theme night.
Before startup enthusiasm and big money swallowed these things up…
2 to 100 people getting together around one project and calling it a hackathon or a sprint. A goal. Working together on a shared goal. Startup lens thoughts are celebrations of individual and slightly group ability to make cool looking throw away software projects that tickle some kind of curiosity that the judges have. Flashy things. No followup except to work on them privately as a group as a startup. Disheartening

How many have you attended?

What role did you fill at each of those (orga, facilitation, mentor, speaker, etc)
In 2008 I went to the Debian conference for the first time. People talking about Debian, how to improve it, and working on those improvements. Every year since them. 2012 went to DebCamp. Only people getting together to work on stuff. Before the event, must explain what it is you are working on, has to be improved. Freely shared after the fact. Another 5 times. Some programming at each of those. 2011 I hid from talks, worked in hacklab on specific tech projects. Still has other people working on it. “Participant for those”
Pycon around python language, plus the sprints after up to 5 days. March 2009. One of the first software conferences, had approval to stay from my employers. ** Peter Fein on that. Knew I’d show up and try out different things. Then learned about Open States, how legislature blows through different states.
Wikimania in 2012 I was one of the co organizers. Every technical event is a “hackathon” for them – style of EriK Mueller. Wikimania is the conference for wikipedia enthusiests, and wikimedia platfrm. The hackathon is two fold in purpose. Distributed groups, paid staff, whatever to work in some way to progress teh software around wikimedia. Automated tool to maintain things, like bots. Inreach aspect, outreach aspect. Open Hatch to co organize for more of an outreach angle. New contributor manuals. Dogmatic of “here is how you set up your computer to run Wikimedia” as opposed to the wishy washy different ways of doing things. Pure encyclopedia aspect.
I’ve lead or co-organized a bunch of “here’s how to get involved with open source” often with a specific gender angle. First one was Sept 25, 2010. How to collaborate on open source, communicate skills. Community understanding, find out about open source projects. As much teaching as doing at the hackathons. Half workshops, half hand-picked projects for attendees. Mentors to make sure people achieve those tasks.
Product nights at Boston and some other cities now. Bring a project connected to Python, create a feeling of welcoming. Envision product structure along with

What do you think the purpose of a hackathon is?

Erik Muller likes to call everything a hackathon. Two different separate goals – inreach and outreach. Hackathon is not well defined. Code sprint has a stated goal of wanting to contribute things to an existing project, fairly consistent use of the term – Debian, Python, KDE, etc. Project nights are “work on your own stuff” with the background role of collaboration and socializing iwth people who like things your like your project.
Open source comes to universities – teaching day, coding day. Not hacking. Negative connotation in many places. DebCamp is tightly defined.

What do projects look like for your event?

Hit control c when you want to stop me
DebConf 2011. In 09 and 10, two people with a bunch of experience noticed there was a lack of ability to review work from folk new to the community. Reviewing and sponsoring code. DebExpo.
Funded by Google Summer of Code, weren’t quite done with it yet,student couldn’t keep working on it. Languished. Probably 08 summer of code project. Interested in newcomer experience, especially on Debian. I was contributed to “someone else’s project” but it was for teh community of 1k plus contributors. DebConf to run well enough to replace teh thing it was supposed to repalce. Community work to get people iterested in maintaining it.
Hackathon part of it that was pivotal to my setting aside time to work on it. Seeing future collaborators. Dev Expo. Twisted project is 12 year old project for easy to write, great software makes it do things. “The Engine of Your Internet”
Run monthly-ish events for volunteers to get together and work on things, explore the design of the code. Not just organized by the founder, but in the inreach goal. Had a hugely great time fixing tiny bugs. There’s a famously crotchety guy named Jean-Paul Calderone
left software dev to become a farmer. Anyway. Stuggling to figure out a bug from 3 years before. Figured out the dev tools working with IRC and i person. Did all the technical stuff, had it reviewed, got put into Twisted. Tapped into my laptop doing paperwork. And his old dude turned around and said “thank you for doing that.” But with longevity, they want more people to be involved with their project


My understanding is about reading a bunch of os mailing lists. 2003 or earlier. Poepole would get together and work on things. See the term bouncing around, confirmed understanding. Then 2010ish I started noticing it showing up in high-flash expensive efforts to encourage people to build exciting looking disposable things. Rolled my eyes at it. The way I interact with anything famous is.. The iPod comes out and comment on slashdot: “No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.”
Tell me your favorite story from an event.
Haven’t ranked them all. First open source comes to Penn or something. Open Source Immersion, the first event in the Open Source Comes to Campus series. Wanted to find novel ways of how to get undergrads aware of and involved with open source. Had OpenHatch. Who signed up for it? I have a secret hidden agenda in making these things more welcoming to make them much more diverse. The sign up page talked in broad strokes, we love this thing, answer these things: what do you know about open source, how you found out about htis website. Wanted to do specific outreach to women in CS. 38% percent were women in general signup. Had too many people signing up for slots. Sorted by excitement level. About 30% of that set were women. That’s my favorite from that event.
Another thing fro that event – 20/30 minutes on history, another 20/30 on Q+A. I’m a free source activist, this person was an undergrad at Penn who was new to open source. As I’m a free software activist, I cared a lot about helping the next generation understand the principles and history behind the movement. After a 20-30 minute lecture on history, followed by 20-30 minutes of Q&A with two volunteer staffers, one student came up to me. She said she was really taken by the open source ethos, but she then told me she fond the term “hack” alienating. That was especially informative to me, since the following day was dedicated to contributing to open source projects but called the “hackathon day” (you can see that here: ).
I feel alienated by the term “hack” in the talk and in the stuff we’ll be doing tomorrow.

What is that wider movement about?

Is it accomplishing those ends?
Yes but those connections are hard to make. The Grace Hopper open source day is really interesting. There about a week ago. Two or three years ago, Deborah Nicholson and bunch of folk from Sahana (opensource disaster response) participated. Those folk come from more of a hackathon and less of an opensource community background. They found that they struggled to get developers set up with the environment in the amount of tie they had. OpenHatch isn’t flawless either, but we improve it over the years. Certaily seen hackathon like things focused on non profits and techie people can help solve it over a weekend, use open source, customize it. Things that grow the communities around the software. But if they could write about it for the projects would know about the super cool thing going on

Other Things

Things I majored/minored in. Active in the computer club. What I understood computing culture to be. People who wanted to hear more about software, ask questions, find out what other people are up to. Go on random technical adventures together. I have a thing I wanted to do, I knew if I coldn’t do it, I could find someone who could help me just by being in that office. Some of those peopel were transparently about social value. Blogging for Hopkins community. Some were flashy and throw away, like thing for Pandora.
Totally different thing that happened was I had a wacky idea in 2003. Things too seriously: alsamixer doesn’t let you know what is going on until it plays it. Set flags. Wouldn’t it be great if it played music while you changed your volume: salsamixer. Change volume but also modify the name and icon so they know which one they are using. Learned about statemachine in C. Kernel mixers with A and S. More seriously, other people had a week long project to rewrite memory thing. CS research people who hung out there, learned a bunch about tools. How memory management works. Week long hackathon. Sure learned a lot.
I a way, hackathons strike me as what would happen if people who weren’t immune to this idea of background community wanted it but didn’t know how to do it. Make temporary events to bring people together. Background community.
When you open teh GIMP, the file extension is XCF, why would it be extention? eXperimental Computing Facility. Another resource:
Needed their own space, came up with their own stuff, including a file. Then it was a group of people . After they graduated, it spun down. The open .. movement, created a space that anyone could join even if they weren’t those people. OCF is still around. XEF left a shrine to their existence on computers in this extension. More info about XCF
Salon article, became an amateur collector of these things. What is their computer group up to? How often do they meet, what are they up to? Etc. Now I use the same thing to improve user groups.