I believe that open source provides a new model for changing the way things are. It is exciting to work with so many people who are experienced with working together in eclectic collections of motivated individuals. It is a new way of getting things done and it is neat to see it applied to social challenges as well as technical ones.

It all started with an idea of how to take a few baby steps toward increasing the number of women in the SF Ruby community.  Sarah Mei and I got to talking about putting a workshop together to teach women Ruby on Rails.  We envisioned teaching 10-20 women once per month, betting that over time a few would decide to stick around.  With just a few more women we could double or triple the number of women at the typical SF Ruby Meetup!  As we acted on our idea, we were joined by many individuals, organizations and companies who wanted to help.  With the force of the community behind us, the first workshop became a bold move with 62 attendees, 15 volunteers, and 7 simulataneous classes.

This workshop represents a breakthrough transformation in several ways:

  1. It is entirely open source and designed to be replicated by anyone to any audience (not just women).
  2. There seems to be a large potential audience of women.  The event filled up in less than 3 days with very little publicity.
  3. There are a large number of people and companies who want to see diversity amongst programmers, making it easy to find volunteers, space, food & drink, equipment and everything else needed to make such an event happen.
  4. The Ruby and Rails community in the SF Bay Area is still small, so just a few additional women will make a huge difference.  We don’t need to change all of society for this effort to have a significant and noticeable effect.

Every single person involved made a difference, just like in an open source software project.  This was facilitated by organizations that provided resources.  Some provided private space (server space and physical meeting space) and others, such as github, with a policy of supporting open source projects for free, provided public space.

People stepped in and did what was needed.  Orange Labs was an incredible host, letting us use every conference room as well as providing breakfast, lunch, and copies.  Vodpod who couldn’t make it in person contributed money for food & drink.  Volunteers arrived with USB keys that had software installs to save download time. Participants helped with registration, setting up and tearing down chairs and tables, arrived early and stayed late to do what needed doing.  Remote folks reviewed courseware. I don’t have a list of every volunteer, but I wanted to especially thank the additional teachers who made us able to open the even to such a large group and still keep the classes small:  Austin Putman, Bosco So, Carmen Diaz, Jen-Mei Wu, Seth Walker, Wolfram Arnold, Ivan Storck and Will Sargent.

If you are interested in volunteering at a future workshop, you can join our google group.

Here’s a list of the many organizations who helped:

Special thanks to Heroku for providing a free-tier, not just for this workshop, but for everyone.

What do you think?