5 August 2013


Yesterday was the last day of GUADEC 2013 in Brno.

These past four days have been... WOW. Interesting and exciting talks (including some inspiring keynotes), great conversations, amazing human beings (once more, special mention for the Women's Dinner). It was fantastic.

I felt so well that I even managed not to make too much of a mess during my talk: I went through it a bit too quickly in the first half, but I managed to slow down in the second one (that was the one that I cared the most about), and in the end it was great having more time than previously thought for the discussion, which brought some great ideas for my future plans.

And today... Documentation BoF! Where all these plans will begin to be planned in more detail. After Ekaterina Gerasimova and Sindhu Sundar talks, after a couple of conversations with Meg Ford and Federico Mena Quintero, I am really looking forward to it.

The slides for my talk are here (.pdf). Kitten included. Have fun.

31 July 2013

Greetings from Brno!

Hi there.

The last post was a bit depressing. I guess it happens when writing about - well - depression.

But... now I am well! It really seems that I am well!

And what can be better than using all these newfound energies going somewhere? And what can be better than using this holiday also to do and make things? So: what better place than... GUADEC!


I will be here until the early afternoon of the 6th (so: one day and hopefully a half of Documentation hackfest); in the afternoon of the 4th I will be giving a talk on my beloved GTK+3 Tutorial for beginners.

See you around!

22 June 2013



Long time, no see. No write, more precisely.


I guess I owe an explanation. It is not going to be a post on GNOME or coding or documentation or anything techincal, and it is going to be a bit long, so feel absolutely free to skip. But, nevertheless, I feel like I should write something about the reason why I disappeared for about four months.

Let us start from the beginning, more or less: six years ago I doctor told me I have bipolar disorder. That is: mood swings so intense that they condition your life, and not for the good. It was not exactly a shock: I had always been moody, but lately I had started to be a bit more than that, so much that I was spending one week doing all sort of stuff (cleaning the kitchen at 4am, check) and ten days in my bed being unable to do little more than sleeping and crying, unable even to read more than a couple of pages. So: bipolar disorder. As a side dish, attacks of depersonalisation and derealisation: nothing seemed real, I was so dizzy I could barely stand, I had no accurate perception of sizes and distances and sometimes even colours.

Bipolar disorder, so: medications. To make a long story short, I tried four combinations of molecules before finding one that did not give me too many side effects (although I gained 25% of my weight) and allowed me to do something with my life (although on occasions I had a couple of relapses into depression). Life was not that bad.

In november last year, the medications stopped working. By december I was a wreck. I went to my doctor and he referred me to a specialist (I am seeing a doctor for the depersonalisation, but he is not allowed to prescribe medication: I am very grateful for the NHS, the UK national health service, which provides quite a good service for free, but sometimes its bureaucracy is a bit intricate). In the meanwhile, I managed to do a couple of things, as I told in the last posts, but I was not doing well. My referral got lost, then found again.

Finally, in March, I saw the specialist: enthusiastic, nice and thorough. The first change of medication she tried did not work: although not so depressed anymore, I spent one month sleeping 14 hours a day and being tired all the time. She then decided to try another road; but this medication had to be introduced very, very, very (that is: very) slowly, due to a risk of allergic reaction that could have sent me to the emergency room or worse. And that is what I have been doing for the past months: living below the working dose of medication, waiting for the molecule to work. This means that I have gone back to mood swings again, mostly of the "depression" kind (I have been depressed ten days out of two weeks, on average). The first results of the therapy should be seen, finally, in about four weeks. Hopefully.

In the last week I have started feeling a bit better, anyway. I managed to read four books - graphic novels, to be honest, but given my reduced intellectual abilities for the past months it has been a real breakthrough. (By the way, "Hawkeye" by Fraction, Aja and Pulido is fantastic.) After an evening out, I haven't always had the need to spend the next day sleeping to recover my strength.

There are no words to thank all the people that have patiently stuck with me all this time, that has been kind to me, sometimes just sending me a message in a dark day. The greatest thank you goes to Emmanuele (my husband), of course; he has literally saved my life, and even more than that.

So, this is the story so far.

Wish me luck.

And see you soon.

And if you have any question or comments, feel free to leave them below, or write me an email. I will be away next week (mother/daughter bonding time, most of it at the opera in Milan) but I promise to answer as soon as possible, as far as I can.

19 March 2013

More PyCon! It's a wish, not just a title.

I left the last post minutes before Jessica McKellar's keynote at PyCon 2013. Unfortunately the keynote was cancelled. Raymond Hettinger followed a series of lightning talk with a keynote the theme of which was "Python is amazing" (I don't rememeber the exact words, but that's the main idea). YAY!

Getting started with automated testing, by Carl Meyer, was a great introductory talk, a good way to remind me that not writing tests is not (just) being lazy, it's counterproductive (and therefore leads to more work later).

Then I moved on to a couple of much-needed talk on community building: Scaling community diversity outreach, by (take a breath) Asheesh Laroia, Jessica McKellar, Dana Bauer and Daniel Choi, and, after lunch, How (Not) To Build An OSS Community by Daniel Lindsley. So far my contacts in London for programming have been by mentor in the TechAbility programme (my gateway drug pusher, the way I really got into programming - thank you Ben!), a couple of friends and of course my husband (but I tend not to talk too much about computers with him). I probably never realized how much I miss a "real life" (as opposed to "just IRC/internet") community since I got here. There are the GNOME beer events, of course! But the only London Python User Group I see online is "professionals only", so it doesn't look very newcomers-friendly... and there is no chapter of the PyLadies in London. (I was told that I should set one up - but I cannot do it on my own. And yes, dear Londoners, this is another cry for help!) All of this probably just means that I need a job, I am tired of doing things on my own. End of the rant, sorry.

Later in the afternoon, yet another fantastic talk. Lynn Root presented Sink or swim: 5 life jackets to throw to New Coders. It was perfectly tailored for the stage I am in my programming education: I know the basics, now what? Well, there is her website, then there is... teaching others. I sense a pattern here...

And then I went to rest, because the day after I had to present my poster and I was already too nervous.

The day after - the last day - was basically "hey, here's my poster". I had presented a poster only once in my life, but it was a much smaller (although quite big!) conference, and it was in another field (game theory).

And you know what? I loved it! (Even if it meant missing the keynotes... and the other posters.)

I talked about what I did last summer, why it's a good idea to do something like that, how you do it (and what you shouldn't do); most important, I spread the word about the Outreach Program for Women - all the leaflets but one or two were gone by the end of the session, and many people went away with the link to the website scribbled on a piece of paper!

I wasn't able to stand on my feet, afterwards. So: nap! And then, introduction to sprints...

...so that yesterday I managed to find something for me at the OpenHatch sprint. I helped with a webpage that was incomplete (a webpage that was... teaching - how to contribute to an OpenSource project. Mmmmh, more of that pattern), and I cleaned up the wiki a bit. I had never heard of OpenHatch before this conference, but I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful frienship (to use the words of Claude Rains in Casablanca).

And now I should be packing (how will I stuff all the t-shirts I got into my suitcase?) and go on my way...

So: a big thank you to PyCon, to the PSF (who generously sponsored my travel and my hotel!), to all the wonderful people I met, too many to fit in a post here (also: I am terrible with names, I would probably forget someone). And... maybe see you in Florence later this year!

PS: I wrote the post this morning (PST). It's now almost night (also PST, I don't want to know what time it is in London), and I am at the airport - flight delayed by approximately 3 hours. I use the airport connection to give you... the poster! With a huge thank you to Marina Zhurakhinskaya and Meg Ford who sent me so many useful suggestions.

16 March 2013

So: PyCon!

I should have probably written something in the last days, but I was, well... overwhelmed.

I arrived in Santa Clara (after about 12 hours on a plane, and that was just to San Francisco) on the 12th - in the afternoon, local time. A few hours to rest, to get used to the jet lag, and then...


A hands-on introduction to Python for beginning programmers, by Jessica McKellar, was the perfect start: a smooth (re)introduction to the basics - it made me feel well. Hands-on intermediate Python, by Matt Harrison, followed. Fantastic. I learned so much, in such a short time: the balance of theory and practice was the right one. And the handouts are going to provide a very interesting (re)read for the future.

And on Wednesday night, some of the OPW women of the area had a small outing... (A special thank you to Aleta Dunne for the organization!)

Then, Thursday. Scripting: from Hard-drive to Github to PyPI, also by Matt Harrison, was advertised as "Novice" - but unfortunately I found it a bit too fast-paced for me. More precisely: the Python in it was not too difficult, but the "software engineering practice" level was above me. I look forward to re-reading the handouts in a less hectic environment. In the afternoon, there was Jessica McKellar again with Contribute with me! Getting started with open source development. Some much needed git practice - I will just say that.

And then... PARTY! I met nice people, I browsed the booths of the job fair getting contacts (and merchandise)... great time.

The conference started on Friday. Moving remarks by Jesse Noller on "changing the future" were followed by a keynote by Eben Upton... and the announcement that all of us (all 2500, and yes, that is two-thousand-five-hundred!) were going to get a Raspberry Pi. I will let you imagine the enthusiasm in the room.

I had to pick a talk. I was undecided between Jessica McKellar's How the Internet works and Esther Nam's How to Except When You're Excepting: I went for the first, and it was a fantastic introductory talk. I have to find a good book on the subject... (yes, dear reader, that is a cry for help!)

Then I spent some time browsing around, and after lunch I crashed in the Ada Initiative booth. I have rarely seen such a welcoming crowd, so great at making you feel at ease... Talking about the Imposter Syndrome mixed with nail painting (don't ask), and I also got a lot of good advice for my career.

I was really looking forward to a couple of talks on documentation - but I was feeling terrible (one of my dizziness attacks, a particularly nasty one) and I moved back to the hotel for a quiet night. I hope that the recording will be put online soon.

Now I am here, completing this post... But wait! It's almost time for the first keynote of the day! I'd better hurry! Talk to you soon! Bye!

27 February 2013

Planning... in Brno.

So, how did the Documentation sprint go? Not bad, not bad at all. I wish I would have been feeling better (I was quite under the weather, I don't know why) - and that I could have been a bit more productive (and that I could have gone for a few more beers with the others), that's all I can complain about.


  • I finally wrote the "generic widget" example for the Python GTK+ tutorial for beginners. I also learned a bit of Cairo in the process.
  • I reviewed (with a precious help of Kat Gerasimova) the above mentioned tutorial as a whole.
  • Last but not least, with Allan Day and Dave King we planned a complete rewriting of the presentation of the developer docs.

The last point is the reason for the title of this post. The idea is to separate the tutorials for beginners (that may be either a 10 minutes tutorial on "how to do something" or a more extensive introduction to a library) and the documentation directed at more experienced programmers. The former would end in a separate area in the website, whereas the latter would be under "tutorials" in the main website. Allan Day has designed a wonderful mock-up:

Developer docs homepage

So, what's next?

My idea is to start by splitting the current Python GTK+ tutorial in two versions. The first one should be a tutorial for beginners, structured as the way the Tutorial for beginners is now: a gradual path through the widgets with some theory; the pages being a gradual building of a nice example, on the model of Taryn Fox's tutorial for JavaScript. The second one should be something for more experienced programmers, structured on the model of the "GTK+ widgets sample code" page: the pages being almost an API, but with a medium-difficulty example to illustrate it.

I would then revise the Guitar Tuner and Image Viewer tutorials to make them a first example of "10 minutes tutorials" (for GStreamer and GTK+, respectively).

And then... I could do the same for the JavaScript tutorials; I am quite new to the language, so I would love some help - but on the other hand I was quite new to Python last year and that helped me a lot in walking in the shoes of the beginner for which the tutorial was intended! And/or I could continue with Python and do something like what we have for GTK+ for some other library (there is a nice Cairo tutorial that could be a great starting point).

So: many plans for the future have come out of this Documentation sprint. Many pleasant meetings, a lot of new ideas, a better understanding of little (but not less relevant!) things (I never knew that there was a difference between the capitalization of the titles in UK and US English - now I know)...

So: a "see you soon" to everyone who was there, a GIGANTIC thank you to our hosts in Brno, especially Florian Nadge, who woke up at 4am to pick me up at the airport on the first day! and that accompanied us almost everywhere.

And, of course: thanks to the GNOME Foundation who sponsored my travel!

GNOME travel sponsorship badge

And... see you soon for GUADEC, Brno!

22 February 2013

Ready for Brno? I hope so!

In the last week I revised as much Python 3 as I could, and I tried to teach myself the basics of JavaScript. And let's not forget Mallard!

The (Not So Evil) Plan:

  • To give a closure to that Python tutorial! If it is possible to give a closure to something... ;-)
  • To help as far I can, particularly with the other developer tutorials (thus particularly with the JavaScript tutorial).
  • To tackle Izidor Matušov (again, as far as I can: I remember that he is quite tall) and start working on Getting Things GNOME, finally.
  • To have fun! Well, that's always part of the plan...

Will I be able to follow my plan? In everything? At least in part? Will I freeze in the -11°C I read about on BBC Weather?

More news to follow...

12 February 2013

California! (Help! I need somebody!)

Let's go back a few months - let's say, September. Marina Zhurakhinskaya writes me an idea: Tiffany Antopolski and/or I could present something at PyCon about the tutorial for GTK+ in Python I wrote last summer. Unfortunately Tiffany could not make it, so it came down to me. My first reaction was obviously "Who, me? Am I really good enough?", followed by a "If Marina thinks I am good enough, why not?" (Marina has this amazing ability to make you feel you can do it, as every OPW intern knows).

It seems I was good enough to get a slot for a poster! I even got a contribution that partially covers my travel expenses.

A first draft of the poster is ready. But here is where you readers come in: is it there something you think I should absolutely put in? Leave out? And, most important: how can I advertise GNOME in general and the OPW in particular? Is there any material I can use? (For instance, and sorry for the very basic question: how can I use the GNOME logo?)

Please, let me know, possibly before the 21st of this month since I have to print the poster and send it to California. I am also planning to hand out a sheet with some more details on GNOME, the OPW, GTK+3 - same questions, but since the sheets are coming with me on the plane there is more time.

To conclude, once more, Thank you Marina!... and thanks to anyone who is going to help me in this adventure!

UPDATE: the draft of the poster. Sorry for the size, but I have a board of 4 by 4 ft, and I am not afraid to use it! Any comment is more than welcome...

1 February 2013

More kangaroos, children's games, and I cannot make the title too long.

LCA2013 closed this afternoon. My intellectual batteries feel so recharged they could light a medium-sized city.

The children's game is none other than... our old friend Git, as presented by Michael Schwern in Git for ages 4 and up. What is better than a set of construction toys to explain us the building of a directed acyclic graph? And what is better than a talk that explains clearly, taking its time both to have fun and to let you write notes - yet it's not afraid of going in depth? The talk was such a success (people were told to leave the room for health & safety reasons!) that it had an informal second take in the main foyer today.

Quick but absolutely lovely lunch and chat with the queer-friendly BoF group, then it was time for Emmanuele Bassi's Ponies and Rainbows: Clutter 2.0 and GTK+ 4.0. I don't know Clutter enough (and I know Emmanuele Bassi too much, being his proud wife) to comment on it - but it gave me the idea of tackling my beloved husband and write a beginner's guide to Clutter on the model of what I did last summer for GTK+. *Disclaimer*: I don't know when I will find the time...

In the evening, the Penguin Dinner in the wonderful setting of Mount Stromlo. Great company, we saw more kangaroos, but unfortunately I had to leave early because I was not feeling very well (sigh). I have been told that some people left at 4am... so: another success! for the incredible organizers and volunteers of LCA2013!

And then we come to this (Friday) morning. Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Yes, that Sir. Too much in his keynote to fit a post (he seems to talk at double the speed of an average human being): but it's worth mentioning a fond and moving remembrance of a fourteen-year-old Aaron Swartz, and his answer to a parent wondering what the internet has in store for his/her children: a call for the children to be the ones that make said internet.

The last talk I attended was once again Denise Paolucci, Web Accessibility for the 21st Century (the title was changed at the last moment from Beyond Alt Text). Another beautiful tutorial - clear, funny, informative.

I took a long break, then... lightning talks! From What is GNOME OS and why it won't eat your children (our Emmanuele Bassi, again), to Vimperator (I must tell about this to my PhD supervisor, who is madly in love with Vim) to A few words on depression.

The closing ceremony followed... and I hope to be able to make it to Perth next year!

30 January 2013

And I also saw a kangaroo in the wild.

Hi, I am in Australia.

I am at linux.conf.au in Canberra, to be precise. Always trying to learn something new - I cannot wait for the talk about Git for Ages 4 and Up, by Michael Schwern, today (Thursday - I am still not completely over the jet lag).

What have I done so far, besides meeting very nice people, too many to mention?

On Tuesday there has been a miniconf for women - Haecksen, which I learned it is the German word for female hackers. Men were welcome, of course! The talk that struck me the most there was Denise Paolucci's Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: great suggestions on how to fight that bug in your brain telling you you are going to be found out , from "always ask questions"  to "mind your (internal) language" to "teach". A very funny exercise followed the talk: a typical self-deprecating thing was reported by someone in the audience, then whoever thought that of him/herself once raised his/her hand - and it looked like a calisthenics class after a while. I find it interesting how this useful talk was felt to be needed for women, or at least mostly for women: and how I think that yes, indeed, it's mostly a woman's problem. Could it be caused by how women have often to manage conflicting expectations? (Of course I think that men have problems with expectations too, but I also think that at least these are mostly due to "simple" bars set too high, not with "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situations.)

And a mention must be made of Radia Perlman's keynote, also on Tuesday. It was interesting, it was funny, it was accessible: I was absolutely fascinated - and no, it was not just the graphs. It ended with one of the wisest suggestions I have ever heard, for everything in life: before fixing a problem, make sure you know what the problem is.

OK, now it's time for breakfast, and another exciting day!

(And if you're wondering about the kangaroo: yes, I am sure I saw one the other night.)

8 January 2013

Trying to wake up.

It didn't go as planned.

Too many things I wanted to try? Maybe.

The result, anyway, has been quite a disaster.

I still haven't learned C (or Go, for that matter); I tried but miserably failed to read Modern Operating Systems; my beloved tutorial is still missing some pages. And I feel like I have forgotten so much!

Yes, there has been a minor step forward in my studies, but not enough for an article; my github page is a little better, but out of two projects one is untouched and broken and the other is stuck (and on an apparently trivial problem! how to find an Eulerian cycle in an Eulerian graph!).

My health has been behaving badly too (enough for my doctor and my supervisor to suggest me to take a term off university "to take things with more ease" - let's just leave it at that), and that has not helped.

So: I need to wake up! To do something!

And so I decided to go to the Doc Sprint in Brno: trying to set myself some goals, hoping that they are not unrealistic.

As usual, any suggestion is welcome.