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Women for Gnome with Tiffany Antopolski | Interview

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Tell us a few things about you, and how you got to be a GNOME developer.

I am a Software Engineering student at McMaster University. I first got involved with the Documentation Team back in 2010 by making a small contribution to Evince Documentation. I had decided to try docs as I felt confident that I could do well in this area. I enjoy explaining and teaching, and really like Evince, so thought it was a natural place to start. This allowed me to learn about Mallard XML, git, bugzilla, IRC and the process of making contributions.

You have been chosen to be a mentor for four GNOME Women Outreach Program participants. Is this the first time you are involved in this program?

After my initial Evince contribution, I was an intern in the first round of GWOP. I worked with the Documentation Team to help create the new Gnome User Help manual for 3.0. It was an exciting time. At the end of my internship, the team had a hackfest in Toronto (my hometown), so I got the chance to meet Shaun McCance, Phil Bull, Jim Campbell, Germán Póo-Caamaño, Johannes Schmid and Natalia Ruz Leiva (a fellow intern at the time).

What kind of experience is it to be a mentor for four other women?

In December 2011, I mentored GCI (Google Code-In, a program for high school students). I found it fun and rewarding, so I decided to mentor OPW this round. It again has proved to be very rewarding. I am learning a lot from my interns! Marta Casetti, Monica Kochofar, Radina Matic and Taryn Fox are 4 very hard working and motivated women to begin with. I am very lucky that all the students are such self starters. I have also had help from the community with guidance and patch reviews, so I can’t say I am doing it all alone :-). Radina is being co-mentored by Bertrand Rousseau from Getting things Gnome (GTG). The GTG team has been great in providing technical guidance about GTG itself. I have also had some help and input from Cosimo Cecchi and Ryan Lortie in the area of code reviews.

I see that documentation is the common thing for all four of the participants. Is this your expertise?

I have mostly contributed user documentation to GNOME, and created the Vala code samples in the Developer Documentation. Three of the interns are documenting GTK+ coding tutorials and samples. This part of the Developer Documentation project involves providing an up-to-date starting point for people wanting to learn Gtk+ programming. The tutorials and code samples are being written in C (Monica Kochofar), JavaScript (Taryn Fox), and Python (Marta Casetti). All code is using the latest technologies (eg. GtkApplicationWindow, GtkMenuButton). This project is using Mallard XML to document code.

So in short, I guess I would consider documentation something I am very interested in, and paramount to software development, both for the users as well as the developers. This is why I have spent most of my effort in GNOME documenting applications and now developer tutorials.

What can you tell us about documentation importance and value, particular in the GNOME desktop environment?

I always learn something new about an application by reading the user docs. Therefore, I think it is a great way to show users what is possible. It is where users turn to learn how to accomplish tasks.

In GNOME, I feel that the user docs are in some way an undiscovered gem. Even if one is familiar with a particular application, reading the docs can show you things you wouldn’t even think were possible, or different ways of accomplishing tasks in general… always a worthwhile read.

When it comes to the Developer Tutorials, our target audience are university students who may lack real-world experience, and are interested in breaking into GNOME development. We hope the tutorials, being written using 4 different programming languages, will provide a spring-board for them, and help bring in future superstar hackers to our team.

Is GNOME Women Outreach Program going to offer things of real value to the GNOME desktop, or is it just a program which main role is to bring more women to the GNOME developers world?

The main goal of the program is to allow women to contribute real value to the GNOME desktop. The GNOME Foundation is a non-profit organisation acting in the public interest, and getting more women interested in computer science is in and of itself a worthwhile endeavor. And if we can get those women to stick around and act as role models for others, even better. The different perspectives provided by different sectors of the population can only help to enrich our team. That being said, the women participating in the program are producing real beneficial work, as we speak.

There are not many women involved in the GNOME development, but those who are, are very active. Why do you thing there is such a shortage? Is the GNOME “family” friendly or “cautious” in accepting more women to the development teams?

There are not a lot of women in computer science in general, so the pool is small to begin with. My personal experience with the GNOME community has been very positive, and I never felt like I was treated any differently (better or worse) than anyone else.

Besides the mentoring for Women Outreach Program, what else are you working on currently?

I am currently trying to work on updating the Anjuta Wizards. With the mentorship and my summer job though it is slow progress. Also, with Susanna Huhtanen (a former OPW intern), I am preparing a talk for this year’s GUADEC, titled ”
If we don’t get the university students now, how are we going to get the experts later?”.
The talk will be about some of the ideas we have which we think will help give university students a solid springboard into GNOME development.

Any future plans on the things you are working on?

I hope that the Developer Documentation tutorials will increase the amount of new contributors to GNOME by giving them an accessible starting point. I also hope to build upon the content being generated by our current interns in the future, with further contributions from the community and volunteer developers.

Thank you Tiffany and good luck with your future plans!

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