Meet Silona: A Woman Who Codes for Social Change!

BlogHer Original Post

Silona is organizing a Code-A-Thon that will lock up 100 programmers for 48 hours to see what kind of open source software can be written for non-profits.  It's taking place on October 13th at 6:00 p.m. to October 15th at 6:00 p.m. at tek republik in Austin, Texas.  Here's the reason why behind the event.  You can check out who's coming and sign up here.

I had the pleasure of interviewing her.

1.  Tell me about you?

I've had several careers at this point.  I worked on political campaigns and activism for 6 years, but I have been in involved purely in the technical end since 94.  My expertise is database systems, having worked on my first database in dbase 3+ in 1989.  I've also worked in the gaming industry and done a fair amount of technical training on large e-commerce and content management systems.

2. Why did you start LoTV? (League of Technical Voters)

It was after successfully lobbying on 9 out of 10 technical issues to the Texas Legislature.  (One of those was for municipal wireless access in Texas.)  I found the majority of the time all I had to do was show up and talk to the Legislators about the impact of their legislation on technology.  They often asked me to rewrite the bills on the spot.  The legislators are not particularly tech saavy and there really wasn't a nonpartisan group of techies for them to talk too. I researched further as to why none existed and determined it was an issue of personality type mismatches.  I thought I could solve that issue with software.   Hence the idea of the League was born. 

3.  Do you consider yourself more of a techie or a nonprofit/social  change activist or both?   

Techie first social change activist second.  It has made my life more difficult.  Most people don't always understand how a piece of software that facilitates conversations can change the world ... until it does.   Like um lets say myspace.

4.  How did you come up with idea of Code-A-Thon?

I made it up but soon after found out that other groups do some similar events.  Both BSD and plone do something call sprints that are quite similar.  Honestly, I think I got it from a combination of having working in the gaming industry where periodically during a big crunch we would launch into a nerf gun fight for like 15 minutes and then go back to coding.

5.  Jonathan Zittrain, professor at Harvard Law School, a lecture at  Harvard Law School about open source software and intellectual  property rights said "Put software developers in a room and pizza at one end and code comes out the other end"  What's your theory?  What do you think will come out at the other end  of your codeathon and will pizza be the input?

I don't know.  And I am excited to see.  I know that several programmers are cheating and will be bringing almost finished code.  Some things will get fixed.  Some things will only be designed and god only knows what amazing thing will be realized.  I never do.  It's that wonder that keeps me here.  We are in Austin Texas so I will be feeding them Mexican food as well as design specs and pizza.  I will have a caffeinated beverage sponsor!  I will try to keep their minds fed with a fair display of music and art every 4 hours as well!

6. How many women do you think will show up?


Several - all mainly friends of mine.  I'm hoping for about 5 or so but we are few and far between - in the gaming industry I was part of that 2%.

7.  Tell me about the hat in the picture on your blog?

It was my Great Aunt Jewel's hat.  She was an amazing strong woman.  I was on my way to a friend's tea party and had this picture taken.  I think it's cute.


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