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Thursday, 29 December 2011 13:19

Ada Initiative adviser deserts group


An adviser of a non-profit group that aims to increase the participation of women in free and open source software and culture has quit, describing the group as having achieved little since it was set up, despite spending nearly $US100,000.

Self-styled computer journalist  Bruce Byfield, who was an adviser to the Ada Initiative, a fact he never disclosed until now in any of his writings, made the comments in an article titled "2011: The Year of Linux Disappointments".

The co-founder of the Initiative, Valerie Aurora, has described Byfield's statements as incorrect.

Byfield has previously written in support of the group, both on the commercial site Datamation and also on his own blog. But, curiously, the pieces on the Ada Initiative on his own blog have now disappeared. A Google search shows that there were at least two articles in support of the group, one titled "12 Reasons to support The Ada Initiative and Its Fund-Raising".

In his recent criticism of the group, Byfield wrote: "Unfortunately, despite having spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 in six months — much of that apparently in salaries and travel — The Ada Initiative has accomplished little that a volunteer group could not.

"In fact, its founder's greatest success, the encouragement of conferences to adopt a model anti-harassment policy, was accomplished before the organization (sic) was founded. With its current fundraising campaign going so poorly that the progress bar was removed a few days ago from the home page, the non-profit seems to have failed to create the community support it needs to survive.

"Being a new organization (sic), The Ada Initiative might yet turn itself around or reinvent itself, especially if it finally manages to register as a charity. However its debut is distinctly lackluster (sic), especially in contrast to the GNOME Outreach Program for Women which returned in 2011 with several successful rounds of internship, and in the process demonstrated how a well-organized (sic) program (sic) increases participants' chances of success."

Byfield has not responded to a request for comment about his sudden volte face, his deletion of articles about the Ada Initiative from his own blog, and the fact that he never mentioned his being an adviser to the group when he was indulging in fulsome praise of the group.

Aurora, who recently asked people to step up donations or else face the fact that the Ada Initiative would have to shut shop next year, told iTWire: "Mary (Gardiner, the other co-founder) and I are pleased with the Ada Initiative's progress so far, as described on our website. We're looking forward to our first AdaCamp in January, with over 30 confirmed participants so far.

"Our community support continues to grow, with over 160 donors over the last 18 days (from December 2) donating more than $US17,000. We're especially happy we have completed the time-consuming task of preparing the paperwork required to form a charitable US non-profit, and are looking forward to launching new programs in 2012.

"We are sorry to hear that our former adviser, Bruce Byfield, is disappointed in our accomplishments this year. Bruce's statements about our finances, legal status, and changes in our donation website are factually incorrect."

She did not make any mention of why Byfield had quit the post of adviser and taken an adversarial attitude towards the group.

Aurora added: "We have extensive documentation on our non-profit governance, policies for expenditures, legal status, financial reporting, and much more on our website."

She said she had written about requiring donations or else having to shut shop because "we found that some of our supporters didn't understand that if we don't raise money, we'll have to stop operating".

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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