Oakland Police Beat

Oakland Police Beat

Oakland Police Beat has launched. Susan Mernit explains what the site is about. You should go poke around, see what it is all about. ^_^

It is a WordPress site, and the data is stored in custom post types and taxonomies. All the software that composes the site is free and open source (and I will be providing a writeup of all the great projects we used soon). Bernard is interesting.

Susan Magnolia created the logo, visually showing OPB as an extension of the Oakland Local family.

Aim lower

Posted elsewhere, long enough to reference here.

I wish I had more time to articulate this, but I don’t. So, I am gonna put this out there and not gripe about tangents.

There is a spectrum of technology users. Any piece of tech is likely created by someone more advanced on the spectrum that the target demographic of users. That demographic can be really wide, and may encompass a higher level than the creator, but for web software, due to its ubiquitous nature and the huge usage rate, most of the demographic is less advanced.

That means that for any web software, the developers are among the most privileged users. While it certainly doesn’t feel like it, they have the most time and effort to dedicate to the project, given their circumstances. It is important that tools be created in their toolbox to help them, but those tools will likely also be part of their privilege.

The folks that can go from server provision to a document served in a web browser is relatively few. And the way we talk about our tools, it leaves the people I care about out, because they can’t manage anymore effort, time or money than what is offered in one-click installs and proprietary web panels. But if as a society we have chosen to move our information online (and I think that is a good idea), then everyone also deserves to have an equal voice.

I was homeless. When I was homeless, I learned how to make websites, because I had a public library with computers in the first years web mail became available; I am perhaps part of the first generation that was allowed that luxury, the decoupling of wealth and expression. We all (in this forum) agree that we don’t want corporations to own our digital culture. But I think we really need to aim lower in the spectrum if we want to build the tools of expression for the web today. If the so-called “hacker ethic” says we build software in a way that leaves people behind, it is useless and should be abandoned.

I would love for every person to have their own secure, decentralized and portable server, but I build websites for people who need to find food, housing and work, and I obviously think those are more important than personal servers. PHP powers the web that I know helps people. It doesn’t exclude other languages, but to disparage it because it doesn’t fit the tool set shows a bias of privilege that ignores the vast, ongoing, happening-right-now benefits of the web we have. Python, Ruby and Node can overtake it, and it appears like great strides are being made to overcome the weak tools of the past. But until a tired parent can come home from less than living wage job and share their pictures with their extended family with the same or less amount of effort it takes to sign up for Facebook, those languages and their projects don’t hold a flame to insecure, buggy, one-click installed, outdated, shared-hosting blogs.

Aim lower. We need all the help we can get down here.

free software consultant

I haven’t heard back from the FSF, but I’ve been thinking about how I present myself to folks in a professional capacity. Since Impact Hub Oakland has opened I’ve been meeting lots of folks who ask me if I make “apps”, by which they mean for mobile devices. Sometimes they mean “webapps”, which I don’t know, is like a social network or other tracking site that collects information about users. I point out that I provide infrastructure and other things to orgs that need a clean, straightforward way to communicate their message. And I support the whole stack, registration, server stuff, even copy editing.

I may have a big gig coming up in the next few months, and it will give me some downtime afterwards. I intend to use that to develop my site and services, to hone in on the software and user cases that I want to support, and write some documentation explaining why I do what I do.

I think “webcraft” explains what I do well, but it also includes all kinds of communication tools that people may not expect, like email and jabber. I tend to think of the web on many levels and contexts, and my elevator pitch may not be getting that across. I don’t think it suffers for that (I have terrific client conversion rates!), but I’d like to start doing more projects that make me come alive, things I can get excited about.

I am going to get some business cards made soon (I’ve resisted for so long, but I keep running into people that want to talk about free software in passing), and it will read as such:


webcrafter, free software consultant

Cover letter + resume

I saw the job posting for Web Developer at the Free Software Foundation, and it grabbed me. I am willing (excited, actually) to move to Boston and everything (and Susan is supportive of this life journey, so all those bases are covered). But I have a problem, I don’t really know how to write a cover letter or resume. I’ve been freelance webcrafting for many, many years now. Also, nearly all of my work, and all of it for last year, has been by referral. I am confident in my abilities, and am a capable speaker, so normally a short discussion and maybe a few links are all I’ve needed for years.

It was nerve-wracking to start, because I realize that I really want this job. We are really rocking right now, and are quite happy here in Oakland, where there is a renaissance happening around us. This isn’t a desperate attempt to better our situation, and that is what’s scary. I can handle stress and uncertainty, because I have a personality and particular skillset for that. This is different: if I wrote a job description for myself at an org I wanted to work at, it would basically be that posting, on that site. I’ve worked to help the people around me, and I’ve worked to support my family. I’d like to be selfish, and do the work I’ve been doing for free, in my spare time, but as my job.

Imagine never having to defend using free software!

So that is where you come in. I need help. I’ve read a gazillion cover letter and resume writing pages, and have a basic structure in mind, but I could use some proofreading and feedback. Also, assorted questions. I was gonna email specific people, but it is more my style to be publicly vulnerable, because it tends to get stuff done, quickly.

Below I am going to insert pre-formatted text of the cover letter and resume I’ve written in text files. I will also include a list of links to my work, but since I should do that anyways, I am going to make it a separate post (or page). Edit: I am going to proofread them a couple more times, but if you want to point out grammar and spelling, that is fine. ^_^


  • Should I send it in a different format, so I can set headings and such?
  • I wrote more formal in the cover letter, but realized that is the chance for them to hear my written voice, and that is important in my work. Thoughts?
  • I’ve read that resumes are glanced at, and although I think the FSF will be more attentive, how can I structure it so the important stuff is where it should be?
  • I’ve come to believe that I contribute to a lot of projects in non-coding capacities, but I am not sure how to reference that. For instance, I provide public analytics to GNU MediaGoblin. Is that too much pandering to mention that? Does it come up in an interview?
  • On the resume, should I leave off, change, or add interesting facts about me?
  • What is the deal with letters of recommendation? Presuming I had them, do I send that with the resume, or bring them to an interview?
  • Would you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation? ^_^

Thanks so much for reading this stuff! Please leave feedback in the comments, or email me at maiki@interi.org!

Okay, here is the cover letter:

Hi, my name is maiki. I am sending in my resume for the recently created Web Developer position. I am a freelancer webcrafter, a term I use because I often work with non-profit and community-based organizations that don't have technical staff on hand, and I fill in the skills they need to create and maintain their web presence. My last non-freelance job was as the Communications Director for a non-profit bicycle coalition.

When I saw the position posted, I became giddy. I love free software, and I love the web. Learning how to use free software and build websites were important parts of my life, and I continue to pay it forward with the work I do now. The reason for my excitement is that the software listed looks like tremendous fun, and I have self-hosted most of them, and contributed to four of the projects. Having a job supporting and building on those systems feels like I wrote the posting for me.

I live in Oakland with my small family, and here I am striving to shine light on the shared narrative between user freedom and social justice. I am on the ground here, training and empowering folks that have terrific missions, but had never been exposed to free, libre and open movement. I am making great strides, and I feel that I could increase my scale by help the FSF make the most of its web systems.

I am more than willing to come to Boston to work with you. If it isn't too presumptuous, if you'd grant me an interview, perhaps we could coordinate it to coincide with LibrePlanet, next month. I am sure everyone there is busy before, during and after the event, but I could come a couple days early or stay later if we could arrange that then.

maiki interi
2323 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

And the resume:

maiki interi
2323 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612 - 510-593-8799 - maiki@interi.org

A decade of experience working in all aspects of webcraft: hosting, development, design, marketing, content strategy, information architecture, documentation and training. Additional experience in running communications for non-profits: outreach, grant-writing and appeals, volunteer management, messaging and tone, and establishing institutional memory through policies and documentation.

The majority of my work will be included in the accompanying links document, but I've had the opportunity to establish several long-term, ongoing relationships.

Avalon Travel/Seal Press
Contract Webcrafter (2013 - Present)
* Salvaged an 18-month overdue, over budget project, relaunched in six weeks
* Built a network of sites with free software; have moved over the two primary sites for this publisher, and have launched several others.
* Other members of Perseus Books Group have began migrating sites away from proprietary, closed systems to this network.
* Part of an ongoing internal discussion on the alternatives to DRM-infected books, building tools to facilitate that process.
* Relevant sites: Moon Handbooks (http://moon.com), Seal Press (http://sealpress.com)

Center for Media Change
Contract Webcrafter, Technical Advisor (2009 - Present)
* Built Oakland Local, a prominent community news site.
* Leveraged interesting configurations (Drupal, WordPress) to serve underrepresented groups in Oakland; the site could subscribe to a newsletter and turn it into web post, for hundreds of local non-profits that didn't have websites.
* Built Live Work Oakland, a tech and business directory, in partnership with The Kapor Center for Social Impact (they insisted on using Google Maps instead of OpenStreetMaps).
* Soon to launch a new data-driven Oakland Police Dept. accountability site.
* Relevant sites: Oakland Local (http://oaklandlocal.com), Live Work Oakland (http://liveworkoakland.com)

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
Contract Webcrafter (2009 - Present)
* Ongoing development and design for the web
* Project management and branding/design for print and physical assets (etched glass!)
* Technical advisor for infrastructure, which includes StatusNet and ownCloud for internal use.
Communications Director (2007 - 2009)
* Established policies ranging from content strategy to licensing, with training and documentation
* Public speaking for civil, academic, advocacy and general audiences, as well as lobbying at the Federal level.
* Managed volunteers in all aspects of our work (including valet bike parking, which is really hard!).
Relevant site: Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (http://bikesiliconvalley.org)

Web Software - CiviCRM, Drupal, MediaWiki, Plone, Ikiwiki, Etherpad, StatusNet, GNU MediaGoblin, WordPress, ownCloud, Piwik, GitLab, Gitorious, LAMP in general, and a whole bunch more.
Practical - As a freelancer, I have to communicate with a variety of people, across time, space and technical ability. My success at working with others is demonstrated in that I only take referral work, and I have to schedule folks' projects months away.
Server Stuff - I use a variety of services and vendors to host my websites, including: personal computers, co-located racks, Rackspace, Linode, Digital Ocean and WPEngine.

Interesting things I want you to know
* Last year all my work was by referral, and I had 100% conversion to clients!
* Last year, all my checks were signed by women, and most of the developers I work with are women!
* I have probably hosted more StatusNet instances than anyone aside from Evan!
* GNU MediaGoblin's initial release was a few months before my child was born, so for the first year or so, our family instance was the largest GMG site on the web (and was featured in the first campaign video)!

Pre-parenting advocacy

I used to care a lot more about supporting free software in my work; post-parent, not so much.

I don’t want to be different because I am a parent, but it is probably happening. I am not becoming conservative in most things, but I have changed how I do work. Before I didn’t particularly care about how much money I had. Now I care about a very specific amount, which is just enough that I can not be constantly stressed while hanging out with my kid.

For me, that means I become more lenient on software. I am not going to jump on a Mac or anything, but if someone wants to pay me to set something up for them, I am inclined to do it.

I am not really getting into any ethical grey area; most of my clients are non-profits still. My most commercial client is a feminist book publisher. I will never work for a defence contractor, I have hard lines I won’t cross (with the caveat always being holodecks; I would work on a holodeck!). But I have no problem helping folks with otherwise non-free software, from the OS up to certain types of web apps (like Google stuff).

When it comes to the web stack, it is all open. I can’t think of any software I run for clients on a web server that isn’t free. In fact, I think it is all GPL. Most of it is GPL, though nginx used a BSD-like license. But that isn’t sexy, and no one gets brochures or business cards trying to sell them on it. Free software, when both in freedom and cost, doesn’t seem to sit that well in the human psyche unless you’ve drunk the kool-aid from a different source.

Anyhow, another reference piece for myself: I am interested in how becoming a parent has changed me, or re-prioritized my life. From the looks of it, I am falling out of the zealotry of FOSS advocates. Maybe it is time I give this pragmatic approach a try…

Nonviolent feedback

We have got to stop the negative feedback loops in free software. I am going to start.

In the last year I’ve gotten to know people who make some of the software I use. I love their work, and them for doing it. It makes my life, and the world, better for it. And as I get closer to their work, following mailing lists, bug trackers and internet noise, I realize just how hard it is to do what they do.

Software isn’t supposed to satisfy everyone, it is impossible, and that is an obvious conclusion, but you wouldn’t guess it from the reactions folks share when they are exposed to software. Another obvious, and perhaps even less occurring thought, is how it feels to create something and subsequently have it verbally torn apart publicly.

I know how it feels to rage on a missing feature. And to my great shame I’ve threatened to stop using software because some evil and faceless developer is attacking me personally (sorry folks who make Firefox for Android, I really do appreciate your work!). It puts me in a weird place where I can see why people say what they say (well, to a certain point), but also how casual violent and uncaring we can be in our criticism.

For my part, I am going to try to stop giving unhelpful criticism. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and if I can, I want to raise them up, so they can accomplish more for all of us; it is easy to do since I use free software. I am going to take my frustration and vent it to finding bug trackers, and giving real constructive feedback. And I am going to accept replies from developers and designers with a grain of salt, because they are likely being bombarded by less kind correspondence.

And as a bonus, I am going to suggest to others to do the same, so we have less folks swaying popular opinion with noxious attitudes, and more people helping all this software become the best it can be.