Miriam Goldman on creating a diverse community of Speakers and Attendees
Miriam Goldman, organizer of WordCamp Ottowa (apply to speak!) and lead developer at Pondstone Digital Marketing, joins us to discuss her work encouraging a more diverse group of speakers and attendees in the WordPress community.
Jesse: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the BoldGrid BoldLife podcast. I’m your cohost Jesse Owens, joined by my cohost Mike Demo. How are you doing, Mike?
Demo: 00:09 Good, Jessie. Um, it’s at the start, at the time of this recording for a three day weekend here in the states, so that’s always nice.
Jesse: 00:16 Yeah, I’m excited to, to get ’em a couple extra hours of rnr. And this weekend, uh, we are joined today by Miriam Goldman. Miriam is a web developer, um, karate Sensei and ballroom dancer and clarinetist. So it’s quite an impressive repertoire. Miriam, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your position in the WordPress community?
Miriam Goldman: 00:41 Yeah, so I’m pretty much already said or what I do in my extra time. I like to keep myself busy and the WordPress community, I’m one of the core organizers of a WordCamp Ottawa and I’m also heavily involved with our meetups. And I also speak at various WordCamps across North America. Right now I’m looking to go internationally hopefully in 2020 and I’m also a member of the diversity outreach, a speaker group that is happening through, um, the community page.
Jesse: 01:18 Oh, excellent. Uh, can you tell us about the speaker diversity outreach group?
Miriam Goldman: 01:24 Yeah. So initially it was aimed to try and get more women speaking and it’s basically a group to help provide training to those who, um, are of I guess minorities. And so my role is as a trainer to train people to run our workshops. And it’s basically a different modules, like how to prepare your talk, how to write your pitch, what makes good slides. And it’s basically a way to encourage those who are scared to speak and might think that I’m a minority and nobody’s going to want to listen to me. It’s a way to encourage them and try and just get the word out. And it started in WordPress, but, uh, Jill has decided to do it to the more open source community. So it’s now spread to the Drupal community and I believe Joomla community as well is getting involved with it.
Jesse: 02:21 Wow. Um, what would you say are the, the pitfalls, um, you mentioned that, uh, the folks might be scared or hesitant to, to, uh, try their hand at speaking with. What are the, what would you say the most common reasons I’m objections that you have to overcome in order to get them more diverse speakers set?
Miriam Goldman: 02:44 I would say that I know from past experience, because I only started speaking about two and a half, three years ago, myself, is that people think that they don’t know anything.
Miriam Goldman: 02:56 And, and especially those of minority groups, I know myself as a woman in tech, sometimes I feel that, oh no, nobody’s going to want to listen to me because they don’t think I know anything. So that I think is the biggest hurdle that people have to overcome is right.
Jesse: 03:16 What, um, when, when you’re doing your outreach, how do you attempt to overcome that? Is it, is it just a matter of creating a welcoming community or are there, are there other specifics?
Miriam Goldman: 03:27 Yes, there’s that. Uh, there’s that and there’s workshops that we run. We’re just refining our process now. We’ve just recently relaunched our team and would just, uh, basically fine tuning everything. But we offer workshops in different cities and we train people to run these workshops and just to pass on knowledge and create a community and give them the tools so that they can succeed.
Demo: 03:56 Excellent. So diversity is actually a huge passion of mine and trying to get other people inclusive. Um, mainly because I’m a member of the LGBT Q community and I always find that is a two sided coin. So you’re completely right that people are scared and maybe they have imposter syndrome. I’m not being able to apply or maybe they’re not good enough. But what can organizers do? Cause a lot of times, you know, organizers of volunteers, sometimes they might not know that they might not be making the most welcoming experience and code of conduct’s can help. But I have seen even in the WordPress community, more of a concerted effort at certain events and overall much better than trying to be more welcoming to all members of our community, even if there wasn’t any intentional discrimination. We’re pushing out certain groups. There’s a difference between, not, I mean intentional, but also trying to be intentional in how to be welcoming. So what can organizers and people that are planning events do on their side in addition to helping the individuals that might want to apply to speak on their side?
Miriam Goldman: 05:08 Well, if we’re talking about just in general, even for attendees and volunteers, I would say that do some research beforehand and just compile a list of things and talk to different people and just be like, what things would set you off? What things would make you want to say that no, this isn’t a good place to be. And just research and just get all your information beforehand instead of just trying to go in and blindly and assuming things.
Jesse: 05:42 Excellent. Yeah, it strikes me that that codes of conduct are great at preventing overt discrimination and bias, but it’s tougher to overcome the little microaggressions. Um, and as you know, as, as a CIS white guy myself, it’s, it’s, it’s, I’m guilty of it as well. Um, lots of times that it just takes some times a little bit of self awareness. Um, what are the, what are the things that the non minority members of the community can do to, uh, make this a more welcoming community?
Miriam Goldman: 06:21 Say, listen to people. And going back to it is don’t assume things like, just be there for people and listen to them. If somebody, some people might be quiet but their body language might show something if you’re in person or their tone of voice. If you’re just, I’m on a phone call and if something is wrong, just ask the person in a friendly matter and don’t get upset about it. And don’t assume that it’s always about you, you personally. Sometimes it might be a generalization and when you get that information, try and act on it. And if you can’t just find somebody who can help you act on it. Some things you might not be able to solve, but as long as you’re taking action and moving forward, it’s better than just letting it sit.
Demo: 07:18 I definitely think that there are things that people can do when they see examples. I remember being so amazed at WordCamp us a few years ago that they had all gender restrooms as an option, you know, not as the only option but as a option. And I happened to be on the team for the Joomla world conference, which was in Italy in Rome that year. And I fought hard and you know, the rest of the organizing team supported it. And we had one set of bathrooms that were labeled all gender, which was more difficult to do in a European country. Uh, but we, you know, we had the whole event space at the hotel and we just basically said it was a condition that we needed and they were willing to do it. And there was people, attendees that thanked us for it that were really affected by that, that maybe we weren’t aware of.
Demo: 08:11 And that’s what I thought was so impactful is I would talk to other people on the team. They’re like, well, do we have anyone that that qualifies? And I’m like, first of off, that’s our org answered a question to ask. And second of off we do after the fact when we had people, a couple people just thank us for it. It made all that effort worth it because if we can make an attendee experience better for one person, that really is all that really matters because that one person could become a volunteer or maybe they could leave their own meetup or their own community and you can really, you know, changed the open source culture for the positive more than just diversity just by getting more voices in for all sorts of areas. So that was kind of my moment when I can, I saw we’ll work campers doing at us and then I tried to emulate it at an event that I was a part of.
Miriam Goldman: 09:02 Yeah, exactly. It’s sometimes that it’s, that’s a small thing like just making sure that you have all gender or gender neutral and some people like you’re going to have trans people, you’re going to have nine nonbinary and gender queer people out there and they might not be, I guess advertising it. They might just be going forth in their day and not trying to, I guess publicize it for lack of better words and just having that safe space for somebody can make a world of difference. And like you said, if they come and they have a pleasant experience, they might want to get more involved in next year. They’ll recommend it for future years and they might be motivated to go out and do more themselves.
Jesse: 09:50 So speaking of uh, speakers, uh, your look currently looking for speakers for WordCamp Ottawa that you are currently organizing. Um, can you tell us about the submission process and, and what, what types of talks you’re looking for this year?
Miriam Goldman: 10:06 Yup. So, uh, right now, uh, there’s a URL that I will be tweeting notes later. I have tweeted out a couple of times, but it’ll be on my Twitter feed. And you basically fill in the form and we look for a title description. We asked a few other things like, do you have any speaking experience? Who is this talk intended for? And when we are going to have our speaker selection, we’re going to remove all names and Bios of people and we’re going to do a blind, a selection process and that the merit of the talk is based on the title and description alone, not on who is submitted it because there’s unconscious bias that we’re all guilty of whether we like it or not. And this is a way to remove it. And in terms of topics, we really don’t have a theme, but we’re looking for everything. We’re looking stuff from designers, from developers, from marketers, from bloggers, from community tops. If it’s something that you think that a member of the WordPress community can benefit for, then we would definitely welcome it.
Jesse: 11:17 Yeah, we will have a link to the speaker application in the show notes for this podcast. Uh, so definitely take, check it out if you will be in Ottawa and witnessed the camp again,
Miriam Goldman: 11:28 the camp is July 13th and 14th at Carleton University where at the rich craft building, which is which overlooks the river and it’s a beautiful building on campus. It’s one of my favorite places to go in the city.
Jesse: 11:43 And the applications for speakers will be open until June 77.
Miriam Goldman: 11:48 Yeah. June 7th at midnight eastern. I mean, if things come in overnight then we’ll allow it. But the cutoff is June 7th.
Jesse: 11:58 Yeah. Here in the states we have to have a postmark by the time we send in our taxes is like that. Right. Um, so, okay, great. Well, yeah. Um, that sounds awesome. So what else, um, how do you juggle all of what you do in the WordPress community with your own agency? That’s another thing that I’m really interested in is how people can, can find that balance and commit so much time as the community as well as their own living.
Miriam Goldman: 12:22 Well, I am very lucky in that when I got brought on to, um, my current position as lead developer for a agency, I worked for a called pond stone. My actual job description says get involved with the WordPress community. So, but it didn’t say that it had to be local. So I took some liberties with that and expanded it across North America. And I’m also very lucky that sometimes I do have some downtime from my development. So I do have the time and the capacity to focus in on all my WordPress community stuff. I’m able to do stuff for WordCamp Ottawa. I’m able to come up with pitches if I want to go to a WordCamp somewhere in Canada or the u s right now I’m able to act on stuff part of the diversity outreach group. So I’m just very blessed that I have a job that allows me to do that.
Jesse: 13:21 Yeah, shout out to pond stone for supporting the community like that. That’s amazing.
Miriam Goldman: 13:26 Yeah, and we’re actually going to be a sponsor for WordCamp odd west. So my boss is very supportive of this and he’s super happy that we have the opportunity to support the community.
Demo: 13:42 Excellent. So I know exactly how you feel like my job is full time community engagement with the open source community in general. And I am lucky enough to travel around to different WordCamps and the different hosting events and to be able to meet some amazing people and create some friendships. And I’ve seen people go from just, you know, just kind of attending their first WordCamp to them, you know, be on the organizing team. And it really gives hope that there’s companies like yours that are willing to invest in, uh, the open source community in their area. And it is really good overall because, you know, we find lots of benefits out of it. Sometimes you get business development partnerships or clients or maybe new talent. And at the end of the day we’re creating and we’re making a living with software that is GPL and has no physical cost to it and being able to give back to support that development. Sometimes it’s not fiscal, sometimes it’s just, you know, having staff working on it, you know, maybe do some Dev time, but that just as good everybody. And I think that’s something that a lot of companies should be doing more of. But we’re very lucky in the WordPress and open source CMS community in general, that those people that use those tools easily are willing to give something back in some form being fiscal or a time or some other way.
Miriam Goldman: 15:11 Exactly.
Jesse: 15:12 So, uh, Miriam, how can people follow you online? What’s the best way to, uh, to keep in touch with what you’re doing in the WordPress community? Do you have a personal website or a social, the best way?
Miriam Goldman: 15:25 Social right now is the best way because I’ll admit I’m not very good at updating my own website. I’m trying to improve on that. But, um, my Twitter handle is myriad, Goldman, so m I R I g o l d m, a, n. And that is the best way to find out about all my, where trusts, um, involvement. I, when I’m at a WordCamp, I try and tweet about the sessions that I’m in. I promote our own WordPress community. I, when I go to a meetup, I try and live, tweet our meetup if possible. And sometimes I go on Instagram and take pictures were, and that my Instagram handle is dancing sensei. So if you want to, if you’re more of a visual and want to see what’s going on, that’s a good way to get involved. And once I actually start updating my website again, it would be Miriam Goldman dossier.
Jesse: 16:23 Yeah, I think, uh, I think a lot of web professionals have that same boat where they had spent so much time working on a client’s sites and everything else that are, are on websites kind of fall by the wayside. I’m in the same boat for sure. Um, you can keep up with BoldGrid on Twitter as well, apple grid. Um, and you can also check out our show notes, which will have links to the speaker submissions for WordCamp Ottawa as well as Marianne’s agency and her Twitter.
Demo: 16:52 You can follow my Twitter at m p Mike and Please don’t forget to subscribe where ever your favorite podcasts are sold or just swipe on the BoldLife logo where ever you’re listening to this episode
Jesse: 17:05 and you can follow me on Twitter at Jesse Owens. Miriam, thank you very much for joining us today. Um, are any last plugs that you’d like to do before we end the show?
Miriam Goldman: 17:14 Um, not really. Just word Camp Odwalla it’s a great city. We were very friendly and it’s in the summer so you’re not going to have to worry about snow,
Jesse: 17:25 Huh? Nice weather in Ottawa. Okay. Thank you very much.
Miriam Goldman: 17:30 Thank you.