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Get to Know Shauna Gordon-McKeon

photo Shauna in front of a brick wallShauna Gordon-McKeon’s keynote speech is Free Culture in an Expensive World, exploring how our social norms around money impact who participates in open source and how they do so.

Shauna Gordon-McKeon is an independent researcher and developer who focuses on free technologies and communities. She runs a business, Galaxy Rise Consulting, providing web and mobile development and data science services to individuals and organizations. She can often be found using her skills as a writer, public speaker, and teacher to help free software and open science communities more accessible to newcomers.

We asked her a few questions about her insights on open source via email.

What got you into open source?

I came to open source software by way of open government and open science. I’ve been interested in politics and government for as long as I can remember, and believe pretty passionately in transparency and in the state’s role in stewarding the public commons. I’m also a scientist by training, and have participated in the open access movement, in the push for reproducibility, and in “citizen science” projects.

I didn’t give much thought to software until five or six years ago, but when I did, it was easy enough to recognize the values that drew me to open government and open science: openness, obviously, but also accountability, collaboration, access to knowledge. I see open source as part of a larger community that I was already at home within long before I ever installed Linux on my laptop or learned to program.

What do you want people to take away from your upcoming keynote?

My keynote is about financial sustainability in open source specifically and free culture generally. I’m no expert in this subject—I’m not an economist, or a businessperson, and I don’t have any surefire advice for making money while sticking to your open source methods and values. My talk is not about providing answers; it’s about asking questions.

Questions like: Why is it so difficult for us to openly discuss money, and how can we make it easier? How does having paid contributors working alongside volunteers affect a community? How do corporations that employ contributors or donate large amounts influence the open source projects? Are there certain types of work—or certain demographics of people—that tend to be underfunded? How does funding, or the lack of it, impact projects being abandoned and people burning out? What resources do we, as a community, have access to and how can we better share them?

This talk shares its name with a project I’ve recently launched: Free Culture in an Expensive World. A big part of the project is doing interviews with people who’ve been active in free culture projects about their experiences with money and sustainability. I’m hoping that the talk will encourage people to talk more about money, not just with me but with each other. Our community, more than anything else, defines itself by a willingness to work openly and collaboratively to solve problems. If we can apply those values to the question of money in free culture, I believe we can achieve greater sustainability, as well as a larger and more economically diverse community.

Who do you want to reach?

Open Source Bridge is one of my favorite conferences, and that’s largely due to the community: the people I’ve met through OSB are reflective, creative, idealistic and, above all, kind. That’s the perfect audience for this talk.

What sessions are you excited about?

There are so many I’m excited about! Another reason I love Open Source Bridge—the talk schedule is always an embarrassment of riches. I’ll just name a few: Jennifer Rondeau’s talk about the history of software documentation, Denise Paolucci’s talk on terms of service enforcement, Katherine Fellows’ Intro to Clojure workshop, and Britta Gustafson’s talk on open source tech writing in the federal government. Oh, and Kronda Adair’s Building a Life With WordPress and Helen Jiang’s talk on the proprietary history of machine learning and the current open source stack and I’ll stop now before I list the entire schedule.

(Two more, though—I’m also very much looking forward to the other keynotes: Julia Nguyen’s Exploring Mental Illness With Open Source and Audrey Eschright’s Creating a Third Wave of Free/Open Source Software.)

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