Exploring Privilege in Open Source Communities

Short Form


In many open source communities, privilege is rarely discussed. While it is not an easy topic to talk about, it is an important subject to explore if we want to make sure open source is truly open to everyone. After exploring sources of privilege and learning strategies to deal with it, we can all be better equipped to take action to improve our open source communities for the long run.


In this talk, we’ll look at a wide range of sources of privilege, including axes of identity like race and gender, as well as factors such as family responsibilities, level of education, financial resources, and the luxury of free time. We’ll consider how these privileges can affect our own and others’ participation in open source. We’ll also explore what we can do to build and support larger, more inclusive, and healthier open source communities through strategies like modifying community power structures, making sure everyone (ex: interface and experience designers, documentation writers, project managers, bug reporters, code reviewers) is a first class open source citizen, and supporting beginners or those with only small amounts of contribution time available.

In the open source communities I have contributed to and lurked around in, I have rarely seen privilege discussed. Challenging privilege is uncomfortable. If we welcome the discomfort and recognize it for what it is, we will all be better off in the long run.

“…Until you try to unpack and understand the privileges you have it’s difficult to empathize and understand the struggles of those who do not have the same privilege and empathy is really just the first step to enacting real change.”
-Lindsey Bieda (https://rarlindseysmash.com/posts/on-accepting-privilege)

So, let’s unpack and understand our privileges together, because I believe we can create change within our own open source communities!


community, communities, privilege, inclusivity, identity, strategies, power structures, beginners, empathy, organization

Speaking experience

In the past few years, I have focused on giving talks that equip others with tools to help make their hacker communities more inclusive. Some of the tools include open data, promotion, and outreach. Lately, I have shifted my focus to developer communities that are open source or are run by API companies:

Running an Inclusive Hackathon, Hackcon, January 2014

Open Hackathon Data, Hackcon, January 2015

Introduction to Web Development, University of MAD: The Annual Student Developer Conference, 2014 - 2015

How to Promote Your Event through Personal Outreach, Hackcon Workshops, July 2015
Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/secret/ePgDxR7irapAqV

Stuff You Don’t Need, Hackcon, July 2015
Slides: https://www.slideshare.net/secret/zvzFIhVp6HlV0W

Building Community with Developer Love, API Strategy and Practice Conference, November 2015
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGWM8S4AL3U&feature=youtu.be&t=11m59s
Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/taylorsoitgoes/building-community-with-developer-love-57894221

I've never given this talk before and recently started looking for a safe and welcoming conference to give the talk at.


  • Taylorbarnett


    Taylor Barnett is an Austinite and developer that loves helping build inclusive communities.

    Taylor was introduced to developer communities while studying Computer Science at The University of Texas at Austin. She helped create an early student hackathon in fall of 2012 and focused on growing the student developer community at UT Austin and at other universities worldwide in an inclusive manner. She was also an early advocate and leader for adopting measures to help increase inclusivity in hackathons. Today, she still mentors multiple student hacker organizations and their members. In 2013, she was one of the founding members of the Women Who Code Austin chapter, where she is currently an organizer and helps mentor members.

    Today at Keen IO, Taylor is on the Community team where she tries to be an empathic voice within Documentation and Support, builds fun projects, and helps developers through code, conversations, and high fives. She’s also strives to help Keen IO become a better corporate open source citizen.

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