Why We Used Creative Commons for the Notable Women in Computing Card Deck

Mock-up of card_Back
Every piece of our Notable Women in Computer Science card deck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 U.S. License. There’s a few reasons for that.

The first is ideological: the card deck is designed to help connect technical women and girls to the history of women’s leadership in computer science. Some women and girls who most need that connection may not be able to afford a deck: think a public high school computer science teacher trying to encourage teenagers to consider software engineering who wants to hand out 12 decks. $120 is a bit high for a public school teacher’s salary, but these cards might have a major impact in those girls’ lives.

That’s why we’re rolling all profits from our Kickstarter back into the project to fund sending cards to educators who can’t afford them. We plan to make $0 profit from this project. Backers can also select to Give 1/Get 1 if they’re interested in doing so. We’re enthusiastically accepting applications for free decks.

The second reason we licensed the deck under Creative Commons is practical: particularly in the first edition, a number of the photos we used to showcase notable women came from their Wikipedia pages. Some of those photos were in the public domain (like ones taken by the U.S. Department of Defense) while others are licensed through Creative Commons under ShareAlike and/or NonCommercial licenses. Those licenses mean that if we wanted to use the photos in a project, that project needed to be licensed similarly.

You’ll note that we include proper citations at the bottom of all of the CC-licensed cards. See a card without a citation? We have individual permission from the technical woman pictured. We’re heard nothing but positive feedback from the women honored in this deck, with some sending us updated pictures for the second edition.

The final reason is personal: I am a huge fan of Creative Commons. All 1000+ entries on this blog are CC-licensed. As a musician, writer, and former Electronic Frontier Foundation and Berkman Center for Internet and Society intern, I think Creative Commons is the best and use with whenever possible.

All of this is a long way to say: anyone who wants to can download the full first edition of these playing cards, and either print them through the vendor we used or another way entirely. If you want to make a Latinas in Computing, or an African-Americans in Computing deck, you’re welcome to use our files as a starting point. There are full instructions here. If you do it, let us know–I’m @JessiDG on Twitter.

Updated to add a link to the Kickstarter–decks start at $10 and you can see all of our budgeting on the page.

Inspirational Quote:

“I was told I’d never make it to VP rank because I was too outspoken. Maybe so, but I think men will always find an excuse for keeping women in their ‘place.’ So, let’s make that place the executive suite and start more of our own companies.”— Jean Bartik

18 Hours into Our Kickstarter, We’re at 75% of Our Goal (!)

The Notable Women in Computing Card Deck that Katy Dickinson (my Mom), and Dr Susan Rodger of Duke University have been working on for the past 2 months went live on Kickstarter last night at 5pm PDT (become a Backer here). As of writing, we are at 75% of our goal. One of our Backers plugged us into Kicktraq, which predicts some pretty mind-boggling final numbers for this project.

Here’s the video:

I spent much of this week ensuring our fulfillment and printing will be scalable. I’ve had some good conversations with a fulfillment vendor and leads on a possible new printing vendor. I’ve also been thrilled by the online support we’ve received. Here are some of the tweets:

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Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 11.09.48 AMScreen Shot 2014-10-10 at 11.10.14 AMThe Kickstarter is for the second edition. Dr Rodger is selling the first edition at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing at  booth 644. Last time we checked-in, she was at under 100 decks and that was before the deck was name-checked from the stage at the Plenary.

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The Kickstarter is open for another month, but some of the limited-quantity awards may run out before then, so if you’re interested, go ahead and chip-in today. I appreciate all of your support.

Inspirational Quote:

“Most engineers like to proceed from A to B to C in a series of logical steps. I’m the rare engineer who says the answer is obviously Z and we will get on with that while you guys work out how to do all the intermediate steps. It makes me a dangerous person to employ in IT but a useful one.” — Sophie Wilson, designer of the Acorn Micro-Computer and BBC Micro, BBC BASIC programming language, and the ARM (Acorn RISC Machine), a foundational technology for handheld computing devices.


Can you name 5 great women in computing?

The friends to whom I’ve posed the question in this title often begin confidently:

“Sure! Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, umm, Anita Borg, ummmmmmm. Um.”

Then follows an embarrassed silence.

Women have been a part of the history of computing from the very beginning, but our stories are rarely remembered and seldom told. Dr Susan Rodger, my Mom (Katy Dickinson), and other technical women have been working for years on a project to increase the number of notable women who have Wikipedia pages as one way to address this. Here is a list of over 300 notable women in computing; it includes notes as to who does and does not have a Wikipedia page. You can submit names to the database, correct information, and more importantly, you can learn to write a great Wikipedia article, then write one using information in the database.

I came late to this project but brought my graphic design skills and lifetime of card-sharking. I designed a custom deck of 54 notable women in computing to make it easier for my friends to name at least 5 next time I ask. Pending a few details, we should be launching a Kickstarter for the project in the next few days.


Women in the deck have received external recognition from multiple sources, are diverse, and beyond inspiring (learn more about selection here). The information on the cards and many of the images are in the public domain, and the entire project is freely licensed under Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 U.S. License. You can download all of the jpgs here and print them yourself using instructions that should be on this page in the next few days.

Dr Rodger will be presenting a poster with these cards at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on the Notable Women in Computing project. Go by to ask questions during the poster session, if you’re at Hopper. While you’re there, you can also pick up a deck at the Duke table for $6 to cover printing costs.

More on this project soon!

Inspirational Quote:

“Leaders of the future will have to be visionary and be able to bring people in – real communicators. These are things that women bring to leadership and executive positions, and it’s going to be incredibly valuable and incredibly in demand”–Anita Borg

Depression, Friendships, and Aloes

I college I had an aloe plant. One summer, I left it with a friend. Aloes are sturdy plants, evolved for dry areas. They’re sensible, only growing when they have the sun and water they need and huddling into themselves when they do not.

I had known that my friend got sad sometimes and didn’t leave her room when I asked her to care for my aloe. But I didn’t really know about depression; I hadn’t read The Spoon Theory; I hadn’t spent the years in the open-circle that is tumblr; I didn’t know how hard caring for someone else is when your brain is telling you trees don’t have leaves.

That’s why I was surprised and pissed when I came home to Pittsburgh and found my plant withered and brown. I took it to my room, watered it back to a sort-of grey-green-health. I kept our friendship but was mistrustful.

Today, if I was going to ask a friend who was working on her own health to help me care for a plant, I’d be prepared for her illness to stop her from doing her best work. I’d ask her about her spoon count before giving her another responsibility, I would check in proactively so she didn’t have to fight past her personal Radio Station KFKD to ask for help.

That aloe didn’t thrive for the next 2 years in Pittsburgh. It never grew a new leaf, it never lost its ghostly pallor. It didn’t get better, but it didn’t get worse. I figured that, like me, it had little love for the sunless seasons of Western Pennsylvania. We hunched in the cold together, enduring until spring and warmer climes.

When Matthew and I moved all of our things to Seattle 2 years ago, the plant wasn’t allowed in the shipping truck. So I unpotted it, dumped its dirt, wrapped it in hand-towels, and smuggled it through airport security in my shoulder bag. I bought it a bigger pot and good soil in Seattle, and when I left to spend the summer in Boston, the plant stayed in Matthew’s care.

Matthew had never cared for a houseplant before, so I knew enough to prepare myself for it to be dead when I next visited. Don’t get me wrong: I trust him to care for me. I trust him with dogs, and family, and the students he taught in gymnastics. But plants can catch people in their blind-spots; they just don’t feel as alive to everyone as they do to those of us who like their curmudgeonly selves.

The next time I took a close look at the plant, I was shocked: it had tripled in size.

Happy aloes

I asked what Matthew had done. Had he replaced it with another bigger, healthier aloe like the parent afraid to tell their child they dropped the goldfish?

No, it was the same plant.

It had started to thrive in the west coast sun, in new, good soil, and the constant care Matthew had provided it. It’s now a huge, glorious, green monster.

Happy aloes
In the 2 years we lived on opposite coasts, the plant tripled in size again, and then again. It had 9 babies. I repotted them in the bathtub of our 520 sq ft apartment and they grew to incredible sizes. It has 10 more sitting crowded around its base in its pot as I type.

Happy aloes


Happy aloes

The friend is doing ok. She moved jobs, kept her friendships, and is working hard against her unkind brain.

Today, I’m unpotting one of my original aloes’ smaller babies to send to another friend, one who’s working every day to remember that there are leaves. I know now that she may not be able to care for the plant. That the issues she’s working on may riptide all of her good intentions out to sea.

I still don’t know how to handle depression in the lives of people I love. I don’t know if I’ll ever get it right as a friend. But I have some better tools than I did in college: I’ll ask this friend about her spoon count, I’ll proactively check-in on her through the foil of the plant, and I’ll have a better idea of when not to push and when to dig in with her. And maybe as the children of my aloe find their soil and sun, they’ll bring her with them into the sunlight.

Inspirational Quote:

“[O]ne of the things depression is really good at doing is disguising itself as normality. At saying that it isn’t what it really is. At refusing to acknowledge that you’re not wearing your glasses, at saying “no, no, there were never individual leaves on that tree. It’s always been a green blob. Everyone in the whole world only sees green blobs.” — Helen Rosner, Not Everyone Feels This Way


Swimming in the deepest lake in America

2 weeks ago I drove from San Jose to Seattle in 2 days with Sinead, my best high school friend who I didn’t marry. We stayed overnight at an AirBnB in Klamath Falls, OR specifically so we could visit Crater Lake. Crater Lake is the caldera of a volcano filled by snow-melt, 2000 ft deep at its lowest point. It’s cold; I swam anyway*.

*Note: for truth in reporting, it took me about 20 minutes to get in the water. For the sake of our friendship, Sinead did not document my initial squawking and squealing. In my defense, the beach dropped off an underwater cliff that looked like the perfect home for woman-eating volcano-bred krakens. Seriously; look at the color difference between the shore and just 10 ft from it.

Because the water comes from snowmelt and not underground streams, it is unbelievably clear and blue. The pictures do it some justice, but it is well worth the winding roads to see it in person.
To get to the lake, we hiked down about 23 switchbacks, created and maintained by the National Park Service. I got to try out my Pano (don’t judge, I just got a new phone).

The view of the lake was incredible for the entire hike (we saw less of it on the way back, focusing on our feet and not dying from climbing up around 1000 vertical ft in 45 minutes).


Most of the other swimmers jumped off this cliff to get into the water; I intend to do this next time since it looked like a lot of fun. As it was, on this trip I had enough to deal with with the cold.


I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to force myself all the way under the cold, cold water, since I knew I had 10 hours of shared driving ahead of me. Then I thought about trying to explain hiking all the way down there and not diving in, and realized I needed to. It was not quite doing it for the Vine, but anticipated peer pressure did get me to do something really fun.

Inspirational Quote:

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” ― John Muir