Chris Lamb & Debian Outreachy interns, favoritism perceptions


Chris Lamb circulated rumours about other volunteers.

The facts suggest that Lamb himself was one of the culprits. There is no evidence of romantic relationships. The concern here is that travel grants from the leader have given some candidates far more opportunities to promote themselves than other candidates. Nonetheless, the series of events makes all the women and mentors very uncomfortable. Lamb himself was ultimately responsible for overseeing an environment where Ubuntu employees can prey on the interns while disguising themselves in Debian t-shirts.

Let us look at the evidence about how Chris Lamb invited an Outreachy candidate to dine with him a few weeks before the selection decisions.

DateEvent
May 2017Lamb meets the women at OSCAL17, Albania and dines in a restaurant run by the Outreachy candidate's parents
August 2017Lior Kaplan is the Debian Developer who attends the Albanian FOSSCamp in Greece. The FOSSCamp was controversial because funds were diverted from the non-profit group run by women to a private company owned by one of the men on the hackerspace committee.
November 2017Sage Sharp rules that the woman in question would not be eligibile for Outreachy because everybody already knows her
May 2018OSCAL18: Lamb meets the women in Albania again and dines in a restaurant run by the Outreachy woman's parents
August 2018

DebConf18: Lucas Kanashiro (Ubuntu employee in Debian mentor t-shirt) meets the Kosovan woman, the relationship occurring just 2 weeks before mentors make pass/fail decisions.

Photos have been distributed that appear to show Lior Kaplan snuggling with another woman, surrounded by interns. The context of this photo is not clear, sometimes men simply put their arm around a woman when there is no actual relationship.

Lamb makes a big effort to spread rumours about one of the GSoC administrators who is not actually at the conference.

September 2018Extreme efforts are made to backstab mentors with ethical concerns about Outreachy
November 2018Lamb and the woman meet at SFSCon, Bolzano, Italy. The woman sits in the front row and tweets pictures of Lamb's talk. The woman is not listed as a speaker, what was the justification for her travel funding?
April 2019Molly de Blanc blogs about breaking up with Chris Lamb
April 2019FOSSNorth 2019. Once again, the woman is not listed as a speaker, what was the justification for a tax exempt non-profit organization to buy her a ticket to Sweden? This is the event where the woman tweeted a picture of herself that started more unfortunate discussions about Outreachy culture.
May 2019OSCAL19: Lamb meets the women in Albania again and dines in a restaurant run by the Outreachy woman's parents
August 2019DebConf19, Brazil. The woman is pictured sitting closest to Chris Lamb at the conference dinner. Despite the large expense of a long-haul flight from Europe to Brazil, the woman is not listed as a speaker. Most other women would not trust the Outreachy selection process after seeing this photo.
November 2019Linux Application Summit, Spain. Some Outreachy candidates receive free travel to this event in Barcelona just days before the selection decisions.
November 2019The woman wins an Outreachy internship, even though Sage Sharp had told us she is not eligible.

Event schedules confirm that Lamb was present at all these events where the woman was present. The woman also attended other events where Lamb was not present.

She has given talks at some other events. This makes us more surprised that she did not give any talks at events where she was funded by Debian.

Economics of free software

Female students in developing countries earn approximately $10 to $20 per day. The cost of the flights, hotels and airport transfers are typically more than a month's income for these women.

The women only attend free software conferences when one of the organizations pays for all their expenses.

Money is donated to these free software organizations to support the goals of the project.

Leaders of these organizations see the money as a slush fund to pursue girlfriends.

Questions for Chris Lamb, Sam Hartman and Jonathan Carter

Did the woman ask for all these trips or did Lamb spontaneously offer them to her?

If the woman was not giving talks at any of these events, what was the justification for the travel expense?

Were any other women ever considered for these free trips and the Outreachy internship?

Why should other women spend many hours completing coding tests and other tasks for their mentors if they have no chance of being selected?

Debian encourages volunteers to cut corners on all funding requests. On how many of these trips did Debian offer the full price of a private hotel room and in how many cases were women offered a flight only, encouraged to improvise their accommodation or miss out on the trip?

How do other women feel?

This woman did not do anything wrong.

The men running the process and the bank account are responsible.

The administrators of these programs have a big responsibility for ensuring there is no perception of favoritism. For example, when Lamb was invited to a restaurant run by the woman's parents, he should have either declined or informed the woman that Debian would not be able to consider her for internships and bursaries.

SFSCon: The woman is not listed as a speaker, what was the justification for her travel funding? The woman is in the front row for Lamb's talk:

SFSCon, Chris Lamb

FOSSNorth, Lamb was a speaker there, the woman was not. Once again, what was the justification for a tax exempt non-profit organization to buy her a ticket to Sweden?

FOSSNorth, Outreachy, Chris Lamb, Debian

The Outreachy candidate is seated next to Chris Lamb at the DebConf19 dinner in Brazil. Despite the large expense of a long-haul flight from Europe to Brazil, the woman is not listed as a speaker. There is no evidence of any relationship and there is no evidence of who sat down first at this table. Nonetheless, it is critical to empathize with all the other women who apply for Outreachy internships: how would another candidate feel if she spent time working on a coding task, she was rejected and then she saw this photo?

The photos have been published first by Aigars Mahinovs.

DebConf19, Outreachy, Chris Lamb

Some Outreachy candidates were flown to Linux Application Summit, Barcelona, November 2019, right in the middle of the Outreachy selection process. Other interns never had this opportunity to meet personally with members of the selection panel:

Linux Application Summit

A few weeks later, the woman has been selected:

Outreachy, tweet, selection

Once again, we do not want to speculate about a relationship or wrongdoing. We simply want to ask: how would other women feel if they spent time on the Outreachy application and then they saw the successful candidate had all these trips? Will this encourage other women to apply for Outreachy or will it make them feel disenfranchised?

The restaurant in Tirana, Albania, where the candidate's parents cooked a number of meals for Chris Lamb and other visitors from the free software community:

restaurant, Tirana, Albania, Chris Lamb, Outreachy, Debian

Everybody who tried the food from this woman's parents says it is really amazing.

The comments that Sage Sharp sent to Chris Lamb in November 2017:

From: Sage Sharp
Date: November 2017

[... snip ...] While you may not have intended it this way, this sounds like favoritism, ...

[... snip ...] Again, this sounds a bit like favoritism of a person who is already active in open source.

[... snip ...] Again, this may be how your experience with GSoC works, but the goal of Outreachy is to try and get people who aren't currently open source contributors (or who are not as active contributors) to be accepted as Outreachy interns. That's why we have the rule that past GSoC or Outreachy applicants are ineligible to apply.

The woman never saw this email from Sharp. Lamb did see it. Why did he continue to lead this woman on for 2 years and eventually grant her an Outreachy internship? Some men like to have this power over women.