September 2010

A public service announcement (part 3 of “TechCrunch, disrupted”)

One of the few areas of consensus of the panelists at yesterday’s trainwreck at TechCrunch Disrupted is that it would be better if there were more women involved with technology and tech startups.  And everybody on the panel does a lot as individuals to help: mentoring, encouragement, being on unpleasant panels.  I saw at least three female CEOs present as well in the startup battlefield, so shout outs to them as well — and to Hackathon Winner J’aime Ohm as well.   So the first order of business is to spotlight them all as great examples of successful and inspirational women who have taken different paths to get there, and thank them for everything they do to help change the ratio.

What are you doing?

NWEN logoIf you’re interested in doing more, the second installment of my series on Women in tech startups: how each of us can help change the ratio is up on the Northwest Entrepeneur’s blog.  Part 1 discussed: Commit to putting some energy and resources into it, Mentor women, and Get out of your cultural cocoon.  Part 2 covers Reach out when you’re hiring, Reach out even when you’re not hiring, and Ask “what’s wrong with this picture?”.
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Changing the ratio: part 2 of “TechCrunch, disrupted”


For part 1 of the series, please see
The third wave and the agenda of awesome

The tweet’s from J’aime Ohm, whose “black box for real life” WiseDame won the Hackathon over the weekend.  I embedded it in the post using Storify, my favorite of the startups who presented on the first day of TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.  How cool is that?

Other than Storify and Japanese startup Gunzoo, the first day of the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco didn’t seem particularly disruptive to me.  Most of the speakers were white guys, and they said much what you’d expect.  Technology is great.  The companies we invest in and/or run are great.  So are the guys we work with.  Hooray!  The startups were interesting and I was generally impressed with their pitches but folks like Badgify and all the companies doing check-ins seem pretty darn incremental to me.

Today, though, Chamillionaire’s on the agenda, Montreal-based Shwowp is presenting, and there’s a panel on women in technology, with Rachel Sklar of Change the Ratio and Mediaite, web marketing strategist Michelle Greer, Lauren Leto of Bnter, Leila Chirayath Janah of Samasource, Sara Chipps of GirlDevelopIT, and Cyan Banister of Zivity.  If you can’t afford the $2000 to be there in person, it’s streamed live on the web.

So perhaps it’ll be a little more disruptive.

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TechCrunch, disrupted: the third wave and the agenda of awesome

The third wave embraces contradictions and conflict, and accommodates diversity and change.

— Rosemarie Tong, Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

The web site for the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco this week credits venture capitalist John Doerr with coining the term “third wave” when Charlie interviewed him at the first Disrupt earlier this year.  John’s not talking about third wave feminism, of course, but the “innovations taking place with social, mobile and commerce platforms and applications”.  In either case it’s hard to argue with Erick’s conclusion on TechCrunch that a panel with John and his partner Bing interviewing Mark of Zynga (TechCrunch’s CEO of the year) is the perfect start for #TCDisrupt.

John’s known for his 2008 quote about the pattern he sees correlated with success: white, male, nerds who have dropped out of prestigious schools and have no social skills. Michael Arrington’s overwhelmingly-white, overwhelmingly-male,  preview The Agenda of Awesome also features the author of The Diversity Myth.and the founder of a social network that’s been described as one of the most sexist sites on the internet.

Awesome.
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Facebook outage: “an unfortunate handling of an error condition”

Facebook was down for a couple hours yesterday, the second day in a row they’ve had problems.  In More Details on Today’s Outage, Director of Software Engineering Robert Johnson explains:

The key flaw that caused this outage to be so severe was an unfortunate handling of an error condition. An automated system for verifying configuration values ended up causing much more damage than it fixed.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

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Diaspora: what next?

It was a summer to remember for the founders of Diaspora, the “privacy-aware, personally-controlled, open-source, do-it-all social network”. Talk about being in the right place at the right time …

Back in the firestorm about Facebook privacy last May, the four NYU students raised $200,000 for their project on Kickstarter.  Since then they’ve moved to San Francisco, gotten free office space at Pivotal Labs, gone to Burning Man … and on September 15, released their software to the community.

Congratulations! And as summer turns into fall, it’s a great time to assess their progress.

To start with, kudos to them for hitting their target date — something I don’t think they’ve gotten enough credit for. At the beginning of the summer, they said they’d have something available to turn over the community in three months, and voila, here it is. While it’s clearly at a very early stage, they’ve got some decent functionality.  As somebody who’s been there a bunch of times, I’m  impressed with what they’ve accomplished. People who haven’t ever developed ambitious software from scratch have no idea how challenging this is.

Now that Diaspora’s released their code, they’re getting lots of feedback at a relatively early stage.  With an open source code base, people can get involved, and judging from the discussions on Hacker News, Slashdot, and the Google groups, mailing list, there’s a lot of interest and even their critics hope they’ll succeed.   It’s a good first step.

However, they’ve cut a few corners to get there.

security vulnerabilitis in #diaspora. severity: critical

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“Angelgate”: Collusion is so hot right now

Scully and Mulder from the X Files

There is an angel conspiracy.

It dark, it is devious, and it is far-reaching.

The conspirators number amongst them many of the top people in the Valley, including angels, VCs, lawyers, and yes, even journalists.

We have joined together despite our differences and conflicts for a single, sinister, self-interested purpose.

To get your attention.

— Angel Investor/Entrepeneur Chris Yeh, on VentureBeat and Adventures in Capitalism

Maybe Michael Arrington of TechCrunch really did stumble into a conspiracy of “collusion and price-fixing”, with Silicon Valley super-angels conspiring in SF’s trendy Bin 38 to fend of the threat of Y-Combinator, drive down valuations, and push VCs out of the picture. Then again maybe he’s just stirring things up prior to next week’s TechCrunch Disrupt VC/Super-angel smackdown.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal covers it well on PC World; Rosa Goligan’s got a three-paragraph summary Shady Meetings, Unlawful Acts, and One Ballsy Blogger in Gizmodo.

bin38 as a circle jerk

Yeah really. Mathew Ingram’s got a roundup on GigaOm quoting Chris, Dave, Bryce, Fred, Ryan, Andrew, and Mark.   Techmeme’s got links to most of them as well as Henry, Marc, Chris, Mathew, Ashkan, Alex, Alan, Stowe, Dean and Mark — see the comments for a screenshot. And On Google, I found links to Patricio, John, Mike, Chris, Ben, Dan, and Gautham … hey wait a second, I’m noticing a pattern here.
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Constitution Day 2010: We’re all talking to each other

A lot of these people that are upset in this country are upset with big government, and for a lot of the people, including these Tea Party people, they don’t like the PATRIOT ACT.  There is a constituency out there that is not just on the left, but is also on the right and in the middle, that knows that this bill had some very serious problems. So, I am looking at organizing with people of all different backgrounds and political ideologies, to fight for the rights of perfectly innocent Americans, which are being violated and continue to be violated, by some of these provisions, even of the Obama administration

— Russ Feingold, interviewed by Glenn Greenwald on Salon

September 17 is Constitution Day.  This year it’s in the wake of major court victories for marriage quality, right in the middle of the Bradley Manning Support Network‘s International Days of Action, and next week we’re expecting votes on the DREAM Act and an attempt to break the McCain filibuster on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. There’s a lot to pay attention to here.

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A #diversitywin as an opportunity: Women talking with women (and a few guys too) at the #wwt TeleSummit (UPDATED)

Women Who Tech

Slides from the TeleSummit are available on Slideshare

The speaker list for today’s sold-out Women Who Tech TeleSummit is amazing, amazing, amazing …  @jillfoster, @digitalsista, @blogdiva, @missrogue, @randomdeanna, @conniereece along with TeleSummit organizer Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaigns (aka @WomenWhoTech), and that’s just the first hour!

There are some guys speaking as well at this year’s event, including @clayshirky and @kevinmarks along with @maryhodder, @lynneluvah, and @WomenWhoTech examining how people in a position of power judge and promote others on the Self-promotion: Is This Really a Rant About Gender? panel.  And I’m particularly psyched about Building the ultimate user experience, including experience goddess @ooonie of IfWeRanTheWorld (which I just blogged about in Emo-ware: What does emotional software look like? and If She Ran the World …)

Some of the other great topics include launching your own startup, diversifying your tech teams, and female ferocity.  And then there are afterparties in DC, New York, and SF. Maybe next year we can do one in Seattle too 🙂

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Emoware: What does “emotional software” feel like?

Originally titled What does “emotional software” look like?
See the first comment for more

28 percentThose of you who know me as a software engineer have no doubt heard me talk repeatedly about if you look at computer science as a social science it’s clear that there are a lot of consequences to the lack of diversity in the discipline.  One of them is a lot of the design space just isn’t getting explored.

Most software today is designed and developed by teams and companies (or open-source projects) where the power is with white guys whose cognitive style is analytical and reductionist.  A lot of developers would agree with the Microsoft Technical Fellow my former Ad Astra colleagues once worked with trying to design an asset-based thinking workshop: “I’d much rather not talk about emotion”.   Functional, sparse, flat designs with limited configurability in the style of 37 Signals are great for people who like that kind of interaction.  A lot of us don’t, and our needs are badly underserved.

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If She Ran the World She Would … (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Please see the revised version on Tales from the Net

If Giovanna Mingarelli Ran The World, they would.

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political
social computing
social sciences
Tales from the Net

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Women in tech startups: how each of us can help change the ratio, parts 2 and 3 (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Feedback welcome!

Part of a series for NWEN’s blog

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Links from the Arrington/TechCrunch women in tech kerfuffle (UPDATED)

WWII image of a woman: Yes we can!Even over the three-day weekend here in the US we continue to see some excellent discussions, for example Qworky advisor Gayle Laakmann’s Blame Men — And Women and Audrey Watters’ “Ambient Un-belonging” Arrington’s got another post up too.

Looking ahead, the Women In Tech teleconference on September 15 includes TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde is on the “Female Ferocity” panel.  There’s the sold-out Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta at the end of the month.  And late last week, Arrington tweeted that they were going to add an all-women panel to TechCrunch Disrupt to discuss “women’ issues”.*   So I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more about this …

Hopefully as we move forward, as well a continued focus on the underlying issues and realities of structural biases against women and minorities, we’ll also see a lot more discussion about what people can do. Mary’s Where to after the required reading? on Geek Feminism asks for suggestions.  I’ve got a draft response in What each of us can do; feedback welcome.

In any case I thought it would be useful to collect the links to what’s been written so far.  It’s really striking how much good stuff there’s been on blogs and Twitter (I collected some of the tweets that caught my eye in various comments in another thread**) so hopefully the list it’ll be valuable to anybody else writing about it.

First though, in a comment that the Arrington’s of the world will no doubt dismiss as pandering, I’d like to take a moment and express my admiration for the women in technology who have been doing such great work to change the ratio.  The women I know who speak out on gender equity aren’t “whiners”, as they’re so often dismissed by people who don’t want to hear what they’re saying.   They’re remarkably successful despite the huge biases against them, and somehow manage to find time for diversity work in addition to having careers, friendships, and often families.

Of course they’re frustrated when privileged guys who clearly haven’t looked at the problem in any detail deny there’s a problem, attack women and allies, and disclaim responsibility — and who can blame them?  Despite that, though, they’re a remarkably positive group … and with good reason: they’ve invested a huge amount of time and effort here over the years and it’s really starting to pay off.

So kudos and respect to you all.  I’m impressed by what you’ve accomplished and proud to know you  And thanks, too: the technology world is a much more pleasant for your efforts!

And you know, stuff like this makes a big difference. There was a very encouraging episode late last week in response to Chiara Atik’s Guest of a Guest article on TechStars New York’s ratio of 46 male mentors and only two women. When Cindy Gallop brought it up on Twitter, David Tisch of TechStars quickly reached out.  Props  all around. More of this please!

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