Category Archives: soapbox

OMG. Girls have the geek gene, too?! NO WAY!

Girls have the geek gene, too, reports Jen Gerson of The Toronto Star. Read it and weep.
Goodness gracious, someone *please* tell me that this is a satire
article appearing in The Onion, not a serious article appearing in the
I.D. section of a major newspaper.

The opening sentence starts the same way as most articles about women
in technology, making us feel like an endangered species. (Crikey!)
But then it gets worse, and worse, and worse. I feel like printing and
framing it.

I.D. chatted with one of the key speakers, Dr. Telle Whitney,
president of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, about
why young women are frightened by the prospect of joining a field
dominated by intelligent men who have no idea how to please them.

The things I could say about this…

So, women and technology. Why do they need their own symposium?

Because we’re afraid of cooties. Snark snark snark.

Do you think fewer women are getting involved in technology because they’re
not as interested in it, or are they just not smart enough?

Could you possibly have a more provoking question if you tried?

But tech companies, they paint their electronics pink. Shouldn’t that draw
women in?

Apparently you *can* have a more provoking question.

So pink is not the way to go, for attracting women?

I like frilly interfaces and flowers myself. NOT.

Should we bring more women in? Aren’t there few enough jobs in technology
that we need to bring women too, into it?

Completely missing the point!

But how is it that women can juggle making computers with making babies?


But are the babies disruptive to the computers? How do you trust babies
around all that sensitive equipment?

More than I’d trust a certain reporter, apparently.

The following segment is just… horrible.

  • Q Is Anita Borg a real name?
  • A Anita Borg was the founder of the Institute.
  • Q Was that before Star Trek: The Next Generation, or after?
  • A It was really her name.
  • Q Bad luck.
  • A She passed away a few years ago from brain cancer. She was a very dear friend of mine and I took over here a few years ago.
  • Q Oh. I’m a terrible human being. Is that what you’re saying?
  • A No no, she used to have these big pictures of Borg all over her house. She was a Star Trek fan.

There are no words to explain how terrible the article is. It is
downright irresponsible of the Toronto Star to publish something this
insensitive and disrespectful, considering the pressures that are
already on women in technology.

Should we cut Jen some slack just because she’s a fourth-year Ryerson
University journalism student, or the Toronto Star for giving its
columnists free rein? At what point are journalism students supposed
to gain common sense? Jen asked those questions, typed up the
interview, and the Toronto Star published it. At what point was
someone supposed to go, “Wait a minute, what is this article saying?”

ARGH! Read, blog, link, whatever: clueless journalist. Her e-mail address is [email protected] . Help her learn not to do that again.

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Random Emacs symbol: compilation-find-file – Function: Find a buffer for file FILENAME.

Networking evils: The you’re-just-a-student brushoff

I know, Simon said I shouldn’t waste more time thinking about this,
but I had an interesting learning experience today. =)

A friend invited me to a free recruitment / networking breakfast
session for a consulting networking group which shall not be named. I
RSVP’d with enthusiasm, name, and affiliation. I promptly got the
“We’re looking for people who want to sign up right now” brush-off,
which is another variant of the “You’re just a student, so what can
you do for me” brush-off that totally turned me off networking before.

I have to admit, my ego is a *little* bit pricked. <teasing
grin> I could understand where they’re coming from, though. I wrote
them a polite note about how I understood that they need to protect
their potential members from schmoozing salespeople, etc. I said that
although I’m currently a graduate student at the University of
Toronto, I thought I’d familiarize myself with professional
organizations in Toronto because I meet a lot of people and I’d like
to be able to recommend good resources to them. It would’ve been nice
to be able to say more than the blurb on the website and to give
people a good idea of the kind of people they might meet at the
group’s networking meetings or how the organizers run things, but oh
well… I guess they don’t want me to voluntarily learn how to “sell”
the idea to other people just in case I run across someone who might
be interested. ;) I suppose I can always point people to the website.

This kind of rejection isn’t a new thing for me, though. At
business-oriented networking events, I often get the once-over and
then ignored by people who are only interested in what they can get
out of networking instead of what they can give. On the other hand,
people who are open to me find me remarkable. I filter through *lots*
of information about things I’m passionate about, such as networking,
public speaking, technology. I attend all sorts of events and I write
about what I’ve learned. My enthusiasm and joy remind people of why
life is fun and exciting. I know a lot of people who’ve taken an
interest in my success. Not only that, they’re often interested in
other people who’ve taken an interest in my success, too. =) The
people who see me only as a student don’t open up enough for me to
show them all these other things, and the people who open up have a
hard time believing that I’m a student or that I’ve only been in
Canada for a year!

I think that a better way for this group to have handled the situation
was not to assume that I’d be there to market my services
inappropriately, but to probe and find out what value I think I’d
bring to and get out of it. But then again, that would probably have
been more time and attention than they’d think of spending on a
student’s request. (After all, what can a student offer a group of
management consultants, anyway?)

It’s a pity, because I’m interested in finding out more about the
organization, what kind of people they attract, what value they
provide, and what opportunities they’re looking for. I’d still like to
go. It’s worth a try, and hey, I’m already learning a lot from this
experience. I just hope that the feel of their meetings is better than
my first impression of them, though.

Laurie Dillon-Schalk told me never to
give up and that selling only starts when someone says, “No.” If they
can’t see my value or at least ask constructively about it, then maybe
the people they attract won’t be able to see my value either, and I’d
be better off spending that time blogging. But if I can show them that
I’m not there for the free food or to hit people up for a job, but
that I actually want to create value, then nifty. =)

So, what do you think? Should I try to talk my way into this for the
practice, or look for a gentler and more generous networkers to start
with? I told Ian Garmaise that I wanted to
meet more Connectors. I want to focus on meeting people who live with
that sense of gratitude for others who have helped them along and that
desire to reach out and help others grow, because those are the people
who can really nourish and inspire me. I’m going places, and I want to
take a lot of other people along with me. I would love to meet people
who can help show me the way.

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Should’ve brought a penguin

A penguin with a tape recorder or speech recog. Right. That way, I
could rant about all this brokenness, and that would help me organize
my paper.

Hooray for mindmaps, at least. And hooray for iPods, or I’d go mad.

Must find Web 2.0 person or other geek whom I can call up late at
night to talk through these things.


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ARGH! I hate forms

So the application form for the Delta Kappa Gamma scholarship was a
password-protected Microsoft Word document that included precise
instructions to type everything using 10pt font. Which would have been
nice, if the bloody password-protected file allowed you to actually
_do_ any of that instead of limiting you to size 8 all-caps. The thing
missed a couple of fields, too.

An hour after I submitted it, I decided to try the somewhat shady DOC
– RTF – DOC-and-unprotect trick. That worked, and I finally got to
edit the document.

Of course, I didn’t have a copy of my application data any more.
Didn’t get saved in the bloody Microsoft Word document. ARGH. And I
didn’t think of printing off another copy for my records. Lesson
learned: always print applications twice.

I’m planning to wander over to the admissions office early tomorrow
morning and ask if I could photocopy my application for my records.
I’ll mention the problem I had with the font size on the document. If
they think it might be a big thing, then I can spend the rest of the
morning feverishly retyping the form, getting rid of all the fields and
making sure the font size is just right.

I should also go and ask my supervisor to fax a copy of his reference

Right, that sounds like a Plan.

Today: lots of checking.

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Post your reaction!

Discuss the SpecOps issue over at . Go,! =)

(I’m not part of, but I have friends who blog there, and I like what they’re doing. They have clue.)

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No talent in the Philippines? Yeah, right. – rant

SpecOps Labs thinks there’s not enough IT talent in the Philippines. That’s why they had to outsource their development, they said.

If they had a hard time finding talent, it was because geeks stay away
from companies that suck.

Let me tell you what this geek thinks about SpecOps.

When my teacher asked me two years ago if I wanted to work on an open
source project, of course I was interested. I checked out
SpecOps’ website, eager to find out about their technical vision and who else would be working on the project. What did I find?

Buzzwords. Egotistic claims. A schedule straight out of a marketer’s
dream and a developer’s nightmare. I knew then and there that
SpecOps was a company that had no clue.

In the geek world, clue is extremely important. If you want to attract
the best talent, you need to have clue. You need to know what you’re
talking about. You _definitely_ need to show that you’re not all hype
and no code.

I told my teacher that SpecOps gave me the heebiejeebies and that
there was no way in heck I was going to touch the project.

I wasn’t the only geek who smelled something fishy. As soon as
SpecOps’ claims hit mailing lists and newsgroups, geeks around
the world ripped SpecOps to pieces. Sure, SpecOps tried to
do damage control, but geek trust is hard to regain.

SpecOps may razzle and dazzle venture capitalists and journalists
with a quick show-and-tell, but they don’t have enough clue to get
geeks on board.

Lack of IT talent in the Philippines? Yeah, right. They should blame
it on the fact that we’ve got clue, and they just don’t.

So here are three tips for companies who want to have clue.

1. DO contribute to the open source community.

Give credit and code as often and as publicly as you can. Build your
reputation by contributing patches and posting messages on mailing
lists. That’s whre we’ll factcheck you to find out if you know what
you’re talking about. If you’ve got the geek power to influence an
open source project like WINE, then we’ll believe that you can make a
commercial product out of it. If the first time the open source
community hears from you is through the press release saying you’ve
invented a solution that could change the world, don’t blame us if we
laugh at you.

2. DO NOT contract your website to frustrated adventure novel writers.

It’s a pity you can’t find all their old press releases on the website
any more, but here’s a snippet for your enjoyment:

The story behind David reads like an adventure novel: In
July of 2002, news of SpecOpS Labs’ discovery was leaked from
Oracle-Philippines to Microsoft in Redmond WA. Microsoft immediately
relayed a communiqué to an Asian based Private Investigator requesting
detailed info on the SpecOpS Labs Platform; days later, news of the
investigation was intercepted by a friendly asset and delivered to
SpecOpS Labs. In August, the Philippines’ top computer scientist & MIT
alumni scrutinized the David blueprint and certified its validity; a
few weeks later, a high-ranking ASEAN IBM Official learned of the
discovery and its certification and requested a meeting with SpecOpS

Sheer hilarity. The rest of the text that’s still on the website just
smacks of ego and marketing.

3. DO take care of your geeks.

A tech company should focus more on its geeks than on its venture
capitalists. Assemble a great team and you can find funding to grow.
The best geeks don’t answer want ads or cold calls. We’re all off
doing something interesting.

Here’s how to get our attention:

  1. Contribute to the community. That’ll get you onto our radar.
  2. Have a geek-friendly website. That’ll get us curious.
  3. Take care of the geeks you’ve got. Impress them and they’ll draw in more geeks. Geek testimonials count a lot.

Don’t be like SpecOps. Be clueful, and you’ll find plenty of
geeks doing amazing things in the Philippines.

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