The Big Fat Feminist Critique in The Middle of The Room

Brought to you by the words Autism, Female, and Tech World — Eds

Okay, Feminism, It’s Time We Had a Talk About Empathy


Growing up with autism is a never-ending series of lessons in how people without autism expect the rest of the world to relate to them.


‘Don’t be so direct, don’t you know you’re being insulting?’ ‘Put yourself in her shoes — when are you going to develop a sense of empathy?’ Invariably, the autistic behaviour is marked as less-than, called out as needing to change. So we adapt; we learn to keep our “abnormal” attitudes and behaviours to ourselves in the hope of blending in,  and when we discover communities where, by chance, we fit in a little better without having to try so hard, we cling to those safe spaces like a drowning man clings to a lifebuoy.

I stumbled into my first such space when I was eight, and its name wasFidoNet. I didn’t think of myself as a programmer back then, just a girl who liked fractals and science fiction and BASIC on my IBM PCjr, …. In a very real sense, I did most of my growing up online.

Nobody on FidoNet ever told me ‘no girls allowed’ — or even implied it, at least to an extent that I might have picked up on — and as a result, the assertion that “technology is a boys’ club” has always been foreign to me. Sure, I was always one of a scant handful of girls in the after-school computer or science club, but none of that mattered when there were NASA missions or flight simulator games to geek out on.

I have since been made painfully aware that my experience is atypical. Every time, it has been a woman who has done so. Every time, it has been a lesson in how the woman I am talking with expects the tech world to relate to her and other people like her.

Ironically, I have been discriminated against in the tech world because of my gender; I just didn’t notice until it was brought to my attention long after the fact.

What does leave me feeling snubbed, however — not to mention “scapegoated for the endemic misogyny in our field” — is being told that talking about my overwhelmingly positive relationship with the tech community is nothing more than a callous announcement of ‘fuck you, got mine.

What I’ve got, and what I wish the rest of the “women in tech” community who rage against the misogyny they see everywhere they look could also have, is a blazingly single-minded focus on whatever topic I happen to be perseverating on at the moment. It has kept me awake for days puzzling out novel algorithms and it has thwarted a wannabe PUA at a conference completely by accident. It is also apparently the most crashingly successful defense against attempts to make me feel inferior that has ever been devised. When I’m someplace that says on the label that it’s all about the tech, so am I. I may have come by it naturally, but it is a teachable skill. Not only that, it’s a skill that transforms the places where it’s exercised.

The “women in tech” experience is not monolithic — not for the women who feel uncomfortable in the tech community, and not for the women who feel comfortable in it, either. None of our stories are universal, but when we look at any landscape of stories from enough of a remove, we begin to see patterns. Right now, the dominant narrative about women in tech is overwhelmingly woven of antipatterns. We know a lot about how to go from problems to bad solutions, but if we’re going to make a tech community where people feel welcome, we have to figure out how to go from problems to good solutions — and disparaging women like me as gender traitors makes those of us who aren’t too socially thickheaded to know better far more reluctant to speak up so that there can even be a narrative about amelioration patterns. This isn’t “fuck you, got mine,” this is “damn you, why won’t you let me give you what I have?”

Read all of it at

Social Media Induces Feelings of Missing Out …What?

In April, the New York Times wrote about the deadly FOMO aka Fear Of Missing Out that can be induced by social media. Basically people who see other people having fun and doing sh*t and posting about their sh*t on their social media profiles, well those people who witness that start to feel like they are missing out on something.

First off: Seriously guys?

Second: WTF?

Third: Get a life.

Fourth: … nevermind

This attention to FOMO is pathetic, even more pathetic that it’s linked to social media. Explain to me how this isn’t just another case of wanting what others have, sometimes called grass is greener on the other side? Even before the masses participated in social media, people were wanting the house, the job, the significant other, the baby, the family (shoes, hair, clothes, body, etc.) that their friends had. (Hence my exclamation, “seriously guys?”)

I guess my disappointment is in the world doing a bad job of repackaging an old concept and linking social media to it to make it “exciting.” The issue is with the people not the technology. (Hence, WTF.)

I feel like a local watching a tourist describe “the wild world of  the social Internet.” “Gee, you mean you still want what other people desire even though you’re on the Internet. OMG how novel!”


From my experience and the experience of a lot of early Internet users, the Internet was great at hooking up like-minded people (which can be great sometimes and horrible in the right circumstances). And quite frankly, when you remember what the purpose of creating the Internet was, to share information, the Internet is doing what it is supposed to do: allow you to share information.

Nerds, people with niche interests and so on, they got to find each other on the Internet. That’s an amazing thing when you feel ostracized because you like things that aren’t for some reason acceptable to the community around you.

And when you feel like you have connected with these people, who cares what they do without you? When they are there, you have someone to joke, commiserate and share with. If you are going, “but I wanna do what they are doing!” Then A) Why aren’t you? and B) What’s the purpose of your relationship with that person? Be happy for them, be happy that they are doing something fun. Employ your social skills and ask them to let you know when they are going out again or even ask them how they know about all the cool stuff they do.

This bring me to my last point, GET A LIFE.

I say that with little judgment.

Be involved with your life, because at the end of the day, if you have time to get depressed over what you aren’t doing then you’re doing it wrong. Yes, it’s understandable to be like “man I wish I was going to the concert/party/movie/etc. like so and so is,” that’s only natural. But depression? Are you living your life?

Me for example, I haven’t been out in ages. And yea I do wish I could go to concerts and travel like I see some of my friends do — eat extravagantly, but I also have an 1 hour commute that kicks my ass five days a week, studying so I can get better at my job trade and applying to jobs since I know that in order to get to that place where I can feel comfortable with traveling and going to concerts I need to be making a certain amount of money consistently. I have a life that needs to be tended.

This goes back to the idea of,”employ your social skills” and even, in this case,  you’re emotional intelligence skills. In a nutshell, what do you need to make happen in your life so that you aren’t looking at what others have and feeling unsatisfied?

Back on me again. Even in my downtime, when I am not being social, I make sure what I do really counts for me. (Which requires you to know yourself, oui?) If I go watch a crappy movie, dammit it’s going to be the most awesome crappy movie in the world.  If I’m going to stay in, I’m going to do the most pleasing thing for myself that makes me forget about what anyone else does. I may even be happy that me and someone else I know got to do really pleasing activities that made us both happy.

Instead of allowing your feelings to make you feel like you are missing out on something, take your feelings as a sign that your life needs some tending to.

So I guess you could be like everyone else and desire what everyone else has; or you can stop right now and try to be happy for everyone who is doing things that make you feel envious and then use your dissatisfaction to make your own life better.

This song’s lyrics don’t really match this writing/rant but the song is still fitting … is social media and everyone else getting the best of you? Video after the jump.

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Woe is Me! Rules of Simplicity Too

Woez iz me, I’ve been too busy. Too busy to even write for the site. I’ve been busy studying/reading (yet again) the book  Letting Go of the Words, Writing Web Content that Works by Ginny Reddish and busy fondling my found copy of Words Into Type. But I do have something in my back pocket.

A friend turned me on to the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, which peaked my interest because if you don’t know, anyone who majors in web writing, like me, has an interest in persuading you.  The Lab says this about themselves:

The purpose of the Persuasive Technology Lab is to create insight into how computing products–from websites to mobile phone software–can be designed to change people’s beliefs and behaviors. Our major projects include technology for creating health habits, mobile persuasion, and the psychology of Facebook.

And they do a side project called the Web Credibility Project. The goal of that project is to learn the following:

  • What causes people to believe (or not believe) what they find on the Web?
  • What strategies do users employ in evaluating the credibility of online sources?
  • What contextual and design factors influence these assessments and strategies?
  • How and why are credibility evaluation processes on the Web different from those made in face-to-face human interaction, or in other offline contexts?

If any of these things interest you, then go check out their web pages, which I linked to FYI.

In the meantime, here is Dr. BJ Fogg, the head of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, talking about the rules of simplicity as he sees it.

Hope you enjoy!


Why You and I Can’t Embed Music Videos

In Sunday’s Op-Ed section of the New York Times, Damian Kulash Jr., lead guitarist and singer of the band OK Go (the band with the oh-so-viral treadmill video “Here It Goes Again”) explains why you and I can not embed music videos on our websites. Turns out it’s just big record companies being dumb short-sighted, once again.

If you look at the amount of music videos on the web today, you could assume that music videos, in addition to porn videos, are frequently searched for. Just try and look for some old song that you remember from your high school dance. It’s most likely that someone has either put up a video of the song if there is one available or has posted just the song along with a picture or picture slide show. For instance, if you look, you can find some videos of classic Genesis with Peter Gabriel.

And of course, those of us who create content sites and/or participate in websites built around sharing culture content share those videos, usually by using the embed code that comes with the video on the website where we first saw the video. Thereby allowing us to go “Ooo look; I found this cool video,” which, like a 80’s hair ad or a STD in an orgy, gets shared again and again and again — if it really is that cool. You’d think that record companies would get behind that, we and everyone else are freely promoting your video in a way that your promotions department can’t.

For example, the singer Sade just released a new album, Soldier of Love, Feb. 2010. The last time Sade released an album was Lover’s Rock in 2000, 10 years ago. This is big since Sade is the type of singer who almost everyone loves or at least respects. I mean, how many singers can release an album 10 years later that will automatically be highly-anticipated?

As her first single was released, it was passed around on the Internet through embedded videos and just as quickly those unauthorized videos, on the sites I read the most, were taken down. But I may not have even found out about the video or even listened to the first song if someone hadn’t said “Oo this is cool; I need to post it.”

Internet users are a short-attention span economy, they want their viral now, make it quick. If you ask them to go to another website to get the final product of something you’ve mentioned in a post, maybe only 1/2 of those people will do that (1/2 is me being generous). The rest will go on to easier things. It’s just the way things seem to work. If Sade’s record company had allowed the video to be embedded, it could have been more widely seen by people, thus creating new fans and informing current fans who may not have known about her new album, if they, the record companies, had only allowed her new video to be embedded.

Kulash writes in the article that his video “Here It Goes Again” dropped “from about 10,000 [views] per day to just over 1,000” views per a day when his record label disabled embedding on the video. So why did the companies disable embedding? (See? I haven’t forgot the point of this article.)

The companies wanted to make money. And it turns out the money made on doing this is not even a large amount. In the article Kulash writes, “labels receive $.004 to $.008 per stream [view].”

So on one hand we have embedding that gets your band promoted, gets more kids to buy the album and go to the concert and in general, be informed about your band. On the other hand you have no embedding, which doesn’t help the band you signed get promotion, which means less record sales and possibly less concert seats sold; but hey, you got $.004 cents from that kid who looked up the band on YouTube.

I’m failing at seeing why this is a smart business choice, but that’s most likely because it’s not smart.

To read the rest of the piece, including what this possibly means for the future of music, click here.

Tron Legacy Trailer: Are You Sold?

The trailer for Tron Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 movie Tron, debuted at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. The trailer was shown during a panel with the filmmakers and members of the cast, including Jeff Bridges who reprises his role from the original film.

Concept art from the new film was shown too. The video below is a slide show of the art presented. The accompanying music is by Thomas Bangalter, 1/2 of the music duo, Daft Punk. Daft Punk is on board to write all the music for Tron Legacy.

What is unclear is if Bruce Boxleitner is on board to reprise his original roles from the movie. IMDB says he is only rumored to be in the movie while Boxleitner’s website says he is working on the movie. Also unclear is the year when the film is to be released. IMDB also says the movie is to come out in 2011. Filmakers say 2010.

Steven Lisberger, original writer of Tron, is back on board with the help of  Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Horowitz and Kitsis are also writers and producers of the popular TV series Lost.

So, is Tron Legacy going to get your time and/or your cash when it comes out?