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5 Women to Watch in 2015

Women had lots of gains in 2014, but not enough. And, as a nerd, I don't believe in settling, I believe people should be treated fairly. And that's still not happening. There's a gender gap in tech, in wages, and more…

It's really important to give women the credit they deserve. This past year, my team and I have recognized lots of women doing really good work, but there are still so many more who are creating real change.

Change

Here are 5 women you'll want to watch for their good work in 2015:

(in no particular order…)

      1.  Roya Mahboob –


        Roya Mahboob's an Afghan entrepreneur and businesswoman. She founded and serves as CEO of the Afghan Citadel Software Company, a full-service software development company based in Herat, Afghanistan. She's among the first IT female CEOs in Afghanistan. Roya was named one of TIME Magazine's2013 100 Most Influential People in the World for her work building Internet classrooms in high schools in Afghanistan, and for Women's Annex, a multilingual blog and video site.

      2. Sheila Katz –

        Sheila Katz launched and scaled Ask Big Questions (ABQ) and is the VP of Social Entrepreneurship at Hillel International. The goal of ABQ is to change the world through better conversations. Sheila's an expert in facilitating reflective conversations and creating multi-channel technology campaigns that lead to in-person action.
      3. Reshma Saujani 

        Reshma Saujani is the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and the former Deputy Public Advocate of New York City. Reshma has galvanized industry leaders to close the gender gap in STEM education and empower girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering. In 2010, Reshma became the first South Asian woman to run for Congress, promoting smarter policies to spur innovation and job creation. Advocating for a new model of female leadership focused on risk-taking, competition and mentorship, Reshma also authored the book, Women Who Don't Wait in Line.
      4. Debbie Sterling –

        Debbie Sterling is a female engineer and Founder of GoldieBlox, a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers. She's made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in STEM fields. GoldieBlox is a book series and construction set that engages kids to build through the story of Goldie, the girl inventor who solves problems by building simple machines. Debbie writes and illustrates Goldie's stories, taking inspiration from her grandmother, one of the first female cartoonists and creator of "Mr. Magoo".
      5. Zerlina Maxwell 

        Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst, speaker, and contributing writer for EBONY.com, Mic.com, and RHRealitycheck.org.  She writes about national politics, candidates, and specific policy and culture issues including domestic violence and gender inequality. She has consulted with the United States Department of State to promote the use of social media by students in the West Bank and is a frequent speaker at colleges, universities, and organizations about feminism.

Who would you like to see added to this list? Thanks!

Resolutions of a Nerd

Hey, it's that time of year where people are making resolutions for 2015. I have resolutions year-
round, especially since, long term, I want to figure out how to give a voice, using the internet, to everyone on the planet. I'm a nerd, and I figure things should be fair.nerd-4

My resolution for 2015 is to:

      • Learn to throw my weight around, on behalf of the good guys

That includes:

      • Treating others how they want to be treated
      • Helping nonprofits who really have their boots on the ground raise awareness about their issues
      • Finding ways to encourage trustworthy news outlets
      • Continuing as Nerd-in-Residence (and that means helping out with veterans and milfam efforts)
      • Reminding people why it's important to give back

You'll see more over the next few months. What are your resolutions?

Knowing When to Keep Your Mouth Shut

IBM

Back in '77, I had recently taken a job at IBM Boca Raton, in the "advanced technology" department. It was beginning to dawn on me that I needed to be somewhat less nerdy in behavior, if not core, attitudes.

A few folks visited what was then Bell Labs, which had been responsible for a lot of seriously good tech for decades. The Bell people proposed a port of the UNIX operating system to our new minicomputer, the Series/1.

("Minicomputer" is a dated term, but this was the seventies, and I learned coding using punch cards anyway. "Punch card" is also dated, youngsters.)

UNIX was developed by the Bell people based on their work at the MIT MULTICS project, and the name is a pun. I'd studied UNIX a coupla years before, at Case Tech, since it was perceived as a really good example of software development and impressive new tech. It was written in the C programming language, developed by the same guys. That was new in itself, since normally operating system code was done in machine language. (Yes, I'm oversimplifying a bit.)

When our team returned from Bell Labs, they were pretty tepid about the idea, but I was asked for an opinion. I felt that we could do better, but that UNIX would be great for the Series/1. Maybe I mentioned that it was far superior than the official S/1 operating system, developed using what some call the "waterfall" approach.

[One of the most eloquent descriptions of "waterfall" software development by Scott Adams]

My approach was politically and socially clueless. I failed to realize that local management had made a major investment in the official operating system, not only financial but also their careers might've depended on the success of the software. My suggestion was a non-starter, and I kinda understood that I needed to grow in non-technical areas.

Sure, I coulda fought hard for some kind of joint effort with Bell Labs to migrate UNIX to the S/1. It probably woulda meant frequent commutes to New Jersey, a mixed blessing, since I'm … from Jersey. (Inside joke for fans of Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars, part of the Thrilling Adventure Hour.)

My take is that UNIX on S/1 would be a great success, given its existing reputation and legitimization by Bell Labs and the phone networks of the time.

That woulda had vast repercussions on the whole computer industry, since much of the subsequent industry was based on UNIX systems, particularly the earliest Internet (ARPAnet and Sun Microsystems). Sun and related servers powered much of the early Net, including about a year of craigslist.

UNIX influenced a lot of development, for example, the filesystem structure of and later Windows. A UNIX variant, Mach, powers Apple Mac and even iOS.

Much more importantly, Linus Torvalds decided that the world needed an open source, free version of UNIX, and went ahead and did it.

The result is Linux, which powers much of the current Internet, it's everywhere but not obviously so.

For that matter, Linux is the basis for Android, which runs most of the world's smartphones.

If the Bell Labs folks, with minor help from me, made S/1 UNIX a big deal, this would have disrupted this history in unpredictable ways. It's probably good that I was timid, and decided to learn un-nerdly social behaviors over the course of decades. (I can simulate normal social behavior, but observe my clock running out at about 90 minutes. Seriously.)

Instead, both a phone company in Jersey and one in Ann Arbor ported UNIX to the S/1, but years later, and it's rare to find someone who remembers the S/1, or even UNIX.

My path took me less technical for the most part, spending 11 years at IBM as a Systems Engineer, kind of a tech consultant for customers. That's a technical position, but not like a UNIX porting engineer. I never completely lost contact with what I was about, for example, I remember learning C in what amounted to a storage closet at IBM Detroit in '85 or so. (If you live in Detroit, that's the building on Nine Mile, where it hits Southfield and Northwestern.)

In '95 I learned newer programming languages, Java and Perl, to participate in the incipient dot-com industry, helping develop Home Banking for Bank for America, while starting something called craigslist.

Nowadays I do lightweight customer service, and a great deal of public service and philanthropy. I know enough tech to have a meaningful conversation with people, more than I need.

I guess I'm much better off taking the path I did. The world didn't need anyone to disrupt the industry, particularly the path of Linux. People do benefit from a mostly-free service (like craigslist), which helps put food on the table, in the short run, and in the long run, ain't bad to "do well by doing good."

Middle Photo: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2014-10-12/

Lower Photo: http://www.ricomputermuseum.org/Home/equipment/ibm-series1

4 More Websites I'm Impressed With

cjrEarlier this year, I shared 5 sites I've got bookmarked that I thought might surprise some folks. But maybe not, I'm a nerd, and some sites I've got bookmarked might be predictable. To be honest, I'm a sucker for those that do factchecking well and those that humor me.

On that note, here are 4 websites that impress me:

  1. Thrilling Adventure Hour – one of my very favorite podcasts, endlessly smart and entertaining.
  2. feedly – how I get my news feeds (really, it's all the sites that matter to you, in one place – so it's kinda the keeper of my news).
  3. Columbia Journalism Review – news regarding the evolution of news (disclaimer: I'm on their Board of Overseers).
  4.  Zatz Not Funny! - I love TV, and TV tech, and great site for the latter.

Honestly, I could keep going, and the list could keep growing, but I'll save more for later… Hey, what are some sites that you've got bookmarked?

5 Reasons Why Giving Back’s Important

altruism3

As a nerd, I really believe in giving back (always have). It's important to collaborate, help one another, and create the change we want, and that takes time.

Earlier this year, the craigconnects team and I created an infographic, Cracking the Crowdfunding Code, to show you just how effective and accessible crowdfunding is. Crowdfunding raised more than five billion dollars worldwide in 2013, and peer-to-peer nonprofit fundraising for charities is seeing explosive growth. Just a couple months ago, #GivingTuesday raised over $45 million in just one day – talk about giving back.

Here's why it's critical that we give back to our communities:

  1. The vast majority of people anywhere don't usually have much of a voice or any influence. Usually, regular people, the grassroots, only manage to acquire power when they use technology to work together. The technology enables people to magnify their team power, acting as a force multiplier (code really is power). They can get people to the streets, and raise money. Giving back means giving people a voice. Long term, I want to figure out how to give a voice, using the internet, to everyone on the planet. This also means we need to speak up when something's not right.
  2. When we work together to give back, we create stronger networks. Silos are inevitable, unfortunately. Do what you can to identify silos, and decide where you want your ambitions to go (my opinion? this is the best way to hack your career). Might be happier to find the people who want to do the job well. We can't make change from the top down. The president's the most powerful justiceperson in the world, but not that powerful. What's powerful is when people in the trenches work together to get things done, and that's what makes a difference
  3. We seem to throw money into food and housing, yet a lot of folks are still in need, so something isn't working right. This includes military families and veterans. We need to do it better. (See: 5 reasons we need social change…)
  4. I'm kind of tired of passion. But the deal is, you really want commitment from people when they're giving back. You want the excitement, but then they need to follow through. Following through is the hard part, and that's what's important. Instead of passion or excitement, alone, we need to incorporate commitment and results. People can get excited about something, realize it's hard, then that passion might now count for anything. In short? Follow through with your passion, truly carry out your mission and show your community the results.

Any influence I get, well, I just don't need or really want; I've got what I need, like a really good shower and my own parking place. Instead, I use the influence I do get on behalf of the stuff I believe in. You'll see me either pushing the good work of people who get stuff done, or indulging my sense of humor. (Note to self: I'm not as funny as I think I am.)

To be sure, I don't feel this is altruistic or noble, it's just that a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

Final note to self: JUST LISTEN. That is, don't ALWAYS attempt to solve the problem, SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO LISTEN. (Courtesy of  "You Just Don't Understand" by Deborah Tannen.)