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?

Why We Need More Women In Tech

Women and girls still face a lot of obstacles in shaping technologies. The digital gender divide might be getting worse. Women and girls everywhere are missing, underrepresented, and dropping out from technology fields. As a result,  today’s tech – and increasingly today’s world – does not reflect the diversity of women’s experiences or ingenuity.

This isn’t fair, it’s not treating people like you want to be treated.

Beyond that, I’ve observed that technology is improved when women and girls have equal access. That’s pretty much common sense, since tech talent has no gender bias, and I’ve got over forty years working with women engineers and programmers that proves it. (We need a lot more, and in the U.S. we’re talking about a renewed emphasis on STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — education.)

Too often, women in STEM get little acknowledgement for the work they’re doing. As a nerd, it’s my philosophy that everyone gets a fair chance to be heard. It’s one of the reasons I started craigconnects.org. Earlier this year, I shared some big news: for the first time, in 2014,  women outnumbered men in a UC Berkeley Computer Science course. We need to continue supporting trends like this. It’s really important, folks.

women in tech

All this is why I’ve added my voice as an advocate to Global Fund for Women’s petition with UN Women calling for an end to the global gender technology gap. I wrote more about it over on HuffPo…

Specifically, I’m adding my name to call on the United Nations, governments around the world, and key decision makers to remove all barriers to the development and use of technology, increase investment in girls’ science and technology education around the world, and ensure women’s and girls’ full participation as developers and innovators.

Join me and add your signature to the Global Fund for Women and UN Women’s petition. Let’s make our call loud — we want to reach 20,000 signatures by March 5 in time to deliver the petition for International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Tell your colleagues, friends, and social networks that their signature can make a difference in shaping the type of future we live in.

6 Women Making Waves for Social Justice in Tech

tech social justice

Folks, my teams and I have been following your comments about women in the tech sector that you really admire.

We’ve researched many of the women you’ve shared, and appreciate the time you took to mention ’em. The following is a list of women who really have their boots on the ground, all suggestions from comments. Please keep ’em coming. And maybe follow these women who are doing a lot of work for social good in the tech arena.

1. Selena Deckelmann, A major contributor to PostgreSQL and a Data Architect at Mozilla. She’s been involved with free and open source software since 1995 and began running conferences for PostgreSQL in 2007. In 2012, she founded PyLadiesPDX, a Portland chapter of PyLadies. Selena also founded Open Source Bridge and Postgres Open, and speaks internationally about open source, databases, and community when she’s not keeping chickens and giving technical talks.


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2. Leslie Hawthorn, Community Manager at Elasticsearch, where she leads community relations efforts. Leslie’s spent the past decade creating, cultivating, and enabling open source communities. She created the world’s first initiative to involve pre-university students in open source software development, launched Google’s #2 Developer Blog, received an O’Reilly Open Source Award in 2010, and gave a few great talks on many things open source.


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3. Deb Nicholson, Director of Community Outreach for the Open Invention Network, works at the intersection of technology and social justice. She’s been a free speech advocate, economic justice organizer and civil liberties defender. After working in Massachusetts politics for fifteen years, Deb became involved in the free software movement.

She’s the Community Outreach Director at the Open Invention Network and the Community Manager at Media Goblin. She also serves on the board at Open Hatch, a non-profit dedicated to matching prospective free software contributors with communities, tools and education.

(We could not find a Twitter account for Deb Nicholson…)

4. Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph, Automation and Tools Engineer at Hewlett-Packard on the OpenStack Infra team. Elizabeth’s also a Community Council member for Ubuntu and a Board Member for Partimus, an organization that puts Linux hardware in schools.

5. Keila Banks, A web designer, programmer, videographer, and publisher of content making use of mostly open source software. She speaks to audiences of adults and youth alike on being raised in a family filled with technology and how she uses Linux and open source software in ways that will challenge you to ask yourself, are you smarter than a 5th grade open source user?

(We could not find a Twitter account for Keila Banks…)

6. Val Aurora, Co-Founder  and Executive Director of the Ada Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to increase women’s participation in the free culture movement, open source technology, and open source culture. Val’s a writer, programmer, and feminist activist, and speaks about women in open technology and culture, feminism, and harassment. She also co-founded Double Union, a feminist hackerspace in San Francisco


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3 Powerful Social Media Leaders of the Past

On the Internet we continue an old tradition of social media, pioneered in the Roman Republic. I look at the social media leaders in the past who were good at doing things. They really paved the way for what’s happening today with technology. The Internet and social media have been a way to give a real voice to the voiceless and real power to the powerless. It’s created a space for citizen journalism.

If we look back, we’ll realize that there were many powerful social media leaders of the past, for example:luther

1. Julius Caesar was an early blogger, even though it was very low tech.

Looks to me that Julius Caesar was not only a blogger re: the conquest of Gaul, but he kinda invented journalism in its most literal sense.

2. It got a little better with Martin Luther, who decided to use an evolved form of the same network. He got pretty good, blogging on a church blog. Luther blogged his way to major religious and social change.

Of course Luther was assisted by this printing press thing – and this evolved in the Twitter revolution of 1688. He used the efforts of a nerd, a guy Johannes Gutenberg, to great effect. (Gutenberg got great stuff done, but it was Luther who got big stuff done.)

3. John Locke, the one who lived in 1688, not the John Locke in Lost. Good show, but you could only understand it if you knew a lot about quantum physics. I know a lot of you want to hear it more about quantum physics, but more later… Just be glad I’m not going on a Game of Thrones rant.

(I’d like to credit two books for much of this: Tom Standage’s The Writing on the Wall and Jeff Jarvis’ Gutenberg the Geek.)

You can’t make change from the top down. The president’s the most powerful person 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.

My deal is to try to get folks to work together. It’s important to give a voice to people who never had one, and then to share their work. My stuff to date gives me a bit of a bully pulpit that I don’t need for myself. However, I use it on a daily basis to get the word out on behalf other others.

My joke, occasionally tweeted, is that I retweet a lot because 1) it’s good to share, and 2) it spares me the burden of original thought. Well, #2 has some truth to it, but #1 is the big deal for me.

Women doing STEM right

Hey, it’s important to me to recognize folks doing really good work, especially those who don’t usually get the recognition they deserve. My team and I have generated quite a few lists of women doing good work:

Recently, I asked my networks to contribute the women who impressed them, the folks in the STEM field who really have their boots on the ground. We got great responses, verified the women suggested, and have compiled a list (in no particular order) here:

1. Natasha Mohanty, Co-Founder, CTO, & VP of Technology at FEM inc.
Natasha joined FEM inc. from Google, where she was a lead engineer working on content recommendations and personalization for Google+ and Google News with a special emphasis on meeting the needs of women. Their efforts increased female engagement with Google+ by over 30%.

She has extensive experience in large-scale data mining to build user profiles through data. She received her A.B. from Mount Holyoke and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. When not hacking for FEM inc., she works on projects to get more women and girls interested in tech.

2. Limor Fried, Founder of Adafruit Industries
Adafruit was founded in 2005 by MIT engineer, Limor “Ladyada” Fried. Her goal was to create the best place online for learning electronics and making the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels. Adafruit has grown to over 50 employees in the heart of NYC with a 15,000+ sq ft. factory.

Adafruit has expanded offerings to include tools, equipment and electronics that Limor personally selects, tests and approves before going in to the Adafruit store. Limor was the first female engineer on the cover of WIRED magazine and was awarded Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur of the year.

3. Marianne Marck, Senior Vice President of Consumer Facing Technology at Starbucks
At Starbucks, Marianne leads the global retail and digital technology teams, the solution architecture and enterprise integration functions, and the technology teams for the China-Asia-Pacific region.

She joined Starbucks in 2011 as Vice President of Software Engineering, and led the enterprise software and application engineering function, including efforts for ERP, HRIS, web, mobile, enterprise QA, enterprise integration, and solution architecture. Prior to joining Starbucks, Marianne earned 22 years of tech experience developing solutions and platforms and building teams. Most recently at Blue Nile, she held the role of Senior Vice President of technology.

4. Bindu Reddy, CEO and Co-Founder of MyLikes
Before starting MyLikes, Bindu was at Google and oversaw product management for several products including Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Video and Blogger. When she first started at Google, Bindu was a Product Manager for AdWords, where she improved the AdWords bidding model by introducing Quality Based Bidding and Quality Score for keywords. She was also in charge of Google’s shopping engine – Google Product Search and designed and launched Google Base.

Before Google, Bindu founded AiYo – a shopping recommendations service. Earlier in her career, Bindu was the Director of Product Management at eLance and a Computational Biologist at Exelixis.

5. Edie Stern, a distinguished Engineer and Inventor at IBM
Edie has more than 100 patents to her name, and has been awarded the Kate Gleason Award for lifetime achievement. She received the award for the development of novel applications of new technologies. The 100 patents to her name represent her work in the worlds of telephony and the Internet, remote health monitoring, and digital media.

 6. Ellen Spertus, Research Scientist at Google & Computer Science Professor at Mills University

Ellen’s areas of focus are in structured information retrieval, online communities, gender in computer science, and social effects of computing. She was a core engineer of App Inventor for Android, which enables computing novices to create mobile apps. and she co-authored a book on App Inventor.

Ellen has been working to bring more women into computing for decades now. In 1991, while studying computer science at MIT, she published a paper titled, “Why are there so few Female Computer Scientists.” And Ellen tells girls: “I’m sorry to tell you that Hogwarts isn’t real — but MIT is.”

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Thanks to everyone who contributed, and please, keep ’em coming!

“Saving the World” DIY Style

People ask me how I go about figuring out what causes I really believe in and what’s the most effective way to support those efforts. You can find a list of what I support specifically here. My general philosophy is to do some real good in the short run, while learning how to scale that up in the long run – to the entire planet in maybe twenty years. I’m also very committed to helping people from the bottom up, to give people a break that rarely get one, and to help give a voice to the voiceless.

When it comes to business success and money, know when enough is enough, which translates to a business model of doing well by doing good. I guess I’ve been real successful at that, and I’ve been told by a lot of startup people that this approach has influenced them.

So, in the short run, I’ve been doing what I can to help US veterans and military families, figuring that if someone will risk a bullet protecting me, I need to give back. Recently, people helped me understand that the family of an active service member serves the country while that service member is deployed, particularly in a war zone.

I’ve chosen groups to support, in government and in the nonprofit world, guided by considerations including:

  • Do they impact something I believe in?
  • Are they good at it?
  • Can I help them via serious social media consulting and engagement?
  • Can I learn from the experience how to use social media on a very large scale?
  • Just in case, does the nonprofit tell a really slick, heart-wrenching story? Have they been seriously vetted? (If not, substantial chance it’s a scam.)

So, the themes here have to do with “social impact,” probably mediated by social media, while watching out for compelling scams. (Sorry, but this is currently a huge problem in the nonprofit world.) For that reason, I engage with Charity Navigator,GuideStar, and GreatNonProfits.org. In particular, Charity Nav is making real progress measuring social impact, which is about how good an org is at serving its clients. Social media provides the tools that effective people use to work together to get stuff done. We’re talking not only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, but also tools like spreadsheets used to rank “employee innovation” efforts.

Human history suggests that change begins from the networks of individuals who work together through the social media of their times, from Caesar and Cicero, to St Paul and Martin Luther, and John Locke and Tom Paine. Consider the UK Glorious Revolution which resulted in modern representative democracy, which I frequently call the Twitter Revolution of 1688. (A great history of pre-Internet social media isThe Writing on the Wall, by Tom Standage, who reminds us that “history retweets itself.”) That history tells us that social media provides a set of tools which can effect real change. That history is one of democratization; the costs of those tools restricted them to the wealthy at first, but now the cost of entry is close to zero.

In the short term, my focus is normally on small orgs, since they can be more effective. However, I’m now working with a huge org, the Department of Veterans Affairs, around 360,000 people, and from that, I’m learning how to run large organizations – and large governments – effectively.

For the long term, I’m supporting efforts in the here and now that are fundamental to universal fairness; the intent is to give everyone a break, to treat everyone how you’d like to be treated.

One such effort involves figuring out how to get news that I can trust. I’m a news consumer, but for the past decade I’ve been getting training in media ethics and trust issues, as well as being shown how the news sausage is made. (It ain’t pretty, particularly with all the disinfo being flung around.) The theme is that “the press is the immune system of democracy” and that a good ethical framework might lead some part of the press back to trustworthy behavior.

Another effort involves voting rights in the US. While the Declaration of Independence reminds us that we’re all equal under the law, bad actors in politics can only survive if they stop certain groups of people from voting, and that ain’t right.

It might occur to you that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” and that is another articulation of what my stuff’s all about. You’d be right.

Photo: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by USDAgov

Why Men Must “Lean In” to Support Women’s Leadership

Our times call for  some innovators and women leaders who work in partnership with men. Again, this is about my commitment to fairness.

Basically, it’s time we get more women into public office. I recorded this video about fairness and getting better government everywhere, maybe indulge me? It’s about creating real social change, for the better.

I’ve joined up with the Women In Public Service Project to play my part. I’m working with them to host a call to action to champions of change around the world. You can be a part of this movement, too…

(I also recorded a video about how to use social media better, for equality. Maybe it’ll help ya out.)

 

How to Use Social Media Better, For Equality

Hey, I have a commitment to fairness, based on a (naive) nerd desire to make life less unfair.

I’ve created a video asking you to help create a more fair world, please indulge me and watch, and share it. It’s for a good cause, and is a brief discussion of social media for the Women in Public Service Project.

The thing is, social media can be harnessed for policy-making, and remember that real change doesn’t happen from the top down. That is, the act of discussing policy in social media helps participants buy into it, and later, the discussion record helps other join the effort.

So, my challenge for you to is work with each other, within your networks, then between networks, to commit to the mutual acquisition of power, on a near daily basis, from now to 2050.

The gist of the challenge is to use social networking such that your discussions can extend beyond tens or hundreds of people into millions of people. This can span countries, time, and cultures.

Caveat: trolls, sometimes professional ones, will seek profit at your expense. Watch out for trolls who tell a good, heart-wrenching story.troll meme

I’ll help however I can, and I have confidence in you. So, what I’m asking of you is commitment to collaborate with people in your immediate network.

My challenge to you is to work together, with each other, in your networks, then transcend networks. I’m making a big ask of you…Can I have your commitment?

5 Reasons We Need Social Change

Folks, I started this craigconnects thing because I really want to use tech to give a real voice to the voiceless, and real power to the powerless. Ever justicesince starting craigconnects, I’ve created a list of issues areas that I’m really focusing on. It’s important that we work together, as a community, and collaborate to create real social change. You can’t change the world from the top down.

Here are just 5 (of many) reasons we need social change:

  1. 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.
  2. We need to improve the reentry experience of war veterans into the American economy and society. Less than 1% of Americans currently serve in the military, so this is a really important conversation to have. The conversation has already been started, we just need to keep collaborating and working toward our goals.
  3. Journalism Ethics. We need to ensure that journalism fulfills its role as the heart of democracy and its mission of seeking truth and building trust. The press should be the immune system of democracy. Turns out that what we have now are a lot of ethics codes and policies, but very little accountability. This is something I often discuss when I talk about trustworthy journalism in a fact-checking-free world. And this is also why I joined the board of Poynter, and work with the Columbia Journalism Review, Center for Public Integrity, and Sunlight Foundation.
  4. There are some real bad actors out there trying to implement laws to stop eligible people, including women, the elderly, and disenfranchised communities, from voting. What I learned in high school civics class is that an attack on voting rights is virtually the same as an attack on the country. We need to step up and remind folks that the Founders of the US tell us that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, meaning that citizens have the right to vote. And we need to protect that right.
  5. Today, women represent 12% of all computer science graduates. In 1984, they represented 37%. This number should be increasing, and we can change that. It’s important that we encourage girls and women to get involved in tech. Here’s more on the importance of girls in tech.

Personally, I’m a nerd, and feel that life should be fair, that everyone gets a chance to be heard, and maybe to help run things. Sure, life isn’t fair, but that won’t slow me down. A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

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.)

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