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

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.)

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.

Bay Area’s Most Influential Biz-Tech Figure, Clerical Error?

Folks, it seems I’ve won the Bay Area’s Most Influential Biz-Tech Figure… (clerical error?)

biztech

(you can see a bigger version of the image here…)
And, on that note…

craig
I thought this photo seemed appropriate. Though, it’s a bit of a joke, I’m in a pedi-cab modeled after the Iron Throne in the Game of Thrones. In the Game of Thrones, you win, or, well, you don’t win. On the other hand, Mrs Newmark suggests that in the Turkey chair I look like a Turducken… Yes, the Throne kinda looks like Turkey wings, and I guess that makes it a TurNerden, the tech Turducken. Anyway, Winter is Coming.

Everyone, thanks for the very kind words you’ve sent my way, and please remember my reference to “clerical error.”

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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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!

6 Inspirational Women In Tech

Hey, it’s a priority of mine to promote the work that good people are doing.

A lot of times women don’t get the recognition they deserve in the tech industry. In the last  few blog posts I’ve shared about really good women in tech, we asked folks to suggest women they thought really had their boots on the ground.

My team (which includes Justyn Hintze of Rad Campaign and Allyson Kapin, Founder of Women Who Tech and Rad Campaign) and I researched your suggestions, and created a list of 6 women (or orgs run for women, by women) who are doing tech right. You should follow and support these women, if you’re able.

tech

J. Kelly Hoey@jkhoey, is a strategist, speaker, startup board member and angel investor focused on social/digital and the human motivations which fuel innovation. A connection-maker, networking strategist and expert community builder, Kelly is known for her leadership in building valuable professional networks, understanding the dynamics of engaged communities and the “how” of raising visibility, online and off.

Women Who Hack, @WomenWhoHack, are casual get togethers for women who want to hack on projects with or around other women. All types of projects (software and hardware), languages, platforms and experience levels are welcome. Their goal is to support local women hackers (and aspiring hackers) by providing a safe, welcoming environment in which they can connect with and learn from each other. They’re based in Portland, OR.

Kimberly Scott, @COMPUGIRLS, is the Founder of COMPUGIRLS, a culturally responsive technology program for adolescent (ages 13-18) girls from under-resourced school districts in Phoenix and Colorado. Kimberly is also Associate Professor of Women and Gender studies at Arizona State University and an Affiliate Faculty in George Mason University’s Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity.

Lizelle van Vuuren, @lizellevv, recently Co-Founded StartupDenver and a monthly event called Women Who Startup which empowers Colorado entrepreneurs with the resources they need most. Lizelle believes that entrepreneurship is the key to solving the World’s biggest problems. She seeks to work with mindful people who she can learn from, and work with on new ideas, solutions, products or services that create change, improve people’s lives and makes a difference.

The Next Women, @thenextwomen, is a community of Investors, Entrepreneurs & Advisers. They build formats to support the growth of female entrepreneurs -from startups to companies making millions. They provide access to capital, resources and networks, offering our community a support infrastructure critical for success.

Jennifer Shaw, @missjennshaw, Founder of New York Tech Women and Bella Minds. @NYTechWomen helps women in tech make meaningful connections. @BellaMinds bridges the gap between urban tech centers and educated women of rural America. They empower all women to take control of their careers.

Hey, these are a few of the blog posts we pulled your suggestions from:

Please comment with your suggestions of other women in tech who are the real deal. Thanks!

Why It’s Important to Get Girls Involved in Tech

Folks, I’ve been supporting an effort to get women and girls involved in tech for some time now, with support for orgs like Girls Who Code and Black Girls CODE. I’ve also done some work with Roya Mahboob and the New Delhi-based Feminist Approach to Technology. And, I’ve been working with The Women’s Building in SF. Check out this map to see where we’ve teched across the globe…

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. To reach gender parity by 2020, women have gotta fill half of these positions, or 700,000 computing jobs. Right now, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but hold only 25% of the jobs in tech or computing fields (according to Girls Who Code).

This is why it’s important to get girls involved in tech now.

girls who code

Here are 5 other reasons we need to focus on teaching girls about tech:

  1. In middle school, 74% of girls show interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, just 0.3% of high school girls select computer science. If we encouraged girls to code and to get involved in tech, more girls might start majoring in computer science.  For example, 100% of girls who participated in Girls Who Code’s 2012 program report that they’re definitely or more likely to major in computer science after taking the program.
  2. Today, women represent 12% of all computer science graduates. In 1984, they represented 37%. This number should be increasing.black girls code
  3. When we create technology and tech products, we create for the masses. By having a male perspective consistently leading and developing tech, we’re building this through the lens of men and their perspective not the masses.
  4. “The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.”- Charles MalikThat is, we’re living in a very small period of tremendous social change, where the people who are best prepared, who have the best listening and cooperative skills should get their chance of running things.

    I don’t think we’ll see revolution, we’ll see a rebalancing of power, shifting from traditional sources of power (authority and money) to power based on the size and effectiveness of one’s network.

  5. Although the digital divide’s steadily eroding, tremendous barriers to entry in the technology field still remain for women of color. Black Girls CODE notes that early access and exposure are essential to changing the status quo.

Google launched an initiative last month called Made With Code, with the goal of getting young women excited about learning to code in an effort to close the gender gap in the tech industry. Google’s investing $50 million into the program over the next 3 years. Hey, it’s a good start.

How else do you think we can work to get more girls involved in tech and coding? This is the real deal, more to come…

New Poll Shows The Rise Of Online Harassment

Hey folks, real important stuff: almost 50% of Americans under the age of 35 have been bullied, harassed or threatened online, or know someone who has, according to a new poll published today.

You may not be surprised to discover that women are targeted more often than men, and Facebook’s by far the most common forum for harassment.

The poll, released by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies and myself, shows that harassment’s a problem across populations, affecting 25% of all Americans. And when looking at folks under 35, the number shoots up to 47%. Rad Campaign’s taken the data and broken it up into an infographic.

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Here’s some important findings from the poll:

  • Women report being personally harassed much more frequently than men – the gender gap’s 57% women to 43% men across all age groups.
  • Sexual harassment’s the most common form of harassment – 44% of all incidences), followed by:
    • Slurs on a person’s professional ability (28%),
    • Racial (23%),
    • Religious (18%),
    • and Political (16%) insults.
  • Surprisingly, the level of sexual harassment’s virtually identical between men (44%) and women (43%).
  • 62% of respondents who said they’d been harassed online said it happened on Facebook. And, Twitter came in second at 24%.
  • The poll found significant effects of the harassment, including people who said they were scared for their life (29% of those harassed) and were afraid to leave their house (20%).
  • More than 2/3 of those harassed online said they knew their harasser in real life. And in those under 35 , that number rose to 72%.

“Some people may think the Internet is a place where they can threaten people without consequences, but online harassment has horrifying real-life effects,” said Allyson Kapin, co-founder of Rad Campaign.

“These poll results show the need for effective responses to the problem at all levels.”

Strangely enough, the poll shows that in only 25% of cases users reported harassment to the social networks where it happened, yet the social networks themselves appear to react when called upon– in 61% of cases, according to the poll, the network shut down the offender’s account.

“The high levels of harassment reported by those under 35, show that this problem will likely continue to grow out of control if not addressed,” said Stefan Hankin, President of Lincoln Park Strategies. “The results from this poll, especially surrounding the long reaction times to reported cases of harassment, point to a need for the social media sites, law enforcement, and us as individuals to start taking this issue more seriously.”

And I agree, the first step toward dealing with unacceptable behavior, understand the problem, then we can get rid of it.

To view the rest of the findings, visit: www.OnlineHarassmentData.org. The data and some solutions to the problem will also be discussed at the Personal Democracy Forum panel: Sex, Lies, and the Internet, beginning at 2pm ET on Thursday, June 6 with Allyson Kapin.

What works for you to stop online harassment, bullying, and threats? More to come…

These results are based on a survey of 1,007 Americans over 18 conducted online from May 20-22, 2014. Margin of error is approximately ±3.09% at the 95% confidence level.

 

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