Setting the stage

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Clay Shirky took what is basically an informal, distributed, totally loose system we’re all calling LazyWeb (because, well, we tend to like catchy terms), and formalizing the hell out of it.

He writes at O’Reilly:


However, the coordination costs of the LazyWeb as a whole are very high, and they will grow as more people try it. More people can describe features than write software, just as more people can characterize bugs than fix them. Unlike debugging, however, a LazyWeb description does not necessarily have a target application or a target group of developers. This creates significant interface problems, since maximal LazyWeb awareness would have every developer reading every description, an obvious impossibility. (Shades of Brook’s Law.)

I think the concept of LazyWeb is good, but formalizing and even centralizing it is just following the same old patterns established back when Tim Berners-Lee was a pup trying to figure out how to impress his college professors.

The LazyWeb works within weblogging not because it’s promoted by a few elite technologists, or centralized to one feed; but because we have the ability to disseminate requests and solutions at an incredible pace. This is true distributed, peer-to-peer technology and social structure in action.

We use a combination of links and popularity (Daypop), sticky strand technology (comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks), and even syndication (RSS) to connect idea creators and idea suppliers.

Ben’s idea of posting a LazyWeb request to his weblog is what works — putting a procedure into place and giving it a position within social strategies, doesn’t.

(P.S. Too bad O’Reilly doesn’t implement Trackback, so we could let Clay know we’re talking about him, and what we have to say.)

Diversity Technology

Gasp! Women…speak?

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Sorry, but this is all just too good and I must share:


Don’t invite only male speakers

If all your speakers are always men, women will notice and not feel welcome. Role models people can identify with are important to staying interested in a field.

Do ask women to speak

It’s surprisingly easy to find technically brilliant female computer scientists willing to come speak to your group. If you explain that you are trying to encourage women in computers, many women will be even more likely to speak at your event. Women speakers are probably the number one way to get women to come to your event. They will be able to see a role model, ask her questions about her experiences, and for a few hours at least, not feel like the only woman who’s interested in computers. Be sure that when you do invite a woman speaker that you advertise the event well, especially to women.

One woman says that she noticed her LUG paid less attention to and was ruder to women speakers. She thought it might be because the members dismissed the possibility of her knowing anything they didn’t already know. Be sure not to let this happen to your women speakers.

And the next time you go to attend a technology conference, and see that the male speakers vastly out-number the women, send an email to the conference planners, ask them what the problem is. And then you might want to shop around for a conference that doesn’t equate ‘geek’ with ‘male’.

Diversity Technology

Now what was that joke again?

More from the Women in Linux paper:


Don’t tell sexist jokes

Sexist jokes are the number one way to drive women out of any group, and they are more common than many people realize. I have more than once heard a man say that he doesn’t make that kind of joke, and then hours or minutes later, hear the same person make a joke about pregnant women or PMS. Sometime he just doesn’t realize that he made a sexist joke, for example, “blonde jokes” are actually “dumb women” jokes. Sometimes he tells me that it’s okay to make a sexist joke if it’s true, or it’s funny (funny to whom?). What some people fail to realize is that jokes about gender of any sort almost always make fun of women, and will make most women angry, regardless of the context. It doesn’t help to first make a sexist joke about men and then one about women.

You can argue that women shouldn’t be so sensitive (and I will disagree with you) but even then, regardless of should or should not, your comments and jokes are driving women away. If that’s not what you want, then don’t make sexist jokes. If you’re not sure if your joke is sexist, find something else to say.

Do protest sexist jokes

The next time you see someone joking about women on your local mailing list or in person, complain about it. It’s difficult to do this without making yourself a target for ridicule, but it’s even more difficult for a woman to do the same thing. Women keep silent when we see sexist jokes because if we protest, we will immediately be attacked for being over-sensitive, uptight, or a “feminazi.” (emphasis added by Bb) (Note: NEVER use the term “feminazi.” It discredits all feminists, and trivializes the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Consider how ridiculous it sounds to call people like Rush Limbaugh “male chauvinazis” and you may understand why “feminazi” is so emotionally loaded.)

The best way to fight back against sexist jokes is with humor. If someone replies to a post about the technical achievements of a woman with “Is she single?” reply with, “Gee, Jeff, no wonder YOU’RE still single.” Every time a woman sees a sexist joke or comment, she feels angry, left out, and belittled. Every time a woman sees a man stand up against this behavior, she feels included and valued.

Déjà Vu, all over again.

Diversity Technology Web

The true secret behind the X

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Dorothea linked to a power house web site tonight: Women in Linux. You all should print this out on pretty paper, put a bow on it and give it to the Alpha Man in your life.

Seriously, though, Dorothea, I’m finding that this straight forward, honest, and out in the open approach just isn’t effective. I mean, I dabbled a bit with the book, Unix Power Tools, and I still can’t convince people that I know how to turn a computer on, much less work with Unix.

In my experience, every time a woman gets involved in Linux User Groups, or tries to work with Unix in the office, some guy’s going to come along and throw some esoteric stuff at her, making her feel inadequate. And then the dude will walk away, triumphant in the knowledge that he’s prevented women from accessing the secrets of Unix yet again.

So I came up with a plan — a way for women to learn Unix without guys knowing. I told my plan to one of the industry’s leading technologists, and we called the plan Operation X, for the fact that women have two X chromosomes, while men only have one.

Except that when the plan was released, Steve released it as OS X.

And the story goes…

I called on Steve at his home one morning and I started talking to him about the problems women have with learning Unix. I described the put-downs, the deliberate and exclusionary geek talk, the difficulty entering a room full of men and being the only woman present. I could tell Steve was sympathetic, but also distracted. When I pointed this out to him, he apologized, and I asked him what was up.

“Well, Shelley, the point is that Apple isn’t doing that great at the moment. We keep losing business market share to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and the geeks think the Mac is a frivolous operating system that’s far too pretty and friendly and helpful to be taken seriously.”

“Wow, Steve. I didn’t know things were that rough.”

“Yeah. I’m down to my last few billion.”


“Yeah. Bummer”

Then I had this epiphany! Excited, I turned to Steve and said, “Steve! I have a great idea!”

“Shelley, I’m sorry but I’ve told you before — I’m not going to incorporate RDF/XML into AppleScript.”

“No Steve, not that idea. A new one!”

“What is it?”

“Well, you say you want to attract geeks, right?”


“But I imagine you don’t want to go with Linux or something like that cuz that’ll scare the corporate types, right?”

“You got that right. I can imagine going into Citicorp with Linux of all things.”

“Sure, sure. I know what you’re saying Steve. But what if you hid the Unix?”

Steve was puzzled. I could tell. Most people couldn’t, but I could tell.

“Come again?”

“Well, Steve, you use Unix for the base of a new operating system, but you put the old, familiar, less intimidating Mac stuff on top to hide it. With this, you can sell the OS to the corporate types — see no geeky Unix hacker shit — but still attract geeks because underneath all that puff lies a Real Operating System.”

As I was talking I could see Steve warming up to the idea. He said, “That’s a great idea! Shelley, that’s an incredible idea!”

He started pacing about, gesturing excitedly with his hands.

“We could develop new, flashier graphics — call it ‘clouds’, or ‘glitter’, or something with marketing clout like that. And we could incorporate bits of open source in with our commercial stuff and the uber-geeks would get off our butts about proprietary hardware.”

Steve rambled on for a while, fleshing the idea out. Finally, he started to wind down, and turned to me sheepishly.

“Shelley, you really saved my butt, but you came to me for help and I haven’t helped you at all.”

“But Steve you have”, I answered. “Once the new operating system hits the street women will be able to learn Unix, finally, without men knowing about it.”

“How come?”

“Here’s the scenario: a woman is working away in the Terminal, typing ‘nix command after ‘nix command, but then a guy comes up and asks what they’re doing. The woman quickly collapses the terminal, hiding what they’re doing, and shows the guy their drawing, or graphic, or letter, or whatever they’re working on. Non-threatening stuff.”

Steve’s quick, because he responded with, “Learning Unix with stealth technology. I like it!”

So we hashed it around, coming up with the name and all. Later, as he was seeing me out, I happened to notice a laptop computer by the door and asked Steve what it was.

“Oh, it’s a new computer case we’re working on. It hasn’t been painted yet because we’re trying different types of paint to see which works the best.”

“I don’t know, Steve. I kind of like the bare metal look myself.”

And there you have it. The truth behind OS X.

Really, really.