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.