I, hypocrite

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

In deference to those who are tired of my discussions about links and linking and gender or racial disparity, I’ll try to keep this post short. I’ll fail, of course; but I’ll at least try.

I had stopped reading Scoble and wasn’t aware that he’d mentioned me a couple of times in recent posts. I gather that Dave Winer also mentioned me in a podcast, along with a statement that most webloggers aren’t women. In my opinion, from the nature of both discussions, these efforts were more in line with wanting to generate contentious debate (and the associated linking) than in having an effective dialog.

There is another weblog, though, interested in generating discussion: The Vision Thing. The weblogger, Ethan, ran a series of posts this week on ‘visibility’, primarily related to much of the recent discussions. One of the posts compared links to men, women, and I assume, ‘other’ between Scoble and me in April. He found that Scoble only linked to women 4% of the time, which I guess was expected. However, what was not expected was that I linked to men more than women, on an average of 2 to 1.

Ethan asks how can that be? After all, aren’t I the one pushing women to be linked more?

I wrote a comment in reply, leading others to respond to what I wrote either with disapproval or defense; I’ll live with the former, and appreciate the latter–but the point is mute. I was disappointed from the resulting discussion to find out that the message I thought I was communicating wasn’t heard. I have to assume that’s because I didn’t do a very good job of communicating.

When I questioned Scoble’s invite-only list to have dinner with the VP at Microsoft, I wasn’t doing so as a demand that that he include a certain percentage of women from now on. I was asking what was the basis of his invitations; as he responded with critiera, I then pointed out that there were women in the area that met his stated standards.

When I wrote my satire about men linking, I wasn’t doing this to generate a flurry of links to women, any women. The effort wasn’t done to send scores of men out into the blogrolls of the women webloggers they know, hoping to find some writing, or some weblog, they could link and feel smug about having ‘done their duty’.

When I wrote about the Ajax summit, and joked about ‘manly tech’, I wasn’t doing this to force organizations into including any women, just so the numbers balance.

Lately, when I question the value of blogrolls and popularity lists such as the Eco System and Technorati, I’m not doing so because women aren’t represented equally; I’m doing so to question the value we place on links, and the authority we gift to those who have more, as compared to those who have fewer.

Once upon a time, these counts mattered to me, they mattered a great deal. I would look at Technorati and assumed that we women were not valued highly in this environment because we weren’t listed, equally. After all, the New York Times doesn’t go running after the person who is ranked 1053 for juicy quotes.

But it’s all a game, really, with rules set by an arbitrary group composed mainly of sad, sad folk; a game where links are used as strings to yank us about until we behave just so. And once you buy into that game, you’ve lost your soul, because we only have to look at the would-be puppeteers to see they’re now the greatest puppets of all.

Link to me for my birthday!

Now what matters to me more is being heard when we speak; being seen when we stand up; and being respected for what we do. If we have these, then the issue of how many links we have, or how high we rank in a system, or how well we complete against a set of arbitrary rules is no longer important. Ultimately we women may get both links and rank in this system, but unless fundamental changes occur in our culture and our churches and our work places and in our governments, this doesn’t mean we’ll finally get respect.

Do you understand what I’m saying with this?

Ethan didn’t because he assumed from my writing on this issue that I would automatically link to women at least 50% of the time. I wrote in response–defense really, and that was silly because I didn’t need to defend myself–that I tend to write on technology and since there are currently more men than women in technology, its not unusual for me to link primarily to men in my technical writings.

Oh, my didn’t I hear about it then. Everything from how can I give Scoble an excuse to ignore women, to accusations of being hypocritical, writing one thing, doing another. How can I write on fair representation for women but still link to men in a 2 to 1 ratio?

It’s quite easy actually. In fact, if Ethan counts links for May, he’ll probably find that I’ll have linked men more than women this month, too. I wrote a fair bit on WordPress and REST, may write some things on digital identity, am reviewing a book written by a (guy) friend, and am planning on writing several posts on Microformats, taxonomies, and Ajax in the next week or so. I will be linking to some women, but most of the opinions I’ll be referencing have been expressed by guys. I know this now because I’ve been collecting a set of links to writings I wanted to include in my own discussion.

Does this make me a hypocrite? If all that matters in this environment is a count of links–how many we give out or how many we have–then I guess it does. But if I stop writing on these topics, I would effectively remove one of the few women who write on these technologies–would this, then, be more honorable?

Quick: how many fingers is the invisible woman holding up? Stand her up on a pile of links so she towers above those around her; now how many fingers is she holding up?

Jesse James Garrett wrote before the Ajax summitI am looking for women (preferably in the San Francisco Bay Area) who have been working as managers, designers, or developers on Ajax applications. When questioned as to this odd request, he replied, Gender balance is a persistent problem in the public discussions about technology, and it’s one I’d like to take steps to avoid as the public discussion about Ajax moves forward..

I would have liked to help you, Jesse, I really would. With all due respect, I could give a rat’s flying ass about your reasoning behind this request, but I’d still like to help you.

Scoble wrote in one of his new posts that he wanted additional links to people and then said, where are the women, and why did they not provide their site so he could link them? How is he going to link to women if they don’t contact him? But he did point out one woman who did–who wrote defending Scoble. He responded with:

Avonelle, thanks for speaking up. I’m going to attend the BlogHer conference for at least a morning (turns out I can make it after all) and it sure would be interesting to have you debate Shelley Powers on this issue.

I think they charge 1000.00 for shows like this Robert, but regardless, I won’t be attending BlogHer. I was invited and asked to lead the advanced technology session, but I declined. I hadn’t the heart to attend a conference on women and visibility, only to speak on technology. Odd how my mind works, isn’t it? I don’t understand it myself at times.

I’ve gone on too long, as usual. To those who are angered by my hypocrisy or saddened by my betrayal, I would give you my heartfelt regrets–if only I had any.

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