BlogHer in Second Life

The BlogHer Conference is coming up next week! We’ll have tons of people in BlogHer in Second Life where there will be an entire conference track. Take a look at Erin’s outline of the BlogHer Second Life Conference schedule.

Would you like to transcribe one or more of the voice sessions in 2nd Life for the IRC relay? If so, please contact Erin Kotecki Vest aka Queen of Spain, queenofspainblog@yahoo.com.

I am especially happy that the schedule includes Jen and Aleja from GimpGirl, an online community for women with disabilities. I go to their 2nd life meetings (though I attend only in IRC and not in Second Life itself) and there’s been some great presentations and conversations.

Here’s the schedule!

BlogHer in Second Life ’08

DAY ONE, Friday July 18th

9:00-9:15 AM (live from San Francisco, CA)
Welcome to BlogHer ’08 from the Westin St. Francis Ballroom in San Francisco

9:15-10:15 AM
“Speed Dating” for BlogHers in Second Life

10:30-11:45 AM
Second Life Break-Out Session #1: The Intersection of Blogging and Second Life
Led by Cybergrrl Oh (aka Aliza Sherman), and featuring:
Ana Herzog (aka Nancy Hill)
Gidge (aka Bridgette McNeal)

12:45-2:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #2: Second Life and Security
Featuring Padlurowncanoe Dibou, formerly in charge of Hillary Clinton’s in-world HQ

2:30PM-4:30PM
Second Life Activity in Exhibitor Area

4:30PM-8:30PM
SecondLife Open Mic and Party
More details on how to be part of the Second Life Open Mic

DAY TWO, Saturday, July 19th

9:30-10:30 AM (live from San Francisco, CA)
BlogHer ’08 Morning Keynote: Hybrid Media

10:45-12:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #3: SecondLife as Educational/Training Tool
Featuring:
Padlurowncanoe Dibou
In Kenzo (aka Evonne Heyning, Creative Director and Interactive Producer for Amoration)
Fleep Tuque (aka Chris Collins from the University of Cincinnati)
Dannette Veale (from Cisco)

1:45-3:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #4: Using Second Life for Good
Led by Susan Tenby and featuring:
Connie Reece
Jennifer Cole and Aleja Ospina, the women behind GimpGirl.com

3:30PM-5:00PM
Second Life Activity in Exhibitor Area

5:15-6:15 PM (live from San Francisco, CA)
BlogHer ’08 Closing Keynote: Living the Truman Show

http://www.blogher.com/blogher_conference/conf/2/agenda/1

For Global Voices: About wheelchairs and mobility

For everyone I met and spoke with at Global Voices Citizen Media Summit I would like to pass on some information about mobility, disability, and wheelchairs. I got a lot of questions about my wheelchair and a lot of compliments on how well I get around. In a lot of countries, people don’t have access to wheelchairs, or only know about the most common kind of hospital chair. Here are some answers to the questions that people have been asking me at the conference.

My wheelchair is a type called an ultralight rigid frame. It weighs 17 pounds (8 kilos) and though I am not particularly strong, I can pick it up with one hand. The wheels come off just like a quick-release bike wheel. I can take off the wheels in about 10 seconds, fold the chair, and put it into a car or into the trunk of a taxi.

Standard hospital wheelchairs can weight 40 – 60 pounds (18 – 28 kilos). They are often designed to be pushed by an able-bodied walking person. With a lighter weight wheelchair, more people can gain independence.

These chairs are used by wheelchair athletes, but you don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from an lightweight chair.

The major manufacturers of ultralights are :

Quickie (Mine is a Quickie Ti)
http://www.quickie-wheelchairs.com/

Ti-Lite
http://www.tilite.com/store/

Colours
http://www.colourswheelchair.com/

These wheelchairs can be extremely expensive.

Here are two international projects to spread the availability of light weight, durable, low cost wheelchairs:

Whirlwind Wheelchair International is an open source project meant to help people across the world to set up entire factories or shops to produce low cost, very durable & rugged chairs.

http://www.whirlwindwheelchair.org/

Free Wheelchair Mission is a project to ship very, very cheap and maintainable wheelchair kits to every possible country. (Their project is controversial for many reasons; read this article for background.)

http://www.freewheelchairmission.org/thewheelchair.html

Getting the right size of wheelchair is important. But, given a choice between the wrong size in a light weight, and the right size that’s very heavy, I would take the lightweight chair.

Two good sources of information are Wheelchair Junkie forums, and Gimp Girl, a community for women with disabilities.

Playground baseball

One more thing, to answer the other question that you all are asking me:

My hair is dyed with Special Effects Blue Velvet and Punky Color Plum. It’s been that color for about 10 years. About once a month I put a little bit more purple to keep it bright!

WordPress plugin idea – blikify

So I was at Recent Changes Camp this weekend talking smack about blikis with some people. And I told anyone who would listen about the plugins for WordPress that help you integrate your blog with Mediawiki or other wikis.

What about a plugin that would just let you designate any page or post as world-editable?

Add Markdown and your WordPress blog could be easily wikified. I could use this for my nascent Hack Ability blog, and it would make me (and readers, and other editors) a lot happier than setting up and maintaining a whole parallel wiki structure to go with the blog.

On #wordpress I was just talking with _ck_ who wrote a Wiki Post plugin for bbPress.

_ck_ also pointed me to this cool and hilarious video of andiacts and Selena discussing when to use Drupal and when to use WordPress:


“It’s so cool! It’s like a new solar system!” That made me laugh so hard.

I have never written a WP Plugin but this seems possibly within the scope of my coding ability. So maybe this summer I’ll give it a shot.

But, if anyone out there wants to write it, go ahead, take the idea and run. Just hat tip me when you do. And, I would be motivated to help and contribute, because it would be handy as hell.

Highly trained girl-monkey sys admin bait


geeking at the conference
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

I was saddened and angered recently at a geeky gathering, to hear a very annoying and sexist story about women at techology conferences. A young man was talking to another guy and a couple of women who also looked to be in their 20s. He was laughing and telling a story with a tone of “Wow, listen to this hilarious amazing thing!”

According to this poor little dude, it is hilarious that it has become common that at sys admin and other tech conferences, big companies send women in undercover to do stealth recruiting. His story laid out how the big companies “specially train the women to sound like they know what they’re talking about”, priming them with lessons in the correct use of technical jargon. They send sexy women who are basically “high class call girls” to flirt with the valuable (assumed unquestioningly to be male) sys admins and programmers and get their information, and to figure out which ones are good and know their job. Then the Trained Monkey Fake Sys Admin Whores pass that information on to their superiors (also assumed in the story to be male) who actually know what computers are, for them to do intensive recruiting.

“Hahahaha!” laughed the young women at the party.

“Wow, hahahah!” laughed the guy listening.

“It’s totally true!” said the young spreader of poisonous, sexist, urban myths. “I even know guys who have slept with them!”

Oh for fuck’s sake. Let’s just undermine the legitimacy of technical women at conferences just A LITTLE BIT MORE with our messed-up “booth babe” stories, shall we?

If this even had a grain of truth to it, what would it sound like, framed differently? “Some companies send technical recruiters to technical conferences.” That’s it. There is nothing newsworthy there. I mean, DUH.

But, as soon as there are WOMEN in the story, it is given a misogynist spin, which is assumed to be hilarious and titillating and to make the listener feel superior. Because the technical recruiters are female, they are sluts, or “call girls”; definitely sexually available and exploitable. Because they are female, they are assumed in the story to be ignorant of computers, technology, sys adminning, and programming; any knowledge they DO have is “fake” because it is is artificial “training” given to them as a thin veneer just to mask their real goal which is sexual predation on the sys admins, run by mythical “big company” pimps.

I was super amazed to hear this crap coming out of someone’s mouth, at a party which was chock full of skilled, amazing, geeky women, and men who are sweet feminist allies. But, on the other hand, I was not amazed, because this is exactly the sort of thing people say all the time about, and around, technical women, or any women in male-dominated fields. It is part of the background of undermining and de-legitimizing women, that poisons the fucking air we breathe, that makes people assume we suck, that makes us women have to prove ourselves in every new professional context, to everyone we meet, that means we have to be 10 times better than a man in a comparable context before other people believe in our professional credentials.

Just think about that next time you hear a bunch of dudes arguing about why there aren’t more women in programming and engineering, and, quit looking for your biological explanations, and go check your own assumptions, and the kind of stories you tell and tolerate in your communities.

Liveblogging for She's Geeky

I’m at the She’s Geeky conference in Mountain View, and I’ll be liveblogging in very raw format. Later this week I’ll come back and clean up this post to make it more coherent and to take out the typos and add links.

I’m having a great time here. There is a very pleasant spectrum and range of people who are sort of hard core programming or hardware geeks plus the web 2.0, entrepeneur, blogging, marketing crowd. So it’s a great mix for me. People in general seem excited and inspired! The Computer History Museum is gorgeous, and I can’t wait to come back and go through it all. It is also a great place to have a conference.

*****

Open source lunch table conversation

Tori Orr, Susan Gerhart, Liz Henry, Ursula Kallio, Kim Wallace, Akkana, Margaret Rosas.

Open source stuff we talked about: Ubuntu 7.10, Drupal, LAMP in general, Joomla, Drupalcamp, Linuxchix, Ubuntu Women, the recent O’Reilly series, Python
Someone (someone who is a marketing person) was saying that we need to do more marketing for open source, joomla is marketed better, more consumer accessibile. Businesses aren’t realizing how valuable open source stuff is, they haven’t realized it yet. They don’t know how to listen to something without an authority figure or a hierarchy they can recognize. Also it is not made slick enough for them. But when it is, they’ll go for it.

Someone else mentioned wishing that there was an open source enterprise-level shopping cart.

Kim W. drew us diagrams to explain her release process for her company, which was pretty interesting for me because I was just going through the whole release process at mine.

Akkana talked about having a hackday and said to talk to Gloria W. about grrlcamp and other events.

I met Gaba, who was there with her 6 month old baby, and who talked about working for crabgrass, and about programming.
Also, Ursula and her partner Wiebke, I think both programmers but now I can’t remember what they do.

Someone else, I think Tori, talked with me about librarians and wikis, librarians and CMS, people still trying to figure out tech and cms. We agreed that people don’t realize the depth of the problem of managing knowledge, keeping and maintaining and using it. It is not a trivial problem! I had an idea: exposing the dead links in your years of blogs. How about an app to do that and then helps you find a live link for those dead link, in the internet archive AND other places. This would be a really great application. It should be built into ecto and other multiplatform blogging clients.

Another idea we talked about: make Moodblast do your location. Or something to let you talk to Doppler very quickly to update your location. General agreement from half the table that Dopplr is slick, and ears perked up around the other half of the table. (This was the case in nearly every conversation I was in, all day!)

Kaliya’s opening intro.

She mentioned some Stanford researchers – researching US. and reporters, like Mike – our “guy” from the San Jose Mercury News, plus Karen, the photographer

Julie from Wired News was also mentioned and got a huge cheer
c.?? from GigaOm (I did not hear her name.)

Kaliya mentions that the lunch trash is all compostable – but we need to find someone to take it somewhere that they compost stuff. Anyone ? Someone from google volunteers. Oh, California, where else would we find this funny and sweet and wondrous behavior?

Susan Mernit talking now, about Lillian (last name?) in animation in the 1930s, refused entry to animation school because women don’t do that sort of creative work.
What’s changed and what hasn’t? Things are shifting. We’re here at this moment in time. Yet they are not shifting enough. We are in an unbalanced environment, seen as an exception, exception b/c of being an engineer, doing back end work, or because of things like having to take care of everyone on the team. Everyone’s really comfortable if you do that, but if you don’t you’re the bitch. “You’re so amazing you’re not one of those tight sweaters” “what?” you now those really cute girls who work in pr and marketing… or “put your name on it or no one will believe you contributed.” or “Hey how did you come to be (engineer)” etc. or “Are you married? What does your husband think” These aren’t the reasons we’re here today, but this is an environment we all function in. We do it to each other and ourselves too; we have to fight to be as comfortable as we are.
Here we get to really talk, Linux, back end, systems, biotech, whatever you are passionate about. Also our stories of things we have to deal with.

Question from audience: Is anything being recorded? Can we watch this later? (Answer: Maybe – the videobloggers here are doing some recording.

Nonprofits session

Beth Kanter – circuit rider, learned html early, started blogging to keep a work log of things fixed
Elizabeth Perry – works at a school – accidental techie – came out of feminist literary theory background. School environment, adoption, you get computers but teachers aren’t sure how to make use of it. Inefficiency, confusion, concern. Elizabeth wrote a tech plan, interviewed to get best practices, then got a job doing that development, how to use tech to develop curriculum. New ways of using tech. Tech evangelist, one on one to help teachers use technology in their teaching. Technology integration specialist.
Beth: shoulder to shoulder learning
Eliz: ideal for people who love projects and learning new things. Teachers don’t know the tech but are great learners. What was cool for you in middle and high school? What can we do for girls? Eliz’s background is in community organizing.
Beth: the role of translator, an important skill.

Ursula K. Music industry, help musicians promote with tech.
EP: look at higher education and doing a gig teaching a course in how to do this.
Beth K: Webinars, for Rockefeller Foundation, supporting independent musicians, the business of music. Beth was out looking for people who work with musicinas and taught those things.

Ursula: often the valuable thigns are the Small details like don’t send a jpg that’s more than 120 pixels wide because it will give a bad impression.

Beth Cameron – sacramento. started out as admin asst and ended up doing al the techie stuff like setting up networks and fixing computers. getting peopel on listsev. Califo assoc. of health facilities. every time i go to any sort of training or anything I”m one of 2 women if even.
Beth K: it’s an important point, small interventions go a long way. the flip side is that there is a lot of resistance and adoption issues.
EP: I just learned this thing last year! Why do I have to learn another thing!
Beth C: Change is hard. And our org is mostly female except for the CEO of course (laughter) a little cynicism, glass ceilng… So I teach people how to send their first email, how to blog, back with AOL. Try gmail! and so on.
EP: they are passionate about something other than technoogy. because their mind is not on that they make careless or foolish mistakes and therefore they get really frustrated, and so it’s like therapy, lowering their stress level around technology. creating passionate users. those rewards, like video gamers levelling up rewards, kathy sierra. first you show them the blog entry, then the microphone, hey you could record something.
BK: You can’t overwhelm them, can’t use any jargon.
Akkana: takng time off from Silicon Valley rat race, looking for something more worthwhile. I know women who work in np as sys admins. I’m more of a programmer. Is there a space for things other than sys admin?

BJ Wishinski: quit high tech job to work for year for anita borg (wow) Grap
hics programmer, manager of education services around technogoloy. Software for designing integrated circuits. one of the more masculine ends of tech you can possibly be in. i’m so tired of that enviornment that I don’t want to go back. so I gave notice. I just went from grace hopper conference to here, to anita borg, now I have a year to figure out a paying job doing something to build support structures for women in tech industry and a new career

susan gearhart: interested in baby boomers who are going to be losing vision. I have a vision loss program. as i’ve been goin ghtrough this transition I am understandng what boomers will need from technology. women who could get together to develop assistive tech that in an open source mode . then, t here are other really great tech ideas but theya re really 2 or 3 generations behind. how can we bring that new stuff into the attention of the rehab organizations that work for states, counties, schools, to make much better tech available for everybody of all ages. Is there an org anywhere, or way to form one, develop better assistive tech. Existing rehab organizations.

BJ: Center for Independent Living?
Susan: Bookshare
Liz: no really awesome ones around.

blond woman: boomers, next phase, silver something. using tech, patents. “Hearrings” earrings that are hearing aids.

(We all get rather excited about Hearrings. Fancy hats with veils and flowers with all that stuff built in…)

Susan’s blog:

me: I worked in K-12 school, universities, in tech. worked in search at excite, back end, perl, went off to get degree in comparative literature and translation, blogging, blogher, now at socialtext, wiki software, i manage the open source release of this wiki software . pbwiki, socialtext, wikipatterns could be very useful for educators and nonprofits. I love what Beth said about the small interventions.

Beth: watch people work, see how you can intervene.

Wiebke Mueller, from germany. accessibility, e-learning. training people on computers, web developer, trainer.

Liz: This site, a woman I met at BlogHer, keeps this blog which explains step by step everything you have to do to make a blog accessible, on various blogging platforms.

http://allaccessblogging.com

BJ: also interested in access. We are all going to be disabled at some point if we live long enough. Older people using email and the web more.

Wiebke: Dragon, it has become much better in version 9.

Anne Holden: Science education, communication. http://www.natcenscied.org/default.asp
Describes many issues of nonprofits and education. Donors, grants, professors. If there’s a big court case we get a lot of press and then new members. Was working in research, thought the profs aren’t getting their research out there enough for the public.

Amy Jussel – new media, non profit, non partisan, creative director. It’s all about content. “Shaping youth” is her blog. Girls for a Change (conference?) Her background is CEO, productize this, make it open source, get it out there. Viral, counter-marketing, constructive. Readergirl. I get offers from companies who want to sponsor, but they just want my people. Kraft Foods, Walmart, all the biggies that are trying to change their colors but I’m a little cynical. I’m Trader Joes not Walmart. I’m looking for advice, how to integrate positive media but maintain an indy voice, how to be nonprofit, and open source, as a social entrepeneur.

EP: New Mexico media literacy group. Be afraid, be very afraid. Critical consumers.

BJ also mentions Girls for a Change. The girls really take it into their own hands, make a web site, put stuff on YouTube.

BK: about being an entrepeneur, are you workingn with a non profit?
AJ: I am a nonprofit.
BK: so you’re frustrated with the structue you set up?
AJ: Have easy turnkey kits for teachers to download. then i decided, why charge 50 bucks for this? why not make it free and open source?
BK: have a small board, that can work really well, you can then move faster
AJ: we could go after grants, i dunno, the blogs become time sinks. be a vital resource, but pay the bills. how not to have big folks declare they’re your partner and not take you over.
Abbey Patterson: company is Sooner. duke, harvard, partnership, unesco, columbia, healthcare. Music, hip hop.

I have lost the thread of what Abbey is talking about.

Katie – free technology services to small grassroots nonprofits. just getting a web site, the over the shoulder learning, etc. grassroots.org

American Cancer Society –
The Click Heard Round the World – Rickomatic – MacArthur, nonprofit and best practices paper.

Lightning talks. Danese

Slides are online:

* be clear what you are talking about
* don’t think of yourself as a public speaker, it’s regular conversation
* humble and funny
* nothing bad is going to happen
* don’t overprepare. be real
* your audience wants you to succeed. watching you fail is excruciating.

what’s your goal? not necessarily there to say what you’ve been told to say.

* (I have more extensive notes on the lightning talks sessions which I’ll post on Thursday. I took notes on nearly all the 3 minute talks, and I gave a talk myself on How to Deal with It When You Don’t Know What To Do (about bugs, and applications not working, and failed installs, and broken computers) and another on How to Make Your Wiki Not Suck.)
* The extra time for eating and breaks was a fantastic part of this conference
* I got some fun stickers from google and firefox, and an O’Reilly tshirt
* I talked more with Danese which was super fun
* I talked about my workplace and what I do and demo-ed my wiki for people
* I hung out with my kick-ass sister, who is a web dev and blogger
* I also talked with Z. about open document format, she showed me some linux translation efforts which I marked to blog about later, and we talked about nooxml.org
* I caught the first bit of Heather Gold’s stand up comedy which was great, but I had to leave
* Did I mention, the food was good?
* I talked with 2 people from Atlassian, which was fun (their company also sells enterprise-level wikis)
* I promised lots of people cards and “Wiki Way” tshirts and more talking and information the next day when I would be less tired
* and there were so many people there I wanted to talk with, old friends and new people to meet
* BUT THEN that night I got nastily ill and spent the whole day 2 of the conference in bed throwing up. DAMN
* So I didn’t get to give the fun long version of my talk “How to Make Your Wiki Not Suck So Bad”
* I was very very sad about being sick and missing the rest of the conference
* Mad props to Kaliya and team for a great conference and a great job organizing!
* Note to self and others, go add your writeups and information to the wiki! Yes, this means you! Link them from either the Monday page, or Proposed Topics, or the nearly totally empty Notes page which I hope we will populate and organize. The main thing is to put up your notes. Someone else will come along and fix things and organize it later, that is what wikis are all about. But this was a great conference that deserves to have a record of what happened there set out coherently.

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People I met at BlogHer; and the swag

Here is a giant bigass post with links to all the people I met at Blogher. It was often a blur of meeting people who recognized me because I am recognizable with the purple hair and all. But then I would forget their names unless they had badges on or I already knew them from long conversations from previous years. And then people who I sort of know or felt like I should know better than I actually remember knowing. And already it’s been a week since the conference, so I’ve forgotten what were at the time very cool connections. YOU KNOW HOW IT GOES. (Talking to someone 5 minutes secretly thinking omg who are you who are you i totally know who you are but your hair is different now until it clicks, thank god because I often can’t fess up that I don’t know.) Sometimes, I was smart, and made a note on the business card of what we talked about and what I intended to do as a result. “email to her Sondra’s info” or “damn this guy is pushy” or whatever.

What I really want is for all these fabulous geeky women to come to BarCampBlock in Palo Alto, August 18-19. Come! I’m helping to organize it! Sign up on the wiki, on upcoming.org, on the Facebook group, and/or on EventBrite. Also, I’d like to see them all again at She’s Geeky in October, — Oct 22-23 in Mountain View!

First and perhaps illogically the people I already know. My amazing roommates at the W, SJ of I, Asshole who I have known online since my first days of blogging. And her friend Shauny whose name I only knew peripherally from years of seeing it in SJ’s sidebar as her web host and I think blog-mother — Shauna who is like a rock of sanity and interestingness and I could just wait for the next hilarious sarcastic thing to come out of her mouth. And I love SJ’s business card: “Generous Lover + Writer + Dope Bitch / Super Jive at your Service”. This year, we refrained from the secret topless photos of last year, but I could not help down-blousing her a couple of times. Someday the world will be properly at her feet. She will be like Molly Ivins, except boozier and dirtier.

Blogher

Annalee Newitz from Techsploitation and I hung out a lot. We did at SXSWi as well. There’s a funny balance at conferences between hanging out with new people and hanging with people you already know who are from your hometown. You want to be around the people you already know, and connect up with them because you don’t see them enough. But on the other hand if you do that too much you never meet anyone new! And then I’ll go through a process of thinking “Oh well if I want to see Mary then I can just call her the hell up, why don’t I?” and vowing to call her when I get back home. But with Annalee, because we know each other so well, it’s like being in a warm bath. So when I get overwhelmed by conference or need to process it all with someone super safe, you will find me texting the shit out of Annalee with “Where r u” until we meet up and can hang out and relax. I was super happy she came to BlogHer, and so proud to hear her being smart and articulate as hell at the keynote with Esther Dyson and Rashmi Sinha. Anyway, it’s a long way since the days when she would go “Blogging? Why! Full of drama! Just be a professional journalist and get paid!” And she kicks so much ass! And so I was happy to see her see that BlogHer is one of those places you can be all the parts of yourself at once, asskicking, geeky, and human. I really liked what she said about BlogHer; I feel the same way, and this sums it right up.

There were tomboys, mommies, punks, tarts, ladies, bitches, nerds, and girls. There were professional women in suits and perfect hair, and grubby rockabilly gals in tattoos and tight dresses.

Because so many of us were there, we stopped being women and just became humans. This is an incredibly rare experience in the tech industry.

I have three different cards from Mur Lafferty. I am totally going to stick my tentacles into Mur’s brain. We could not talk for more than 30 seconds without shrieking “NO! I must see that! Send me the link!” I vote her Person I Most Want to Be New BFF With. I will let her ride my bike, and chop the hair off all my Barbies, and post in my group blogs, and and and. I will also buy a “Mur’s Bitch” tshirt and wear it with pride. I wish I had spent more time just following Mur around, and especially with laptops open and the links flying, but the hanging out we did do was so nice it felt like we had known each other forever.


Possibly the nicest down time at the conference, me, Annalee, Barb Dybwad, Mur (whose novel thing you can find at Heaven seasons 1, 2 and 3, Gina, Jason from Lulu.tv, Marshall, and then later SJ, Shauna, and Susie. Beer in the sink! Computers at hand (but no good wireless)! Pizza on the floor! Conversation flying! Screaming laughter!

Onwards!

I hung a bit with Beth Kanter, whose blogging I admire and who is just Fun. She laid a whole bunch of stuff on me at my request about blogging and wikis and nonprofits and in fact she has some enormous wiki squirrelled away that explains it ALL. I will link to that and write it up separately when I have spare brain cells. Amusingly… one of her Moo cards was a photo I took of her lying on the floor upskirting me at the FIRST BlogHer. Yes we are very very rowdy when you take 95% of the men away. Women’s tech conferences are like a huge frat party but with more giggling and craft projects and light flirting. Just as you always suspected, guys!

I talked a bit (never enough!) with Dave Coustan and I’m linking to him even if it is a link to his benign corporate overlords. He is “extraface” on twitter if you want his personal life. And surely some of you do!

I hung out with my homie and fellow Woolfcamper Jen Scharpen, who works now for BlogHer Ads and for BlogHer itself!

And ended up with a card for Beth Blecherman who I know from meeting the Silicon Valley Moms Blog folks! Jill Asher was at the conference too I think, but I don’t remember seeing her. OMG maybe she changed her hair and I *did* talk with her and she’s one of the people I should totally know and yet only have met in person twice. I also don’t know Beth super well, but always enjoy talking with her!

Deb Roby – I do not have her card on me, but know where to find her! We sat across each other at dinner one night at the W hotel and had a grand old time with the gossip.

Georgia Popplewell from Global Voices and Caribbean Free Radio, someone I’d like to know better, and didn’t get that heart to heart talk with, but at some point I know we’ll do that! Oh, she’s fantastic!

You see the problem with BlogHer. It is full of amazing people to the point to where your head explodes. If you love to talk with
smart, clueful geeks and writers, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop.

Laurie White of Laurie Writes. We talked at dinner at the W about education and community college teaching and social class. I was trying to recommend the book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” by Ruby K. Payne to Laurie. This is my reminder to do that! Or maybe she’ll vanity-technorati and find this and will make a note of it. Also, you should all buy it and read it. It’s a very good explanation of social class and of its hidden rules, and ways to translate culturally between classes.

Karen from Trollbaby/Vodkarella was so much fun at sushi… We and Queen Tureaud aka Erin (whose blog name for her kid is, get this, Queen Peanut Punk as Fuck) and whose writing I also read with interest elsewhere, Anyway my point was we were eating sushi and drinking sake and joking massively about bi-curious mommyblogger dynamics. I know what you are thinking … when do these blogging chicks NOT talk about sex? I’m not sure but not when I’m around that’s for sure. Seriously though, Karen rocks, and I am still very appreciative of the great blog redesign she did for me!

Okay, that is the people I already knew reasonably well, or at least the ones whose cards are right in front of me.

More later of all the other people, but this post is already way too long.

Just one more thing.

SWAG! The best stuff I got at BlogHer was the bags, as usual. The glowing martini glass entertained me for a while. And the AOL memory stick was also nice and made me feel warm and fuzzy, but I left it in a geocache at breakfast yesterday. Tiny hand mirrors and a couple of magnets, also good, and they’ll stick around rather than being thrown away. So I am left with some stickers and flyers, and the main tote bag, and the awesome AOL body (?) laptop bag. I don’t know what AOL body means, and don’t care, but I think kindly of them in a general way now, instead of hating them for the litter of “free online access” CDs that infested the world some years back. The cocktail party food at the Childrens’ Museum party rocked. That stuff was delicious!

Someone’s missing out big time on the geeky-slogan tshirt selling opportunity, and the fact that everyone wants to mod up and decorate their laptops, and have a fancy unique laptop bag. I also agree with Lisa Williams that if they’re going to give us hand lotion, which I like perfectly well by the way, it should have LEDs in it. YES. Just throw some girly shit at us, like laptop bags that look like robotic parts with rivets, AND sparkles, or light up hand lotion with a control panel, or futuristic star trek salt and pepper shakers that also have GPS in them. Ipod cases, etc. We are GEEKS and like gadgets, and little thingies to decorate gadgets, and useful things to put things into, at BlogHer!

I wonder how many tiny cute laptops and iphones Apple would have sold if they had set up something at BlogHer? What do you think?

Tools, also. Tools and gadgets that are cute and portable. I am thinking of how Radio Shack had a table at Maker Faire, and was selling fabulous small toolkits for 10 bucks. I bought one for the trunk of my car. NOW when I am trapped in an earthquake on the highway I will not only have moldering powerbars and boxes of raisins and bandaids! I will also have a full set of wrenches!

Cars were a really good idea too at BlogHer 2006. I bought a car last year, and I hated the process with white hot blinding passion and I had to deal with slobbering sexist jerks at the car dealership.

I’ll write more later or tomorrow as this is part 1 of at least 3 posts on BlogHer. Part 2 will be the other people I met. Part 3 will be the panels I was on and that I went to! No wait. I need Part 4 for the Unconference in which I talked about wikis for like 6 hours. That’s it, peace, out.

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In which I am cranky and grateful about access in Chicago!

(I wrote part of this before BlogHer but forgot to post it!)

Anyone other people with disabilities going to BlogHer, by the way? I have not tried to mobilize to find out, but I’m wondering.

I am going to be able to get around town pretty well with regular taxis. My wheelchair folds up and fits in a car trunk and I think my hotel is close (though I have not actually checked! ) My main concern is that sometimes I just need to lie down somewhere. And I am fine with getting out of the chair and getting on the floor for a nap, which tends to freak people out. “OMG are you okay! Do you need help getting up! Did you fall?”

***

So, at BlogHer, the access was more or less okay.

The conference center at Navy Pier was very spread out, which means it’s exhausting and sometimes time consuming to get around. For example, there was no bathroom on the same floor as most of the panel rooms. The first time I needed the bathroom, it was hard to find one and I went way off in the wrong direction, and then had to take an elevator to it. Plus, you’d have an event on one side of the conference center, and then another event on the other side, separated by a giant crowded hall and two elevators.

I loathe Moscone Center for this reason as well. It is just Too Big and spread out. WisCon, in contrast, is in a hotel that perfectly fits 800-1000 people. The elevator problem is still there, but the exhaustion of moving around a huge space is eliminated!

Buildings in downtown Chicago had worse access, on the whole, than ones in downtown San Francisco. There were more tiny custom-installed lifts, and less ramps.

Lifts suck because they are almost always locked or not working or both. They’re loud, conspicuous, fussy, isolating, and clunky, and often they’re installed in the backass end of nowhere of the building while your friends are all going somewhere else, either because it doesn’t occur to anyone to keep you company or because they’re not allowed in the tiny awful lift.

The main problem, though, is that they’re kept locked and turned off. I flounced around Chicago telling building managers and security guards that it was illegal to keep the lifts turned off and locked. I don’t know if that’s true! But I can’t imagine that it’s not. It sucks, whether it’s illegal or not. I’ll go look it up and edit this entry later.

I ran into the “just two blocks” issue a few times. Someone would tell me somewhere else was just a couple of blocks away. It is always a mistake to believe this! It ***never*** is. Instead I found myself braving traffic and curbs and wheeling uphill 12 blocks over cobblestones, chain link fences, bricks, shark teeth, hot lava, and paths made of swords and darkness. Next time I will have prepared much better, with maps, and more phone numbers of taxis.

The big hotels were halfway okay. I became totally furious in the W Hotel when there was a ramp down from the lobby to the bar, but the ramp ENDED IN STAIRS. What the hell, people! I bitched. And rather than listen to anyone I told the hotel people to go away while I hobbled down the steps. I can totally do steps but it’s somewhat painful and after all day sitting up in the chair, I was not in the mood. It is awkward, and people stare, and I’d rather they stare at me and think “Oh Cool” while seeing me in a confident moment rather than seeing me limp and lean. Not that limping is bad mind you. Just that I was NOT WEARING MY PITY SHIELD that evening.

So then at a super fun fancy-ass dinner with a gazillion bloggers I had to swear my way into a dark pantry closet with some manager with a key while all the other employees and various random people stared and thought “Oh look the crippled chick is going to go and pee…” And was vastly annoyed and told them to leave the damned lift ON… with a light on… and with signs that say lift this way and bathrooms upstairs with a nice blue and white disability access logo.

Screw them!

I won’t even go into the Tale of the Sushi Restaurant and the Security Guards and the Building Lift and Chris Carfi helping me up the stairs! GAH. But I was grateful to the nice busboy who shook his fist at the non-working lift and who repeated my “fuck you!” that I yelled up the stairwell at the totally not-there security guard with the mythical lift key.

At City Centre hotel in contrast, I spoke to a polite manager once… and she was sympathetic. And the next time I came back to the hotel, I found this:

BlogHer

THE KEY in the lift!

That was so exciting, and it has never happened to me that a polite complaint has resulted in a policy change of this kind!

It was heartening beyond the happy convenience of being able to pee, get food and drinks, and talk with people upstairs when I wanted to… at my convenience… without fuss or frustration or delay.

Thanks, nice hotel manager!

BlogHer - nice hotel manager

About a week before the conference I think Elisa asked me if I knew any other bloggers with disabilities who would be there and what the issues might be. She was worried that I would not be able to ride the shuttle buses! I appreciated that concern. But the issues are sort of more complex than that!

BlogHer conference coming up!


blogher party
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

I’m madly excited about the upcoming BlogHer conference – I’m on a couple of panels – Moderating “Does the Blogosphere need an intolerance intervention” with its somewhat ambiguous stance, and filling in at the last minute for Grace Davis on day 2 of the conference in “Blogging: The Voice for Silenced Communities“. I really, really, love a good juicy panel discussion with a ton of participation and ideas exploding everywhere that send you off thinking and inspired. That’s how it will be, the entire conference — with the added torment of knowing that in the next room something else just as interesting is happening and you’re missing it!

BUT THE PARTIES! Oh my god we’re going to have fun.

And the strange pajama parties at midnight in our swanky hotel rooms (fancy yet crammed with 4 of us to a room) with laptops and compromising photos and books and cameras! Our silliness will not be contained and must spill over onto your internets!

And the hallways where I will park myself and geek out and get to meet people I have admired from afar and they turn out to be just regular people with shy smiles who are nice.

I think best of all I like meeting amazingly witty shy people who have gem-like beautiful blogs and are not scrambling after fame and fortune or trying to Optimize for Business. It makes me think of how I love to make little xerox zines and distribute them for free. It is still a culture of DIY and abundance and love.

But on another level all the businessy social capital networky things are also beautiful. The first BlogHer conference gave me a lot of confidence and belief that my weird useless literary hobby was appreciated. I met so many people who continue to be useful to me, not like I call them up and go “Give me a job, and I’d like my own Lear Jet to the conference, cause i am internet famous” but just in that we know we exist, in awareness of each other, and that is comforting and inspiring. Just that I know all the people I met at the first Blogher conference still amazes me. Instead of being a lone wacko in my garage transmitting ham radio waves into outer space (as I felt while blogging solo) I am part of this amazing community and I have professional and literary colleagues.

I looked at my Facebook social timeline and saw how it is basically an explosion of friends stemming from BlogHer 2005. That’s so amazing. And as a feminist I appreciate, especially, the connections with other women, so often disrupted by capitalism, nuclear families, and all the pressures of our lives under patriarchy. BlogHer helps me live my life more the way I have always wanted to, with strong ties to other women.

Actually, Woolfcamp helped that too. And I still hope to see others do some decentralized women-blogging and tech meetups that are small unconferences, just get together with your laptops and start showing each other all your geeky stuff, even just how you blog and what tools you use. And I guarantee that among 3 or 4 people you will all learn something and be fortified and inspired. It is a sort of nucleation and sharing of information that makes everyone involved become bigger.

Back to the practical universe. I will be flying out on Wednesday, will stay with my sister-in-law and her family one night in Oak Park, and then off to the W Hotel. I am rooming with SJ of I, Asshole, one of my earliest blog friends. Actually I was her stalker for a while until she noticed me in her comments (as is so common with these blog friendships!). And with her friend Shauny who I don’t know but who I’m sure will be fun. BLOG PARTY IN MY ROOM and you are all invited.

I will miss Grace Davis a lot and will be thinking of her and extending magic tentacles to her this week and next… and I will save up a lot of fun for her and when she is ready I will go and bring it to her house and pour it in her lap. I was thinking that a Woolfcamp in the park would be awesome. I will find a beautiful place with lots of nature AND wireless and we will all go and have a blogging picnic specially in Grace’s honor.

Meanwhile, I am gearing up to write for BlogHer again. I took a 6 month leave, because I got a full time job and an extra part time job and could not handle so much work. But I am ready to get back to blogging about blogs by women from Latin America (including the Latin America that intersects with the United States, i.e. blogs by Latina/Chicana women). I miss all the blogs I used to read and the fun emails and am looking forward to getting back into it with a weekly post. If you have a favorite blog, in Spanish or English, and I will try Portuguese as well, please send me the URL and a description of the blog and blogger and I’ll add them to my feed!

"Community" needs women, badly!

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Apparently this conference, “Community Next“, has been missing all the years of discussion in blogging and tech communities about gender diversity. Maybe it’s too technical of a conference and women tend to go for the more “soft” skills like communities and social engineering and marketing? Oh wait, that’s what the conference is about. Um! Maybe there aren’t any women in tech who do community work? Or who know anything about viral marketing and web 2.0? Maybe they’re not famous and notable enough, or don’t know how to speak? Golly. Where are the women!?

Seriously, I looked at this speaker list and conference description and started laughing really hard. So many nice guys that I like and respect, but here, they dropped the ball.

Again.

Maybe danah was rly rly busy so they just didn’t know who else there was to ask!

Or maybe if they put some pink in that web site design and a link to shopping, some of the wimminz might show up. (/sarcasm)

If there aren’t women talking, I get turned right off of going.

On the other hand, some of those guys are kind of hot. Maybe they will wear their best really tight witty Threadless tshirts and make it worth my while to show up. Hawt!

(/really ending sarcasm now)

(Not so) fascinating, Captain

Wifi was spotty at the Web 2.0 conference, but I enjoyed meeting people and listening to talks in the Web2open part of town. My coworkers Luke and Kirsten and I gave an off the cuff demo and talk about wikis, blikis, and various ways of looking at wiki content. I came away thinking further about measures of wiki health, tightness, outward or inward-lookingness, and the idea of a wiki having periods of growth or pruning.

I caught part of Rashmi Sinha’s talk, “Massively Multiplayer Object Sharing” and am hoping to hear more on the same themes of designing for large systems. It’s such a pleasure, because I have been thinking and talking for a while now in an amateur way about having many different metrics and algorithms to rank and measure value – in order to counter some of the flaws of complete democracy. I just talk about it, while people like Rashmi and Mary Hodder actually put these ideas into practice!

The only other talk I caught was part of the “Invincibelle” demo. While it is a lovely idea and I’m all for it, I was somewhat turned off by the line “After all, women love shopping…” Yeah okay, er… Did I really just hear that! But I’ll put that aside. Invincibelle has some great interviews with interesting women working in tech. It is a great idea but I have some (I hope constructive) critiques to offer. The site needs good navigation and stronger linking between people. Why not make this an actual social network site? So far, it’s just a custom-built blog with good interviews, a forum, and an rss feed of some job postings. Another thing that could be improved – how about adding some links to the women featured and their web presence? They have companies, blogs, contact info, presumably – but I can’t find that in the interviews. Why not make a nice sidebar with feeds from all the featured women’s blogs? Then their voices would be heard even further! Scalability is another concern. I would love for this site to grow. But when it grows what will it look like… where is a coherent directory of the people of this network – for example I would like to be able to click on profession titles and read about all the chemists or physicists or programmers and perhaps also by country, as I imagine people from particular countries might like to find each other. Maybe those features will get added and the site will move a little further into the “2.0” philosophy. I could say the same (a critique, with suggestions, and with love) for sites like el Sal√≥n de Belleza which has similarly inspiring portraits and profiles and interviews with amazing women (thought not focused on tech.)

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far far away, across the Expo hall, someone from this company was asking the audience for its demo, “should we search in our social software for swimsuit issue models, or victoria’s secret?” Apparently a segment of the audience indicated its preference for lingerie soft porn over bathing suit soft porn. Some women walked out. Maybe some men did too – I hope so. The subtext is not subtle to me. Who did the speakers think they were talking to?

In the context of all the years of discussion about “how to get more women at tech conferences”, this was an amazingly ignorant thing to do in a professional talk. I like many of the comments from my fellow geek and techy women in the comments here, for example, the calmly and neatly expressed simple statement by Nicole:

As an engineer and woman who uses the internet daily for work and personal I am still blown away by these ridiculous portrayals of women as objects in tech ad campaigns.

Some more on this, a quick roundup:

Ah! Here’s the women of Web 2.0!

Men (and a few women) of Web 2.0. This is so odd; it’s a photo of the crowd for a keynote, and the crowd is overwhelmingly male.

Meanwhile, Christine Herron posts about the gender ratio at the conference. This year, women made up 18% of the conference attendees.

I was on the Web2open side of the conference all of Tuesday, there were a ton of women, I didn’t feel outnumbered or out of place, and quite a lot of the speakers and presenters were women; in fact, more than half. I have a few thoughts on why this should be so. One is that women might be more likely than men to not be able to afford to go to the main conference if the fee was not paid for by their company. On that note — info I can’t source at the moment but that I’ve often read — women in companies don’t push to be sent to conferences while men do, because of self-judgements of level of expertise (Eszter Hargittai has some good research data on self-perceptions of competence and expertise in tech, though). Another crucial element that helped the gender ratio at Web2open; Tara Hunt actively recruited – repeatedly – women in online forums, in public and private, to participate, and pointed out the other women who were coming. That level of active outreach is very important and is part of why SXSWi had such success in increasing participation by women in the industry.

And back to the annoying lingerie model issue: I’d like to point out that O’Reilly’s screenshots were interesting and demonstrate the cleverness and interest of the product in the exact way that the demo didn’t. Doing a beavis and butthead style sniggering soft core porno “women as consumable objects” search only revealed what will end up being the ugly side of identity aggregation and search sites; using the web creepily to stalk & harass women. When this happens it won’t be the fault of the software or of the internet, it’ll be a mirror that exposes what goes on at all levels of society.

One more post, from SFWoW:

unbelievable that MCPs are still willing to show their stripes in SF these days; but there is no accounting for cluelessness among the supposed-Digerati.

Yeah there is some anger out there. And as anyone with half a brain should know by now, it is unsafe professionally for women in the field to indicate (even very calmly) that they are annoyed (even very mildly) by sexism.

I think some of the anger comes from our (speaking for women in tech) high expectations. We want to believe y’all utopian-thinking techie web 2.0 dudes are somewhat enlightened and we want to believe you see us as human beings. It is disappointing when those wishes and beliefs are proved wrong – over and over. I look forward to hearing more men say “actually that’s not funny” to each other. I don’t want to become the enforcer. The point is not for guys to watch what they say in front of women like me. That will only result in even less real communication. The point is to accept the criticism, to wipe the big green embarrassing booger of sexism or racism from your nose and say “oops sorry about that” and then move on from there. (YES please click on that link and read it – and then look at the defensive reactions every time women speak up and point out misogyny – for example what do men do but deny, claim they meant well, accuse women of being “too sensitive”, and then find wo
men to defend them and testify how non-sexist they are. The point is not that you “Are” the point is how you BEHAVED just now, which in this case, was dumb and sexist.)

How many times do we have to say it? Talk about our work and contributions, not about our looks. Link up to and highlight women’s thoughts and writings, respond to the substance, rather than just going “har har har, beavis, of course we want women at our conferences (so we can hit on them).”

I would like to close by mentioning, for any geeky women reading this, systers and the Anita Borg Institute once again. They rock, there is no nonsense about nail polish or whatever, it is just a very practical network and resource for women in tech.

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