K'vetsh in August

I do love this literary reading and tonight is a big crowd for Heathen and Zara Thustra, so I might as well blog it. Also, my leg hurts a lot tonight but I don’t want to go home yet, so blogging is a way of concentrating on something other than my annoying body. A fine trick – I recommend it.

The hill here on Mariposa is forbiddingly steep and difficult for a wheelchair and I could not do it alone. So my car is parked up that hill! Eeep!

Meliza kicks off! Mexico City visiting the map and multiplying x times y. 66 poem or prose poem series. Sarah Dopp is reading! Awesome recitation of long poem! “I lost it slowly…” Jon Longhi now reading short piece… “When Chaos was in college he steered away from all earthly possessions… … and whenever Chaos jerked off, he used it as a come rag.” Heh! I lost track of what the thing was, but it was pinned with a thumbtack to a poster of Jesus. Then, pants on fire while on the toilet, stoned! Oh, Jon. Our MCs go on and on about “My Dumps” by Peaches which I can testify is great, but first you must watch “My Humps” video AND the My Humps cover/parody by Alanis Morisette which Peaches parodies. Emchy reads from fabulous new chapbook which I have a copy of (just got it have not read it.) Tara Jepsen and Michelle Tea go on about the TV show “The Wire”. I love Tara’s comedy…. and the couple of short films I’ve seen. She and Michelle’s energy is good… Featured reader now, Zara Thustra. Who is dressed and tattooed very charmingly… Sabina reads her autobiographical piece on gay “halfghans. alvin orloff. novel excerpt. I could just keep listening to Alvin’s story of Martine and her fans in the dive bar in the Tenderloin… Oh no, Emchy’s heart pen is missing! We ahve a pen thief. There is a band local called Lesbians. (Really?) ONe more open mic… Carrie or Keri… with a long thing in the voice of a “Minnesota woman” whose husband leaves her. It was sort of dull but that was the point I guess. Heathen Machinery reads! Ways to kill the baby! Awesome. Pulling the belly button thing off with a pop like a can of Schlitz. Poisonous dog poop safety pin injection! Rad. I am very happy as everyone in the room is squicked. The crib bars and the dildos! OMG THE AWESOME! Her aunt and chihuaha and collecting sand dollars. Also strangely disturbing. Another story of her and her cousin and their playing “house” and stuffing dwarf oranges up their nostrils. Then, the wedding and imagined “You!” declaration. Heathen is excellent! No wonder there is a crowd. And lo, it was not all hypeass smoke & mirrors.

Nico reads with a disclaimer about using this reading as motivation (failed) to write some new poems. The piece Nico is reading is more prosy sounding to me. Indians and Pilgrims at Thanksgiving dinner and having a hamburger in some deli… Our MCs do a thing about “Massholes” and Massachusettes and trashy moms fistfighting and mini golf courses on Route 1…

Charlie Anders reads a very hilarious personal ad email. Justin read about penguins, vultures, and love… Fran reads a good poetryish-in-places story about dyke bars.

We ducked out before the end – It was running very late!

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.


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!


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:


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!

Come to Wiki Wednesday

Well, I’m crossing over my day job into my personal blog here, but what the heck. I love my day job (and wikis) enough for it to merge that way! I’m turning into kind of a wiki fanatic, so much that a couple of months ago I realized I had the same sense of fannish belonging at our wiki meetup that I do at poetry readings, blogging meetups, and science fiction cons: the sense that I’m finally around other people who share some basic philosophy of reality that might not be quite mainstream. For poetry, it’s, well, being poety. For blogging, it’s that I don’t feel like anything is real until I’ve written it up and posted it to the Internet and had 6 people link to it. For sf cons, it’s that my brain has been steeped in the structures of alien societies since I was 5 years old, so much that I’m a Martian. In the case of wikis, that means that I want to collaborate on everything, and I want to be able to take everything back and travel backwards in time, and while I browse the non-wiki-ish Muggle web or even read a book, I get frustrated that I can’t double click on the page to edit the page.

This month I look forward to bringing up my pet peeves about wikis. Talk about wiki interoperability. I flip back and forth between wikis all the time, from Socialtext to Mediawiki to PBwiki to Kwiki, and can never remember which markup is which. In one, I have to use double square brackets, in another, single square brackets, to make a link. Not to mention the problems with quotes, pipes, header markup, and everything else. Why can’t they all just get along?

So here’s my wiki wednesday invite:

June 6th will be Wiki Wednesday, with events in London, San Francisco, Montreal, and Vancouver. There’s also a wiki meetup in Sydney, Australia, June 12th.

Anyone is welcome to give a quick presentation, demo, or talk on using wiki and social media technology. We have an interesting mix of developers, wiki entrepeneurs, wiki editors and administrators, bloggers, and consultants. I wrote up the last London and Palo Alto meetings, so you can get an idea of what happens at the event.

In San Francisco, we’ll be meeting at Citizen Space at 6pm. Eugene Eric Kim is giving a talk on wiki interoperability and wiki ohana. He’ll describe real-world end-user pain, concrete opportunities (especially ways Wiki developers can help the entire space by improving their own tools), and a practical strategy (WikiOhana) for achieving interoperability. This could lead into a great discussion! I’m hoping we’ll hear as well about events at Recent Changes Camp Montreal (RoCoCo), which Eugene wrote up with some excitement in his blog, eek speaks. Check out his writeups of the recent Identity conference, too, he has some fantastic ideas. And just a heads up, in July, Eszter Hargittai will be our featured speaker for the SF Bay Area.

In London, Wiki Wednesday has become a large and vibrant get together. David Terrar has created a Ning page as well as a signup page on the wiki. The meeting will be at 18:15 at the Conchango offices.

In Vancouver, the event so far has a high amount of wiki software developers. Check the Wiki Wednesday page for details.

In Montreal, there will be a focus on continuing the discussions at Recent Changes Camp, but also there will be time for wiki project explanations and demos.

Please sign up if you’d like to come! You can sign in on the wiki page at:

Or on the upcoming.org invite:

Also, if you are interested in presenting at a future Wiki Wednesday, or would like to organize one in your city, please let me know.

Thanks a million to Wiki Wednesday organizers David Terrar, Luke Closs, and James Matheson, as well as to Tara Hunt and Chris Messina from Citizen Agency.

I leave you with this photo by George Kelly, because it made me laugh really hard:

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Maker faire: Computer sculpture

I saw countless cool things at Maker Faire today. The Computersculpture.com booth was one of the coolest. The dude there, Andrew Werby, let me sit there and play with a demo for a while. There was a pre-defined 3-D object on the screen, a sort of smooth, soft, spongy blob. With a pen on an articulated arm, like one of those adjustable desk lamps, I could “feel” the object’s surface and by pressing a button, push into it and sculpt it.

This was uncanny! The kinesthetic sense, the resistance in the pen in my hand, was just perfect. It was as if I was feeling and manipulating a real object. It was a bit like punching a blunt tool, a stylus, through thick foamy stuff; I thought of hot wire and foam carving kits.

At some point, I carved through the blob into the center, and the tool fell through into a sort of cave. I could feel around inside the object and visualize it in my head. There were multiple exit holes in the back, where I couldn’t see, that other people doing the demo before me must have made. The sensation reminded me uncannily of the numb feeling of pressure that I have had during surgical procedures. The tool also looked like and behaved like an instrument i held in my hand — except I could pass it through the object. So the tip had all the sensation and the handle was ghostly and non-existent. I had sensation, without having any hands. I could imagine surgeons really doing “Fantastic Voyage” type of operations this way. But it should also be a tool that game designers use for character and world building. I can’t imagine artists not loving this tool!

I have never felt something on a computer, a thing that I couldn’t see. My head exploded with thoughts of designing cool video games for visually impaired people. Mazes and thought puzzles and art pieces.

There was more to Andrew’s set of tools; you could sculpt, and then 3-d print your objects. I was blown away so completely by the kinesthetic 3-d modeling, I didn’t pay attention to the rest.

Vancouver hackathon tomorrow

I’ve been having a blast with my co-workers from Socialtext in Vancouver for our hackathon week. I’ve worked, had fun, and gone to a zillion meetings, wheeled around a bit of downtown Vancouver. Last night was the Vancouver.pm Perlmongers meeting, which I’ll blog elsewhere.

On Friday – tomorrow – we’re having a community hackathon at the Bryght offices in downtown Vancouver. 1pm to 1am. Sign up, and come by if you like!

Wiscon panels coming up, and some commentary on a game

Here’s my panels for Wiscon! I can’t wait!

Last year’s flirting panel was a blast and at this year’s followup I’m hoping to make a cool handout. Debbie says if I email her the stuff she’ll make the handout, because I have too much to do! One good technique “touch/don’t touch” is actually playing out mini scenarios and then switching roles, so that you get to do the no-saying and the no-recieving and get practice doing that gracefully on both sides. (Something I learned in anti-date-rape workshops in the 80s.) Another super great idea I learned from Ian K. Hagemann – to always thank a person who lets you know a boundary, because they are honoring you by communicating it instead of letting you continue to cross it in ignorance.

I don’t have any specific and book-focused panels this year – no time to prepare properly for that – But I can’t wait for the Karen Axness Memorial Panel where we all list great little-known books by women sf writers and there are always fabulous handouts that expand my reading list. I’m also excited to go to the cultural appropriation panels.

Speaking of cultural appropriation! I can bring a copy of this: Bone White, Blood Red: a roleplaying game of the Pueblo Revolt. It is written in the voice of “Spider Grandmother” and “Worn Pot” who teach Bear, Coyote, Wren, and Badger how to play the game. My immediate reaction is basically, “huh” and a stance of automatic suspicion against what I think of as Cherokee hair tampon syndrome.

The game would be rough for me and I would rather just have character sheets with the beads and string as a metaphor or an optional visual aid, as I could never remember all the details of which bead meant what without written notes. But I would certainly give the game a try and the difficulty of remembering stuff would be part of the point. (Would that difficulty be fun, though?) As the fictional in character bits in roleplaying game books go, this one is not bad at all.

So is it cultural appropriation? Well, yeah. Does that make it awful? It’s not a yes/no on/off answer. It means that it is open to some criticism and commentary, which game authors as well as book authors should listen to with an open mind and some humility, as the Spirit of the Century rpg authors recently did.

In other interesting gaming news, you can download and playtest Steal Away Jordan. The players all play slaves in the U.S.

Your name
Your name is not your own. If you were born into slavery, your parents may not have had much say in the choosing. The name your master calls you may not be the name your relations use in private. If you run away, you will change your name. Therefore, the GM chooses your name, but you may pick a nickname.

That’s pretty interesting! You can read a report and discussion thread of a playtest game on The Forge.

Anyway here’s my Wiscon panels!


Feminist SF Wiki Workshop
in Caucus Room (Time to be determined)

Come learn about the Feminstsf wiki, learn what wikis are and how to edit them, contribute your ideas, creativity, and feminist vision to the wiki.
Equipment: projector that can plug into a laptop, and a screen
Length: 70 minutes
Laura M. Quilter, Liz Henry

Please Touch/Don’t Touch (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m.
One of the many qualities which sets WisCon apart from most other SF conventions is the perception that, for one weekend a year, the Concourse is a safe and inclusive space for SF fans of all genders, orientations, identities, races, and religions. Many people have commented that this extra level of comfort seems to create a very “touchy-feely” environment, with a lot more casual physical contact between old friends and new acquaintance, and a very different, (more open?) environment for flirting and hook-ups. But not everyone is quite so comfortable with such a relaxed atmosphere… Where do you draw the lines between casual and significant, affection and flirting, too much and not enough? How do the conditions change from situation to situation? And how do you tell someone to “back off”… or deal gracefully when someone else lets you know that you’ve crossed a line?
Karen Swanberg, M: Debbie Notkin, Mary Kay Kare, Liz Henry, Jed E. Hartman

Let’s You And Her Fight (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m.
This year there was a panel about how to flirt at Wiscon. Next year I’d like to see a panel on how to fight at Wiscon. It’s not bad to want to get along; but it is when that urge causes us not to speak our minds in public, and leaves us gr umbling in private. How do you speak up and explain that you think the respected panel member is talking out of her hat, while maintaining a friendly attitude towards someone who is, after all, a fellow feminist and fan? Ideally people will get a chance to practice. I would particularly like to draft Steven Schwartz for this panel.
Steven E. Schwartz, Liz Henry, Joan Haran, M: Alan Bostick, Lee Abuabara

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Social Media Consensus Workshop, Liveblogged

I fell into this by accident because it was (surprise) happening in my office — Socialtext’s nascent co-working space, which is still under construction. So this morning I met Bronwen and Jim from Social Media Consensus. Other people: Stowe Boyd, JD Lasica, Britt Bravo, Pim Techamuanvivit from Chez Pim, Tom Foremski, Vincent Lauria, Sara Olsen, Eszter Hargittai, Julia French, and others.

Our first exercise was run by Pim. We split into small groups to look at a non profit site and react to it by brainstorming a list of words, then focusing down those lists and reactions. Sites were Global Voices, Change.org, Gimp Parade.

Notes on Global Voices, discussion led by Eszter.

* Noble goal and great idea, poor design and implementation
* hasn’t quite taken off or had an impact
* low Google/Technorati rank. They’re not even registered on Technorati
* navigation and having to scroll past the giant tag cloud; confusing

My own reaction to GV is very different; I think of it as useful and it comes up all the time for me when I’m looking for blogs and news (in English) from Latin America. I also think of it as a beginning, a small but extremely important start, in facilitating representation of voices from many different countries.

Stowe adds that it has unclear goals. Manifesto makes it sound like it’s around activism. Bronwen’s perception is that they influence NGOs like Amnesty International. Sara Olsen points out that the concept of free speech is culturally biased. Stowe tells a story about people’s reactions to his tshirt that says “Stamp out free speech”.

Other keywords: free speech, discovery, not interactive or intuitive.

Julia points out that the expectation of interaction is fairly new. Stowe says we require and need conversation, interaction, that the lack of it is as bad as it gets.

Notes on change.org

I was in this group. We had a very positive impression of change.org, with keywords like belief, people, community, identity, activism, progressive. I signed up for the site as we were talking. It was very clear what it was, what it was for, and how to use it. It is activism focused but also very personal and it’s possible to differentiate many voices. (Or maybe Britt and JD and Pim and I are all the most optimistic fluffy-bunny optimists of the group today?!)

People are made of ideas, and ideas are made of people. We can move back and forth very seamlessly.

What if Global Voices could work this way? It would be scalable, expandable.

Notes on Gimp Parade

Critique of presentation and style. Based on Blogger. Enormous amount of information, difficult to navigate. Hard to access and tell what we were looking at. Bronwen explained what the site and blog and carnival are about.

What we want to see: the site representing its value, its status and value in its own community, its readers, who they are and what they think. The content is great, provocative, dynamic, emotive, genuine, authentic, has a real voice. Stylistically it’s handicapped by being bland. Notes about subcultural immersion: you can drop in from outside that subculture and learn about it. Would anyone google and land on this site? Maybe not, you might come to it from links in from others in the community. When you hit that page, as an outsider who landed there from a google search, you would have no idea what it’s about. Moving to better technology than Blogger and its About page capabilities would help. A question: is it looking bland in some ways because it’s trying to be accessible to machine readers, etc? Is it really accessible that way?

Bronwen points out that people with disabilities are hugely more likely to blog than other categories of people. Re-forming identity online. (So true, and for me, disability drove me very hard into online identity, in the early 90s and then later when I was increasingly mobility-impaired, using a wheelchair and limited by pain and exhaustion.) Bronwen also brings up some disabled bloggers who left online communities because of the pressure of being tokenized and put in a position of always “representing” and losing their ability to have personal conversations.

Notes on Netsquared, led by Sam Perry

Positive aspects:
Negative: What is it? What are they doing? Not clear enough. We came up with verbs. Verbose. Confusing. Made our minds close. Remixing – two columns confusing. The sponsor validation is good but didn’t link in to the rest of it. Where are they leading us to? Uninviting. Stopped us. Impasse. Hidden.

Rounded corners, we love rounded corners. Mission statement too fuzzy. We know what they’re trying to do, but the site doesn’t say that! Trying to do something social, but not getting there. We’re professing to be social and have a social nature, but the tools aren’t there. Stuck. If you know someone who’s tied into it, you get it, but if not, you won’t get it. The sitemap is good. Julia mentions being authentic and authenticity, and that’s not happening here. It’s hard to add yourself. The site is pretty though. Stowe adds that the DNS is misconfigured. You can’t comment or add yourself or interact with it at all without registering. We want more visual, more people, more photos and video.


What I’m noticing here is that the sites we’re talking about, other than change.org, are not social networks, and we want them to be. We all in this room seem to believe that social networks are inviting, welcoming, intuitive, and powerful.

After lunch: I missed some of the discussion, and had to be in and out of the meeting unfortunately, but these words were recorded on sticky notes:
usability, aesthetic, design, entertainment, accessibility, political, change, ego-feeding, constructive, progressive, community, global, international, action, people, beliefs, interactive, discovery, people (again) informative, activism, empowering, impact, identity, discovery, ideas, sustainability, sustainable business model. Combining all this up: impact — joining people, campagning against/for, affecting change, bringing attention to something, activation point rather than tipping point, engagement—- policy critical/cognitive, analytic, social impact. The point of these lists of words and the discussion around them is to figure out what things need to be measurable and measured for SMC’s indexes.

Eszter points out there’s decades of research into points of social change. Polls and getting background information on people, which is tricky to do when you have aggregate data on the web, there isn’t standard data form for social scientists. This is crucial for measuring social issues and representing everyone, not just elite groups. (***fangirls Eszter***) (***invites Eszter to come speak for Wiki Wednesday***)

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SuperHappyDevHouse: Serial enthusiasm

I’m at SuperHappyDevHouse cussing up a storm as my wireless connection goes in and out. I’ve been messing with Kayuda, with Pipes a little, writing up notes, and talking with people who are all showing me nifty software. I just tagged about a dozen mindmapping and brainstorming apps in del.icio.us from my conversations with Ben Suter and David Montgomery. Tried a few of them… Ben showed me his Narrator software, which does something mysterious with architecture mapping and has a component that generates diagrams that then can be viewed as 3-D models. But with a mindmap-like interface, drawing and defining links between objects. When I got him into trying Kayuda he squeaked with glee.

Tantek and I talked briefly about wiki gardening. I also got into a conversation in the line for the bathroom (before I discovered the secret bathroom) about it. As more and more people get into wikis, as they have been doing with blogs, we’ll need more and better wiki gardening tools. I need them right now for multiple wiki platforms, and I don’t have them, and I don’t think anyone does. I wonder if there will be interesting visual representations of wikis as networks, and ways to fiddle with that, and better batch editing of wiki pages, and ways to run stats that will hook straight into wiki manipulation and administration tools. This could also have a crucial social and community component; ways of representing stories about the ways people are interacting, patterns and clusters of interaction exposed could give ways to deal with problems of group dynamics that arise on wikis big and small. A bunch of people talked with me tonight about throttling down the speed of web interaction, adding limits to the volume people can contribute, maybe especially toning down “noisy” people, adding “friction” — same stuff Kaliya Hamlin was talking about at SXSWi.

A ton of people are here from startup school. They’re all starry eyed right now so it must have been some super powerful koolaid over there.

Whump and I and Les Orchard were talking about people who are serial enthusiasts. (Us.) We love some nifty new software for a week and talk about it all over the place and blog it and poke it and then run off after something else. I wonder what our actual rate of new-software-adoption to “ooo shiny”. I accused whump of feeding me a constant stream of interesting new things and of knowing everything about new stuff AND actually using a high percentage of it and knowing it in more depth than people who burble about shiny new things usually know. He denies this and feels ashamed of his inability to adopt all nifty software orphans. Les says he is known for being the person to ask if anyone wants to know, “Hey, is there a Web 2.0 company that does X thing?” and he always knows, because for a while he was reading 1000 feeds. That’s what happens if you snap your achilles tendon while getting off the bus. I pointed out that “evangelist” might not stay in vogue forever as a job title, because the oo shiny people who get hired for that, well, if you’re that way, can you possibly sustain that feeling about a single product for years? So we all three were sitting here wishing there was a job for serial enthusiasts, who are maybe an intersection with early adopters. My theory is that there are people who have excellent “nifty filters” and are tormented because they recognize niftiness unusually well, so well that they notice the potential and niftiness of so many things that it’s not humanly possible for them to use all of those things. This might also be seen as (or might be) sluttiness, or a lack of discrimination and ability to recognize what’s truly nifty and useful as well as the lack of going deeply into those things. Perhaps both qualities combine to make the deepest serial enthusiasts. A level of quick insight and holistic grasp of possibility is good, as well as the ability to generate different idea-pathways quickly, like a chess player foreseeing future developments. Whether or not that sort of person is useful in the real world, I value that quality in people.

(Somewhere in here I looked at Rohit’s Angstro thingie, challenged a bit of the “what would be useful” concept of it, marvelled at Plasma Pong’s silliness and beauty, and talked to a dude who’s part of a Linux TV company which I’ve forgotten the name of but he was screaming with delight about Angela (?) something, his CEO, who rocks and is an enormous genius, and how they’re a tiny quiet company that is about to take over the world; and at Eric Tiedemann’s Monome tuning application which he nicely explained to me though he could barely contain being appalled that I didn’t know anything about the mathematics of tuning; and I started installing Planet Venus on my server, and then went on an extended bitter rant to Whump about how and why nowhere ever exports me a decent opml file, or imports it right, and all my effort is lost when I switch platforms or accounts, so I’ve become disheartened about feed readers. Whump had a neat setup that he promised to write up later in his blog, with Planet Venus running every once in a while and then pushing up to a server. Later in the night, I looked at the sort of messy tangle I made on Kayuda and I think that it’s not a good representation, and it might not even be useful, and I wonder how to restructure it so that it would be. Strict limitations on number of nodes to convey a central idea, with baroque flourishes and digressions allowed in a sort of overlay? )

I can’t believe how many people are crammed into this house. It’s nuts. But I have the feeling I don’t want to leave… it’s all cosy… I have a spot on a couch… the network is working again so I’m all happy. I have contradictory impulses to go talk with people and then on the other hand to lurk on the irc channels and “talk” the way normal people do, on the internet, without this weird “moving your mouth” or “looking at people in the face” component to it.

Some dude came up to me and said “This is your house, right?” “No… why do you ask?” “Because… uh… because you’re cool?” I think that was either meant to be several layers of irony more than it came off as, or else he was a bit drunk…

Okay, it *was* all cosy until I read some really gross and annoying posts on Valleywag about SHDH and women. At least there are nice people like whump and cyn and Ben and Tracy. That don’t make a person feel like there’s women who count as human, and other women who don’t, and as if there are only a few slots for the humans and a perpetual struggle to prove oneself worthy, and the perpetual need to represent for one’s entire gender… at all times… It’s a bad way to set up a frame for the universe. I get so pissed off reading stuff like that and want to respond in kind, or at least by regendering it or being “funny” right back by objectifying guys, which doesn’t work anyway because the power dynamics are different. Anyway, grrrrr.

My uncle just got home – he went to the Mermen show at 12 Galaxies and loved it and also loved the Extraordinaires. Maybe I should have cut out early from shdh when I stopped being productive, and gone to the show.

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SXSWi: Open Source business models

Alan Shimel, Fischer, Levin, Jarrell, Cavazos.

Questions and statements from the audience.

Alan Shimel: there’s two categories of open source community members: consumers of open source. A company who wants to use open source. using linux, php, to develop their web site. Not developers. The restrictions and licensing issues are less of a hassle and not a focus. The consumers don’t care which license it is. People who use open source as components of their products are a different category. That’s where the excitement is. Is that company who uses components and sells a product a parasite on the community? It’s this category who is the focus of recent licensing changes, the people who are selling and trying to make a profit. If you’re profiting from my work, I should profit as well. It’s useful to break it down into those two camps. I’m on both sides of the table. We use the snort engine, etc. And we have a new product coming out which is open source.

Cavazos: The term open source license doesn’t give you enough information to have a meaningful discussion.

Fischer: … creating a level playing field with alliances, standards. Can you have a kind of Microsoft gigantic Office situation? The answer is no. Leveling the marketplace. Not gigantic market share. But you can do very well. That’s one way to play open source. 2nd aspect, companies who do customization more than open source. There’s Second Life, for example. Look at how much open source software is very very good. It wouldn’t succeed if it wasn’t. In-house lawyers do need to look at the licensing because it often enforces generosity.

Cavazos: Why would we do this instead of keeping it all ourselves? Models that involves customization or consulting. We’re going to bet on ourselves. We’re okay, we’re fine with allowing the core to be out there. And we’re going to take one step ahead and use our expertise. We have the smartest people and the most creative innovators and we can create a business model around that. Consulting and customization.

Levin: VP of product strategy at Socialtext. Open source has been our model from the beginning. We used an open source product called Kwiki. A lot of our developers come from the open source community and they have their own projects… Open source for us is kind of like weather. We shouldn’t fight it, we have to live with it and work with it. My personal interest is not in licensing expertise, my interest is with respect to business strategy. How does this help my company, how does this help our customers be more productive. The question from the audience was “How can I sell this to my customer base?” That goes to one of the value propositions around open source. You’re reducing your customer’s risk. If you’re a relatively small development shop, there’s no guarantee you’re going to be around in 10 or 15 years. You’re not lockkng them in. The open source community will be there in 10 years. You’re helping your customer. That’s very valuable. It’s not just the software itself. My company has a variety of models which reduce cost for the customer of maintaining the software. And we also offer an open source download.

Don Jarrell: I worked with proprietary companies. Open source offers the freedom to cooperate. … Beyond a layer of adaptation to an integrated product. Proprietary companies who make a companion product and break down the price point. So there is an open source version with a proprietary companion product. Comparable to making a “Lite” product. The open source part can be free. Can gain market share, can participate in the open source community, and have a viable model. A variety of proprietary companies are using this, for example, Compiere.

Alan Shimel: Linux as the most successful model. The core code from … 20 people. 60 companies. There’s a relatively small amount of people contributing the core code. The vast amount of users use it, find bugs and fix them, maybe 80%. In security, that’s the last thing on the budget. Open source kind of filled that vacuum very quickly. Linux and security. It’s not free though. We see a ton of companies who are commercializing that space. There’s something like 1.4 billion dollars invested in open source.

Mark Fischer: If anyone here has any of that 1.4 billion dollars I think we’d all like to have some of that… (audience laughter) The number of people writing sophisticated OSS is very small. The contrast between that and wikipedia is very sharp. Every 12 year old can write text. Not every 12 year old can write sophisticated code under a licensing model. Like Second Life and its server software, is this realy open source or is it user customization? The mix and match model is one of the ways you can make money off of open source. Add something valuable to it . Like the music indstry, in a world without DRM, making money off the addon stuff like backstage passes and tshirts. If you say everything’s open source and give it away, then it’s not going to work. You have to add some value to commercialize it and to build a base and attract investors. Not everything can be based on advertising.

Cavazos: We can look at open content models and think about that in relation to open source software business models.

Alan Shimel: Does Flickr have a right to those photographs? Does Delicious have any right to the content there?

Fischer: The free software model is fantastic but it’s not for everyone. Do you make every user a creator and they get a revenue share? The next frontier is users as creators. Open community but with revenue share for (some) users.

Adina Levin: Socialtext itself and some of our customers has…. Interestingly enough our documentation isn’t open. But we have sites with best practices information and documentaiton that we have open. We have customers using wikis for that kind of public information, especially to support best practice information. It’s less around how to share the revenue, but how do I reduce the cost of producing it while maintaining the quality of it and issues around control. A lot of people who have a traditional approach are concerned to lock it down to maintain quality. And then we try to explain to them that it’s valuable to open it up and get more contributions. And then spend more energy on the monitoring side and less on trying to prevent contributions.

Cavazos: The elements of community, what does it take to get critical mass and get the quality of development up. The communities of contributors are much smaller than you would think. It’s a small community, but the rest serves a viable part in that quality control. They’re vetting, calling it out as bad when it’s not good. And that’s what I that plays into what Adina said.

Alan Shimel: 92% of the people in the community don’t even play with the code. We have a freeware version of our code that’s not open source. People are still downloading it and using it.

Cavazos: How many people actualy read the licensing..

Adina: I’m glad to hear that Asterisk… we use Asterisk at Socialtext and we are not locked into one service provider, and as a software development company we can customize and build extensions. Basic use, basic quality deployed to a number of applications, and then the steps after that might include extensions. The ability to do that is of value to us.

Alan Shimel: I think you just described what a lot of people do. “It’s nice to know I could do it if I wanted.” But how many people actually do?

Adina: You’re paying for risk reduction and no lock-in.

Alan: I know, but how many people actually take advantage of that…

Jarrell: we started this conversation about business model. “Open Source” label but what we’re touching on is other segments like managing contributions, release, thinking very carefully about stuff other than the distribution model. We should turn our attention to some of those things.

Cavazos: …

Alan Shimel: Important to clearly, sharply define, where’s your value added. Especially if you’re combining open source with propriety. On the dual licensing, it boils down to this. If you’re using that software for your own company it’s okay, make your changes, contribute back to the communiyt. If you’re turning around and using that component and profiting and selling it as a component as a bigger package, you should be, the people who contribute that component should be compensated for that.

Audience: Why should that be a distinction? Every use is a profit motivated use. If you’re using it internally why aren’t you also obligated to give back?

Shimel: Explains the distinction with Asterisk as a model.

[Right, but why is that different, really. ]

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