Women Who Tech TeleSummit


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The Women Who Tech TeleSummit was like a gift that just keeps giving, and giving and giving. I attended three and a half panels and the after-party and discovered about twenty progressive, interesting businesses, news organizations, non-profits and email lists. Quick disclaimer, I love this stuff more than I love technology. I could eat ten progressive new developments in social justice for breakfast, every day. So my cup of tea may not be your cup of tea, but the fact that all of this is made possible by the agile new web technologies that devchix and women like us are building has got to be common tea. Eh?

Let’s start with the Launching Your Own Startup panel. The quote I can’t stop remembering is “Entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down.” Also, that failure has lots of virtues: it makes you smarter, more attractive to funders, can make you fearless and more willing to jump that cliff. They all heartily encouraged anyone interested in starting a business to go for it. On a practical level, they all made sure their ideas had legs before quitting day jobs or abandoning previous businesses. They recommended an iterative business model with some focus on revenue from day one; recommended bootstrapping then going for advisors and then angel funding before going for VC money. They stressed researching VCs very, very thoroughly to make sure they understood your product and market or community, then selecting one you have a viable, personal connection with. They also recommended having business partners, for the value of differing strengths, but also because it makes you more attractive to funders, helps with your power balance with them. They all recommended Steve Blank’s book Four Steps to the Epiphany.

The next panel I attended was called The Feminine Mystique. (See this for the historical context of that title.) Essentially, this one was about the level of satisfaction women are finding in the life of technology work. Issues of work/life balance, of qualities of nurturing being undervalued in the workplace were explored. —There was a nuanced discussion at this point, by the way. We recognized that not all women are nurturing, etc. The value of mentoring was explained thoroughly, however, both in the men-tee experiences of the eminently successful panelists and as an undervalued management tool used to grow workers. We discussed promoting tools for shared parenting and increased time off for fathering, that had been introduced twenty years ago and were succeeding but lost favor in the rabid conservatism of the past decade – job-sharing, for example. We discussed the need to consider ourselves experts with less qualification than studies show we currently do, to create more parity with the way men determine themselves experts, and then act on that accordingly. (Men will see a list of requirements for a job they’re interested in, know they have only two out of twelve, for example, and confidently apply; women won’t unless they have ten, for example.) I feel however, that a little of both is in order on this issue: it’s important to re-define “expert” so that men who may be undeservedly claiming the right to that title are discouraged, just as it’s important for women who aren’t doing so to be encouraged. This translates into behaviors like speaking in meetings, etc.

The Video Activism panel. The panelists were from Youtube’s non-profit program, Witness.org and Free Range Studios. Basically they discussed different methods of persuading people to act, but their relationships to video were very different. I thought the most interesting aspect of the discussion was the striking contrast between Witness’ and Free Range’s work specifically. Witness is a global human rights organization, while Free Range is a San Francisco-based design shop that provides creative services for nonprofits and socially responsible companies. Witness often works with user-uploaded video, it’s often brutal and they don’t necessarily have control over issues of style or sound or pacing, whereas Free Range is in the business of crafting and producing video as part of larger, sophisticated campaigns. Both are very effective organizations, both discussed tactics for targeting people in concentric circles from most passionate and likely to act to least aware and engaged, but with widely differing parameters. Witness gave an example of a very graphic video in which Egyptian police beating a man was produced and released by the police themselves in order to intimidate others, but it reached the notice of human rights bloggers and so has been widely used as a resistance tool. It’s this combination of raw footage used by bloggers that creates the successful activism in Witness’s case. (Witness licenses footage on a sliding scale from their archive of about 3,000 hours of video; it’s frequently used by documentary filmmakers, journalists, grad students, etc.) Whereas the Free Range spokeperson gave an example of using stop-motion video, which is time-consuming and a little expensive to produce, in a campaign called save the bay. It was also very successful: they achieved their targeted number of email signups and their funding goals for an environmental impact study. But they were able to control every aspect of the video and the microsite on which it’s viewed.

I listened to a bit of the Social Media ROI panel, which hit topics like how you measure success depends upon how you frame your criteria, slightly tautological but the example given illustrates the power of the point. Presidential candidate Ron Paul used social media to try to win the Republican party’s nomination but didn’t (obviously). What they proposed, I believe based on interviews with Mr. Paul, is that he didn’t believe or intend to win, though of course he would’ve welcomed that outcome. What he wanted was to make sure certain issues were part of the debate and by using social media, he achieved exactly that. And hence, success. I only listened to a bit, though, because I was getting ready to travel to the after-party, which I attended and thoroughly enjoyed. The bar was laid back, they provided meat, vegan & veggie pizzas, it was a comfortable number of people, the discussions were friendly, and I met a journalist who works for the Huffington Post. On top of meeting five or six women programmers and Deanna Zandt, a prominent feminist organizer and technology consultant in New York who turned out to be one of those really nice, fun, shots-for-all-buyers. Good times, chix. Maybe we should try to get involved with next year’s summit, as an entity.

Links:

Women Who Tech Podcasts

Witness

That’s Not Cool

Knight News Challenge

RAD Campaign

Now Public

Deanna Zandt

RiseUp

The Story of Stuff

Free Range Studios

Berrett-Koehler Publishing

Rails Summit Latin America


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I am currently in Sao Paulo, Brazil at Rails Summit Latin America and the experience has been great thus far.

Ladies at the conference there is information at the end of this writeup about how to join. If you don’t feel like reading everything in this writeup that is fine but please do read about joining.

In contrast to many conferences I have been to recently I have been to just about every talk at this conference and I have thoroughly enjoyed them all. I say just about because there is a second track that is going on in another room but I haven’t been to those sessions.

The Organizers:
Fabio Akita and Gilberto Mautner Founder of locaweb have done a great job with the conference and I would like to give them a special thanks. The lineup, venue and everything has been great. Obrigado!

Theme:
I think most conferences, through the keynotes, some how seem to create a theme. The theme that I am picking up on at this conference is this: “Have No Fear” and “Just Do It”. No one actually said either of those two things but thats basically what I am taking away from most of the keynotes. They have all been especially encouraging for people to become involved. Contribute, create, and code. Give back to the community and get involved. Don’t be afraid .. put yourself out there and learn from the feedback you get.. learn from the experiences of creating.. do side projects.. basically be PASSIONATE.

The Talks:
All the talks I have seen have been excellent. I give them an excellent rating because they have all had the qualities I look for in a talk.
1. The content is good and interesting.
2. The delivery of that content is entertaining or at least engaging.

Chad Fowler – I really enjoyed Chad’s talk and as I sit here I am struggling to figure out a way to describe his talk and actually do it justice. He spoke about his background in music and how that has translated to his life as a developer. In addition, he spoke about being remarkable. He talked about many ways in which people are remarkable and many ways in which we ourselves can become remarkable people. He touched on many things and did so in such a way that I was able to stay engaged with him. There were pictures and video’s and graphs and fake numbers and.. anyway about the best I can say is that I personally really enjoyed his talk.

Dr. Nic Williams – Dr. Nic’s presentation is a little easier to sum up but at the same time I can’t really do it justice. Dr. Nic is one of those speakers that if you ever have a chance to see him speak you should definitely take the opportunity. He is hilarious and has a good message. His talk was all about how to contribute back.. how to get involved.. how to participate. Make the future you proud of the you now. Dr. Nic also talked about newgem

Chris Wanstrath – Chris’s keynote started off being about the future of Ruby and RoR but in the end he took it back to the past and where we have come from. He went through a great deal of history on how we got here which I personally enjoyed especially when he pointed out the first ENAIC programmers were all women, unfortunately he was speaking quite fast so I think a lot of his talk was lost in translation. I think the primary thing Chris was trying to get across is to not be afraid. If you have an idea.. make time to get to it you never know where thats going to go. In the very least you gain experience and you gain knowledge. Chris has had many projects in the past but his current claim to fame is all about github.

Jay Fields – Jay’s talk was about the immaturity of testing as a whole. While I agree with some of the things he said I also disagree with some of the things he said. I have had the luxury of getting to pair with Jay on projects before and its always interesting for me to see him speak because I have first hand experience with a lot of things he talks about. He described the problem of immaturity in testing as a whole first with the fact that we can’t even agree on common terminology. He then proceeded to talk about various tools and the pros and cons of each. He covered Selenium, Test:Unit, Rspec, Syntasis, and Expectations. The last two being the most immature of them all and bleeding edge. i.e. use at your own risk. He also answered a few questions about how to make your test suite fun faster and his response was basically that if you are willing to deal with the pain that goes along with it there are tools you can look into using such as null_db, unit_record, and ARBS. You can read about them on the null_db page on Agile Web Development site. That page links out to the other plugins. Jay also pointed out that all the things he was talking about are from his point of view. In other words its the context in which he works that causes him to have some of the testing beliefs he has.

David Chemlisky – David’s first talk was about doing TDD and in my opinion he did an excellent job of demonstrating TDD. I have seen him give a talk similar in the past and of all the people I have heard try to describe TDD, David is one of the most skilled at it. He gave the talk from the point of view of a teacher which in my opinion is really the only way you can truly explain TDD. He went through the process step by step with us all to show us the way. :)

His second talk was more about Acceptance testing and story runner and the newest version of story runner which is being called cucumber. He demonstrated how it worked and made sure to give context around all the terminology such as user stories etc. Hopefully there will be some way of seeing this talk again maybe through a screen cast or something of that nature. I’ll be sure to ask him if he would be willing to do that. Or maybe there is one with cucumber? Not sure haven’t had a chance to look yet.
Couple of links to stuff he talked about.
Cucumber
webrat on github and a blog post on it here

On that last note I am actually interested to know if these talks are being recorded and if they will be available somewhere? Anyone know the answer to that?

Obie Fernandez – I haven’t actually seen Obie give his talk yet but I have seen the talk (insider information) so I am going to go ahead and give a recap.. I asked him to plug DevChix and wanted to have this write up already done before he did so.. ;-) So Obie’s talk will be about the “Hashrocket Way”. He is basically giving up our secrets.. Like Dr. Nic said no secrets! His main focus will be around how we work, the fact that we follow Agile Tenants and that we value fun, collaboration, and effectiveness. We achieve those things through certain practices such as pair programming, TDD, Story Carding, launch parties etc. Again you should check out his blog.

Ninh Bui and Hongli Lai a.k.a The Phusion Guys – I woke up late so I didn’t catch all of the talk from the Phusion guys but the part that I did catch was hilariously funny and explained things like caching and database sharding. Additionally, they gave a demo of yuumis_comments.. and here is also a link to their blog

I call out all of these guys because they are some of the best speakers I have ever seen and I actually saw them speak at this particular event.

Phillippe Hanrigou – Phillippe is going to be giving a talk on how to effectively do acceptance testing which I am looking forward to but I won’t be able to cover that here because I haven’t seen it and since I don’t have insider info on that one I’ll just have to wait like everyone else. I do know that he will be talking about one tool I hadn’t heard of before called Deep Test. You should check Phillippe’s blog as well

Luis Lavena – Luis will also be giving a talk about surviving with RoR and Ruby as a windows user.. again I think the talk is going to be awesome but its in the future so I can’t really talk about that yet. You should check out his blog!

The Venue:
The venue is quite nice. The main auditorium is very well arranged and has plenty of room despite the fact that there are a lot of people here. There is a very large screen making it easy for everyone to see the slides as well as the speakers. The lighting on the actual speakers is a little weird but other than that the actual conference room is great. The audio is fantastic and the actual hang out area is quite nice as well (other than the lack of air conditioning but thats just me being a little whiny its not really that hot). One other really important point that I want to bring up is the translators. You can get a headset at the checkin area that will translate the talks from English to Spanish and Portuguese and from what I understand the translators have been doing a kick ass job so a special thanks to all those ladies in the booths translating for us.

The Community:
I was very encouraged by the number of people at the conference, the number of people using github (vast majority) and the number of people doing Ruby and RoR development on a day to day basis. It is always an exciting moment for me when I realize it is gaining in support because how much I love the language. In addition, everyone has been extremely helpful and friendly. We meet Tim Case the first day and he was more than willing to take us under his wing and show us around.

One thing that was both encouraging and discouraging is the number of women at the conference. There were women, thats the good news, the bad news is that I think from a ratio point of view the number of women at the conference is on par with what I have experienced at Ruby and RoR conferences in the US. That is to say its pretty small. Usually at conferences since there are so few women I can manage to talk to most of them and but here I have been some what intimidated by the language barrier. One other thing to point out is that there were no women speakers but hey that isn’t really that uncommon. I am hoping that when Obie does his talk and plugs DevChix for us that many of those women who were at the conference that I didn’t get to meet will come to the site and join.

Ladies Please Read
For those women who do happen to come to the site from Brazil and other countries. I would like to say that we have members world wide who can speak a number of different languages so please don’t let that discourage you from joining and participating. We would LOVE to have you all as part of the group. Also encourage other female developers you know.

If you are a women, a developer, interested in joining and/or contributing to DevChix, please contact Desi McAdam at info(-at-)devchix.com with your:

1. Name
2. Email
3. Do you know any one from DevChix?
4. A short 2 sentence bio describing your development background/experience (or what you hope to learn) and a link to your blog if you happen to have one.

Obrigado! :)

RubyEast Recap, Slides, and Other Thoughts


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I spoke at RubyEast this past Friday and I think the presentation went pretty well. It was my first presentation in a speaker/audience type setting so I was very nervous. I have presented at Agile 2006 but it was a game (interactive) and was co-presented by several other people. This presentation was the first time I stood in front of a room full of people and spoke and everything went very well. Like I said I was really nervous but as soon as I got started the nervousness went away. I think I am very lucky because I was able to present to a room full of very nice/cool people and that made the experience a great one. I want to actually thank the people who came to hear me present and who gave me great feedback and encouragement afterwards it really made my day. If you are interested here are the slides for the presentation. A Tour Of Rails Testing using RSpec

I didn’t get to see many of the sessions because I was busy preparing for my talk but I was able to catch Obie’s presentation – Advanced ActiveRecord which was really good (and I am not just saying that because he is my boyfriend). I also caught the ending Keynote where Nap (I actually don’t know his real name) announced the Rails Rumble winners. There were several screencasts and it made me wish that Obie, Clay, Nick and I would have had time to get the video that was shot of us over the weekend edited and ready for prime time. We had a blast doing the competition and while we didn’t win (we got honorable mention) we learned a lot and I think we all grew closer in those 48 hours. The teams that did win did a tremendous job on their apps and well deserved the loot. Take a look at the winners there really are some great apps. Rails Rumble Winners

Friday evening a bunch of people got together after the conference and played several games of Werewolf which is a really fun game to play. I got to know a lot of people during that game and it was a great way to wind down.

Couple of other thoughts before I end the post. ShesGeeky (un)Conference sounds like it is going to kick major ass so any of you ladies out there who can attend make sure you get registered. Additionally, ladies if you want to talk during the conference please contact the organizers.

GrrrlCamp seems to be getting a good footing. I was lucky enough to meet THE Gloria this past Friday and I look forward to being a part of GrrlCamp.

I have taken on an apprentice and she will soon be posting to the blog about her experiences. I am in the process of trying to see if creating an apprenticeship type program run by DevChix is possible because after speaking with Sonia (one of the women on DevChix) she helped me figure out that I would really like to have a program that fits the apprenticeship model rather than a mentoring program. Look for more to come on this in the future.