Monthly Archives: February 2007

Anil Dash: “Those of you who are defending this status quo are defending a culture of failure”

The past few days there seems an opening in the ongoing conversation talking place about speaker lists at tech conferences and their lack of diversity. A subject Shelley Powers has rightly brought up to various of promoters and organizers of conferences to their regular dismay.

Take some time and read around:

Eric Meyer: Diverse It Gets: In my personal view, diversity is not of itself important, and I don’t feel that I have anything to address next time around. What’s important is technical expertise, speaking skills, professional stature, brand appropriateness, and marketability. That’s it.

Shelley Powers: Diversity isn’t important…and neither are standards or accessibility: Maybe I’ve been weblogging too long, but it seems to me that a lot of people are doing a lot of crap in the name of ‘marketability’. If you want to be self-serving jerks, that’s fine with me, but at least be honest about it: don’t wrap it in ‘marketability’ and think it noble.

Kottke: Gender diversity at web conferences: From this list, it seems to me that either the above concerns are not getting through to conference organizers or that gender diversity doesn’t matter as much to conference organizers as they publicly say it does.

Dori Smith: Gender diversity at web conferences: The number of conferences I’m currently scheduled to speak at this year about JavaScript/Ajax is the same as the number of conferences that have asked me to speak – zero. So I have to say that no, these folks aren’t even trying.

Anil Dash: The Old Boys Club is for Losers: Those of you who are defending this status quo are defending a culture of failure.

Rafe Colburn : Women and men: Diversity is a worthwhile end unto itself.

Sometimes it requires a series of kicks in the ass to move things forward. As things stand – if tech conferences are a reflection of the Web industry (see Kottke’s post for some figures) – then the Web industry is *exclusive* rather than inclusive. A reflection of society’s status quo. Vint Cerf, might agree.

Aren’t we collectively building an architecture of participation? Our face to face gatherings should mirror that. And if they don’t – then they reveal who we truly care about – don’t they?

Update – More Links:

Meriblog: Conference Diversity .. the Permathread Returns: There is a distinct and definite business case for diversity.

Anil Dash: The Essentials of Web 2.0 Your Event Doesn’t Cover: To conference organizers: If you haven’t heard of these people or their work, or you think that Yet Another Bookmarking To-Do List Guy is more important, perhaps you owe some refunds.

Personism: List of Women Speakers for Your Conference: Making a list is just a start, but what a freaking list it is. I am psyched.

Shelley Powers: Progress: Consider this: every time this topic comes up, about women in the industry and women in tech conferences, who are the people who get the most links? The most attention? The most respect? Who appear in Techmeme, Tailrank, and Megite? Kottke, Dash, Myer, Messino, Scoble, Searls, Winer-do you see something odd about this? Regardless of how many women write on this, it’s the men who get the attention. I’d say if we want to look at what’s ‘wrong’, we start right here.

And with that last insightful quote, human aggregator Karl is ummm… going to spend time with his daughter now. Shelley has a point – a few glances at various aggregators pretty much bore it out today – and all I could think – being the guy I am – is how sadly ironic it was.

Update: More Links

Troutgirl: The gender of conference speakers: With one exception, technical (or tech-biz) conference organizers do NOTHING proactive to seek out or push for female speakers — and I wish they would just stop claiming that they do. I am a long-time LAMP dev and author, a founding member of Dojo, leader of a Comet project, a proven scaler of graph-based systems, CTO of a venture-backed Web 2.0 company, vocal proponent of women in tech, experienced speaker at technical conferences, and friends with many of the people who program talks, panels, and tracks. If I’m not being proactively sought out to speak, I can be confident few other women are either.

A Blogger Might Die For His Writing

He’s going to jail, and there are calls to put him to death. Yet the blogosphere, the Tech blogosphere, the Left blogosphere, and most of the Right, just don’t seem to care. Boing Boing has extensive linkage about Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, and what he faces, for sharing thoughts about political oppression, discrimination against women, and more on his blog. Much more at Free Kareem!.

Update: Global Voices has a post sharing other Egyptian bloggers speaking out. via Ed Cone.

Happy Birthday PapaScott

Hope you had a great one. Keeping my fingers crossed about your back as well.

As for my herniated disc, the good news is that with my right foot healing, the last week I’ve been able to go to physical therapy without pain from it slowing me down. After four sessions, I can’t say for sure if I’ve had any real progress, but it is good that the pain in my left leg, from the pinched nerve, hasn’t gotten any worst, and *seems* to come less often.

I gotta share some pictures from Emma’s first birthday last Sunday :) It was a great time with lots of family coming together at our place.

Hugh Mcleod: ‘the blogosphere is not a good place to “push” corporate messages’

Mentions of ‘Stormhoek’, a South African vineyard that Hugh Mcleod is Marketing Strategist for on his blog: 31.

Hugh public relations is “getting social media all wrong”:

…the blogosphere is not a good place to “push” corporate messages.

That being said, the ‘sphere does have its uses for corporates, the same way it does for individuals. As I see it, the ‘sphere is the world’s largest “Idea Incubator”. It’s a great place to seed ideas. It’s a great place to test which ideas have traction, which ideas are “Beyond Lame”. Which conversations get people’s attention, and which conversations make people roll their eyeballs.

If your ideas have merit, bloggers will talk about them. If they don’t, they won’t. This lets you know what to expect when you finally unleash your ideas for real on the big, bad world. Without spending a king’s ransom finding out the hard way.

It’s simple and brutal and it works.

Humpf

Very, very, oh, so very related:

Seth Finkelstein: Pay Per Post And The Populism Pose – Or, Blue-Collar vs. White-Collar Capitalism

Shelley Powers: Falling Out

Mathew Ingram: PayPerPost: a Web 2.0 witch-hunt

Mathew Ingram: Scoble says he’s biased — does it matter?

Publishing 2.0: Transparent Ads Are Better Than Fake “Conversations”

Robert Scoble: Scoble’s a shill … more details

Valleywag: Robert Scoble: Shilling for Intel

Buzzmachine: Pray per post

Hypocrisy. Elitism. Us-people-who-get-it-versus-the-great-unwashed. The-rules-are-different-for-us-then-those-who-are-ugly-and-dumb.

Google Edits The Wisdom of the Crowd (Web) – The ‘Second Superpower’ is no more

Lost in the discussion about Google changing its algorithm to defeat ‘googlebombs’, is that it marks a turning point for the search engine – pointing away from a service that that trumpeted democratic means to determine relevancy of links in search results.

Web 2.0 proponents believe that algorithms, when used to achieve such aims, are somehow different then human editors.

They certainly scale better. But goals can be very much the same.

Instead of letting the web inform Google what *it* wants, Google has started to second guess the web. Maybe it has all along and PageRank was nothing more then a marketing message. I don’t think so. I think what we’re seeing here is a passing to be mourned.

Nick Carr puts it clearly in his Guardian piece:

…One of the company’s top engineers, Matt Cutts, explained the move on a Google blog: “Because these pranks are normally for phrases that are well off the beaten path, they haven’t been a very high priority for us. But over time, we’ve seen more people assume that they are Google’s opinion, or that Google has hand-coded the results for these Googlebombed queries. That’s not true, and it seemed like it was worth trying to correct that misperception.” (googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com)

The company is allowing concerns about its public image to influence the search results it dishes up. The upshot in this case may be salubrious, but what kind of precedent is being set here?

And, perhaps more important, what does it tell us about what’s inside the Google black box that determines how most of us find information on the web most of the time?

Three years ago, when Google was first asked about Googlebombing, it gave the corporate equivalent of a shrug. It’s not our problem, the company’s technology director, Craig Silverstein, told the New York Times. “We just reflect the opinion on the Web, for better or worse.”

The implication was that Google’s search engine was a passive feedback mechanism that reported the public’s wisdom – or stupidity – back to the public. Reflecting all the strengths and flaws of democracy, it was the people’s machine. Google itself had little control over it. (nytimes.com)

The perception of Google as an honest broker, disinterested in the information it presents, remains a popular one. We like to believe that “we the people” control what comes out of Google’s mouth.

But while that may have been true once, and while it was in fact one of the company’s founding ideals, it’s not so true any more.

Not so long ago, technology pundits marveled at how Google enabled a group of bloggers to influence the meaning of the words ‘Second Superpower’:

…Although it took millions of people around the world to compel the Gray Lady to describe the anti-war movement as a “Second Superpower”, it took only a handful of webloggers to spin the alternative meaning to manufacture sufficient PageRank™ to flood Google with Moore’s alternative, neutered definition.

Indeed, if you were wearing your Google-goggles, and the search engine was your primary view of the world, you would have a hard time believing that the phrase “Second Superpower” ever meant anything else.

To all intents and purposes, the original meaning has been erased. Obliterated, in just seven weeks.

You’re especially susceptible to this if you subscribe to the view that Google’s PageRank™ is “inherently democratic,” which is how Google, Inc. describes it.

Make no mistake, Second Superpower was a Googlebomb, that for now, still lives. But probably not for much longer.

Hey, I could be wrong. I’m not a search engineer. Search engineers worship the alter of relevancy above all else. And ‘miserable failure’ certainly was incorrectly defined – in a strict sense – by the linking web public. Like ‘second superpower’. But that was our linking influence that Google once let us wield. No longer it would seem.

Update: Seth Finkelstein comes by and mentions that the algorithm won’t eliminate the Second Superpower google-bomb *itself* due to the fact that the author probably didn’t mind it so much since the piece uses the text ‘Second Superpower’. Understood. And that’s not the point I was trying to make. The point is that the ‘Second Superpower’ is no more. The web – as a voting public, with linkage, now has less influence to define and redefine language, meaning and ultimately – drive attention. That maybe a good thing in terms of quality of search results. But that doesn’t celebrate or further the fabled ‘democratic’ nature of the web that Google once trumpeted as its means to its end. Another classic google-bomb that will probably disappear: santorum.

The enlightened ‘Groundhog’

Philadelphia Inquirer | 02/01/2007 | The enlightened ‘Groundhog’:

…”It shouts out to you,” said George Heckert, the Buddhist director of the Philadelphia Meditation Center in Havertown.

This month, as it does every February, the center will hold a free screening of Groundhog Day and a discussion of its inner themes. For those who wish to come prepared, cable’s Comedy Channel will show the film six times in 26 hours, beginning tomorrow – the real Groundhog Day – at 10 a.m.

“It’s a very Buddhist movie,” said Ken Klein, of the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia in Upper Darby. “It has all sorts of layers.”

In the 1993 film, Murray plays cynical, self-important Phil Connors, a Pittsburgh TV weatherman sent to cover an assignment he loathes: the Groundhog Day festivities in tiny Punxsutawney, Pa.

“A thousand people freezing their butts off, waiting to worship a rat,” he gripes.

Following the ceremony, a blizzard strands Connors in town, and when he wakes the next morning, it’s Groundhog Day again. And again, and again, and again.

Connors tries everything to break the cycle – including driving off a cliff with a kidnapped Punxsutawney Phil at the wheel – but not even death can free him.

To Buddhist fans, Connors’ endlessly recurring day illustrates samsara, the circle of birth and rebirth.

“The word reincarnation is never mentioned, yet it’s such an obvious metaphor,” said Paul Schindler Jr., an Oregon teacher whose writings on the film include the online column “Groundhog Day: The Movie, Buddhism and Me.”

For Dave.