Tag Archives: social hacking

The Linkspam is Coming from Inside the House (27 May 2013)

  • We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle, and Slaves Narrative: “Half the world is full of women, but it’s rare to hear a narrative that doesn’t speak of women as the people who have things done to them instead of the people who do things.”
  • Google+ What’s Hot Serves Based On Gender: “I get that WH algorithms are based on what people click, like, share, comment on, etc. Fine. But I challenge anyone to give me one good reason why there should be such a drastic difference in less than ten seconds by simply changing my gender, other than institutionalized sexism about what girls and guys apparently like.”
  • Mapping the Geology of Skyrim: “What I now aim to do is open this project up a bit to other geologists out there who I know are interested in mapping Skyrim. I would like to call on your expertise to come up with hypotheses about the geological evolution of Skyrim.”
  • The Business Case Against Booth Babes: “But the booth babe approach overlooks the essential connections brands need to make with their customers–for many brands, a group that is mostly and increasingly women–and the subsequent need to develop a culture that includes women as part of the conversation.”
  • Come here and work on hard problems, except the ones on our doorstep: The San Francisco startup scene and wealth disparity.
  • Dear Learn to Code Startup, an open letter from a computer science teacher. “[I]f you really want kids to learn to code [...], then don’t make yet another tool or start yet another class that’s separate from your nearby school.” What follows is some good practical advice on how to help way more children learn to code.
  • No, you’re not entitled to your opinion. “The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned.”
  • Why Do Men Keep Putting Me in the Girlfriend-Zone?: “But then, then comes the fateful moment where you find out that all this time, he’s only seen you as a potential girlfriend.”
  • Meet the Woman Behind Pakistan’s First Hackathon: “Last month,the café hosted Pakistan’s first hackathon, a weekend-long event with nine teams focusing on solutions to civic problems in Pakistan ahead of last Saturday’s national election.”
  • Girl Expelled For Science Experiment Going To Space Camp: Not an entirely happy ending, but certainly a hopeful one.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

It’s a Linkspam! (11 December 2012)

  • Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy: “History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth. History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.”
  • PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical: “Which leads me back to the issue of prejudice: specifically, to the claim that including such characters in SFF stories, by dint of contradicting the model of straight, white, male homogeneity laid down by Tolkien and taken as gospel ever since, is an inherently political – and therefore suspect – act. To which I say: what on Earth makes you think that the classic SWM default is apolitical?”
  • Why Talking About Character Gender Still Matters (Even Though It Shouldn’t): “As much as I want gender to not matter, the stories I consume typically tell me otherwise, and I think that’s worth talking about. Not because women view female characters as superior to male characters, or because we want to do away with male-led stories entirely… All I want is a game culture (or really, a storytelling culture) in which things like Omega don’t strike me as unusual.”
  • The Python Software Foundation Code Of Conduct: “What we are seeing is a fundamental shift in the awareness that we need to be more welcoming, more open to those who do not make the majority of our community. We need to have workshops, we need to be more inviting. We need to lower the barrier of entry of contribution. We need to make safe havens for those who want to contribute but who are scared and intimidated by the status quo. This includes men, women – everyone.”
  • Got your new debit card!!!: Automatic-educating for digital security over Twitter: “I’ve been responding to as many tweets as I can, like chucking beached starfish back into the sea. But it’s occurred to me that if it was so easy to find and retweet the original card posts in a chaotic-neutral way, that could lead either to posters getting warned or to their card details being stolen, it would also be trivial to code a bot to respond to @NeedADebitCard and warn the posters to cancel their cards.”
  • SciGirls: the right way to do it: “The creators have obviously paid careful attention to research about girls’ interest and participation in science. Science is portrayed as a social activity – the girls work together as a team, have fun together, and comment on their social processes. They use science to support a concrete practical goal. And because role models have been found to be highly important for girls, in each episode, they seek out a female scientist to mentor them.”
  • The Truth About ‘Pink’ and ‘Blue’ Brains: “Janet Hyde, a pioneer in this area, did a meta-analysis of meta-analyses that combined the results of 7,084 separate studies. She found evidence for a large or very large difference on 8% of characteristics and evidence for medium-sized differences on 15%. She found evidence for small differences on another 48%… For the final 30% of characteristics, she found no evidence gender difference. So, on 78% of characteristics, she found teensy differences or none at all. Wow, “opposite sexes” indeed.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Booth Grandmas passing out cookies at Good Old Games PAX Prime 2011 booth

Re-post: The advantage of being me

During the December/January slowdown, Geek Feminism is re-publishing some of our highlights from earlier in the year. This post originally appeared on February 28, 2011.

From The Advantage Of Dual-Identities (A Case Study of Nabokov), I bring you this quote:

It’s also important to note that the advantage of having a “dual-identity” – being both a novelist and a scientist, for instance – isn’t limited to Nabokov. According to a study led by Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, people who describe themselves as both Asian and American, or see themselves as a female engineer (and not just an engineer), consistently display higher levels of creativity.

So as a female, half-asian all-canadian researcher, I’m clearly better at creativity than all those boring white dude researchers?

Angela Montenegro from Bones… I don’t even know exactly where to begin on this. So I’m going talk about Bones for a minute. I’ve been watching it with my sister lately while we do other things (crochet, do mending, wander around looking for things in an mmo, eat dinner, etc.) and the other day she pointed out that she loves how the show deals with Angela, or really, how it doesn’t. See, Angela Montenegro is the team’s artist: she does sketches of the victims. But she doesn’t stop there: she also coaxes data off broken camcorders and swallowed flash drives doing digital forensic work. She’s an adept computer programmer who writes software that helps visualize and model what happened during a crime. What’s cool about Bones is that it’s totally taken for granted that she can be an artist and a coder. (And really, pretty much whatever else she wants to be.)

So I guess while I fundamentally agree that having multiple “identities” is a huge asset to my work and creative abilities, I sort of feel like… why are they making such a big deal about this, as if it’s some hugely abnormal thing. Why can’t they just accept that Angela can draw and code? Why do people insist on compartmentalizing people into single skill sets? I can drive a car and code and no one thinks that’s weird, but plenty of people have commented with surprise that I can edit a magazine (yes, I used to do this) and write code. Hello, world?

The article just makes me a little uncomfortable. This worst part is the paragraph about how the US will be overrun by mixed-race folk like me with superior creative skills — awkward racial superiority with a different spin — but even the study methodology doesn’t quite sit right with me at a first reading. But maybe the article is simply a journalistic reflection of research into of a real logical fallacy that people often employ: the assumption that one must specialize in only one skill to be the best person one can be. That’s one of those things that might be true for programs, but I really haven’t seen much evidence of it being true for people.

Despite my issues with the article, I think it’s got a nice take-away message: it’s a-ok, normal, and maybe even superior to have and use your multiple identities. And don’t let incredulous folk tell you otherwise.

This was originally posted on my personal blog.

The advantage of being me

From The Advantage Of Dual-Identities (A Case Study of Nabokov), I bring you this quote:

It’s also important to note that the advantage of having a “dual-identity” – being both a novelist and a scientist, for instance – isn’t limited to Nabokov. According to a study led by Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, people who describe themselves as both Asian and American, or see themselves as a female engineer (and not just an engineer), consistently display higher levels of creativity.

So as a female, half-asian all-canadian researcher, I’m clearly better at creativity than all those boring white dude researchers?

Angela Montenegro from Bones… I don’t even know exactly where to begin on this. So I’m going talk about Bones for a minute. I’ve been watching it with my sister lately while we do other things (crochet, do mending, wander around looking for things in an mmo, eat dinner, etc.) and the other day she pointed out that she loves how the show deals with Angela, or really, how it doesn’t. See, Angela Montenegro is the team’s artist: she does sketches of the victims. But she doesn’t stop there: she also coaxes data off broken camcorders and swallowed flash drives doing digital forensic work. She’s an adept computer programmer who writes software that helps visualize and model what happened during a crime. What’s cool about Bones is that it’s totally taken for granted that she can be an artist and a coder. (And really, pretty much whatever else she wants to be.)

So I guess while I fundamentally agree that having multiple “identities” is a huge asset to my work and creative abilities, I sort of feel like… why are they making such a big deal about this, as if it’s some hugely abnormal thing. Why can’t they just accept that Angela can draw and code? Why do people insist on compartmentalizing people into single skill sets? I can drive a car and code and no one thinks that’s weird, but plenty of people have commented with surprise that I can edit a magazine (yes, I used to do this) and write code. Hello, world?

The article just makes me a little uncomfortable. This worst part is the paragraph about how the US will be overrun by mixed-race folk like me with superior creative skills — awkward racial superiority with a different spin — but even the study methodology doesn’t quite sit right with me at a first reading. But maybe the article is simply a journalistic reflection of research into of a real logical fallacy that people often employ: the assumption that one must specialize in only one skill to be the best person one can be. That’s one of those things that might be true for programs, but I really haven’t seen much evidence of it being true for people.

Despite my issues with the article, I think it’s got a nice take-away message: it’s a-ok, normal, and maybe even superior to have and use your multiple identities. And don’t let incredulous folk tell you otherwise.

This was originally posted on my personal blog.

Quick hit: “My mom has a PhD in math”

I’m a big fan of advertisement-hacking, and I think quite a lot of people here will get a kick out of this one, so even though it was linked in the linkspam I’m putting it up here:

Public transit ad depicting a brain: note pointing to one side says "Can you solve one of our puzzles" and the note pointing to the other side reads "can you explain it to your mom?".  Text below reads "We're hiring hackers with people skills".  Someone has added a post-it note to the advertisement which reads "My mom has a PhD in math"

Public transit ad depicting a brain: note pointing to one side says "Can you solve one of our puzzles" and the note pointing to the other side reads "can you explain it to your mom?". Text below reads "We're hiring hackers with people skills". Someone has added a post-it note to the advertisement which reads "My mom has a PhD in math"

Edit: If you’re crediting this photo, it was put on twitpic by jessiebennett. Some people are giving GeekFeminism.org all the credit which doesn’t really seem fair!

Edit 2: Note the appology from ITA in the comments.

6 reasons event organizers should adopt the Conference Anti-Harassment Policy

This has been cross-posted from my personal blog.

Valerie and a number of my feminist friends have been working on a generic Conference anti-harassment policy which can be adapted to suit specific events. This is a response to quite a number of incidents that seem to crop up in geekdom. (And those are just the ones we know about and have recorded — many people prefer not to talk about problems publicly for various reasons.)

You can read about the conference anti-harassment policy on geek feminism, and even hacker news has picked it up with the free link to the article on LWN.

I want to urge conference organizers to take a look at the policy and consider adapting it, even if you don’t know of any problems at your event. Here’s a few reasons:

  1. It’s a signal that you’re serious about the safety of the folk at your event. How can that possibly be a bad thing?
  2. It helps your staff recognize when there may be a problem. This makes it easier for them to do their jobs!
  3. It gives your staff a starting point for what to do if something happens. That also makes it easier for them know how to respond appropriately.
  4. It makes it clearer to attendees what constitutes appropriate behaviour at your event. This is a courtesy since explicit rules are much easier to follow than implicit ones!
  5. Remember that a number of geeky folk have particular trouble sussing out unspoken rules, whether that’s due to being non-neurotypical, just being so focussed on geekery that other more social rules get missed, or any other reason. It’s easier if people don’t have to guess the rules.
  6. The point of the policy is to prevent problems from occurring in the future. Implementing it isn’t going to imply to anyone that you’ve been hiding incidents, and being asked to implement it doesn’t mean that people think you’ve been inviting skeezy, scary folk to your events. It’s probably just an explicit statement of rules that you thought were obvious.

Think of it like a seatbelt: hopefully you’ll never need it, and maybe it’ll make a few folk uncomfortable, but you’ll be happy it was there if you have to slam on the brakes. Wearing your seatbelt isn’t an admission that you’re a bad driver, it’s just an admission that you can’t control the behaviour of other people, so you might as well do your best to stay safe.

Meritocracy? Might want to re-think how you define merit.

Rock on!
You might think if you put together a lot of smart people, you’d get a smart group, but new research into group intelligence shows that’s not always the case. (For those of you who don’t have access to online journal subscriptions through your local library or university, there are more details in the Carnegie Mellon University press release.)

What we found is that the intelligence of the team members was not significantly related to the collective intelligence, either positively or negatively.

[...]

Our first observation and the one that surprised us the most was that the proportion of females in the group seemed to be strongly predictive of the collective intelligence of the group.

However, when they looked more closely they realised that it wasn’t the gender that mattered, but rather the social sensitivity of the group members (previous studies had shown that women tend to score more highly in social sensitivity).

It’s not the intelligence of the group members that matters; it’s their social sensitivity.

So the more your group members were socially sensitive, the better the group performed in measures of collective intelligence. The key here was that group members need to collaborate, and to do that they needed those social skills to help them work together. This includes some different conversational patterns: groups where one or two people dominated conversations exhibited low collective intelligence, while groups where more people contributed had higher collective intelligence.

This scientific research is potentially a big blow to the standard “meritocracy works” theory often espoused in open source and computing groups. Standard meritocracy rules say you do clever things and you get accepted, and this will make for perfectly good teams. But given that there’s often bias that dismisses “soft skills,” it turns out that folk may actually be using typical geek meritocracy rules to weed out some of the people we need to make the group most effective as a whole.

Some of my female colleagues would like to conclude that you simply just need to hire more women. While that might be easier, what it really suggests is that you need to pay attention to what people refer to as these “softer skills” and thinking about who’s going to be a good team player, not necessarily focused solely on individual achievement, individual accomplishments.

So if you want to claim that the best way to build tech teams is meritocracy… you might want to think more carefully about how you define merit.

Rock show DS

The quotes in this article are drawn from Bob McDonald’s conversation with Dr. Anita Williams Woolley, the lead author, on the Quirks and Quarks interview aired October 9. You can download the podcast of the segment on collective intelligence here.

Society sucks, but we don’t have to

There’s an argument that comes up a lot in (geek) feminism discussions:

This isn’t a problem with $community, it’s a problem with society

This is used to explain everything from distasteful jokes to someone’s inability to spell, but especially it’s used to “explain” why there aren’t more women in the community or why they have crummy experiences when they do participate. And it raises the question:

Why can’t geek communities be better than society as a whole?

If you reported a software bug and the developers said, “we don’t believe you. Or the other 50 people who reported this bug,” you’d be annoyed, along with 50 other people. If they said “it’s someone else’s problem, XYZ software/hardware sucks” you’d be pretty unsatisfied, even if it was true.

What you want to hear is “thanks for reporting that! I’ll get it fixed right away.” And you still feel like they care if they say “well, that’s because XYZ software/hardware sucks, but we can do this workaround…”

Geek communities are full of smart, inventive people who produce everything from free software to fan fiction. I think we can probably do better than putting an SEP field around issues.

In academia, Hard Problems are the ones that are worthy of further study, research, and discussion. In geekdom, we like to eat impossible for lunch. So stop shuffling your feet and waiting for the “there aren’t many women participating” bug to be fixed upstream. We might need some clever social hackers to find us good workarounds, but know what? We’ve got just the sort of talent in our communities that might manage it. If people could only admit to themselves that it’s not someone else’s problem.