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Posts Tagged: tech

Women in Tech: Quick Thoughts

I made a short (somewhat under caffeinated) morning video jotting my quick thoughts on the whole Women in Tech issue. In short, you can’t have equality and expect separate treatment, among other points. I think our foremothers who fought for us to have these chances to succeed would be less than happy at how much time we spend talking about the gender problem instead of fixing it.

Geolocation Risk:Benefit

For a couple of years now I’ve been telling people who ask me where the “next” thing will be happening that Geolocation and Mobile are the answer. These two technologies are very different, and yet they go hand in hand. For the end user, they come with inherent risks along with the benefits. For the business, there are primarily benefits to being geolocation friendly and mobile ready.

If you are a business, being on the leading edge of geolocation and mobile technologies will be key to your success. I wish someone would explain to me why on earth the grocery stores (VRM) have not banded together to make a cross platform mobile app for WinMo, iPhone, Droid that lets me tell the app which store I’m in, have it know my reward number, and then let me photo-scan barcodes for discounts and easy check out. We have the technology, stores just fear data sharing. Trust me, consumers WANT the ease of not having 20 store cards in their wallet. An application like Blippy that tweets your purchases could make the experience even more fun for shoppers who opted in to it, and meanwhile I could go to Stop and Shop for groceries, Body Shop for makeup, Irving for gas and PayLess for shoes in one day and only need to remember my phone, instead of a wallet full of store cards or a keychain so big it won’t fit in my pocket because of the keychain card version. If you are truly tech savvy, you are getting your business listed on mobile and geolocation applications proactively to take it to the next level.

End users have different concerns. No matter who you are, having geolocation settings turned on can make your life interesting if you try to, say, call in for work sick and then pop up at home online. But “how to get fired” jokes aside, If you are a woman, or a minor, geolocation technology has inherent drawbacks for you. If you are, for example, a woman who is fleeing an abusive relationship, you need mobile technology in the form of a cell phone to ensure your safety. Most abusers don’t honor restraining orders, should you be able to even obtain one, and you need a way to call for help. But if your abuser is tech savvy, you can see how geolocation can also come with inherent risk (this is true of many social web tools for women and children in this situation, by the way, but geolocation is the topic today).

If you are a minor, mobile tech is part of your daily life by now at nearly all income levels, in some way. This is helpful, and a fantastic tool for the future, but adding in geolocation creates another risk issue. That of predators (of all types, not just sexual predators) who can monitor a minor’s location if the minor does not take the proactive stance of a) turning off geolocation whenever the option is allowed b) having parents or a guardian who will take the time to check and make sure the feature is off and c) avoiding the use of tools that utilize geolocation and don’t offer an option to turn it off.

Communities online can offer their own inherent challenges when it comes to geolocation and mobile. Take popular yet frivolous internet game Foursquare for example. In this case Foursquare allows you to enter a new location with as much or as little location data as you’d like. This is fantastic – it allows people to play the game and to include somewhere like their office, without being in danger if they work alone. Sure, Foursquare also offers a way to check in and not show anyone your location at all, but a) what fun is that? and b) the users we’re about to discuss will eventually complain if you do this too often.

In Foursquare’s case, a few weird, over zealous users can really spoil the bunch. They (not the application creators) act like the app police, ordering take downs of frivolous locations like “My Couch” all over the country, and reporting any location with a vague address (like “corner of Vine and Temple St”) all over the country. Never mind that this is something Foursqaure allows, that it is a game and is supposed to be fun, or that for some it’s a matter of safety – they are the hall monitors of the internet. To remove the ability to be vague when needed, or to have the application be fun, is detrimental to the application’s success and can have adverse consequences for the user.

Foursquare is just an example of how users of the technology can contribute to the problem overall. In the end we are in charge of our own safety online, yet for some the knowledge of how to be safe just isn’t there. It is my view that application providers need to make it default to opt out of geolocation as this becomes the norm, need to make sure the settings are obvious to change privacy levels and the rules of use are clear, and need to do a little policing of overzealous or bad-apple users whose tactics may put other less savvy users in challenging positions.

This is not a “fear this technology” or “scary scary internet” post in any way. I advocate caution online and offline, but in the end this is a “how can we make this cool new frontier safe for everyone?” post. Because in the end, this technology is not coming, it’s here now, and we need to work together to make sure it is safe and easy to understand and useful for all.

Announcing: Social Media Breakfast in NH

Over the last few weeks I’ve been quietly planning and plotting a new branch of the nationwide Social Media Breakfast in NH. It isn’t that we don’t love Boston, because we do, but our neighbor to the north is rich in technology and social media, and often overlooked when events are planned. I saw a need for networking opportunities that were easier to get to for the northern tech and social media crowd, and decided to step up and fill it. Because NH itself is a diverse and scattered state, the Social Media Breakfast there will be just a little bit different than the one in Cambridge/Boston.

What is a Social Media Breakfast?

From the official description: The Social Media Breakfast was founded by Bryan Person in August 2007 as an event where social media experts and newbies alike come together to eat, meet, share, and learn. Marketers, PR pros, entrepreneurs, bloggers, podcasters, new-media fanatics, and online social networkers are all welcome to attend.

The breakfast series began in Boston and has now spread to more than a dozen cities throughout the United States and around the world.

How will the Social Media Breakfast in NH be different?

The main difference between Social Media Breakfast NH and other SMBs will be all-inclusiveness. I do not want only social media people and companies to attend, I also want technology types, programmers, coders, tech writers, tech companies and more to attend. As a state that is rich in technology but scattered in distance, I think the best networking and connection making effect will be achieved by combined our different cultures. You never know, as a social media type you might just meet the coder you’ve been looking for to create your dream project if we all come together to connect and to learn from each other!

Planning the First Social Media Breakfast NH

The first Social Media Breakfast NH (hashtag #smbnh) will be in February. I will be announcing a date and venue shortly, as well as calling for speakers and sponsors. If you’d like to sponsor, contact me via email or the phone number in the navigation bar above and we can talk specifics.

Important note: To honor the fact that NH is spread out quite a bit, and the fact that our friends in surrounding states (ME, VT) are welcome to attend, I will be moving the location each time. That way people who may have to drive a little further for one month’s breakfast can look forward to their turn for driving less for a future meeting, and people who don’t live close to each other and wouldn’t normally meet will be able to meet people out of their area as well. To that end, feel free to email me your favorite local venue for consideration. It needs to hold between 50 and 100 people, be able to serve continental style breakfast, and have WiFi and wall space for projectors if people bring slides to show.

Things we need currently: A reliable source for projectors. I do not own a projector, and I want to be covered in case our presenters’ projectors have technical glitches. Also, sponsors for the first SMBNH and future SMBNH. Feel free to submit comments telling me themes you’d like to cover as well – each breakfast will have speakers and address issues important to social media and technology.

I am excited about this project, and hope that those of you in NH are as well. I look forward to your emails and comments with ideas, venue possibilities and more.

Strong Women in Tech

Last night was Part Two of the Gender Gap and Technology/New Media Episode on my podcast Topics on Fire. Panelists for the show were myself, Leslie Bradshaw, Jen Nedeau, Meg Fowler and Shireen Mitchell. On the first episode, we had Chris Brogan, Aaron Brazell and Micah Baldwin offering the male perspective as we hammered out what the issues were, but for this episode, we were an all-woman solution generating dynamo.

We took a look at the issues from the previous episode in a “big picture” perspective with the intent to come up with as many concrete, real world solutions as possible. The issues covered were how the gender gap intersects with education, opportunity, confidence, communication, perception and objectification. All of the panelists did a great job staying on topic and making valuable contributions to the goals we reached. I can’t thank them all enough for sharing their knowledge and passion and bringing attainable ideas to the table.

What concrete ideas did we come up with? Perhaps the biggest were the Strong Women in Tech campaign and grassroots mentoring in education, as well as a concerted effort to change how we promote our fellow women in tech. The Strong Women in Tech campaign is an idea that has the lofty, but attainable, goal of bringing some of the strong female names in technology to girls in school to act as role models and inspiration.

The idea is that these women, all beacons in various aspects of technology, engineering, social media, gaming, software and more, would embark on a national campaign to inspire today’s girls to pursue careers in any of the various aspects of technology and new media. Using the tools available to us to jump start the campaign, I created a Ning group called Strong Women in Tech, which you can find at http://strongtechwomen.ning.com/. The idea behind the group is to have a place to plan this nationwide campaign using the most powerful weapon in our arsenal – our networks. Please join us, and help find women to stand as role models and help get this campaign off the ground in earnest.

The Ning group is also a hub for some of our other ideas, which we all thought fit well under the umbrella concept of Strong Women in Tech. One of these ideas was to generate a grassroots movement in social media to bring education and inspiration to the teachers who are out there in the trenches. We want to empower them with an understanding of technology and new media and how it can help them. To that end, we hope to embark on an effort to have every strong woman in tech start to either mentor local teachers in how to use these tools or create a network of local mentors to do so.

We all thought it is much easier to inspire and encourage girls to stay on a technology and new media path if there is understanding. By creating a network of resources for teachers we can help them find ways to relay a love of learning in these fields to the girls (and boys) in their classrooms, which will have lasting benefits for the work force and for fostering innovative ideas. Keep in mind that while the conversation was centered around women, all of us think that part of empowering women is to learn to teach to each individual instead of to gender stereotypes. We feel that the powerful people in our social media and offline networks can make that happen through reaching out and mentoring. We also hope that some of the teachers from our education in technology episode will also sign up and help us start to pool resources into one place for teachers.

We covered some heavy ground in just over an hour, including how to use cultural differences to inspire students into careers in technology, new media, sciences and maths. The most interesting point made here was how encouraging other cultures were to students who wanted to learn, and how the often competitive, rote nature of education here in the States can hamper that enthusiasm and desire to stay on the technology or science path in school. That’s another issue we hope our grassroots campaign for mentoring will address, incorporating the cultures of some of our immigrants to make our own eduction system that much better.

Each of us also offered up tools fro our personal arsenal in how we dealt with various degrees of gender issues online. The advice each woman gave on communicating and overcoming communication differences was great, including an interesting discussion on what it means in perception for a woman to “speak with authority” and how to push past the often negative connotations of that. We also addressed the issues of objectification of women in technology and new media, and tendency for looks to over ride worth on the road to success in these fields. The answer to that was to create an effort as part of Strong Women in Tech to change how we market each other.

The greatest asset a woman has is the innate ability to collaborate, communicate and build consensus. We hope to change how we promote each other and thus the face of the stereotypical woman in technology to be more the face of every woman, and not just the face of shallow beauty. We hope to empower women to promote on worth, not on popularity. We understand that popularity will always play a part in success, as will image, however, popularity and image should not rule success. It is up to women to help other women succeed on more than just the “homecoming queen” mentality that can often prevail.

We want all women in tech to find a way to be a strong woman in tech. We want our daughters and grand daughters to live in a world free of gender bias, where it is the individual that counts. We know that Blog Her and other organizations are tackling the network building part of the issue, and now we want to use that network to branch out into the real world. It’s up to us. I think we are powerful enough to do it. If you agree, please come participate in the Ning group. We need your ideas, your connections, your networks and your time. See you on the Strong Women in Tech site!

I highly recommend giving the podcast a listen. It is about an hour and fifteen minutes long, and it captures the details and individual advice far better than I ever could in a simple recap. I’ve embedded it below.