“We simply cannot afford to alienate large chunks of the workforce," notes Dan Shapiro, a tech entrepreneur who sold his comparison-shopping company to Google and now works there as a product manager. Shapiro, who has blogged in the past about sexism in the tech industry, notes that "it is a widely understood truth that the single biggest challenge to a successful startup is attracting the right people. To literally handicap yourself by 50 percent is insanity.”—"Gangbang Interviews" and "Bikini Shots": Silicon Valley’s Brogrammer Problem, Tasneem Raja, Mother Jones, April 26, 2012
Wherein computer maven Ada Lovelace answers all your tech questions!
Dear Ada: If your computer could be a server, why don’t more people just set up their own servers rather than use a web hosting service?
Yours, Serving in the City
Dear Serving: If you want to use your computer as a server you need it to be on and connected to the internet at all times, otherwise your site will go down. This is commonly referred to as “uptime” which means the percentage of time a site is available for browsing. Industry standard uptime is 99.99%, anything less is no good!
With that in mind, think about all of the times that your internet is weird or your computer runs out of battery or Firefox freezes everything and you need to restart. Basically, if you wanted to use a computer as a server you really wouldn’t want to do anything else with it EVER and if you ever wanted to use it for something else you would need a backup computer to be your web server in the meantime.
At that point, with the amount of work that would take and the cost of having at least two to three computers on hand (one to be your personal computer, one to serve as the primary web server, one to be the backup web server), you are much better off paying $15/month to a web hosting company and letting them worry about all of that.
Who is Ada and how does she know everything? Ada is Ada Lovelace, also known as the daughter of Lord Byron, and commonly considered the world’s first computer programmer. Read more about her here. Send your questions to her at email@example.com.
These words might mean nothing to you, or you might be in stitches at the sheer n00bness of it all. Doesn’t matter. There is no One True Path. The tools and technology available today have made it cheaper, easier and more possible than even for ‘non-technical‘ people to learn and experiment.
I don’t agree with the argument that “everyone should know how to code”, but I do feel very strongly that no one should feel too intimidated to learn.
”—Stacy-Marie Ishmael in program OriginStory;, a blog post chronicling her adventures in technology through installing SpintoApp, a new open source Ruby on Rails content management system. Read the whole story here.
Skillcrush is happy to be backing Wollstonecraft on Kickstarter. We are pro math, pro science, and pro girl power fiction. The book features the adventuresses Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley at 11 and 14 in 1826 London.
OK, so we understand that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram at $1bn is the start-up equivalent of winning the lottery. However, we still wanted to acknowledge that the founder of Instagram was a self-taught programmer who made the move from Marketing to Founder by putting in some serious time in his off hours. Inspirational, indeed.
“Why, I sometimes believe six impossible things before breakfast.” —Alice
If Lewis Carroll had been in tech, he would have undoubtedly been a game designer, building highly complex and whimsical quests. His ability to imagine and re-imagine the world and bend it into nonsensical narratives would have made him a natural.
Designers craft the stories behind the games; develop the characters and the plot; decide which obstacles the characters have to overcome; and, imagine all of the features that make a game challenging, fun and visually exciting.
Carroll creates a sea out of Alice’s tears; turns rocks into cakes that can be eaten to shrink her to the right size; and combines logic with imagination to craft an amazingly intricate and compelling narrative.
Alice, on the other hand, would have been a game developer. Game developers are the problem solvers. They are given a set of constraints and are forced to craft the code that makes the game work using languages like C++ or Java. The code has to be “efficient, fast,and reusable,” which can be incredibly challenging and incredibly fun. Game developers need to be able to understand bleeding edge technologies, including 3D game programming and computer graphics. So, a desire to continuously learn new skills is critical.
One of Alice’s defining character traits was comfort with the unknown. She grew. She shrank. She met a talking cat and a trippy caterpillar. She was adventurous and open to new experiences. Constantly faced with big unknowns, Alice simply dealt by asking questions…lots of questions. She stumbled around in Wonderland solving riddles and making sense of the obstacles in her path. Her passion for problem-solving and play, along with her tenacity, would have made her a natural programmer.
So what would YOU be? An Alice or a Lewis?
It’s time to believe the impossible…There is a potion that can make you shrink. There is a cake that can make you grow. Animals talk. Cats can disappear. There is a place called Wonderland. Alice can defeat the Jabberwocky. And, you can learn how to code. You just need to take the first step through the looking glass.
N.B. We’ve included a video of one of our tech heros, Jane McGonical, here. She’s a Lewis who looks like an Alice and she rocks!
**Image: Alice in Central Park: Jose de Creeft, 1959; Courtesy of Flavorwire.
Our good friend Ashley Milne-Tyte, the awesome radio broadcaster, is starting a podcast about women and work. Listen to her brilliant first episode about negotiating for higher pay and the dearth of women on Op-Ed pages.
Megan works as an Assistant Negotiator at Midas Exchange, where she serves as the intermediary between television networks and Midas clients to make sure that their ad campaigns are successful. We think she rocks because she also interned for “The Electric Company” at Sesame Workshop!
How did you discover and first become engaged in technology?
AIM! I was obsessed with it when I was little because I could talk to all my friends. I would talk to up to ten people at the same time!
What is the most impossible thing that you’ve ever done?
Entering the tech world was the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done. I had never been exposed to the inner workings of tech. I knew what the web was, but never really understood exactly what a developer did, or what coding was, or the difference between front- and back-end development. Learning about all of these things all at once was intimidating.
What was the process of learning like?
It felt really impossible when I started. There were so many terms and so many things that I had never been exposed to—I thought that I would never understand everything. But then it just clicked. The more that I began to understand what developers do, the more I realized that it was possible for me to pick up some skills. I began to think, “I can do that.” I started reading more about it and decided to take an HTML class.
Why do you think that it seemed so impossible?
Technology is made out to be this really complicated, brainy thing. So I didn’t feel like I was smart enough to understand it. To me, it always seemed like something super nerdy people do and it didn’t feel like it was for me.
Has your perspective changed?
Definitely. It’s entirely possible for anyone who wants to learn how to code to learn. There are so many resources out there. Taking a class made me realize that some people know nothing and some people, yes, know a lot, but everyone was together in class learning. It also showed me that anyone can learn it—and, that I could learn it!
What is your favorite app?
Draw Something. It’s such a fun game! I love that you watch as people draw—it makes me laugh!
What are the top 5 things you can’t live without?
My family. My iPhone - its terrible but true! Coffee. My running shoes! A good piece of dark chocolate. Mascara—I wear it everyday even if I don’t wear any other makeup. It brightens up my eyes because I have blonde lashes. And of course, my stuffed kitty, named Cat. I got her when I was two, and she is still my kitty.
If you could design an app that would solve any problem in the world what would it be?
I would build an app that would help us conserve our natural resources. My worst fear is that our natural resources are going to run out. I took a global population problems class my senior year and it totally freaked me out! It’s actually amazing how little people know about the environment. I would make an app that would spread awareness and spur action.
Why is technology important?
Because it is a part of our everyday life. We use technology all day, everyday and everyone is exposed to it.
Why is technology important in your life?
Technology helps me connect with people. You can do a million different things, it’s a source of entertainment, and it allows you to keep in touch with people.
Cocktail Party Fact
Skillcrush is a soon-to-launch online learning community for female creatives, thinkers and makers.
We believe that learning needs to be rebooted. For far too long, the road to tech mastery has been laden with text-ridden manuals that inexplicably manage to explain nothing in a short 1,000 pages. Or, worse, tutorials that drone on in a language that is inaccessible, dry, humorless or just plain scary. We think this is tragic—so we’re serving up our tech learning with heaping teaspoon of fun.
We set out to create a place where we could get women to flash their sweet smiles and nod in agreement that tech is amazingly intuitive, fabulous and fun as they followed us unwittingly down a path toward digital enlightenment!
Oh wait, that sounds a bit like a cult (which is, undoubtedly, a great way to make money on the web, but not really us).
So what are we doing then? Essentially, we’re hoping to build a community of ladies like you who are interested in finding new ways to master the skills that you need to create lovely digital design, make intuitive and useful products, and bend the web to your will.
We know that creating shockingly beautiful web apps can be serious fun; that figuring out how to set up and run an ad server can be incredibly empowering; and that dressing up and playing with the world wide web can help spark your inner girl. We want to make sure that other ladies are in the loop too.
We hope to do this by referencing the things that we love to do—like creating exquisite design, cooking delicious treats, mixing snaptastic cocktails, and building beautiful websites—as we experiment with new and more accessible ways to present technology.
So what does this mean? Well, you likely won’t find too many references to robots or obscure video game heroes or Legos or Settlers of Catan. It’s not that we don’t love these things; we’re just not leading with them.
We’re using a language that we—and, hopefully, you—can relate to.
We believe that coding can be a great adventure. Creating amazing design can bring joy. And, more women need to be makers, not just consumers, of great web products.
A few things:
We’re a work in progress—for the next several weeks we will be working to build a site that is both fun and feminine. We’re not perfect, though, so we expect that they’ll be some bumps along the way. Bear with us and please share with us the good, bad and ugly feedback you have about the site. We aim to please!
We will be rolling things out slowly. Our newsletter, “30 Days to a Web Savvier You,” is meant to give you a taste of things to come. We are working behind the scenes to create a series of tutorials, guides, games, and interactive features that will help you get your tech on. This takes a bit of time—so, be patient with us.
We believe that people can use the web to create many amazing things—from blogs to ecommerce sites to new technologies that we can’t even imagine yet. We will provide you info on a range of topics that will help you talk like a tech pro; customize your blog design; make money with online ads; design your own website; or code your own app.
Our goal is to get you to embrace tech and start building. The web is a playground-welcome to our club!
So, who are we?
Adda is a front-end developer and ruby newbie, wannabe student, and lover of Hall & Oates videos on YouTube. We can’t fault her for the last one, but we really don’t understand the obsession.
Kate loves unabashedly girly design and isn’t afraid to fly her fem flag while watching over every misplaced pixel on the page. She is a design geek, problem solver, and proud mother to Jubilee, Skillcrush’s resident canine. She lives by Milton Glaser’s credo “just enough is more.”
Soma is the voice behind the tutorials and runs the Brooklyn Brainery in his nonexistent free time.
Jennifer makes sure that everyone takes their tech vitamins, grabs an occasional nap, and finds a bit of balance as we launch. She’s also working on building out partnerships with other fab content creators and sponsors, so if you’ve got something you’d like to share, whether cash or content, email her.
We’d love to hear from you! Please email us with suggestions or just to say hi!