Wednesday, June 29, 2005

FutureCatalyst Brainstorming Salons

Tonight I went to an interesting networking event put on by FutureCatalyst, hosted by The Hayden Group.

FutureCatalyst Logo

Even though the Craigslist posting described it a place to brainstorm ideas on a sheet of paper placed on the wall. In reality, it's more networking and schmoozing than straight brainstorming or intellectual activities. Although the experience wasn't anything like the intellectual Salons I'd pictured, I did end up meeting some interesting people. Among the cool people was Sue Connolly, the founder of the KIT (Keep In Touch) list. The mailing list started as a contact list for ex-SGI employees and has grown into multiple jobs lists. It was great to meet a "valley legend" and exchange business cards. She also has her own marketing consulting company. The guest speaker tonight, Michael Johnson of Sales Solutions, was interesting too. He's a personable man who combines sales training with his Buddhist faith. His claim to fame is that he can convert people who aren't good at sales into top sellers.

All in all, even though
FutureCatalyst wasn't what I expected, I did get something out of my time. They meet every last Wednesday of the month, so I may go again another time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dream Gadgets on CNet

There's a fun set of articles goin right now on C|Net. Not only do they have a standard section called Gear Envy: Leave them Green with These Drool-Worthy Toys, but they have a special feature on Dream Gadgets. You can read other people's descriptions of Dream Gadgets they wished existed and comment on them. Of course you can add your own, too. I added my $0.02 to the Pimpable Mouse. The list was up to almost 300 gadgets the last time I looked.

In the same special features area celebrating the CNet 10 year anniversary, there is an article on Top 10 products of 1995. All of the players you expect, like eBay and Java, are there with a couple of suprises. As well as my all time Favorite, Netscape! I remember when I joined
Netscape in 1995, I used to go to the C|Net website often for market reasearch and to read articles on our company. I can't believe it's been 10 years.

Culo's Netscape Badge
My dog Culo even had a Netscape badge.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Kudos from the Trivia Geek

I'm happy to share my kudos from the Tech Republic Trivia Geek. I know he was probably trying to drum up business for the site's own blog system, but I'll take it. I've reading the Geek Trivia column for several years now.
From:     "jay.garmon [AT]"
To: "ME"
Subject: Message from a TechRepublic Member
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005 10:30:23 -0500

One of your fellow TechRepublic members has sent you a private message:

From: The Trivia Geek
Subject: Hello Debra
I appreciated the insightful comment on my blog last week, and noticed your
signature included a blogspot address. I liked what I read; it was a
mix of technical and personal, and very engaging.
[my emphasis]

<obligatory salespitch&gt
So why aren't you reblogging on TR? Just take your blogger RSS feed, import
it into your TR blog, and suddenly your blog is in two places at once. We get
the benefit of your content, and you get our not insignificant boost to your
Google page rankings. Win win all around.

-- Jay

The Trivia Geek, also known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who's duped Tech Republic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.

Jay Garmon, the Trivia Geek

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Women In Open Source and Software Development In General

Below is an article I read recently in Software Development Magazine. They have a nice project managment column every month, plus the editor in chief, Alexandra Weber Morales, writes some great editorials. I've quoted part of the article below. I was motivated to mention this article after Terrie M. of the Women Project Managers group in San Francisco and the Bay Area, posted a great article: It's A Woman's World, Too by Karen E. Klein (June 16, 2005, Projects@Work).


Software Development Magazine Logo

Women in Software: Open Source, Cold Shoulder; Explaining the Enthsiasm
Alexandra Weber Morales interview with Jane Margolis November 2004

"In software development, we find that women tend to be business analysts, QA/testers and project managers, while men tend to be software architects or developers."
In the seminal Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing, principal investigators Allan Fisher and Jane Margolis described their research in understanding maleand female students' engagement with computer science. In addition, the changes they spurred in curriculum, pedagogy and culture had lasting effects on reducing the gender imbalance, causing the entering enrollment of women in the undergraduate computer science program at Carnegie Mellon to rise from 8 percent in 1995 to 42 percent in 2000. Now a research educationist at UCLA, Jane Margolis spoke with us about why computer science attracts men and repels women.

Is it true that those drawn to open source projects spend all their free time with the computer?

I don't feel comfortable talking about open source because it's not an area I'm familiar with. But I can say that the whole videogame industry has been designed by men for boys' and men's interests. The gaming has a particular character that reflects the stereotype of what males are interested in. It's through gaming, done at a very young age, that kids do a lot of experimentation and play, learn all the cheats, and learn from each other. That builds a lot more familiarity with computing and confidence. The friendship groups that form tend to mark the
computing arena as male.

But not all men want to spend all their time gaming.

There's this male norm based on a very small subset of men: "If you don't want to focus on the machine, you don't really belong in computer science." It's actually a very narrow concept of what CS is all about, with a very narrow focus on the machine, not the science of what it's about, the problem solving and the domains. There's a wonderful quote [attributed to Edsger Dykstra]: "Computer science is no more related to the computer than astronomy is related to the telescope."—the point being that the computer is just a tool to get to this larger science.

How does the ratio of women in computing compare to women in other sciences?

In math, the gap is not as big. There's been a lot of work to narrow it, and it's been effective. Biology is 50-50. In physics, the gap is still big. Engineering and computing are at the far end of the spectrum of male-dominated disciplines.

Why should we care?

Because computing, more than any other technology, is changing the way we live our lives. In the other scientific disciplines, whoever knows it has a leg up in their field.

In software development, we find that women tend to be business analysts, QA/testers and project managers, while men tend to be software architects or developers. Are the same forces causing those career choices?

I believe you're right in that. That's something that Women in Technology and [the late] Dr. Anita Borg are working on. My field has been in education. A whole other shakeout occurs at the work level—the culture of a place. There may be an assumption that you're not as suited. There again, I don't feel able to comment on all those workplace issues. But I've been invited to speak at Google in a few weeks. I think they're concerned about having more women engineers. We're speaking to several management groups and then the company as a whole.

Having been to Google, I've observed their perks: laundry, gourmet chef, games, and so on. But the implication is that you can never leave.

And that's very hard for mothers.

And is it really the best way to be innovative and productive?

In science, there's this whole culture about who's in the lab longest.

What is the "posse effect" noted in your research?

It's the issue of critical mass. When you have just one female or one African-American in a class, there's this incredible sense of isolation and discomfort, and the sense of comfort increases when you get a critical mass. I heard the term "posse effect" on National Public Radio. These universities that were mostly white had unfortunate experiences when recruiting one Latino or one African-American. They had much more success when recruiting entire groups. It showed the importance of not being alone, not being the only one—the effects of comfort and confidence. We don't know what the number is to get that critical mass, but at Carnegie Mellon, the cultural shift that the women felt was dramatic: You don't feel alone, you don't feel all eyes are on you.

What is your current research focus?

I'm now looking at high school. You can already see the divide that has happened. Youth culture is so saturated with technology now, but the gaming industry is still predominantly male. There's a huge gender gap: Now only 17 percent of AP computer science students are females—and African-Americans and Latinos combined make up only 6 to 7 percent. By high school, it's already set. It's tied in with issues of social class, access to technology, parents and families—it's a very complex constellation of effects. It also has to do with how, in schools, different subjects get claimed and identified. Computing is marked as a white/Asian/male field. Those are the role models that kids see.

What's the current fraction of women in Carnegie Mellon CS?

It's around 33 percent now. So to go from 8 percent to 33 percent is still pretty dramatic—and it's a much higher level of women than most CS programs.

Why did it drop from 42 percent?

I think it's due to the overall fall in computer science enrollment throughout the country in the last few years.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

When Computers Were Human

Last night, at the Computer History Museum, the presentation presentation by David Alan Grier (no, not the funnyman from In Living Color) was very enlightening.

Computer History Museum Logo

The talk opened with an explanation about how the desire to calculate the return of Halley's Comet motivated the need to manually crunch large numbers in pursuit of the the answer to theoretical computations. In 1759, a team of three French mathematicians, Alexis Clairault, Joseph Lalande, and Nicole-Reine Lepaute first arranged a team of mathemeticians into the model that's still used today in software development today.

Old Calculator Model
1700s to 1970s
Software Development Today
Software Development Today

Although the Scientists, Clairault, Lalande and Lepaute came up with the initial problem, the planner broke down the formula into workable parts. The human calculators were divided into mathematical operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication and long division. Apparently this set up was used through the early to mid 1970s when the mechanical computers finally became cost effective enough to totally replace the human computers.

As a matter of fact, the human computers were as efficient and accurate or more so than the mechanical computers until the late 1940s. Cyberpunk fans who remember William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine novel about cybernetic engines, Charles Babbage's Analytic Engine and the steam driven computer age in full swing in 1885 will be tickled to know that the human computer teams used differencing to check their accuracy to 15 places. So in a way, a sort of Difference Engine was in effect back in the 1700s before
Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace Babbage tried to create their mechanical device in the early 1800s.

There was an interesting sociological aspect to human computers. As for most scientific fields, mathematics were traditionally closed to women, poor men, people of color and handicapped. Unless, of course, they were an arisocrat like
Nicole-Reine Lepaute or "sponsored" by a white male (such as a wives and/or daughters) who had already established himself in the field. Different social conditions changed the opportunities for these groups to more fully particiate in mathematics. Starting in the late 1800s in general, women were gaining more rights, which translated to more college graduates which led to more women with careers that required mathematical degrees.

Wars in the early 1900s required math tables to help soldiers in the field to aim weapons accurately. The shortage of the men who typically did that kind of work opened opportunites for the people mentioned above.
Works Projects Administration (WPA) Mathematical Tables Project was run during the Depression by Gertrude Blanch, a mathemetician oman who deserves to take her place in the history of computing along side Charles Babbage and others for her work in pioneering work in numerical analysis and computation. Her staff of over 400 computers gave many women, poor men, people of color and handicapped a chance to use their mathematics skills in a time when they wouldn't have been given a chance otherwise.

When Computers Were Human is worth a look.

When Computers Were Human

What did it mean to be a human computer? Who were the first ones? Before Palm Pilots and iPods, PCs and laptops, the term “computer” referred to people who did scientific calculations by hand. In his book When Computers Were Human, David Alan Grier, editor of IEEE Annals of History of Computing, offers the first in-depth account of these workers, who were neither calculating geniuses nor idiot savants but knowledgeable people who, in other circumstances, might have become scientists in their own right. Beginning with the return of Halley's Comet in 1758 and the effort of three French astronomers to compute its orbit to the UNIVAC electronic computer projecting its 1986 orbit, Grier traces “human computers” through the ages. Come join Grier, along with former “computers,” for this look into a little-known slice of high tech history.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

AVA and Sunnyvale Art Festivals 2005

Alliance of Visual Artists Festival

Alliance of Visual Artists Festival

Here's a couple more shots of our booth while setting up.
Whew, yesterday was veeeeery busy, but that's OK. The day started with helping to set up the Pacific Scribes booth at the AVA Festival at Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, CA.

Pacific Scribes Booth Sign

Here's a couple more shots of our booth while setting up.

Pictures on Grid

It may be hard to see, but the second from the right is a real leaf with real handwriting on it.

Another side of Pacific Scribes Booth

It was great to walk around and check out the other booths of other art groups. The University Arts booth was even giving away free tubes of Winsor & Newton's new watercolor Opera Rose, blah. A very transparent water color.


Sunnyvale Art and Wine Festival
Sunnyvale Art and Wine Festival
After taking a short break, I rode my bike over to the Sunnyvale Art and Wine Festival to see what was going on.
Sunnyvale Art and Wine Festival-on Washington by Macy's

After walking around for a while, I looked around the corner, past the fuzzy puppets booth and what did I see? An ART DECO car in pristine condition! Not only was it a beatuiful car (from the right time period) but it was a Jaguar too. After my heart slowed down and I closed my mouth to keep from dribbling, I zipped right over to take some pictures. Voila! The 1939 SS1100 Jaguar!

Long view of 1939 Jaguar SS
I don't know who the other Fan is, the guy was just too close to crop out.

Blurb that was on the stand.
Blurb that was on the stand. Click on image to get larger version so you can read the words.

Sit down in the passenger seat
Come on in and have a seat.

Front corner of Jauguar 1939 SS1100
A last look at the gorgeous lines of the SS1100 Jag. One of the many cool things is that the car was created from a kit. The ower had pictures of the car sitting in peices in crates. Here's a wonderful illustration from Bert Christensen's. And Here's a picture of an orginal brochure for the 1939 Jaguar car line from the Jag Lovers website..

I ended the day by watching the set of the David Martin's House Party band. A hoot! They do a variety of music, from big band, 50s, 60s70's, 80s, funk, heavy metal... Not only do the 3 lead vocalists (2 men and one woman) sing all these styles, they have a man and woman dancer who dress for each style, then go out in the audience to boogie and get down with them. During a metal song, dudes in the audience were doing air guitar along side Dave while he was jamming. You probably don't see that everyday.
Singing Barry White in the audience.
Singing Barry White in the audience.

Playing guitar, dancing and singing with the audience.
Playing guitar, costume dancers and singing with the audience.
Crowd doing the conga with the costume dancers
It's Conga time!

If you have any kind of event where you need people to be up and dancing, you should probably check out
David Martin's House Party. Some of the hardest working entertainment people in the SF Bay Area.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Mostly good experience with LinkedIn

Personally, I have mostly good experience with LinkedIn. Specifically regarding connecting me to people I don't know. I've used it for:
  • Getting contacted about potential jobs - including getting a job from a recruiter who found me on LinkedIn
  • Finding job leads
  • Connecting to others in my profession
  • Passing along job leads and other contact requests
  • Contacting people who work at places I was going for job interviews to get the inside scoop
These are all things that would not have happened if not for LinkedIn. The benefits far out weigh the minor annoyance of people trying to add you to their network even though they don't know you.

On the ComputerWorld site, there are several postings on Curt Monash's blog that are bent on proving
LinkedIn sucks and is a waste of time. The first article, The continuing discussion of LinkedIn goes on about how LinkedIn doesn't live up to it's promises. That it only benefits people that already know each other. My own experience puts the lie to that opinion.

The posting, The Short, Linked-In Life of Rob Carpenter, details an artificial experiment on linked in by
Curt that supposedly "proves" how bad LinkedIn is.To me it seems like a GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) scenario. If you input garbage like creating a fake profile with no intention of being serious, then you should expect to get garbage out of the situation. Luckily Konstantin Guericke, a co-founder of LinkedIn stood up and reinforced the correct way to use LinkedIn. By the way, I saw Patrick Ewers of LinkedIn speak at CSix last summer. He elucidated us on the social networking tool philosophy and how to get maximum benefit.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tell Me More about Employee Surveys

I had an interesting conversation today. Through LinkedIn, I was contacted by Mira Coone regarding my employee survey experience at Sun. That is, how was it working with a 3rd party vendor.
Mira Coone's business card
I pointed her to a vendor, Valtera so she could get an idea of what Opinions Inc. is up against in the survey vendor universe. I also suggested she check out the Mayflower Group website to get some leads. I met some of the Mayflower folks when they had a meeting at Sun Microsystems while I was there. It was an enlightening experience. There were representatives from Dow Chemical Company (I still use the keychain I got for my USB drive), Corning Incorporated, Ford Motor Corporation, Boeing Company, among others at the several day meeting. The consortium coordinate a subset of employee survey questions for easy comparison across different industries.

The dinner at Zibibbo the last night of the conference was memorable. The group had a fishbowl room to ourselves. We started with appetizers and they kept bringing food until we were fit to bust.

Zibibbo Front