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February 26, 2007

Where are the Aussie Startups?

Over at the Webdirections site, where I think it is most relevant, I've just posted Where are the Aussie Startups?. Sure, we have some great startups out there - but do we have a culture, a startup ecosystem? I'd be really interested in hearing your thoughts over there.


February 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 24, 2007

Diversity redux redux

I've no more to add about what I think about diversity and responsiiblity in our industry. I've written several things in the light of a number of discussions which have emerged over the last 24 hours. I'm not going to publish them. They would not be beneficial.

People are quite entitled to their opinions, but I am very dissapointed in some of the things I have been reading. Particularly some opf the comments on blog posts I've been reading.

All I can do, quite literally is to sit here an shake my head. And despair a little.

Then move onto something positive - continuing to plan our conferences, which will continue to have a strong repesentation of women, not through quotas. not because its politically correct, not by "social engineering", not by diminishing the quality of our content, but by making it a priority, and doing the little extra work it takes.

But now I've started, I'll go on the record as saying, it simply isn't good enough any more to discriminate against woman (I'll repeat that, so everyone is clear) discriminate against women in our industry, or anywhere.

40%+ of our attendees are women. If we aren't getting at least significantly close to this number in terms speakers, then frankly, I happen to think that is discriminatory.

I've put it that strongly because others seem to want to stir the pot.

Consider it stirred.

This is a very non trivial issues.

It's important, in the way that equity for green eyed people is less so, because its a real life issue that affects more than 50% of the people on the planet. If we can't even get that right, worrying about equity for people with facial tattoos, non-ear facial piercings, or other categories is a complete and utter non starter.

This is about the kind of thing people have gone to jail for, and worse - the right to be treated equally and fairly, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or other characteristics.

Many battles have been won, over the last half century or so.

Maybe being able to sit at the front of a bus seemed pretty trivial 47 years ago. Compared with all the other issues people of color in the US faced in the early 1960s. Simialrly, maybe being able to sit in a restaurant and order a burger seemed not that important 40 odd years ago.

Maybe the fact that my mother had to leave her professional job when she got married seemed just how it was, though how many intelligent, talented, dedicated women lost a huge part of their life, and their professions (in this case health care) very experienced dedicated members because of that?

Maybe the fact that women are still, the western world over, paid on average considerably less than their male counterparts seems like something its too hard to know what to do anything about.

But to me these are not things to be glib about. They are not things to turn away from. They are not thngs to hope will be fixed one day so they are no longer issues. They are things that needed changing, and in many cases still need changing.

And changes happen because people work to make them happen. People take a few risks, they work a bit harder, they take their leadership positions as privilieges, to use to make things a little bit better, rather than shrugging off those responsibilities.

Here is something which inspires me. It's from a jewish sage 2000 years ago (no a different one).

  • If I am not for myself, who shall be for me?
  • If I am only for myself, what am l?
  • If not now, when?


February 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

February 23, 2007

Women speakers at conferences redux

A few months back, Chris Messina started something of a storm about the representation of women at web conferences.
Many bits were expended on the issue, including by me. I won't reprise all that here, however Jason Kottke has just posted an analysis of the % representation of women at a number of tech conferences, including Web Directions North. We came in just behind SxSW, with 25% of our speakers women.
I'd also point out that two of the four keynote speakers were women, that 1/3 of our workshops were run by women (1 in 3), and that women were represented across a broad range of disciplines (front end development, back end development, user experience, and more).

Kottke writes in summary

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

Some of the conferences come in with very low percentages for women, it is true. And in fact other groups, like ethnic minorities (which Kottke doesn't mention) are even less well represented.

But, I wonder what numbers Kottke thinks is acceptable? 24%, 33%? 50%? I'd suggest that given SxSW comes in around 30%, and we came in at around 25%, and I know SxSW works very hard on ensuring a diversity of voices, as do we, that 25% to 30% is probably the kind of number right now you might aim for.
Without wishing to sound whiney, but we have worked very hard for the last three years (after an admitted screw up with our first conference) to make sure that women are well represented - not just numerically, but in terms of expertise.

But, Kottke is right to point this out. In my opinion, as a conference organizer, you are, whether you like it or not, putting your hand up as a leader in our industry. You are helping to shape opinions as to what techniques and issues are important, and you send out all kinds messages, that you need to be responsible for. We all draw the line in different places, we all have thoughts as to what is or isn't an important message to present, but we can't shy away from the consequences.

Just on a side note, The Turing Award, is the Association for Computer Machinery's most prestigious technical award. "It is given to an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community. The contributions should be of lasting and major technical importance to the computer field". This year's recipient is Frances Allen. She is the first ever recipient in the 41 year history of the award. That's 0% until this year, and 2.5% overall.

February 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

February 22, 2007

Semantics in HTML part II

A few weeks back I posted the first in a series of articles in "semantics in HTML", trying to look a ittle more deeply into what semantics in relation to HTML actually means, where we get it from, and where it might come from in future.

I've just posted Part II, Semantics in HTML Part II - standardizing vocabularies, which mostly focusses on microformats, and the kind of semantics they bring to HTML, as well as the mechanisms microformats use to do this.

Hope you might find it useful in some way.

February 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 17, 2007

Far too long between posts

Yes, far too long since I last posted here.

As some might know, we ran Web Directions in Canada. And it was, IMHO, fantastic - but so concurred many others.

At the end of the conference the audience gave it a standing ovation. We were very affected by that. The speakers were amazing (sadly Douglas Bowman had to withdraw at th elast moment with a bad back, which has plagued him for some time). The social side was fantastic - parties by Adobe and Media Temple (which actually made the Vancouver social pages), and the ski trip to whistler went off as well as such organized mayhem could possiby - including the best weather you could hope for, new snow on day 2, and Microsoft's wonderful hopitality at the foot of the slopes.

You can folow all the aciton at Flickr (last week's #1 tag!), Techorati, and the conference blog (including a repro of the aforementioned social pages).

So, back home to my much missed wife and daughter, with so little to do. My microformats book is almost done - it's due out late March, but order a copy today (at 33% off already! - help boost my rank higher than #1.5 million, please!), and I'm hard at work on Style Master 5, as well as sundry other projects, and presentations for IA Summit, and now Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco in April (yeah yeah, the irony given some of my posts on "web 2.0" but I am a sell out realist).

More news on all that soon,


February 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack