Monthly Archives: February 2010

Women in Technology #2, Bvsh Hovse

This evening despite the most atrocious precipitation we met up at Bvsh Hovse for our second Women in Technology meet. Sheila Thomson, software engineer at the World Service was our host and booked us a cosy arrangement of sofas in the corner of the legendary Fish Bar.

After discarding weather soaked items to drip-dry and introductions, Sheila gave us an enlightening talk on her recent experiences at FOSDEM – Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting. The event is free to attend, one just needs to sort out your travel, accommodation and food. Sheila suggested that going in a group is a good strategy, as it’s not an especially social event where you’ll chat to random geeks. There were thousands of attendees and a boggling amount of tracks, lightning talks, developer rooms and stands to attend or visit. Among her highlights were the Richard Clayton talk on evils of the internet – scams, fishing and more, and the Mozilla room for lightning talks, including a talk on WoMoz – Women in Mozilla.

The rest of the evening was full of lively conversation & views, we had a brief conversation about Computer Engineer Barbie, the consensus was that this was a good thing overall, even though we had mixed views on her pink accessories. It was also mentioned that in a review of Computer Engineer Barbie the issue of wearing glasses as a geek stereotype came up, a look around the table revealed that bar one of us, we were all wearing glasses.

Libby asked if Dorothy and I had formulated a mission statement / set of intentions for WIT – a good question (+ I realise that I didn’t address this in my post from the inaugural meet) so as I’ve been thinking about this for a while, my intentions / motivations for WIT are quite formulated already: to raise the profile of women in tech via sharing and discussing training and career opportunities, demystifying roles and projects in different departments, mentoring & hearty encouragement. To make our workplace a more attractive place for women to work / apply for roles and extend this via visiting career fairs, higher education visits, making job specs more enticing. Also to encourage more kids, girls, boys, adults to take up tech subjects and have fun / build careers via demos and talking at tech events such as Maker Faires, BarCamps & hackdays.

Quick whizz around some of the other subjects that came up during the evening:
• BarCamps / unconferences
• Speaking in public about tech subjects
• Encouraging kids to play with tech & what’s out there
• Gender stereotyping through toys, colours & dress
• Schooling, opportunities, behaviours and gender
• Robots & programmable tech for kids
• Gadget talk
• Epiphany / changing your world via coding

Actions / intentions
• Monthly regular meet so we can plan ahead
• Have meetings in various buildings / locations for variety & fun
• Update the wiki / email mailing lists
• Variations on meet themes / events
• Have some practical / speaker evenings for example speaking techniques
• Plan an awayday – yay!

Thanks to everyone for coming – I certainly had a fab time :-D

Kinetica Art Fair 2010, P3, London

Kinetica Art Fair comes to London once a year for four days and is one of the most eagerly awaited shows for me and a lot of my friends as it combines two things I am most passionate about – art and technology. I started getting excited weeks ago and was not disappointed it was a fantastic feast for the art lover and/or geek. I went twice and I still wanted to go again!

Many of the artworks on show were interactive and a lot of fun, for example P.E.A.L by Lewis Sykes and Nick Rothwell was a fabulous installation that allowed the audience to ‘ring’ the bells of 5 leads churches in a round like a bell tower or ‘campanile’!

Another favourite interactive work was The Hydro-Acoustic Big Bang Filter by Interactive Agents which allows the user to experience and play with the sound of the big bang via sonic transducers that ‘excite the columns with the big bang audio signal’.

Some of the work was more subtle and delicately waited to be investigated such as Kathy Taylor’s Tease ll teapot and Andrew Back’s beautiful nixie tubes that are part of ‘No Numbers’ – which slowly reveals the numbers that make up John Foxx’s song ‘Mr No’.

Some works were eerie, especially Sarah Angliss’ ‘Ealing Feeder’ that combines bells, a doll and a very weird 30s poem! I also loved the spooky ethereal performance of The Robot Theremin Ensemble by Ray Lee, that was a feat of engineering in itself, let alone the sounds it emitted.

Apart from the artworks there were talks, performances and shows, the Musion Academy show on the opening night was so crowded I couldn’t get anywhere near!

All in all, there were too many fantastic installations and works to mention here now, so I recommend that you look at the http://www.kinetica-artfair.com/ website for more details.

BBC Women in Technology meet #1, TVC bar

Tonight we had our inaugural Women in Technology meet at the TVC Bar in W12. My colleague Dorothy Molloy, senior software engineer, and I had been kicking around ideas for a meet for a while and if you’d read my last year’s resolutions you’ll know that I’ve wanted to put on an event or do something promoting / encouraging women in technology for a while now.

At the last BeeBCamp in November I ran a session on ‘Who gives a **** about women in technology’ which did result in some lively discussion and when I mooted the idea of a meet up in the future it was favourably met. The end of the year seemed to fly by and never found the right time to have a meet before Xmas and it was looking like we were fast approaching February when the Clay Shirky “A Rant About Women’ came to my attention via Twitter and I knew it was something that should be discussed further – not least because everyone had a different opinion on whether it is seriously patronising, tongue in cheek or something else! Also my colleague Jamillah Knowles wrote her thoughts up in a blog post which in turn caused more comments from friends closer to home.

Anyway, this evening at rather short notice and not overly publicised, we met up in the aforementioned bar and some really interesting discussion took place. Attendees came from all over the corporation: Vision, Learning, FM&T, Journalism, Radio, News and World Service. After introductions, the Clay Shirky blog post started us off and as expected views were varied and it was really interesting to hear how many interpretations of reading between the lines this post could generate, but we didn’t really stick to talking about this post for too long and went off on a voyage of personal experiences and thoughts across the piece.

Subjects for discussion included:

  • Experiences of women in technology in different cultures – is there a difference?
  • How many women in technology progress up or stay at the bottom?
  • Competitive behaviour between women
  • Pay and gender
  • Finding out about career opportunities / strategies across departments
  • Roles / competencies
  • Is there patriarchal society in the West?
  • Confidence, arrogance and bullshitting
  • Mentoring
  • Connection between programming, music and maths
  • Training vs learning on the job
  • Fun geeky persuits: Failblog, B3ta, geek chic, etc

A great night all round with really varied views and experiences, we will definitely meet again soon for more civillised discussion!

PS. I must thank LJ Rich for teaching us how to impersonate a goat – very handy ;-)