I’ve noticed a pattern at conferences and meetups lately. Some guy comes up to me, and the first words out of his mouth are something like “it’s so nice to see girls in programming” or “so how can we get more women in tech?” or something. It seems quite well-intentioned – I imagine he thinks it’s an easy way to break the ice, or wants to communicate that he’s not sexist, or at worst is trying to score brownie points – but it’s making me uncomfortable. It took me a while to figure out what I was feeling – the last couple of times I just sorta awkwardly ran away – so now that I’ve figured it out, I’m blogging it.

I do not like being reminded of my gender at tech events. Especially with the recent drama I’ve been seeing on twitter. I’d much rather forget that I’m different, and talk to you about how awesome node is, or bitch about android and ios, or hear about some cool project you’re working on. Please, just use the same damn ice-breakers you’d use if I was a guy.

Besides, I do not get magical feminist superpowers from my ovaries: I’m just as lost as most guys when it comes to all the women-in-tech issues (except t-shirts. I can go on about that one for ages). That’s part of the reason I don’t want to be asked about it, I suppose; thinking about it makes me feel lost and helpless and confused. And remembering that I’m a girl makes me feel a bit more self-conscious and awkward.

I might wander into conversations about it from time to time – more likely after several drinks – but please, don’t make it the first thing you say to me.

{November 20, 2013}   Accessibility surprises

So CascadiaJS was last week, and it was awesome. I did have one issue at the start, though, which surprised me enough to blog about.

First off, the issue was resolved quite well. I’m not writing this post to complain, but to educate. I might have been too shy to bring it up, but at the start of the conference they told us who to talk to if we had any problems, even ones that seem silly. :) I’m really glad of that.

So, the issue: for the first time, I had need of the accessible bathroom. But it was locked. When I first discovered this, the staff member with the keys happened to be nearby. After explaining why I needed it, he unlocked it, but insisted on locking it again afterwards so that nobody made it messy.

Two issues here: first, having to ask made me feel really bad. I look young and healthy, but I’m not. So I end up explaining my personal health situation to a stranger to beg permission to empty my bladder. It reminded me of being in grade school, having to put my hand up and ask instead of just quietly slipping out. I wasn’t looking forward to having to ask him again – even skipping the explanation, it still meant finding him, and interrupting whatever he was doing. And doing so again every time I needed to pee (which was about once an hour). And since I feel bad about imposing on him (and humiliated too), I felt pressured to keep my bathroom visits to the minimum too.

I now have a lot more understanding of how disabled people can seem like cranky assholes sometimes. If I stopped caring about the feelings of the guy with the keys, life would be much simpler.

And then I started worrying, what if I couldn’t find him when I did need the bathroom? Which brings us to issue two: the very next time I needed it, he wasn’t there. Some nice lady helped me down to the regular bathroom then – I’d delayed so long I couldn’t wait much longer. But after lunch, he was still gone. So that’s when I went to the awesome Angelina and got the problem fixed. Bathroom unlocked for the rest of the conference, apart from a few times when the damn door re-locked itself. :)

Oh, and nobody made a mess of the bathroom anyways. Yay for responsible adults!

What I learned from this is, accessibility isn’t necessarily intuitive. I could have just as easily been the one with the keys in this situation. He made a fairly reasonable assumption (that a guaranteed-clean bathroom was better than an unlocked bathroom) that just happened to be wrong. Now I’m wondering: what wrong assumptions about accessibility do we have in our code? (Assuming there is any accessibility in the first place :P ) Or in our other attempts to be helpful in general?

It can be hard to explain when something intended to be helpful is actually hurtful, or even to understand what happened. I just hope that if I end up on the other end, the person has the nerve to speak up and I have the patience to listen.

{June 17, 2013}   WWDC 2013

This week was… quite an experience. :)

My company got me a ticket to WWDC – the big apple conference that sold out in less than two minutes. I’ve been in two minds about it ever since getting the ticket. On the one hand: holy crap it’s awesome, I get to go to a cool exclusive conference and meet lots of smart people involved in iOS and other mac stuff. And party, of course. On the other hand… it’s exclusive, which isn’t nice. The culture is different, what with all the proprietary-ness and stuff. And at the same time, it’s huge – over 5000 people in one conference, and more who didn’t get a ticket but came down anyways. I was worried I might not feel welcome there. In the end, there was a bit of both sides, but mostly good, and it all worked out well in the end.

I’d say the atmosphere there was… positive, but.. detached. Instead of a community of developers, it was a million little groups. Most of them were welcoming groups, though, especially since many had only met at the conference in the first place. I only remember one guy in the whole conference who made snide comments about free software (or any competing tech), and since it was such a big conference I never saw him again anyways. In the end, I made some great new friends over the week, and already have plans to meet some of them again. :) I also got to chat with Bill Atkinson, who I’m told is a Big Deal ;) He seemed like a nice man to me, I wish we hadn’t been kicked out of the park so soon.

Most of the conference was like that – lots of new people and never enough time to talk with them. There were multiple parties every night, labs and sessions during the day… I’m going to have to download a ton of sessions I missed, now, and watch some on the flight home. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to talk about them – apple and their secrecy. :/ oh well. The labs were great, though – getting to talk directly to apple engineers about problems we’d been having and API we’d like added. I just hope they’re able to follow through on the suggestions they agreed with, and don’t get stuck in red tape or anything.

I can talk about the keynote, though. That was.. interesting. It was like a little window into apple’s view of themselves and the world. In both the keynote and the rest of the conference, I discovered that they really do see themselves as designers, as people who care about quality and making good UI that’s easy to use. I like that. But, it was a little hard to take it seriously sitting there in my XL men’s conference jacket. I mean, maybe there’s a reason (I can’t think of any) that they couldn’t ask us our size when we bought our ticket like every other conference ever. The jackets were first come first serve, so the people who showed up a full day in advance got to have a small jacket. But they never even made any ladies’ jackets AT ALL. Only men’s. What the fuck, Apple.


The ladies’ lunch managed to fail at shirts too. of all places you’d expect to find attention to that little detail… nope. I got a medium ladies’ shirt (used it as a nightgown last night) and an XS that fit over top of it. It wasn’t until tuesday night at one of the parties (Stir, I think?) that I got a conference shirt I’ll actually wear. Ah well – I bought a hoodie that fits (although the zipper keeps confusing me, it’s on the opposite side because it’s a guy’s shirt) and the free food and alcohol kept me happy ;) I’d heard bad things about apple’s boxed lunches, but I took the beef option twice and it was really good. simple and healthy.

The official wwdc party was good too, but short. I think the band was only on for half an hour. It was Vampire Weekend – I loved the drums. Might have to get some of their music, but my cheap speakers wouldn’t do it justice. I tried to get some dancing going, and there were some people moving a little, but mostly ended up dancing by myself. it was fun, though. :) There might be some photos of that popping up somewhere…

The conference ended friday, but a few of us spent saturday down in Santa Cruz at a ren fair. It turns out there’s a guy at apple who is also a magician, and he invited us down to see his show. It was pretty awesome. :) I figured out a few little tricks, but a lot of it still seems like, well, magic. :)


The rest of the festival was good too – I don’t think any of us had ever been, so we didn’t know what to expect. There were lots of booths selling jewellery, leather bags, and so on, plus some music, food, and mead. Good mead, too, imho. I may bring a bottle of it home. :) I ended up getting sunburn on my hands and feet (yeah, it is possible to burn hands) but it was totally worth it. :)

Now it’s sunday, and I’ve picked up a conference bug. No surprise there. It seems to be a mild one so far, though. I’ve got a couple of days left to rest and see friends in oakland, so hopefully I’ll have recovered a little by the time I go home…

et cetera