Looking back at 2014

MOOC‘s have been a good development for me. Not convinced they’ll be a revolution in education as you still need access to broadband, a computer and free chunks of time but they have provided a good way for me to study.

I started off playing it safe with subjects close to my day job, Android development, image and video processing, before branching out into machine learning and started learning about data science type things.

Going to conferences seems to have been one of my big themes for the year: Codefest London #1, London Lean Kanban Day 2014 (already signed up for 2015), PrimeConf (one of the highlights of my year), A nice tparty event (nothing to do with right wing politics) in the Oxo Tower, Dots, DareConf (which was a bit of a wildcard for me but turned out to be an amazing experience, if you get the chance to go, do), Playful 2014 (this was my second year. the highlight was playing Gang Beasts, multiplayer chaos which reminds me of Bomberman (Dynablaster Revenge is a good version for Windows)), Meaning 2014 (Mark Stevenson opening talk and Iain Chambers’ story of Exeter Street Hall are both worth a watch, if I had to pick only two). I found the great Agile Practitioners meetup, after a tipoff from someone at DareConf.

I didn’t just turn up to other people events: I was part of the group who presented to the head of Microsoft UK, Michel Van der Bel (and the head of the civil service, Sir Bob Kerslake who was shadowing him that day)

Ended up stepping in to facilitate May’s Procedural Audio Now meetup (which reminded me of how much I missed working on BathCamp and the ideals and interesting people). Talked about Gender and User Experience (and did lots of background reading)

Getting the feedback that a number of companies had changed their approach because of the event is properly what I’m most proud of having helped with in 2014.

This led to being a mentor at Rails Girl London (and having to learn rails quite quickly) and a judge at the first DigiGirlz London event (all the 10-12 year old were scary good).

It wasn’t all work. I went to my first sci-fi convention, Nine Worlds (which was great but a little overwhelming), A very posh works Christmas party at the Banking Hall, another party at the very fun Loading Bar (and being reintroduced to how much fun Micro Machines on the SNES is multiplayer) and rounded off with my first #techsmas.

Roll on 2015

Gender and User Experience

I’m on the panel for the Skype/IntertechHey girl, let’s talk about UX and Gender‘ event today. I thought it would good to do a little link dump of my background reading.

Much more complex than a simple binary. Schemas for the Real World by Carina C. Zona is a good overview, the TL:DR option.

More from Sarah Mei on ‘Why Gender is a Text Field on Diaspora‘. If you want to delve more into gender and what it means for you, Kate Bornstein‘s (Speaking at the 40th Reunion of the Class of ’69, Brown University, some NSFW language but really worth a watch) My Gender Workbook is not a bad place to start. Finally these hello pronouns stickers, mostly because they are cool way of making people think about gender.

“Real names”
Mark Zuckerberg said “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.“, as a counterpoint, here’s a list of people harmed by a “Real Names” policy.

Danah Boyd talked about “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power. Patrick McKenzie on falsehoods Programmers believe about names and some real world examples:

Trans People
Trans 101 for those unfamiliar with trans issues.

How Video Games helped one woman go from boy to girl. Dys4ia is an autobiographical video game that Anna Anthropy, developed to recount her experiences of gender identity disorder and hormone replacement therapy. Juliet Jacques on the “dispute” between radical feminism and trans people, her transition diary is also a worthwhile read. Fred McConnell has written about things from a trans man perspective. For people who want to read more, I liked Julia Serano‘s book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (Her (NSFW) spoken word piece ‘Cocky‘ is another video for your playlist). Ending with an interesting looking at how Transgender People can explain why Women don’t advance at Work.

Opening a can of worms. A good clear look at the often conflated terms positive discrimination, quotas, and diversity targets. An open letter to Brogrammers detailing just a few on the important Women in the history of computer science, Ada Lovelace day has many more. John Scalzi has one of my favorite explanation, Straight White Male: The lowest difficulty setting there is.

As an ex-games developer and current games player, even with a nearly equal number of female gamers, both the industry and culture have a long way to go on diversity, even if some games are doing interesting things with gender and presentation and just being more inclusive.

Picking two examples: The harassment around the Feminist Frequency Kickstarter (Disclosure, that is something I backed). Then recently the equally as nasty events around GamersGate.

I just want to end on HeForShe and Emma Watson’s speech to the UN.

Anyway the hashtag for the event is #UXGender.

Ada Lovelace Day – Emma Mulqueeny

Every so often a story pops up in the press about how the UK need more engineers or about the state of computing teaching in schools.

I grew up just as the BBC was coming into schools, we had one at home, my friends had between them most of the 8-bit machines, we all played around with BASIC, programming some simple things. I didn’t do much actual programming at school, my first formal teaching was at University. Instead as we all moved over to ST‘s and Amiga‘s many of use got into STOS and AMOS, a few even progressed to 68000 assembly. Much of this motivated by wanting to create games and demos. This is how most people around my age learnt programming.

Today, consoles are more popular, we have smartphones with apps, PC’s don’t tend to ship with programming languages installed by default, so simply being a consumer is much easier but we have the web, with all free tools for creating applications, so the opportunities are still around, just different. Culturally programming has become more specialist than in the 80’s, not something for the average person, even as computers have moved into more areas of everyday life.

One person helping to increase the number of people exposed to programming is Emma Mulqueeny (aka @HubMum). She is behind Rewired State and the offshoot Young Rewired State for people 18 and under, if that was not enough she is also involved in Coding for Kids. Also she is an advisor to the mayor of London on Digital issues. So she is making a difference to the way computers are taught in school, maybe in the future we will see less of those articles telling us we need more engineers in part because of the work she is doing today.