Who was Ada? Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.
In celebrating Ada Lovelace Day (March 24), bigging up women in tech, I look back at those I have met since I ‘went online’ as a journalist in 2000.
It’s a short list – unfortunately – but hopefully one that will grow in time. I could choose from Fiona Romeo, Head of Digital Media at the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory; Adrienne Wyper, deputy editor at AllAboutYou.com, Adrienne Grubb, web editor at Redwood Publishing, Joanna Geary, web development editor at The Times; and a couple of others – all journalists who have pioneered their way online in various ways.
But it’s Anita Bevan, now head of content for web and mobile at Orange UK, who I’d like to acknowledge as my first female role model of the internets. Anita gave me my first break as web producer for the women’s portal, iCircle.com, in 2000 and forgave me various freelance absences to invite me back as homepage editor for Freeserve.
I learned so much from that time that has served me well in shifting online for the second time, from sub-editor/writer to web editor. And having a female role model has definitely helped me develop the balls to ‘tech up’. In the meantime, Anita has managed to surf the changes from Freeserve, the UK’s largest portal at the time, to Wanadoo to Orange and the world of mobile content.
The funny thing is, I vaguely recognised her name when I went for that first iCircle interview. In the lift, she seemed even more familiar. I was sure I’d met her somewhere before. Well, she remembered me. Turns out, she had been my personal tutor at the London College of Printing.
So now we’ve been connected for, eek, 21 years. I hope it’s as nice for the Ada Lovelaces of the world to see their charges go forward as it is for us to benefit from their influence. In turn, perhaps we can pass on what we know and help other women make the transition that we have made or are making.
In that vein, I’m offering some one-to-one blog tutorials in my lunch hour to any women/girls/dragqueens, etc, who are thinking of setting up a blog or wondering how to get started online. I’m in the Waterloo area of London (mostly) or in Birmingham (occasionally). Tea/coffee optional. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange.
Spent all day in Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator where the cream of the internet start-ups compete via 2-min elevator pitches to be crowned winner in their category. Kind of a Crufts for online business.
Best in show were:
Innovative Web technologies – Ribbit
Social Networking Applications – Weardrobe
Online video realted technologies – Tubemogul
Online music-related technologies – Popcuts
Interviewed Weardrobe founder SuzanneZ – whose fashion social network community was predicted to be the NBT (next big thing) by Guy Kawasaki. She’s 24, beautiful and got out of banking just ahead of the financial meltdown to put her and partner’s Facebook for fashionistas out there. One to watch.
The male panel, which included Robert Scoble didn’t get it initially, but when they did, the sense of excitement about the project was obvious, as they joked: ‘How do we invest?’
Check out what the fuss is about at Weardrobe.
Undoubtedly the best twitter hashtag of SXSWi, #kebab quickly became the WTF session of the whole interactive festival.
Set up by School of Everything, Tuttle, Fix My Street and others, it was a word-of-twitter-mouth, rogue, wind-up unpanel that took over room 12 and brought a bit of classic UK punk to South By. Inflammatory statements – ‘the UK does social media way better than the Yanks’ – brought delegates swarming from other panels to ‘Not Another Social Media Panel’.
The roomful of British social media types broke down in giggles and sniggered as socmed consultants swaggered up to the mic like rock stars. Meanwhile the array of panel members resembling a motley University Challenge line-up were voted on and off the podium at a whim as they cut questioners dead like Paxman on Newsnight.
The people fought back by creating giant titles on their laptop screens and placing them in front of panel members. Names like Twat and Twat2.0 appeared as others came up and edited the screens.
Within minutes seats filled up as the room hashtagged the kebab stoopidity all over twitter. By the end of play, the audience had doubled in size – attracting a sudden rash of Americans into the 99% British audience who came to defend their country resulting in lines from @paulcarr such as ‘The Brits are the caddies to the US’s golf club of terror’.
Within an hour the ‘Pythonesque’ session, as one audience member described it, had become one of the hits of SXSWi – at least for all those who were fed up of endless panels discussing monetisation and marketing buzzwords (see Whuffie below) and polite but blatant plugs masquerading as mic questions.
Questions ranged from ‘anything good happened at SXSW that doesn’t involve monetisation?’ (answer: ‘Well, I pulled a girl’) to tweets such as:
Bandrew: Topic: What does Birmingham do better than Silicon Valley? #sxsw #kebab
LouiseCampbell: UKv’s US #kebab the UK are always playing ketchup.
oodleday: “how do we monetize waterboarding” OMG I love this panel #kebab
katiemoffat: “not a twitter user”?! Stone him #sxsw #kebab
dougald: #kebab panel: “If Twitter had been around on 9/11, it wouldn’t have happened.” #sxsw
ChrisUnitt: Has the BBC and C4 raised the bra for public service media in the UK? #kebab
stewarttownsend: Girls Arse Feck #kebab the panelof experts…….live now..
Suddenly, hashtag kebab was a trending topic on Twitter.
Part two ran again the next day, with questions such as ‘can Twitter stop Hitlers?’ but the crowd were not as wound up and ready for blood as the day before. Still, look out for a spontaneous Brit unpanel next year as the Brit geeks let off steam.
Here’s a flavour of the live event, courtesy of @chrisunitt.
The language of the internet is lagging behind the tech and culture changes… which is presumably why ‘whuffie’ has been picked from a sci-fi story from the creator of Boing Boing in which currency is not money but reputation, connections, influence, access to resources and to more connections, favours and reciprocity, accomplishement, levels of trust, etc.
Whuffie was the basis of a talk by Tara Hunt, who helped make BarCamp a phenomenon. Here’s her SlideShare of the Making Whuffie concept:
You create your own ‘whuffie’ over time through online networks and the relationships you develop through them. Join Twitter, for example, and it may take some time to build up your ‘whuffie’ (do I really have to keep saying this word?).
But if you’re Britney Spears on Twitter, or similarly connected, then you’re said to be ‘whuffie-rich’.
Tara outlined some ways to create whuffie for clients – but also for those rawking SXSWi. I followed her advice of, for example, getting drunk at SXSW and mixing outside of my West Midlands/London circle, and indeed created connections with people who are whuffie-rich in social media world.
How my SXSW whuffie-boost works out over the next year will be interesting to see. But already I have an invite to stay in Austin next year with one of the SXSWi MCs and a few whuffie-boosting tweets have gone out to the masses of followers that others have and I don’t.
So far, I have a heck of a lot more random people following me. Which is cool, but weird. Apparently whufie ultimately raises up your bottom line. It turns out we’re all potentially our own business model now.
I’ll let you know.
Interview with the Twitchhiker
It started with a tweet:
Paul Is the guy who has set himself the challenge of travelling to the other side of the world in 30 days for the charity Water – but totally reliant on the goodwill of those on Twitter. Checking the Tweetdeck grapevine at SXSWi, I found that the Twitchhiker had made it to Austin – the kind Twitterfolk of Wichita had decided he needed to get to SXSW.
When I met him he was half way through and scrabbling for a lift to the airport later that day. No lift and he’d break his own 48-hour rule on getting stuck and have to fly home. To make life more difficult, he’s not allowed to ask the Twittersphere for what he wants.
Paul look fried. He’d been filmed by both the BBC and Good Morning America so hadn’t slept or seen anything of SXSW.
Fortunately, during the interview Austinite lady librarian @hallienoves came through with a ride to the airport and he was on his way again.
He’s now on the West Coast, sticking out a virtual thumb to get him somehow across the Pacific Ocean. He’s a lovely guy so help him on his way by checking out #twitchhiker and sticking in a donation at the same time.
2pm Not another social media panel
Hashtag Kebab aka ‘the art of conference jacking’ – see separate post!
11:30 AM Blog on Company Time and Get Promoted. Picked up a few tips here but generally the title promised a little more than it delivered. Most interesting was the issue of NOT linking:
Apparently a municipality in California is getting sued for linking to one dry cleaner and not three others in the area. Legal issues surrounding potential favouring of some businesses over others. Solution suggested was to create a little link on site, asking: ‘Did we forget your business, should we be linking to you?’ and link to another page to give them the opportunity to post up their business that way.
03:30 PM The Future Of Social Networks
This was the big session for me, essentially a talk by Charlene Li, co-author of Groundswell. It’s going to take some sinking-in time but it is based on the assumption of social networks becoming like air (not a new idea but…) but interested in the reasons for business resistance to them.
Social networks ‘disrupt the traditional info flow’ to customers and so businesses will have to integrate them to keep focus on the customer. The biggest reason (possibly) that engagement is being resisted by organisations is that the change in structure represents a huge threat to middle management. What will be their role if their CEO decides to engage in that world? Will they have a role at all? I’m tempted to say, look at what’s happening in journalism – the traditional models were resistant to Web2.0 and are now suffering the price of that. Engage and innovate now or potentially risk your job.
For the next few days this is going to function as my thought download receptable for all things mySXSWi – see post below – with quick summaries of ‘what did I learn, what did I gain’.
Panel: My boss doesn’t get it: championing social media to the man
Details: who & what
Essentially a panel on justification, which I hate doing for sub-editing (hey, spell and fact checking is a basic) but which forms part of the pitch in social media.
The ‘man’: anyone from the budgetarian (if that’s not a word, it should be) to the ‘enemies’ of social media such as the legal department and more nebulous ones such as ‘control’.
The issue: the ROI of social media and what’s in it for the ‘man’.
• involve your enemy, get old curmudgeons on their grandkid’s Facebook sites
• dispel the myths (there is >some< control when you engage in social media)
• understand the culture and attitudes of your client and meet them where they’re at to help them implement culture change
• failed pitches – sit on it for six months; they may well come back to you presenting it as their innovative new strategy
• culture change starts small: set up small silent swat teams to create small successes to role-model on and also momentum for change but be sure to tie in to business value
• don’t fear failure but see engagement as an ongoing lesson
• play to the psychology of who you are pitching to (what do they want, a promotion? Secretly lobby the individual who can present your ideas as theirs)
• set expectations from the start and be realistic
• define metrics upfront and what you are measuring success by
• If the corporate culture isn’t changing in the time frame you need, move on to somewhere where you can make a difference.
Panel 2: The ecosystem of news
Details: who & what
A bullish talk on the future of news (if not newspapers) with ideas about becoming curators on content and innovation elsewhere. Too much on this one and lots of implications for a journalists so going to post thoughts at my subbing blog instead at some future point. Essentially traditional media is feeling the pain of going from ‘news desert to a lush rainforest’ of news and information but without a timeframe in which to evolve and adapt. The result is fear for both newspapers and the future of news. But history tells us “there will be more content, not less, more analysis, more precision.’ Will traditional media adapt quickly enough, or spend time and resource keeping the old model alive?
An Austin interactive showcase, which is running throughout the week. But interested to meet Mason Hale, chief technology officer of One Spot, which provides a curation service for the Wall Street Journal. ‘One Spot leverages the skill of knowing what your audience wants to read. It’s kind of like Stumbleupon but with extra layers of tools to facilitate curation of content.’ He also pointed out the time-saving and efficiency element for a news editor. I’m yet to see how it works in actuality but interesting uses following the panel on news ecosystems.
Here’s the beginning of my plan for South by South-West Interactive in Austin next week. (Yes, that’s Austin, Texas!)
If you’re there and you want to meet, borrow my extension cord or tell me about something good going on, I’ll be on Twitter – @katchooo (though please note my Sony Irksome phone only picks up @replies not DMs). Alternatively try my mobile +44 7816 22 22 54.
PM: attending panels. There are hundreds of these. I’ve picked a selection I’d like to attend but as the schedule says: ‘everything subject to change’. Today’s panel titles range from: Spying 2.0 Can America Compete with Web-savvy enemies to My Boss Doesn’t Get It: Championing Social Media to the Man.
5-7pm Entrepreneur’s Lounge and the Austin Interactive Showcase, Fogo de Chao. Also 5-6pm 97bottles Happy Hour
Early AM: Social Breakfast with Ewan Spence, BAFTA-nominated kilt-wearing podcaster. Should be some SXSWM people there, too.
12.30pm: SXSWi Kick-off Press lunch: the skinny in a lunch hour! With a live Twitter hook-up with WXWM in Birmingham, UK at 1pm.
AM/PM: Panels: eg Emerging Trends of Mobile Technology, Future of Social Networks, What Teens and Tweens want in a website.
Eve: SXSW Interactive Opening Party. Also Dorkbot 6-8, The Bigg Shindigg til 2am, OK Cog’aoke from 10pm, Toobla AFter party from 11pm
AM: Panels, eg Edupunk Open Source Education, Making Whuffie: Raising Social Capital in Online Communities, Twitter for Marketers.
PM: SXSW Block Party (NEW)
Trade show with 100+ booths.
Might make the keynote speech at 2pm: Stephen Baker of Business Week interviews Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com – a big political stats and analysis site during the Obama election.
Eve: 12th SXSW Web Awards
(20 categories). Includes People’s Choice Web Award, as voted by members of the public. And Best of Show. Facebook party follows.
8pm-12 frey Cafe 9 – Bring The Truth!
AM: Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator (NEW)
Showcase competition of most exciting web innovations with live demos. Attending 2 categories if possible: social networking and innovative web applications. Winners announced late pm. Guy Kawsaki and Brad King (tech journalist) are MCs.
PM: Panels, eg, Wired Antarctica: bringing science to the web, Sex Lives of the Microfamous, Grokking Bloggers: It’s about Love and Underpants. Bruce Sterling speech (sci-fi writer and instigator of the Dead Media Project). Keynote speech if possible at 2pm: Virginia Heffernan of the NY Times interviews James Powderly of FAT Lab, political acitivist and open source art evangelist.
Eve: Mashable party. Also Plutopia, Great British Booze Up 7.30-10pm, SXNW party 10.30 on.
AM/PM: Panels, eg: New threats to New media: Fair Use on Trial, Is Aristotle on Twitter?, Secrets of Successful Food Blogging, Who will check my email after I die?
PM: Keynote speech: 2pm Chris Anderson (Wired magazine and The Long Tail author) interviews Silicon Valley venture capitalist and creator of Alltop.com, the web’s ‘online magazine rack’.
Eve: teh bar!
Have probably over-reached massively. Asking SXSW veterans, I’ll make 2-3 panels a day but looking forward to the serendipitous party and socket-sharing element.
One follow up idea that occurs is: interested in how a cutting edge web festival operates and the tech it uses to succeed. Twitter is an obvious one but there is also the social network set-up for attendees, the formalisation of corridor chats, the new YouTube channel and will see what else. At the same time, a conference will never be so blogged and documented both in the moment and afterwards, that it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Despite having a lovely website since Feb 2005, it started to feel limited in the last year. So, it’s been on my mind to rebirth the site onto a WordPress platform to let me update more frequently and start to play with customisation and plug-ins. So, here’s the final post from the old site’s front page, for a bit of continuity and to find out, as Marvin says, what’s goin’ on.
January 2009 Latest news
New features up on allaboutyou.com on travel jabs, visas and 10 best wintersun destinations for 2009. Currently working on producing digital content for high street brands. I’m also sending myself to SXSWi in Austin, Texas, in March, filing stories for the Telegraph and writing an Austin destination piece for the Sunday Mercury.
Sept 2008 Turkey & Slovakia
From steamy 700-year-old hammam to snow room ‘sauna’ and -120degree cryotherapy chamber. Also feature up on solo women travellers at allaboutyou.
August 2008 Call me ‘Two Blogs’
In between copywriting and web-editing, I’ve squeezed in a couple of new blogs on both journalism and travel: Subs’ Standards, with tales from the subs’ desk, and What to Wear Where, featuring the start of ‘dress codes from around the world for your packing pleasure’.
July 2008 Trips, blogs & plans
Philippines 2007 trip – ‘world’s longest underground river‘ feature published in July (Metro). More recent trips include St Ives, the Scillies and Suffolk’s Drum Camp.
The transformation from static website to shimmering blog site has now taken place. Forgive me for disarray while I move into my new home and find prettier themes, plug-ins and things to update. Until then, much of the old site in living on the links in the navbar. Back soon! UPDATE: It is Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you!) and I have managed to update my theme and posts (now with pics). Right on schedule. Thanking Pete at ash10.com for the blog guru help.