If, for some reason, you are completely oblivious to the tech world, then you may have missed the fact that today is Ada Lovelace Day (findingada.com, #ald10). It’s the day to recognise and honour women in technology, like Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who was essentially the first computer programmer–not just the first woman, the first ever, period. You can pledge, as I did, to post about inspirational women in tech, and yesterday I made a whole list of people I could post about. In fact, I urge you to look up all of those women, because they each are brilliant and important.
But in the end I got sort of self-centred.
See, I’m a woman in technology, but only sort of, where it intersects with media. On the technical end, I’m pretty rubbish; I tire of coding and I have no engineering skills whatsoever. While I admire the crap out of women with those skills, it’s not my cuppa. I’m interested in the product end of software–non-linear editing, Photoshop, web editors–and in community construction online. (They call the latter ‘social media’ now, which is a term I dislike, because it implies the wankers who randomly follow you on Twitter claiming to be experts. I don’t claim to be an expert, just a very long-time user.)
Personally, I believe women and ‘minority’ groups are the future of internet community, because we’ve been doing this for ages, waiting for the technology to catch up. The strongest, most forward-thinking networks that I’ve seen have been run or dominated by women. I’d like to highlight two who have successfully navigated the inanity of the ‘social media’ buzz into actual meaningful community…and I’d speculate that’s because they didn’t get in it to ‘be successful’, but to fill a need.
The leadership and employees (I know one, they work hard) of BlogHer are amazing. They have built a company, a community and a highly influential blog network from nothing in a matter of five years. If I want to read good blogging by women, I know exactly where to start–everything on BlogHer is quality, and a substantial number of topics and viewpoints are covered. And on top of that, they have an ad network that’s remarkably unproblematic in comparison to about every other one ever.
The people at the Archive of Our Own project are quieter, for various reasons. They took a look at internet fandom (dominated by women) and saw that there was no reliable searchable archive of fanfiction that wouldn’t reject various forms of fan works…this is for various reasons I won’t go into here. Fundraising, programming, time and effort, and now they own the servers and the backend, free to set their own TOS and provide a fan-run alternative that is intuitive and responsive.
So kudos to both of these groups of women. I only wish I could be as utterly badass and innovative as you. Perhaps someday I will do…but thank you for being here.
Also, a quiet shoutout to the tech women I know–from theatre engineers to comp sci majors to new media producers to designers to fangirls. Don’t ever let anyone get you down. You do important things.