New York Wins Because It Has More Girls (and other tidbits of insanity from the tech community)

tumblr_m585xyxrjm1r06u14

tumblr_m585xyxrjm1r06u14Ladies and gentlemen, we don’t live in a fantasy world where we get to define truth and memorex. There are many areas of life that are grey areas. Then there’s right and wrong, correct and incorrect, proper and improper, truth and consequences.

I had a conversation recently with a third party developer that was maintaining some code for a client. It went something like this.

Me: Hey, we’re having some problems and I noticed in the logs this error that occurs anytime we encounter the problem. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it seems to have to do with this code. Can you look?

Him: If you turn the error reporting down, then it won’t appear in the log.

Me: I don’t think you understand. I’m not complaining about the error in the log. The error helped me pinpoint the problem area. All turning error reporting down does is prevent us from seeing the error. It doesn’t make it go away. Please tell me how you want to fix this. Thanks.

This morning, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal. The article did your now-common comparison between east coast tech – more specifically, New York Tech – and Silicon Valley tech. That conversation is exhausted. I’ve already addressed regional fiefdoms. It doesn’t matter. Us? Them? Who’s got the biggest dick? It doesn’t matter. Let’s save that conversation for another time.

The article was mostly good, besides the cliché. Until the final three paragraphs.

Andrew Rasiej, chairman of NY Tech Meetup, was debating the merits of New York versus Silicon Valley’s nearest metropolis, San Francisco, at a recent conference when a young programmer chipped in: “New York will always win out,” Mr. Rasiej recalled of the exchange, “because it has more girls.”

A table full of female models was recently enjoying a girls’ night out at Abe & Arthur’s, a steakhouse in the Meatpacking District, when a man sent one of the women a note on a cocktail napkin. It read: “iamrich@google.com.”

The women posted the napkin to Facebook and crowdsourced ways they might reject the overture. In a way, it brought together avatars of the new tech scene with icons of established fashion power. But it also marked, in Internet lingo, an epic fail.

Let’s also ignore the money status cliche and address the sexism issue described in this article. I’ve done it before and I’ll continue to do it until we stop pretending that the problem doesn’t exist by simply changing the log reporting.

The tech community really likes to turn down the error reporting in a big way. New York wins out because it has more girls. Is that so?

We work, breathe, live, spend our weekends in and around, date inside of the tech world. As entrepreneurs and techies, I know more people with zero social life because their idea of fun is sitting at home at 1am on a Saturday coding a Ruby app. Maybe we are just socially unaware. Maybe we’re malicious. Maybe we’re really misogynist.

I don’t care what the excuse is. We must do better. All of us.

Having a balanced number of women to men on tech-oriented panels and at conferences is a good start, but we must fix the problem. We have to get our heads out of our asses and realize that women engineers can probably teach us something about our own world. We don’t know better. We know enough to hang ourselves.

The casual things we say to each other online or in person. The jokes we make that, to us, are jokes… are not jokes.

This is not a cry for political correctness. This is a call for sensitivity and thoughtful intent. This is a sobering call for respect and equality.

I’m talking to myself as much as am talking to you. Every time I make comments about a woman being hot, I am not simply being a man. I am disqualifying her from the intellectual marketplace that I live in. Every time I go to a meetup drinkup and I gravitate toward the woman at the bar at the same event, I marginalize her abilities as a woman in tech.

Are we supposed to just become asexual beings? No. Of course not. But there’s a time, place and way to do it and making comments like “New York wins because we have more girls,” is gross negligence. If New York wins, it’s because it has the best apps, companies, entrepreneurs and ideas… and women are partners in that.

Let’s wake up and get real and stop simply turning down the error reporting so we don’t have to address the issue.

Scantily Clad Women are for the Bedroom, not the Showroom Floor.

I love women. I love scantily clad women. I think the majority of men, and of course some women, would agree with me. Sexual attraction is inherently part of the human experience and part of the instinctual core that makes up who we are. The same goes for women with men.

However, this is not okay.

*This* is a glimpse inside Ad:Tech San Francisco. Maybe not all of Ad:Tech. Maybe not even most of Ad:Tech. But it’s certainly a representation of how at least a few people decided to capture it. And this is not directed toward the photographers, at least one of whom I am personally acquainted with. And certainly not directed toward the women who are captured in the photographs or women who have embraced their own sexuality and their own representation of it.

It’s not directed toward sex in art, sex in social commentary, sex in music, sex in film, or choice of sexual exhibitionism. This is entirely about the objectifying of women for comercial gain.

Sex sells, right? It’s been used for decades to touch on an instinctual desire, particularly in men, that ties desire to a commercial action, such as buying. This is why the porn industry is so huge. This is why men will pour hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, into the sex industry and the industry thrives.

I am not naive, nor am I a curmudgeon. As a man, I readily admit to, at least occasionally, “Thinking with my penis”…

But this is an industry that is loosely defined as “tech” and tech is largely dominated by men. We have an image problem. On one hand, the industry as a whole has spoken out vocally about the representation of women in presentations, at conferences, on speaker lineups, etc. We have vilified organizations that put on events not proportionally represented by women and yet… somehow it’s okay, with a wink and a nod, to put women on display on show room floors for the purpose of selling a product. That’s, somehow, okay… even if no one will say that. After all, these “booth babes” are getting paid and this is their job. Sure, gimme a free tee-shirt or a brand-labeled rubber band ball. Cool.

I love scantly clad women as much as the next guy. I’d rather she be in my bedroom or sipping a bourbon and ginger at a bar or show, than pushing some new mobile ad network on a showroom floor so the married ad executive from Burbank can get his nards off. To me, this is a practice that really needs to end.

Note: Despite my desire to use a sexy image for this post, I’ve chosen not to for obvious reasons.

Dan Mintz: Government 2.0 is an Experiment

Lately, I’ve focused quite a bit in the government technology space. With the new administration and the apparent focus on open technologies and dialogue with the public, it is clear that government is going to become more transparent and will likely adopt (and maybe re-engineer) some of the technologies that the private sector has taken advantage of over the last five years.

Dan Mintz, formerly the CIO for the Department of Transportation reiterates my assertion, in an interview with ExecutiveBiz, that the Government knows that no one is an expert in this area but is willing to work with competent individuals and companies who are willing to partner in learning the space:

This is still an experiment so therefore “˜how this will play out’ will require people who are comfortable with experiments. The government has a tendency to be risk-averse, which is understandable. It will be very important for the leadership within the departments and agencies to provide support for people who are willing to do the experiments. The second important factor to remember is that it [2.0 activity] will be user driven, not IT driven.

In my earlier article on this matter, I stated:

What [self-described Government 2.0 experts] don’t realize is the government they wish to work with understands that Government 2.0 is new and that very few people are experts. The government, I believe, is looking to partner with people who have the chutzpah to become experts. Who have a firm grounding in communications principles and web savvy. They understand that the next year will make experts if the right candidates, firms and contractors are chosen. They are looking for people who have the savvy needed to guide and advise, with the understanding that it’s a completely new playing field. My instinct says that the government knows that they are getting prepared to experiment and want someone to experiment with.

Sounds like we are saying the same thing. It’s just a shame that Mr. Mintz is the former CIO of the Dept. of Transportation.