Tag Archives: Technology


Tech: We Need to Start Being Feminists. Stat!

Used under Creative Commons. Photo by Jay Morrison.


That extends this I wrote about a few weeks ago.

This is pissing me the hell off! All that. It all needs to stop.

How are some of the brightest minds on the internet not seeing the harm in how we collectively perceive women, women in tech, women in our industry?

How is it funny to send nude photos of women to a prospective boss and get hired as a result?

How is it humorous to make jokes about “gangbang interviews” in a professional presentation?

How is this okay?

In the context of discussion around this article, someone said something to the effect of, “Well, you know, most resumés I get are from guys so I just hire best available.”

Bullshit. Recruitment is everything, especially when small. And not just for gender equality. You always want to find the best and sometimes the best are working for another company. Sometimes the best are working for themselves and they need to be convinced to come work for you. You have to be proactive to find who you want. If you take the passive approach, you’ll almost always get mediocre talent.

I’ve always proactively recruited as a hiring manager. We were reminiscing yesterday about the “vintage” days of b5media (which was just acquired, congrats!) when Brian Layman posted an old article describing his interview. We eventually hired him (because I personally recruited and hand-picked him) and he ended up being one of the best developers the company ever had.

If you want women in your company, don’t be a douche, go out and find them and hire them. Pay them top salaries along with all your guys.

I will eventually be a hiring manager again and I pledge that I will make every good faith effort to hire at least one woman for every man I hire. Obviously, I’m not naive. It may not always be possible. But to the best of my ability, I will do this.

Hey industry, we need to stop paying lip service to feminism. Let’s be feminists and practice what we preach.

Aaron Brazell

Convergence of technology, journalism and sports

Sheer erudition — and erudition of a very specific type — throws up large barriers to entry. Too often, newer, younger, and more casual sports fans “can sort of get to a certain point of enthusiasm before they hit the ‘stat wall’ where discussion of sports becomes pedantic and quantitative for no discernible reason other than as a social indicator of investment/knowlegeability,” says Grantland’s Katie Baker. “In particular, I constantly see women driven away from sports because they are fed it as a zero-sum game: either you know everything about everyone or you don’t.” [via Tim Carmody]

Aaron Brazell

Will the Real Tech Community Please Stand Up

Our world today is diluted. The lines have blurred. Everyone has bought into this concept of community – that everyone has something for everyone and we’re one big happy family. Specifically, the concept of the “technology community” which is a term that has come to mean anyone who has a blog, uses social media or Twitter and engages online in some way or another.

Though this has been a trend that is akin to the frog happily boiling in an ever increasing pot of hot water, the reality struck me today as I saw this Wall Street Journal article about how Facebook and Zappos approach hiring. Facebook, of course, is the social networking platform that has become the largest social network on the planet and Zappos, the sexy company that was just acquired by Amazon and has made its name, not on selling shoes – its core business – but in its company culture and parties.

In the WSJ article, the writer begins with the statement, “For fast-growing technology start-ups, there are many approaches to employee hiring and retention.”

While Zappos is a great company, and their acquisition by Amazon (which is a technology company) certainly places them in the ranks of great Internet success stories, they are a glorified shoe store, using eCommerce, web marketing and buzz to execute on their core business. They are not a technology company.

This is not a pissing match over labels. If calling a company a technology company when they are not was harmless, I wouldn’t care. The reality is that it is a harmful trend that is hurting the real tech community. This is not about Zappos. This is about the hundreds of people who hang out on the social networks, using the technologies built by real technology companies and technologists, and who call themselves technologists because they use the tools.

Photo by rutty on Flickr

These are the people who go for job interviews that they are not qualified for hanging their hats on social media experience.

Being in social media does not make you part of the technology community.

The real technology community is made up of developers, I.T. architects, and even highly trained engineers with C.S. degrees. For the record, I have neither a C.S. degree or any degree at all. However, I have been slinging code for 10 years now and it continues to be my primary business, despite public speaking, book writing and social media engagements. I am a technologist. A marketer or a salesperson may be highly trained marketers or sales people, but they are not technologists in most cases.

Here are some thoughts. These are common. I’m not simply being a little over the top.

  • The most you know about memory leaks is when Firefox crashes. Do you know why? Can you debug it? Do you understand the concept of a memory leak and why it happens?
  • You don’t know how or why an API is important. If you have to ask what an API is, you’re not a technologist. You don’t have to know how to use it, but know what it is. If you don’t know why an API might be important, you’re also not a technologist.
  • Your evaluation of a good website is based on the UI and layout. Great design is important and great designers are hard to find. That doesn’t make them technologists. Though there are some who straddle both worlds extremely well. A website is not just a website because of the appearance. It’s about how data is used. Remember this video?

  • It doesn’t matter if a site is built in a compiled language (Compiled PHP, .NET, etc) or not. Yes it does. Why?
  • Your approach to business does not include principles of Object Orientation as understood by developers. OOP is huge with developers. Ask any Java, Ruby or Python developer. Can you apply these principles to business too? They do apply…
  • The most exposure you’ve had to XML is RSS. And at that, the most you’ve had is adding a feed to Google Reader.
  • Your idea of working for a web startup is as ‘community manager’. Yeah, there are some great community managers. They are people people, not technology people. Additionally, community managers are meant to be liaisons between users and developers. Stop calling yourself a tech person if you’re a glorified PR person.

Again, if this was simply a matter of labels, it would be no big deal. Social media expert? Go for it… Everyone is a social media expert. Entrepreneur? Unless you’re building the product yourself, you’re probably not a technologist. Businessperson? Sure. CEO material? Quite possibly. Don’t call yourself a technologist.

You’re HURTING us. This market is filled with people looking for work right now. And recruiters are out in force looking for the one person who can fill the role of two people and save their client money. So by you walking in the door and taking jobs you’re not qualified for simply because you can do some marketing, strategy and you know how to hack on a website, you’re hurting this industry of highly qualified, professional people.

Stop carpet-bagging on our industry and call yourself what you are. You are highly qualified marketers. You are highly qualified journalists. You are highly qualified business development people. You are not technologists.

guest blogging

The Hidden Human Cost of Government Going Green

In the necessary push toward a greener nation, we are leaving some of our most valuable citizens behind. While I am all for “œgoing green” and the overall “œgreen technology” movement, I can’t help but notice that the way the government has chosen to go about doing it is disenfranchising huge segments of the population.

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with a number of people about the issue of the poverty gap and how it relates to technology, and the internet. Noticeably, the topic of green technology kept popping up in the discussion. Specifically, how the drive for forced compliance with new green tech standards like a paperless government is leaving our nation’s poor in the dust.

The problem arises when lack of knowledge and inability to access (or afford) the necessary technology now required to obtain benefits or jobs comes in contact with the immovable wall of government mandates. As our government makes its move to a paperless model it has begun requiring those applying for benefits, jobs, job training and other government services to apply via the web.

In many cases there is immediately an issue ““ either the applicant does not have access to a computer or the Internet or, if the government office provides access, there is a knowledge gap. The applicant often has no idea how to use the technology presented to them. According to people like Shireen Mitchell of Women Wired In this has been an ongoing issue reaching as far back as the misguided introduction of the ATM-style benefits cards several years ago.

When the three main technology issues facing the nation’s poor – lack of access to technology, inability to afford technology, and a lack of knowledge of how to use technology – meet the push by the government to go green and the enforced paperless standards, people are inevitably being left behind. On the surface it seems like an unsolvable problem, but I don’t think it has to be.

Granted, if we wait for the glacial process of government to a) realize there is a problem and b) do something about it, it may never get solved. We will continue to lag behind other nations in broadband access and slowly see our standing in the science and technology fields drop ever lower and less and less of our citizens find themselves able to compete in the global market, much less their local one.

To that end, I don’t believe that lobbying your representatives will do much in the short term. I think we should be lobbying for both equipment and access, but I don’t believe we should put all of our eggs in one basket. This is a problem that needs a proactive solution.

That being the case what can the technology community do to address the issue?

The answer lies in using the tools we few are so privileged to have to leverage our influence. Because we are influential. People do hear us outside of our bubble. Some of us are heard more than others, but everyone has a voice and, more importantly, a network.

We need to leverage that on and off line network, our social media contacts, our groups, web sites, and communities at the national and local level to exert pressure to fix this problem. Who do we exert pressure on? To a certain extent the government. To a greater extent the companies that control the access to the necessary equipment and pipelines that will get people online.

Now more than ever technology has become a basic human need. In order to compete locally and globally, people need access to a computer and to broadband Internet or they will be left behind, causing us to be left behind as a nation as well. We are the biggest users of this technology. If we organize, and speak with both our wallets and our voices, we will be heard.

Will it effect real change if we push companies to start donating computers and Internet access to the nation’s most needy? I would hope so, especially if we all make the effort to create one voice for change. Programs like One Laptop Per Child are a start, but they are not enough. We need more.

In addition to pressuring the big telecommunications companies and equipment makers to acknowledge and assist those who need it most, we need to pressure ourselves. Doctors and lawyers do pro bono work all of the time in their communities, and we should be doing the same. Go to your local centers and volunteer to train people how to use the tools of technology.

If you can’t volunteer, help find people who can. Use your network to touch and help people who need you, whether it is a church outreach program, an urban high school or a government training office. The first thing you have to do is be proactive, and you don’t even have to get off your ass to do it.

Aaron Brazell

Cloud Computing Does Not Spell the End for Common Sense I.T. Management

Sometimes I think I might be the only one who retains commons sense. Really. At least in the area of I.T. Management. Though we had our share of growing pains at b5media, the knowledge gained from working in an enterprise environment at Northrop Grumman was only accentuated by my tenure as the Director of Technology at b5media.

Unfortunately, some common best-use practices in developing infrastructure are often put aside by those with shiny object syndrome surrounding “cloud computing“.

Let me explain.

You may have noticed a severe hampering of many internet services over the weekend. The culprit was a rare, but yet heavy-duty outage of Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) cloud storage. S3 is used by many companies including Twitter, WordPress.com, FriendFeed, and SmugMug to name a few. Even more individuals are using S3 for online data backup or for small projects requiring always-on virtual disk space. Startups often use S3 due to the “always on” storage, defacto CDN and the inexpensive nature of the service… it really is cheap!

And that’s good. I’m a fan of using the cheapest, most reliable service for anything. Whatever gets you to the next level quickest and with as little output of dollars is good in my book, for the same reason I’m a fan of prototyping ideas in Ruby on Rails (but to be clear, after the prototype, build on something more reliable and capable of handling multi-threaded processes, kthxbai.)

However, sound I.T. management practice says that there should never be a single point of failure. Ever. Take a step back and map out the infrastructure. If you see anyplace where there’s only one of those connecting lines between major resource A and major resource B – start looking there for bottlenecks and potential company-sinking aggravation.

Thus was the case for many companies using S3. Depending on the use of S3, and if the companies had failover to other caches, some companies were affected more than others. Twitter for instance, uses S3 for avatar storage but had no other “cold cache” for that data rendering a service without user images – bad, but not deathly.

SmugMug shrugged the whole thing off (which is a far cry from the disastrous admission that “hot cache” was used very little when Amazon went down back in February), which I thought was a bit odd. Their entire company revolves around hosted photos on Amazon S3 and they simply shrugged off an 8 hour outage as “ok because everyone goes down once in awhile”. Yeah, and occasionally people get mugged in dark city streets, but as long as it’s not me it’s okay! Maybe it was the fact that the outage occurred on a Sunday. Who knows? To me, this sort of outage rages as a 9.5/10 on the critical scale. Their entire business is wrapped up in S3 storage with no failover. For perspective, one 8 hour outage in July constitutes 98.9% uptime – a far cry from five 9’s (99.999%) which is minimal mitigation of risk in enterprise, mission-critical services.

WordPress.com, as always, comes through as a shining example of a company who economically benefits from the use of S3 as a cold cache and not primary access or “warm cache”.

Let me stop and provide some definition. Warm (or hot) cache is always preferable to cold cache. It is data that has been loaded into memory or a more reasonably accessible location – but typically memory. Cold cache is a file based storage of cached data. It is less frequently accessed because access only occurs if warm cache data has expired or doesn’t exist.

WordPress.com has multiple levels of caching because they are smart and understand the basic premise of eliminating single point of failure. Image data is primarily accessed over their server cluster via a CDN, however S3 is used as a cold cache. With the collapse of S3 over the weekend, WordPress.com, from my checking, remained unaffected.

This is the basic principle of I.T. enterprise computing that is lost on so much of the “web world”. If companies have built and scaled (particularly if they have scaled!) and rely on S3 with no failover, shame on them. Does it give Amazon a black eye? Absolutely. however, at the end of the day SmugMug, WordPress.com, Friendfeed, Twitter and all the other companies utilizing S3 answer to their customers and do not have the luxury of pointing the finger at Amazon. If their business is negatively affected, they have no one to blame but themselves. The companies who understood this planned accordingly and were not negatively affected by the S3 outage. Those who weren’t were left, well, holding the bag.

Added: GNIP gets it, and they are new to the game. Even startups have no excuse.

Aaron Brazell

Getting Geeky on the Elite Tech News Show

For those of you with better things to do on a Sunday night (and let’s admit that is just about all of us), you probably missed the Elite Tech News show tonight. Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins from Mashable invited me on to be a guest panelist with Steve Hodson, Louis Gray and the rest of the gang.

We talked iPhone 3G, particularly Rogers iPhone plans in Canada, along with some tech environmental stuff, Dave Winer, Robert Scoble’s parting with the rest of the techmeme blogosphere crowd.

Though the aftershow wasn’t recorded, it might have been just as good as we talked about Twitter, Trademark and Creative Commons stuff and an assortment of other topics.

You can listen to the (lengthy) show below.

Thanks, everyone, for letting me join your little group tonight. It was great fun.

Aaron Brazell

Shifting Technosailor

Long time readers of this blog probably have been aware of the consolidation of the niche that I’ve been covering here. In the very early days, the topics were all over the place. At some point, that seemed to consolidate down to mostly technology related conversations. There was a definite focus for a period of time on technology that pertained to blogging but there was a problem there. Lots of people talk about blogging. There’s no real value add in blogging about blogging. In fact, my attention has been less on blogging as a topic and more on social media as a whole – the idea that average people have the ability to reach the world like never before.

But then Techcrunch does that and we all know about how the social media coverage landscape is thick when you consider services like Techmeme and Digg. Definitely the signal-to-noise ratio is out of control.

As a result, over the past six months or so, there has been a definite inclination toward stories that address issues with business – whether entrepreneurs or big business – and where the synergy has been with social media – and where it needs to be. This morning, Geoff Livingston wrote about social media press releases – and that’s a fantastic start to a new era. Actually, my point is that it is not new. My content has already favored the business side of things. What is new is recognizing officially the shift in direction. The only real change today is that instead of “Technology, Blogging and New Media”, the title bar reads “Technology, Business and New Media“. Definitely a recognition of what this blog is today.