What Caught My Eye - Week 8

A bit late. Took off Friday for a Snowshoeing trip, so I missed the Friday posting.


  • The new Little Dragon single, Klapp Klapp is an exciting direction.

As usual, I have no idea what the video has to do with the song. 

What Caught My Eye - Week 7

Diversity in Tech

Two links this week in this category.

  • Linux Journal published this piece by Doc Searls in December. It makes a call for more female involvement in Linux.
  • Susan Sons wrote a response, 'Girls and Software', which I thought contained some interesting points. A trio of quotes I thought were thought provoking:

    Unfortunately, our society has set girls up to be anything but technologists. My son is in elementary school. Last year, his school offered a robotics class for girls only. When my son asked why he couldn't join, it was explained to him that girls need special help to become interested in technology, and that if there are boys around, the girls will be too scared to try.

    My son came home very confused. You see, he grew up with a mom who coded while she breastfed and brought him to his first LUG meeting at age seven weeks. The first time he saw a home-built robot, it was shown to him by a local hackerspace member, a woman who happens to administer one of the country's biggest supercomputers. Why was his school acting like girls were dumb?

    Thanks so much, modern-day "feminism", for putting very unfeminist ideas in my son's head.

    The new breed of open-source programmer isn't like the old. They've changed the rules in ways that have put a spotlight on my sex for the first time in my 18 years in this community.

    When we call a man a "technologist", we mean he's a programmer, system administrator, electrical engineer or something like that. The same used to be true when we called a woman a "technologist". However, according to the new breed, a female technologist might also be a graphic designer or someone who tweets for a living. Now, I'm glad that there are social media people out there—it means I can ignore that end of things—but putting them next to programmers makes being a "woman in tech" feel a lot like the Programmer Special Olympics.

    It used to be that I was comfortable standing side by side with men, and no one cared how I looked. Now I find myself having to waste time talking about my gender rather than my technology...otherwise, there are lectures:

    • The "you didn't have a woman on the panel" lecture. I'm on the panel, but I'm told I don't count because of the way I dress: t-shirt, jeans, boots, no make-up.

    • The "you desexualize yourself to fit in; you're oppressed!" lecture. I'm told that deep in my female heart I must really love make-up and fashion. It's not that I'm a geek who doesn't much care how she looks.

    • The "you aren't representing women; you'd be a better role model for girls if you looked the part" lecture. Funny, the rest of the world seems very busy telling girls to look fashionable (just pick up a magazine or walk down the girls' toy aisle). I don't think someone as bad at fashion as I am should worry about it.

    With one exception, I've heard these lectures only from women, and women who can't code at that. Sometimes I want to shout "you're not a programmer, what are you doing here?!"

    I've also come to realize that I have an advantage that female newcomers don't: I was here before the sexism moral panic started. When a dozen guys decide to drink and hack in someone's hotel room, I get invited. They've known me for years, so I'm safe. New women, regardless of competence, don't get invited unless I'm along. That's a sexual harassment accusation waiting to happen, and no one will risk having 12 men alone with a single woman and booze. So the new ladies get left out.

    I came to the Open Source world because I liked being part of a community where my ideas, my skills and my experience mattered, not my boobs. That's changed, and it's changed at the hands of the people who say they want a community where ideas, skills and experience matter more than boobs.

    There aren't very many girls who want to hack. I imagine this has a lot to do with the fact that girls are given fashion dolls and make-up and told to fantasize about dating and popularity, while boys are given LEGOs and tool sets and told to do something. I imagine it has a lot to do with the sort of women who used to coo "but she could be so pretty if only she didn't waste so much time with computers". I imagine it has a lot to do with how girls are sold on ephemera—popularity, beauty and fitting in—while boys are taught to revel in accomplishment.

    Give me a young person of any gender with a hacker mentality, and I'll make sure they get the support they need to become awesome. Meanwhile, buy your niece or daughter or neighbor girl some LEGOs and teach her to solder. I love seeing kids at LUG meetings and hackerspaces—bring them! There can never be too many hackers.

    Do not punish the men simply for being here. "Male privilege" is a way to say "you are guilty because you don't have boobs, feel ashamed, even if you did nothing wrong", and I've wasted too much of my time trying to defend good guys from it. Yes, some people are jerks. Call them out as jerks, and don't blame everyone with the same anatomy for their behavior. Lumping good guys in with bad doesn't help anyone, it just makes good guys afraid to interact with women because they feel like they can't win. I'm tired of expending time and energy to protect good men from this drama.

    Interesting piece. I've been sitting on this piece for about a week now. I can't decide what I think about it if I'm honest. I find myself unconvinced that we need to go back to days before gender was an issue, but I also can't articulate why this doesn't seem the right course of action.


  • Interesting slide from ISSCC showing a die shot of IBM's POWER8:


What Caught My Eye - Week 5


  • A fantastically interesting hypothesis on the development of consciousness: The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind. A taste:

    Julian Jaynes proposes a radical answer to these questions: until a few thousand years ago human beings did not ‘view themselves’. They did not have the ability: they had no introspection and no concept of ‘self’ that they could reflect upon. In other words: they had no subjective consciousness. Jaynes calls their mental world the bicameral mind. It is a mind with two chambers, the mind that is divided in a god part and a human part. The human part heard voices and experienced these as coming from gods. These gods were no judging, moral or transcendent gods, but were more like each person's personal problem solvers. They were hallucinated voices that provided the answers when a person entered a stressful situation which couldn't be solved by routine.

  • On a different note: Stormtroopers twerking. Could it get any better?

  • I've also been enjoying Big Boi's Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. Goes a little sideways in places, but by and large, a pretty good album.


  • Eugene Wallingford on one reason we need computer programs, to bridge the gap between theory and data. Programming a solution forces a codification of how we handle edge cases, missing values, etc.

What Caught My Eye - Week 2

Diversity and Culture

  • A More Peaceful 2014: How people working on real issues can end up silencing each other while ostensibly working for the same causes.

    I find this post particularly interesting as someone starting a new blog in 2014. I will completely admit to a terror about posting on divisive issues rooted in a fear that I will be misjudged: labelled ignorant, harmful, or abusive when aiming higher.

  • On Technical entitlement: How early exposure to technology and skills changes our attitudes to them, in a way that discourages late starters. I especially enjoyed the following quote:

    For one thing, precocity is rewarded in tech. We all swoon over the guy who started programming robots when he was 6. Growing up in tech, I took this as a constant in life—if you’re doing cool things, the younger the better. But it’s become obvious that this is more unique. One of my friends working in finance put it this way: “If I told people I started shorting stocks when I was nine—not that I was, by the way—people wouldn’t be impressed. They’d only say, ‘Who was stupid enough to give you their money?’”

    Follow up with this post from Philip Guo on how privilege greases the wheels. He closes the piece with the following, which captures a lot of my thoughts on the topic too:

    I hope to live in a future where people who already have the interest to pursue CS or programming don't self-select themselves out of the field. I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond – unimpeded opportunities to develop expertise in something that they find beautiful, practical, and fulfilling.

    The bigger goal on this front is to spur interest in young people from underrepresented demographics who might never otherwise think to pursue CS or STEM studies in general.

  • The Next Civil Rights Issue: Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet (disturbing): Last week I mentioned how software can have political agendas, without meaning to. The kind of problems described in this article are another kind of politics, which I'd argue partially stem from the narrow perspective rampant in the creation of internet technologies.

    But no matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment—and the sheer volume of it—has severe implications for women’s status on the Internet. Threats of rape, death, and stalking can overpower our emotional bandwidth, take up our time, and cost us money through legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages. [...] And as the Internet becomes increasingly central to the human experience, the ability of women to live and work freely online will be shaped, and too often limited, by the technology companies that host these threats, the constellation of local and federal law enforcement officers who investigate them, and the popular commentators who dismiss them—all arenas that remain dominated by men, many of whom have little personal understanding of what women face online every day.



  • Links 2013: Brett Victor's collection of papers and projects he fell in love with this year.

    My friends know that Brett Victor simultaneously fascinates and irks me. He's clearly thinking on a higher level than I am, and I can't shake the feeling that what grates at me is simply his genius; He's so much smarter than me that it burns.

    His historical awareness is also terribly painful. Watch his video on The Future of Programming, and you feel like we went down the wrong trouser leg.

What Caught my Eye - Week 1

Going to start a new thing here, by posting a weekly list of the most intersting things that caught my eye. It'll be a bit of a grab bag, but occasionally with topics.

Diversity and Culture in Tech:

  1. Explained: Why people are angry at Paul Graham: The last couple of years have been very eye-opening for me, as I've started to pay attention to the social issues and aspects of technology. I'm still digesting thoughts on this, with about two or three drafts of blog-posts sitting unfinished. However, Danilo Campos has written a fantastic post on why people are mad at Paul Graham after his comments were posted to ValleyWag.

    A particular quote I enjoyed:

    I’ve pointed out why someone might disagree, but not why they’d be angry.

    Here’s the issue: it’s not Graham’s responsibility to fix the inequities in tech. If he has no new ideas about how to fix the problem, though, the most productive action he can take as a prominent person is to pass the mic to someone who does. It’s easy to say “It’s a problem. I don’t know how to solve it. But I respect these folks who are trying and you should talk to them.”

    Instead, his overall tone is one of resignation. The position seems expert and defeatist.

    Not everyone is willing to give up the fight.

    While Graham shoves his hands in his pockets, real people are trying to make their mark on the world. They’re finding their progress in technology undermined by the frustrating fact that their paths look very different from Zuckerberg’s. Graham’s success has elevated him to a position of influence. In this case that influence is, even if inadvertently, impeding progress.

  2. Paul Graham and the Manic Pixie Dream Hacker: A parallel that I just love.

    Like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl’s role of existing to serve the male film protagonist’s personal growth, the Manic Pixie Dream Hacker’s job is to embody the dream hacker role while growing the VC’s portfolio

  3. Resolutions: Gabe from Penny-Arcade confonting his own history with bullying, and how it has left him a bully himself.

  4. Algorithmic Rape Jokes in the Library of Babel: A reminder that software can convey politics, even more so when it's badly QA'd.

Compilers, Programming Languages:

  1. C# for Systems Programming: An early discussion of a MS Research project attempting to provide both speed and safety.
  2. C# for Systems Programming, The Error Model: An associated discussion of the error model.


  1. Having a party? Everybody got a phone/tablet? Try Spaceteam. 4 player-in-a-room multiplayer.
  2. Why (I Hope) Blogs Still Matter in 2014: A very apropos post for someone starting another blog in 2014.