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My 100 dates project was picked up by the ABC

Since this is my professional (srs!) blog, I haven’t talked about my frivilous experiment in crowdsourced online dating, 100 dates. But it launched last week via a blog and Twitter (you can follow me, @stokely, or the hashtag #100dates). If you want a quick roundup of the project, you can read the first post on the blog.

The ABC asked me to contribute a weekly update on how the project is going, and the first one appeared on ABC Unleashed today. It’s called “Matchmaker, matchmaker, tweet me a match“.

10 years as a serious technology journalist and editor, and the ABC doesn’t call until I write about online dating. Heh. But, it’s the ABC, cool! 🙂

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BlogMelbourne: Helping local bloggers via Twitter

I noticed that while there are lots of communities and events springing up around Twitter (such as MTUB and Tweetupmellers), that the blogging community in Melbourne could use a Twitter rallying point for sharing blogging tips, promoting events of interest to local bloggers and so forth. So I created @BlogMelbourne.

I hope in time to host some low key events for the Melbourne blogging community, but in the meantime I’ve kicked things off by posting a series of tips for bloggers. I’m assuming that some bloggers aren’t voracious Twitter users (yet!) so some of the tips will already be familiar to you.

I’m keen to hear your ideas about what you’d like @BlogMelbourne to do. Post links to interesting blog posts about Melbourne? Post tips for bloggers on how to use Twitter? Host social events or workshops for Melbourne bloggers? Please share any ideas or suggestions in comments, and feel free of course to follow @BlogMelbourne and pepper me with suggestions there too.

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What is keeping women out of tech? Do you really want to know?

As someone who’s been working in the male-dominated tech industry for nearly a decade, I have experienced my share of frustration at the fact that the gender balance is so poor. I hate the fact that so many Australian girls drop out of maths and sciences at high school, and that enrolments in tech related courses at uni are so low.

I teach web publishing, and I’ve tried hard to instill a ‘startup’ culture in my students. It is an uphill battle – university courses are geared towards getting students to complete coursework, not incubating startups. But I’ve tried, nonetheless. Last semester, I invited Australian web entrepreneurs Duncan Riley and Stephen Mayne to a one night ‘startup camp’ in which students had to pitch their website prototype as though they were pitching to a VC. (No, I couldn’t find a female web entrepreneur in Melbourne to join the panel. That sucked too.)

I’m disappointed that despite so many of my promising students developing awesome web prototypes, so far they don’t seem inclined to take the next step into launching them as commercial ventures. I feel this is a touchy thing to say where my female students will read it, but to be honest,  I’ve come to expect that my best female students, who are often the driving creative forces behind the web projects build in my class, are even less likely than their male counterparts, to take the leap into startup land. But I’m going to keep trying, because that’s why I do what I do. I want to help young people make awesome stuff on the web.

In short, I’m not unaware that there is a gender imbalance in tech, and I’ve put in a fair amount of time to organising events aimed at helping even up the gender balance. I have walked the talk.

So I feel qualified to point out two reasons why The Next Web article asking “What is keeping women out of tech” is just, well, unhelpful. It annoys me that so often discussion of the low representation of women in tech is blamed on women. It kind of makes me think of a guy with terrible body odour and bad breath sitting at a party, wondering why people are avoiding him, and then saying they must all be terrible snobs, it couldn’t be HIS fault. My other pet peeve is when people make huge generalisations about ALL WOMEN.

So I was a bit disheartened when @zee posted a link on Twitter to this article on The Next Web blog, which demonstrates both of those annoying traits.

Don’t get me wrong. I love women and think they are smarter, faster and more organized than men. Unfortunately I don’t see too many women taking advantage of their skills and the opportunities presented to them.

Which might also be written as “Some of my best friends are women, but my goodness you’re all lazy good for nothings aren’t you?” Thanks for making my amazing, accomplished female friends in tech INVISIBLE.

The author also seems to agree with the comedian he quotes who told a bunch of women at a networking event that since they hadn’t brought business cards: ““I guess you all thought that if you show your breasts he will remember you.” How is this appropriate language for a business event? The gender of the speaker is irrelevant. I wouldn’t go to a business event and make a joke to a guy about if he wants me to remember him he should take out his penis. It beggars belief that I should even have to explain this.

I left a comment on the blog, in the hope that the post was a genuine attempt to start a conversation about getting more women in tech.  Here’s the comment I left:

How funny. You criticise women for never DOING anything, except showing up to complain about “getting sexualized in a business context.” But your post basically boils down to complaining that no women come to your conference, without exploring why that might be, and how you might change things to get more women involved. It must be OUR FAULT.

If the purpose of this post was really to try to talk to women about their under representation, and maybe to encourage more women to attend The Next Web, I have to say it’s made me feel discouraged, rather than encouraged. Shame, because I loved @zee’s presentation at Webstock this year, and I had been thinking that the Next Web might be worth making the trip.

[edit: I have a horrible feeling I confused @zee with @zeefrank, who spoke at Webstock this year. Apologies, both.]

Cheers, Sarah

PS – as I said on Twitter, the Geek Feminism blog is full of tech women (many of whom are successful geek women and entrepreneurs, which seems to be what you care about) who take time out of their work and personal lives to try to encourage other women to succeed in tech. That approach is what impresses me, more than hollow complaints.

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Twitter in the news, and Media140 Sydney

It’s been a very significant couple of weeks for online journalism, with the first instance of Australian journalists using Twitter to report live from the Federal Court in the iiNet trial (#iitrial), and The Guardian crediting social media for helping to overcome a gag order on their reportage of the Trafigura affair.

The iiNet reportage by The Australian‘s Andrew Colley was made more remarkable by the fact that the Oz pulled the plug on his reporting, out of concern over possible legal exposure. This concern wasn’t shared by CBS Interactive, whose reporter Liam Tung continues to live tweet the trial for ZDNet:

Looks like the Fed Court is cool w/ #iitrial Tweeting – a matter for Justice Cowdroy to decide, it says.

Naturally, news of these developments broke via Twitter, but Margaret Simons has been doing a good job of following up both stories for Crikey and on her blog . (She also covered ABC Managing Director Mark Scott’s recent AN Smith Lecture at the University of Melbourne).

So I think the timing of Sydney’s first Media140 event couldn’t be better. This two day conference is bringing together journalists, academics and online media experts to discuss ‘the future of journalism in the social media age’. There’s a really exciting lineup of speakers, including Jay Rosen (via webcast only, sadly) and Mark Scott. I’ll be participating as a “roving expert” during the Day2 workshops. Really looking forward to this event.

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Online Reputation Management in Smart Company

Smart Company has published an article on Online Reputation Management which quotes me talking about crisis management. Brad Howorth kindly edited my rather stilted interview (it was my first ever as an interviewee!) so I sound coherent. And he called me a social media advisor, which I much prefer to the cringe-inducing “Social Media Expert” moniker. Thanks, Brad. 🙂

I’m also one of the presenters on Byte into IT, the weekly tech show on radio RRR here in Melbourne.  If you can’t catch the show Wednesdays at 7pm, it’s released as a podcast too.

The latest podcast includes discussion of new open source blogging and social community, Dreamwidth, as well as some news about tools for Google Android developers, and nice examples of Drupal in use. You can download the podcast here. I should mention here (since I forgot to say on air) that the Drupal sites were done by Development Seed, which is based in Washington DC.

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NEWS09 Presentation: How to get your student publication online

Welcome to students visiting from today’s NEWS09 conference. Please feel free to ask a question or leave a comment. Keep me posted if you decide to try out any of the ideas or tools that were mentioned today – I would love to hear how you get on.

As promised, here’s a copy of the presentation I gave today on How to get your student publication online.

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Free in Melbourne

I’m going to be keeping an eye out for free and cheap cool things to do in Melbourne – whether it’s arts events, classes, or concerts. I’ll tag these posts ‘free in Melbourne’

So far I’ve learned that Port Phillip council offers a range of free classes (including cheese making!), the awesome City Library in Flinders Lane has a series of free gigs coming up and the Melbourne Library Service offers a book club at a few of their libraries where you borrow the books from the library rather than buying them – clever!

I was vaguely disappointed by the Melbourne City Council’s “That’s Melbourne” website. So where do you find out what cool free and cheap things are on in Melbourne?

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Radio appearance tonight on RRR

Hello internets. I’ll be on RRR’s computing & technology radio show Byte into IT tonight from 7pm til 8pm.
You can tune in on the old fashioned radio (102.7FM in Melbin) or you can stream it live from the new fangled internet radio here.

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Byte into IT

The podcast of my first RRR show is up. I didn’t get much of a word in edgewise until my segment near the end. I talked about OLPC, digital archiving at the National Library, and Geek Girl Dinners Melbourne. I’m on again on Wednesday 9th July.

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