Showing posts from September, 2014

Why I Hate Talking About "Women in Tech" (But Can't Avoid It)

Last week, I read an article by the founder of 99Dresses, Nikki Durkin, entitled: Don't Call Me a Woman in Tech. And I felt every word.

I hate talking about gender and the technology industry. Whether it's about gender discrimination in the workplace, the dumbing down and "pinkification" of technology for the "fairer sex", tropes in video games or even the need to target tech events or recruiting campaigns to women, I loathe gender-based discussions.

You know why? Because it often becomes a discussion about "Women in Tech".

Now, since most of you won't make it to the end of this article, let me give you the <tl;dr>:
Talking about "women in tech" perpetuates the assumption that gender is necessary in discussions about a person's participation in the tech industry.  For those of you who are interested in the entire argument, let me explain:

It's Possible to be a Woman in Tech Without Being a "Woman in Tech" I wo…

Facebook as Hal 9000? "2014: A Facebook Odyssey" Seems Entirely Plausible

Flipping through my sooper secret content sources (aka Feedly) this week, I came across a great short story that reimagines 2001: A Space Odyssey as a conversation between Dave and Facebook, instead of Dave and Hal.

With all the press coverage in the past month about Facebook Messenger extending its reach throughout users' smartphones, many users have taken to uninstalling the app entirely and even backing off their use of Facebook in general. Warranted or not, the idea of a creepy Dave-Hal style conversation happening between a Facebook user and the site itself is actually an interesting concept.

In fact, it totally works:
DAVE: (Adjusts an earpiece.) Hello, Facebook.

(A blue dot appears in the center of the screen.)

FB: Hello, Dave.

DAVE: Login and open settings.

FB: I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.Excerpt from 2014: A Facebook Odyssey, published on McSweeney's

And so it goes.

The story is written by Ben Jurney who has a great subtly sarcastic writing style that I am comple…

These Sticky Page Markers Might Get You Reading Dead Trees Again

I'm currently studying for an exam which means I have a binder full of dead trees that is soon going to be covered in little sticky flags marking all the important pages. Which means that I have a boring white binder with a bunch of little yellow rectangles sticking from it. Not exactly the most fun way to study.

In fact, I really wish my binder was covered in these:

Aren't those ADOKABLE?! Mars attacks your textbook!

Those, my nerds, are little post-it style tabs that you affix to the important pages in your books (remember those things with the pages?). You can vary the position and line them up in various combinations to turn your book into a funky little landscape.

The Mars ones are my favourite for obvious reasons, but there are also a bunch of other options:
skylines of London, New York and Hong Kong,ocean, sky, arctic, desert and forest themes,and creature themes including the Loch Ness Monster and Tokyo featuring Godzilla. Check them out:

Sooper cute! I'm not sure t…

Back to the Future Hoverboard Display Actually Hovers (If You Don't Stand on It)

Anyone who was a child of the 80s will remember the scene from Back to the Future II where Marty McFly borrows a little girl's hoverboard to avoid a future incarnation of the dreaded bully, Biff.

Remember how we were all supposed to be getting around on hoverboards by now? I mean, BTTF 2 does take place in 2015. And yet, no hoverboards in use anywhere. (Incidentally, where is my self-drying jacket too?)

But just because you can't use one, doesn't mean you can't own one: Crealev (makers of the levitating lamp I featured) has one for you: they hacked a Mattel hoverboard toy and using Maglev (magnetic levitation) technology, turned it into an actual levitating hoverboard that you can display in your home.

Crealev is pretty adamant that this is a display and not for use. (Awwwww.) Not only that, but according to the product page, it could be hard to get your hands on one of these:
These hoverboard displays are created in limited run just shy of ten. With Mattel not continu…

How To: Run a Personas Workshop

As a business analyst, one of my absolute favourite things is running workshops. Stuck on a problem? Let's get in a room and do some activities that will un-stick us. Disagreement on where we're headed? Let's stick 20 feet of craft paper on the wall and duke it out. Need to know who you're building for? You need a personas workshop.

Process flow workshops, requirements sessions, governance framework design ateliers, and personas workshops. WORKSHOP ALL THE THINGS.

My happy place. (le sigh)

Generally, when I'm preparing for a session, I will spend up to an entire week consulting with clients, building activities, mapping them out all over my office and then walking through them over and over again to make sure they would work. Granted, I'm a bit obsessive, but it's worth it and every single time, I learned a lot. I was doing this often enough that one of my colleagues asked me to run a session to teach people how to run their own personas workshops at Codefest …

Super Simple Way to Test Batteries: Yeah, Science!

Hubby gave me the oddest look the other day, thanks to the video below.

We keep a Mason jar in the kitchen with old alkaline batteries. (We don't throw them out since they leach chemicals into the soil, instead taking them every so often to one of those battery drop-offs at tech stores.) I emptied the jar and proceeded to drop each battery onto the counter, putting aside the ones that didn't bounce.

Then I took one of the non-bouncing ones and put it in the kitchen clock which had died earlier this week. And naturally, the clock started working again because the battery wasn't actually dead.

In fact, there were about 10 batteries that were salvaged from the pile with life still in them. All because of a little drop test and science.

The video below explains the chemistry and physics behind the drop test, and explores a number of theories about why batteries bounce when they are expired (including the anti-bounce theory which starts at 3:00). It's not a flashy producti…

New Blog Year, New Blog Look: Spydergrrl Gets a Makeover

As I mentioned earlier this week, this pet project turned 6 last week. And as I am wont to do with such milestones, I felt the site was due for a makeover.

To be honest, there were a few reasons behind the change:

There was dead space on the side that was really of no use to anyone, but filled with widgets that cluttered the design.The layout tended to bury content quickly, which isn't a great user experience for people who only visit once a week or once a month.To be honest, I get bored easily, and the new design had been around long enough and a new writing year is as good a reason as any for a new look.
Now, this might be an exercise in futility: those of you who read me in your feed readers or on mobile devices would never have known otherwise. But with the recent discussion about the death of readers, and the stats in my traffic logs, it would seem that there are still enough of you coming in through social platforms while on your desktops for this to be a worthwhile effort. …

The 4 Things I Learned About Technology Adoption by Being an Early Blogger

Spydergrrl on the Web turned 6 last week. This hasn't been my only blog, but it is the one with the most staying power. As I was approaching this anniversary, I did a bit of reflection and realized that the process of researching and writing about technology and culture has taught me a lot about the way people perceive emerging trends, as well as the adoption of new ideas and new tools.

How did it all start? Spydergrrl on the Web is a passion project that has been through several iterations before it became the blog you see before you (or the feed you read in your RSS reader).

Back in the late 90s/early 2000s, I had a very simple website that my brother-in-law hosted on his own personal server. It was static HTML and the homepage featured a GIF of a girl in a business suit spinning and turning into "spydergrrl". The site was simple, mostly to showcase projects I was working on, and to give me a place to try out simple web code as I learned it. And there was a section wh…

The Legendary Stan Lee Makes For An Adorable POP figure

If there's one thing I love about Marvel movies, it's the Where's Waldo aspect: when is the Stan Lee cameo? According to IMDB, he has appeared as an actor in no less than 73 movies, and made random walk-on cameos in everything from Iron Man to X-Men to Daredevil.

At 91 years old, he shows no signs of stopping. He's a regular fixture at Cons these days too, wowing fans on a regular basis. (How can we forget his pics with the little girl in Stan Lee cosplay? Too. Much. Fun.)

So it was just a matter of time before Funko, the company that makes those cartoony Bobblehead-looking figures, made one of the legend himself. Behold, the Stan Lee Pop Figure:

How fun is that?! Funko is producing these as exclusives for various Cons, changing his tshirt insignia and clothing colours for each one. So, they tend to be expensive (as much as $50!). But still fun to look at :)

(Source: @TheRealStanLee)

Automata: When Robots Become Self-Aware (Movie Trailer)

Back in 1942, Isaac Asimov created the 3 laws of robotics:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. In Fall 2015, Automata will put those 3 laws at the centre of a dystopian film about a future in which humans and robots co-exist.

Here's the synopsis from the film's offical site:
Fast forward fifty years into the future, planet earth is in the midst of gradual desertification. Mankind struggles to survive as the environment deteriorates and the slow regression of the human race begins in AUTÓMATA. On the brink of life and the reality of death, technology combats the prevailing uncertainty and fear with the creation of the first quantum android, the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Designed to bring support …