Intet er så galt, etc. etc.

På denne blog tordner jeg imod delinger/videreformidling af forvrøvlede advarsler, fup-sider, phishing forsøg, osv. osv. Det har jeg ikke tænkt mig at holde op med. Alligevel blev jeg glad over at læse denne artikel fra Salon om, hvordan der kom noget godt ud af at klikke på et link, der viste sig at føre til et tilfælde af phishing.

Artiklen fik mig også til at tænke lidt ekstra over, hvor svært det er at finde den rette balance mellem at håne folk, fordi de er godtroende nok til at klikke på de her links, etc., og være forstående og tolerant over for det faktum, at ikke alle har sat sig ind i, hvad fx phishing er for noget. Jeg er jo klar over, at hån og spot sjældent fører til noget positivt, men samtidig vil jeg altså gerne fastholde, at det ikke kræver nogen som helst IT indsigt at skelne den store broderpart af al denne fup og svindel fra ordentlig hjemmesider og sande historier. Det, det kræver, er almindelig kritisk sans. Og sådan en er vi vel alle i besiddelse af (det meste af tiden)?

Jeg er selv faldet for fup og svindel flere gange. Fx klikkede jeg engang på et link i en Twitter DM (privatbesked) og genindtastede mit password, fordi jeg

  1. var meget søvnig
  2. for nylig havde kommunikeret med den person, linket kom fra
  3. teksten var plausibel

og jeg har delt en video på Facebook i den tro, der var tale om rigtige klip fra CCTV, skønt den viste sig at være en reklame. I øvrigt har Twitter nu fjernet muligheden for at indsætte links i DM’er. Så nu kan jeg igen ligge og tjekke min Twitterstrøm i halvsøvne uden risiko for andet end at skrive noget vrøvl.

Når det er sket for mig, har venlige folk gjort mig opmærksom på fadæsen, så jeg  hurtigt kunne rette op på skaden. Jeg bliver GLAD (og selvfølgelig flov) over at blive gjort opmærksom på mine faux pas, men jeg bemærker, at mange i stedet bliver fornærmede, også selvom man siger det virkelig pænt. Hvorfor?

Digital dannelse

Nu har jeg plapret om digital dannelse i årevis – ja, min underoverskrift på min hjemmeside er “Netiquette” – et andet ord for det samme. Og nu pludselig er alle medier fyldt med det. På høje tid!

Mens jeg ærgrer mig over, at jeg ikke har forstået at brande mig selv godt nok til at være en af de “eksperter”, medierne spørger om disse ting, så glæder jeg mig over, at det endelig er noget, folk faktisk taler om og forholder sig til.

Digital Dannelse er al den viden, man har behov for, for at begå sig tillidsfuldt og sikkert på nettet. Fx forståelse af, hvad NemID er, hvorfor det er klogt at downloade sikkerhedsopdateringer, hvad en browser og en app er for noget, hvad de forskellige sociale medier står for, hvordan man sørger for sikre passwords, hvad det betyder at have sine data i skyen, at man er varen, ikke kunden, på de fleste sociale medier, hvad firmaerne bruger (eller kan bruge) ens data til, hvad “intellectual property” er for noget, etc. etc.

Forbløffende mange mennesker mener, at den slags behøver de slet ikke vide, “det er kun for sådan nogle computerinteresserede nogen”. Men de ta’r fejl, gør de. Det her skal læres i skolen og burde være mere vigtigt på jobcentrene end alle de tåbelige Hvordan Man Skriver et CV-kurser.

En lidt snævrere fortolkning er, hvordan man opfører sig på nettet.

Man skulle jo synes, at det var nemt. For digital dannelse er i bund og grund blot en forlængelse af den dannelse, vi forventes at have ude i virkeligheden. En forståelse af spillereglerne. Almindelig høflighed, ville min mormor nok have kaldt det. Alligevel er det tydeligt for enhver, der er bruger af digitale medier, at ordentlighed mange steder er en mangelvare. Altså, en hel masse mennesker tror, at ordentlighed kun er nødvendigt “i virkeligheden”. Men altså, folks, her kommer noget Oplysning til Borgerne om Samfundet:

  • Internettet er en ligeså virkelig virkelighed som ude på gaden, hvor du jo heller ikke smider affald. Vel?
  • Mellemfolkelige færdselsregler gælder alle steder, også dér hvor man er anonym.
  • Regn med at ALT er offentligt. Eller lige pludselig bliver det.
  • Du tror måske at du kan trolle frit med dit ‘Per Hansen’ alter ego og din Hotmail adresse. Men en dag kommer du til at afsløre dig selv eller nogen gør det for dig, og så kan vi andre følge sporet tilbage og se din ondskabsfulde trolling. Så bliver det nok – fuldt fortjent – mindre sjovt at gå på arbejde og til familiemiddag.
  • Hvis nogen angriber dig personligt på Facebook eller Twitter eller et andet medie, hvor du selv bestemmer, hvem der kan komme i kontakt med dig, så blokér vedkommende. Livet er for kort til at stå på mål for den slags.
  • Inden du kaster dig ud i debatten et nyt sted, så tjek lige tonen på stedet ud først. Læg blødt ud og tal ordentligt til folk, så kommer du ikke galt afsted.
  • Hvis du har en blog, så moderér kommentarerne. Skriv, at du gør det. Hvis du så bliver  beskyldt for at knægte ytringsfriheden, må du blot spørge, om det virkelig er ytringsfrihed at strø om sig med skældsord og personangreb. Har du de nødvendige tekniske færdigheder, så kan du gemme de grænseoverskridende indlæg og overstrege alt det grimme og så publicere resultatet. På den måde bliver substansen i kritikken tilbage. Ofte viser det sig, at der ikke er nogen substans.
  • Når du er uenig med nogen, så giv da endelig udtryk for det. Men tænk også på det lys, du sætter dig selv i, hvis du ikke har argumenter, men kun skældsord.
  • Det er ærgerligt, at så mange ellers interessante debatter i avisernes kommentarfelter bliver ødelagt af agressive og ubehagelige kommentarer, der gør det til en Golgatha-vandring at nå frem til de gode og konstruktive kommentarer. Mange brugere opgiver på halvvejen, inklusive mig selv. Aviserne ville gøre sig selv en stor tjeneste ved at modere langt tættere – glimrende studenterjob!
  • Hvis du har en anonym mailadresse og alias, som du bruger til at spy galde ud over folk, du er uenig med, så overvej, hvad du egentlig får ud af det? Måske skulle du læse en bog i stedet for? Eller få en hund?

Elektronista

I know I’m not supposed to brag. But I’m going to do it anyway. I’ve been made “Electronista of the Week” by Danish online magazine Elektronista, focusing on the cross-section between women and technology. With the honour comes an interview where I got the unique chance to tell about my favourite gadgets and web-thingies. Here’s the interview in Danish. Below a version in English. *I’m that proud of it*

She’s more connected than her sons and has many more years of media experience than most of her more than 1000 followers on Twitter. We bow to copy-writer and social media consultant Néné La Beet and eat up her digital tips and tricks.

What’s your favourite gadget right now? That would have to be my IPad2. The loveliest toy and also very practical at times. I use the IPad at the breakfast table to read the paper and check Twitter, on the train to continue with the paper, in the sofa for Twitter, reading, silly stuff, Monopoly with my son. Sometimes also in bed for more of the same. I’m looking forward to the holidays where I’ll try it out with games, travel books and novels.

I also have a Flip camera, which makes uploading and editing a piece of cake. I use it for different things, but mostly to help my ten-year-old son make skater-films and fingerboard films and upload them to YouTube. I won’t even mention my Iphone 4 which has become a part of me. I think I might be addicted…

What do you wish for? I’m a very lucky woman who recently got a new Imac, Iphone and IPad, so I don’t really have a long wish list. What I would like though, was for somebody to sync all my devices so we could share music and films and deal with all of it from one computer. I just don’t have the patience to figure it out myself.


What do you consider the most interesting digital tendencies right now? What has caught my attention the most, lately, are all the new social media that address a narrower group than “everybody”. I’m in love with Pinterest, where you share pictures of stuff with each other. A piece of special jewelery, a dress you’ve seen in the street, a marvellous book shelf, etc.

And there’s Goodreads, where we share books we read, the great international network for knitters and crocheters, Ravelry. More work related is “Facebook for business”, Podio, developed in Denmark.

Can you name something that somebody should invent? I think that printers are lagging behind the general technological development. Why must it be so hard to connect to a printer wirelessly? And printer drivers, honestly, why haven’t they been phased out years ago? And, I’d like somebody to invent something that would allow us to roam abroad without getting ruined and without adding to the phone companies’ already padded wallets.

When are gadgets and technology really really cool? I love when gadgets communicate seamlessly with each other. I do not understand how it can be considered a competitive advantage that your device can’t work with other devices.

What website would you like to recommend to others? Zite is an app for IPad, which aggregates news in an incredibly intuitive way. You can see on Twitter who opens Zite first in the morning. They are always first with the news! Other than that it’ll have to be the above mentioned Pinterest. But it eats up my time, I swoon over all the lovely stuff out there!

What are your favourite mobile apps right now? My favourite apps are all those that aid me when I’m mobile. I use IMailG to check mail, InstaGram for posting pictures to Twitter and Facebook, various transport apps that show times, delays, etc. We use Viber to speak with each other for free, particularly smart when you’re abroad. And of course the Wikipedia app, which answers all our questions while we’re out and about. Last, something very basic, the Shopper-app, which is just a digital shopping list. Its advantage is that it’s always in my pocket, never at home on the kitchen table.

Can you recommend some people or pages to follow? On Facebook I’m happy following Slate, TED, Huffington Post and Vanity Fair, as I tend to forget to check these marvellous American news- and trrend media if it’s not fed to me. On Twitter it’s too hard to recommend anyone special, I follow so many intelligent, interesting, funny and helpful people. Check my followers and who I talk to!

Do you have a technology tip for others? I take pictures of stuff I want to remember. It’s low-tech perhaps, but it works. I note stuff in Evernote, so I can always have it with me. I save links with Instapaper and have ALL my files, photographs and music in the cloud on Dropbox. That way I don’t need to remember anything (except the cable to connect my laptop to the projector when I give workshops. I forget that every other time!)

Typical of the incredibly fast development in the digital world, this interview was made on Sunday night. On Monday night, just after it was published, Apple came with the news of the ICloud. So now, very soon, I’ll have what I wished for!

I spent a day in the company of geeks

Jennie & Mary, tweeting.

I learned cool stuff about WordPress (this blog is made with WordPress software) – some of which I think I have to refresh if I can convince lovely Lisa to spend a couple of hours getting it to stick in my brain. During the day I learned bits and pieces about technology, just picked up here and there and difficult to quantify. There was a so-called unconference covering a wide variety of subjects, the more interesting (to me) were the one about how to go about writing a book (more geeky than you might think), the one about boosting your self confidence and the one about handling conflicts. Particularly the last one resonated deeply with me. Averse to conflict as I am.

I met some pretty gorgeous people, such as Camilla Ley Valentin from the wildly interesting start-up Queue-IT, the sweet & lovely journalist, blogger and author Dorte Chakravarty, the adorable stylist Judi Lund Finderup, the charming self-anointed Wellness Junkie Anne-Grete Belmadani, the mega inspiring coach Maria Gustavsson and the sexy journalist Ronnie Ritterland. And there were some recent acquaintances from Twitter, the funny and charming Jennie and the mischievous Mary. And many others who no doubt deserve to be mentioned, but whose names Néné, the scatterbrain, has forgotten or who don’t have a website known to me. Sorry!

There was a clothes swap, where you got a token for each piece of clothing you brought in and several little workshops where you could learn jewellery-making and alternative stuff to do with plastic pearls and t-shirts. A good deal of the geeks had brought knitting and some were even spotted embroidering. The food was lovely and the sweets golden in more senses than one.

The best licorice I've ever tasted. Seriously. www.lakrids.nu Photo by @risager

I suspect that I’ll meet several of these fabulous people again and that it won’t be the last time I go to geeky get-togethers.

Did I mention that we were only women?

Learning and learning

Yes, that’s me. While I love to learn and recently went to a real educational institution and got a real degree, Bachelor of Science, I’m also very lazy. So studying at uni is not my preferred way to acquire new knowledge. And as much as I love to read and also do read non-fiction every other time I pick up a book, my preferred way of acquiring new knowledge is by listening to podcasts. I know I’ve mentioned this a number of times before, but I have the feeling I’m not really getting through to you. Do you realise what FANTABULOUS stuff you can download and listen to FOR FREE out there?

Yesterday, I got a letter from our television supplier TDC. It was a “special offer” of an extra television package at 148 DKR per month. That’s around 17£. For this exorbitant amount of money I would get – what exactly?  10 or so cr*p channels offering nothing but US television series reruns, again-again showings of action films, “talent” shows and of course heaps of reality shows. No BBC, nothing even remotely interesting to neither me nor junior.

But right here on my computer I find hours, days, months if not years of free (and completely legal, I should say) entertainment. I can watch, read and listen. And learn. And that’s what I love most. I really wish I’d loved learning as much when I was younger. I could have become a polymath by now!

I subscribe to a number of podcasts, but unfortunately I never seem to have time enough to listen to all of them. Maybe if I had to do a lot of long haul flights? My favourite subject is clearly history, which seems to lend itself so perfectly to the podcast format. I subscribe to Melvyn Bragg’s hour-long discussions with scholars on historic persons or episodes. Always interesting and very well made. And to the Danish Alle Tiders Historie (A History of All Times). But my all time favourite is a collaboration between British Museum and British Radio 4, A History of the World in a 100 Objects. It consists of one hundred 15-minute podcasts covering all of human history. It is the brainchild of the absolutely fantastic and admirable director of the

Neil MacGregor (picture from The Guardian)
Neil MacGregor (picture from The Guardian)

British Museum, Neil MacGregor. He must be one of the world’s most inspirational museum directors and he actually narrates most of this fantastic series himself. I love how his favourite expressions slowly emerge as you hear more and more of the programmes. If you start listening, wait for the first time he says “the business end of (…)”. It makes me giggle.

Did you know that the first depiction of a couple making love dates back 11,000 years? (Take that, creationists). Well, I sure didn’t. Or that an intricate, glittering gold cape was dug out of the ground in North Wales in 1833? Or how much you can read out of the Egyptian Pharaoh Den’s sandal label?

I also subscribe to podcasts about medicine, sociology, psychology and technology. My favourite technology programme is actually the Danish Harddisken, which is very versatile and reminds me more of the magazine Wired than of any other podcasts. And that’s a compliment. Wired is the only magazine I read after I’ve had to give up on Vanity Fair for two reasons. One, that I simply don’t seem to have time enough to read it, and two, that I’ve found it more and more about showbiz and less about political and cultural matters. My only, but serious, objection to Harddisken (as it is to Wired) is the lack of women involved in making and presenting the programme. I find it very, very hard to believe that there are really so few women out there with anything interesting or important to contribute. I tend to believe that it’s habit and laziness that bring (the same) men to the microphones again and again.

If you have a phone that supports it you can also watch video podcasts or you can watch them on your computer. I don’t watch many video podcasts, but when I do it’s invariably from TED. The last one I’ve enjoyed was this one about mistaken beliefs – seeing patterns that aren’t there.

What women want. Aha. But what do men want?

Phones 4U has done a survey on the attractiveness of men, judged by the mobile or smartphone they own. Not too surprisingly women find men with Iphones to be the most attractive. You know, they have enough money to buy one and hopefully use some of the arty applications rather than sports- and porn applications…

Iphones in the family (bar one who wasnt present...)
Iphones in the family (bar one who wasn't present...)

Read about this survey here in MacWorld. I scrolled and scrolled to find the bit about the reverse situation. How does a man think a woman’s phone adds or detracts to her attractiveness? But will you believe it? There’s not a word about that.

Now, does that mean that men don’t care what phone a woman uses as long as her other, eh, attributes, are attractive to him, or does it mean that Phones 4U simply didn’t think to reverse the question? Which leads to another question: Does that mean that far more men than women own Iphones? I know you should be careful when judging from your own circles and I am. But still, at least half of the Iphone owners I know are women.

Just asking…

Waving the feminist flag again

Knowing how it upsets quite a few of my male readers I just can’t help myself. It’s Ada Lovelace day today, so we’re celebrating women who have excelled in technology.

I’ve chosen not to celebrate any woman in particular but instead to muse over why so many women still shy away from technology.

Ada Lovelace embraced technology although it hadn’t even been invented when she was around. She was guided by her curiosity combined with a brilliant brain and the financial circumstances to allow it.

I think that there’s a number of reasons why women don’t tend to embrace technology the way men do.

*disclaimer*
Please note that I use GENERALISATIONS in this post. I KNOW that not all men embrace technology or are good at it, I KNOW that there are women who excel in hardcore programming, etc. etc. But I’m sure you’ll agree that MORE women than men shy away from technology and that MORE men than women enjoy discussing Megabits of this and Gigabytes of that.
*end of disclaimer*

One of these reasons is the rather dull and unsurprising that technology has always been a male thing ever since the invention of the first technologies when women were still mostly “housewives” and dumbed down by themselves, their mothers, their fathers, their teachers, their brothers, their husbands and society in general. When computers started to be household items, everything to do with them was communicated in a special language, almost exclusive to people who worked with computers and completely unintelligible to anybody outside. But most men had to either pretend to understand or buy some copies of PC World and get an understanding quickly if they didn’t want to be out of the loop.

For women it was enough to learn the weird code language that was WordPerfect. Learning that was not at all considered a computer skill and nobody ever told any secretary that she could take her advanced WordPerfect coding skills and transfer them to other forms of computer coding – that the principles were the same even if the codes were different. So a large group of people – women – who could have become programmers and learned HTML as easy as one-two-three was completely lost. Because when Apple came with their What You See Is What You Get word processing technology and Microsoft came right at their heels and delivered Word to the world, everybody forgot all about WordPerfect and the skillset required to work it.

The language surrounding computers and other daily life technologies has certainly become a lot more accessible with the acceptance and knowledge that the target group has exploded and now includes everybody. But techno speak is still rife and you do need to learn some basics if you want to purchase some new technology and actually know what you’re buying. It’s also very helpful to know basic computer lingo when you make the inevitable call to the dreaded call centre for help. But I still think it would be really helpful if the ad said: This phone has 8GB memory. That equals x number of songs or x podcasts or x movie length films. I mean, who cares whether it’s 8 or 16GB? What you care about is whether there’s room for your entire Itunes library.

So when I talk to other women about technology and they get defensive about learning a bit of computer lingo I challenge them. Every time we enter a new chapter of our lives, we learn the language belonging to this particular subgroup without giving it much thought. You start studying law and after a year or so you’ve adopted a whole new set of words which you use effortlessly, inside and outside university. When you start cooking you learn the difference between tsp and tbsp and after the first mistake you know what “separate the eggs” means. When you first get pregnant (or your girl does) you learn a whole new set of words and phrases and suddenly know exactly what is considered a “normal” birth weight and what isn’t whereas previously you wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if somebody had told you that their baby weighed 12 kilos at birth.

I therefore challenge women to sit down and learn the basics about computers, so they can understand enough to make sane purchases, avoid viruses, guide their children and do what they want to do on their computers and smartphones. Whining that it’s “too complicated” just doesn’t cut any slack with me.

And now for the second reason why I think women are lagging behind when it comes to technology. I think they lack curiosity. Or rather, they lack the inclination to pursue their curiosity. And I think that’s with us from childhood. The further we go back in time the less women are likely to have been encouraged to act on their curiosity as children. And if you go to a toy store or a book store’s children’s department you’ll see how that’s still so very much the case. I should underline that this is a lot worse here in the UK than it is in Denmark. Can’t speak for the rest of the world. The wonderful Science Museum here in the UK has developed the most amazing series of exploratory toys and, happily, they’re on sale all over the world. However, in many a toy store or department store these toys are displayed in the boys’ section and not in the girls’. And where, unfortunately, it’s a general trend that children’s toys today don’t encourage them to think “out of the box” (Now, who is responsible for ruining that phrase? come here and I’ll spank you!) as much as previous generations’ toys, it’s much more true for girls’ toys. If you don’t believe me, go take a look. And don’t tell me that I can just avoid them. I only have boys. But then, I’m not talking about me. Keeping in mind the size of the toy departments and the amount of money spent on advertising toys every year, there CLEARLY are people who buy it, right!

I blame the mothers, particularly the ones who ought to know better, for giving in to this. Just heard this morning that some girls at son’s school were invited to a birthday party with a “Makeover” theme. That makes me want to be sick in somebody’s designer handbag.

In the teetering stack of books next to my bed is a book called Curious? by the psychologist Todd Kashdan (@toddkashdan on Twitter). I haven’t read it yet, but I bought it based on his op-eds in The Huffington Post and an article in the Guardian. I’m very curious myself and have often been told that I’m too curious for my own good. Imagine how pleased I was to read that curiosity is actually good for you and leads to much more “life satisfaction” if such a thing can be quantified. The curious are seldom bored, there’s always an avenue to explore. So what I know now, in the midst of the huge sea of things I don’t know, is that at least I’m not going to die of boredom.

***

So, what I meant to say on Ada Lovelace day, was this: Yes, ladies, there’s a historic precedence for women to not be curious and to be cr*p at technology. But that’s all it is. There are no excuses anymore. And if you can’t be bothered for yourself, then do it for your children. They deserve that you make the effort to understand the world they live in.

Pink

I’ve been reading some Danish blogs’n’stuff lately since I was in Denmark and was alerted to a friend’s new blog and reminded of an old favourite. If you don’t read Danish, don’t click these two links.

This woman writes about pink technology and how it’s a total turnoff for most women. So true, so true. I cannot think of anything  more dreadful than a pink mobile phone with little sparkly thingies dangling from it.

She has also written an e-book about women and technology and divides us into Electronistas, Electroneutrals and Electronots. Well, as no surprise to any of my readers, I’m an Electronista. Trouble is, however, that I’m in reality far too old to be an Electronista, they are supposed to be younger than 35! Apparently, when you weren’t born into the tech age, you can’t be a true geek?

I’m the geekiest woman I know, maybe save one. In our home I do all things that have to do with technology, including opening envelopes from LoveFilm… I’m unafraid of technology but make no attempt to understand how it works and get annoyed when a tech product tries to tell me what to do and to prevent me from doing things it thinks I shouldn’t be doing (Windows) and when products are totally un-intuitive like my husband’s work Blackberry. When you’re used to an Iphone and prior to that to Nokia, the Blackberry seems devoid of logic. My Iphone is my best baby and I break out in cold sweat by the thought of losing it. It’s already a dinosaur, 1st generation, no 3G, 2 years old. But I adore it and use it for any thinkable and probably also some unthinkable purposes (no, you twat, not THAT unthinkable!!!).

My other best baby is my new Macbook Pro. I’m supposed to be able to make do with something much smaller and less powerful and that’s probably true. But my last MacBaby was exactly the same as this one and we had a loving relationship for 3+ years. So why change horses? (By the way, it still works and young son now uses it).

On my previous computer I had Microsoft Office installed. On this one I’ve avoided it so far, using the excellent Apple office package IWork and, mostly, Google Documents.

As you’ve guessed, because you’re so clever, I love all things Mac. I really can’t help it. When the Iphone first came out I tried to not like it, I tried to brush it off as yummy-tech for the Really Smart People. But I couldn’t. The thing about the Iphone has been that I have loved it more and more the longer I’ve owned it. There’s no grass that’s greener on the other side. Of course I’m now eying the IPad. I’m quite sure that I don’t want the first version. Mostly because I would like it as an E-Reader and it doesn’t have its bookstore ready for Europe yet. But also because I’d like to have Flash (rumour has it that the next version will sidestep Flash and use HTML 5. I honestly don’t know what that means, so I’ll just wait and see). And apparently you can’t use a USB stick on it but need Apple’s own special memory thingummies – I’m not sure I like that. But knowing Apple, all these things will be resolved in one of the next versions. That’s what happened with the Iphone; all the little things that irritated at first have been mended since. In the meantime, another rumour has it that Amazon will start giving away Kindles to all their Prime customers. Now THAT would be nice. Because I’m drowning in books and would very much like to stop buying pulped trees and start downloading.

Back to the pink. I so don’t understand why women will sink themselves and particularly their daughters into the Pink Pit. When I go shopping, both on the Interwebby (thanks Lulu) and IRL (in real life) I’m appalled at the amount of pink and glittery stuff offered to women and their daughters. It’s not that I can’t abide pink at all, I have a pink scarf somewhere and I used to have a pink t-shirt. In my bathroom I even have a line-up of pink coloured perfume bottles… What’s probably even more appalling is that it’s not just pink and glittery on the outside, very often it’s pink and glittery on the inside as well – understood in the sense that it speaks to women and girls as if they were morons and 2nd rate people.

As you may or may not have noticed, it was recently Valentine’s Day. Pink was everywhere. Where there was no pink was on Wired Magazine’s advice on how to win a geeky girl’s heart. Great advice, I would very much like to be at the receiving end of that kind of treatment and to some extent I am, thanks to my Dear Husband. But what so totally puzzles me is why this wouldn’t be a treat for any woman? Why does she have to be geeky (and why are there almost exclusively ads for men in Wired)?

In spite of the fact that I have two sons and a horde of nephews and only one niece, I’ve joined a network here in England called Pink Stinks. Go there and read about it. And, especially if you have daughters, do join!

Women in tech

Today is Ada Lovelace day. Ada what-day? I hear you say. Well, Ada Lovelace was a pioneer in the technology field, where not many women have been pioneering. Click her name and read all about it. And here you can read how her legacy has been meaningful to her descendants for generations. And here about the idea behind Ada Lovelace day. Today’s Guardian has an article as well.

That it’s Ada Lovelace day means that all women who are interested in tech-stuff and also other women who take an interest in feminism celebrate a brave woman who came before us and had a lot less opportunities than we have. I’ve signed a pledge to write a blogpost about a living woman who’s made her mark in the tech community. At first I had no idea who to write about, but then I heard about Manuela Veloso. I listen to podcasts of a Danish tech programme called Harddisken and they had met her and interviewed her. I took an instant liking to this little busy, busy middle-aged Latin woman, who has made a career for herself in robotics. It’s not rocket science, but it’s d… close!

Here’s her long term research goal as expressed by herself (autonomous agent=robot):

My long-term research goal is the effective construction of autonomous agents where cognition, perception, and action are combined to address planning, execution, and learning tasks. My vision is that multiple intelligent robots with different sets of complementary capabilities will provide a seamless synergy of intelligence. Concretely, my research focuses on the continuous integration of reactive, deliberative planning, and control learning for teams of multiple agents acting in adversarial, dynamic, and uncertain environments. Of particular interest to me is learning, adversarial modeling, reuse, and abstraction in multiagent problems.

Manuela Veloso. Picture from Carnegie-Mellon homepage.
Manuela Veloso. Picture from Carnegie-Mellon homepage.

She’s Portuguese, but works as a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburg. Details about her personal life – like her date of birth – are scarce, but from her picture and career I think it’s safe to say that she’s around 50. Why she left Portugal is anybody’s guess, but it was probably a career-move, judging from her CV.

Because her main interest is the so-called “flocking” (=computers copying the behaviour of birds or fish when travelling together in big flocks or shoals), she has taken a particular interest in robot soccer games. Read about that here. If you just for a moment start thinking about what it entails to embed flocking behaviour into robots, so that they might behave like a flock of starlings is completely mind boggling!

So there, that was my two pence for women in tech.

Oh, and I think that if you’ve made it this far, you could also click here to aid the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Tech news of the day

In Washington Post about viruses on social networking sites. It’s a very sober article, telling us the facts about the current viruses out there, how to spot them, how to avoid them:

It’s important to note that practicing basic online street smarts can save you from falling for these types of attacks, regardless of the medium. As always, be extremely cautious about clicking on links in unsolicited messages, even if they appear to have been sent by a friend or acquaintance. Also, don’t install applications or programs if you didn’t go looking for them. Before you install anything, take a few minutes to research the program and its vendor first. If you decide to install the application, make sure to download it directly from the vendor’s Web site, if possible.

– waste of time set aside, this is a good a reason as any to avoid all the silly applications on Facebook. I’ve kept just one and that’s because it’s been developed by a friend of mine, so I trust it.

Havent installed the app yet!
Haven't installed the app yet!

Also in Washington Post about a cool app for the Iphone, the kind you wish you’ll never have to use. At a calm moment in your home you record all details about your car, insurance etc. And then, if you’re in an accident, you can report it to the insurance company with details like photos of the wreckage etc. in seconds.

Wired has the story about Flickr now opening up for videos, even in HD, also for the non-paying members.

Guardian Tech tells that Yelp has launched for London. It’s a review site like so many others, but this has apparently worked really well in the US. At a cursory glance it looks good. Worth checking out if you’re going I’m sure. We go there so relatively rarely that I still feel so totally like a tourist – map in hand 50% of the time…

Finally a tip from down under. I’ve started following this entertaining blog, which has such a cool take on its two subjects, economy & children. He really knows how to mix those two things in new and entertaining ways! He also Twitters and a few days ago Twittered about a math site for children called Mathletics, which he recommended. I checked it out and now I’ve purchased it for Dane. We just did an hour and he won his first certificate. Not only is this a fairly cool way of learning stuff that could otherwise be boring (it responds intelligently to you getting a question wrong and goes back and gives you an easier one or one with more help), you can also play against other children around the globe. For me specifically I finally get a glimpse of the curriculum for his year and I can tell you, I breathe much easier now!

Oh, and then this one which isn’t techie at all, but still lovely news. Bryan Appleyard has good news, namely that pundits get it wrong 66% of the time. I’m sure that’s more than me :-D    and more than the flip of a coin.

Tools for a better understanding of conflicts

I’m trying my hand with some new podcasts now that I’m exercising three times a week. You can hear a lot of podcasts in 4-5 hours! One I listened to today was BBC’s technology podcast called Digital Planet. It was surprisingly good and this episode focused almost exclusively on the Gaza conflict. Some of these wonderful Open Source people have developed a debate wiki called DebateGraph, which encompasses all the stand points and all the arguments in the Gaza conflict and shows them in a graphic way. I’ve been trying to embed it here on my blog, but I just can’t get WordPress to do it. What kind of media is a wiki exactly, anyway? But click here and have a good look at it. The British newspaper The Independent has been more successful than me, it’s embedded on their website and they are presently using it to show “What Obama should do next”. Really marvellous tool!

Digital Planet also mentioned another tool called Ushahidi, originally developed for the conflict in the Democratic Replublic of Congo, which monitors all sources to find out the correct number of casualties. This one is adopted by Al-Jazeera.

A couple of other news tit-bits from around the world: Obama has, in yet another show of supreme insight in how the media works, released a letter he’s written to his two little girls here only a few days away from his inauguration. Read it in its entirety here. There’s also an interesting letter going in the other direction, namely the star of the blogosphere Arianna Huffington’s letter titled “Moving forward doesn’t mean you can’t look back”. It’s about America not closing its eyes to the crimes committed by the Bush/Cheney administration. She quotes George W.

As for the economy, Bush insisted, “I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession. In the meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted growth.” Which is kind of like saying the flight of the Hindenburg was fabulous up until the landing.

Which reminded me that I still haven’t seen Bush’ farewell address. It’s a must-see, I think. With remarks like that!