On not being completely free to curate

I just attended Skepticon 6, and had a number of excellent and thought-provoking conversations with some people I’ve admired, some people I’ve long since befriended, and some people I’d never met before but am glad to have met now. It was a great experience, a few issues aside which I’ll, naturally, have to talk more about soon.

On Wednesday night, immediately after work, Stephanie, Brianne and I piled into the car and undertook a ten-hour car ride south. We arrived at 5 am, and promptly hit our beds and crashed. The first night we were in Springfield, Missouri, folks were still filtering into town, and as we skeptics are wont to do, we sought one another out for the first of what promised to be many of those thought-provoking conversations. This conversation became the genesis for this post, which will hopefully serve as a follow-up to my recent post about curating your internet experience.
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You are free to choose how to use the internet

I’d like remind everyone that you are free to curate your internet experience however you please. When your internet experience starts to suck because people are trying to make your life miserable, you are free to deal with that as you see fit.

You are free to withdraw from a space. You are free to ban and block. You are free to call on friends for help. You are free to dig in and argue with every entitled douchebag who comes along trying to win a war of attrition in order to force you out of that space. You are free to be pseudonymous; you are free to use your real name. You are free to publicly disagree with them, even via a blog post if you so choose; or you can privately disagree with them amongst a small tight-knit circle of friends and allies. You can use any number of block-list services like Akismet, RBL, the A+ Block Bot, or even a whitelist-only setup like making your Twitter account Private. You can engage with everyone who thinks the internet is a debate club, or you can ignore those people, or you can block them.

And be damned anyone who says that this is “fascist”.
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The Ada Initiative recognizes the feminist fight in the skeptical and secular communities

Two days ago, I was pleasantly surprised on Twitter (a rarity, to be sure) when The Ada Initiative tweeted the following:

 

Until then, I had no idea The Ada Initiative knew this parallel fight was happening in the skeptical and secular movements, where I’ve only seen them talk about the problems in technology, the open source world and geek culture.
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Google offers travel grants for female computer developers

Google has done something decidedly not-evil (despite recent major missteps), and put together a travel grants program for several computer science conferences aimed at encouraging women entering fields under the T umbrella in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

As part of Google’s ongoing commitment to encourage women to excel in computing and technology, we are pleased to offer Women in Tech Conference and Travel Grants for female computer scientists.

To encourage attendance at technical conferences, we are offering the winners:

  • Free registration for the conference
  • Up to 1000 EUR towards travel and accommodation costs (to be paid after the conference)

To be eligible for a conference grant, the candidate must:

  • Be a female working in or studying Computer Science, Computer Engineering or a technical field related to the conference subject
  • Have a strong academic background with demonstrated leadership ability
  • Attend the core day(s) of the main conference

How To Apply

To apply, by the indicated deadline, please submit this form by the indicated deadline.
You may apply for multiple conferences.

Eligible Conferences 2013 (ongoing, more conferences will be added throughout the year)

Winners and claim process

All applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by email, approximately 3-4 weeks prior to the event. If you are selected, you will receive additional information on how to register for the conference and how to receive your travel grant.

For any questions, please reach out to europe-events@google.com.

This is how you fix the gender disparity between men and women in technology: you help women who might otherwise not be able to travel or who might think these conferences are not for them because of a lack of women representation in the field, get to the conferences to begin with. This puts those women in a position to be seen, so other women know that it’s not a gender-specific job. And they get a chance to talk with people inside the industry, too — which encourages them to recognize women programmers when they see them.

Lower the barriers that have developed naturally that keep women from being seen at such conferences and drives the lack of women interested in the field — when you don’t see anyone shaped like you in a field, you come to believe it’s not for you. It’s why Surly Amy was, until the JREF president made it clear by his actions that feminists were unwelcome at TAM, offering travel grants to women to attend — to improve gender ratios and give these women a chance to discover that the movement was indeed for them. (A shame how that all turned out, by the by.)

Attempting to fix comment preview bug

Just so everyone’s aware, I just made a small change to the comment preview plugin to wrap the comment preview in the correct CSS div class. As I made this edit within the plugin itself, it’s not going to be future proof — if we update that plugin, my change will be reverted.

The correct solution is to edit our stylesheet to honor both div classes, or change the class we use for our comments, but either of those might have ripple effects, and I was in a rush this morning so I did the least intrusive change to potentially fix the problem. Worst that can happen here is the preview is still broken.

Can you folks kindly test and let me know if it’s better now? If so, I’ll see about making a more permanent change ASAP.

CONvergence – Real World vs the Internet

It’s a false dichotomy. End of panel. Thank you all for coming!

Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. You’ll want to listen to this one, especially where we draw significantly on our personal experiences and discuss how the lines are blurring, and how “meatspace” is not really all that distinguishable from the internet. In fact, the biggest and most important “internet-based” event in my life actually took me some time to recall, because I wasn’t mentally classifying it as internet-related, which is why you’ll hear me fumble for an experience at the start of the panel.

Panelists were Stephanie Zvan, Jason Thibeault, Lux Pickel, PZ Myers, and Jamie Bernstein.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

cvg2013-skepchickcon-realworldvsinternet.mp3

Sorry it’s taking so long to get these out. I basically came crashing back to reality hard after CONvergence, coming home to two gigantic work crises at once, creating a perfect storm that I’m still shovelling out. Fifteen hours yesterday, seven hours sleep, more work since I’ve been awake. Essentially, the only reason I’m posting this now is because I’m on an enforced break while my VPN access point is rebooting. Seriously, God must really hate me for being so dismissive of him over the weekend or something.

Warwick Davis explains the importance of computer backups

I’m in a seriously bad way after working a ridiculous marathon shift overnight when some server issues kinda turned into a perfect storm. I might need a few days to recover and catch up on sleep. So have something fun.

I loved Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood when I was a kid. Probably saw that movie a dozen times. Today I learned something new about him: he really loves Youtube videos of cats.

But who would remake the turtle videos, Warwick? WHO!?

Mock The Movie: .COM For Murder

This movie was easily one of the best worst movies we’ve seen and targeted for Mock The Movie, and not just because of our tech-savvy participants. This movie took itself so seriously, and tried so hard, and yet it failed so miserably at everything it did. Every character was inept, even the supposedly hyper-adept evil hacker. Every action taken was ludicrous, and there were dozens and dozens of ways to short-circuit the evil hacker’s plans. It was ripe for the picking, and boy did we pick.

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Evolving pseudo-creatures in computer simulation to run a short course

I love the idea of simulating evolution through computer models. The purpose of such an exercise is not so much to prove that evolution happened, or to prove that complexity can evolve from simple rulesets (though that’s certainly important), but to show that randomness and flexibility in solving tasks can create novel approaches that are more creative even than anything that intelligences like ourselves have worked out.

This particular example shows some behaviours from creatures built out of four types of blocks that emulate hopping, running and dragging themselves along a course, in a simulation where creatures that make it across a trial field quickest are rewarded by having more offspring in subsequent generations.


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Spot the Sexual Language

If you were watching the SkepTech hash tag on Twitter during the conference last weekend, you probably would have seen the usual suspects making the usual whine-plaints about harassment policies, and how they’re ruining all the fun at conferences. Then you would have seen some of those same whiners lose their shit over the fact that there was a whole panel about sex (HEAVENS FOREFEND), populated by feminists (FETCH MY FAINTING COUCH).

An example tweet from a pro-harassment tweeter (I mean, seriously, what else can you make of this?), believes they’ve caught us feminists, and the founders of SkepTech who supported harassment policies, out on some sort of hypocrisy:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue/status/322614556880949249″]

@iamcuriousblue #SkepTech policy:”Sexual language & imagery not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks.” In practice: [link to Youtube video]

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