Happy Ada Lovelace Day!
Ada Lovelace is the woman who created what is today considered as the first computer program ever written. Every year, on October 16th, women - and men - in tech celebrate Ada Lovelace Day in honor of this pioneer and to highlight that, even though science and technology are male-dominated fields, there are a few outstanding women who made their way in these fields, often fighting against their families, peers and even society at large who believe in the stereotype that “girls and technology don’t match”.
If you want to read more about some of the outstanding women in technology and related fields, you can go to the Finding Ada website, which collects their stories. Also, Mashable has a nice infographic: From Ada Lovelace to Marissa Mayer: The Rise of Women in Tech.
Web Montag Frankfurt Meeting #38
On Monday, I made a trip to Frankfurt in order to visit the Web Montag Meeting Frankfurt #38 (web monday) at the Brotfabrik. I have attended this event a couple of times starting back in 2006, but I haven’t been there for more than a year.
It was great to feel the vibe of the geek crowd at such an event and overhearing people talk about hashtags and checking in with Foursquare. That alone was worth it, since I haven’t been at any similar event lately.
At 19:30, Ali-Pasha Foroughi, one of the organizers, took the stage, thanked the sponsors and welcomed the first presenter. Every time he spoke, Ali put a lot of emphasis on the local nature of the event, reassuring everybody in the audience that there are things going on in the Rhein Main area, not just Berlin and Silicon Valley (“Rhein Main rules!”).
There were four talks on this evening:
- Surviving re:publica - report from the “school trip”: Jan Eggers a.k.a. @untergeekDE (who is doing social media for the public broadcaster hr) told about his experience attending the re:publica conference in Berlin. He said journalists are trying to grasp this event and describe it with one headline which is not (or no longer) possible. Thus, he didn’t try it and rather told only a few highlights and anecdotes. Aforementioned journalists also keep on using the term “Netzgemeinde” (net society), which is totally inadequate to use since there is no working network at the conference … . His highlights were @RegSprecher (representative of German government), scientific analysis of personalities in comment threads (trolls, anyone?!) and the poll for the worst web video. What I personally found interesting is that Twitter was the biggest corporate player at this “blogger conference” and the company was placing a lot of emphasis on being “the second screen”, probably in an attempt to find a distinctive feature over Facebook.
- The Cloud - you’re deeper in than you think: René Büst, a technology analyst for clouduser.de, told the audience that everyone is in the cloud. Then he proceeded with an explanation of cloud computing, describing terms such as public vs. private cloud, IaaS vs. PaaS etc.. The presentation was focused on the fundamental basics, maybe too high level for the attending crowd?! I had the impression the people around me already knew what they were told. One interesting remark, though, was about the cloud challenging corporate IT departments, which often cannot act fast enough and so other departments bypass them and purchase resources directly from external cloud vendors. At the end of the talk, the CloudCamp Frankfurt was announced. I’m curious how this partly barcamp-style event will turn out and how they broad topic cloud computing will be packed into one day.
- Designtage Wiesbaden: Did you know that the small town of Wiesbaden has over 600 design agency?! I didn’t. Those agencies celebrate themselves and connect with local SMBs at the annual design days. This was the second report from another event on this evening, but it was presented in a quite different style. The speaker, Tina Rötter, is a print designer, but was qualified for speaking at a geek event by her dog (who also took the stage with her) having his own Twitter account …
- Oli.TV - an online concert portal: This talk was different from the others because it was a startup pitch. Still it was maybe the best and most engaging talk of the evening, thanks to the passionate and very likable founder Sebastian Knoll who really knew how to pitch his idea of streaming concerts online. They’ve already signed major artists (such as Alicia Keys and 50 Cent - “my brother is the tour organizer for 50 Cent”) and they have a clear business model in terms of pricing and marketing. However they are still at the start of building the product and looking for developers, on both this evening and at Startup Weekend (which was also announced at the event). What I’m wondering is why I missed this company at the code_n CeBIT booth …
All in all, the talks were not mindblowing but nevertheless interesting. I’m planning to go next month as well, since it’s a great way to feel as part of the “Netzgemeinde” :-) I hope I’ll find more networking opportunities then as well.
In case anybody wants to attend the other events which I’ve mentioned: When signing up for Startup Weekend, the code webmonday gives you 25% off.
What’s it about Geek and Coder Culture?!
I came across an article from Ryo Takashi titled SuperHappyDevHouse, in which he writes about his experiences being a software engineer but being alienated by the culture that surrounds his profession. I found the article via a tweet from @progrium, who’s one of the organizers of SuperHappyDevHouse. I haven’t been to this event but I’ve been to other events such as BarCamps, I’ve studied computer science and work in the industry, so I know “my breed” very well.
I don’t know how it works in other professions, but I feel like in software engineering, it’s not just go into work, do your work for 8 hours, and then go home. The engineering culture is pervasive. Many engineers program in their spare time. They think about programming on the weekends.
Well, in my opinion that’s just called being passionate about what you’re doing. I don’t think this is limited to computer science or software engineering, it can be seen in other professions as well!
I can’t imagine, say, accountants getting together on a Saturday in a house, and going on a mad accounting frenzy.
I should clarify: In other creative professions. I believe programming is an art. At least you can practice it as one. You can practice it like “just work” as well, but you shouldn’t complain that others are passionate, and furthermore you can’t expect to be as good as them if you aren’t. Every creative endeavour, whether you’re a musician or a writer or a designer or a programmer, requires a certain amount of both passion and dedication. As a programmer, unless you’re doing some boring monotonous work (which I wouldn’t like as well), you need to constantly invent and think of ways to accomplish your goal. You take the tools you have and combine them in sometimes unexpected ways to produce something new. At least for me, this is really exciting!
Artists and people in creative professions in general often have different views and opinions compared to “non-creative” workers. If you look into history, it was like that even in the pre-computer era, artists were always a little extra-ordinary. And as I said, for me, programmers are artists as well.
Second, every coder is a hacker, and there’s something extra-ordinary about hackers as well. Paul Graham of Y!Combinator has a great essay about hackers. On top of that comes that computer scientists and software engineers are considered “nerds” with “nerdy” behaviors (or non-behaviours); but those are also found in math and natural sciences.
Don’t flaunt it in my face, boasting that you can change the world in a day, when you’re just one person who’s typing text into a terminal.
I don’t think any single person can change the world in one day. But first of all, if everybody thought they can’t change a thing, nothing would change. It takes people to take risks and try to change the world. Most will fail, but some will succeed, and that’s what’s called progress. And second, “one person typing text into a terminal” can accomplish a lot. Think about the big companys such as Google and Facebook, how they started and how fast they grew compared to other industries. Computer science works on abstractions, which means that we can build on what’s already built. We can take two solved problems, add a little “glue” and solve a third problem.
What is it about computer science and software engineering that causes people to become obsessive, arrogant, elitist people?
Passion is always obsession, and obsession is nothing bad as long as you don’t forget there’s something else, as long as you don’t forget your family and friends or become close-minded and forget the context of your work, a little obsession won’t hurt anyone.
Arrogant and elitist?! I think programmers can have pride in what they do and what their impact is, because it is really huge if you consider how much our life is dominated by technology and how the people who design and build impact our life. But don’t forget: “With great power comes great responsiblity.”
The world, also geek and coder culture, should have no place for arrogant and elitist individuals! Don’t think your work is better than someone else’s. Think of other professions and passions, our world is the outcome of them all working together!
If you want to add to the discussion, the article is also discussed on HackerNews, where some of my arguments appeared as well.