Sep 30

Not Enough Women in Tech? You Really Shouldn’t Blame (All) the Men

So I spent this past week at TechCrunch Disrupt. I must say, I had a great time and it reinvigorated my interest in technology and its benefit to people around the world. After seeing Eric Schmidt and Beth Comstock speak and just hearing the conversations in the hallways, I realize we are truly blessed to be part of such interesting times.

As you may know, I took part in a panel about women in technology. I didn’t feel we really got anywhere with it and it felt awkward to witness what felt like a cat fight on stage. Ugh. Don’t let that sway you, please. There were some really interesting women up there and it was really hard to get a word in edge wise. There were also some interesting women on panels, like PayPal’s Laura Chambers, who discussed geolocation and mobile payments.

Panel aside, what I noticed was this: most guys were happy I was there. Women complain there is a lack of women in tech. Guess what? SO DO MEN. Imagine you work 12 hours a day on a startup. You don’t have much time to go out. It can be really hard to meet women, not just to date, but even as friends. I found the vast majority of guys at TechCrunch Disrupt to be very supportive and kind. They want women in the space just as much as women want to be in the space.

So while it is indeed true that some guy claiming to be an angel investor from Connecticut pitched me for sex not long after I pitched a startup, it is also equally true that all guys I told this too found it as appalling and funny as I did, and many of them thought it was awesome that I am going to apply to YCombinator. It’s all in our perspective. Life is full of misogynist boogie men and if you let them get you down, you end up missing out on a lot.

So now that that’s said and done, here were some of the highlights of the conference for me:
Eric Schmidt Talks About AI: This talk reinforced my admiration for all things Google. They aren’t just interested in being a search engine. They want to incorporate the ability to find things into our everyday life. Unlike Schmidt, I sorta like driving my car though and would be sad if it drove itself.
Steve Streight Discusses What It Was Like to Found Green Dot: Green Dot isn’t a sexy startup. It’s just one that makes sense. I like that. It was also great to hear from someone who didn’t start a company at 22 with nothing to lose. Streight had six kids and I can’t imagine what it would be like to start a company in that situation.
Michael Arrington Sells TechCrunch to AOL: This was a smart move. Money doesn’t corrupt unless you are corrupt already. Having more cashflow means TechCrunch can do bigger and bolder things for more entrepreneurs. I approve.
Chamillionaire Points Out How Far We Have to Go: It’s easy to get caught up in the insular world of early adopters. Chamillionaire pointed out that there are a lot of talented people who have no clue what this scene is about. They don’t know about Spotify or Creative Commons, and they really should. We can’t just focus on what’s next–we need to see who we are leaving behind and how much good it will cause to bring everyone up to speed.
J’aime Ohm Wins the Hackathon. J’aime created an iPhone app that helps women stay safe called WiseDame. She is awesome and WiseDame looks like a great app. Follow her.
MC Hammer: The guy is too legit to quit. Just ask Erick Schonfeld.

Mar 16

Bringing SxSWi Back (and Why Jolie O’Dell is Right)

Twitter's Ev Williams - SXSWi 2010
Image by Randy Stewart via Flickr

So here’s my SxSWi post. Please note that your experience could have been totally different based on your approach.

I don’t want to see the Chevy Volt at South by Southwest. I don’t care to see Sobe or Pepsi. I don’t care about tattoos or doo rags or bacon stands. I want South by Southwest to return to being about technology and the future of the web. I don’t care about winning prizes and I cringe to meet web celebs. If that means I pay more and there are less people, that’s fine. I’m exhausted and I feel like I just ate two dozen cupcakes without actually eating any dinner.

Everyone launches an app or an announcement at South by Southwest. It gets very noisy and exhausting, especially when you stand by Scoble as part of your job description. Seriously, one guy pitched us as we stood waiting for a co-worker. He acted like he didn’t know who we were, but come on. Who pitches two random strangers engaged in a conversation? That’s just sick in the head.

The highlights for me? Knowing that I sponsored InfoChimps’s Big Data party and that they and the folks at Jones-Dilworth totally rocked it. Catching up with cool people I hadn’t seen in a while. Bowing out of Mashable’s party to listen to the sick dubstep next door. You know, everything outside what was actually listed on the SxSWi website.

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Feb 16

$8868 raised for charity:water through Twestival

Having fun at a benefit is great, but not if you end up raising very little money. Approximately 450 people showed up for sumo suit wrestling, a raffle and T Bird and the Breaks for Twestival, a benefit for charity:water. Many people told me they were having a great time.

Well, I’m happy to report that not only did we have a great time, we raised $8868 for charity:water. Considering Los Angeles and London are a lot bigger than we are and raised just over $10k, I’d say we rocked and then some. Many thanks to Orgsync, Sentient Services, WebWorks, Mosso, JungleDisk, Kimbia,SxSW, TechRanch Austin, Piryx, Nerdabout, and Network in Austin for their cash donations. I would also like to thank Stalelife, Stephanie Malone Designs, Buildasign.com, A Glimmer of Hope, and Basiccouture.net, Storme Wood, and Paul Walhus for volunteering their services. Aces Lounge did a great job of accommodating us.

Thanks to all the volunteers. You made this happen and don’t forget it!

The money we raised is enough for over two wells in many areas. That equates to water for possibly tens of thousands of people. All my blessings to charity:water and its partner charities like A Glimmer of Hope for all the hard work they do to make this happen.

If you’d like an Austin Twestival t-shirt, I’m selling the rest for $10 a piece with all profits going to charity:water. Leave a comment on this post and we’ll meet up when I’m back in town. If you’d like to see the pics, check out images by Michael Cummings, Jungle McLovin, and Eugene Hsu.

Jul 04

Austin Blood Drive Tweetup More than Doubles Traffic at Austin Blood and Tissue Center

Dale Thompson (dale_thompson) from 501Tech

I am so happy at how many people showed up today at the first inaugural Austin Blood Drive Tweetup. I spoke with many staff members at the Blood and Tissue Center, and they all agreed that the Tweetup more doubled their traffic that day and brought in more first time donors than they had seen in a long time. They were also happy because there is a need for blood July 4th weekend and it would have been incredibly slow had we not showed up. Considering the first blog post with the instructions for donating didn’t go up until Sunday and we also managed to get a raffle, a sammichometer, a birthday cake for Mike Chapman, a visit by Erica at KUT, a mention in the Austin American Statesman, and custom stickers for the event, I’d consider this event a huge success.

For future events, I will have an official sign up as per the suggestion of Alex Jones so we can know who is coming, when, and get a better headcount.

There were so many good people involved in this Tweetup. The best part? Everyone who came in took part to make a difference. It wasn’t about self-promotion or networking. There is something very refreshing about that and I intend to duplicate this result when Grant Hutchins and I take a bunch of Burmese refugees to “Blues on the Green” on July 9th.

I feel like a broken record sometimes, but social media is a communication tool. Just like a cell phone. Communication facilitates action and we now have the tools to make things happen so much faster and easier than before. Quit Twittering about the donuts you eat in the morning. Stop throwing up post after post about the Fail Whale. DO SOMETHING WITH SOCIAL MEDIA. This will facilitate the inevitable cultural shift towards a society that rewards those with a message rather than merely those who can afford to push their message out. If you don’t do something with social media, people will ultimately see it as a waste of time.

I have to thank sharinghope.tv superstud David J. Neff for organizing this event with me. Props should go to Mike Chapman for delivering some killer posts on the Austin Social Media Club website, as well as the countless others who took time out of their days to blog about the event. If you didn’t come by, you missed out on the cool stickers and the sammichometer designed by Cesar Torres. My thanks to Tarus Balog at the OpenNMS Group for sponsoring the totally awesome sammichometer.

Check out the photos by visiting our Austin Blood Drive Tweetup Flickr pool.

Jul 02

Help Spread the Word about the Austin Blood Drive Tweetup Today

I wrote this press release for TakesAllTypes.org. They are all about the Blood Drive Tweetup. If you want to spread the news about the Blood Drive Tweetup, feel free to use it in a blog, for a newspaper, or whatever form of communication you can use to spread the word about it or about Blood Drive Tweetups in general:

Social Media for Social Good–Austin Arranges the First Ever Blood Drive Tweetup

Word of mouth – in this case social networking – is still the best form of advertising

AUSTIN, TX–July 3, 2008– The Austin Twitter community has taken it upon itself to overcome the holiday blood shortage in the Austin area.

The group used the microblogging service Twitter to round up blood donors to meet the holiday need for blood at the Austin Blood and Tissue Center. They called companies around Austin who ponied up free movie tickets, computer stickers, pint glasses, a six foot sandwich “sammichometer” and restaurant gift cards. They wrote blog posts and called TV stations. Over 50 people within the Austin Twitter community offered to donate blood, many of whom have never donated before.

All of this was coordinated in a matter of three days.

The Austin Social Media Club and the 501Tech Club are sponsoring the event to raise awareness for both social media and the local need for blood. They are encouraging all participants to sign up for Takes All Types, a service that notifies donors of local blood shortages via SMS, social networks, and even fax.

David J. Neff and Michelle Greer helped coordinate the push to help the Austin Blood and Tissue Center. “Social media tools like Twitter and blogs are powerful mobilizers of people. We recognized that and knew the Austin community cared enough to make something like this happen. We are truly surrounded by incredible people,” said David.

All people in the Austin area, Twitter users or “non-Twitterers” are welcome to join in for the first ever Blood Drive Tweetup from 10 am-4 pm at the Blood and Tissue Center at 4300 North Lamar. There will be food, prizes, a birthday cake, custom stickers for the event, live streaming online and plenty of people wanting to make a difference for the Austin community.

If you are not able to make it, the livestream of the event as well as the code to embed the livestream in your site will be available at David J. Neff’s blog.

Takes All Types is deploying social applications on sites like Facebook and MySpace and a dedicated website at www.TakesAllTypes.org to enable people to sign up to donate blood or to volunteer at a blood drive or collection center. This more precise and efficient approach promotes and facilitates blood donation in a very direct and personal manner, and when an urgent need arises, provides a novel means to mobilize local donors for immediate action.

For more information, go to www.twitter.com and message @michellegreer or @daveiam. You can also leave any questions as comments at www.michellesblog.net or http://www.fispace.org.

Please mark any tweets regarding the Austin Blood Drive Tweetup with the hashtag #abdt. You can track tweets from Twitter users by going to http://www.hashtags.org/tag/abdt

Jul 01

Come to the Blood Drive Tweetup. I Promise You My Support 100%

debzokiss

**Note: this is not a stock image. This is my sister Deb and my niece Zoe. I love them very much and want my sister to overcome host vs. graft disease.

38 people.

38 people are responsible for saving my sister Deb’s life. She underwent 23 blood transfusions and 15 bags of platelets in her fight against leukemia before she finally got over it. I owe a world to these people for helping save my sister’s life so that she could live to raise my eight-year-old niece.

I have been pushing this Tweetup Blood Drive pretty hard, and the typical response is, “I’m afraid of needles.” So they retweet it, feel better, and then move on. Retweeting helps for sure, but donating blood and supporting those who do if you are unable to do so helps more. I am afraid of needles too. It’s NATURAL. However, someone in a hospital somewhere is undergoing an operation or has cancer and needs help. Someone out there was in an accident or in a war and needs blood right this very moment. This person is much more terrified than you are of that needle because receiving blood to them is literally a matter of life and death. Considering the vast numbers of people who have received blood, you or someone very dear to you has probably benefited by a volunteer who stepped up and overcame their fear of the needle.

By giving blood, we offer an hour of our slight fear and discomfort so that others in very difficult situations feel a lot better in their hours, months, or years of fear and discomfort. To me this is a no-brainer, perhaps because it hit so close to home when my sister was diagnosed. To you it should mean a little peace in your day knowing that you saved someone’s life in less than an hour.

If you go to the Blood Drive Tweetup, I guarantee you my support. I guarantee I will be by you if you are scared or not feeling well. I do this because I value the 38 people who saved my sister’s life and the countless others who selflessly value the people in desperate, life and death situations. The right thing to do is often scary, but it is also the most fulfilling.

Book your spot at the Blood and Tissue Center’s website and then RSVP on the Facebook page. If you can’t donate for health reasons or you went to a weird country, swing by and offer support to those who are. You will be literally responsible for saving a person’s life.

Jun 29

Attend Austin’s MOST EXCLUSIVE Tech Event–The Tweetup Blood Drive

Foo Camp. TED. Michael Arrington’s Twitterfeed. None of these are as exclusive as the Tweetup Blood Drive occurring in Austin, Texas on Thursday, July 3rd from 10 am to 4 pm at the Blood Center of Central Texas.

Why is this event so exclusive? If you go to the reservation list, there are only 96 spots available from 10-4. As of 4:23 on Sunday, five spots are already taken. That means if you want to be one of the tough guys or smart women who donates blood to save lives, you have to book your spot before everyone else does or your spot will be totally gone.

This event is sponsored by the Austin Social Media Club, the 501Tech Club, and Austin Jelly. You don’t have to be a tough guy or a smart women to be a member of these groups, but it couldn’t hurt. David J. Neff of the American Cancer Society will be organizing the event throughout the day.

To be sure to beat Scoble to the punch, follow these instructions:
1.) register or log into the Blood Center of Central Texas’s website.
2.) Choose the location at 4300 North Lamar.
3.) Be sure to pick a time slot from 10 am-4 pm on Thursday, July 3rd.
4.) Show up at the appropriate time. Give a shoutout to David J. Neff.
5.) Give blood. Eat a piece of the sammichometer. Give thanks that you are healthy and can offer health to someone else who needs it.

Be sure to blog, Tweet, and spread the word about this event as soon as you can. If you blog it and are lazy, just copy and paste steps 1 through 5. Please refer them to the Facebook event for it. You want to make sure your followers know that you know the latest cool happenings in Austin.

If you aren’t in Austin, sorry. You will just have to have a Tweetup Blood Drive in your city on your own ;-).

Jun

Planting Seeds in Austin with Innovation Camp and Conjunctured Opening

Yesterday was a full day for me at Innovation Camp and the Conjunctured Coworking Space opening. I can’t imagine what it was like for the guys at Conjunctured though. Unfortunately, John Erik Metcalf was sick, but I assure him both events were successes.

Why do I say that these events plant seeds?

Innovation Camp was a great place for people to discuss new ideas in a free way. What was the best part? People openly critiqued ideas to make them better. The guys at Downtown Cartel do not think my idea of a community for open source projects that aggregates donations from multiple users in exchange for functionality was that innovative. I told the guys at Conjunctured that getting worked up about a Startup District is step 1o when we should focus on step 1. At the end of the day though, I like both these groups and respect their positions. It was a great way to bounce ideas off of other people because in the end, people just wanted to make each other’s ideas better.

I like the concept of coworking. I enjoyed visiting the Caroline Collective in Houston and am really excited for Conjunctured and Launchpad. Coworking plants seeds for good companies and good work because it promotes voluntary collaboration between people. Imagine: no more pouring through Monster.com, only to get a boss that ends up being the devil reincarnate. No more coworkers who are so grating, they end up ruining your day causing you to take out your frustrations on the people you love. We choose to enter a coworking space and no one forces us to collaborate to appease shareholders or greedy bosses. We can leave at any time. Coworking by its very nature encourages good work, because we work on projects we love with the people that we work with the best. If we aren’t feeling particularly productive, we are not confined to do work at a certain time at a certain place in a certain manner. This allows ideas to flow rather than being forced. As a former UT philosophy geek, this seems like an existentialist’s dream.

As someone looking to hire someone for a project, I’m not sure why you’d want it any other way.

Jun 22

Rocking the Lebowski Bash with a Nihilist and a Little Dude Who Was Stoned

One of my favorite films of all times is “The Big Lebowski”. When I heard Jason McElweenie of Schipul Web Marketing fame was having a Lebowski Bash at the Caroline Collective, I felt compelled to check it out.

I have to admit, I felt a little weird about driving to Houston for it. After all, Austin is a Lebowski town and I’m thinking our Lebowski factor outweighs Houston’s by about four to one. Why go to Houston to see a bunch of people dressed up like a bunch of Austinites?

I decided to say, “Eh, fuck it.” My sister is from Houston and is also a tremendous Lebowski fan and I wanted to check out the Caroline Collective anyway, so I figured it would be worth it.

I busted out my Maude with stoned Lebowski spawn costume and my sister rocked the Houstonian nihilist look complete with scissors necklace. I was close to winning the costume contest but lost to a very badass dream sequence Maude complete with viking helmet and bowling ball bra. There’s just very little competition for bowling ball breasts. A crowd favorite every time.

It was nice to catch up with some of the Houstonians I knew already as well as meet some for the first time that I’d only previously known on Twitter. A good group of people, for sure. 650 people showed up and they had to make a beer run because everybody drank all the St. Arnold’s. We listened to the Ton Tons, rolled a few even thought it was shomer shabbas, and then sat down and watched (and quoted) the movie. Fun times.

Anyway, many thanks to Jason, the folks at the Caroline Collective, and the sponsors for throwing this fun event. If you haven’t checked out coworking at the Caroline Collective already, you should.

I’m off to Austin again. The Dude Abides.

Jun 17

Great Times at GeekAustin’s Semantic Web Austin Launch Party

I have known Lynn for some time now. Lynn totally saved my life (truth), so it makes me happy when the GeekAustin parties are successful.

Yesterday proved no exception. It was a great format. The people who wanted to discuss the semantic web could, while others who just wanted to socialize could do that too. Substance but fun–a great combination.

I took pictures last night and encourage everyone to tag their photos and photos of others they know. This is how people get to know one another, especially people who are known only by goofy cartoon avatars. Here is the set from the
Semantic Web Austin Launch Party.

Many thanks to Lynn, Juan Sequeda and John de Oliviera for helping putting it together.