Category: blogging

Sep 27 2010

You’re Not As Cool As You Think You are

I wrote this as an answer to a question on Quora asking about whether or not the perception of cool kids on the Internet was a positive, or negative thing. Having worked for many companies that were at one time considered cool, I have a pretty strong opinion on this. Pseudo was my first “cool kid” experience, but not my last, and let me tell you – nobody’s ever as cool as they think they are. This is the answer as written, I wanted to keep it here, as I think I may expand upon it in the future, and bring some other companies into it.  This is explicitly written about the atmosphere in tech in the late 90’s.


I worked for a very “cool” Silicon Alley (NYC) company called Pseudo back in the bubble days.

Within our little world of startups, we were rock stars. We had huge parties, we did whatever we wanted in the city, and everyone thought we were the greatest. We were hanging out with celebrities, going to awards shows, really part of a whole other world as the “startup kids.” We thought we were revolutionary (and to an extent, I guess we were), and really believed we were changing the world…this was all covered really well in the documentary We Live in Public. But that’s all perception, and being cool doesn’t write checks…

What happened is we concentrated more on being cool and having fun than we concentrated on actually making money, as did many other startups at the time. It was an awesome ride for a few years, but it was not sustainable. There are also other aspects of this culture that I hope don’t exist anymore, like the very prevalent in-office drug use, and other things (sex in the office, for example) preventing actual work from getting done. I haven’t seen that happening at a company in a very long time, thankfully.

The concept of the cool kids has not gone away, it just switches from company to company. It existed here in SF just like it did in NY in the late 90’s, and is beginning to exist again today. I think it’s horrible, has a terrible impact on the industry as a whole, and let’s face it, none of us are “cool,” we’re nerds who spend all day in front of a computer. Some company becomes cool, everyone scrambles to hire the employees from there and copy their ideas…and six months later it’s another company that everyone’s imitating.

I guess all I can say to anyone who thinks they’re one of the cool kids, is that they should be very aware that as soon as the market or popular opinion changes, they won’t be oh so cool anymore. They should make sure they’re building a career they can keep going after their company goes away, or even better, build a company that can exist after the cool factor wears off.

Apr 14 2009

The Killer Next Door

I’m finding all this stuff about Sandra Cantu’s killer very sad, of course, but I’m also really fascinated by the fact that this is a woman.

One of my favorite classes in college was Criminology, and like oh so many college courses, we had a large term paper to do as a final project. We had to present an original concept, with research to back it up. I wrote my paper on female serial killers, with a theory that the only reason the statistics were so low on women and murder was because people didn’t look for them.

Where did that come from? Well, statistics for female serial killers dropped dramatically in the late 70’s – right at the exact same time the FBI began heavy profiling. The generic serial killer profile is a white male, 30-50, middle class, etc. Nearly every investigation into a serial killer at the FBI begins with that standard profile. Meaning…they don’t look for women.

I don’t have the paper anymore, so unfortunately, I can’t give sources for any data. I used a lot of FBI/CIA documents (publicly available stuff, obviously), books on profiling, and lots of articles/interviews of serial killers.

My paper caused quite an outrage in my class (me? causing trouble? never!). My professor thought my theory was “plausible, but could never be proved,” but over half the class insisted it was impossible. They didn’t have data, there is none, but “women don’t do things like that.”

But of course they do. We have multiple instances in our history of women being just as nasty and evil as men, and yet, we expect women to be “better.” I keep hearing the quote “why would one woman kill another woman’s child.” People don’t say “why would one man kill another man’s child.” Women kill their own children, they murder, they’ve even raped before…raped both boys and girls. And because we all think the way we do, it genuinely HURTS to find out a woman did something like this.

I’m as guilty of it as anyone. Intellectually – I know full well that women can be as evil as men, obviously, I was pushing the theory over ten years ago. Emotionally – I was as horrified as everyone else to find out that Sandra Cantu’s killer, and possible rapist, was a woman. There is an expectation that women should be better, which makes absolutely no logical sense.

I still feel the same as I did back when I wrote the paper. Profiling is really great, and very helpful in solving criminal investigations, but it is dangerous when an entire segment of society is excluded for no good reason. I believe the statistics are flawed, and that there really is a correlation between the rise in white male serial killers and FBI profiliers looking for them.

To get back to Sandra Cantu (which is what inspired this blabbering), police stumbled into Melissa Huckaby as a suspect. They knew of her and had interviewed her; she told police that the suitcase Sandra Cantu was found in had been “stolen from her driveway.” But she did not become the focus of an investigation until she had done two more interviews with conflicting information (if I remember right, it was a CNN interview that was the nail in her coffin). I can’t believe that had a man said he owned the suitcase the girl was found in that he wouldn’t have been – at the very least – dragged down to police headquarters.

With all that said, kudos to the Tracy police for figuring this out. Women slip under the radar in things like this, and even though it took CNN to help “break” this for them, at least they were open minded enough to consider the possibility. Women are fully capable of evil things, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s going to be watching the criminologists and psychologists that are bound to start coming out to talk about this topic.

Why is it that while we push for gender equality everywhere, we still dodge the possibility that women could be just as evil as men? Equality is equality, after all. Women killing people on the front lines of a war? Absolutely! Women killing people…for no reason? Absolutely not. How on earth does that make sense, and why do I feel that way? I dislike logic that comes from emotion. I want facts, figures, proof. The data says we’re just as bad. But I simply can’t believe it.

Can you?

Feb 10 2009

The New State of Gender in Technology

I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with the so called feminist movement in the web community. There have been a lot of these “hey, why isn’t a woman listed on this,” complaints over the last couple of months, more than I’ve seen in a long time. I really don’t like it, and think it hurts, rather than helps, our cause.

Earlier today, a question was thrown out on twitter about whether or not a woman should have been included in this article about A-Listers who have stopped blogging, Jason Calacanis, Michael Arrington, and the latest to join the list…Dan Lyons.’

My answer was no, I couldn’t think of an A-lister who belonged on the list. In fact, the only female blogger I could of who would even remotely fit the concept of the article was Kathy Sierra, but that was almost a year ago now, and the article was listing recent blogging drop outs.

Fact is, there isn’t a woman to put on the list. Period. It is one thing to not include a woman on a keynote of a conference about women (as happened a couple of weeks ago). It’s a whole other thing to ask why women aren’t included in everything.

10 years ago, I did lots and lots of interviews and panels about women and technology. The internet was male dominated, it still is, but it was certainly worse back then. There was blatant hostility towards women, we were genuinely afraid (at times) to openly be a woman online and it was important that we talked about it to change things. I took the same view then I did now. Don’t treat us any differently, don’t make concessions or lower standards because we’re women. We can totally rise to the challenge and beat you at your own game.

I thought things were getting better, and have said as much over the last few years. Sure, the industry is still male dominated – hell, my own company is comprised of 11 men and me, but so what. This generation of teenagers are growing up with computers, and I fully believe they will be heading into technology in mass numbers. Things are, without a doubt, going to change.

I never, ever expected to hear “women must be included everywhere just because they’re women.” That’s just not true, and it really upsets me to hear that. I think it’s destructive to our fight for equality, and only perpetuates the belief that men need to pander to women.

I don’t know where this came from. I’m a little concerned that it’s related in some part to the mommy blogger movement, which, for better or worse, is convincing some (with emphasis on SOME, I’m not trashing the entire movement) women that they should be rich and famous just because they blog about pampers. Male or female, you’re not going to get rich off of a blog. Period.

Do I sound bitter? Good, because I am. We’re taking steps backwards, not forwards.

Women are looking at gender first, then content. Please stop it. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the problem now really is with the women, not the men. And that’s pathetic.

Equality needs to start with us. If women can’t even act like they’re equal to men, then we can’t expect men to treat us that way. Stop using gender as a sword, and acting like you’re entitled to something special because you’re female.  Act like you’re equal, and you’ll be treated equally.

To get back to the original point here, stop pointing out every single thing that doesn’t include a woman! It doesn’t matter, and it sure as hell doesn’t help.

Jan 30 2009

#ShesGeeky afternoon – Identity and Product Marketing

Woooeeee I’m tired. Being a blabbermouth is exhausting!!

This afternoon I attended two sessions, one on personal identity, and one I gave on “creating the right product for the right audience.”

The identity session was fascinating to me. We all walk a very fine line between revealing information about ourselves online, and keeping things private. It’s very hard to know where the line is on what should and should not be said, and the line is very different for everyone.

There’s no question that it’s changed for me. At one point in my life, I was completely honest about everything in my life online. I maintained my live journal, which was locked to friends-only, and oh my, the secrets about me that were in there. I was also Bobbi, of course….BamBam didn’t come along until later.

At some point along the way, I realized that “friends-only” really didn’t mean much. Not only could I easily make a mistake and leave something open to the world, but god forbid a friend decided to be mean or something, they could easily take screenshots or copy/paste.

The words “private” and “online” simply do not belong together. No matter how locked down you may think things are, there’s always a way for things to get out.

So, in my case, “StephanieBamBam” was created at AOL. My friend Susan nicknamed me “BamBam” for being a klutz, and it stuck. The name was unique enough (your nickname has to be unique!) that it worked well, and I kinda liked it. StephanieBamBam took over, and everything Bobbi that I could find was pulled offline. You won’t find archives of those live journal entries, they don’t exist in digital form anymore. I pretty much recreated my virtual identity, changing from a pseudoanonymous “bobbi,” to a slightly more personal name I was willing to associate with the real me. There are some pieces of Bobbi still lingering about in various places, but you’d need to dig a bit to find, and honestly…if you’re going to dig THAT much…have at it. I’m not embarassed by anything I’ve done.

Admittedly, I’m in a special position, where I work online in social media. The session discussed things like people who truly cannot reveal their identities online due to safety reasons – how do they even use social media? How do you get a domain without a credit card in your fake name, how do you attend conferences, etc.

My recommendation – for most people – is don’t put anything online you wouldn’t want associated with you everywhere. You can live under a nickname, but live in the assumption that your real name will ultimately be exposed. Employers, schools…the world has access to ANYTHING you do or say online. Be smart.

The other session this afternoon was mine, so of course I thought it was fabulous. We talked about how to create a product for your market – how to know who you’re making what for. Professionally, I’ve created products targeted at adults, teens, and developers. And believe me, something that works for one will probably not work for the other.

So how do you know what to do? Be a teenager! Be a developer! Be an adult. That’s oversimplifying, obviously, but I’ve seen every single high school musical, read Twilight, watch Hannah Montana, belong to MyYearbook…. etc. I’m often called a teenager, even. Which is fine. People have got to remember that they are not building a product for themselves. Just because “this makes sense to me” doesn’t mean it’ll make sense to someone without the CS degree. Make your product for your audience, market your product to the right audience, and if you have a good product, it’ll work out.

More from She’s Geeky tomorrow – I’m giving another panel in the afternoon “how to launch a product.”

Jan 25 2009

25 things you might not know about me

I was tagged to do this on facebook, but since I have a blog, and my blog entries end up on facebook anyway….I’ll write it up here, and tag everyone there.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with
25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose
25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I
tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these
instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag
25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. One of my favorite things to do is sleep all day, but I can rarely sleep past 9am anymore.

2. I am terrified of lightning.

3. I was a New York State certified EMT-D and rode on an ambulance corps for 5 years. I don’t remember much anymore, beyond ALS-CPR (which I will never forget) and basic first aid stuff.

4. My brother was born on Memorial Day. I was positive the parade for Memorial Day was actually a parade celebrating his birth.

5. I used to call the hospital every birthday to ask if I was old enough to be a candy striper yet. I was SO excited when they said yes, and was one until I left for college.

6. I am a published author in an MIT book on Women and Games. Looking back at it now, I like the content of my article, but think it was very poorly written.

7. I am a bread geek, and can go on and on and on about uses of different flours, sourdough, and fillers in bread, and what they do to the end result.

8. Kurt Cobain spit on me one week before he died. I still don’t really know why – he walked out of his hotel angry and spitting. I threw out the sweater as fast as I could take it off. Dave Grohl was very nice, though.

9. I am very hyperactive, and was tied to my chair by my second grade teacher for not sitting still. I was embarrassed by it, and my parents only found out when my best friend told my mom.

10. I can “speak” American Sign Language, but I forget more and more every day.

11. I love all things Broadway, and was part of Putnam County Spelling Bee when I got to be one of the people in the spelling bee. I was out in the first round, but at least I can say I’ve been on Broadway.

12. I have a lot of grey hair. It’s covered well.

13. When I was 4, I walked into my neighbor’s house and sat down at her piano to play. I didn’t know her, but she was a piano teacher and started teaching me. I stopped playing in high school, and just started playing again four years ago. It drives me nuts that I can’t do what I could do then, my head knows what to do, but my fingers can’t do it.

14. I built my first website ’96 at nycmetro.com/~bobbi. It was all about the X-Files, and “worked best in Netscape.”

15. I used to spend all day every Sunday at the library playing with their computers when I was in elementary school.

16. I become obsessed with things very easily.

17. I once got an A+ in a statistics class at NYU that I only went to twice. Once for midterm review, and once for the final review.

18. I love to write fiction. I think I’m damn good at it, and my secret fantasy is to publish someday.

19. I cannot handle silence. There always needs to be some background noise, doesn’t matter what it is, there just has to be something.

20. I am my own worst critic.

21. I worked in a cancer research lab in high school doing necropsies on rats and mice. I lost the job when New York passed a law saying that “children under 18 could not work in hazardous conditions.” I worked with formalin, so….I was crushed when I couldn’t work there anymore, I loved it.

22. I hate beer.

23. I have a huge collection of stuffed animals, and as much as I know I should get rid of some of them, I can’t decide which to give away. Every stuffed animal contains a memory.

24. I cannot live without a watch, which I wear on my right hand, even though I’m right handed.

25. My hands shake. My right hand shakes more than my left. It’s called “minor tremor,” according to doctors it is ‘harmless,’ and the only thing that stops it is alcohol.

Nov 01 2008

Blogging’s not what it used to be

I feel like I should say something profound, it being November 1st and the beginning of this whole “blogging for 30 days” month. I’m not good at profound, though. So some ramblings on blogging.

I’ve been blogging for a long time. My LiveJournal creation date is in early 2002, but I’d kind of started a bit before that in a different form. Like many people, whatever personal webpage I was working on at the time had an “about me” section. The “about me” would turn into a personal blog, entries in reverse order and all, and was updated almost as regularly as the rest of the site.

Before that, I had a .plan file on my VAX account. The updates there were closer to status updates on Facebook/MySpace, or Twitter blabberings, but even there, I would put basic info like “in class.” I didn’t keep the old entries, though (which is technically required to hit the definition of a “blog”).

Over the years my blogging has become much less personal, I’m sure in large part due to the fact that just about everyone’s online these days. I mean…my mom reads my Twitter. Weird, right? Not bad, just strange. The Internet was my world.

The majority of the entries in my former blog would be locked to friends-only, and would be extremely personal at times. I was a master of friend lists, and would post to different people depending on the topic. I trusted that privacy. I don’t anymore.

I very rarely see people blogging like we used to. It’s a necessary thing, of course, we were regularly talking about things we didn’t want the world to know. Not a good idea to put private information online these days.

I do miss it, though. I was friends with every single person who read my blog, and truly valued their comments and feedback. These days, I have nearly 1,000 followers on Twitter, and damn if I know half of them.

Our tiny Internet community exploded. It’s different, sure, but I’m very happy to welcome everyone on board. This is just the start – the next five years online are going to be amazing. And I for one can’t wait to see what happens.

Jul 28 2008

WordPress is neat

I’m still working on things, but I gotta admit – WordPress is as friendly to use as people say.

It isn’t EASY, or at least, not for what I’m doing – the one-click install didn’t fly – but it is still remarkably user friendly.

And I’m posting this through ScribeFire, which I just adore, but had poor LJ support.

Hopefully will be ready to fully pull the trigger on this blog by the weekend. Woo!

Mar 30 2008

Has Twitter Ruined Blogging?

Earlier today, someone – I can’t remember who, I follow too many people – commented on Twitter (tweeted, I guess) that “Twitter is the gateway drug to blogging.” I wholeheartedly disagree.

Of the many, many messages I sent out on Twitter over the past week, five of them could have easily been blog entries. In fact, at least two of the messages probably would have turned into blog entries, had I not already released the emotions and thoughts around each over Twitter. That’s kind of a shame, the entries would have been interesting. But I truly don’t feel like writing them now. I already did, in very short form.

A blog entry requires actual writing. A somewhat decently written “article” focused around a thought. There is time involved, no matter how short the entry is, which means there is always a time delay from the moment I come up with the thought to the satisfaction of posting the entry. A computer is also required, since I don’t like typing a lot on my blackberry. I used to come up with ideas for blog entries and save them for later. I’d email them to myself at home, scribble them down on a post-it, whatever. These days, instead of saving an idea for a later blog entry, I immediately post it on Twitter.

All you need for Twitter is a phone. There isn’t any real writing or time involved, since the largest a “tweet” can be is 140 characters. I’m able to immediately release the thought, and forget about it. Or watch and see what other people think, which, let’s face it, is what a lot of us do when we’re writing anything we share with the public. I’ve asked questions in this blog – I’m doing it right now. I’ve also done the same over Twitter. We all crave interaction and responses. Why wait until a blog entry can be written when we can instantly get the thought out over Twitter?

I know I’ve been blogging less since I first started using Pownce, then moved to Twitter. For me, Pownce was the gateway drug to Twitter. Twitter’s character limit is truly what did it for me. I can’t think a lot about a tweet, it’s too short. I could blab a bit on Pownce.

We all once said that “push” technology would change the Internet. Pointcast, right? Well, it took a while, but look…it happened. I always have Twitter on, and I’m always checking it. It’s right there, pushed to my screen. From the major to the mundane, the 154 people I’m following on Twitter right now are always talking about something I’m interested in. And believe me, following 154 people is a somewhat small number for Twitter. I get my news from Twitter, even, my coworkers laugh at me for how often I end up saying “I just read on Twitter that….” Who needs a newspaper, when I have CNN Breaking News on Twitter?

To those of you who haven’t discovered Twitter yet, beware. Remember your life before email? One day you’ll remember your life before Twitter. I truly believe the impact will be just as significant. We may not always be using this one service, but the lifestreaming Twitter has created won’t be going away anytime soon. We are genuinely interested in the tiny details of other people’s lives, just like they’re interested in the details of ours. They say everyone’s a voyeur. Do I really need to know that someone is ‘going to get a glass of coke?’ Or someone else is ‘putting the baby to bed?’ Not at all. But I keep following….

Find me on Twitter as @stephaniebambam.

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