Friday, June 12, 2009

Decline of Women in Technology, but Hope Shines Through

Yesterday, I attended the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Women in Technology conference at the Ronald Reagan Building. The morning was kicked off with a keynote by Rebecca Zimmerman, Vice President of Strategic Solutions, @Mind Over Machines. Ms. Zimmerman started off the conversation with the stark reality that there has been an alarming decline in women in technology - both in graduating classes of computer science majors as well as women leaving the IT field.

Hearing these facts made me shift uncomfortably in my chair. I knew the statistics for women in technology were pretty dim. And I have known this for some time (I particularly recall a week long program that was run back in 1996 through the Whitehead Institute at MIT called "Women in Technology" to encourage females in high school with great aptitude to pursue their dreams). But hearing this again, at a Women in Technology conference reminded me that the macro trends are disappointing and seem to be getting only worse.

Luckily this dismal reality was quickly revived with the introduction of two of Washington's most influential leaders in technology, media and government, Katharine Weymouth, CEO of Washington Post Media, and Casey Coleman, CIO of GSA. Katharine discussed the Washington Post and the changes and benefits for the internet age and Casey discussed the rapid transformation of tools to create more efficiency and energy savings within government such as cloud computing (I was shocked to learn that data centers in the U.S. account for 1-2% of our energy consumed).

So yes, while statistically there is a shortage of women leaders in technology, the ones who are in action are doing great things and carry a lot of influence and weight on behalf of others. Casey Coleman and Linda Cureton, CIO of NASA Goddard, for example both regularly share their insights on their blogs, Around the Corner and NASA blogs, respectively.

And if you look hard, there are many more women making great strides in technology. Just as a partial list, consider the following article published in O'Reilly Media.

This conference had a great start. Aside from the outstanding presentations by women who stand as excellent role models, there was an undeniable buzz in the air of women who had just had a "fire lit under their seat." I left feeling extremely optimistic about the passion this group of women has to do great things in formerly more of a man's world and with our current female leaders, we're on the right track. Check out this article on the Most Influential Women in Technology run by Fast Company, if this isn't inspiring, you might have to check if you have a pulse...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ask and You May Receive

Recently, I learned about Mike Honda, Congressman, 15th District California and his initiative to "crowdsource" the redesign of his website. As he explains it himself, "the final design will be chosen based on constituent input, design functionality, usability, and other criteria. I believe that this crowd-sourcing initiative will usher in a new era of government transparency."

This stirred my curiosity as to what design/features the crowd will choose for the winning website and my guessing led me look at my bookmarked list of some of my favorite current government websites,,,, just to name a few! Take a look and see if you agree.

When I click through this list, I notice that the largest differentiating factor these websites have that others may not at this point is their interactive or "stay connected" element - access to blogs, feedback, flickr, twitter capabilities (even aggregated feeds!), facebook, youtube, subscribe feeds, vimeo, itunes - you name it.

When I consider the reality of these websites having these interactive elements and what this means, I see that in a way, all of these newly created websites were crowdsourced. The government noticed how and where the public was conversing and delivered on these platforms - essentially - they gave us what we voted into popularity by sheer usage.

In this memo Obama issued, he said government should be more transparent, participatory and collaborative. Websites like the ones I mentioned above demonstrate that if you ask (via usage), you may receive. At least it seems so.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"You are Brilliant, and the World is Hiring" - Paul Hawken

As a lover of well-constructed thought, words, and ultimately hope, this is one of the most inspiring commencement speeches I have ever come across.

From the overall theme - YOU ARE BRILLIANT AND THE WORLD IS HIRING - to the concluding paragraph, "the most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hopefulness only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it” - I absolutely couldn't resist sharing it.

No concrete solutions or answers here - but maybe instead a big reset on the "perspective" button?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Steve Prefontaine Would be Proud

When there is a need and a leader steps up, good things happen. Such was the case in July of 2006 when Richard Amernick joined a meetup running group and heard that it either needed a new leader or it might go to the ducks. And so the DC Capital Striders came to life.

Now while there is strength in numbers (the group is currently at 1300+ active members), this wasn't always the case with the Striders. In the beginning, through the meetup site, Richard scheduled runs downtown at the Smithsonian metro-stop. Runners of all endurance levels, paces, and strides were encouraged to meet Thursday nights @6:30 sharp for a 4-5 mile run that started on the mall, and took several routes. The Thursday night runs promised to provide good company, sites of the monuments, and some calorie burning activity. And the group grew.

As months went by, Richard started getting requests from current and prospect members to schedule more runs. A Monday night Smithsonian run was added to the calendar and soon "Monday became the new Thursday." Some members decided to run marathons and long runs on Sundays were added to the calendar, often 20+ miles. As more members started to come out, laces tied and carbohydrates ready to be burned, members realized they had more in common than just their Asics. And with this, other events were added to the Capital Striders calendar. In the summer months, tubing outings were planned, pizza dinners were had, and volleyball games were spiked. In the winter, runners made trips to watch the Capitals play at the Verizon center, and touch football games went down, players adorned in sweatshirts and gloves, of course.

500 members, 1000 members... When the number of members began to hit close to 1200 members, Richard realized the group had potential outside of just morning, afternoon and nightly runs and outings. He realized that for all the group gave the runners, there was an opportunity to give back. And so the idea of creating a non-profit, 501(c) was conceived. Incorporating the group of runners would allow the group to work with corporations, donating money to worthy causes. This became a reality on May 15. Shortly thereafter, the Capital Striders had its inaugural 8k race in Georgetown, Washington DC. The race drew over 125 runners, including Michael Wardian, world renowned long-distance runner from Arlington, VA.

Capital Striders schedules fun, casual weekly runs all over the DC Metropolitan area for runners of all endurance levels. Distance runs are scheduled for those training for half, full and ultra marathons. And plans are already in place for the second Capital Striders race, now to be a regular opportunity for all those looking to work on their PR and compete with their friends (and maybe foes too).

In addition to the running, Capital Striders provides non-running related events for members to get to know each other through a variety of activities as well as opportunities for those interested to volunteer at sanctioned races in the area/community.

The Capital Striders Running Group, LLC is a true example of a symbiotic relationship. Runners can meet new friends - "the fastest 200 friends you'll ever make" as said by a long time Strider, get/stay in shape, give back to the community and have something to be proud of. Capital Striders members also get discounts at local running stores and other athletic related businesses.

If you are a crazy runner like the rest of us (or crazy runner wannabe) stop by for a meetup with the Capital Striders. You'll most likely go home with more than just a good workout.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is "Govtube" in Our Future?

In February of 2005, a couple of guys went to a dinner party and shot some videos. After the party they wanted to share the videos and realized there wasn't an easy way to do this (at least this is how the story was said to have started). They guys saw a need and Youtube was founded. The first video that was shot and uploaded to the site was called Me at the zoo.

Now, Youtube is the 3rd most popular website on the internet.

Pretty significant, wouldn't you say?

In terms of social media sharing/transparency within the government, lately I've been thinking about the use of video. Recently I heard Jay Berkowitz, author of 10 Golden Rules, speak and he confirmed my thinking that despite the benefits video can offer in educating an audience or promoting a product, it is the most underutilized channel for information sharing (& not just within the government).

Lately, however, I've been hearing more and more buzz around using video in the government. In fact, today I got an email from Government Computer News for a webinar tomorrow @2pm EDT called "Top 5 Strategies for Using Online Video." The webinar outlines participants will learn:

* 5 Strategies that will help you to make the most of having video on your website
* Real-world examples of how some Government Agencies are already using video on their website both internally
and externally
* The value of viral sharing - enable your constituents to help spread the word and educate the community
* Building a community with online video - Expand your audience for meetings, speeches and announcements
* Educating and informing the community of new programs or laws with online video
* How you can add video to your website quickly and easily

I'm rather curious why video is so underutilized. We blog, twitter, email, photograph...but clearly not as many of us shoot video. Like any public speaker knows, speaking in front of an audience is much more difficult than it looks. Is this one of the roadblocks? Is video simply a format many of us are not accustomed to? Are we concerned about privacy issues? Do we feel for a video to be successful it has to be very well scripted or humorous?

And as the title of my post suggests, I am most interested in finding out if you think there is a real opportunity for video in government? Is Govtube in our future? Do you already use video in your agency or company?