Posts Tagged ‘naepalm’

Goggles Are In

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
CSSquirrel #105: Goggles Are In

October 16th is Ada Lovelace Day, where we get to celebrate and support the presence of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). I’m reliably informed that web development falls in there somewhere, so today’s comic features three STEM ladies: Brighton developer and console browser expert Anna Debenham, Greek CSS superstar Lea Verou, and Bellingham web designer (from my very own Mindfly Studio) Janae Cram (in her chinchilla alter-ego, Naepalm. Because a CSSquirrel comic wouldn’t be right without a rodent somewhere).

The Countess of Lovelace is traditionally considered the world’s first computer programmer, having been credited with writing the first program for Charles Babbage’s incomplete Analytical Engine. Today, in her honor, people are encouraged to “create role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.”

As anyone who’s been to a web dev conference can tell you, our field has a habit of being a sausage-fest. As someone working in a studio with a very heavy ratio of women to men (3 women to 2 men in our “production” team), I can tell you that this is a low down dirty shame. Women like Anna, Janae and Lea have a great deal to offer to our industry. It bothers me to know that a sizable (although hopefully shrinking) percentage of the men in our field don’t see the industry’s gender discrepancy as a problem, or believe measures made to make women more welcome is somehow an attack on men.


I doubt any readers of this blog are so backwards. If you are, feel free to just stop reading me, because I’m not interested in catering to dickwads. Sure, I could use traffic, but not that badly.

To those who do care, I’m sure you’ve seen much of this, but let’s point out how these three contribute.

Anna’s becoming the go-to expert on the impact of console browsers on your designs. She’s written a well-received article in ALA on the topic.

Janae is an integral part of the Mindfly team, responsible for many of our designs and a surprising amount of our code (she’s far better than I am with databases despite my having a good five year head start on her with them). She’s also been involved in developing several web apps for our local gamer community.

Lea seems to have an annoying habit of producing awesome, useful tools for web designers that she’s constantly putting online for everyone to benefit from. Just a couple days back she put out this nifty contrast ratio tool.

That’s just three women. There’s tons more in the field contributing to our industry every day, and millions more yet to enter the field who need to be inspired to join. Our species isn’t going to be getting any less involved with technology as we progress forward, each gender should have a strong role in what our future looks like.

Know any women in the field that inspire you? Please share their story. Tell me about them via one of the methods below, or tell people on your own website. And don’t wait for October 16th every year to bother telling people.

Oh, and Tesla coils? They rock. Miss Naepalm and I saw one in action last weekend.

Tesla Coil

That sphere on the right? It’s a cage big enough for up to four people to stand in. Which gives you a clue how big that coil on the left was. It’s blasts weren’t quite as deafening as lightning… but it was pretty damn close.

The Egotistical Puppet King & I

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
CSSquirrel #93: The Egotistical Puppet King and I

In a way I should be grateful to Ian “Hixie” Hickson for being an egotistical tyrant. Without his inability to acknowledge that a consensus-driven, well-crafted and usable solution built by a group of well-meaning, hard-working people could actually somehow be better than his own personal opinion, he’s pulled me out of my long-hiatus and back to to the drawing board.

Today’s comic is in fact three comics. No single idea could encompass everything. In all three Hixie gets top billing as the editor-for-life of HTML’s “living spec”. The first comic features Naepalm, chinchilla alter ego of fellow Mindflier Janae Wiedmaier. The second one includes the irreplaceable Justin McDowell. Lastly we see Matt May, Dylan Wilbanks and Ethan Marcotte joining forces with the Squirrel in a bid to take down the HTML king.

(Today’s comics as per usual aren’t meant to imply that the people represented therein endorse my views. I’m saying it outright today because I’m feeling particularly vitriolic and don’t want my words to reflect on them.)

The Situation

For those of you just tuning in, today’s outrage focuses around Hixie’s decision to adopt a problematic, late-arriving, Apple-proposed attribute of the <img> tag into the HTML standard as the solution to the adaptive images issue. In the process he again reinforces his inability to heed the creed of HTML’s priority of constituencies (end users over authors over implementers) while also tossing away the hard work of a community group of developers that built a very functional, very usable solution to that problem in the form of the <picture> element.

If you’d like a summary, you can check out the aptly titled WTFWG by Tim Kadlec, or take a look at Zeldman’s take on the situation over here, which links into an A List Apart article by Mat Marquis on the topic.

I wish this was a new situation. Or that it was surprising. Or that I didn’t feel like I was repeating myself each time I mention Hixie in blog or comic form. The fact is that as the Editor of HTML, Ian keeps doing this. And we keep letting him.

The Puppet

At one point I attributed this issue solely to his gigantic ego and clearly overwhelming case of not invented here syndrome. Now I’m frankly convinced that although these qualities contribute to the problem, the real issue is that he’s the puppet of the browser vendors, namely the three most involved in WHATWG: Apple, Opera, and Google. Although the priority of constituencies dictates that implementers (aka, browser vendors) should be lower priority than developers (who are in turn answerable to end users), it seems that without fail Hixie will bow to the vendors before considering any work on the part of developers at a solution, no matter how reasonable, well-built and documented that solution is.

That’s not a kind accusation, that a man is a puppet. But clearly every attempt to work with the WHATWG has always resulted in developers being treated as second-class citizens to the browser makers. And let’s make it clear: this is our job. We make websites for a living, and the tom-foolery that Ian is engaged in is directly impacting our present and future workflow. We work on making websites every damn day. We know what works for us, and what doesn’t.

And he doesn’t care in the slightest.

“Work With Us”

At this point, Hixie and his backers are relying on the same smoke and mirrors to distract people. Present use cases. Keep engaged with the WHATWG and let them know your technical objections. Get involved in their IRC. But the fact is we as developers have done this over and over and over. Yet at the end of the day, regardless of the hard work put in and all the proof jammed into the pudding, it all amounts to naught. Hixie spends twelve seconds coming up with his own solution or takes what the browser makers gives him and uses that instead.

It happened with metadata. It happened with the <time> element. It’s happening now with responsive images.

The fact is that Ian doesn’t give a shit.

He’s going to do it his way, or failing that he will do what Google and the other browser makers in the WHATWG tell him to do. He’s not going to look at what the developers have built and give that solution a thumbs-up. As John Foliot said: “Dev community, if you continue to author to the WHAT WG doc, you lend your tacit support to heir hixie. Look where that gets you.”

Enough Is Enough

Being part of their process is being part of the problem. I’ve never seen things resolved by following the WHATWG’s “process”, as it amounts to little more than distracting developers while he goes off and implements a less functional, more complex solution to the problem.

Don’t deal with Hixie. Don’t deal with the WHATWG. Directly object to the browser vendors. “Occupy” HTML by making use of the consensus-built techniques that already have functional polyfills. Do what makes sense, and what works for you.Sooner or later, the browser vendors will be tired of the grief sent their way and tell Hixie to roll over.

<time> wasn’t fixed because we followed the WHATWG’s process.

I’m going to say it: I don’t believe that WHATWG is part of the solution anymore. As I’ve been told by others, democracy isn’t always the best approach. Sure, ok. But so far when it comes to the community-build, consensus-driven approach and Hixie’s brain, the community’s solution has proven more effective more often.

I’m going with the community, not the puppet.

Comic Update: That Is Fast

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Today’s comic features the woodland creatures side of CSSquirrel, with the Opera Moose, Naepalm (the animal version of Mindfly Studio’s very own Janae) and none other than IE9 himself.

I’m actually shocked by the IE9 beta that was released today. It’s got a slick, minimal interface that is such a radical departure from what I’m accustomed to from Internet Explorer that I’m left speechless. It’s also fast. Surprisingly so.

These two facts are just a small portion of what IE9 brings to the table. Improved CSS3 support. HTML5 elements are now supported, including beautiful elements like <video>, <audio> and and the sexy girl on the block: <canvas>.

I could wax eloquent, but I prefer to direct your attention to smarter people saying the same thing with better word choices, like Rey Bango. Go check his blog post on the topic right now.

One beef people are pulling out to disparage the new release with is IE9′s lack of support on XP. I get the gist of where they’re coming from: the less operating systems IE9 is supported on, the harder it’ll get to make hardliners upgrade off IE6 or 7. But the fact is, XP is old. Really old. You don’t see people complaining because Safari 5 isn’t supported on Mac OS X 10.4, do you? I’m sure the reason Apple didn’t do backwards support is the reason Microsoft did what they’re doing. Both are in the habit of selling OSes. And if you’re not calling Apple down for that behavior, it’s more than a little hypocritical to do the same to Microsoft.

(Frankly, If you’re using a beast of an old OS, I suggest you go to other vendors like Mozilla and Opera for your modern web experience. Or upgrade your OS. Which path you pick is probably based on your pocketbook.)

Speaking of which, I’m not an IE user. It’s catching up, but it hasn’t surpassed my experience with other browsers like Firefox or Chrome (although FF is getting chunky in a way that alarms me, but I believe version 4 is going to correct that). But it’s improving by leaps and bounds, and I think we should acknowledge the effort Microsoft is putting into burying the mistakes of their past.

If you’d like to check IE9 out, you can download the beta here.

Comic Update: The Ladies Room

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Today’s comic addresses the incredibly delicate topic of gender representation in web development in the most logical of locations: the women’s bathroom. It happens to feature Elaine Nelson, Nicole Sullivan, Naepalm (the chinchilla version of Janae Weidmaier) and the Squirrel wearing a pink bow.

Disclaimer: It uses the word penises.

Which may be inaccurate. Is the plural of penis actually penii?

I’m going to now take a moment to strap on the sort of safety helmet that special children get to wear, because I’m about to do something extremely questionable: offer my opinion on the subject of gender and the workplace. It’s based on my experiences, on the conversations I’ve seen from others on the topic. It may have some suppositions, but lacks any sort of hard research as I left my lab coat in the wash.

The Background

First, the topic recently reared its head in my field of vision with the post Woman in Technology by Nicole, which discusses exactly that. Joe Clark took some issue with some of the post’s points, and wrote his own piece My fundamentalism is better than your fundamentalism. Lastly (well, this stuff never ends, but lastly in the chain I’m addressing) Elaine took issue with Joe’s piece and added her own voice to the discussion with Reaction Rant.

Where I’m Coming From

When women in web technology rises up as a topic, I get nervous. The Squirrel is a male red squirrel, but Kyle Weems (aka me) is a straight white middle-class American male in his early thirties. I’m the sort of person that women turn to and inform is the reason society is where it is today (and usually not in the positive feedback sense.) No, really, I’ve had female friends tell me my people (white males) are the reason the world is messed up. With more cuss words.

So when the storm hits I’m usually looking for a tree to hide in before the lynch mob arrives.

The topic becomes more surreal for me because I work at Mindfly Web Design Studio, a company that makes websites that is based in Bellingham, WA. I am the only male employee of the company. Granted, two of the three owners are men. One is a woman. But each of the other four employees are women. I’ve taken advantage of the situation to twice write about Ada Lovelace Day to discuss the identities of my female coworkers, but to quickly lay it out, they are: project managers, designers, coders, content writers and content strategists. If a bus hit the men at my workplace, the women could make a website without us.

Mindfly organizes and runs an event called Refresh Bellingham, which is to promote and inform people about web development. It’s really geeks and beers talking about making websites. Despite what you may think when you hear “geeks and beers”, and although the attendee population of the event is more male-skewed than my company, it still has a notable percentage of female attendees. Something in the 30-50% range most of the time.

So when I hear about women in technology being an issue, I’m in a place where I can understand the issue exists in the same way that I understand that tiger attacks are bad. I’m intellectually aware of the problem without facing it personally.

Inclusion For Women

So we’ve got a problem in the world at large which is not enough women in computer sciences, specifically in web development (for the purposes of my conversation). Ok, this is a fact. Or, rather, that there’s proportionately few women in the field is a fact. Nicole’s article doesn’t ask for a specific ratio of men to women in the field, actually. She rather asks that the criteria for joining the field (aka, the schooling) be focused more on gender-neutral traits rather than the “code-cowboy”. (I’ve actually never seen code-cowboy behavior as she lists it being rewarded, so I’m taking it on faith that this system exists.)

Joe’s response is more pointed, challenging the concept of under-representation and in his words:

“Any claim that women are “underrepresented” in a job is actually an order issued to women to make a career choice other than their own. It is an order, to paraphrase Sullivan, to become not a veterinarian’s aide but a vet, not a dental assistant but a dentist, not a medical assistant but a doctor. It’s also an order to fire men to make room for women, since no job category has unlimited growth (and to achieve a desired 50/50 split would require hiring nothing but women for years or decades). That’s what you’re really saying when you make the claim that women are “underrepresented”: That women haven’t made the right choices and that men need to be displaced.”

I’d say Nicole’s article is more about encouraging more women into the field than setting targets on acceptable levels that must be maintained. (I couldn’t find a reference to under-representation or a desired ratio in her post at all.) So Joe’s rhetoric seems more broadly aimed at past discussions on the topic than Nicole herself.

My thoughts, fueled by only a single frappacino this morning, are that an attempt at an even ratio is at best an artificial effort that’s potentially as pointless as making sure that fifty percent of all nurses men. There just may not be enough proportionately even interest between the genders to make that realistic without essentially forcing out interested people of one gender for disinterested people of the other.

But on the flip side, we should be doing are best to ensure we’re not selectively removing the opportunity for women to enter the field by encouraging bad traits that (a) women are less likely to have and (b) aren’t really that beneficial to anyone anyhow. (Really, read the “code-cowboy” section of Nicole’s post and ask yourself if you’d tolerate that dick. I wouldn’t.)

I’m not sure, myself, what tools best provide opportunities for both genders, but I found that Nicole’s “good developer” qualities are things that anyone I’d want to work with would possess, regardless of what is in their underpants.

The Nagging Fear of White Men

Where things start to get ugly is when opportunities start becoming crafted for one gender only to help fuel this effort to bring more members of that gender into the industry. Nicole references Google sponsoring female students to attend JSConf, which apparently was a trigger for a lot of the ugly behavior that followed.

Why does this make men nervous, disdainful or petulant?

Consider the following: According to A List Apart’s 2008 survey (which admittedly may not represent the entire industry), 16.2% of the respondents were female. If for the sake of encouraging diversity 50% of the scholarships, sponsorships and conference panel slots went to women for the sake of improving visibility and access to the industry, that means that 83.8% of the industry’s population is fighting for half of the opportunities while the other 16.2% got the other half.

Now, that’s an arbitrary percentage of numbers. It could be argued that for the social, greater good this is a needed effort to improve the ratio in the industry and provide role models for women. But for John Doe, it may not be to his perceived personal good when he finds he’s got a disproportionately smaller piece of the pie because he has the audacity to be born with a penis, and now has to fight even harder for his piece of the pie.

You can say that it’s all good, because there’s enough Johns being represented out there, and it’s high time Jane got her due. Awesome. Yes. I agree Jane needs more face time. But it still hurts for you when you didn’t get to go to a conference because you couldn’t personally afford it. If you’ve been excluded before for your gender as a woman, you should consider that it doesn’t feel any better for men either when they come up against it. And just because there’s a million successful men at the top doesn’t mean the men at the bottom are getting an easier time of it. When enough of these highly visible opportunities appear that you’re by default excluded from, the fear kicks in: Am I going to have to do this all on my own?

The above was an explanation of where the ugly can come from: fear. It is not an excuse. It does not excuse petty, jealous, bigoted or ugly behavior.

Nothing does.

I am personally glad female students got an opportunity to go to JSConf. Would I have loved to have someone pay my way? Absolutely. Could I afford such a trip on my own? No. Does it suck for me? Sure. But taking that out on people who equally deserve an opportunity is just low caliber behavior, and I won’t be a part of it.

Petty Goes Both Ways

It’s not just men, though, that are at fault with the poor behavior.

Rebecca Murphey participated in a Twitter exchange on this topic, sending off a response to John-David Dalton that went as follows: “having to like dick jokes, having no peers, having ppl make sexist jokes & grope you .. definitely not barriers, nope.

Now, the tweet Dalton wrote about perceiving no barriers to women in CS professions was (in my opinion) incredibly naive. But there’s nothing more distasteful to me than a lump statement about men that makes us into sexual predators or highschoolers. Every time the topic of gender in the industry comes up I see someone using this argument: the concept that men are predatory, juvenile, hostile workspace-creating monsters.

Let’s get this straight. Some people, of both genders, are predatory and juvenile. They represent, at best, a small fracture of most of society. The fact that men dominate a field does unfortunately means that the bad apples in that field are going to be men. But I’m tired of being lumped in with them. I’m not a groper. I’m not telling dick jokes around the ladies. I’m not putting bikini shots in my presentations. These people exist, and they need to be called out for the monsters they are by members of both genders. But to use them as an example of how all men are bastards is as irresponsible as using shrill prima donnas as the example of how all women are bitches.

If we’re going to responsibly tackle the difficult topic of gender in the industry, we need to engage one another in good faith. Period. Knocking over burning barrels of trash isn’t going to elicit the kind of reaction anyone wants, and the fact that our field of debate is the Internet means the fires always burn hotter.

Elaine’s response to Joe’s post loses some of its credibility due to this very issue. To quote her: “Fuck you. No, seriously. Fuck you.

I get it. It’s a rant. It’s also going to get this dialogue nowhere fast. Right when I hit this phrase, I started losing sympathy for Elaine’s post. This is a shame, because I 100% agree with the “TLDR” statement she used to sum up her rant: “Men and women need to be able to pursue the careers that are most fitting to their talents and interests. They aren’t always able to do so now.”

I feel sorry for her mother’s experiences, but when she told Joe to fuck off, she lost any maturity points she had above the jealous, petty men who got ugly about Google sponsoring women conference attendees. If we can’t respect the people we’re in a conversation with, we have no chance to create a common ground for the future. This constant need to burn down our ideological opposites in every arena is what makes the Internet so damned burdensome at times.

Also, last I checked, it never solves anything. Let me check here. Joe, did you turn around your views from being cussed at? No?

Cake: Eat It or Have It

Lastly, I want to address an issue of hypocrisy to me.

Recently I participated in a short Twitter dialogue about Girl Geek Dinners, which Nicole made a tweet about desiring to attend. I found it somewhat hypocritical to advocate inclusion for women while practicing exclusion for men. The responses from women I got were to the effect of “standard geek dinners are by default male geek dinners.” This may be true elsewhere, but see my bit near the top about my own experiences. Also, if it were explicitly “men only”, would it be sexist? Would it be exclusion?

I encourage female participation in any form of geekdom. I encourage making it explicitly female-friendly to ensure a more likely attendance ratio. But to quote Matt Wilcox: “Gender based exclusion is sexist, whichever way around. Can’t cake and nom.


* Yes, I’d prefer to see more women in the industry, and encourage good developers over code-cowboys.

* Petty, ugly discriminatory or inflammatory behavior from both genders makes the discussion more difficult and solves nothing and regardless of what sort of fear motivates it.

* Constructive dialogue is important.

* You cannot practice exclusion while preaching inclusion without losing credibility.

* Cake is delicious.

Edit: John-David Dalton clarifies his experience and viewpoint on the women in web development issue at his blog here. Sometimes we all (myself included) forget how unforgiving 140 characters can be. Knowing where he comes from puts a much better perspective on his participation in this most recent process. Thank you, sir, for elaborating.

Comic Update: Robot or Not?

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Today’s comic finishes (finally) the An Event Apart “storyline” that starts here, and has part #2 here. It features AEA speakers Andy Clarke, Nicole Sullivan and Ethan Marcotte. It also features Naepalm, the chinchilla alter-ego of Janae, one of my fellow Mindfly Web Studio designers. The comic also has a brief cameo by everyone’s favorite archaic browser complication: the dreaded hasLayout.

It’s been a long journey to crank out these three comics, which highlight some very important points. First, continuity in a web-design commentary webcomic is difficult at best. Second, that cheese tidal waves represent the best of all possible worlds. Finally, that An Event Apart: Seattle was an awesome extravaganza and Janae and I are still trying to squeeze out all the drops of precious information we absorbed into Mindfly’s waiting arms.

One of my favorite presentations was Ethan’s Dao of Flexibility, which discussed adaptive layouts and fluid grids in detail, opening my eyes to the real power of the world of media queries. I’ve been tinkering away in my acorn-filled lair since the conference, working away at a new design for this site that harnesses these arcane techniques for my own dark purposes. From time to time, I have to pause and laugh with evil glee.

Thanks, AEA.

We’ll now return to my regular schedule of making fun of HTML5 politics and Opera.