Teflon Webloggers

I read in comments this week about how a recent attendee at Tim O’Reilly’s FOO camp was the originator of all the discussion about there not being enough women in tech conferences such as Tim’s camp. I was suprised, and yes, hurt to find out that it only takes about 6 months and 100 weblog posts or so to wipe out all I’ve written on this issue. It’s humbling to realize how easily you can be forgotten; humbling and clarifying because you realize that history in weblogging is fluid, and always being re-written; usually by the same proponents of how honest and decent this all is.

There’s been criticism of Wikipedia because the ‘facts’ can be rewritten so easily. True, but the history remains. Weblogging has no such way to track history. Either you have to join the race to continually push yourself to the top of the heap; or you have to just accept that this is the way it is, and move on to something else.

I also had to face this week the fact that my views are unwelcome in several weblogs and by several webloggers. It bothers me less to not be linked than to not be part of a discussion. To feel like I’m only one step above weblog spam to these people. Why am I no longer part of the discussions? Because I’m critical, sometimes strongly so. I use satire, I pick, I push, and yes, I don’t stop. Being a woman doesn’t always hurt, but it doesn’t always help, either.

I feel sad to be shut out from some (not all) of the discussions, because I really do like a good debate. But I’d feel stupid to continue trying to engage these folk, or to send any attention their way only to be disregarded as so much carpet lint.

I said in my Just Shelley weblog that if any of my new efforts stop being fun, I was going to abandon the effort. I’m not closing Bb Gun down, because there are still debates to be had with folks who aren’t afraid of such. But I can guarantee that I’m going to be spending one hell of a lot less of my time throwing words where they won’t stick.


As I wrote in comments, I realized that I sounded like a certain someone with my “po’me, no one remembers my greatness” talk. I have since slapped myself in the face, and feel much better.

There’s truth in what I’m writing here, but the truth extends beyond my own personal trials and tribulations.

Now: go look at my zoo photos in Just Shelley. There’s a baby elephant. A hairy baby elephant.

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11 Responses to Teflon Webloggers

  1. Jane McG says:

    For what it’s worth, I remember reading that comment as well, and I believe it was referring specifically to danah’s criticism of O’Reilly conferences in particular, not tech conferences in general.

  2. Shelley says:

    Jane, you’re right that specific comment had to do with FOOCamp. And to give credit where it’s due, I believe that Liz Lawley was the first to bring up the discrepancy of women at FOOCamp specifically.

    But this comment wasn’t the only impetus for this writing. I should have made my post more general.

    This post is more of a reminder to myself to let some things go.

  3. Ken Camp says:

    I’m distressingly disappointed by the community of “look the other way” that seems to deviate this issue at every turn. Just as the movie Dances with Wolves (along with others) made me ashamed of being a white male in some ways, the weblogging community) or parts thereof, have the same impact. Some days I don’t want to be part of any club that would accept me as a member…

  4. Shelley says:

    It’s feeling progressively cut off, Ken. It’s become now a requirement that you have to get together, and I’m getting concerned that this is eventually going to impact on my writing. Right now, writing is how I make a living.

    This was all supposed to be different. It doesn’t matter, they said, where you live, or who you are, or your race or sex. None of this matters because this is a “better way”.

    Look at me, I’m writing on Ajax and Web 2.0, in a field which has even fewer women, from what I can see, then the open source (and you know how bad that is), and no one seems to care.

    “Hey ladies”, the successful connected women say. “Just buck up, stop rocking the boat, quit being so negative“.

    And then supposedly the good guys? I feel just as pushed out of their discussions as I do all the others.

    I am getting so disappointed.

    Sorry, it just worries me at times. Really does.

  5. Shelley says:

    Actually, just ignore this post. Po’me, all that.

    “People don’t remember my greatness.” Oh, lordie, I realized who I sounded like. I just slapped myself.

    One also doesn’t have to announce in their weblogs every time they realize there are a lot of pricks in weblogging and technology. It should be a given by now.

  6. Ethan says:

    Oh, lordie, I realized who I sounded like.

    Yes, but one difference is that you had more self-awareness about it. ;-)

    And somewhat more seriously: This is a good example of how easy it is to slide down that spiral. Happens to the best of us.

  7. amyloo says:

    I hear you about the Conference-Centered Life. I keep thinking that, with all the elearning tools and knowledge available about distance learning, there ought to be better ways of extending conferences to near hermits like I’m getting to be.

  8. Kevin Marks says:

    Extending the conferences to the web is something I have been trying to do for a while, with live bootleg webcasts and bringing IRC feedback to the room, and sometimes with 2-way video links. I know I am privileged to be in the tech conference epicentre here, and I do want to do more of this extending.
    Shelley, consider starting a BarCampStLouis.

  9. amyloo says:

    Kevin, I think video and IRC are really great, but when you think about it, it doesn’t matter that much for the remote participants if it happens in real time. Yeah, it matters some to feel part of the proceedings but more after-the-fact discussion could be useful too. I scribbled something about it last night here and here

  10. Shelley says:

    Ethan, self aware is my middle name.

    amyloo your two posts made a lot of good points. I’m curious to see what you’re doing with the Blogher effort when it’s ready. I would like to see, though, a greater outreach from existing conferences. I may not agree with how the Blogher conferences are held, and why, but I do admire the organizers for taking the next one to Chicago. In my opinion, that was a really smart move.

    Kevin, St. Louis has a weblogger’s site, another site for photobloggers, all with get togethers. Dennis Kennedy, who I think you know, also arranges get togethers. Why would St. Louis _need_ to have a BarCamp? That’s just taking the St. Louis energy and funneling to that black hole that California has become.

    My suggestion that O’Reilly consider having a tech conference here was as much to help the company as to promote St. Louis. I think there’s a real risk that many O’Reilly customers in the midwest, south, and even the East coast, are going to begin to feel ‘outsider’ by O’Reilly standards. Eventually that could translate into hard, cold sales.

    More importantly, what truly exciting new things things could possibly result when you gather together many of the same people, or like minded people?

    I’ve seen things in tech.meme lately getting people all excited that made no sense. They were silly items, or the same new company that’s just like many others. The last truly innovative thing I think I’ve seen, the one that really caught my interest, was Google Maps. Well, that and Flickr’s API (I still think Flickr has some of the best use of tech I’ve seen), and the new Amazon stuff, which is definately eye opening.

    What did we have out of Foocamp? A wireless chia pet made out of cloth? I might as well wrap my old TiBook in fuzz and call it the Next Best thing.

    What people forget is that true innovation is a product of diversity, and diversity never happens by invitation.

    As for all the social software types talking about this get together and that, and how meeting in the flesh is necessary–if they can’t recognize the hypocrisy of their actions, best just let them stew in their own social goodness juice. As of now, I have other things to do them to give them credibility with my criticism.

  11. Kevin Marks says:

    Amyloo, the two modes are different – if you watch it live, and have a backchannel via IRC to the room, you can be part of the event. The discussion afterwards is important too, and is often more useful if you are too busy to dedicate the time. I have been on both ends of the remote attendence model, and found it useful. I have also brought people to conferences ‘in my laptop’ by walking round with live 2-way videochat running.
    Meeting people in person that I have known online is often the reason I do go to conferences. Our digital mediation still needs improving.