Tag Archives: software

Highlights of Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2015

I’m writing this on the last day of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I truly wanted to attend my co-worker Lilit Yenokyan’s talk today, A Fine Line: Balancing Motherhood and Career, but instead I’m actually making good on that advice and heading home a day early because I haven’t been home all week.

I cannot express how inspiring it is to have spent the week with 12,000 women in technology. In a field that is still horribly underrepresented by women, it’s absolutely critical to bring together this critical mass to visualize those who are in the field. Maybe a picture will help …


Also at the conference, Netflix sponsored a Professional Development Leadership Workshop focusing on Showcasing your Work, specifically giving your first lightning talk. I had the privilege of introducing the topic, which is near and dear to my heart. I have both attended and presented lightning talks and I think that they are a great way to get people interested in something you’re passionate about. Getting more women to showcase their ideas and to get on stage is one of the motivations for the conference, and I’m glad that Netflix was able to participate in this way.

There were many great talks and keynotes, but the highlight of my week was Sheryl Sandberg’s keynote. I can only describe it as amazing, inspiring, and thoughtful conversation. The interview that followed with the incredibly talented and funny Nora Denzel was insightful and fun.

In both, Sheryl offered 3 pieces of advice to the audience:

I’ve done the “Three Things” on and off, and I think it’s definitely worth trying.  I suspect one of my coworkers from Netflix has already created a circle (can’t wait to get back to see!), and, of course, I agree with her advice to stay in tech. I’ll mirror what Sheryl said: Our jobs are impactful, well-paid, and flexible.

And men, here’s a call to action for you. If you’re in tech, I hope that you will encourage your wives, sisters, daughters, nieces and friends to go into computer science or stay in the industry. There are more of you, so the numbers game says that your involvement will increase our numbers faster. I hope you’ll help.



Atomic Scala: A Book Gets Written

 I liked Scala at first glance several years ago, and thought it was a huge improvement over Java. Unfortunately, it suffered from what I like to call “Early Adopter Syndrome”. The early adopters of the language were attracted to its terseness and its flexibility. The combination made the language seem really difficult. It didn’t have to be that way, and I was convinced that it would be a good language for beginners. So, about a year and a half ago, I mentioned to my friend Bruce Eckel that I was thinking of writing a book on Scala. He’s written several very popular programming language books, and I wanted his opinion.
After about a minute pause, Bruce said, “I would like to help you write that book”.
I have some very kind and generous friends. I wasn’t angling for that — but I was floored by the offer. His books are some of the best in the industry. I knew that I had much to learn; I just didn’t know how much! Bruce has kept me focused, pushed me toward simplification, and I have grown in numerous ways as a writer and as a developer because of his generosity. Bruce is in Colorado; I’m in Michigan. Technology (in particular, Google Docs) has made co-authoring this book possible.
The book is now at a point where we think we will benefit from people “testing it out” and where beginners in Scala can benefit from the very small steps (atoms) that make up the book. We named the book Atomic Scala to reflect this and it’s been a lot of fun “splitting atoms” when we felt like we have represented more than one concept at a time.

In October, we will be presenting a weeklong seminar from the book. We will put it to the test with attendees, and we are convinced that this exercise will help us to remove complexities that we no longer see. The seminar will be hands-on, based on exercises from the book. We have targeted our book at beginning Scala programmers, and we feel that completion of the course will put folks in a great position to follow up with Escalate Software’s Scala training from Bill Venners and Dick Wall and/or other, more advanced books.

The seminar will be exciting for me in another way. We’re going to do a print on demand “early access” run for the book, so that we can give one to each attendee. To date, our editing has been in Google Docs, and it’s hard to envision what it will look like in print. We will have an eBook version as well, of course, but I’ve seen those. I will be thrilled to get my hand on a print copy.

We have an active group of reviewers. Google Docs added a commenting feature recently, which allows us to give commenting permission (but not editing permission) as a sharing option. With this, our reviewers can add comments to the document. They can also actually see us editing (cursor moving, backspacing, rewriting sentences)! It’s a fun way to write a book.

So, when will it be done? Well, that’s a good question, one my family, business partner, and employees ask often. We expect it to be done later this year. But what I typically tell people is that it will be done when Bruce says it’s done. (That’s a compliment, Bruce. I really do trust your judgment on this!)

You can learn more about the book and upcoming seminars from our book website.

Day 1 at the Java Posse Roundup 2012

I’m in Crested Butte, Colorado, for the Java Posse Roundup 2012. This is my 6th Java Posse Roundup, which means both that I have perfect attendance and that my husband is extremely tolerant of my travel.

The Roundup is a 4-day open spaces experience, dedicated to exploring technologies and open discussion. The mornings are set aside for discussion. Broken into 3 1-hour sessions, with 30 minute breaks in between, these are highly interactive sessions around a variety of topics that the attendees themselves identify and propose.

On Day 1, we held an intro session followed by 3 discussions.

For the first discussion of the day, I chose Tools that Make you Productive. Some tools that I thought were interesting included:

CamScanner – turns your Android or iPhone into a portable scanning device. Most notably, people are using it for high contrast whiteboard images.

Evernote – I already use this for notetaking on the web and mobile devices, but I learned  about its browser extension (click to copy) and that you can take notes by voice on the mobile version.

Livescribe smartpens – allow you to record what you write and hear for later playback. Uses special pens and paper.

There were many suggestions for todo list management, including Asana, Workflowy, AnyDo, and Do It (Tomorrow).

Desk.com was described as effective for help desk management (integrates with Salesforce!), and Trello and AgileZen were both discussed for agile software project management boards.

Boomerang, a gmail/google apps plugin, was highly regarded for email management and scheduling.

The Pomodoro technique was described (and has high participation in this group), and there was a strong emphasis on providing a distraction free environment with a comfortably large monitor and good keyboard/mouse/trackpad.  Communication between team members (and customers) is essential and tools such as IRC, Yammer, HipChat, and Campfire promote communication with off-site staff. Google Talk (particularly with the “go to voice” option) is also highly regarded.

For the last session of the day, I attended a discussion on Continuous Deployment. We contrasted the term with continuous delivery, where you build artifacts and deliver to point where it could be deployed. It is critical that there are no special (different) steps for production. We discussed the challenges around achieving that, both technology and people, and delved into metrics that can be monitored to determine success.

Unlike the first discussion, only a few tools were mentioned (Splunk and AppDynamics) while much of the emphasis was on the process of getting to the point where tools would be meaningful.

Core to the discussion was a mindshift of a release as a big (and scary) event, but rather a regular occurrence of a small bit of functionality rolled out to customers. Spreading out features over time reduces risk and provides value to customers.

Following these sessions, I went to an “off-the-record” session around team dynamics. The off-the-record sessions are held offsite, and are not recorded. This enables attendees to be frank in their discussions without concern about who might hear the podcast. I have personally benefitted from these sessions every year, and their inclusion  is one of the many advantages that in-person attendees have over those who stay at home and listen to the podcasts.

Another advantage, of course, is the hallway conversation. While open spaces conferences are organized to make hallway conversations accessible to all, I find that we’re all in non-stop communication mode, and the ample minute breaks between sessions encourage this. Various discussions from work-life balance to pair programming to languages all happened in these “breaks”.  We also talked while at lunch, while out snowshoeing, and while at dinner. Others did some more hacking.

In the evening, we all got together for lightning talks (recorded and will be released on YouTube). For some reason (maybe we didn’t post the list fast enough), the list for lightning talks was only half-full when we arrived. Several of us kicked it into high gear and developed lightning talks on the spot, and soon the schedule was full.

I spoke about Raising Geeks, with the key message that we should all buy “cool toys”. My favorites are Snap Circuits Jr (and I saw a bunch of parents in the audience nodding in agreement) and LEGO WeDo. I had been talking about the WeDo to a few other parents at the conference, and they suggested I do a lighting talk, because its availability is not widely known. Kids can build things (like an alligator) with LEGOs and sensors, and then “program them” with a LabView-like visual interface. It’s sold through the LEGO Education division, and it’s been a huge hit at my house.

There were many other lightning talks on a variety of topics, some software related and some not. They’re always enjoyable to watch!

Many of the Java Posse attendees share houses in town and discussion doesn’t really stop when the sessions end. Every year, I go home from this week both energized from the ideas that arise and exhausted from the interaction.

Stay tuned for a summary of Day 2 …

Ada Lovelace Day: Looking back, looking forward

Today, October 7, is Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace is credited with being the first computer programmer. Her work in 1842 describing Charles Babbage’s analytical engine was not code in the same way that we see it today, but her insight was amazing.

During World War II, the ENIAC served as the first digital computer and was programmed by a group of 6 women at the University of Pennsylvania, replacing some 80 women who had been hand-calculating ballistics trajectories via some complex differential equations. Their programming task was quite complex, without the benefit of programming manuals, computer languages, or Google.

Many other women have excelled in software since then. So why has this become a man’s game? When I graduated with a degree in Computer Science in 1986, 36% of degrees in CS were earned by women. The 2009-2010 Taulbee survey showed 13.4% women, an increase over the previous 2 years, but still surprisingly low.

As a women in Computer Science, I’m often asked why there is little interest in Computer Science for women. I have no idea. I enjoy the profession I have chosen, and so I have no insight into why other women have assessed things differently. So, instead of guessing, I’ll use Ada Lovelace Day to say what I love about the software industry.

  • Customers — I love learning about what other people do for a living. Writing software to solve someone else’s problem gives me insight into what they do for a living and this keeps things interesting
  • New languages — New computer languages (like Scala) take on an increasing amount of the boilerplate work. This helps me to focus on solving the customers’ problems elegantly rather than spending a lot of time doing stuff I’ve done a million times before.
  • Other programmers — the software community is one of the most generous communities I know. Some developers like to talk about what they do and like to share that knowledge with others at conferences and user group meetings. Some developers like to donate their time to building projects for charities at events such as the Ann Arbor Give Camp. Other developers like to build software that others can collaborate on and learn from, as well as use in the form of Open Source.
  • Conferences — the software community seems to have the best conferences. Conferences are often low cost (like CodeMash and Strange Loop) and offer great training on applicable technologies. We hold them in fun places like in ski areas and indoor water parks and cruise ships. Socializing while learning is the geek form of networking, and we do it well.
  • Flexibility. We can work anywhere, and often do. With a cell phone and a laptop with an internet connection, it’s easy to set up an office.
  • Low capital expense, The cost of starting a business is low and this leads to innovation, particularly by young people.
  • Fast-paced. The industry has moved significantly in the 25 years since I started working as a professional software developer. Continual learning keeps my interest.
  • Ubiquitous. Software is a large part of all of our lives. I’m thrilled to play a part in that.

I have an 8 year old daughter. I don’t know what profession she will choose. I just hope she’s as happy with her choice as I continue to be.

SRT Solutions and The Whole Brain Group Team up to Work with Adaptive Materials

SRT Solutions and The Whole Brain Group are working with Adaptive Materials on a new software application for renewable energy.  Funded by an Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II grant, this application will improve the military’s renewable energy usage in the battlefield.

With Adaptive Materials’ renewable energy acumen,  SRT Solutions providing the software development expertise, The Whole Brain Group providing the user interface design and artwork, this project is a great opportunity for three Ann Arbor companies to work together.

You can read more about the project on AnnArbor.com.

SRT’s software stimulus lab at Automation Alley on June 15


SRT Solutions decided that we wanted to join in and provide a little stimulus ourselves, for software developers in our area.  So, we're hosting an event at Automation Alley, geared toward developers. Next Monday, on June 15, our "Software Stimulus Lab" will provide an opportunity for developers to get together and learn from one another.  Software experts from SRT will be on hand to help out with languages and technologies, as well as giving some real-world experience in subversion and bazaar, unit testing and continuous integration.  This low-cost event ($75) is all day long and should be both informative and fun.  So far, registrants have indicated interest in Java, C#, Scala, F#, Python, and GWT.  We'll bring some lab exercises for people to  work on, and of course, you're free to bring your own projects as well.

Oh, and the stimulus part: it's free for unemployed developers. 

Registration is at: http://srtstimulus.eventbrite.com/

I hope that you will join us.

Software Engineering Tools at SRT Solutions

Next week, on Tuesday, May 20, we're holding a 1-day open spaces event at SRT Solutions.  The theme is Software Engineering Tools.  The participants will define the topics for discussion, but we think that people might want to talk about version control, continuous integration, and other things that make their lives easier (or more miserable).

We're using Bazaar with one customer, and so that may come up.  We use subversion for most of our customers.  And, of course, there are cool tools that connect to version control systems, like Atlassian's FishEye.

And if we're talking about Atlassian tools, I would sure like to learn more about what Bamboo can do for us, and how that differs from Cruise Control

What I always find invaluable about bringing people together to talk about tools is the collective knowledge. We all have our own little subset of the software tool universe that we live and breathe in, and stepping outside of that world for a day to experience what other people find useful is a way to quickly become more effective.

Jay Wren always seems to have something to say about tools, and he's coming

The more the merrier.  Registration is at http://srtsolutions.com/static/SoftwareEngTools.html.  The $100 registration fee includes a continental breakfast and a boxed lunch.

Google Tech Talks in Ann Arbor

Details still coming

Google has announced 2 different Tech Talks to be held in the Ann Arbor area in the next few weeks.  Both meetings will be held at the Google offices in Ann Arbor and registration is required because seating is limited, but both events will be free and open to the public.  Google is sending swag, providing (heavy) appetizers, beer, wine, and it even sounds like dessert!

The first tech talk is in coordination with the Ann Arbor Computer Society and Michigan Python User Group, and will be held on Thursday August 2 at 6 pm.  Registration for that event is at:


The second tech talk will be in coordination with the Ann Arbor Java User Group, and will be held on Tuesday, August 7. I don't know what time that will start, but I suspect at 6 as well.  As far as I know, a registration link is not yet available.

We're waiting on the Google folls to tell us who they are sending and what the topics will be.  I'm sure that both will be great events, and I'll post here as soon as we hear!

And a P.S. on "heavy appetizers".  Is this a new term?  Should I know what this means? I went to a wedding reception last week, and called my friend to see if they were having dinner, appetizers, or what.  He said "heavy appetizers" and that if we didn't eat beforehand, we certainly wouldn't go hungry. And he was right.  I laughed, though, because the Google folk described sending "heavy appetizers" as well.  I figure I'm just not in the know.

Ann Arbor Computer Society

Michigan Python User Group

Ann Arbor Java User Group

Tips on Writing Relevant Website Content

Inner Circle Media's blog offers good perspective

Carrie Hensel and others at Inner Circle Media have done a series of great blog posts on writing website content.  Their focus is on increasing RELEVANT (targeted) traffic, not just any old traffic.  I think "How to Write Relevant Website Content" is worth a read, as is Meredith Lovelace's entry on increasing traffic.

Alaine Karoleff wrote a good piece on how to write website content.  And I loved Carrie's experiment with using words like "trees with purple flowers" and "Spanish port" because those were what was hot as reported by HotTrends in early June. Her objective was to see if traffic increased and to make an analysis of whether or not that traffic was relevant to their business.  And it mainly was not.  The geek in me truly enjoys experiments like that.  She later went on to post about how she could use HotTrends to find RELEVANT terms to blog about that would drive real customers to their site, rather than just people looking for random search terms which were hot right now.

The only search term that I saw that was even marginally relevant to our business today (July 18) was Ooma.  Since listening to the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast that Andrew Frame and Warren Packard did, I've been keeping an eye out for Ooma news.  Oddly, their website hasn't been updated, but I can see links to articles referencing interviews with Andrew Frame about their new hub and internet calling service.  I currently use Skype for most of my calls, but the Ooma offering looks interesting.  I'll definitely check it out as more information becomes available.

Boy, I got sidetracked there.  Back to the Inner Circle Media blog.

Carrie's prior posts are great too.  I really enjoyed her post on Starting a Creative Company.  Our company has followed much the same path, and so I definitely concur.

Anyhow, this is definitely a blog that I read and I definitely recommend reading.  Oh, and check out their geeky Scope Creep t-shirt too (I've already ordered one).

Inner Circle Media

Fun Geek Wear

Google Tech Talk in Ann Arbor

August 2, 2007 at 6 pm

Registration is now live for the Google Tech Talk in Ann Arbor to be held on Thursday, August 2 in a joint meeting between the Ann Arbor Computer Society and Michigan Python Users Group.

I don't have any information on who the speaker will be (other than a Google engineer) and I don't yet know what the topic is, but register if you're going because the event is limited to 75 people.

Details that I do have: Event starts at 6 at the Google offices in Ann Arbor (Division between Liberty and Washington).  They will be serving appetizers, beer, and wine.  And validating parking.


Michigan Python User Group