Friday, March 15, 2013

It's not always about gender

In my stream last night, I saw that Gay Kawasaki had reposted a listicle from Cristina Cordova about how to attract more women to startups. I agree with most of the post in that you need to clean up bro culture in the workplace, for civility and for clarity in job titles and postings, but I'm not sure you need to do it on account of my fragile lady parts.

First of all, suggesting that Team Lady is the only group of people who would be upset by bro culture overlooks a significant group of people who dislike aspects of that culture and don't think it is good for business.
  1. We love your cultural symbols--especially when I don't have to think about what they mean. Oh, god, the ninja thing. This is a bit like talking about how your Jedi mind tricks worked and meaning it. This is about what we believe an icon is and not what it actually represents--and how little it has common with the job you have to do. These job titles don't make sense on your resume, so if your startup fails and you need to look for a paying job with another company everybody in their HR thinks you ran an anime club for three years.

    And while we are misappropriating cultural icons, why can't we use [code] slinger, gangster, naut or crusader? Because they sound silly and childish and only the Japan of our imagination is cool enough to rate a job title. Cordova does point out that some startups use rockstar and hacker, but again, we use them because we don't have to think about what the term really represents, and she doesn't mention how those titles undermine the credibility of your employees when they are engaged in the work of growing, marketing, representing or selling your startup.

  2. Alcohol makes the money come round. Recently, I toured a startup facility with a friend of mine who abstains from drinking alcohol for religious reasons. As the guide spent five minutes expressing how much business got done in the tavern below the startup space, my friend just put her hand over her eyes and tried to block him out. His argument was that if you don't drink, there was no reason for the other people in the space to talk to you and give you advice and assistance. And the space was awesome. I wanted to bring my sleeping bag to work and fuel my enterprise with the coffee from the excellent coffee shop below that he failed to mention on his tour, except as another tenant in the building. The insistence that alcohol lubricates business persists in many industries, not just in coding, and that the cool and knowledgeable drink beer and lots of it, is a myth that we perpetuate, as in the Hipper Crowd of Shushers.

    Reliance on alcohol to facilitate business cuts out a whole group of people who don't want to mix alcohol with work and who might make stupid decisions if they did mix alcohol with work. It's like we're back in high school, all being pressured by the cool kids to drink. And if you did give in to their pressure, let's remember how that turned out. Now imagine it posted to YouTube while you are trying to get VC funding.

  3. Lets have a discussion about how jerks are replaceable. At one of my interviews, I had a grilling from the IT team leader who used a common programming term incorrectly. I corrected her, but SHE quickly established that her usage was correct. I let it go and got the job, but she continued to bring it into the conversation for two weeks after my hire until our supervisor told her to let it go. My point is, jerk is genderless and not limited to coders. Maybe we should talk about how these people strain the workplace, as well as misrepresent us to clients. Hire well is good advice for all hires, regardless of gender, and maybe your college roommate who joined the startup in its first week is not as good at their job as you think.

  4. She doesn't talk about the roles that women will be hired for. This is one issue where there appears to be a workplace gender divide. I have suggested that the post focuses on hiring women coders, but women do play other roles that a startup needs to thrive and they are not treated as if they understand the arcane mysteries of technology, as in this ad from Samsung.

    Ah, the ladies, bringing down the code bros with their insistence on not spending money on two kegerators. And not being smart enough to recognize the redundancy reducing technology the bros are using to mock them with. 

  5. Though they could have trotted out the silverback stereotype, the middle aged, suited dude who refers to all of the code bros in the diminutive, as in Danny or Jimmy, and who hasn't updated his technological know how since teletype. But there are no old people in startups anyway.
So yes, I admit that gender does play a role; however, there are some areas, such as alcohol and protecting crappy employees, that should be discussed without gender, since some arguments that use gender fairness as their rationale put women in the position of being the angel in the workplace.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What is Meetup?

This summary is from an in-house presentation that I delivered in early March 2013.

Meetup is an online social networking tool that is meant to connect people in the same geographic region who have the same interests to form a group online and then use calendaring and map software to meet In Real Life.

In fact, to form a meetup group, you must agree to meet in person.

Signing up for Meetup

You can sign in to Meetup using your email address and a password or you can connect with your Facebook account. Connecting with your Facebook account means you can immediately invite your Facebook friends to your Meetup groups. You can also see what groups your Facebook friends are a member of.

However, Meetup is useful for “out of network” matchmaking; for example, if you are the only person in your Facebook network who owns their own business, your Facebook friends are not the people who can help you write a business plan or get answers to your questions about VC funds. You can use Meetup to break into networks that are currently closed to you.

What does it cost?

Meetup is free for regular members, but there is a fee to form Meetup groups. Organizers can only run three Meetup groups at one time.

 In this case, if we formed a Career Knowledge Group for campus, but offered a variety of events, this is one Meetup. If we formed a Career Knowledge Group for Arts, Engineering and Education, and each with a separate group of members, we could not add a Science Meetup group without paying for an additional administrator account.

Since there are fees for Meetup groups, some organizers do ask members to pay a small fee when they attend their first meetup. Other Meetup groups are sponsored by groups or business organizations, which can offer some ad space for the sponsors on the Meetup group page.

What groups are on Meetup?

Groups are usually formed around hobbies, such as knitting and movie watching, while others are for educational, such as learn Spanish, and business purposes, such as the Startup Edmonton Meetup.

Some Meetups are even combinations of hobbies, businesses and education: for example, I belong to a vegetarian and gardening meetup which includes a potluck event to meet people and usually a presentation from a local entrepreneur, such as making straw bale homes.

Career services can make use of the educational and entrepreneurial meetups, but since we can also encourage people who are planning to relocate from or to Edmonton, to use Meetup to build a local community to alleviate homesickness.

Open and Closed Groups

Some groups are open meaning that you don’t have to be a member to see upcoming events, while others are closed and events are accessible to members only. Some closed groups only require a request to the organizers to join, while others will ask you to email the organizer with a sort of, why should you let me in to your Meetup group message. Some groups will allow you to remain a member even if you never attend a meetup, while others will kick out people who fail to show up to even one meeting, or who RSVP but fail to show up. All of these rules will depend on the organizer(s).

What does a group page look like? 

What does the user dashboard look like? 

  • There is a stream of events, including a list of Facebook friends that are on Meetup, as well as information about who has RSVPd to Meetups the user currently belongs to. 
  • There is a calendar, which can include suggestions for Meetups that the user may not have registered for or if they are not yet a member of, though they all relate to the user’s interests 
  • An editable list of user interests so the user can search for new Meetups.

Why Meetup? 

Meetup combines several familiar tools in one place, so people familiar with all of these tools do not have to learn new skills to use Meetup:

  • Mapping Event planning, including RSVPs and group management 
  • Calendars, which includes notifications of new meetups, importing calendars to existing services, such as Google calendar 
  • Group formation and forums, as well as commenting on events and attendance monitoring 
  • Tagging and categorization 
  • Review services because attendees can add a review to an event after they have attended 

Facebook uses some of these services, but Meetup encourages out of network connections and socializing outside of Meetup. Meetup offers some solution for event management, though they have not currently worked out the ticketing and event payment process, should a fee by required by the event organizer.