a name space

a collection of @s_m_i joints

Some statements of personal policy

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Part One:

1) If you believe that talking about difference or acknowledging that -isms exist is tantamount to either “making the problem worse” or being that -ist - “Talking about racism means you’re a racist!” - I will disagree with you.

2) If you contend that “we are all just people” or “I don’t even see colour” or “it wouldn’t matter if she was a purple alien”, I will seriously disagree with you.

Typical, real example: “”Personally, I feel that the way to break down the minority divides is to ignore the existence of a minority at all. Let’s forget about gender - we’re all just people”

3) If your arguments include such threads as “then why isn’t there a White History month?” or “we only wanted the most qualified people for this panel”, I will end the conversation.

Typical, real example: “Besides, how would the world react to male-only networking groups/ online forums? I bet that wouldn’t be tolerated.”

Part Two:

I believe these statements to be true:

1) Highlighting the work of minorities in a field helps dispel two myths: “No one in this looks like me so I don’t belong here” and “No one here looks like you so you don’t belong here”

2) Giving more visibility to the work (or indeed existence) of minorities does not threaten, exclude or diminish the work or existence of non-minorities in a given industry, business or sector.

3) Acknowledging difference is an important step in understanding when and why unequal access, unequal representation, and unequal outcomes persist. And to quote a wise friend, “we are all different, by definition. If we don’t acknowledge those differences then we’re not bringing out whole selves to the conversation and everyone loses out.”

4) Ignoring the testimonies of minorities who have had different experiences is tantamount to acting like those lived experiences did not happen or are not legitimate or valid.

5) There are minority individuals (and indeed, archetypes) who will argue very strongly a) that their minority status has neither helped or harmed them in any way b) that it is patently false that anyone’s minority status could ever be a source of difference in access, representation or outcome. This is valid, because (4). I equally contend that acknowledging difference, including differences in access, representation, and outcomes, does not tokenize or diminish the accomplishments of these individuals or groups, because (2).

Part Three

1) What token actually means.

2) Racism is systemic.

3) “Reverse racism”, you say?

4) Oh, misandry! Oh, men’s rights!

5) My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

6) No, I will not 'change my tone'.

Meta: Long live the front page

I spend a lot of time consuming the interwebs. News, analysis, listicles, infographics, longform, charts, podcasts, newsletters, streams - give them to me.

But it struck me today that the only “front pages” I visit consistently belong to Google, Twitter, and Reddit - which, appropriately, describes itself as “the front page of the internet”.

A swift review of my Pocket and Instapaper queues, and my Pinboard archives, reinforced what I suspected: in 2013 I read hundreds of pieces in the Atlantic, the NYTimes, the FT, the WSJ, Buzzfeed, Bloomberg Business Week, or on Medium.

But I cannot remember the last time I found my way to articles from any of these sites by any means other than I saw it shared on Twitter, via my Percolate brew, or linked to in one of the many email newsletters to which I subscribe.

I did check out to the NY Times homepage a few weeks ago - but that was because I wanted to experience their redesign.

I have no idea what most sites’ front pages look like any more, and I am not quite sure how to feel about that. And even though traditional RSS has become less important to my read-all-the-things workflow, I am more dependent than ever on both algorithmic aggregation and human curation to find the signal in the noise.

It’s also true that I’m in the minority on this - traffic to the front pages of sites like the New York Times, The Guardian, and the FT are several orders of magnitude higher than visits to any individual article page. The exceptions to this rule tended to come from an article having been “Drudged”; these days, and depending on your demographic, Reddit and the major social platforms are more likely to be the ones that upend the natural order of (non-paid-for) traffic.

In any newsroom or digital media organization, there will be talented editors (increasingly assisted by tools like ChartBeat and Visual Revenue) devoted to optimizing for the front page audience. Increasingly, there are also designers and developers working alongside editors and product managers, agonizing over how to evolve article pages to create more and better pathways to engagement in a post-front page world.

Long may they co-exist.

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#awesomewomen of the world, reject your Impostor Syndrome

I have a theory - several, really - that stories about women not wanting to work with other women and women not wanting to report to women reflect the realities of power dynamics.

Briefly:

Three perceptual phenomena are associated with tokens: visibility (tokens capture a disproportionate awareness share), polarization (differences between tokens and dominants are exaggerated), and assimilation (tokens’ attributes are distorted to fit preexisting generalizations about their social type). Visibility generates performance pressures; polarization leads dominants to heighten their group boundaries; and assimilation leads to the tokens’ role entrapment.

Put another way:

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Given these factors, it is entirely rational for women to seek to align ourselves with those who hold power - i.e. men. A powerful male boss in what Moss Kanter calls “skewed groups” is significantly better positioned to be able (and willing) to lobby for his direct reports than a woman in the same context.

And given a) the prevalence of impostor syndrome among women b) the socialized tendency to apologize for no actual reason c) the pressure women feel to downplay perceived successd) the fact that women sell ourselves short on team projects - prioritising working with each other appears, again, to be less than canny corporate strategy.

"I’ll never get promoted because she’s only looking out for herself" meets "I don’t deserve to get promoted anyway" and is supported by "the only way I’ll get a raise is if I spend more time with the boys" and, ah, 'lizard brain'.

But here’s the thing. Women only stop being tokenized when there are enough of us to shift the group dynamic from “skewed” to “balanced”. And the one circumstance in which women don’t unduly attribute extra credit to others (to their own detriment) is when we are on teams comprised of…other women.

Chicken, meet egg.

There are significant structural challenges to overcome here - back we go to power dynamics, causes and consequences of - and I will not underplay these.

But I will suggest that when we are in positions of even the tiniest amount of privilege, when we are able to wrest back some of that power, we should challenge ourselves - yes, MOAR challenges - to overcome impostor syndrome. Let us reject the instinct to sell ourselves short. Let us bite our tongues before we blurt out, “I’m really not qualified to speak at the conference” or “Oh, why would they want to interview me? I’m not that interesting.”

Newsflash, ladies: boring, unqualified men are trotted out as fascinating experts all the time. All. The. Time. We will have made progress when women are also allowed to be boring and unqualified and nevertheless regularly appear on television. We shall not have attained equality until absolutely medicore developers who also happen to be women are routinely hired by buzzy startups. We should not rest until women you’ve never heard of, whose only achievement is being friends with the organizer, are giving keynotes at expensive conferences and no one bats an eye.

And until we are allowed to be bloody well ordinary thank you very much, let us deploy the IMPOSTER SYNDROME SIREN when we recognize the signs - in our sisters, mothers, aunts, daughters, cousins, friends, colleagues, direct reports and yes, our arch rivals.

Who’s with me?

Wellness: The path of least resistance (involves not pretending I'll exercise after work)

I’m not a morning person, but I do an excellent impression of one. And that fake-it-till-you-make-it extends to my ability to drag myself out of bed before dawn in the depths of winter to attend a spin class, or to show up for the 7am yoga practice with a smile on my otherwise not-really-awake face.

But no matter how resolute I think I am, how many events I put in my calendar, how often I take my gym clothes with me - if I’m still in the office at 7 or 8pm, I am not going to make it to that yoga class. I am not going to suit up for a run. I am going to get on the first available form of transportation that will get me home and drinking tea in the least amount of time. (I call this “Time To Tea”, and I aspire to 30mins or less after a long day)

Whether you believe that ego depletion is real or are convinced you can overcome wobbles in willpower, the key is to architect paths of least resistance during your day. Whether those paths successfully lead to the gym, the studio, the bike, the treadmill - or indeed, to tea - is a function of how honest you are about the tension between your goals and your psychology.

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Wellness: I think I'll just pass out in this corner, thank you

The emergent popularity of books like Susan Cain’s “Quiet” means that more people now understand - or have at least been exposed to - the traits of introverts.

But this growing awareness hasn’t yet been coupled with widespread attempts to design schools, workplaces or even conferences that give introverts the time and the space to rest and recharge, to avoid burnout.

Today, after a week that consisted of back-to-back meetings bookended by breakfasts and dinners, I slept until 3pm. And then, after making some lunch and still completely exhausted, I went back to bed for a nap.

Most Western societies are optimised for extroverted behaviour. I’m not.

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Wellness: What's your burnout indicator?

I’ve learnt to recognize when I am burning out. Sleep fails to refresh me; I wake up with a sore jaw from having clenched and ground my teeth all night; I don’t laugh as often or as easily.

For me, burnout is rarely about stress. It is usually about losing control of my time (manifested, most often, as unbroken blocks in my Google Calendar - representing back-to-back meetings that consume the day).

Because those blocks mean I fail to make it to yoga - as I write this, my rolled-up mat rests accusingly in a corner. Those blocks mean I cancel the coffees and dinners with the friends who recharge me.

Burnout means I begin to resent those blocks.

Time to make time for yoga.

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Misc: No, you may not 'pick my brain'

I am not sure when the phrase “pick your brain” began to be used as a substitute “I would like you to give me free advice and possibly throw in some consulting work and you will probably have to pay for your own coffee”.

And I am not sure why my reaction to seeing or hearing it is so visceral.

In 2013 I started saying no to certain of these kinds of requests: if I asked you for specifics - and in some cases, I went so far as to assign ‘homework’ - and you couldn’t follow-up or weren’t willing to commit to, I declined.

I say often that people don’t scale, and I certainly don’t. My commitment to supporting the members of the various communities of which I am a part, and to mentorship, would be undermined if I devoted hours to people who are not willing to do the work. Saying no meant saying yes to more meaningful engagements with people who are themselves committed and driven. And it is a regular reminder that when I ask for help, I too need to be prepared to do the work.

An extract from my weekly newsletter

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'When you play with amateurs, you're going to get hurt'

Damon Collins speaks convincingly about the importance of aligning yourselves with people who know what they’re doing in any collaborative venture.

What strikes me as (even more) interesting is that other folks talk about the tendency of ‘amateurs’ to be dangerous in a different context - that of ‘disruption’. A little learning might be a dangerous thing, but it can sometimes be liberating.

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Travel: My favourite gadgets, II

Google Chromecast, for who-needs-an-av-department presentation action.

Ultimate Ears Wireless Bluetooth Speaker - as recommended by Wirecutter.

Tunnelbear. Because travel + VPN = better.

Personal Handheld Steamer + Adapter Kit. Rumpled is never a good look.

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Read: Best of the Week to Jan 10

SNL’s Real Race Problem - Tanner Colby, provoking thoughts:

When racial-justice advocates call for more diversity, what they’re saying is that the hiring pipelines into America’s majority-white industries need to be expanded to include a truly multicultural array of voices and talents from all ethnic corners of America; they want equal opportunity for minorities who don’t necessarily conform to the social norms of the white majority. When exasperated hiring managers use the word diversity, what they really mean is that they’re looking for assimilated diversity

11 Awkward Things About Email, which inspired my short reflection on exclamation marks.

Writers and Rum - Adam Gopnik knows:

writing is, if not uniquely hard work, then uniquely draining work. Some basic human need for a balance between thinking and acting is still kept intact even by the most tedious of other tasks. All rewarding effort involves a balance between wit and work—between the bits you do alone in your head and the bits you do in company with your hands (or voice or body or whatever). Laboring in your head, exclusively, does feel unnatural; whatever else we might have been doing, back out there on the primeval savannah, we weren’t sitting and moving the ends of our fingers minutely on a stone surface for six hours at a stretch.

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