This Woman in Tech says: Thank you

I’ve been reading the various recent articles about women in tech bubbling around the interwebs with mixed feelings.  I’ve seen a lot of these debates go by, and although I have strong opinions (I know, you’re surprised, right?), I usually choose not to comment here.

There is only one thing that I find myself wanting to say publicly in this week’s resurgence of the debate, and that is: Thank you.   I have had the incredible blessing of being surrounded by group after group of intelligent, thoughtful men and women who have not only treated me equally and fairly, but have encouraged my abilities and helped me to reach greater and greater heights.  I have nobody to blame, but many to acknowledge – and why should the jerks get all the press time?

I may not be on anyone’s top 30 women in tech, and I may never be the CxO that people seem to so desperately need all women in tech to be, but I have a fulfilling and challenging job and I have achieved my primary goal in my career, which is to work with people who make me smarter every day. By the only standards that count (mine), I have it all.

I believe that a lot of women have fought difficult fights over the years so that I could have this kind of positive experience, and I know that not all women in tech have been so fortunate.  To those women who take on the establishment in this area – You have my support, gratitude and thanks.  You take the heat today so that the next generation of girls can simply accomplish and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Why am I writing this?  I don’t know. I suppose, it seems wrong for the unhappy examples to be the only examples out there. What I do know, is that I am one of the luckiest women in tech; the people who stand out in my life are not the ones who tried to hold me back, but the ones who have helped me fly.  Thank you, to some of these exceptional people: Darcy, John, Cliff, Don, Cullen, Alan, Tammy, Tim, Pete, Doug, Brian, Dave, Janelle, Kaliya, Gordon, Derek, Barb, Bob, Kim, Craig, Mike, Vittorio, Ben, Sydney, Dale, Patrick, Julie, Sean, Andrew, Gil, Laura, Andre, and so many more.

Historically, We’re in good Company

A poor authentication interface shared by a small number of people represents a moderate risk.  Right?  The more people exposed to the interface, able to probe it, attempt to expose weakness, or socially engineer the staff surrounding the interface, the more tension exists around whether or not this interface will successfully perform, or whether it will betray itself to the anguish of all.

Imagine the case now where your internal departments insist on purchasing a poorly secured application.  Happens all the time – except now, this poorly secured application is outside the corporate administrative domain.  Will your corporation have the infrastructure, the involvement, and most importantly the policy prepared,  such that your requirements for security and identity are considered at the time of purchase, instead of bolted on after the fact?

Well, don’t worry.  Neither does anyone else.  Think of it this way.  You’re the star in a fairy tale, and you’re using a time-honored method for ensuring your happiness:  one that allows for the greatest amount of suspense and possibility for evil to win.   After all, everyone wants their corporation to be part of a thrilling epic saga, do they not?

World's Worst Security TokenSacrifices of assurance for end results are the things of fairy-tales, after all.  Did Prince Charming put out an artist’s rendition of Cinderella’s face to find her?  No, he offered to marry any girl that could fit a slipper. Hijinks ensued. If we allow these new web-based applications to grow into large communities before we dictate that it is not acceptable to use standalone user management pages stored in silos and protected by flimsy HTML form posts,  we will bring the very problem we already have today in both the consumer space and inside the Enterprise into a much more dangerous arena.   If we choose to draw a line in the sand now, web and cloud based  companies pursuing the Enterprise market will gladly make changes to draw in initial customers, assuming we all make a unified, logical, and complete case.  If we wait, however,  the need for application content will again outweigh the need for safe infrastructure, and we will have lost our leverage.

Those of us who wish not to see the sins of our past revisited, the time is now.  The tech is there, but it isn’t easily consumable by potential applications.  We need to get our act together;  if we do, we can avoid the next chapter of drama.   Otherwise, well, there be dragons in our future.  Why slay them later, when we can simply keep them from ever coming to roost?

I hate Firefox update day.

Ugh.   Mozilla has made changes which break my Delicious add-on and my Identity Selector, and half the time when I type a url into the address bar, it takes 10+ seconds for the actual letters to slooowly catch up.

Here’s what I’d like.  I’d like a choice of two automatic update modes.  Bleeding Edge mode is for developers and people who care more about the means than the end, or who like to sound the alarm when something goes wrong.   Nice & Easy mode is for people who are happy to wait 5 days and know that everything will just work.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

If I could have *anything*

If a genie jumped out of my coffee right now and offered to grant me a wish, here’s what I’d want (world peace is overrated):

I want a way to put a sunset date onto technical web data,  so that I can find relevant technical information instead of the one “Introduction to Tomcat” that 5 gzillion people downloaded 6 years ago, and that eventually reveals itself to be 3 versions out of date, but still shows up at the top of the hit list.

I would love to have a way to know that when presented with two webpages, each describing two COMPLETELY different ways to do something without mentioning a date or a version or a platform, I can pick the one that isn’t going to waste 6 hours of my time.

Scope.  Context.  That is what I wish for.    A consistent way to determine scope and context.

This is my own reminder to myself, to write documentation that includes scope and context, right up front.  Whatever I can go back and add scope to, I will.  I will imagine that it is 10 years from now, and .NET Framework 27.2 has just been released,  and I want to put that on my machine along with Higgins Framework 10.7b.    Either my documents should be still-relevant, or instantly dismissable.  If I can accomplish that, and keep it up, I’ll be happy.

The worst documentation is the vendor-branded stuff, of course.  No author.  No date.  No version.   Erg.