Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Planning a new event

Posted by shannonclark on September 13, 2013

A year ago I started my most recent event – a weekly game night I host in San Francisco. It has been quite a nice small event – lots of fun, nearly 100 people on the mailing list for it and every week around 20 people gather in SOMA to play games (mostly Pathfinder Society but occasionally other games). All in all quite a nice event that I’m proud to have started and to continue to host and organize.

But it isn’t a professional event – though a few folks have found internships and made connections with others in the area it isn’t an event for professional networking.

I also recently moved out of San Francisco and down to East Palo Alto. Two months ago my wife gave birth to our son. So as I think about events that I attend and that I organize I have a new perspective.

Since moving to the Palo Alto area I haven’t gotten out to many industry events – I missed this year’s TechCrunch/August Capital summer party and I haven’t been going to meetups or networking events.

But this morning a thought occurred to me – what if I, once again, started my own event. An event I could invite the speakers I want to hear from to speak at and an event I could schedule for the time and place that would be most convenient for my wife and I (and our newborn).

My idea is to create a networking event that is designed to be parent friendly. An industry event that will accommodate kids of any age as well as their parents.

This means

  •  Kid and stroller friendly space – room to park strollers/wheel them, changing tables in the bathrooms, neither too bright nor too dark and definitely not too loud
  • A parent friendly time – breakfast, mid-morning, lunchtime or late-afternoon (after school) are all possibilities – I welcome feedback about the best time (after work/evening isn’t it)
  • Parking nearby (this is Silicon Valley so a necessary evil)
  • Great food that anyone of any age or dietary restrictions will enjoy – this means fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies from local producers etc.
  • Short talks (if any) with lots of time for Q&A – Demonstrations would also be excellent
  • Interactions – between people and with technology favored over dull slideshows or vapid chats.

The focus would be akin to many other technology events – getting smart people together to meet potential clients, partners, investors or employers. Topics might include marketing online, emerging technologies, new programming methods and languages, emerging technology and opportunities etc. But with a few specific focuses and goals.

  1. The people at the event are more important than the speakers (or the organizers) – the goal is very much to get people to talk with and interact with each other – and to talk about more than just their kids (but sure, their kids are a welcome topic here as well).
  2. Be open and encouraging to everyone – kids of any age (from newborn to teens), parents and non-parents, men and women. This isn’t intended to be a parents only group or a moms/dads group. The idea instead is to have amazing technology speakers and content – but just happen to be scheduled and designed to be kid friendly. Hopefully this means as well that this event draws a more diverse crowd (in all metrics of diversity) than most tech networking events tend to draw.
  3. Ideally it is a regular event not a one-time event and hopefully it builds a community around it as well as support of sponsors and venue(s).

Anyone want to help me with this? Especially if your company might want to sponsor or host (or speak) at this event! (Speakers won’t be from sponsors – though sponsors can suggest speakers they would like to hear from). Any friends who are parents want to offer suggestions for venues or times for an event like this?

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Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, personal, web2.0, working | 1 Comment »

What are your get the New Year started rituals, habits or practices?

Posted by shannonclark on January 2, 2013

Philly Street

Do you do anything every first business day back from the new year break?

Do you try to get down to inbox zero for the new year?

Do you try to clear out RSS feeds, evaluate podcast subscriptions?

Try something new to start the year?

For me here are my goals and new habits for the new year.

  1. Clear my inbox, currently hovering just under 2000 emails – going to try to get that down to <100 by the end of the week
  2. Zero out my RSS feeds for the new year and likely unsubscribe from dozens (hundreds?) of feeds I rarely read last year – giving myself space for new subscriptions
  3. Try to write a blog post (or more than one) and schedule others to get myself into the habit of at least one blog post a week for 2013 (so check back with me in 2014 to see if I make that – goal is at least 52 blog posts to http://slowbrand.com/ orhttps://shannonclark.wordpress.com/
  4. Visit at least one new cafe or restaurant a week for 2013. Today I’m at The Wooly Pig on Hugo St in SF – a new cafe and a whole new street to me (haven’t been here before) Great food, good coffee, free wifi (in a tiny space) = a definite winner to start the new year. 
  5. Reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Every year I meet 100’s of people, some years 1000’s, and while I always form new friendships each year I’m not always great about staying in touch with old friends. Not just via once a year birthday greetings here on Facebook but by actively engaging with my friends – catching up on the phone, meeting up in person. In 2013 I’m going to try to reconnect with at least one old friend each week – and meet at least one new person each week (whether they become friends isn’t the primary goal)

Posted in digital bedouin, personal, time, working | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A few podcasts and video series I subscribed to recently…

Posted by shannonclark on May 8, 2012

I’d love to get your suggestions for other shows I should subscribe to and watch – either as podcasts or as YouTube subscriptions.

YouTube subscriptions – I’ve only added one in recent months, the fantastic Geek and Sundry  Felecia Day, The Guild, Dark Horse comics, Wil Wheaton – yup, my kinda video series and perfect for watching via my Apple TV when nothing else is on cable (i.e. most of the time)

Podcast subscriptions – I’ve added a bunch of new shows, not sure I’ll stick with all of them but I’ll give them at least a few episodes before I make that decision, but shows that I’ve added in the past few weeks which I’m really enjoying include:

  • Ze Frank’s A Show (http://ashow.zefrank.com/– Ze is back and in a big awesome way. Great videos though watching them via subscription in iTunes may be less than ideal as the show notes and comments and community are probably more fun even than the just the videos…
  • Mac Power Users (http://macpowerusers.com/) – a bit long but really interesting discussions about how a bunch of people use their Macs – a great reminder to me about how little I actually leverage the great applications and technologies of my devices – macbook, iPad and iPhone. Good inspiration to get back to using tools I really should be leveraging to get more work done, write better (and more often) and get more out of my tools.
  • 3.5 Private Sanctuary (http://www.35privatesanctuary.com/) – okay I confess I’m a geek and in the past few months I’ve gotten back into actively playing paper RPG’s (playing Pathfinder Society games most Monday nights and at occasional gaming conventions). 3.5 Private Sanctuary is actually a bunch of different podcasts all interesting and all a reminder of how much fun playing RPG’s can be (and a reminder of just how old many of us have gotten…) It is always good to connect, even if just via listening to a podcast, with folks who share your love of a specific niche.

I still haven’t found a great tech podcast – surprising but I don’t really want to listen to a long winded discussion for many hours – I want something which is focused, engaging and interesting – which covers news I may have missed and/or offers a perspective and summary of news I’ve seen but may not have explored fully (i.e. I can only try a few of the many new applications and technologies that launch every week).

What podcasts (or videos) do you make time for every week?

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet, iTunes, personal, podcasts | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I’m thinking about pushing the “reset” button…

Posted by shannonclark on January 3, 2012

I’m thinking about pushing the “reset” button on most of my media consumption and rebuilding all of it this month.That means:

1) not renewing any print magazine subscriptions & deciding on a case by case basis was print publications to subscribe to for 2012. I’d like to have 3-5 magazines a month – considering The Atlantic Monthly, Monocle and possibly a few others – what would you suggest? (serious news, politics, tech or non-serious games, rpgs, science fiction or fantasy are all options)

2) unsubscribing from the 300-400+ blogs I currently get via Google Reader and adding back just the ones I actually miss not reading. I’d like to ADD a lot of ones I don’t currently read – especially looking for good, unique perspectives on Business – technology & non-tech with a strong focus on design and innovation. But equally I want to read some great political blogs, some great gaming (not just video games but also paper RPG’s and boardgames) blogs, some blogs on writing – especially science fiction, and some “geek” blogs. As well as the still active blogs of friends of mine

3) Unsubscribing from many of the podcasts I currently subscribe to (especially the ones that have remained mostly unlistened to for many months). I’ll keep a few of the gaming podcasts that I keep up with, the comics podcasts I listen to but would like to add some great (but focused) tech podcasts (audio preferred to video) and possibly some political or general interest/geek podcasts?

4) unsubscribing from still more email lists – especially the ones that have remained mostly unread and/or which I rarely engage with these days. I’d also like to add a few new ones IF I can identify really interesting & active communities (and/or exceptionally currated content sources)

5) Picking a few online communities to really engage deeply with this year. I’ve never “gotten” Reddit but folks I really respect love it deeply. Clearly there is something worthwhile happening there. Equally I haven’t “gotten” into either LiveJournal or Tumblr and both might be worth really engaging with in 2012.

6) Creating my own content. Starting with posts here in Google+ but also writing on my personal blog(s) and soon our new corporate blog (more on that in a few days) but not ending there. I’d like to write more guest posts for other media outlets, write some articles perhaps for magazines or other publications and by the end of 2012 I’d like to have at least one book if not published then in the works.

Suggestions for great content I should consider adding to my media diet in 2012 are welcome – especially if you know me well and have some unique suggestions…

thanks!

What changes are you planning for 2012?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, personal | 5 Comments »

My Steve Jobs memories

Posted by shannonclark on August 25, 2011

My Steve Jobs memoriesAs a kid I learned to program on Comodore64’s and on the Osborne “luggable” my father had from his work. My mom was a mainframe programmer but we were relatively early adopters of computers – however as we didn’t have a TV we didn’t get an Atari or other home computer for a while. But I did use Apple’s at various schools and learned to program them.In the 1980’s my parents bought one of the very first Mac’s, a Mac512 which we later upgraded to a MacPlus with a whole 1mb of memory! (they still have this – likely now it is a collectible).

In 1991 as I prepared for my first year of college I bought my first computer of my own – it wasn’t a Mac, nor was it a Windows PC, I bought a used NeXT cube. The bit over $6000 I spent on that NeXT was probably among the best purchases I ever made in my life – more than college, more then my first condo. Okay not more than a certain ring I just bought but other than that, one of the most long lasting purchases of my life – as the skills I learned connecting that NeXT to the Internet have lasted to this day.

In 1991 from my college dorm room which included wired Internet access I had a static IP address and had nearly 1000 users from around the globe playing the MuCK which I ran for some friends on the NeXT (named Collatz). While I wasn’t ever a highly active player of the MuCK I helped to run that experience and the ongoing experience of the NeXT OS as an interface to the Internet in 1991 has shaped me and my technical interests to this day.

I purchased the NeXT largely because it came bundled with Mathematica (I thought I was going to be a Math or Physics major and had been an avid Mathematica user while working at Argonne National Lab). There are still UI and software elements of the NeXT which I think still would be innovative today – the multi-dimensional spreadsheet for the NeXT OS was really impressive and the mail included the ability to link photos to addresses (something only gradually available today via add-ons such as Rapportive to Gmail though Google is also making some strides to add this – but it still is far from standard).

A few years into to college, however, i sold my NeXT and bought my first laptop, which wasn’t a Mac but a PC. That served me well as a writing tool but less well as a technology tool and the various PCs I owned in the 1990’s and early 2000’s weren’t much better.

Finally fed up with Windows I switched to first an iMac for my home computer a few years ago and then added the MacBook Pro I’m writing on at the moment. Earlier this year my fiancee and I each bought an iPad and I’ve had an iPhone since the first version.

I’m still not a full power user of the latest MacOS (Lion) and I don’t do a lot of coding these days (though I did hack up an iPad app a while back and may try my hand at that again later this fall) but I’m appreciative of the power of the Mac platform and the reinvigorated Apple company that is Steve Job’s legacy.
View or comment on Shannon Clark’s post on Google+»

Posted in geeks, internet, mac, personal | Leave a Comment »

late night update on tools for a move

Posted by shannonclark on April 5, 2011

So as many of you may know last week I moved from my apartment of a bit over four years into my girlfriend’s home, still here in SF but a move is a move and requires lots of sorting, packing, boxing and unboxing. Most of that is behind us (though a few boxes remain to unpack) and I will likely write a longer blog post about the move process, this is just a quick post to highlight one service and one iPhone application which have both been exceptionally useful in this process.

The service – EcoHaul this is a service which for a fee based on the portion of their truck you fill will come to your house and haul away nearly anything which they will then sort and donate to charity or ecologically recycle. Sure you could try to get various charities to directly pick up your stuff, you could arrange for one to pick it up from your curb or you could just leave stuff on your curb. In the later two cases chances are someone not the charity you called will end up with some of your items which is, I guess, recycling of a sort but calling EcoHaul to come two days before my movers arrived was a fantastic solution for me. For a fairly reasonable fee (I think at least) they took away a whole range of items I had long wanted to donate to a charity, a bunch of older electronics which would be hard to dispose of safely and they arrived on time and were highly efficient throughout the whole process. Later this month I’ll receive an itemized donation receipt from them for the items which they could give to charities.

The iPhone Application – BookScouter they do have a website as well but it is the simple yet effective iPhone application which has been highly helpful over the past week. Before this move I owned over 2000 books. While I have been packing and unpacking those books I have been evaluating whether I want to still own a each book as I unpack it. With the books I decided I no longer needed I have been selling many of them at two of my favorite local bookstores for store credit. What Bookscouter does is scan book barcodes or look up by ISBN number a given book and then display for you the prices at which a number of different websites will buy back that book from you. Many of these sites specialize in textbooks so they will not buy many books but by using Bookscouter to scan my books I have pulled aside nearly 50 books and will end up seeing probably over $200 back on top of the nearly $300 in store credit I have received from the books I have already sold to local bookstores.

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Doing something new every day

Posted by shannonclark on January 11, 2011

Since the 1st I have had a seemingly simple but actually hard personal goal for 2011 – Do something new every day.

This is a deliberately open-ended goal but just reading a new post from a blogger I have followed for years doesn’t meet my personal criteria for fulfilling it. Reading posts on a site I had never before read would.

My goal and challenge for myself is to observe the routines which I have and to remind myself that often simple changes even to lifelong habits can have a very real and at times dramatic impact.

So while I won’t go into every day of the month so far here are a few of the big and small changes I have already made.

  • Changed how I brush my teeth. One of the first changes for the new year is that I have adjusted my bathroom routine and am trying a slightly different technique when I brush my teeth – specifically brushing with a dry toothbrush and relying more on the toothpaste for moisture than I had in the past (where I would out of lifelong habit first moisten my toothbrush before I started to brush). I don’t know which technique is the “right” one but I do know that this small change makes more consciously aware of what has otherwise been a routine part of my morning (and evenings) and so far I’m pleased with the results.
  • Made an effort to replace and renew my other bathroom staples – new blade for my razor, new brands of moisturizers etc. Again small changes but the difference even a simple thing like a fresh razor makes on a common task such as shaving is quite dramatic. As a guy it is very easy fall into a routine around what products you use (and to replace them rarely). It has been very good (in part thanks to my girlfriend) to start the new year with new bath products and thus a new and, so far at least, better routine.
  • Started actively using GoodReads to track what I have read so far this yearas well as to finally build up a digital record of my library as well as books I want to read and buy. Here the change is mostly one of action but again so far I am enjoying the process and the service.
  • Shifting back to a paper to-do list as my “master” to-do list after a year of experimenting with a variety of online options. I still think there must be an online service somewhere which I would enjoy and use actively but for now at least I have pulled out an old favorite grid lined notebook and am keeping my primary to-do list in that book. I am not using a complex system, in fact I’ve stuck with about the simplest possible method – one large master list which I cross items off and add items to (with a date for each new day I add items). Over time as a page gets mostly crossed off and I find fewer and fewer items on that page which I can take real action upon I will likely mark that page as finished and add the few still active items to the end of the then current page. But mostly I’m shifting back to analog for the option of working on my to-do list (as a list not on the items) even while disconnected
  • Explore new restaurants and new cafes. In 2010 by the end of the year I had fallen into a routine where I found myself returning again and again to the same fairly small handful of cafes and restaurants. Since the beginning of the year I have tried to vary which cafes I work in and where I eat out more frequently, I’ve revisited neighborhoods I hadn’t been to in a while and found great surprises in new places (or new to me places). Break up your routine, try a new restaurant or work in a new cafe for a while.
  • I’ve gone through my closets and drawers and pulled aside to give away (or just recycled) clothes that no longer fit or were worn and I’ve replaced many of them with newer options. Simple to be sure but between the lessened clutter and the increased options these small changes have a very real impact on each day – and even just the new options to consider while I select what to wear (or as I am this week what to pack for a trip) also makes me more conscious about what had become routine parts of my day and my life.

As the year goes on my goal is to keep making small changes to my life and my habits. To observe myself more closely and to commit to being aware of my routines and to try variations upon them.

What is valuable for me is as much the increase in self-awareness as the opportunities I open up for myself.

What are you doing differently in 2011?

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Blogging with a computer

Posted by shannonclark on July 14, 2010

I am in Las Vegas for the next couple of days, here to celebrate with my friend Tara Hunt her birthday. She has brought together a group of her friends from all over the world and together we are spending sometime in what is perhaps my least favorite city but much improved by the company of friends.

As I packed for my short trip I debated about whether or not to bring my new MacBook Pro with me. It is a fantastic new machine and working on it still feels more like play than work. But if I had brought it I would have to watch it, would have to secure it when I joined the group at a cabana by the pool or went to a show (Ka tomorrow evening).

So instead I decided to only bring my iPhone 4 (along with bumper case – I haven’t had any antenna problems other than AT&T’s usual horrible service and dropped calls). I didn’t even bring my trusty and fairly new Panasonic Lumix.

As you can see from the photo, taken of the Irish band that played while er had dinner this evening, the iPhone 4 does indeed shoot well in low light and with the right apps – such as the WordPress app I’m using now – is a very powerful tool for new media creation.

I don’t know how many more posts I’ll write this week – mostly this is a vacation and though every move is likely documented by cameras, tweets and foursquare checkins in this particular crowd my focus this week is on catching up with my friends and making new friends.

But as I work on a new venture around helping game companies (mostly online social game companies) make more money there are a lot of lessons big and small I am seeing in how casinos (ie “gaming”) work here in Las Vegas.

Where the gaming is a bit less social though the social aspects are important and where the rewards are mostly very simple – cold, hard cash.

But I can also see that with casinos such as the Mandalay Bay Resort gambling is no longer the only (and indeed perhaps not the major) source of revenues for these establishments. Clearly food, drinks and entertainment as well as the hotel rooms themselves are now also significant revenue streams and may actually often be more profitable than gaming.

I haven’t been back to Las Vegas in a few years I think it may have been nearly four years and even in that short of a time it is clear that a lot has changed. As I sit here writing this post I am seeing a lot more people dressed (well barely in the case of many of the women) for a nightclub.

At the same time the poker rooms I have passed have been very full (since the World Series of Poker (wsop.com) is ongoing this doesn’t surprise me. But while much of Las Vegas depresses me at least with poker real actual skill is present.

I may try to catch some of the WSOP tomorrow after I tire of lounging poolside or swimming.

Posted in futureculture, geeks, internet, mobile, personal, working | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Building a business vs. Raising money

Posted by shannonclark on June 30, 2010

It has been over 2 months since my last blog post (and yes that’s a deliberate echo of my early Catholic upbringing, the way you would start saying your confessions…). So why such a delay?

Mostly because for the past few weeks I have been heads down working on a new business idea, we aren’t quite yet ready to announce what the new business is, still lining up early customers, partners and we hope investors (contact me privately for more information and to discuss meeting with you if you are an angel/early stage investor or if you are involved in the games industry).

While I have been working on this I have also been thinking a whole lot about the differences between building a business and raising money and how even now 10+ years after the first bubble the difference between raising money and building a business is lost on many people and not helped by the tech press who have an obsession about writing about rounds of funding and only rarely writes about business milestones (the occasional PR driven post about a company hitting some numerical milestone – often one only marginally related to the actual business model of that company is perhaps an occasional exception).

In this past week a clear example of this is the press around the $20+M round of funding recently raised by FourSquare. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of FourSquare (though I think they have some major growing pains and need to get far more professional in their engagements with actual paying customers – i.e. how they engage with marketing agencies, Brands and companies big & small)

One of my favorite tech blogs has a post which is illustrative – http://www.readwriteweb.com/start/2010/06/investor-blogs-weigh-in-on-fou.php which summarizes the discussions across many investor’s blogs about the recent round of funding which FourSquare has raised. These posts have some great advice for the entrepreneur, specifically to meet with and cultivate relationships with investors early on, earlier than when you are “ready” to pitch those investors.

But the tone of the piece as well as the posts from the investors is very much a symptom of a the problem – it is as if having raised a large round of funding the is the end game, not as it actually is just the beginning. The hard work, the real work, of building a sustainable high growth valuable business is now ahead of FourSquare and their recent round of funding is just one of many steps which they have chosen to take that, I hope, will get them to being a great company – but I actually have some serious doubts.

Back in the early 90’s I interviewed at a very well funded, even for those times, startup outside of Chicago. The startup had spun out of another company, raised a ton of money and even as I was interviewing for an entry level position I walked past the offices of the multiple VP’s which the company, pre-launch mind you, already had. In seeing those VP’s offices I knew immediately that this wasn’t a company which was likely to survive and though I completed the interview I had already decided that my future would not be with this company. Indeed they failed not all that long later losing millions for their investors.

A large round of funding, even many large rounds of funding can hide serious underlying flaws in a company and can in many ways tune the actions of the company towards raising additional rounds over building the business. In the case of FourSquare while I am happy that they have gotten a nice office space in NYC and are growing rapidly, I have also observed that they have sub-par iPhone applications and in talking with friends at large agencies they have a limited imagination and at times less than professional way of engaging with even very large agencies, agencies who represent some of the largest Brands in the world (and who have large marketing budgets and creative talent to allocate towards creative campaigns).

And while relying on “one off” advertising/marketing campaigns may be a tough way to build a business if done well it can be very sustainable and the upper limit of revenues is quite high. Especially if a successful campaign can become a part of how various businesses do business over a one-off push for goodwill. But the relationship skills needed to build out such campaigns, to manage interactions between agencies and Brands are very different from the skills needed to raise money from early stage investors – and different again from those needed to engage with the technology press. Not unrelated skills but different ones.

More generally large funding rounds, while not in and of themselves a bad thing (though at times a very real argument can be made for the downsides) can often allow a company to get into bad habits early on. A company may hire too quickly, take on too large of a lease (space isn’t the problem – what can end up taking too much time and attention is finding, negotiating for and filling up a space with furniture, computers etc – and the people that then go with them).  Some of this “waste” is what investors intend when they fund a company – to give the founders financial room to make a few mistakes without putting the whole business at risk, to give them resources to toss money at some problems instead of time.

But too much of this leads to dangerous problems and it also leads to the very common situation of a core management team that when they close their first round find themselves almost immediately working on closing the next round and the next beyond that. As a friend and advisor to many entrepreneurs I have observed this situation first hand – friends who disappear from all social and professional engagements for months of pitching dozens (sometimes 100’s) of investors, of constant updates to their pitch deck and of work focused on developing the demonstration of their product (over at times actually building the product and the business around their products). Once they have raised money they often then find themselves deeply focused on numbers that can appear “sexy” to the tech press and/or to their investors (and future investors) often again over building out the business aspects of their startup.

By “business aspects” I mean actual revenues – whether from individuals or from other businesses.

Yes, there are a handful of seemingly successful counterexamples (Twitter may be the current favorite, though they have started to turn on revenue producing services finally) but there are far, far too many counter examples.

In my new business we are focused quite specifically on revenue production from the very early stages and while we plan on raising money our best and likely most reliable source of “funding” will be sales and repeat business from happy customers. If we get very good at selling to other businesses not just initially but on an ongoing and growing basis then we can be very strategic when it comes to raising money. We will probably still need to raise money but a solid business base will give us leverage and flexibility as we raise money and should also help my co-founder and me avoid the trap of focusing on our pitch to investors over our sales processes and products.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, internet, personal, venture capital, web2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day – thanks Mom

Posted by shannonclark on March 24, 2010

My mom taught me computer programming when I was 8.

Today (March 24th) is Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate the impact of woman in technology especially computer programming.  The idea is for people to blog about their favorite tech heroine.

For me, it is my Mom, Nancy Clark. Not only did I learn programming and flowcharting by doing the homework on flowcharting she was assigning to the class she taught at a local college on computer programming when I was 8 years old and riding in the back seat of the family Volvo. But she was also in many important ways a computing pioneer.

She started programming in the late 1960’s after graduating early from the University of California Berkeley. She worked while she followed my father around the country. But her career was impressive. At Southern Pacific Railroad she was part of the team that “computerized” the whole railroad in the early 1970’s, an initiative which lead to great profitability. (see http://www.wprrhs.org/wphistory_80candles/wphistory_80candles.html for a history of Western Pacific and then Southern Pacific railroads, look in particular at the history in the early 1970’s as the railroad computerized. That was the work of my mom.

When my father took a position as a professor at Virginia Tech (where I was born a few years later) my mom took a position at the university helping to write the software which would run the entire university administration. This included a very early experiment in e-commerce where she attempted to tie the bookstore’s ordering systems to the campus class registration system to have the bookstore order the right number of books for each class (at the time however this early great idea didn’t work very well).

Years later we moved to Chicago (after a few years in New York) where my mom in an early example of a career path now familiar to millions was an independent computer consultant. At times she held multiple jobs, working as a computer consultant for a few clients while also teaching computer science at a local college. But she was always there for my sister and I and set an example that woman could have complex, technology based careers. Careers which were challenging and intellectual.

In talking with my grandfather in the past few years I have learned that I am a third generation computer person, my grandfather in the course of his career worked with and deployed some of the most complex computer installations of the day. He was literally a bit of a rocket scientist (he was trained as an aerospace engineer, designed jets for many years and then for 20+ years worked for Aerospace Corporation where he headed up their work for the US government deploying & designing satellites, mostly spy satellites). His first use of computers at while working as an early employee at Rand Corporation trying to mathematically model flight. Then years later at Aerospace corporation he deployed pairs of IBM mainframes across the globe to track and find nuclear explosions around the globe.

But most of his work was classified and though i’m sure some of his engineering focus rubbed off on my mom, mostly as I understand it his work was a mystery to my mom and my aunt (and my grandmother).

So the credit for my mom’s technical expertise and nearly 30+ year career as a computer programmer and consultant lies entirely with her and her ongoing drive to educate herself and to learn new technologies as well as remain a master of the older systems she helped write and design.

She mostly worked in the less well known types of computer programming, business languages such as Focus, used by firms such as actuarial firms to manage large pension plans. But her work managed very complex systems and in many cases helped form the base upon which the modern, Internet, always-on technology world is built.

So she is my heroine today (and always).

thanks mom!

Posted in geeks, internet, personal | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »