Ada Lovelace Day (Part 1)

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Today is Ada Lovelace day; a day for reflection on the awesome contributions of women to science and technology. Today, I would like to pay tribute to some of my personal heroines, and as you’ll see, there’s quite a few of them. I’ve tried to list them in roughly chronological order.

Dr Katherine Phelps
In my early teens I had a Commodore 64 with a 1200/75 baud modem, which I used to access local bulletin board systems (BBSes). This was the start of what I would discover was a lifelong joy of communicating with people from behind the safety of a monitor, or in the case of the C64, a television.

Katherine, and her husband Andrew, ran one such local BBS called the Rainbow Connection, and I met them both at a BBS meet-up. Katherine seems to have a knack for encouraging younger people to excel, and taught me the basics of HTML, and even had me editing web-pages for Glass Wings and other websites. In fact, it’s due to Katherine that I got my first exposure to the Internet and Internet programming.

Today, Katherine is still prominent in the fields of storytelling, interactive fiction, game-writing, and comedy. Katherine is almost wholly responsible for me getting into Japanese Animation, by showing me an nth generation, unsubtitled, videotape of My Neighbour Totoro, with herself and Andrew providing a very amusing translation as we watched. ;)

Kirrily ‘Skud’ Robert (@Skud)
I met Skud though Katherine, also while I was still at high school. At the time I was living with my parents as a quiet, introverted geek. All of my friends, and most of the technical people I knew, were also quiet and introverted types.

Skud pretty much shattered all the stereotypes I had for what it was to be technical. She was outgoing, opinionated, pushed boundries, made things happen, was extremely good with people, had unconventional social views, and was way cooler than me. She still is.

Skud has had a massive influence on my life. She started her own business (Netizen) and wrote a set of course manuals on Perl. Some years later, that same writing would form the basis of Perl Training Australia’s own course manuals. Skud has been highly influential in the Geek Feminism movement (which has both a blog and wiki), and gave a critical keynote entitled standing out in the crowd at OSCON 2009.

Often I feel that whenever I discover a new experience, it’s actually something Skud has been doing for at least a decade. I still fondly remember Skud giving me advice on etiquette at a rather incredible FOSS party a few years back. In fact, etiquette is another thing Skud is rather good at. ;)

Skud continues to be one of my most favourite people in the world, and I was delighted to have the chance to visit her in San Francisco last year after OSCON. My personal motto, never refuse an adventure, was directly lifted from one of Skud’s new year’s resolutions.

Jacinta Richardson (@jarichaust)
Once I got to university, I started an anime club. One year, working behind the desk, and with my hair in pigtails and balloons, a girl approached and asked about the club. At the end of the conversation she said “I might come back later”, which when advertising an anime club usually translates to: “I think you’re a complete freak, and I hope to never see you again in my life.”

To cut a long story short, she came back, and she was studying Software Engineering. ;)

Jacinta was a receipient of a 2008 White Camel Award for outstanding contributions to the Perl community. Along with running Perl Training Australia, she’s also one of the original organisers of the Open Source Developers’ Conference, has helped with countless Perl Mongers meetings, and is largely responsible for our Perl Tips newsletter.

Jacinta also does a lot of behind the scenes work which is not easily seen. She has contacts in practically every user group in Australia, so Jacinta is often involved when organisation of Australian-wide events are needed. At conferences she’s often giving up her own time to coach nervous speakers (including me!). In fact, Jacinta even had a hand in one of my most favourite talks of all time, @webchick’s Women in FLOSS.

Emily Taylor (@Domino_EQ2)
I met Emily shortly after a phone-call from Jacinta saying that I was going to have a late addition to my Perl class. Emily arrived at lunchtime, and started as a bright, attentive student; she quickly caught up with the rest of the class, showed genuine talent, and was working on advanced exercises in no time.

However what got me really excited was why Emily was learning Perl. By afternoon of the first day, I was calling back to the office to say that our new student was awesome, and she was going to apply for the position of head tradeskill developer for Everquest II (EQ2). However I think it two at least two weeks until I discovered she was in my guild!

Now, Emily is indeed the grand tradeskill developer for EQ2. She has an awesome blog on MMO tradeskilling and MMOs in general. More importantly for Ada Lovelace day, she’s also an active contributor to the Gamers In Real Life (GIRL) blog.

Emily presently lives in San Diego, where she distracts me yearly with photographs from Comic-con, and disagrees with me about what breakfast spreads are appropriate on toast.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s continuation of this post.

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