Microsoft Headquarters - Times Square
December 11th, 2016
Freelance Blogger, Participant
AlterConf is a traveling conference series that provides safe opportunities for marginalized people and those who support them in the tech and gaming industries.
About a month ago, I was honored to have the opportunity to freelance blog for AlterConf NYC in December 2016. The conference left me inspired and less alone, as technologists from all walks of life surrounded me throughout the conference.
Indeed, AlterConf was hands down the MOST diverse conference I have ever attended and I find this aspect to be more important than ever, especially considering what the year 2016 has brought us.
I was honored to have the opportunity to freelance blog for AlterConf NYC. 🔗︎
Below is the freelance blogging I provided to them.
AlterConf is a traveling conference series that provides safe opportunities for marginalized people and those who support them in the tech and gaming industries. By highlighting the powerful voices and positive initiatives of local community members, we build hope and strengthen the community's resolve to create safer spaces for everyone. This conference was held at Microsoft's headquarters in New York City at 11 Times Square on December 10th, 2016 from 10 am to 5 pm.
About a month ago, I was honored to have the opportunity to freelance blog for AlterConf NYC. The conference left me inspired and less alone, as technologists from all walks of life surrounded me throughout the conference. Indeed, AlterConf was hands down the MOST diverse conference I have ever attended and I find this aspect to be more important than ever, especially considering what the year 2016 has brought us.
To give you an idea of how amazing this conference was, here is a thorough rundown of what was discussed with snippets taken from social media.
OPENING ADDRESS 🔗︎
Adina Shanholtz, @FeyTechnologist 🔗︎
Ashe Dryden, @ashedryden
Danielle James, @big_dani_j
Adina, a technical evangelist at Microsoft, opened up the conference and how she wanted to make more diversity events like AlterConf happen at Microsoft.
Some rules were established by Ashe, the chief organizer of AlterConf, about the etiquette required for the conference and making sure everyone understood that AlterConf is meant to be a safe place for everyone.
Danielle, a marketing specialist at MongoDB and an avid shipper of diversity initiatives, then introduced the first speaker.
OPENING THE INTERNET: LOOKING BEYOND ENGLISH DOMINANCE 🔗︎
Christina González, @c_gonzalez 🔗︎
The global Internet audience has been steadily changing over time. The structure of the Internet itself, however, has been slower to catch up. Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which utilize non-Latin alphabets and diacritic marks, were proposed in the mid-90's, but not realized until 2010. Even now, not all services play nicely with them. In a country and a world where the Internet can serve as a lifeline to learning tools, as well as opportunity, access must go beyond simply connecting to the Internet.
While changes are coming, there is still widespread inconsistency in how user-friendly to non-English speakers some of the country's, and sometimes the world's, most popular sites and services are. There may be top trending hash tags worldwide on Twitter in Arabic, but user names must be in Latin characters. There's a disconnect between the creators of services and spaces and today's current and potential audiences.
Christina addresses this from a personal perspective (Do you really need that accent on your name?) to a wider one, points out some of these inconsistencies, and talks about possible solutions.
DEALING WITH INTELLECTUAL TROLLING 🔗︎
Alexandra Bowen, @AlexandraABowen 🔗︎
Alexandra doesn't want to let trolls define your experiences in work, in your communities and in your projects. If you've ever had to deal with an intellectual bully in an online community, on a project, or social media, you know that it's one of the most unpleasant aspects of the Internet.
An intellectual bully may be adding value, but is mostly condescending, rude and aggressive. Toxic users shouldn't have to define your online community.
So do you want a “death star” or “rock star” community member? Alexandra expands on how to create inclusive experiences online.
❗ Trigger Warnings: As a woman in tech, Alexandra has experienced some very negative trolling and abuse, as many people have. Some examples and themes may trigger.
BUILDING WORLD CLASS TEAMS FROM DEVELOPING NATIONS 🔗︎
When you think of Latin America & software, the first thought that comes to mind is near shoring or off shoring. When building the engineering team for Ride, Juan decided to see if they could build a world-class engineering team from Latin America by giving opportunities to former consultants of near shoring companies.
This talk goes over the decisions made, the lessons learned and the unexpected impacts they saw when they offered talented near shoring consultants with low pay and gave them a high trust environment to flourish and a membership in a highly motivated team.
LUNCH TIME 😋 🔗︎
CROSSING THE LANGUAGE DIVIDE: MAKING PROGRAMMING ACCESSIBLE TO ENGLISH AND NON-ENGLISH SPEAKERS ALIKE 🔗︎
Aditya Mukerjee, @chimeracoder 🔗︎
In The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy, the Babel Fish is a universal translator. By allowing all beings to communicate regardless of language, it “neatly crosses the language divide between any species”.
Most programming languages are designed for English speakers. Programming language keywords are usually in English, and programmers must understand a basic amount of English in order to collaborate with others on open-source projects written in those languages.
But does this need to be the case? Could we create a truly multilingual programming language — one that can be localized, so any developer only ever reads or writes code using their native language, all while maintaining interoperability with code written by developers who speak a different language? And how would we create a multilingual programming language community, allowing developers to collaborate on open-source projects even when they don't speak the same (human) language?
Aditya looks at an example of a localized programming language: করো (koro), which localizes the Go programming language into Bengali and expands on how this could be extended to other languages as well.
He also talks about the steps to making open-source projects fully multilingual so that developers who only speak English can collaborate seamlessly with developers who don't speak English at all.
HOW TO BE BOSS WHEN YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS: EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP STRATEGIES FOR EVERYONE! 🔗︎
Natali Wachtman Perilo, @NataliJewel 🔗︎
The most effective leaders are those who can rely on others to execute confidently and independently. Leaders are measured by how others perform.
Natalie uses applied behavioral science strategies to understand why people do things and how we can prevent common issues when communicating, negotiating, motivating, and leading while working collaboratively on teams.
IT'S NOT LIT: STRATEGIES FOR EXPOSING AND ELIMINATING CULTURAL APPROPRIATION IN MARKETING 🔗︎
From tweets written by agency agency staffers, to tech talk slides and “witty” café chalkboard signs, the use of appropriated artifacts and slurs has been normalized in product and service marketing.
In this talk, Candace identifies examples of this issue and leads a brainstorming session. The talk covers practical strategies marginalized folks and accomplices can use to expose and eliminate these practices in their place of work.
❗ Trigger Warnings: Images of appropriative marketing materials may be shown during this talk. Examples might relate to race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity, sexuality, and other aspects of identity.
DISMANTLING THE BINARY, ONE MICROAGGRESSION AT A TIME 🔗︎
Jameson Hampton, @jameybash 🔗︎
Microaggressions. You know, the slights that sting but seem so small that you feel like you're overreacting, even though they become more and more hurtful the more (dozens of) times you hear them?
This talk will make visible the microaggressions too regularly lobbed at non-binary people in tech, discuss how to combat them, and what self-care we can employ when on the receiving end.
❗ Trigger Warnings: Transphobia.
BATTLING UNCONSCIOUS BIAS 🔗︎
Unconscious biases affect our perceptions, decisions, and interactions every day. How do we address biases if we don't know about them?
In this talk, Neem talks about how to recognize and counter the biases that play a part in interviewing, creating a product, and day-to-day interactions. She goes in depth on biases beyond sexism and racism and hopes to help the world become a more magical place!
HOW A PERSONAL CHATBOT CAN MAKE YOUR LIFE BETTER 🔗︎
Lauren Golembiewski, @laurengolem 🔗︎
Chatbots are re-emerging as a technology that can be used to automate businesses, give big brands more customer touch points, and help individuals better communicate.
In her talk, Conversational Designer, Lauren will be diving into the exciting opportunities personal chatbots bring individuals, and how she believes they will ultimately make our lives better.
She'll also be discussing Ghostbot for Burner, a chatbot she designed that aims to make dating better for those that receive harassment while online dating.
❗ Trigger Warnings: Lauren will be discussing online sexual harassment in this talk, but she does not cite any specific examples. She will also be calling out sources where users can seek out examples of harassment that are vulgar and sometimes violent, but will only reference the source and give me warnings as to what can be found there. She will also be discussing how harassment affects women and other marginalized groups online and will cite some statistics around that concept.
THE CULT(URE) OF STRENGTH 🔗︎
Emily Gorcenski, @EmilyGorcenski 🔗︎
“Strength,” “Courage,” and “Bravery” are virtues often heaped upon individuals undergoing hardship. These compliments come from a deep-rooted cultural value that sacrifice should be praiseworthy and that performing in the face of difficulty is a sign of virtue. In tech, strength is valued to the point of caricature, creating a culture of depersonalization and overwork that disproportionately affects people who exist on one or more axes of inter sectional marginalization.
This talk explores the culture of strength through the lens of my 15 year journey through the STEM pipeline, intersecting on ability, gender, mental health, and race. Emily also provide tools for effectively recognizing, handling, and talking about hardship in the workplace or community.
This talk made me shiver — it was so powerful!
The YouTube video was made private.
“YOU MAKE EVERYTHING ABOUT RACE” — AN APPEAL FOR EMPATHY IN DISCUSSIONS OF RACISM IN AMERICA 🔗︎
Kareem Francis, github.com/kareemf
This talk highlights select instances in media, pop-culture, and forums for technologists where the depiction of people of color is generally glossed over by the population at large, but may be problematic to people of color, though discussion of these issues are often relegated to discussions in safe spaces.
This talk also seeks to encourage guests to identify and avoid pitfalls common in cross-cultural discussions of race. This will include encouraging people of color to recall that, when engaging members of other races on the topic of race, we are often challenging their world view.
Kareem goes on to encourage non-colored guests that the most prevalent and exhausting forms of racism are not outright bigotry, but microaggressions.
❗ Trigger Warnings: Race, racism, microaggressions.
INCREDIBLE WITNESS: FINDINGS FROM THE PUBLIC LABORATORY 🔗︎
Clarinda Mac Low, @adniralc
Lauren Bierly, @l_bierly
Incredible Witness is a public laboratory created by these three ladies that asks: how can people ever be “credible witnesses” when even the most basic perceptions, such as color vision or spatial awareness, differ drastically from person to person?
We live in a historical period where many traditional binaries are breaking down. Some of the most basic assumptions about social life and hierarchies are fragmenting–ideas around gender, race, sexuality, and ability are being questioned and re-framed.
Incredible Witness seeks to encourage this disintegration, and find ways of learning to accept each other fully, beyond the categories.
In the Incredible Witness laboratory, they invite people into unusual perceptual worlds to bring home viscerally how different each person's experience of the world can be, using games and game-based environments. The talk will review the results of their participatory experiments and point to future activities.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN TECH THROUGH A HAMILTON LENS 🔗︎
Lizzie Siegle, @lizziepika 🔗︎
Though both diversity and inclusion are important, it's not enough to be in the room where it happens, which is like diversity. You want both the Adams Administration as well as Washington on your side, which is like inclusion. The latter breeds the former because even on a diverse team, you could still be uncomfortable and helpless.
After attending and speaking at tech Meetups and conferences on both American coasts, Lizzie realized that companies should initially focus on inclusion, which will in turn lead to diversity. Lizzie realized that the diversity initiatives were successful because of the empowering and supportive atmosphere and that that same atmosphere is also obtained through inclusion and not necessarily diversity.
So what's the difference between the two? Lizzie uses Hamilton lyrics to go over similarities, differences, and the importance of both.
Get Involved with AlterConf 🔗︎
- Facebook AlterConf
- Twitter @alterconf, tweet using #AlterConf
- Website alterconf.com, NYC 2016
- Video Recordings are on YouTube
- Closed Captions bit.ly/nyc-captions, the founder of the technology behind this awesome transcription tool, Mirabai, was actually present at AlterConf!