I noticed a week-old New York Times magazine, in my dad’s to-recycle basket, and rifled thru it: the cover story was about Silicon Valley, from the perspective of a grad student working a summer job at a hot new generation company. How, I wondered immediately, does this snapshot of the place I live –and am outside of — compare to recent screeds by George Packer and (TK), in the New Yorker? Article is by Yiren Lu, although my quasi-dyslexia had me thinking of Liren Yu, which I meant to suss out later. This a.m., ensconced at Cafe Zoe, eating a scone I mean sesame bagel, I skimmed thru most of Lu’s article, since after all I have pre-committed to spending 50 cents per day on New York Times website. She graduated from Harvard, is born in 1992, is from NorCal, maybe Sacramento or Petaluma, is in grad school in New York, is a computer science major who plays classical music and writes brilliantly, is cute, of course, and worked for Uber over the summer. She also has two blogs, including one in which she refers to herself as “an alumni” of a certain piano teacher or music school. (She’s an “alumna”, to us old folks who grew up speaking Latin at home. Whan april shouer and all that* ).
Her tech blog talks about git and github. News to me. But the search-injuns sent me over to thinking about Mia Zapata the singer of The Gits, who was murdered in 1993. The way local SF bands, including my high school friend Mia Levin of Mudwimin and Frightwig, rallied around the cause to raise consciousness about safety, and to hire a detective to get justice in the Mia murder, influenced me when I was in transition, from tech and advertising writer to, um, blogger. I never knew Zapata and actually at first worried for Mia Levin when I heard about the tragedy — a call to the Bottom of the Hill bar-phone set me straight. It turns out that git the software is founded by Linus Torvalds who also is the namesake and founder of Linux and deliberately chose a self-effacing name. “Git” is British slang for lowly person.
Today is the 10th anniversary to the day that a court in Florida found J.M. guilty in the cold case trial, which was the first case in Washington history to use saliva DNA to find a match in the system. There’s also excerpted on youtube a movie from 2006 about Mia Zapata case. Perhaps it’s odd to link Mia and Ren this way.
My main point is that as ubiquitous as it seems, the “social network” culture or whatever you call it is a sub-culture and new, and in this case is probably a bubble in two ways, being insular, and vulnerable to a collapse. I joined more or less a different tribe, of people who think their voices and words and art could be the change the world seems to need, and generally speaking don’t get any higher-tech than a tube amp. Maybe it is more fair and auspicious to think of Yiren Lu in the same stream of thought as these other women of (roughly) my generation who rallied around their friend, or are making a difference in music per se: Mia Levin, Joan Jett, Kathleen Hanna, Carrie Brownstein, Maya Ford, Penelope Houston, Billie Eyeball, Ramona Downey, Dana LeBreque, Margrit Eichler, Heidi Rodewald, Molly Neumann, Lynn Drury, Michelle Malone, Laura Ballance, Dawn Richardson, Patti Rothberg, Jorjee Douglas, Allison Miller. Zoe Keating comes to mind as someone definitely in both tribes, as a musician who used electronica in her work and also is a poster-child for Twitter, with millions of followers (compared to the dozens at most of people who find these little bits of electronic ink on my wordpress Plastic Alto).
My critique of 3.0 or whatever this is is that it seems to be more about how clever venture capitalists can eke out one more IPO or deal than about what the devices are actually doing. (And I am also thinking of a Charlie Rose Show last night with Jaron Lanier and the CEO of kickstarter, which I think is just a fad, a billion dollar fad, but a fad nonetheless. I resigned a potential client once when he wanted to use kickstarter). Will keep eyes peeled for updates from Yiren Lu on how she sees this fishbowl.
*WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote 1. The droghte 2 of Marche hath perced to the roote Canterbury Tales. It’s actually Middle English not Latin of course
edit to add, 10 days later: today’s Sunday Times, has something about sexual harassment at high tech company’s including something about a woman who left Github — news to me, indeed. “Technology’s Man Problem” By Claire Cain Miller>From their blog:
This weekend, GitHub employee Julie Horvath spoke publicly about negative experiences she had at GitHub that contributed to her resignation. I am deeply saddened by these developments and want to comment on what GitHub is doing to address them.
We know we have to take action and have begun a full investigation. While that’s ongoing, and effective immediately, the relevant founder has been put on leave, as has the referenced GitHub engineer. The founder’s wife discussed in the media reports has never had hiring or firing power at GitHub and will no longer be permitted in the office.
GitHub has grown incredibly fast over the past two years, bringing a new set of challenges. Nearly a year ago we began a search for an experienced HR Lead and that person came on board in January 2014. We still have work to do. We know that. However, making sure GitHub employees are getting the right feedback and have a safe way to voice their concerns is a primary focus of the company.
As painful as this experience has been, I am super thankful to Julie for her contributions to GitHub. Her hard work building Passion Projects has made a huge positive impact on both GitHub and the tech community at large, and she’s done a lot to help us become a more diverse company. I would like to personally apologize to Julie. It’s certain that there were things we could have done differently. We wish Julie well in her future endeavors.
CEO & Co-Founder