inspire


Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

I am surrounded by women in technology that inspire me. When I paused to consider who to recognize as my Ada for 2010, I knew without a doubt, it was Leslie Jensen-Inman. Leslie’s developing a model web education program at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Her students, steeped in web standards and best practices, are already producing professional level work before they graduate. I’ve met and worked side-by-side with a number of her students and can testify that Leslie’s passion for creating beautiful and usable web sites has been ignited in each of them.

Leslie’s desire to teach the web doesn’t stop with her students. She actively reaches out to educators, community leaders, business people and web developers. Leslie orchestrated the first in a series of fabulous events called Web Education Rocks (aka WE Rock Tour). This event brought together teachers, students, artists, web developers, politicians, entrepreneurs and business leaders who all benefit from an open web. The event helped everyone understand that the future of the web is built on today’s web education. It was a magical evening of inspiration, connecting and sharing of valuable web education curriculum resources (WaSP InterACT Curriculum Framework). And the WE Rock Tour didn’t end there…it continued in Australia and is booking dates in Europe and the US for 2010.

I cannot possibly express how inspired I have been by Leslie’s vision, energy and boundless optimism. Working with her is deeply satisfying and re-energizing. But don’t just take my word for it. Join us in the great adventure to further Web Education!

On Sunday, October 18, 2009, I was drawn to the site of the WTC. My hotel was just a few blocks away and I felt it was important to visit the site and honor all the people who died that tragic day.

It was a somber experience. The site was so much larger than I had imagined. I felt grief, loss and emptiness. I’m not sure what I was searching for, but I just knew I hadn’t found it yet…so I kept walking…one more block….one more block.

And then I came to St. Paul’s Chapel and I knew I had found what my heart and soul were seeking. As I walked through the gate, I experienced the feeling of quiet strength, courage and hope in the midst of the greatest loss.

As I was walking back to my hotel, I passed Firehouse 10. The door was open and two firemen were talking to tourists and selling tshirts and calendars (all proceeds go to charity).

Someone in the crowd asked if these men had been there on 9 11. Fire Fighter John Morabito said he was there, inside the building as it started to come down. He brought out a photo album to share.

It wasn’t until later, on my trip home, that I read an account of Morabito’s experiences. But at that moment, all I knew was…this man is my hero. And for all the people who risked their lives to save others….I hugged him and thanked him.

At 2:49pm on Sunday, October 18, 2009, I forever fell in love with New York.

Yesterday was Ada Lovelace Day. What is Ada Lovelace Day? A day to honor inspirational female role models in the field of technology.

Who is my Ada? I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by brilliant geek women, so selecting my Ada is delightfully difficult. Today, as I look back over my 20+ years in technology and pose the question, “What woman has helped me the most in my career as a digital alchemist?” I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the answer is Sharron Rush and Steph Troeth. That is right, I’ve got two Adas!

Sharron Rush is the executive director of Knowbility, a non-profit whose mission is “to support the independence of children and adults with disabilities by promoting the use and improving the accessibility of information technology”. Through the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR), John Slatin AccessU Training Conference and the countless hours she spends on W3C Education and Outreach, Sharron cultivates a web that is available to all, regardless of disabilities. She is visionary, loving, flexible, compassionate, courageous, hard-working and dependable. Sharron’s passion for accessibility is contagious…and there is always room for more people to join us until barrier free IT is a reality.

Now, let me attempt to convey the treasure known as Steph Troeth. In 2006, I virtually met Steph as we agreed to co-lead the WaSP International Liaison Group. I dare say that she is the most brilliant person I’ve ever worked with. She is quiet, unassuming and all about getting the right job done well. I admire her more than I can possibly say. We share a passion to nurture a sustainable open web and that passion has lead to a friendship that I deeply cherish.

I think Aaron Gustafson said it best –

“Steph is nothing short of amazing, but she’d be the last to tell you that. In the Web Standards Project (WaSP), Steph has proven herself time and time again to be an active, organized, and highly motivated individual capable of tackling a project on her own, as part of a larger group, or in command of a team. And unlike many people with her talents, Steph is confident, but not cocky or egotistical. She’s not afraid to disagree with you, but is more interested in finding common ground than in being argumentative. Above all, Steph is someone you can count on. If you ask her to handle something, you can rest assured it’ll get done and that’s why she’s been such a joy to work with…” – Aaron Gustafson’s recommendation of Steph Troeth on LinkedIn

She is a renaissance woman and I often fancy that she is a modern day Leonardo da Vinci. Poet, photographer, musician and technologist. She is, without a doubt, my digital muse and my dear friend.

When life is difficult and seems incredibly unfair, it is so easy to slip into a funk. But moping about doesn’t do a damn bit of good. I’d rather use my energy in positive ways. I want to see barriers as opportunities and challenges. Thank goodness I have friends who hug me, feed me dark chocolate and remind me of this perspective when my hope grows dim.

If you need a shot of inspiration, you might want to try listening to Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. It did me a world of good when I needed it most. The quote that keeps me going today is:

But remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

I remind myself…”Glenda, don’t be wimp. Don’t throw yourself against brick walls. And whatever you do, don’t stop focusing on what is really important. Find a way over, around or under the brick walls. Or take 10 giant steps backwards and make sure that wall is really the best way to climb on the way to making the world a better place.”

Do you remember 1998?

  • The Bronco’s won the Super Bowl.
  • The first XML spec was released.
  • Titantic won 11 Oscars.
  • Viagra was approved by the FDA.
  • Google, Inc. was founded.
  • Apple unveiled the iMac and reminded us to Think Different.

Today, as I was rearranging some books on a shelf, I ran across the limited edition publication to commemorate the first year of the Apple Think Different Series, “1998: The Year of Thinking Different”.

10 years later, this ad campaign still strikes a chord in my soul. I can’t resist sharing this quote from Apple with you.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify them or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine. They heal.
They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Think Different.

So, my friends, I implore you to question, lead, create, sing, speak, tinker, dance, play, love, fly, believe, transform, improvise, evolve, laugh and dream with all of your passion. Make every day different.

How can I possibly explain the magic of SXSWi? Imagine you are high in the sky with Willy Wonka in the great glass elevator. Anything is possible. Magic is probable. (Sigh) That is how SX feels. What moments took my breath away in 2008? Let me share a few.

  • Sitting on the floor in the packed Browser Wars Panel and hearing Chris Wilson (IE), Charles McCathieNevile (Opera) and Brendan Eich (Firefox) explain that while they are at war, they are united on web standards. The point is to win by creating a better user experience, by building a better browser, not carving the web up into 8 different standards.
  • Closing my laptop, putting away my phone, and finding a quiet place to have a deep conversation with brilliant minds about dreams, hopes, and concerns like Henny Swan @ Kerbey Lane, Aarron Walter and Leslie Jensen-Inman @ the Libery Tavern, Jon Hicks @ Halcyon’s, Steph Troeth @ the SXSW coffee shop, Rob Weychert @ the Hampton Lounge and Kimberly Blessing @ Rio, just to name a few.
  • Geeks Love Bowling: Playing “Conjunction Junction” at the bowling alley by hooking up geeks and ideas and causes. You see, I am a connector and SXSW is my perfect playground. In fact, connecting is what SXSW is all about, not via Bluetooth, not over Twitter…but face-to-face over a shared passion, and a shot of Patron XO Café or perhaps a latte. A meaningful connection that forever adds human depth to all future digital interactions.
  • Dewey Award and Accessibility Internet Rally Celebration: Listening to stories about Dewey Winburne, one of the co-founders of SxSWi, and understanding why I can’t ever, ever get enough of this event. Hugh Forrest shared an idea on the current directions of new media technology he had learned from an attendee this year:

    The first wave of the new media boom was all about the gold rush. But, in this secondary boom, things have changed a bit. More people are now tuned in to the idea of making a very positive social impact with their new media creations. So, we’ve moved from the gold rush to the good rush. – sxsw attendee

    Hugh really liked this idea. His only disagreement was that he thinks:

    the good rush has always been with us, it just sometimes gets glossed over. In our best moments, the good rush is what we are all about at SXSW Interactive. Indeed, the Dewey Award celebrates this profound yet profoundly simple idea that new media can serve as a bridge between the haves and the have nots in our society. This is the good rush. – hugh

I paused for a moment, and looked up at Hugh and realized that SXSW is just a great big glass elevator and I’m really standing next to Willy Wonka.

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world?
There’s nothing to it – gene wilder

your media, pachyderm templates, visual stories

Have you ever stood in front of a work of art and thought, “What is that? I don’t get it.” Then you wander about looking for the label only to discover that it says “Untitled”. Looking at art I sometimes feel as though I’m standing outside an invitation only party and I can’t find my invite. To be fair, my chance to personally connect with the art can often be quite obvious, if only (sigh) if only, I would remember to drop my “don’t make me think” attitude in the trash can.

In my dreams, all the vast amounts of valuable information about each work of art would be easily accessible and (gasp) open to tagging and comments from you. Many museums and artists are already exploring how to make this fantasy a reality. One of my favorite players in this arena is the New Media Consortium (NMC). The folks at NMC really know how to spark innovative learning, curiosity and creativity. An amazing application they have developed is Pachyderm, a multimedia authoring tool that allows curators and educators to publish rich media learning objects as easily as 1, 2, 3.

The Pachyderm project originated in the mind of Peter Samis, Associate Curator, Interpretation, SFMoMA. Peter and his team developed the Pachyderm web tools and methods to inspire curators to share their wealth of knowledge about understanding art. And rather than just do this for SFMoMA, Peter, NMC and IMLS have helped make Pachyderm freely available to any museum or educator who has an interest in sharing a story.

What is so wonderful about Pachyderm? It was designed by people who understand the needs, strengths and challenges of curators, artists, art educators and museum visitors. I think of Pachyderm as a digital muse who inspires curators and educators to ask thought provoking questions and tell stories while simultaneously stimulating the visitor to look deeper, explore the context and discover personal meaning and connections to art. In fact, I see Pachyderm as a tool to help turn visitors into part of the creative process, giving them the keys to unlock a new interpretation that has the potential to transform the work as well as themselves.

Want to see what I mean? Let me show you the door to four art adventures, I challenge you to explore one and let me know what you discover about art, the world and yourself.

Still hungry for more? Check out the Pachyderm Showcase. Who knew elephants could be so delicious?

This week I attended my first conference held entirely in Second Life. The event was a Symposium on the Evolution of Communication sponsored by the New Media Consortium (NMC). I’ll admit, I was quite skeptical about the value of attending a two day conference in a virtual world, but I was willing to give it a whirl.

A little background on my so called Second Life: Spring 2007, I had zero desire to stick even my little toe in SL. I’m not a gamer and this “world” seemed so pointless. The graphics looked like something out of the 80’s. What could I possibly learn there?

Then, the fated day came, when my fav curator asked, “Glenda, what should we be doing in Second Life for museums?” I gritted my teeth, and responded that I would investigate (sigh). As I explored this strange new place it was anything but love at first sight. I forced myself to keep going back. My goal: to try and find something meaningful on each trip down the rabbit hole.

19 months later with just a handful of hours of in SL I was still far from enamored. But each trip in, I kept thinking, “there is potential here, I can feel it.”

I never would have guessed that NMC virtual conference would be so mentally stimulating and interactive. As the first day drew to a close I was trying to explain to my peeps how amazing this experience was. My RL friends eyed me warily, claiming that Second Life was just another way geeks withdraw from the real world. To which I responded, “I think SL is an opportunity to reveal your authentic self.” After the peels of laughter subsided, I continued:

I’m not saying that SL is perfect. Far from it. What I’m saying, is that SL is a place that gives us a blank slate that begs the question, “who am I”. You can take the question seriously, or not. That is up to you.

As you create your avatar, do you choose to recreate your own image or do you choose to explore the other side? In RL, so many things can inhibit us from being who we want to be, but in SL, the only thing stopping you is your own imagination. Freed from earthly limitations including gender, appearance, disabilities, social judgments and even gravity you can choose to spread your wings and soar to your potential.

If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.
If you can dream it, you can become it.
– William Arthur Ward

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