Occupied Neurons, October edition

Melinda Gates Asked For Ideas to Help Women in Tech: Here They Are

I am psyched that a powerhouse like Gates is taking up the cause, and I sincerely hope she reads this (and many other) articles to get a sense of the breadth of the problem (and how few working solutions there are).  The overlap with race, the attempts to bring more women into classrooms, the tech industry bias towards the elite schools and companies (and not the wealth of other experiences). It’s a target-rich environment to solve.

Building a Psychologically Safe Workplace: Amy Edmondson at TEDxHGSE


I am super-pleased to see that the concept of Psychological Safety is gaining traction in the circles and organizations I’m hanging with these days.  I spend an inordinate amount of time in my work making sure that my teammates and colleagues feel like it’s OK to make a mistake, to own up to dead ends and unknowns, and will sure make the work easier when I’m not the only one fighting the tide of mistrust/worry/fear that creates an environment where learning/risks/mistakes are being discouraged.

Three Books That Influenced CorgiBytes Culture


Andrea and Scott are two people who have profoundly changed my outlook on what’s possible to bring to the workplace, and how to make a workplace that truly fits what you want (and sometimes need) it to be. Talking about empathy as a first-class citizen, bringing actual balance to the day and the communications, and treating your co-workers better than we treat ourselves – and doing it in a fun line of business with real, deep impact for individual customers.

This is the kind of organization that I could see myself in. And which would draw in the kinds of people I enjoy working with each day.

So after meeting them earlier this year in Portland, I’ve followed their adventures via their blog and twitter accounts. This article is another nuanced look at what has shaped their workplace, and I sincerely hope I can do likewise someday.

Reducing Visual Noise for a Better User Experience


View story at Medium.com

These days I find myself apprehensively clicking on Design articles on Medium.  While there’s great design thinking being discussed out there, I seem to be a magnet for finding the ones that complain why users/managers/businesses don’t “get it”.

As I’d hoped, this was an honest and detailed discussion of the inevitable design overload that creeps into most “living products”, and the factors that drove them to improve the impact for non-expert users.

(I am personally most interested in improving the non-expert users’ experience – experts and enthusiasts will always figure out a way to make shit work, even if they don’t like having to beat down a new door; the folks I care to feed are those who don’t have the energy/time/inclination/personality for figuring out something that should be obvious but isn’t.  Give me affordances, not a learning experience e.g. when you’ve got clickable/tappable controls on your page, give me lines/shadows/shading to signify “this isn’t just text”, not just subtle whitespace that cues the well-trained UI designer that there’s a button around that otherwise-identically-styled text.

Meetups where you’ll find Mike’s hat, Spring 2016 edition

Occasionally I’ll tell people I meet about all the meetups I have so much fun at.

Or rather, I’ll try to enumerate them all, and fail each and every time.

Primarily because there’s so many meetups I like to check in on.

So occasionally I’ll enumerate them like this, so that my friends have a valiant hope of crossing paths with me before the amazing event has passed.

Meetups I’m slavishly devoted to

Meetups I’ll attend anytime they’re alive

Meetups I sample like caviar – occasionally and cautiously

Recent additions that may soon pass the test of my time


Non-Diversity Apologists still abound in Comics

I did a dumb thing today.

I read the comments below this post at the Marvel: The Untold Story page:


And immediately lost another month off my life due to the immediate blood pressure spike.

I recovered some of those lost future days by reading the source article upon which the comments were theoretically made:

Why do the moron patrol spout their ill-informed opinions when the confounding data is so easy to obtain?  If there was no systemic discrimination biasing the work-for-hire systems at the Big Two (DC and Marvel) towards white males, I’d expect to see a relative population among female creators somewhere better than the female engineering population we see in the tech industry (which according to the best of the paucity of data out there, is around 12%).

Here’s the latest figures for DC’s male-to-female stats:

And for reference, here’s a similar study of both DC and Marvel from 2012:

Analysis/conjecture: the % of creators hired by the Big Two who are female has consistently peaked in the low teens, and even % of back-office employees is generally lower than the magic 30% threshold (where “gender diversity” is celebrated, and beyond which females start to experience a marked uptick in pushback, and “diversity initiatives” start to see institutionalized resistance).  And sadly, this is years after fans demand DC take action to change it (and they agreed).  Maybe DC thinks that <10% is their end goal?

Hell, when one of the paragons of progressive thinking and hiring, Apple, can’t even make it past 30%, where do smaller creative companies and the masses of ‘invisible’ tech corporations stand a chance?  Google’s 30% is even held up as an achievement, which is DEPRESSING.

Contrary to what I’ve heard in the comics press and hallways for years, comics fans are about half female these days.  Hasn’t always been that way, but it’s also fascinating that readership has achieved near-parity when many (men of course) predicted it would never, and that maybe it shouldn’t (to preserve the enclave of “what we white males have always enjoyed in the safe past”).  It’s not like there isn’t interest from females, and I’d predict this to bleed into the creative population who’s trying to get a gig there – it would blow my mind that only 10% of the people trying to create comics are women.  (This article mentions women outnumber men in an undergraduate cartooning setting, for example, and then quotes the instructor, “It’s also not uncommon that they’re the best students in class”.)

So assume for a moment the fantastic proposition that there’s a greater proportion of women clamouring for the gig than are getting the gig, what does that say about the selection filter: are those making the hire decisions going to explain this by saying that the greater proportion of women aren’t as talented as the men?  That they aren’t applying through the correct/operative/off-the-books channels?  Or that they are actually just more comfortable hiring people like them (white, male, cis)?

[Relevant anecdote: Bobbie Chase, a female editorial director for DC, was quoted in this article saying, “We’re pursuing people all the time who could be new voices for comic books, but it’s still going to be a predominantly male industry. I don’t think that has to change, but we can certainly make a much better balance.”]

[Another relevant anecdote: Ann Nocenti in this article said, “Its undeniable when you look at industry-wide statistics, women are hired low, their salaries are lower; I think statistically you can say women aren’t treated fairly in any industry.”]

Any answer raises troubling questions that I really hope are being examined and answered honestly, and which will drive systemic change in both the comics and the tech industry.

Even freakish Cap thinks there’s a problem here


Discovered artist: Justin Ponseur

At the DevSigner conference this morning, Justin McDowell (@revolt_puppy) turned me on to the realistic, natural colour work of Justin Ponseur. 

After a few minutes flipping through his site, I am definitely a fan. His colour work adds another level of gorgeous to even the best artists (and probably covers a lot of sins from the lesser artists).

Epiphany of Volunteering

Been struggling with the desire to volunteer – to take my skills out to organizations and people who don’t normally have access to the kind of big corporate expertise – and to give myself opportunities to give back to my community.

Only problem is: the kinds of groups in which I want to volunteer (eg. Hack Oregon) are filled with amazing coders who might not feel friendly and welcoming to a “business/product/design” guy who wants to help out but isn’t a coder or database geek.

I’ve been out to a couple of events, and watched the participants gather together in their natural tendencies. I start out feeling self-conscious and a deficit for any group I force myself into, and end up just chatting with whoever it feels like might also be feeling disconnected.

I’ve lost my nerve with such organizations and ended up not finding an outlet for my desire to help, contribute my energy and experience, and effect change.

Today for no explicable reason, it occurred to me that rather than approaching volunteering as a place to contribute, and instead set my goal to “learning”.

I thought of this when Catherine Nikolovsky talked about the number of Big Data and data visualization nerds her organization, and I lit up thinking, “I want to learn about Big Data and Dataviz!”

What if I showed up and attempted to simply ask questions, see how Big Data apps are built, and what kinds of decisions are made in developing an effective data visualization?

Do I have the nerve to show up and insert myself without any ego – without an intention to help, but rather just to listen?

And now, a random picture from today’s Facebook distractions: