Category Archives: Conferences

My Spring 2017 Conference Appearances

It’s a new year, which means I am in the process of seeing if I can break my conference record this year. Not sure what that record is, but I think it’s around ten conferences in a year. Last year was pretty busy and it will be tough to beat, but it was also something of a furlough year because I was mostly talking about mental health and software architecture. This year I am going full on Metal for the work I am doing on the Metal Programming Guide.

Everything is coming up Milhouse!

GDC: February 27-March 3

This year I am working at/attending GDC(Game Developers Conference). I get to be a Conference Associate, so while I am not speaking at the conference, I still get to help participate in creating a great conference experience for everyone. I am looking forward to meeting some new people in the graphics programming space. I think it’s important to keep meeting new and different sets of people rather than staying in a bubble of people you already know. I’ve wanted to attend this conference for a while and I am super happy I got a chance to do so this year.

iOSCon 2017: March 30-31

I get to attend my first European conference this year, iOSCon 2017. Some old friends, like Saul Mora, are going to be speaking there, as well as some new friends I haven’t had the chance to meet in person yet, like Manuel Chakravarty.

I am incredibly excited about this conference because I am debuting a new Metal talk here. I have noticed over the last few years that a lot of people are interested in Metal, but they are not quite sure about how to approach it. They’re not able to break it down in the minds into manageable tasks and they wind up quitting in frustration. My talk here will focus on foundational structures and concepts that are necessary to work with Metal in a fun and approachable way.

CocoaConf Chicago: April 21-22

If you’re in the States and can’t afford a hop across the Pond, I will also be presenting my new Metal talk at CocoaConf Chicago. This will be my fifth time attending CocoaConf Chicago and my fourth time speaking! Holy smokes! Time flies when you’re frantically trying to meet deadlines.

CocoaConf Chicago was the first purely iOS conference I ever attended. The speakers and the Kleins gave me a community of people without whom I would not be where I am today. It’s always a great joy and pleasure to see all of my friends there that I only get to see once a year.

Please Say Hello

One thing I always look forward to when I go to conferences is meeting new people. It may not always come off this way, but I feel socially awkward. One reason I made friends with so many speakers in the Cocoa community was because it was easy for me to start a conversation with them because I knew something they were speaking about. When I go and sit at a table full of strangers, I don’t know anything to start a conversation with anyone. I am happy for people to come up and start talking to me and I am telling you to please take that first step, because if you don’t I assume that I am probably annoying you and to avoid embarrassment I keep to myself.

I am planning to have my service dog Delia with me at CocoaConf and GDC. She is an emotional support animal and it is okay for people to pet her. It was technically possible for me to bring her with me to London, but with all of the various travel SNAFUs and the unstable political situations, I don’t feel safe or comfortable bringing her with me. I am terrified that I will forget to do something important and she will be taken away from me and I won’t get her back. So might be a little emotionally fragile in London, but I will follow the old British saying of “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Looking forward to a great Spring 2017 conference season!

CocoaLove and Indie DevStock

I speak at a lot of conferences. I have spoken at around ten conferences a year since 2014. That’s a lot of conferences. I have had some not so great experiences and a few really awesome ones, and the awesome ones are the ones I want to talk about in this blog post.

The best conferences I have attended over the last twelve months were RWDevCon and CocoaLove. Both of these conferences went above and beyond to deliver a unique conference experience.

CocoaLove is in Philadelphia and really embraces the City of Brotherly Love vibe. Curtis and his team make sure the food at the conference is local, including an entire lunch activity around getting authentic Philly cheesesteaks.

RWDevCon has the advantage of name recognition because of the years of amazing tutorials that Ray’s team has put out. CocoaLove does not.

Another great conference that might not make it to its third year is a newcomer, Indie DevStock. Indie DevStock is being run by my friend Tammy Coron, a fellow Ray Wenderlich tutorial team member. She talked to me about running the conference with her, but I told her I was too busy. I was mostly too cowardly to actually stick my neck out and try to run my own conference. Tammy has bigger balls than I do and is making a go of it.

Both CocoaLove and Indie DevStock are in regions of the country that don’t see a lot of conferences. CocoaLove is in the Northeast and Indie DevStock is in the South.

Every week on Twitter I see people bitch and moan about the lack of diversity in tech. Everyone wonders what we can do about it. CocoaLove made a concerted effort to have a diverse lineup. Indie DevStock is run by a woman and 67% of their lineup is underrepresented persons in tech.

Both Curtis and Tammy have lovingly put a great deal of work into making their conferences special and unique experiences. People don’t run conferences to make money. These are labors of love. It’s really easy at a certain point to just kind of go, fuck it, and deliver a generic conference experience. We’ve all had our fair share of those. Both Curtis and Tammy really got creative and tried to set their conferences apart from everyone else.

Every year I hear of some really cool and special conference that has its last year because it’s just too difficult for the organizer to run it anymore. NSConf. Second Conf. C4. NSScotland. Everyone bemoans the loss of these conferences.

There are a lot of these conferences that I have been greatly disappointed in missing out on. I’m sure other people are disappointed as well.

I want to suggest that if you live in any area East of the Mississippi you strongly consider attending either CocoaLove or Indie DevStock. I am attending both (and only speaking at one.) Nashville is a ten-hour drive from Madison and Philly is thirteen hours. Supposedly I will be able to bring my beloved pug Delia to Indie DevStock. It’s wonderful to have a few conferences that are within driving distance from me where I don’t have to buy a plane ticket and deal with all the shenanigans I have dealt with this year.

You can use the code “HELLO” to get a discount on a ticket to Indie DevStock.

I know the face of iOS development is changing. We’re growing and evolving and becoming more corporate. I do hope that even with all the growth of the iOS community we don’t forget our funky, eclectic roots. The unique conference experiences that we have are in danger and it’s important for us to support them.

Anyway, I suck at selling things. There’s a reason I became a programmer and not a sales person. I want to help spread the word about these conferences and try to convince people to come so that iOS development doesn’t become just like everything else. Support indie development and diverse voices in tech!!

Streaming WWDC 2016

I have never had the privilege of attending WWDC. Most years (including this one) I never bothered to apply to the lottery because I couldn’t afford to go. The one year I could afford to go, I didn’t win a ticket and I decided I would rather have the money as a buffer than go out to WWDC. This was the correct decision.

I attend a lot of conferences. I speak at a lot of conferences. Unfortunately, I have had some difficulty actually attending sessions at conferences. I have panic attacks when I am trapped in a room full of people and I can’t get up and walk around. This was one reason I was never super disappointed about going to WWDC the last few years. The idea of being stuck in a room for a whole week makes me feel like curling in a ball and crying. I go to conferences to network and drink with my friends. Now I am at the point where it’s just networking since I gave up drinking.

One thing I had forgotten about was discovering new things by attending sessions I hadn’t thought to go to. When I went to my first CocoaConf, I encountered a lot of interesting things because I wanted to watch Jonathan Penn and Josh Smith present.

When Swift was introduced two years ago, most of the conference sessions revolved around talking about Swift. I like Swift, it’s a neat language, but I am sick of talking about it. I am tired of hearing people talk about side effects and protocols and immutable state. I miss the first few years I was an iOS developer when people talked about frameworks and weird little nooks and crannies of the Cocoa architecture.

Taken together, this has created something of a perfect storm where I got burned out on iOS development. I got sick of talking to people about it because it always boiled down to Swift and arguing about code purity and a bunch of other bullshit.

I saw the Keynote this year and I had absolutely no enthusiasm for anything this year. I was irritated and cranky and didn’t want to deal with anything. But I noticed that this year Apple decided to stream most of the sessions live. The sessions were always available online later and last year they started showing select sessions. I watched the Swift ones because it was for my job and was still new and exciting. But I rarely watch the sessions afterward because when I watch the sessions, I sit there and pause every few minutes to try and process the vast amount of information that is being presented. There is a massive backlog of lots of sessions I think would be nice to watch but I never get around to watching. I did not think I would do anything this year.

I was wrong.

Streaming the sessions live has completely changed my life this week.

I work from home and so I just kind of threw the live stream on while I worked on stuff. I have it on in the background. I can’t pause the live stream, so I am not poring over every second of each video minutely. I am getting an overview of what they are talking about so I can go and research things later. I also have a team of people on various Slack channels who are watching it with me that I can chat with about the things we find new and exciting.

There were five whole sessions on Metal this year. The last two years I only got through the first Metal video because I felt like I didn’t understand it well enough to move on to the next video. This year, since they were just on, I could passively leave it on and get through all the videos. If this was a normal year, I would not have encountered the thing that has excited me the most this year, which is doing neural networks in Metal. That was introduced in “What’s New in Metal Part 2,” which was the fourth Metal video streamed. I did not need all the context from the first three videos to get excited about the new stuff in Metal.

I got to watch all the videos about GameplayKit, Photos, SpriteKit, etc… All of these technologies that I have been interested in but in a passive way were all just there for me to listen in on. I got introduced to so many things I didn’t know about in obscure frameworks that don’t get a lot of love because most people need to pay the bills and so they don’t do sessions on SceneKit.

This is what it was like at the beginning when I started going to conferences. I would discover so many new things that I would go home excited to get working on something. I haven’t felt this way for the last two years.

I worked for Brad Larson for a year. He told me that the reason he got into making Molecules and got into OpenGL and doing GPUImage was because he had a free period at WWDC and just decided, on a whim, to watch a session on OpenGL. It’s crazy to me about how things you do on a whim or by chance can completely change your life. By not being exposed to these sessions over the last few years, I have been cutting myself off from these chance encounters to find something truly special that I can learn and make my own.

It has been a great gift to get to participate with WWDC from home. Being able to get up and walk around during a session and cuddle with Delia while listening to people give their talks has helped me tremendously. I can talk to people on Slack from all over the world about the sessions as they happen so we can all be excited together. I know that people get something out of being there and getting to talk to the engineers, but for someone with mental health issues that prevent them from being able to be comfortable with massively large amounts of people, this has been a godsend.

I am planning in the future to go back and watch all the videos from previous years that I never watched because they took too long. I can have them on in the background while I work on other things. I can pick out the parts that interest me and look into them further.

For the first time in a really long time, I am excited about iOS development. Thank you Apple for giving that back to me.

Non-Alcoholic Experiments: Iced Tea

I recently wrote a blog post about giving up alcohol. I had an incredibly frustrating conversation with another developer on Twitter:

I love the smell of bullshit in the morning.

I love the smell of bullshit in the morning.

There is a great deal here that is wrong with our conversation here. This person clearly didn’t read my blog post because I mentioned not being able to drink without becoming violently ill. The issue also isn’t about telling people how to drink in moderation, it’s about the fact that alcohol is incredibly pervasive in the programming community. Would love to see this person telling an ethical vegetarian to just eat meat in moderation or avoid places that refuse to accommodate them and see how well that goes.

I have had multiple official conference events and activities that take place at breweries. It isn’t just deciding you’re not going to go hang out at the hotel bar. There are mixers and parties that are officially parts of the conference. I have worked in places where there is an office liquor cabinet.

At conference parties there will be a clear sign explaining all the wine and beer selections and nothing mentioning anything non-alcoholic. Sometimes you get lucky and they will have Coke, but lots of times there is just water.

Later this developer basically told me that you can’t please everyone. I am not talking about “pleasing everyone.” The fact that it’s assumed that everyone drinks and things are geared around that is quite troubling. There are people who have religious objections, health issues, or are, god forbid, pregnant, that don’t allow them to drink and casually talking about it like it’s a choice, like deciding you won’t eat mushrooms, is incredibly insulting. Also suggesting that if you don’t drink that you should just avoid conferences altogether is yet another example of how we as a community are phasing people out and excluding them. Yay diversity.

Twitter2

Another specious argument was that all non-alcoholic options are more unhealthy than “good” alcoholic options. In spite this person’s claim to the contrary, scotch is not healthy. I agree that juice and soda are full of sugar and no one would claim that they are health food, but neither is scotch. What do you think alcohol is? It’s sugar! Making a claim that having a soda or a glass of cranberry juice at a conference is a less healthy choice than having scotch is bullshit. They’re both unhealthy, but I can drink the juice and I can’t drink the scotch. A glass of juice is not metabolized through my liver. I can drive after drinking a glass of juice. I can take an ibuprofen the next day without jeopardizing my liver. Also, no one is healthy 24/7. We occasionally indulge in something and it would be great to be able to work with people to have less damaging indulgences rather than just saying to go drink water. Telling me what I can and can’t have because you have personally deemed it to be unhealthy is arrogant and presumptuous.

We are programmers. We brag about how great we are at solving problems. We talk big about being disruptive and trying to change the world. I call bullshit on this community that we somehow are helpless in the face of trying to figure out ways to be inclusive to people who do not drink alcohol. There are a lot of ways this problem can be dealt with and just shrugging and saying you can’t please everyone, stay home is not the right response.

Trying to Figure out Replacements

One of the big things that I miss about drinking is not the actual drinking part, but the stuff around it. I miss picking out wine and different flavors of vodka and mixing drinks. I miss using my cocktail glasses. I miss having a process of making things.

IMG_4523This last part has somewhat been replaced by learning how to cook, but I still miss being able to make stuff for myself.

A number of people suggested I replace my wine with tea. I was resistant to this switch because I already have tea keyed in my brain to work. When I get up in the morning, I go through a ritual where I brew my tea in my cast iron tea pot and pick out my mug and sit down to start work for the day. I don’t want to drink more tea at night when I have been drinking tea all day because it will not let my brain relax and realize that work is over.

I did, however, forget about iced tea. My dad was from Tennessee and the only tea he ever drank was iced tea. He did unsweetened Lipton iced tea, but I have realized this is a possible solution to some of the issues I have had with finding a replacement for alcohol:

  • There are a lot of different teas on the market
  • I can mix and match teas to make different flavor combinations
  • I can add in different flavorings like lemon juice
  • I can use a special glass

IMG_4522In order to avoid polluting my mind by confusing it about the teapot, I use a different cast iron teapot for iced tea. When I used to work out of the house I bought a second tea pot for work and kept one at home. I stopped using the work teapot because it’s capacity was a little too large and the tea would go cold before I could drink all of it. It brews about four cups of tea.

A while ago I invested in a tea water machine. One of my bosses had one at a previous job and it was always great to be able to just get up and brew tea any time I feel like it. My house’s electric system is wired badly and I can’t heat water for tea if I am using the toaster oven or running the dishwasher. This heater resolves that issue and has resulted in me drinking more tea because it removes a step and makes it easier to do it.

Since I am watering down the tea with ice, I want it to be strong. I have been using three tablespoons of tea. I want to have my tea be fruity, but I also want it to have some of the health benefits of tea. I brew this for at least seven minutes to try and extract as much flavor from the tea as possible before throwing it out. I usually reuse tea that I drink hot, but when I am making iced tea or chai I use the tea once because the second brewing is too weak.

I know it’s terrible, but I have a number of herbal teas from Teavana. They are very strong and if you blend them with a green tea, they add a lot of flavor. I have been using one part herbal tea to two parts green tea. This gives a distinct fruit flavor while retaining the health benefits of the green tea.

I want this to be something of an indulgence without being too unhealthy. I added an ounce of lemon juice and a quarter of a cup of sugar. I check and that is about 190 calories of sugar, which is about fifty calories per cup of iced tea, which gets watered down significantly. For comparison, an ounce of scotch is 64 calories and a glass of red wine is 125 calories.

Trying to do Better

I consider this experiment a success, but I know this doesn’t translate as a solution to the larger problem of having better non-alcoholic options in the programming community.

Cheers!

Cheers!

One of the reasons I am trying to do these experiments is to eventually figure out bette solutions that can be implemented within the confines of the system. I know that if I go to a bar with people I can order non-alcoholic beverages, but I would like to figure out a solution for catered events where there is generally wine and beer but not any other creative non-alcoholic options.

Most people don’t do something unless it’s easy. Right now it’s easy to drink alcohol because it’s the default. It easier to just drink wine and beer because they’re the most prominent options and everyone else is doing it. I think if it were easier to make non-alcoholic choices more people would do them and it would make more people feel welcome at these events.

The Pervasiveness of Alcohol in the Programming Community

Several months ago I decided to cut back on drinking. Basically I woke up in the middle of the night and just kind of decided I didn’t want to do it anymore.

I have been going to therapy for the last few months to try and work through some issues and sadly my self medication with alcohol is one of those issues. My therapist keeps telling me I am a recovering alcoholic. I dislike that characterization. I think I had a rough couple of years and I drank to numb myself and escape my problems. That might be the definition of an alcoholic, but I still dislike the characterization.

I thought I could just cut back to a normal amount, but since I gave it up I can’t drink without becoming violently ill. I blew a conference talk because I was suffering from severe illness after a night of drinking with my friends. At NSNorth I drank wine at dinner (and didn’t even go through all my drink tickets) and was so violently ill the next day that I had to spend several hours curled up in a ball on the floor in the corner because I couldn’t stand up without a great deal of nausea.

I have somewhat accepted that I probably can’t drink anymore. I am trying to adjust to a life without alcohol. Since I have abstained from it, there are a bunch of things I have noticed that I wanted to share.

Identity

When I was younger I wanted to be Marion Ravenwood. I loved the scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc where she drinks the guy under the table. I loved that she didn’t put up with anyone’s shit. I thought she was awesome.

I found a lot of alcoholic role models in my young adulthood. Lucille Bluth. Dorothy Parker. The characters in Mad Men.

I'm fabulous and will not put up with your shit.

I’m fabulous and will not put up with your shit.

Alcohol, especially whiskey and other hard liquors, is very masculine. I would try to impress guys by ordering scotch and whisky drinks. There is some feeling of power that comes with ordering whisky. You feel like Don Draper or Peggy Olson. Laymen drink beer. Executives drink scotch.

It can also be very feminine ala the emergence of the Cosmo from Sex and the City. It was fun to go to the bar with friends and hold a pink drink and be girly in a large group of men.

I felt like I could adopt a personality based on what I felt like drinking. I would relax and other people would relax too. I would have deep conversations with people who would let their guard down and tell me things they would normally not say out loud in front of other people. It felt like an intimate experience where you could be with someone who would let their inhibitions down.

I miss alcohol.

I feel like I lost part of my identity. I know that it was not good for me. I gained twenty pounds since I started programming and most of it is from alcohol.

I keep getting emails from cruise lines trying to get me to book a cruise. If I can’t spend the whole cruise drinking then what’s the point? Why does anyone else even go on a cruise if not to have an excuse to drink at 8:00 in the morning??

For a long time I had no idea how to spend the hours between when I finished work and when I had to go to bed. I realized how boring nearly all of my activities were.

I miss the taste of it. I miss the relaxed feeling I got when I had the first drink. I miss going to the store and looking at all the different options I had for wine, liquor, and hard cider. I miss trying new stuff. I miss the glassware. I miss feeling like a grown up sophisticated person and not just a hermit from rural Wisconsin who hides in her house with her pugs and her programming books.

Which leads to my next observation.

Community

It’s weird to me about how big of a part of my life it became. I never drank in college. I went to one beer party and drank soda and didn’t even process that I should want to drink alcohol. Considering I went to a party school in Wisconsin, that’s rather remarkable.

I didn’t have any sanctimonious reasons for not drinking. I just didn’t like the way it tasted. I saw my classmates drink whole bottles of vodka in an evening and black out and not remember what happened the next day. One friend broke her ankle and didn’t remember how it happened and I had to try and help drag her to the campus medical center while she tried to keep herself from throwing up from alcohol poisoning. I didn’t understand what the appeal was of doing this.

I also wasn’t really social in college. I spent most of my evenings in my dorm and later my apartment watching DVDs and doing cross stitch projects. I never really had friends or a community, so I just kind of kept to myself and it wasn’t part of my awareness.

It was probably telling that the first time I ever got drunk was at my bachelorette party. I didn’t drink until I got married. Most of my social activities with my husband revolved around alcohol. We went to dinner at hipster bars with Prohibition-era cocktails. We would go camping and drink around the fire.

I am not totally placing the blame on him. I embraced this lifestyle. I would push to go to certain restaurants over others because I liked their drink menu best. I kept drinking after he moved out and we got divorced. I just remember that most of the good memories I have about being with him revolve around drinking.

I also noticed that most of my social activities are severely curtailed without drinking. Most of my friends brew beer and make wine and mead. They spend their nights at bars playing games. A friend of mine keeps telling me I should move to a more expensive place downtown so we can randomly go to the bars on the spur of the moment and go out drinking with him.

There have been a lot of conferences I have gone to that have social activities at breweries. I was always annoyed that most of these places didn’t have wine, but they also didn’t have non-alcoholic options either.

Me at my heaviest. I would prefer not to stay here.

Me at my heaviest. I would prefer not to stay here.

I am thinking back on all of the conferences I have attended over the last two years. There are open bars with wine and sometimes cocktails but I have no idea what, if anything, they had that was non-alcoholic. They probably had mixers like cranberry juice and Coke. I am not blaming organizers. I know that it’s far more common for event caterers to just have wine or beer packages for events. I am not going to be pissy because organizers don’t make sure there are things like mocktails or better dry options. I am just saying it’s something that has been so pervasive in the fabric of the conference scene that it is like oxygen. It’s just there. You don’t think about it or notice it until you can’t do it anymore.

I have never been pressured into drinking. I have been the one pushing the whole “let’s all drink right now!” bandwagon. That was wrong. I would like to try and rectify some of the passive damage I have contributed to our community.

A lot of the conversation we have in the programming community about alcohol abuse tends to revolve around the possibility of sexual assault. It is an insulting argument that puts pressure on women to abstain from alcohol to avoid being raped. It also is like a parent who will take the ball away from everyone just because one person is being a jackass.

We’re getting better about talking about mental illness and I would like that to also include how we talk about and deal with alcohol. I would like there to be better and more prominent choices for non-alcoholic beverages at conferences. I would like people to think more about what they are doing rather than just grabbing a beer because it’s there and it’s what everyone does.

We’re all self medicating from punishing crunch times and crippling impostor syndrome. It’s an escape from the pressure we’re putting on ourselves to avoid having to confront any of the very real problems that we have with how we deal with stress in our community.

We, as young adults, don’t seem to have healthy social outlets for socialization that don’t revolve around drinking. I understand that it lowers inhibitions, but I feel like I can’t go out and do anything socially because I don’t want to drink.

I am not trying to be sanctimonious and tell people not to drink. I just would like people to have some awareness of what they are doing rather than just treating it like oxygen. Now that I can’t drink I am seeing lots of things I never noticed before and it worries me.

Why I am Trying to Give Up Drinking

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or knows me in real life knows that I am quite fond of my evening glass of wine. It’s at a point where it’s almost a personality trait, along with my pugs.

I am vaguely aware of the fact that it’s not really a good thing to be known as the person who drinks a lot. I had the problem of thinking that people like Dorothy Parker and Lucille Bluth are super cool and have lead me to attribute this as a positive personality trait.

I wasn’t always like this.

How I Started Drinking

The first time I ever got drunk was at my bachelorette party. It was a very interesting experience for me. It felt like having a migraine only it didn’t hurt. It put me into this weird, almost meditative state that I found very stimulating.

I never partied when I was in high school or college. I used to spend my Saturday nights watching public TV with my parents. When I was in college I would spend all night alone in my apartment doing cross stitching while watching Law & Order marathons.

I felt kind of like I missed out on my youth and I wanted to make up for lost time. I figured I would get tired of it and I didn’t worry about it too much.

I went back to school to learn programming. I had a lot of anxiety about how I was going to find a job because I knew that the tech industry was very youth-centric. I knew as a woman in my 30’s with no experience it would tricky to break into the industry. I knew my best chance was to work my ass off and try to increase my skills as fast as possible. I stopped cross stitching and doing all the things I used to do to relax. The easiest way to get myself to relax was to drink. I half heartedly tried quitting a few times, but I was so stressed out that I figured I would deal with it later.

Then my marriage started falling apart.

The last year I was married I gave myself alcohol poisoning five times. Two weeks into my first job I was out for New Year’s and I drank so much so quickly that I could not keep water down for a few days. I didn’t want to tell any of the young guys at my job that I got so drunk I couldn’t keep water down, so I just kind of got through it.

After I left that job I worked from home and worked on a book. I used to keep boxes of wine outside where they would freeze overnight. I would bring them in and by the time noon rolled around the wine was thawed enough for me to drink it.

After the divorce I went through a massive depression that I did not expect to go through. I had to commute sixty miles a day to and from my job. By the time I got home I was so spent that all I could do was open a bottle of wine and drink in the bath tub. I deluded myself into thinking I didn’t have a problem because I stopped giving myself alcohol poisoning.

I am painfully aware that these behaviors that I am describing are really unhealthy. But I was stressed out and depressed and this wasn’t at the top of my list of things to worry about.

Why I Am Going to Stop

I am honestly trying to remember what triggered this most recent decision.

The last few months I haven’t been able to go for walks because of the weather. I used to walk 45 minutes a day. It was therapeutic. I wasn’t doing it to lose weight, it was just to get away from the computer and try to clear my head.

I hit 34 and started noticing things like lines around my eyes. I feel like I have put on a bunch of weight over the last few months. I bought larger jeans that used to be loose that are now not anymore.

I recently was able to start doing my walks again recently. I realized that even though I was jogging two miles a day I probably wasn’t going to lose any weight because of my drinking habit.

For some reason, this really bothered me. I don’t want to be a person who is obsessed with losing that last ten pounds, but I am at the point where a bunch of this crap is really bothering me.

I have cleared out enough other emotional baggage from my queue that I now want to deal with this.

I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I have had enough periods of my life where I was out of shape and not feeling particularly well. I know that inevitably at some point I am going to be old. It will be harder to lose weight than it is now. My joints will bother me. I can’t keep this from happening, but I can push it off a while longer by making changes now. It’s better late than never.

What I am Trying To Do

My initial thought was that I would do things in moderation. I would limit myself to one glass of wine a night. I then realized that was not going to work. I always think I will have one, but then after the first one I feel really good and the evening is still early, so I have more.

I also decided not to try and replace alcohol with another sweet beverage like fruit juice. I want to be healthier and lose weight, so replacing alcoholic sugar with non-alcoholic sugar was not a great idea.

I am trying to go cold turkey on most sugar.

I did this a few years ago. I drank nothing but water for like two weeks to retrain my palette not to expect everything it encounters to be sweet.

I am restraining my beverage intake to just water, sparkling water, and tea. I am putting some honey in my tea in the mornings because I am also putting lemon in it and I need something to ameliorate it. I know honey is sugar and sugar is bad for you, but I am confining it to that one thing and I have no allusions that it’s healthy, so don’t lecture me.

I am taking this one day at a time. I know from watching people fail at diets that I am going to have bad days. I will have days where I simply can’t deal with it and I will drink. I will not throw in the towel and give up on the experiment. I will just try to do better next time.

Things I have Notice So Far

I am only on my third day of this, so in a few weeks this might be a laughable blog post. But I have noticed a few things so far.

Nights are Boring

My routine used to be that I would finish work, take a bath with a glass of wine, get warm and comfortable, then go to bed.

I can’t do that anymore.

I used to think that after I got done with work, that I was spent for the day. I would basically drug my brain to get it to relax and calm down so I could sleep and work the next day.

The last few days I have realized I can take a bath and be refreshed enough to work on something else that I actually want to do.

It’s really disconcerting. I know I am tired and I need to sleep, but my brain gets a second wind.

This might be a temporary thing and I will probably crash in a few days. At that point I need to figure out a better way to relax. I never thought I would forget how to relax. It was so hard to do any work when I was younger that I never thought I would be stuck in the mind set that I had to work all the time.

Sugar Withdrawal Really Sucks

I think part of the reason I was drinking as much as I did was because I trained my brain to associate sugar with work being over.

I knew that alcohol had a lot of sugar in it, but I didn’t think about the fact that I was slowly increasing my intake over the last few years.

Yesterday I wanted to stab someone for a drink, not because I craved the alcohol, but because I craved the sugar. I ate a few pieces of dark chocolate and I felt better and the craving went away.

The long term goal isn’t to replace one source of sugar with another. I know that cutting back on all sugar is the goal, but it takes some time to get there. At least the chocolate provides some satiation. Alcohol is an appetite stimulant. I will not be hungry, but then I will have a glass of wine and suddenly be famished. Cutting back on the alcohol not only cuts those calories, but also all the ones I would eat after getting the munchies.

I am hoping the cravings get better the longer I stick with this.

Not Exercising Bothers Me

My Apple Watch got pretty passive aggressive with me over the winter because I wasn’t going on my walks. It was annoying, but I didn’t feel super compelled to do anything about it.

The last few days I have been crawling the walls if I can’t do some kind of exercise.

I wanted to go for a walk yesterday and I almost jumped out of my skin trying to find a time I could get out of here. It was too cold to walk, so I did a strength training exercise for half an hour and even that didn’t feel long enough.

Sitting at my computer today drove me crazy. I am going to try to find a way to do a standing desk of some kind. It’s harder to do with the retina iMac than it was with the laptop and the robotics boxes.

Moving Forward

For me, the biggest test of how this will go is when I got to my first conference this year in two weeks, RWDevCon. I need to decide if I am going to forgo drinking altogether at that event or try to limit myself to one drink. If it were right now I would forgo it completely, but I will see how I feel then.

I wish I could see this in an optimistic light. Yay, I can work on side projects after work. I can work out and lose weight and be healthier. This is going to be super awesome.

But I can’t think of it that way. This is going to be a huge and difficult adjustment. I know I used to live quite happily not doing this every night and I can probably do that again. But it’s going to take some time and effort to relearn how to relax so I don’t burn myself out. I feel like I have taken the fail safes off of myself that kept me from doing too much. I knew I could force myself to relax by basically drugging myself. Now that I am choosing not to do that anymore, I am not sure how I am going to function. I guess I will find out.

My Resolutions for 2016

I woke up on the last day of this year completely non-functional. I am used to having a day or two of non functionality, but I can usually target it for weekends so that I don’t have to tell anyone I don’t feel well or miss work. Wasn’t able to do that a few days ago.

I really tried to make it to the long weekend, but my body gave out on me before then. The wonderful people at my work told me to take off early and get some rest and not to do any work this weekend. It’s a good place and I am happy that I work for people who want me to take care of myself.

Since I am not supposed to code or do any work right now, I have been thinking about what my goals are this year. I know most people are resolving to work out more often or lose weight or whatever. My goals are going to be a little different.

  • I am not working on another book
  • I am going to release an app or an open source project
  • I am going to clean and organize my house
  • I am going to make more of an effort to entertain at my house
  • I am going to cook a complicated special meal once a month
  • I am going to make complicated special dessert once a month
  • I will go on a real vacation this year

I am not working on another book

I can’t do this any more right now. When I worked on my first programming book, I was between jobs and I was able to dedicate all of my time to working on it. There was a period of overlap, which was incredibly difficult. I wasn’t planning to work on one this year, but a series of events lead me to work on the Swift Apprentice.

Working on that broke me.

I would sit down to work on it and feel my head filling with white noise. Even thinking about going to work on my computer made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. I missed a lot of my deadlines and I felt horrible for not doing what I promised to do. I was supposed to do two chapters but I could only pull myself together enough to do one.

I don’t know why this project was the one that broke me. I had worked on other books and wrote articles for Objc-io, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have been trying to recover from it ever since.

Everyone on the Swift Apprentice was incredibly supportive and understanding. I do not want this to come off in any way like I am blaming anyone there. I had no idea what my limits were until I went over them. I actually wrote a long pitch to Ray about a Metal book on the way home from 360iDev. I had only gotten about three hours of sleep a night for a week and a few hours after I wrote him that pitch my body gave out and I nearly passed out several times on my trip home. I slept for two days after that.

I think when I am about to crash I go into denial and try to add even more work to myself because I don’t want to admit that I am spent. It’s taking me longer and longer to recover from a crash and they are happening more and more often.

So I am not going to work on anything extra this year. I just can’t. I will keep blogging and doing other writing for myself, but I am not taking on anything with a deadline for someone else this year. I just can’t do it right now.

I am going to release an app or an open source project

Going along with the previous resolution, I need to do some work for myself this year.

Most job postings require you to have published an app to be hired. I have gotten around that by working on books and talks and working for very intelligent people.

So far in my career I have never done anything for myself or on my own.

I found it hard to justify working on my own things when I had so many opportunities presented to me. It astonishes me that I have written a book with Chris Adamson and worked for Brad Larson and have had the incredible privilege of joining the Ray Wenderlich team. I keep waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that I am living someone else’s life and it’s time to go back to my actual one.

It bothers me that I have not finished something of my own. I pushed it off to the side while I tried to establish my career. I know that doing something of my own would establish it further, but stuff kept coming up. I kept thinking I would work on it when this current thing was over, but then another thing would come along and another.

I know this is totally a first world problem that I have too many good opportunities. I took a lot of them because I found it hard to say no. I need to do that this year because I need to focus on what I want to do and be known for.

I did the writing and the speaking because I wasn’t super comfortable with my programming skills. I was a beginner and I needed to find a job to support myself. Doing things I already had experience with helped me jumpstart my career. It was the right move to make at the time.

Now I want to focus on showing that I can code. I want to find something that hasn’t been done before and I want to figure it out. I want to do this for me. I don’t care if an app I write makes a penny, I want to make it because I want to know I am capable of doing so.

I am not putting this off any longer. I am doing something for me this year.

I am going to clean and organize my house

I have written in the past about my house. I started organizing and cleaning it a month or two ago. I noticed over the last week or two that it’s been sliding back into chaos. That should have been a warning to me that I was heading for a crash.

One problem I have is that I don’t have an organizational structure. I can’t put anything away because there is nowhere to put anything away to. I have been boxing things up and storing them in the basement.

2015 was the first year where I had to actually pay bills and budget stuff. I was terrified of running out of money, so I didn’t really invest in things for my house for a while. I was also gone most of the time and it was easier to just not think about it. I had two rooms in my house I never went into because I was never home.

Now that I work from home, it bothers me to see how messy everything is. I have never gotten to decorate my home before. I didn’t think of this as my home until recently and I have started to become mentally unfrozen about it.

I am hoping to budge out an amount for shelves for my books and my geeky toys. I want to pain the rooms of the house in colors I like. I want to organize the kitchen and finally figure out what stuff my ex left for me.

I don’t want to sleep walk through my life anymore. I want to be actively engaged in world around me, including the place I call my home.

I am going to make more of an effort to entertain at my house

I live in the middle of nowhere. I also like to plan things and cook. I always wanted to have parties, but neither my father nor my husband would let me do that. It also wasn’t like I had anyone to invite over anyway.

I don’t want to get too isolate out here on my own. I would like to be able to have people come over here and enjoy themselves. The idea of being able to actually plan out a menu and feed people and have people come over here makes me really happy.

I don’t want to be ashamed of the place that I live. I would like to have people come here and enjoy themselves. I would like to have an excuse to dress nicely and have a good time with people. This also gives me an incentive to make sure I clean my house properly periodically and not let it slide into chaos.

I am going to cook a complicated special meal once a month

I wrote recently about having a subscription food service. I like to cook, but I find grocery shopping to be overwhelming.

My weekly subscription is really awesome for feeding myself every day, but the meals are by its nature simplified for busy people who don’t have a day to prepare a meal.

There are a bunch of things I want to figure out how to make that are complicated.

I want to actually organize myself by choosing one complicated thing a month that I will make. I will have a targeted list of ingredients so I don’t just randomly start buying things with the idea that I could make a lot of different things.

I think by planning a day, like the second Saturday of every month, to do something special and to have a targeted list of things I want to do, that I can organize myself enough to do something special.

I could try to coordinate this with the entertaining resolution. I would love to have a dinner party. I know no one does that anymore, but I want to do it and I think it would be fun.

I am going to make complicated special dessert once a month

One thing that has disappointed me as an adult is not being able to bake things. My ex took up the Paleo diet, which doesn’t allow for any kind of baking at all.

This sounds totally stupid, but I grew up thinking that I would be able to bring cookies and stuff to work for my co-workers. I haven’t had a job like that since I worked in the call center. Right now I work from home so I don’t have an office to bring things to. At my last office I was discouraged from bringing food in. I brought in doughnuts once and no one would eat them.

I am bothered by how touchy everyone is about food. Everyone is on a perpetual diet. Everyone thinks that if you eat a brownie you are a bad person with no willpower. It really fucking sucks.

So I am going to make something every month. Hopefully I can find people to pawn it off to. If not, I just want to make it for myself. Hopefully I can freeze it. Hopefully I can serve it at something.

It sucks investing time in making something to have people turn their noses up at it and feel virtuous because somehow they are better than you are because they don’t indulge in things that are bad for them. I made stuffed mushrooms for my parents for Christmas Eve and my dad would not keep the leftovers because I put bacon in them. He talked down to me about how I was going to die before I turned forty because I eat bacon a few times a year.

Life is short. Eat cake. Not every day, but sometimes.

I will go on a real vacation this year

The last vacation I went on was in 2013. I went on a cruise during my winter break between semesters at school. My ex and I spent most of the cruise drinking. He discovered that he loved scuba diving. I discovered that the idea of putting my head underwater threw me into a panic attack.

I wanted to spend the whole time laying around the adults-only pool area relaxing and reading programming books. I was forced off the boat at each port. I didn’t get to do anything that I wanted. I got screamed at at least three times. It would have been a wonderful vacation if I had been alone.

I want a real vacation.

I have gone on trips to conferences. I sing for my supper and they’re all working trips. I have gotten to see a lot of amazing places and met a lot of amazing people. It’s been great, but it’s also been exhausting. The last trip I went on I was awake for 24 hours straight.

I wanted to speak at conferences so I could afford to attend a lot of them, but most of the conferences I went to in 2015 were so overwhelming that the only session I attended was my own. I would spend long periods of time hiding out in my room because I was too spent to leave and see others speak.

I have thought about doing vacations before, but the effort for planning one and the cost have been overwhelming to me. I don’t know how people do cheap vacations. If anyone has advice I would be happy to hear it. The cheapest flights I have been able to book are $350. Then it’s hard to find a hotel for less than a hundred bucks a night. If you are gone a week, it’s at least a grand to just get there and be there. I am sure there are cheaper alternatives, but I have been too mentally exhausted to deal with it, so I haven’t looked into alternatives. I have just written off the idea that this is something I can do.

I would like to either do a cruise or an all-inclusive resort. I want to step off the plane someplace warm and not have to think about anything for a week. I want to not worry about feeding myself. I don’t want to worry about finding alcohol. I just want to be able to set somewhere I can relax and do whatever I want when I feel like it. I want no friction. I don’t want to feel bad that I am not going out and visiting historical places or going to museums. I don’t want to have to figure out where I am getting food. I just want to relax and do whatever I feel like.

If anyone has any suggestions for resorts or cruises they liked, I would appreciate it, especially if it’s targeted at singles. A cruise would be twice as expensive for me to travel as a single person. It might still be the best option, but I am open to suggestions that are different.

Rest and Renewal

I am figuring out the hard way that I can’t work all the time. I have been running myself into the ground for the last three years. I needed to do that for the first couple, but I can’t keep doing it anymore.

I have been afraid of backing off at all. I saw people who have been doing the same thing for fifteen years and have gotten complacent that things will never change. They think their jobs will always be there. They don’t try to push to move up or evolve their jobs.

I picked the handle Red Queen Coder because the Red Queen had to run as fast as she could just to stay in one place. If she wanted to get anywhere, she would have to run twice as fast as she was. I have been running twice as fast for the last three years. It’s time to step back to just running and staying in one place. I need to rebuild my energy for the next sprint.

Why Codes of Conduct Are Bullshit

For the last few years I have been watching people go back and forth about Codes of Conduct at conferences. I never really paid that much attention to them because I honestly didn’t care about them one way or another. I figured this would eventually go away, but it hasn’t.

There are a number of reasons I hate Codes of Conduct that I hoped I would never have to write about. I hoped that this would just go away or some other brave soul would address these issues and they would spoken about, but since it doesn’t look like that is the case, I am going to address the various elephants in the room no one wants to talk about.

Codes of Conduct are a Distraction

We are in the month of October, which, among other things, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I also think Breast Cancer Awareness is bullshit.

All those little pink yogurt tops that people collect at work and all the braless days don’t do a fucking thing to actually help cure breast cancer or help survivors of breast cancer.

Everyone is pretty aware of breast cancer and the dangers associated with it. I have the nice breast cancer pink Kitchenaid mixer and had my first mammogram when I found a cyst in my breast the week after I filed for divorce.

People are acting like CoC are some magical talisman that will suddenly make people behave. It’s like they picture Douchebag McBro sitting at his computer looking at a conference without a Code of Conduct saying, “All right! I can go rape at this conference!” You might as well hand out a rabbit’s foot to every conference goer.

All of this talk about making sure the wording is exactly right on your CoC is talking that we are not doing about addressing the underlying issues that make conferences unsafe.

Doesn’t Address the Way Assault Actually Happens

We have a collective fairy tale we tell ourselves about how rape and assault work. Pure virginal girl gets attacked in the bushes on her way home from Bible study by a stranger who attacks her. If something does not fit neatly within that narrative, it tends to get called into question.

Fact: Most assaults happen from people that you know well.

Let’s explore this scenario.

You are a woman have been going to conferences for five years. There is a cute, funny guy that you are friends with that you have seen a couple of times a year for the last three years. You’re both married, but you’re always happy to see him because he is your friend.

Suddenly, one day, after all these years, your friend starts touching you. You look around and you realize that you are alone with this person.

Your first thought is, “Fuck, why is this happening now?”

Your second thought is, “Fuck, how do I short circuit this situation to avoid losing my friend?”

Fact: Women are trained not to give a firm no.

Story time: When I was in fifth grade one of my male classmates would go around at lunch and ask people if they were done with their food because he was always hungry. After he asked all of us, he would ask everyone else in the lunch room, including first and second graders. After he did this for a week, the principal sat him down and said that he was terrorizing the little kids who were afraid to say no to this big fifth grade boy asking for their food, so they gave it to him because they were afraid he would beat them up. He genuinely didn’t think about it that way. He didn’t think about how his age and size would intimidate little kids and he felt bad because it wasn’t his intention to be a bully.

This is why some men who assault women don’t understand that what they did was assault.

Let’s go back to our scenario. I am 5’4. Most of the men at my conferences are over six feet tall. If you’re alone with a man who is a foot taller than you are, you are in danger.

Over the years, most women are socially trained to give a soft no. We grow up inundated with stories about nice guys asking out girls who laugh at them and treat them cruelly. We don’t want to be a bitch. More recently, we see stories posted to Facebook about ten-year-old boys shooting girls who won’t give them their toys. If you were born a woman, there is a constant cloud of potential violence that follows you everywhere you go.

When I go to conferences I have to sit at the end of the table or near a door because I am constantly figuring out exit strategies. I have trouble being on planes because of the number of people I am trapped with. I started paying extra to sit near the front of the plane and get off first because being surrounded by people with no ability to escape triggers panic attacks.

The person doing this is your friend and you think that you can find a way to shut this down where you don’t get assaulted either physically or sexually. So you try to put them off by saying it’s late and you’re tired or you have a headache.

The guy does not hear no. He hears, “Oh, she’s tired, that means that we can go back up to her room. She has a headache. I have some aspirin in my room. I can fix this.”

When the guy does not hear the soft no, or they start pressuring you into going with them, bad things start to happen.

I have PTSD. I was raped in college by a guy who talked his way into my dorm room. When we get to this point in the scenario, I shut down. My brain cannot deal with defending itself from an assault, so I basically withdraw into myself. Sometimes I black out because my brain will not allow me to record what has happened.

When I get assaulted, I don’t scream or kick. I shut down. I lose control of my body and go into shock. I don’t report my assaults because I know that the person assaulting me probably does not understand that they are assaulting me. They are waiting for a firm no. They don’t listen for a soft no or an enthusiastic yes. They start touching me, I shut down, they don’t hear no, so they assume that what they are doing is okay. Sometimes I don’t remember things after a certain point and that I can’t be used as a reliable witness about what happened.

I know within our narrative I am not doing my part. I am supposed to say no before the guy rapes me in order for it to “count.” But that isn’t how most women behave when they are being assaulted. We are afraid, we are disappointed that someone we trusted is doing this to us, and we are paralyzed because we do not know what to do.

It makes me angry when someone puts me in this situation. It is not fair. It rips out a piece of my soul every time this happens.

Which brings me to my next problem with Codes of Conduct.

No Talk of Personal Responsibility

I feel like the people in charge of the current tech feminist bullhorn are adopting the “Pedestrians and Bicyclist” form of personal safety and responsibility.

I live in Madison, WI. We have a university here where the students who walk and ride bike will walk into oncoming traffic without looking. Sometimes they will purposely look away from oncoming traffic and trust that the cars coming will respect their right of way and not run them over.

You cannot put your personal safety in the hands of other people.

In the case of the students, they don’t think about a driver that is distracted by their phone or their toddler in the back seat. They don’t take into consideration the crazy cab driver I had once who saw a student pull this and floored it and aimed the car at him.

Codes of Conduct talk about expected behavior. If you don’t behave the way you’re supposed to, you get kicked out. Seems fair, except it doesn’t address the damage done to the person being assaulted.

My understanding is that this recent push for Codes of Conduct are because of this incident.

In this incident, the person was assaulted in public. A bystander stepped in to break it up. The man lost his job. This is the best possible outcome that you can get from an assault.

Justine still is damaged by what happened.

It’s like the pedestrians and the car. Yes, you might have the right of way, but if someone is distracted and hits you, it doesn’t matter if they go to jail and feel guilty for the rest of their life, you are still damaged by their action.

Any conversation about safety at conferences must talk about what we can do to keep ourselves safe. No one fucking talks about this. Everyone wants to yell at men and tell them that everything they do could possibly be considered assault instead of talking to women about how to create our own safety net.

I want to see conversations where women exchange phone numbers to keep one another safe. I want to see women making their own network of people where you can all look out for one another. Girls do this in college when they go out, why aren’t we talking about doing this as adults?

The reason is that members of our community think we shouldn’t have to. They are not concerned about keeping women safe, they’re concerned with controlling the conversation and having this as a weapon to wield against anyone who isn’t completely on board with their cause.

Which brings my last point.

Shuts Down Open Communication

I recently read an article that says that boys going to college don’t know what rape is. I can believe this.

It is very difficult to give black and white, clear definitions about what assault looks like. I have tried to by explaining things from my own perspective and to give men an idea what to look out for. The fact that we aren’t having open conversations about this shit is one reason that it keeps happening.

Most men that I know are good guys who want to do the right thing. They don’t know how to do that. They are basically being told that everything they do could be seen as assault, so don’t do anything.

This leads to an environment where genuine predators can get sympathy for being rapists because everyone is secretly terrified that they will be falsely accused of rape.

There are very clear things people can do to make sure they are not assaulting someone. It’s not romantic, but ask if you can someone. If you’re a guy that I like and you ask if it’s okay to touch me, I will respect you for it. Quit following the “ask forgiveness rather than seek permission” shit. Also, if you are married and you’re trying to have an affair with me, I am judging you.

Alternatives to Code of Conduct

I was asked by Gem Barrett yesterday what I would suggest as an alternative to Code of Conduct. At that point I really didn’t know how to answer. I don’t think we should offload the responsibility of keeping ourselves safe to another person. I do not think there is much a conference organizer can do in the middle of the night if one of their attendees is being a dick. I can guarantee you that no conference organizer wants an assault to happen at their conference.

This is what I am going to do.

At every conference I go to, I am going to find all the women and any men that I trust and I will give them my number. I want to organize a support structure for the women attending the conference where they have at least one person they can reach out to if they don’t feel safe. If you go out, go with a buddy. Stick to your buddy. Both of you leave or neither of you leave. Call someone to make sure they got back to their room okay.

If you’re at a conference and you find someone who doesn’t have a support structure yet, be their friend. Introduce them to other people. Look out for them. I have yet to attend any conference where there was not at least one other woman. Stick together. Support one another. This should not be the responsibility of the conference organizer. It’s our skin in the game. We have the most to lose. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we are safe.

I am also saying on here that I will answer any questions that anyone might have about anything I have written here. I think people are too afraid to get information that they need and I would rather be asked than have someone live in perpetual fear that everything they are doing is wrong.

I love this community. One reason I joined this community was because people were tolerant of beginners. If I didn’t understand something, I could ask without anyone making me feel bad for not knowing something. This has been a friendly, supportive community and I want to see it continue to be so.

I am fucking sick and tired of seeing people argue about semantics on a form rather than having meaningful discussions about keeping our community safe for everyone. If this is going to devolve into a community where everyone is afraid of voicing their own opinion if it doesn’t correlate to whatever the loudest person in the room is, then I don’t want to be a member of this community anymore.

Thank you.

NSScotland Absence

Hi. I announced a year ago that I was going to be speaking at NSScotland. I had been invited to speak while I was still a student, but I was broke and couldn’t afford to go. I was incredibly sad about it and was really looking forward to going this year.

I have written on here about how I went through a divorce this year. I lost all the equity in my house and lost any savings I thought I had. I basically started out from zero this year. Honestly, it was terrifying. I have never paid my own bills or done a budget before. Having no buffer and not being certain that I would live within my means terrified the crap out of me. When we filed for divorce, we were $30,000 in debt. I was going to have less than half the money available to me to pay more expenses and I was honestly terrified.

I gave up a few trips this year to give myself some breathing room. I was told by a lot of people to go to Alt Conf when I didn’t get a ticket to WWDC, but I really couldn’t justify taking my buffer and spending it on that trip. I also couldn’t justify spending the money on Scotland, so I tearfully had to tell Alan that I couldn’t make it this year. He was very understanding.

I have been very troubled over many of the things I have heard about NSScotland over the last few months. I was at a conference where a friend of mine told me that Alan had gotten into a huge fight with Cate Huston over her attending NSScotland and had behaved rather badly.

This took me by surprise. I have not met Alan in person, but I have known him for two years and have not seen him behave this way. This friend of mine is very involved in the feminist tech community, which I am not, so I wasn’t certain what was going on. I didn’t defend Alan at that point because I felt it was necessary to hear all the sides of a story before I pass judgement.

I met Cate Huston at 360iDev. We spoke briefly. She mentioned not going to a conference because of a Code of Conduct issue. Having spoken to both Alan a friend of mine, I asked if she was speaking about NSScotland.

She became very hostile towards me and snarled at me, “How do you know about that?! I only told three people about that and one of them certainly wasn’t you!” I panicked a little and mentioned my friend who talked to me about it a few months earlier. She again snarled at me that she didn’t know this person. I was honestly a little frightened. This was, at this point, common knowledge among people in the iOS community and having someone act like I had hacked their email or read their diary was a little unsettling.

I thought all of this would die down, but it hasn’t. So I am going to defend Alan.

Running a Conference

Running a conference is a pain in the ass. People do not make money off of conferences. Conferences are a service that people do in order for our community to be an awesome place to be.

I have met a lot of amazing people at conferences and been able to maintain relationships that I otherwise would not because I get to see people a few times a year at a common gathering place.

I have become friends with people who run conferences and their selflessness always astonishes me. These are wonderful people who deserve to be treated with respect who are working to make the community a better place.

I really try to give the organizers the benefit of the doubt because of the work they do and the impact it has had on me personally.

I honestly do not give a shit about Codes of Conduct.

I attended one conference with a Code of Conduct where one of the keynote speakers made sexist remarks and insulted everyone in the audience. I live-tweeted what was going on and rather than taking my concerns seriously, the organizer pressured me into removing them rather than listening to the fact that he had hired someone to come and insult the people at his conference. I will never go to this conference again. I understand that he was under a lot of pressure, but the way he behaved was atrocious.

I know that Alan sometimes makes comments that could be considered inappropriate. I know that he knows that. We speak a lot and he is always worried about offending me. I am an adult and if he says something that crosses a line, I tell him. I have an inappropriate sense of humor and I don’t want people walking on eggshells around me worrying about offending me. If something offends me, I will tell you. If you don’t do it again, we’re good.

I only have problems when someone tries to exert control over me to manipulate me into doing something I don’t want to do. That is what happened and the previously mentioned conference, which is why I will never go back there.

I tried to get Alan to come on my podcast, but he won’t speak publicly about what happened. If Alan was a woman, this would elicit outrage and whoever was causing the issue would have a hoard of people spamming their Twitter feed yelling at them. I don’t think it’s okay for this to happen to Alan because he is a man. Bullying is bullying and it makes me angry that a member of our community doesn’t feel comfortable talking about what is happening with them.

I want people to lay off of Alan. He has been nothing but supportive of me since before I was anyone. He sent me a copy of “Smalltalk Design Patterns” by Kent Beck when I said I wanted to be a better programmer. He was very disappointed that more women couldn’t speak at his conference. I think he’s trying to make the community better for women and I am deeply disappointed that this is happening to him. He’s one of the good guys. I support him. I hope that this blows over and that his reputation isn’t irreparably damaged by this, but I don’t hold out hope on that front. I am saddened that this is happening in a community that I love and I hope that it can be cleared up and resolved without anyone being the bad guy.

I do not want to make this sound like a hit piece on Cate. I do not know her well and I do not want this to come off as me attacking her. I know that she has gone through things I have not. I can see a scenario where the two of them misunderstood one another and things escalated in a way neither of them would like. I am not saying that either of them are wrong, I simply think this is a situation that has grown out of control because no one has been willing to say anything about it.

I know this will probably earn me some angry responses, but I don’t give a shit. I will speak my mind. I am sorry if my opinion is different than yours, but it is my right to say what I think. I have become somewhat prominent in the community recently and I feel I have a responsibility to use that visibility to make this a better community for everyone. Making Alan’s life miserable doesn’t make things better for women.

Meaningful Relationships and the Art of Networking

Family

My father and I have had arguments about family for most of my life. My father keeps insisting that now that I am an adult I should make a pilgrimage twice a year to go to his family reunions. I don’t see the point in going to these because I had many of these events from my childhood where I felt kind of like we were the Anne of Cleeves juice glass in the collection of wives of Henry VIII. We needed to be there so that there would be a complete set of my father’s siblings and family, but once we were accounted for we were kind of ignored and forgotten.

I came to terms with this at some point in my early adulthood because, honestly, what do you say to people you only see twice a year? Most of my relatives were much older than I was. My cousins were in college and getting married when I was in Jr. High. We were at different points in our lives.

The advent of Facebook and the Internet has made it much easier to connect with my relatives and keep up with what they are doing. We’re also now all adults and it’s a little easier to connect with people when you’re at the same point in your life.

Yet still I fight with my father over the necessity to go there and see people in person. We would have incredibly heated arguments over this and I could never articulate why this bothered me so much until recently, and yes, it does has something to do with networking.

Meaningful Relationships

I guess the things that bothers me about going to various family reunions is that they are perfunctory and superficial. You go, you say hi to the host, you eat your sandwich, you go home.

I observed over many years that most people’s relationships with their families were much different than my own.

I grew up in a very small town where most people had a huge network of cousins and other relatives who were all around the same age. They were thick as thieves in school and continue to voluntarily spend time together as adults. People weren’t just cousins, they were friends as well.

My cousins were not my friends. I really think that they could have been.

I remember as a kid being hauled to the family Christmas brunch where I would usually find a nice corner to sit in and read my Babysitter’s Club books while I waited for presents to be opened so that we could go back to the hotel and go swimming. One thing that happened every year was that my cousins would all go out to a movie and I was always invited to go. My dad would tell them no, I wasn’t allowed to go with them.

After a few years they stopped asking and whatever relationship I had with them withered until I became an adult and reconnected with them on social media.

My mother’s family was closer in both age and geographically and I barely saw them either. I will now go on Facebook and see every cousin of my mother’s, except her, go on a week-long camping trip and other various adventures that we are never included in because we’re not really a member of the family.

I keep fighting with my dad because I think we have different ideas of what “family” is.

My dad thinks that family is people you are related to by blood who are obligated to take you in if you are in trouble. He sees them like Social Security. You show up once a year to let them know you are alive so that if you are at a point where you might not be you can show up with your hand out and expect to be taken care of.

To me, what I observed, is that family are your social circle and your safety net. Family is people you want to spend time with and who you want to help if they’re in trouble. My dad has no interest in a meaningful relationship with any member of his or my mother’s extended family and he assumes that the blood tie is enough to fulfill this goal.

So What Does this Have to do with Networking?

I’ve noticed that some people are taking the wrong approach to networking.

Many people think that having several hundred LinkedIn connections is a network. It isn’t.

Jeremy Sherman was talking at the mini-360iDev in Greenville last year about how he networked with a journalist he hoped would feature him in a piece for his magazine. The only reason this tactic worked was because Jeremy actually made friends with this person. They liked one another and it was a real, meaningful relationship. He made it clear it wasn’t a mercenary tactic, he just really wanted to befriend the guy and that it worked out because he treated the journalist as a human being and not an opportunity.

All of the opportunities I have had have come from having meaningful relationships with people in this community.

It means a lot to me that the Kleins, the Remsiks, and the Wilkers have given me the opportunity to speak at their conferences. I like all of them as people very much. If I didn’t get to speak at 360iDev in two weeks (buy your tickets!), I would still like the Wilkers very much and would have found a way to go (but I am glad I didn’t have to).

I made friends with Chris Adamson because I liked the work that he did. We hung out at Anime Central the last two years because we were friends and we both had a mutual enjoyment of anime.

If I had gone into my friendship with him with the agenda that I was going to get something out of him, our friendship would never have materialized. People can sense users a mile away. Don’t be a user.

I am at a point right now where if I lost my job this afternoon, I have a large number of people I would go to for help, not just to find another job, but just because they’re friends who I think can give me advice and comfort about what to do. I have a lot of people in this community that I consider to be close friends and confidants and it makes my life and career richer for having a meaningful relationship with them.

Networking is about building meaningful relationships with people. It’s about seeing them as people and spending time with them even if it doesn’t immediately get you anything. It’s about finding people you genuinely like and who genuinely like you. If you go to one conference and meet someone once and never follow up with them, then I am sorry, they are not a connection in your network.

If you’re going to go to the expense and time of attending a conference, make the most of it. Meet as many people as you can. Find people who like the same things you do and keep in touch with them. You can’t pick your family, but you can pick the people you choose to be connected to.