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Archive for June, 2010

Girl Geek Dinners Officially Arrive in Edmonton

Friday, June 11th, 2010

First Edmonton Girl Geek Dinner attendeesLast night I attended the inaugural Edmonton Girl Geek Dinner, organized by the well-known Brittney Le Blanc from iNews880 and local Out Inc marketing mistress Shauna McConechy.

Girl Geek Dinners started in 2005 in England when its founder Sarah Blow had enough of attending technical events where she was among one of the only female attendees and frustrated by stereotypes that assumed she was only knowledgable about marketing and branding. She knew there were other women out there working and geeking out over technology, so she brought them together and started Girl Geek Dinners as a way of creating a female-centric community to connect tech women over good food and incredibly nerdy conversations of all kinds and colours.

Girl Geek Dinners have spread around the world in the last few years, and now — thanks to Brittney and Shauna — they’ve officially come to Edmonton.

There were a limited run of tickets to the first dinner; I was fortunate enough to snap one up the day they were announced, and have been looking forward to the event since then. The fist series of 20 tickets sold out so fast (four hours!) that an additional 10 were added, and those sold out within only a couple of days. It was fantastic to see so much immediate interest in the event right off the get-go! A couple of geek men were also in attendance, but the majority of us were women in technology and science. (Men must be invited by an attending woman, and women may invite only one man in order to keep the ratio to at least 50/50: this is, after all, a female meetup above and beyond anything else.)

First order of the night was a round of introductions that included each person providing their background, occupation and “geek credentials”, and it was a great ice breaker to come out of the geek closet and discover so many women with shared and similar interests from gadgets and gaming to role playing and crafting.

Shauna and Brittney gave a brief talk about their vision for Girl Geek Dinners in Edmonton that will include speakers, community blogging and event nights. One of the things they’re keen to do that struck me as particularly awesome is organize a dinner to connect women in tech with high school girls in Edmonton to help spread the word and encourage more females to pursue technology, math and science programs and careers. The more of us there are, the better off all of us are: there are still a lot of stereotypes and artificial, cultural barriers that discourage girls and young women from entering the industry, and I can’t think of a better way to encourage them than to get them hanging out with a group of successful tech women in their community. I definitely hope to be able to attend that dinner!

After there were door prizes (I won a free ticket to the next Girl Geek Dinner in July at Lux Steakhouse! Awesome!) and much mingling. It was a fantastic night, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the range of people who were there, particularly when it came to spanning age demographics. As a twenty-something geek, it was very cool to meet and chat with other geek generations!

Big thanks to Ceili’s Irish Pub and Restaurant who hosted and sponsored the event, providing one free drink per head and free appetizer plates. Ceili’s has a reputation in Edmonton for being good to the Twitter community, and the service was excellent!

Keep up with the latest from YEGGirlGeek Dinners by following their Twitter feed or subscribing to their official blog. Hope to see you out at the next dinner in July!

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When Floating Web Elements Go Bad

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Floating elements along the sides, tops or bottoms of web pages — usually displaying some sort of persistent social media cue or functional element of the website — are all the rage, and I can see why. It’s a neat trick and, when used correctly, is a snazzy, mostly unobtrusive way to include a persistent piece of information. It can be small and still get noticed by virtue of being the only thing on the page that isn’t scrolling.

Except. Now we get things like this:

badly designed floating web elementsI’ve accepted the realities of animated gifs flashing across the outskirts of webpages like giant annoying fireflies trying to distract me from the reason I went to the page in the first place, which was to read content. I harrumph at those irritating automatically expanding banner ads that unexpectedly push the page content down, but dutifully wait for it to finish so I can collapse the thing and get on with my reading. I even deal with my hard knock life when I inadvertently set off expanding-popup-video ads by sliding my mouse past them.

But when websites start layering these things over my content they’ve gone too far. This Twitter bar is overlapping the content I’m trying to read — the reason I came to this website in the first place — and it’s doing it mid-page along the side, right where my eyes are most comfortable reading and where I scroll content to centre in. If this floated along the bottom or very top of the screen and covered text it would be less intrusive because that’s at the very outskirts of where I read anyway, but mid-page is smack dab in my field of vision. Also note there’s no way to get rid of or collapse the layer: I’m forced to either read above or below it, or to intuit the missing letters it covers.

The most frustrating part is this is such an easy, no-brainer fix: add ten or fifteen pixels of margin space on the left and the problem goes away. This is just shoddy and lazy web design and usability, and it raises my hackles.

Look. I get that advertising revenue is how the Internet stays in business. I don’t use add blockers and I begrudgingly put up with seizure-inducing flashing gifs and pop-out cars driving across my screen and videos with auto-play functionality because I understand websites do cost money to host and maintain, especially the successful ones. Advertising on the web is a reality of the current system where people expect everything online to be free and don’t understand there are real costs to the people behind the websites they love, and as people get better at ignoring ads the ads have to get better at being noticed.

But once these elements start permanently obfuscating the content that brings me to and keeps me on the website, we have a problem. The way I’ll solve my half of the problem is by not coming back.

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