Finding Ada event update, Media140 and OpenTech

I had been planning to do a Finding Ada evening event in June, but I’m afraid to say that I’m going to have to postpone it for a while. I’ve been up to my poor beleaguered eyeballs with work, which is a great and wonderful thing that makes me happy. On top of that, I’ve also been moving house. This has meant that I’ve not had the time to do the basic legwork work that’s required to get an event off the ground and rather than go off half-cocked, I thought it best to postpone it til the end of the summer. I’ll be setting a new date with NESTA, who are kindly providing the venue and will let you all know as soon as that’s done. Please accept my apologies for the delay, but rest assured that it will happen!

In the meantime, I’m putting together a weekend day out to Bletchley Park. I’ll blog more about that when I have a date sorted, but I’m very excited about going to the centre of geek history in the UK!

In other news, I took part in Be2Camp North via Skype a couple of weeks ago, talking about Ada Lovelace Day. It’s always a bit tough to do a talk remotely, but it was fun and I was very happy to be able to take part.

I also spoke at the Media140 conference last week, talking about Ada Lovelace Day and the part that Twitter played in promoting the day. Each panellist had only five minutes to talk about their subject, which meant I couldn’t really go in depth, but Adam Tinworth has a good summary of what I did say. Despite the brevity, it was good to share some of the insights I gained from Ada Lovelace Day (I didn’t mention all of these during my 5 mins):

  • The pledge asked people to do something they were probably going to do anyway, e.g. blog, but asked them to focus on a specific subject, i.e. women in tech. That made it much more attractive and much easier to recruit participants.
  • Using Pledgebank made participation visible, which helps encourage others to join in.
  • Twitter was the most popular mode of communication. @findingada has 1,124 followers now, whereas the mailing list has just 37 members.
  • The Facebook events page was a bit of a fail. Many Facebookers just didn’t seem to be interested in signing the pledge, they were much more inward-facing. In fact, only 300 of the 1200 people who signed up to the Facebook event page also signed the pledge. This means we had over 2800 interested people all together, but it’s impossible to judge exactly how many took part on the day. I won’t use Facebook again next year because it fragmented the conversation and participation in an unhelpful way.
  • Making messages easy to retweet helped the meme spread, as did the fact that it was something that resonated with people.
  • After an initial burst of enthusiasm in the first week, it was hard to keep the momentum going and keep the sign-ups coming in. Next year, I’ll have to think of ways to keep the sign-ups rolling in.
  • Once you hit a certain number of followers, it becomes hard to keep Twitter conversational and it becomes a bit broadcast. I really don’t know what one can do about that.

We will have another Ada Lovelace Day next year, and hopefully will have the time to be a little bit more organised. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to take off the way that it did, so it all rather took me by surprise!

Finally, I’m putting together a session on women in tech for OpenTech 2009, on 4th July, more info on which later. Please do come along.

What do you want the first Finding Ada event to be?

Now that Ada Lovelace Day is behind us, it’s time to think about how to go about nurturing women working in technology. There are many groups already doing this, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s not a saturated market. I have already set a date with NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, for our first event which will be on June 10th.

My question to you is, what event would you like to see? My current ideas are:

  • Meet the Conference Organisers: A short talk on what conference organisers are looking for in a speaker, how to bring yourself to their attention and how to get the right experience, followed by a “speed dating” session women can meet the different conference organisers.
  • Meet the Press: A discussion about the way that women in technology raise their own profile in the media, a few tips on dealing with the press, and a chance to talk to different tech journalists.
  • Presentation Skills: A talk on how to give good presentations, followed by lightning talks (strictly 5 minutes each) or PowerPoint Karaoke.

Which of those ideas do you most fancy? Or do you have other ideas that you’d like to float, whether for themes or session speakers? I’m hoping to make a decision on this very soon, so please chip in!

Bringing women and conference organisers together

Welcome to Finding Ada, a conference for women – and men – in tech who are interested in learning how to write, plan and give presentations, and who want to meet conference organisers and understand how to get onto the conference circuit.

We all know that there are rarely enough women speaking at conferences, and it’s time to do something about it! Finding Ada hopes to help women gain confidence in their speaking ability and draw attention to the huge number of smart, knowledgeable women in the tech industry who are just itching to get up on stage and share their expertise.

You’ve found Finding Ada right at the beginning of the event planning process. The conference will be held some time in 2009, somewhere in London, but you’ll have to join our mailing list or follow us on Twitter to find out more! We’ll let you know just as soon as we have more details.

We already have interest from various potential sponsors. If you would like to join them in supporting Finding Ada, please email Suw Charman-Anderson.