All in for AcWriMo 2014

November is just around the corner, which means once again it’s time for AcWriMo! For those who don’t know, AcWriMo is the academic’s version of NaNoWriMo (in which people pledge to write a novel during the month of November). The academic version is a bit more fluid—participants set their own academic writing goals for the month, declare these publicly, then write write write “like there’s no December!”.

I’ll admit that I waffled a bit on whether to participate or not this year. I’ve participated the past 2 years, with considerably more success in 2012 than in 2013. I already know it’s going to be a busy, busy month. And yet, I sort of need a kick in the pants as far as my research goes—I’ve stalled a bit and have been spinning my wheels, so if properly executed, this challenge might just get me unstuck and moving forward again.

So, I’ve decided I’m in!

I have 2 goals this month:

  1. Revise my failed NSF proposal from 2012. This was the plan for last year, but ultimately I was not able to revise the grant sufficiently enough for resubmission. I need and want to resubmit it this year. My goal here is to get as much of the narrative and supporting documents done as possible, meet with our awesome grants person, figure out where the holes are, and make a concrete, specific plan to fill in those holes before the deadline (and, more realistically, before I have to start reviewing applications for our tenure-track job, in mid-December).
  2. Draft my next conference paper. I have nothing in the publication pipeline right now. There’s some old data that I’ve never written up for publication, and I sense that some of our newer work might be almost ready to send out. The work-in-progress paper that we successfully submitted this summer shows me that there’s definite interest in our new work, so the sooner I can get some of this data out, the better.

Up until last week, I was really good about protecting my research time (although I don’t always spend this time productively—see “spinning my wheels”, above), and I already have time blocked out on my calendar for research 3 days a week. I plan on carving out a bit more time (20-30 minutes) on my busier days (Tuesdays and Thursdays), and carving out some time on Sunday evenings as well (which I’m hoping will set the mood for the week).

To combat some of the problems I had last year making progress, I plan on having specific, measurable goals/tasks for each writing session (word count, sections revised, checklist written, etc), which I’ll try and set out every week in advance. I’m also going to embrace the strategy of writing as a means of figuring out what to do next, i.e. start with drafting a section as a means of figuring out what data I need, how I will present it, etc. I think this will be the key to get me unstuck in my current work. I’ve done this with great success in the past, so I just need to get back into this habit (and then follow through with actually doing the rest of the work!).

You can follow my AcWriMo exploits on Twitter (@drcsiz), or follow AcWriMo more broadly on Twitter using the hashtag #acwrimo.

Here’s hoping for a productive November!

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Male allies, trusting the system, and tone deafness at GHC

Every year, I look forward to attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I enjoy being in a space with so many other talented technical women at all stages of their careers, from students to CTOs, where I can network, meet new people, meet up with old friends, hear about some cool research, get advice, and learn new things. One of the aspects I most enjoy is the “safe space” aspect—it’s nice to be in a space where I am not “other”, where women’s voices are heard and cherished.

When I first looked at the program a couple of weeks ago, I noticed an increased male presence on the program. Which, ok, fine, involving men in the discussion about diversity in tech (or the extreme lack thereof) is in theory an excellent idea, and can be done well and thoughtfully in practice. But there are many, many ways in which these conversations can be executed poorly, and I’ll admit to some trepidation about some aspects of the program.

Unfortunately, these conversations at Grace Hopper were executed poorly, with a level of overall tone deafness that I find astounding. (I’m not surprised at the tone deafness itself, but rather at the level of tone deafness exhibited.)

First, there was yesterday’s Male Allies panel. Full disclosure: I did not attend this talk, but you can read about it in all its spectacular train wreckiness. One of my students showed me a filled out Bingo card from the event. The only positive thing I can say is that at least the most egregious things on the card were not checked off, but other than that….ugh. If these are our male allies, then we’re in big, big trouble.

But wait, there’s more! This morning’s keynote promised “Satya Nadella [CEO of Microsoft] in conversation with Maria Klawe [President of Harvey Mudd College].” In reality, it was “Maria Klawe [the flippin’ President of Harvey Mudd College, let me remind you!] Asks Satya Nadella Questions from the Twitterverse.” Yeah. It wasn’t all a train wreck, I suppose. Until Satya made a comment about how women should trust the system and not ask for raises. Yes, that’s right, women in tech, if you just work hard enough then the universe will recognize your contributions and you’ll get your due, so don’t make a fuss and put your head down and get back to work, sweetie!

Yep. Tone. Deaf.

Frankly, I am disheartened, and most of all disappointed, in the Anita Borg Institute and the program committee. Is it important to involve men in these discussions? Yes. Is it important to have panels on male allies? Absolutely. But for the love of all that is good and holy, let’s make sure that those allies actually act like allies and have a clue. Let’s make sure those discussions don’t continue the stereotypes and tired tropes. Let’s get people who actually know what they are talking about, who follow and promote best practices, who don’t put all the burden/blame on women (and who understand the very real consequences that women experience when they do choose to speak out and speak up), and most importantly, who know their blind spots and are willing to listen and learn and improve.

Let’s let Maria Klawe and Satya Nadella have an actual, substantive, and frank conversation about how the culture in tech is not all that it could be and discuss concrete ideas for how that might change. Let’s have women on the male allies panel, or better yet, have a male allies workshop and better equip men to be effective allies. Let’s vet these things better, for pete’s sake!

Please, just please, organizers of GHC, let’s not have a repeat of the train wreck this year. I expect much better from you.