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Estelle Weyl
Master of non-sequiturs. Open Web Standardista.
Master of non-sequiturs. Open Web Standardista.

Estelle's posts

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Interesting statistics: 30 years ago, the number of drunk driving fatalities in the US was about the same as the number of deaths by firearms. (1982 drunk driving deaths: 21,113 / 1982 firearms deaths: 20,336)

Since then, however, the number of drunk driving deaths has decreased by 52%, while the number of deaths by firearms has increased by 54%. (2010 drunk driving deaths: 10,228 / 2010 firearms deaths: 31,513)

Obviously, things were done that enabled the number of drunk driving deaths to go down by half without making either cars or alcohol illegal.

Maybe it's time we put the same effort into reducing deaths by firearms.

How's that for a radical idea?

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Next Saturday is "Confident Coding: Everything You Need to Know"
Saturday, October 20, 2012
835 Market Street
San Francisco, CA
9:00 am to 5:00 pm


More info:

We will cover the everything you need to know OUTSIDE of programming languages to be a developer. We won't be covering the most commonly covered skills related to web development like HTML, CSS, JavaScript and mid-tier technologies like PHP, SASS, Ruby and Python. Rather, we're covering everything else you need to know to be successful: from the technical aspects of Git, bash and protocols, to practical front-end concerns involving servers like debugging, performance, FTP, response headers, SSL and command line. 

Here are some of the sessions:

Full-Stack & Full Circle: What The Heck Happens in An HTTP Request, and Why It’s Worth Knowing (Carina Zona, Independent)
Automate All the Things (Kitt Hodsden, Twitter)
Getting to Know the Command Line: Your New BFF? (Elle Yoko Suzuki, Berkeley)
Git and SSH, FTP and friends (Lorna Mitchell, Independent)
Browser Developer Tools: Debugging your scripts (Doris Chen, Microsoft)

I'll be presenting too.

Tickets are still available. Our goal is to increase gender diversity in our profession. If you don't identify as female, queer or trans, you are welcome to come too. We do encourage you to bring someone who does identify as such.

Women have traditionally earned 77 on the dollar. Taking advantage of this disparity, use the discount code EQUALITY to get 23% of the admission of just $65 (which includes light breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages).

We're also still accepting lightning talks. If you have a suggestion for a 5 to 10 minute presentation on a skill you need to know, other than programming languages, to be an awesome, confident developer, please suggest them.

I hope to see you on October 20, 2012


Is Mitt Romney generous? 

He donated * A LOT * of money to charity. But what are those charities?

He donated to two charities: his church and his own foundation. 

Foundations are charities, and they are required by law to distribute 5% of assets annually. He did just that. His foundation contributed 5% of the foundation's assets, the minimum required by law. So, where did that $650,000 go?

Those donations went mostly to his church ($145,000) and other LDS/UT activities ($145,00 more), his and his children's schools, the Bush library ($100,000) and MS/health ($135,000), He donated $15K to the abstinence-only Best Friends Foundation, $10K to the US Equestrian team.

Does that make him über generous? Doing the minimum required? Mostly to his church ($290K) and for personal political gain ($100,000)? 

If we don't judge the other contributions (hard not to think the Equestrian team donation didn't personally benefit the Romneys), his contributes total $260,000 out of $21,000,000, or a bit over 1%. Relatively, that's $619 for a person earning $50,000. Personally, I don't view myself as philanthropic, but I give a much larger percent of my money and my time.

See where he donated.

Is Romney generous? He donated a lot to charity. But what are those charities. He donated to his church and his foundation. His foundation, in turn, only donated 5% of assets. Those donations went mostly to his churce (and other LDS activities), the Bush library, and MS. See where he donated.

Amendment 1 to the constitution begins with:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

The argument that the bible says that marriage is between one man and one woman as the basis for any laws goes against our constitution. Yet, you'll find that the most ardent opponents to gay marriage are the most ardent supporters of less government. If you are against gay marriage for religious reasons, the government can not and should not force you to get gay married. However, the government can not and should not prevent you from getting gay married based on what is interpreted by some as the biblical definition of marriage.

Got to share today's ego booster:

Select This!
Surprisingly my favorite talk of the day. There was no subtle product agenda here, just a speaker talking about all the different ways you can select DOM elements using CSS2 and CSS3. Even though CSS3 support isn't there in all browsers yet, the element selectors are also used in jQuery, so this was super useful for me. Learned a bunch of was to improve my CollectWeb code. Good stuff all around. I'll be writing better front end code thanks to this talk.
-from an internal review of HTML5DevConf in SF on Monday.

Now I have to go widen my doors so my ego can fit thru...

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Welcome to the United States of America, where you can get arrested with force for being on public streets built with your tax dollars.

Please don't think that you aren't guru enough to speak at conferences! I have attended conferences and hack-a-thons where I have caught mistake after mistake from people who label themselves as gurus in fields i don't feel anywhere near guru-esque.

So, you don't have to label yourself a guru (I certainly don't claim to be a guru of anything, other than making chocolate desserts and self-invented mixed drinks). Just realize that many people speaking at conferences aren't gurus at all. They just feel comfortable enough in a single sub-topic to present on that topic. Realize, if someone knows your topic like the back of their hand, they're not going to attend your session. Instead, they'll attend a session where the material is new.

So, while I truly believe all speakers should be competent in their subject matter (and i have seen many 'great' presentations where the material was well presented but actually wrong .... don't do that please), you don't need to be a guru in all aspects of the subject to speak on it. For example, i speak on HTML5 at HTML5 conferences, even though I feel completely less than competent speaking, coding or teaching the <canvas> API. I just don't teach <canvas>. So, if you are really can't explain closures to save your life, but you are a pro at integrating YQL with geolocation, submit a talk on YQL for location based results.

Please, please, please submit talks in the niches you feel comfortable in. If all women wait until they master every nuance of their primary programming language we likely would have even fewer female presenters. If, in general, men waited for complete mastery too, we likely wouldn't have enough presenters to have conferences.

Also, remember that what we individually know really, really well may seem easy to us. To easy for a conference. Remember, it wasn't always easy. If you think it's too easy to present, that means you know it really, really well and you can likely teach it. Maybe it really isn't that easy. And, if it really is too easy, the conference organizers can always say no. But, they can't say "yes" if you don't apply.

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Not only are PIPA and SOPA the wrong "solution", is the rationale on which they are based real or completely overblown by the lobbyists arguing for their passage?
I was pleased to see the measured tone of the White House response to the citizen petition about #SOPA and #PIPA!/response/combating-online-piracy-while-protecting-open-and-innovative-internet

and yet I found myself profoundly disturbed by something that seems to me to go to the root of the problem in Washington: the failure to correctly diagnose the problem we are trying to solve, but instead to accept, seemingly uncritically, the claims of various interest groups. The offending paragraph is as follows:

"Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders."

In the entire discussion, I've seen no discussion of credible evidence of this economic harm. There's no question in my mind that piracy exists, that people around the world are enjoying creative content without paying for it, and even that some criminals are profiting by redistributing it. But is there actual economic harm?

In my experience at O'Reilly, the losses due to piracy are far outweighed by the benefits of the free flow of information, which makes the world richer, and develops new markets for legitimate content. Most of the people who are downloading unauthorized copies of O'Reilly books would never have paid us for them anyway; meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of others are buying content from us, many of them in countries that we were never able to do business with when our products were not available in digital form.

History shows us, again and again, that frontiers are lawless places, but that as they get richer and more settled, they join in the rule of law. American publishing, now the largest publishing industry in the world, began with piracy. (I have a post coming on that subject on Monday.)

Congress (and the White House) need to spend time thinking hard about how best to grow our economy - and that means being careful not to close off the frontier, or to harm those trying to settle it, in order to protect those who want to remain safe at home. British publishers could have come to America in the 19th century; they chose not to, and as a result, we grew our own indigenous publishing industry, which relied at first, in no small part, on pirating British and European works.

If the goal is really to support jobs and the American economy, internet "protectionism" is not the way to do it.

It is said (though I've not found the source) that Einstein once remarked that if given 60 minutes to save the world, he would spend 55 of them defining the problem. And defining the problem means collecting and studying real evidence, not the overblown claims of an industry that has fought the introduction of every new technology that has turned out, in the end, to grow their business rather than threaten it.

P.S. If Congress and the White House really want to fight pirates who are hurting the economy, they should be working to rein in patent trolls. There, the evidence of economic harm is clear, in multi-billion dollar transfers of wealth from companies building real products to those who have learned how to work the patent system while producing no value for consumers.

P. P.S. See also my previous piece on the subject of doing an independent investigation of the facts rather than just listening to the appeals of lobbyists, see
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