link blog: diversity in tech

Just one link today, but I have some feelings about it:

The 10 most in-demand skills of 2019, according to LinkedIn: Saving you a click, here they are: time management, adaptability, collaboration, persuasion, creativity, UX design, people management, analytical reasoning, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing. “Instead of emphasizing the need for specific titles and experience, organizations are shifting towards a focus on the skills that a potential employee may bring.”

They irony (and forgive my pessimism here) is the number of resumes I’ve sent out with this in mind (and many matching skills)… without so much as an interview.

Here is my challenge to employers:

If you’re dedicated to improving diversity in tech, you need to lower the barriers for entry. We need more entry-level and early-mid-level positions, with the expectation that we are going to knock your socks off because of how quickly we’ll pick up the extra skills and experience you’re looking for, by just giving us a chance to prove it.

The tech industry is historically and overwhelmingly white, straight, (cis-)male, able-bodied, neurotypical, young, and middle-class. This means that the vast majority of people with the vast majority of experience are going to be all of these things– making them more competitive in the job market. Because the industry has historically excluded marginalized people, the majority of the minority cannot compete with those who’ve historically had most of the opportunities in tech.

And so, we’re passed over for job opportunities, because we lack the experience of our less marginalized colleagues, through no fault of our own.

This isn’t about lowering your standards or expectations for us when we apply to your companies. This is about recognizing the historical and systemic prejudice that permeates the tech industry.

If you want to improve diversity in tech, we need to have a frank conversation about how marginalized people remain on the margins because of systems that were put in place many generations ago.

I challenge you to look beyond the surface, and critically examine the systemic issues that lead to tech’s lack of diversity.

We marginalized people could make your company wildly successful… if you’d only give us a chance.

Links

Brutaldon: a brutalist web interface for Mastodon, which is a decentralized social network.

Why policing self-diagnosis of disabled folks is classist: “There can be many barriers to obtaining a diagnosis, and they often tie right in to some form or other of systemic marginalization. Yet there are still people in our own communities who treat undiagnosed or self-diagnosed people like outsiders, as if no matter how hard your disability makes your life, it isn’t real until you can prove it.”

The Economics of Tidying Up: about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and how the arguments for decluttering our lives correlate to many economic theories, such as the sunk cost fallacy (we often keep things just because we spent resources acquiring them), and status quo bias (we often keep things just because we can’t think of a good reason to get rid of them).

I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. “Thirty-five inches is a lot of snow. A state trooper told me to get the fuck off the road. My supervisor said, ‘We can’t. We do phone so we’re considered emergency service.’ I didn’t have any phone jobs. No one else I talked to did either.”

We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites: “Personal websites and email can replace most of what people like about Facebook—namely the urge to post about their lives online.” While I agree with this, there’s still an accessibility barrier. Sites like WordPress.com and Neocities offer free services with user-friendly interfaces, but it’s still not quite as easy as signing up for a facebook account, and entering some text in the status update box. That said, I think it’s a noble goal to give up facebook, and the next article is one of the best arguments for it:

The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire describes how facebook has negatively impacted internet culture, with plenty of links to examples of facebook’s ethical failings. I’ve been thinking a lot about this article in the last two weeks, because it’s really resonated with me. I grew up in an isolated rural part of the United States, surrounded by bigotry rooted in both fear of the unknown and genuine hatred. It was difficult feeling so alone. Finding the internet was like finding freedom. Like finding home. I haven’t felt that sense of belonging and community in years.

But I am hopeful that we can get it back.

Happy New Year!

I am still looking for a job, and one thing that both amuses and saddens me is that the more time passes without finding the right job, the more experience I’m getting to qualify for the right job. Ironic.

So here’s what’s new:

  • The University of Michigan and Coursera have created another fantastic Python 3 specialization, building on the Python for Everybody specialization. I’ve finished the first three courses and am waiting for the last two to open.
  • Lollipop Cloud Project is going well. We are working through some hardware issues with our board of choice, and deploying more cool stuff like Plume, a federated blogging platform.
  • I don’t do New Years resolutions, but I’ve decided to start talking more openly about being disabled, and specifically about being a disabled job seeker.
  • I’ve also decided to start posting links (perhaps weekly) that I find interesting. I don’t care for Reddit (too much bigotry and abuse), and I’m not so active on social media, but I like to save links I find interesting.

WordPress vs…. well, everything else

I’ve been looking for another content management system for my site, but I was hoping to find something I would feel comfortable recommending to friends and family who want to self-host but don’t want anything labor-intensive.

There’s a reason WordPress is powering a third of all websites: it’s easy to get started, it’s easy to maintain, and it’s well-documented. There’s certainly a learning curve (sometimes a steep one) if you’re looking to really dig in and customize the look of your site or add unique features or apps, but if you want to use one of the countless beautiful pre-made themes and plug-ins already available, WordPress is probably going to serve you well.

My site is powered by WordPress, using a highly-tweaked version of the GeneratePress theme, which I’ve been using in its vanilla flavor on my Faer Forensic Investigations site for about 5 years now. It’s lightweight for a theme and loads quickly. They’ve also got top-notch support.

However, I was hoping for something even lighter, faster, and free of JavaScript. I love JS– it’s powerful, fun, and you can make cool stuff with it. I’d love to get paid to play with it someday, too. But why does a site like this need JS? It’s just words. I want to return to HTML’s simple roots. Let’s stop wasting data and bandwidth, and let’s remember that not everyone is accessing your website from a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro with a Google Fiber connection. Pretty web apps are awesome. But just because we can do something, that doesn’t mean we should.

It’s about using the right tool for the job.

So I looked at Hugo, which is quite nice. You can run it locally and see changes in real time, and then if you’re looking for “just get it online right quick,” just dump the contents of the /public folder into your host’s public_html (or whatever) folder. Easy peasy, and there’s GitHub Pages integration, too. Complexity goes up from there. Sites also load super fast. But the easy version still requires you to work with a good text editor and know how to upload files somewhere. It’s no example.com/wp-admin UI.

I also looked into Grav, which is pretty great. I had a beautiful Grav version of this site running locally within a couple hours. But I still felt like I was over-complicating things, and I didn’t feel confident about the process of making a local site and taking it online. I believe this is a common theme in CMS options, and one reason WordPress has done so well– there’s a built-in UI, and its target audience is not developers who already have a ton of experience and skills under their belts.

I will continue playing with Hugo and Grav, and there are a few others I’d like to explore, too. But my quest to use something I’d feel comfortable recommending to someone who isn’t a techie continues.

In the meantime, I’m back to using this lightweight theme with pure JS (no jQuery) and remembering why I liked GeneratePress in the first place.

By the way, a lot of these CMS tools use Markdown. I’m a big fan of Markdown, and I find myself using Markdown before I use a standard word processor (like Word or Libre Office). By the way, if you’re interested in learning Markdown, this Markdown Tutorial might be up your alley.

Coursera, Hacktoberfest, and site updates

After putting it on hold for awhile because I was having too much fun with Lollipop (and still am!), I finally finished the entire Google IT Support Professional Certificate, a 5-course specialization through Coursera.

I’ve also contributed a little to Debian and mUzima, after learning about (and applying to) Outreachy, which seeks to give paid internships to marginalized people looking to work with free and open source projects. It would be pretty exciting to be awarded an internship, but I met tons of great fellow applicants through this process, so the competition is pretty stiff!

Now that I’ve been getting more comfortable with Git, I was able to complete Hacktoberfest this year. If you’re new to coding and not sure if you can or should participate, here’s Quincy Larson telling you why you should and how you can get your own Hacktoberfest tshirt.

What have I learned from all of the above? I really love documentation and improving user experiences. I still love Python and I want to keep up with that, but my job hunting is shifting towards documentation and roles where coding overlaps with documentation and support.

Site housekeeping: Originally, I set up jmf.codes with WordPress because it’s what I know, and I had fun hacking and tweaking a theme I’ve used elsewhere for years (GeneratePress). But it’s far more powerful than I need, and it’s pretty resource-intensive for a few pages of mostly text. I’d like to load faster and with a smaller resource footprint, so I’ll be switching over to something else soon. (Probably Hugo, but I keep making versions I love and can’t settle on just one!) I’ll keep you posted.

My lovely friends reading this through an RSS reader should keep an eye out for an updated link once I’ve moved everything over.

short update: new course, more speed tests, and a move

Realizing I could use a little more formal education in the area of systems administration, I am about 95% finished with Coursera and Google’s System Administration and IT Infrastructure Services course. It’s been a good overview, but definitely only covers the fundamentals.

I’ve been running some more speed tests on my Lollipop setup, comparing phone tethering to a cellular modem, as well as the connection options (onboard wifi vs. separate USB dongle). Results to be published in the near future. Here’s a short Lollipop Cloud update, and for friends following along with my journey, help is always welcome in the Lollipop department!

I will be moving soon– not long distance, but to a much smaller space, so things have been a bit hectic around here… and will likely continue to be hectic for a few weeks.

Still, I vow to update this more, despite the fact that my poor old computer is plagued with this (admittedly kind of funny) MacBook Pro keyboard glitch.

Troubleshooting Connection Speeds: T-Mobile cell phone tethering edition

this post was originally published on the Lollipop Cloud project’s blog.

I use my Lollipop as an access point for my devices to “the outside world,” by tethering my Lollipop to a cell phone. After some recent mobile account upgrades, I finally buckled down to do some serious Lollipop work… and discovered my connection speeds are *abysmal*, at less than 0.5 mbps, with two different phones (an iPhone 5S and an LG K20 Plus) on the T-mobile network.

But when using an iPhone 8 on the Verizon network as a hotspot, the connection speed jumped to 4.5 mbps.

These tests were without a VPN, so I was concerned that Unbound and Pi-hole may have been hindering my speeds. However….

It turned out that my cellular plan only allowed tethering at 3G speeds, even though I was under the impression I’d be getting 4G tethering. (“under the impression” as in “the rep at the store *and* the rep on the phone two days later said as much.” But I digress with my bitterness.)

After more digging, not only is it not transparent that tether speed limits are a thing, but the “unlimited 4G tethering” plan (AKA “One Plus International,” NOT to be confused with “One Plus” plan) had been discontinued on August 10, 2018: about two days after I ran these tests. See this post from the Mobile Internet Resource Center about T-mobile’s plan changes.

I got lucky: Because the changes to my account over the last several weeks were documented in their system before the retirement of the One Plus International plan, T-mobile was able to reinstate the One Plus International plan and now I’m seeing perfectly respectable greater-than-4-mbps tethering speeds.

If you’re using a Lollipop as your primary internet access point and you’re noticing sluggish network speeds, you may consider running some tests to compare your cellular connection to a non-cellular connection (such as home or coffee shop internet), and checking with your mobile plan to determine if you’re being similarly throttled.

For the purposes of troubleshooting this issue, I used speedtest.net‘s Android and iOS apps, and the speedtest-cli (command-line interface), installed directly on my Lollipop with apt install speedtest-cli. (For my novice friends: After it’s installed, it’s very easy to use: just type speedtest at the command line and hit enter.)

And if you’re a heavy mobile user on any network(s), the Mobile Internet Resource Center is a wealth of reliable, unbiased information. Some of it is paywalled but I’ve always found plenty of very helpful free information on their site: https://www.rvmobileinternet.com

I hope this helps you avoid similar hassles,

jmf.