#IllRideWithYou and Other Kinds of Great Allyship

In the 4 weeks after 9/11 I wore a headscarf to school. I was 12. I did it because I had heard on the news Muslim women were being shot at for wearing visible symbols of their faith. I thought it was the most unfeminist thing I could think of to attack women for what they were wearing. I have written about this before, about the value of being a red herring.

Me with the red coat and headscarf at my cousin Daniel's baptism in Los Angeles.

Me with the red coat and headscarf at my cousin Daniel’s baptism in Los Angeles shortly after 9/11. Photo Credit: Katy Dickinson.

Today the #IllRideWithYou hashtag is the only positive thing to come out of the horror and confusion of the Sydney hostage crisis. The hashtag is a promise made by non-Muslim Australians to ride public transit with Australian Muslims who (rightly) fear public violence. How do I know it is positive?

Because I have seen a number of my Muslim friends independently post about how it made them feel. How that hashtag and the pictures and actions behind it made them feel safer, gave them ground on which to say: Man Haron Monis does not represent Islam.

It is also my new favorite example of allyship done well. It is an accepted offer of support from people with more power and privilege to people with less power and privilege. It is a visceral show of support at a moment when blood is running hot. It is also a use of technology that–at least in my social circles–has left my some of my friends feeling inspired, safer, and more included. That is what allyship should feel like.

That is the best thing I have seen a hashtag do all year.

Update 2:01am 16/12/14: One of my friends who posted about #illridewithyou online has agreed to let me post his comment here as an example. In posting a link to an article about the hashtag, Yasser Masood Khan said: “There is glimmer of hope that the actions of a few won’t taint the daily lives of many.”

Inspirational Quote:

“Now I’m not Murphy, but I’ve done fine. And I try to help young black guys coming up because those people took chances on me. Eddie didn’t have to put me in Beverly Hills Cop II. Keenen Wayans didn’t have to put me in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Arsenio didn’t have to let me on his show. I’d do the same for a young white guy, but here’s the difference: Someone’s going to help the white guy. Multiple people will. The people whom I’ve tried to help, I’m not sure anybody was going to help them.” — Chris Rock, The Hollywood Reporter, 2014

“There Are Four Lights” and the Futility of Torture

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One of my favorite t-shirts is a sideways reference to 1992 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is also a statement on the simultaneous immorality and futility of torture. Here is the scene, you can read this article for the set-up:

Growing up watching Star Trek, I learned a lot of things. Women are scientists and captains. Aliens can be friends and enemies. People with power must protect people without it. Torture does not work.

Fiction gives us breathing room to talk about things we can only say through gritted teeth and girded minds offline. It lets us escape, briefly. But good fiction requires us to come back to the world prepared to change it. I was walking home last week with a friend, discussing what we would do if we witnessed police brutality. On the I-5 overpass, shouting over the trucks, I said:

I would have to get in the way, because otherwise Keladry of Mindelan would be ashamed of me.

My friend agreed: Kel being disappointed in us was enough of a reason to be brave, even if we forgot all of our other reasons.

This season has been one a lot of us struggled to know what to do. How to react to state brutality against young black men. How to be an American and white when people proud of those same characteristics were behaving in ways Jean Luc Picard and Keladry of Mindelan and Kathryn Janeway would never approve of. How to react when people do evil in our names.

Like many people who grew up on good stories, I started telling them myself. I told them in fiction. I told them running online communications for a human trafficking nonprofit. I told them to strangers on Greyhound and in front of City Council. I told them for the same reason Senator Feinstein released the Torture Report today: because people remember stories, and those memories shape how they act.

The old story about torture from movies and TV shows and congressional hearings makes it seem simple: if a person who we hate has information, we can cause him pain and he will reveal it. In this story, it is acceptable to hurt someone because the story tells us he is not human. In this story, anguish always produces truth. In this story, there is nothing wrong with us for using torture.

Senator Feinstein’s report tells the truth, which is a new story. It says: torture does not work. What it does not say, but everyone reading this knows, is: torture is immoral.

The report’s executive summary–the only piece made public after 5 years of fighting for disclosure–is brutal. There are words and phrases there I could have gone my whole life without reading. Things I cannot believe people who claimed to be acting to protect me would do or say.

That brutality is necessary, but I cannot fault someone for wanting to turn away. It is hard reading for a Tuesday in December. That is why fiction is so important. It gives us a way to get to those vital viscous questions that slip away from us in the day-to-day. That 1992 episode of Star Trek lets us come to the same conclusions in a safer way: torture does not work and it is immoral.

Not all Star Trek iterations get this right. The clearest and most pointed critique of torture I have read in years came from this comparison of what the author called the “ticking-time-bomb set piece” of torture from the J.J. Abrams’s movies and the demonstration that “torture is an exercise in futility” from Gene Roddenberry’s The Next Generation. In the wrong narrative hands, even Star Trek could get seduced by the false narrative of useful torture.

Whether you got the message from a 500pg legal report or a 42min episode of television, this is the one issue it is easy to act on in this tough and tired season. Tell the story. Know that torture doesn’t work. Don’t believe anyone who says it does. You have proof. Know that torture is immoral. Don’t elect anyone who say it isn’t. You have Picard and Feinstein on your side.

Telling stories is one of the most universal and powerful things we can do. It’s why government agencies lie for years to “shape public opinion.” You know the truth and can tell the story: there are four lights.

Inspirational Quote:

“The bill was inevitable until it became unthinkable.” — Rep Zoe Lofgren

How to Print Your Own Notable Women in Computing Cards

We decided to run a Kickstarter for the Notable Women in Computing Card Deck because a number of people indicated they would rather buy a deck than print one and we could bring the per-deck cost down  with an order in the thousands. But we’ve always kept the option to self-print open and protected by our Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 U.S. license. If you print using one of these options, the deck will likely cost about $18 for one, down to $3 for thousands.

Below is a step-by-step guide to printing cards yourself, organized by whether a given vendor allows you to produce cards that are good or fast or cheap or small-batch. (Scale is what brings the per-deck price from $18 to $3, so I had to add a 4th to the product managers’ triangle.) If you’d like to use our vendor, let us know and I’ll refer you.

Before I start, you can browse all of the files referenced here, all either jpgs or Photoshop files. Different vendors require slightly different sizes for cards, so I provided 3 full options.

Print the Poster

Printing the poster is easy. Download the file, send it to your local print-shop, pay for it, pick-up it, hang it up, brag about your awesome wall-art. If you want to edit the poster (make it bigger, make it smaller, add some Tartan-print to the background) you can download the editable file here.

Notable-Women-in-Computing-Poster3

Print a Deck at Home (Fast/Cheap/Small)
If you need a deck today and don’t particularly care how fancy it is, this is the option for you.

  1. Download the card files
  2. Print them on the thickest paper your printer can chew
  3. Cut the cards out
  4. Done!

Print Regular Decks in China (Fast/Cheap/Medium)
If you need a deck in 10 days, don’t mind it shipping from China, and want it to feel like a card deck.

  1. Download the card files
  2. Go here and search “Custom Game Cards (63 x 88mm)”
  3. Select “Linen,” and “White window tuck box”
  4. Upload all 55 image files (52 cards, 2 jokers, and 1 image for their backs) and drag them over
  5. Click Next Step. Ignore the options about a message on the card, and click Next Step.
  6. Drag the Back image over
  7. Click Next Step. Ignore the options about a message on the card, and click Next Step.
  8. In the Preview stage, you can double check your cards against our list of who we’ve assigned for each suit and number. Then click the button saying “Yes, the images, names, dates and other information applied onto the cards are correct and I own all copyrights of them or have authorization to use them,” since we used images licensed under Creative Commons, in the public domain, or that we received explicit permission for them.
  9. Click Add to Cart and then check-out. One deck should cost $12.70 + $5.99 for standard shipping. The price goes down if you buy more than 5.
  10. Put your shipping info in and expect the cards in about 10 days.

Print Jumbo Decks in China (Fast/Cheap/Medium)
If you need a deck in 10 days, don’t mind it shipping from China, and want it to feel like a card deck. Some educators prefer jumbo cards because they make it easier for students in the back of class to see the text.

  1. Download the card files
  2. Go here and search “Large Playing Cards Series – Double Face Classic Poker Playing Cards”
  3. Select “Smooth,” and “White window tuck box”
  4. Upload all 55 image files (52 cards, 2 jokers, and 1 image for their backs) and drag them over to their respective cards. You can use the poster as a reference to place them correctly.
  5. Click Next Step. Ignore the options about a message on the card, and click Next Step.
  6. Drag the Back image over
  7. Click Next Step. Ignore the options about a message on the card, and click Next Step.
  8. In the Preview stage, you can double check your cards against our list of who we’ve assigned for each suit and number. Then click the button saying “Yes, the images, names, dates and other information applied onto the cards are correct and I own all copyrights of them or have authorization to use them,” since we used images licensed under Creative Commons, in the public domain, or that we received explicit permission for them.
  9. Click Add to Cart and then check-out. One deck should cost $18.70 + $5.99 for standard shipping. The price goes down if you buy more than 5.
  10. Put your shipping info in and expect the cards in about 10 days.

Print Over 1,000 Decks in the U.S. (Good/Cheap/Big):
If you need a 1,000 decks in a month, this is your option.

  1. Reach out to Gemaco (our chosen vendor for the second edition) for a referral to vendor (they only sell to printers, so you have to find a printer who will send your images to them–thus this not being a fast option)
  2. Download the cards, which I’ve revised based on feedback from them to match their specifications.
  3. Pay them–it should be about $4.20/deck + shipping (which can be about $750 for 1,000 decks).
  4. Wait 2 – 5 days for proofs, then 15 business days for production, then 4 – 5 days for shipping. It’s 20 business days for production if you want a custom box, with your company/university/Girl Scout Troupe number on it.
  5. Enjoy! (If you’re sending them to a lot of places–remember, the deck can’t be reproduced commercially–you might want to use a vendor like ShipWire for fulfillment)

Print Over 1,000 Cards in Taiwan (Good/Cheap/Big):
If you need a 1,000 decks in a month, this is your option.

  1. Submit your request to Expert Playing Card Company (their website says they’re based in New York, but they confirmed over email they do all of their printing in Taiwan). Another option is Legends Playing Cards, but I asked for a quote a month ago and never heard back.
  2. Download the files
  3. Give them the decks, probably making small changes to the editable files
  4. Pay them
  5. Enjoy!
  6. (I know the least about their process, so there may be more steps)

The One Place You Cannot Print This Deck: The United States Playing Card Company

I was excited to reach out to the USPCC for a quote. They were recommended by name on a card forum I visited. They also are listed as the printer for Kickstarter-funded card decks like this one of WWII-era photos, so they had some kind of interest in women and history.

When I emailed them, their sales rep said their legal team would need written proof of individual photo permission from each woman in the deck. We had that for most of them, since many of the images came from the women themselves, but given that 7 have passed away, you might imagine this is a bit of a trouble. I pushed back, saying most of the images were provided by their subjects, and those few that weren’t are licensed under Creative Commons.

The sales rep then asked me to “provide the Creative Common License for the image and/or documentation of the public domain status.” This indicated a lack of familiarity with both, so I shared a quick refresher on Creative Commons for her and their legal team. She said they would review it.

Three weeks later, the sales rep came back to say the legal team at the United States Playing Card Company couldn’t accept the Creative Commons license and I’d need to provide individual proof of permission from all of those pictured and the estates of those deceased.

I don’t know if the other Kickstarters they printed for had those permissions. Maybe all of those WWII-era photos of Japanese women and army nurses came with individual permission. If I hadn’t already lined up other options, this would have had a chilling effect on the project in the way modern copyright policy often does. But I had lined up options and so could shimmy away to a vendor who wanted our money.

tl;dr: The United States Playing Card Company doesn’t believe in Creative Commons and we can’t use them to print this deck.

But that’s alright because there are a wide range of different options, both in the U.S. and Asia, for printing this deck.

Have any questions that weren’t answered by this? Feel free to ask! Our goal is for this deck to get out to as many women in computing as possible, so if you have a clever idea of what to do with it, let us know. We’ve heard from folks who want to overhaul the design, make a left-handed deck, make a Canadian Women in Computing deck, a Middle Eastern Women in Computing deck, all great ideas!

Inspirational Quote:

“Fast, good or cheap. Pick two.” — Software Development Saying

Update on Kickstarter

We had a great finish to the Notable Women in Computing Kickstarter, bringing in just-over 500% total funding. Since then, the team and I have done a thorough review of the cards, added or updated a number of pictures, and changed the text on all of the cards. Those changes will make the deck more accessible to folks who might not know what the alphabet soup of “IEEE Fellow, ACM Fellow” means but do know what “Known for: contributions in robotic and intelligent systems” means. See more examples on the poster:

Notable-Women-in-Computing-Poster3

As a reminder, the entire deck is Creative Commons licensed. Because cards are more fun in meat-space, our Backers paid to have them printed, boxed, and shipped to them, but the IP embedded in those cards is (nearly) free like beer and (nearly) free like speech.

You can download all of the 2nd edition files in 2 sizes here, both editable and jpg, as well as the poster as soon as they finish uploading on my oft-exhausted wireless. I’ll be posting in the next few days about best-practices for printing, with examples of some of the vendors we reviewed. All of this information will also probably go up on the home-base for this project, this page on the Duke University site.

I’ve gotten a lot out of this project, even if my team and I will make $0 from it. A lot of friends bought decks through this Kickstarter, more than I thought would, and for that I’m grateful. I’ve gotten to DM with famous women in computing who are just as great in private as public. I’ve read shy, thankful notes from some of the awesome women in the deck as well as bombastic, enthusiastic notes from some of the incredible women in this deck. I’ll keep you all updated, but this has been pretty fun so far.

Inspirational Quote:

“Well-matured and well-disciplined talent is always sure of a market, provided it exerts itself; but it must not cower at home and expect to be sought for. There is a good deal of cant, too, in the whining about the success of forward and impudent men, while men of retiring worth are passed over with neglect.

But it happens often that those forward men have that valuable quality of promptness and activity, without which worth is a mere inoperative property.

A barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion. Endeavor to make your talents convertible to ready use, prompt for the occasion, and adapted to the ordinary purposes of life; cultivate strength rather than gracefulness; in our country it is the useful, not the ornamental, that is in demand.”–Washington Irving, letter to Pierre Paris Irving (nephew), 1824 December 7th

Final Inspirational Hand of the Week

This post is from a series digging deeper into the stories behind the cards in our Notable Women in Computing playing card deck. The hands are for 5-card draw poker unless otherwise noted. If you’re already a Backer on Kickstarter, thank you. If not, become one today.

The final hand I’m going share is a straight, 7-high. Why final? Because tomorrow is the last day of our Kickstarter to fund the second edition of the Notable Women in Computing Card Deck:

Notable Women in Computing_Hand4

Here are their names and achievements, original list work of my Mom:

Honoree Name Position, Honors, Awards Learn more
3 ♦ – Betty Snyder Betty Snyder ENIAC computer programmer team 1946, WITI Hall of Fame Wikipedia page
4 ♣ – Kristina Johnson Undersecretary US Dept. of Energy, IEEE Fellow, ABI Women of Vision, SWE Achievement Award Wikipedia page
5 ❤ – Lila Ibrahim Chief Business Officer Coursera, ABI Women of Vision, Purdue University-Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer No Wikipedia page
6 ♦ – Ruzena Bajcsy Univ. California Berkeley Professor, NAE Member, ACM Fellow, IEEE Fellow, AAAI member, AAAS member Wikipedia page
7 ♠ – Jean Sammet IBM Researcher, 1st woman ACM President, ACM Fellow, Computer History Museum Fellow Wikipedia page

You can help: As with all of the hands in this series, at least one of these notable women does not have a Wikipedia page. This time it’s Lila Ibrahim of Coursera. If Donald Trump has 12,000 words dedicated to him on Wikipedia, she deserves at least 100.

If you’re willing to write or edit an article about these incredible women, learn more about Lila Ibrahim’s work and get some tips on how to get started writing or editing an article on Wikipedia. If you write them, let me know and I’ll send you brownie points in an update.

Inspirational Quote:

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” ― Madeleine Albright