Something worth blogging about

I don’t like women and technology events but i would blog any day about women I admire in technology.
Actually so should you. Common now, I’m sure we could up the numbers on women attending tech conferences in no time!

Additionally in the spirit of Anne Galloway’s brilliant chart on women in ubicomp from in 2006 here are some additions more in the “tech design and everything in the middle” category (all people i have met and know):

Maja Kuzmanovic
Gwendolyn Floyd
Deb Bassett
Natalie Downe
Esther Saxey
Elaine Ann
Ulla-Maaria Engestrom
– Katie Pula
Merci Victoria Grace Hall
Louisa Heinrich
Fiona Romeo
Hannah Donovan
Leslie Chicoine

Added by Molly Steenson

Lilly Irani
Silvia Lindtner
Johanna Brewer
Louise Klinker
Rachel Abrams
Revital Cohen
Arianna Bassoli
Judy Chen
Janet Vertesi
Irina Shklovski
Mouna Andraos
Francesca Birks

Personal ubiquity

It took me a while to digest Janne’s post on why ubicomp is a broken concept, mostly because on principal I tend to disagree. It’s also a bit in response to Tom Coates’s altered version of his talk with Matt Jones that he gave at Foocamp called “Personal Informatics”.

Firstly I think the starting point for thinking about ubiquitous spaces, objects etc is not necessarily that they are meant to be smarter, but perhaps more that they are meant to report better. Not smart, just less dumb :) Andy’s house is the obvious example of this. I think there is tremendous interest at the moment about being able to gather more efficiently stuff that is just lying around, invisible and not particularily useful. Innovation often comes from taking things we know and mashing them up with things we didn’t know we didn’t know. Someone pointed out the other day that we’re ultimately creeping towards AI with all these “clever” systems, but I think it might just be the reverse, we still hold the brain, we’ve just outsourced the synapses.

Also I think there are plenty of areas to think about in regards to the results of ubiquitous systems, information and data. One of the most important things, in my opinion has to do with evaluating the amount of behavioral or operational change based on the digestion and synthesis of all this data. It’s no use collecting the temperature and light levels inside a building if it isn’t with the aim to perfect your heating system or prevent collective seasonal depression for eg. Even on a personal basis, its no use me being able to monitor my heartrate everyday, because it only puts me in the “now”, an ephemeral place of thought and decision-making. One thing about technology, is that it tends to make people generally lazy about their levels of commitment. Perhaps we should push instead for the development of technologies and applications that encourage people to invest time and effort in an activity (think Honey we’re killing the kids).

Furthermore, what’s interesting about this idea of personal ubiquity is that some of it could possibly be shared online, so no longer relying on a sturdy and professional infrastructure other than the internet itself. Seeing people play around with Pachube and the Ethernet Arduino shield, makes things really exciting.

All in all I think the ubicomp ideas of the future will be more personal, more persuasive and lighter than what we’ve seen so far.

Fighting the war against terror by blowing air up your shirt

Just went through 2 “secondary security” checks at San Francisco airport today and got introduced to this delightful contraption.

“To collect microscopic particles for analysis, the EntryScan3 takes advantage of a natural upward airflow around the body called the “human convection plume.” By not using forced airflow from a fan-which stirs up dust and other contaminants-cleaner samples are collected.”

What this means is that you walk into this box with glass doors on one end and without warning they will spray you with air quickly and at every angle. Not only is it really scary and unexpected, but you also get the added pleasure of having it blow your shirt upwards… not usually what you’re looking for from a security device.

Gotta love the US.

Etsy is shit

Not that I’m known for being inflammatory but this is total bullshit. In short, our Topoware store was shut, because we weren’t craft enough it seems. No warning, no nothing, just a snappy email once the store had already been shutdown. What sort of customer service is this? If you sell on Etsy and don’t hand sew every single thing yourself, consider yourself warned. I certainly won’t be using them anymore. I’ve included their email and my reply for posterity.

” Hi there!

This is Tim from Etsy Support. I’m getting in touch with information about what can be sold on Etsy, because it looks like the item featured in your shop might not fit within our selling guidelines.

Here is an outline of what can be sold on Etsy :

Handmade by You: Artists and crafters can sell things they have made. Some production assistance is allowed, but the person running the shop needs to have a large part in creating the items for sale.

Vintage Goods: These must be at least 20 years old. ‘Vintage Style’ items less than 20 years old can’t be sold.

Crafting Supplies: You can sell commercial products that are made for crafting. Things commonly used for crafting but not made for that purpose do not qualify.

Because your listing does not meet our selling criteria, the shop has been closed. Please get in touch if you’d like to sell items that fit into one of the categories above.

Let me know if you have any questions about this!
Thank you,


Etsy Support”


“Hello Tim,

You find me and Karola extremely shocked of such a dramatic and unfair move on Etsy’s part. Firstly these criteria have never been presented to us as we set up the store several months ago now. Secondly, we have designed Topoware ourselves and invested in getting it manufactured (as it’s nearly impossible do get ceramics and tableware done yourself) in a small quantity of 50 pieces only and in the UK (instead of China like most) in the hope that this detail would be appreciated by the Etsy community. Clearly it isn’t.

I will be blogging about this as I find it a shameful customer service process for any web platform.  As a designer, will no longer recommend it to my friends and colleagues.

best regards,


The other 50%


I don’t follow politics that closely, usually because I’m never quite sure which ones I should be following but I must admit I had hoped Hillary would win the DMC. They speak of the glass ceiling. I feel it every day as a woman at the head of a small technology company. “Where are the women in technology?” “Where are the women in banking”,”Where are the women in conferences” are some of the questions I’ve had to answer to in the past year. I used to brush them off, pretending they don’t affect me or my work, which is bs really. Of course they do. Unfortunately. I’ve had to correct on more than one occasion fellow designers/technologists who will say “female” instead of “women”. You’d think this was the dark ages sometimes.
Knowing what she must know about the common denominator in America, I thought Hillary was crazy and admired her for being determined and driven to go against the tide. And if I had been able to, I would have voted for her, because what the US needs now, after such a dark age in terms of leadership and foreign perception, really is a leader that will make them catch up with a modern Europe, a booming Asia and a developing and technologically-advanced Africa.

Next time maybe.

Made of fail


This really depresses me. I think issues of sustainability are quickly going to have to move beyond the Treehugger attitude that “every little counts”, because our way of life and the economics attached to it is literally killing people as we speak.

It really isn’t going to cut it to act as if we weren’t the ones dramatically affecting the planet and I don’t think that pointing to China is helpful at all at the moment. And I don’t think the changes we need will come from grass-root movements either sadly. As Bruce Sterling highlighted, 3 years ago,we aren’t acting quickly enough to have the type of impact we need. Governments and corporations will have to make the biggest and most important steps.

In Amélie Nothomb’s book, Peplum, set in the year 2580, the main character learns that under the weight of guilt and responsibility that developing countries posed to the western world, the southern hemisphere was eradicated entirely. How crazy does that sound at the moment?

Unsustainable touchpoints


There’s clearly something wrong with the delivery of a service if it makes me think “oh what a waste”. This reflects poorly on the company, it’s brand and it’s supposed values, especially when I’m already aware I’m being unsistainable by using the service.

1st example:
Last week during a doze on the Eurostar a member of staff woke me up (!!!) by pushing a leaflet on me that described what their specials were at the restaurant car. I always valued the Eurostar experience as one of the best, especially their ability to generally leave me alone to just enjoy the ride. This has definitely changed things as not only are they wasting a lot of paper for trivial advertising but they actually encourage rude behavior from their staff.
2nd example:
Today on the Gatwick express, I bought a bottle of water, only to have a napkin given to me with it. Did I look like I could spill it all over the place? I realised it was made in the Netherlands for Starbucks and had the clever and oh so ironic “less napkins, more plants, more planet” printed on it. As you’re being handed a napkin so uselessly, this tagline really is reduced to hypocritical corporate advertising.