the curmudgeons

Once again it took me a while to figure out who to write about for Ada Lovelace Day. I ended up musing on three women who I came to know through blogging who felt to me like a group of some kind. In my head (and on Twitter) I ended up with the label “curmudgeon.” But seriously, I mean that in a good way; they’re all hella smart and very clear-eyed about the world.

All three have been working in technology for quite a while, and have shifted their skills as the world shifted. I admire that ability to be flexible and to keep learning. All three have written about the wider world beyond the specifics of tech, and very eloquently. I have to say that they don’t necessarily make it look easy, but something about that is reassuring to me: the honesty of life’s struggles is worth showing.

Their blogging — and friendship-at-a-distance — has been a huge influence on me over the last 8 or 9 years. Oddly enough, none of them are blogging very frequently now, at least not at the venues where I originally found them. But they’re all still doing interesting things.

Shelley Powers – Shelley was one of the first bloggers I read regularly, and I got my sea legs in commenting through the interesting discussions on her blog. She’s an outstanding photographer, in addition to being a great experimenter with web technologies and a clear and engaging writer. She gave me my first opportunity to be a tech reviewer on her book Adding Ajax, and it was such a great experience that I’ve done it for four other books. (Actually, that reminds me: I have chapters of the upcoming JavaScript Cookbook to read through!) She’s been a thorn in the side of the HTML5 process, which in general strikes me as a good thing, among other things advocating for SVG & RDF. Shelley hasn’t been blogging much lately, but she’s still on Twitter quite a bit.

Dorothea Salo – I started reading Dorothea’s blog about the same time as Shelley’s. I think she was still a “conversion peasant” at the time, before going to library school. Actually, that’s one of the things I love about Dorothea: she has a way of coining exactly the right quirky word or phrase. See also: grunchy, repository rat, beating things with rocks. She’s had the boldness to go into what looks like a difficult corner of the academic library world, and to make a name for herself in it by saying difficult things that needed to be said. (I imagine she’d call it bullheadedness, but whatever.) Her blog, when she was writing it, took on all comers, and had a strength of voice that I still think fondly of. Watching her “beat things with rocks” has been a source of reassurance when I’ve encountered technical problems. I’ve learned about things that are way out of my usual areas of expertise, plus I’ve internet-met lots of fascinating librarians. On a personal level, she was very supportive when I was going through an incredibly difficult period of my life, and I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked her properly. She gave up her personal blog a while back, but she blogs about technology in research and libraries for ScienceBlogs at The Book of Trogool. She’s also active on Twitter and FriendFeed.

Dori Smith – Dori, like Shelley, has been a strong and consistent advocate for increasing the presence and visibility of women in technology. She’s also a great tech writer and speaker. Plus she’s written several books with her husband — a feat of collaboration that I admire. It’s definitely not easy working with the person you also live with! And Dori is the one of these three that I’ve met in person, which has been awesome. In 2008, we had this incredible long conversation at SXSW 2006, or rather, on the sidewalk in the middle of the night. In 2009, same thing, but in the hall in the middle of the afternoon, the kind of smart, thoughtful, engaged conversation as if we’d been friends for years, and a little bit like a big sister. (Oh, and I still owe a review of JavaScript & Ajax!) Dori still blogs every so often, and can also be found on Twitter.

* In looking up the “curmudgeon = frustrated idealist” idea that I got from Joe Clark (2nd to last paragraph of that post) aeons ago, I found a comment quoting the same on Shelley’s blog. From 2007…referencing a post of mine from 2003. Crazy.

** I just looked up last year’s post…and noticed that I mentioned Shelley, Dorothea & Dori as people I’d been thinking about writing about! I guess if the idea stuck for a whole year, it was definitely worth acting on. I guess that means next year I write about Mom? (Actually, I’m thinking about Webgrrls/Digital Eve.)