Browsing articles in "Need Your Help"

Refactoring Computer Engineer Barbie

Jan 30, 2014   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Awesome, Blog, Data, Need Your Help, Snark, WIT, WTF  //  23 Comments

imageIn mid-January I came across a link to a story about a new book by Random House called Barbie I Can Be…A Computer Engineer.  As you know, I travel with a Computer Engineer Barbie (@data_model) and Venus Barbie (@venusbarbie) in my work advocating that girls take more STEM courses.  So let’s say I have a strong interest in making sure my wonder girl Barbie has a great book.

But the story said that the book actually put Barbie in not so great place.  So I bought the book and read it.  And it made me cringe.  I read it a few times and decided it needed to be fixed.  Or in Computer Engineering terms, it need to be refactored.

So that’s what I’ve done.  In this review of Barbie I Can Be…A Computer Engineer, I will point out the parts that set a lousy role model for girls and offer suggestions on how it can be refactored to make it better.  Just like in software refactoring, I’m not going to change the functionality of the book, but I’m going to improve the code words to leave it better.

And to make it easy for you to fix you copy, I’ve included a Refactoring Computer Engineer Barbie PDF. You are welcome.

Synopsis (SPOILER ALERT!)

Barbie is working on a design for a new puppy computer game when her laptop catches a virus.  Luckily, she wears a heart USB drive around her neck and has backups of her files.  So she uses her little sister’s (Skipper) laptop to try to retrieve the files.  Oh, CURSORS! she has infected Skipper’s laptop, too.  She promises to make it all right and rushes off to school to ask her computer teacher (who is a female!) how to fix it. Her teacher gives her some tips and Barbie heads to the library to get get both her data and Skipper’s data back.  She gets two friends to help and they get it done.  Skipper, with her restored data, makes an excellent presentation in her class where she says that Barbie is the person she most admires. Cue tears.  Barbie presents her game in computer class.  She does such a wonderful job, her teacher even gives her extra credit.

The End.

Well that sounds Awesome! Isn’t it?

Sounds like a great story with good female leadership, doesn’t it?  Female teacher, Barbie and friends fix the problem, Skipper and Barbie give great presentations.  We need more great females to speak, right? Well, just like in database design, the Devil is in the details.

Unfortunately, some of the details really make it look like Barbie is more of a Booth Babe than a Computer Engineer.  This is making the IT community cringe. Twitter is blowing up with campaigns to get the book removed from shelves or to get Random House to fix it.  Well, I’m going to save Random-House the effort by fixing refactoring it for them.  It’s one thing to raise the issue, but as a designer-architect-project manager-methodologist-computer engineer, I just want to FIX it.

Let’s start with the first troublesome passage:

Computer Engineer Barbie Laughs and is Needy

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"I’m designing a game that shows kids how computers work", explains Barbie. "You can make a robot puppy do cute tricks by matching up a color blocks!"

"Your robot puppy is so sweet," says Skipper. "Can I play your game?"

"I’m only creating the design ideas," Barbie says, laughing. "I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game."

That last line is a problem. First, saying “I’m only” makes it look like design work is some how lesser than building.  I know there are some techs out there that would agree with that, but it’s still not true.  In fact, in technical professions, the designer / architect is the senior position on the project.  Secondly, she is laughing this line, as if it is hilarious to think that Barbie can build something.  Finally, Steven and Brian are recurring characters throughout the I Can Be… book series.  They are friends and friends help each other.  But this passage seems to reinforce a position that boys build, girls draw.

So I’ve refactored this passage by changing out that line with this one:

"Not yet," explains Barbie. "I need to finish the design then work with Steven and Brian to turn it into a game."

See how that says basically the same thing, but it doesn’t devalue Barbie’s design work? It also reinforces the more realistic situation that teams work together to make a product.  Barbie doesn’t “need help”; she is part of a team to get it done.

Steve and Brian Will Get It Done Faster

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After class Barbie meets with Steven and Brian in the library.

"Hi guys!" says Barbie. "I tried to send you my designs but I ended up crashing my laptop and Skipper’s, too. I need to get back to lost files and repair both of our laptops."

"It will go faster if Brian and I help," offers Steven.

This last line could be interpreted that Steven and Brian, not Barbie, can get this done faster.  I realize this is just one interpretation and the intention could be that if everyone works together, we can get it done faster.  We know in software engineering this may or may not be true – in form of the Mythical Man Month.  But in general, three people fixing two laptops might make this all go faster – debugging, troubleshooting, copying files and those sorts of things typically do turn out better with more people at the desk. 

But I’m still concerned about the fact that the less generous interpretation could be that boys can fix things; girls just come to them with their problems. So I’ve refactored this to say:

"We can all work on this together; it will be faster," says Steven.

The work continues with this on the next page:

"I got Skipper’s assignment from the hard drive!" exclaimed Steven.

"Fantastic!" says Barbie. "And her other files as well?"

"I got everything," says Steven. "Now let’s retrieve the files from your hard drive. Both laptops will be good is new in no time!"

It’s here where the dialogue really makes it look like Steven did all the work and Barbie waited anxiously for the results of his work. So I’ve refactored these to show Barbie being more engaged in the process.  Not just the Holder of the Compact Disc.

"We’ve got Skipper’s assignment from the hard drive!" exclaimed Steven.

"Fantastic!" says Barbie. "Let me get her other files as well!"

"Great! Now we’ve got everything," says Steven.

See how Barbie has a more engaged role here? No confusion about her fixing this problem, too.

One More Thing…

One of the key things that an engineer should do when disasters happen is to ensure that it never happens again.  One of the steps missing from this story is making sure Barbie and Skipper’s laptops are safe from future viruses. So I’ve added a new line to a passage:

The next morning Barbie gives her sister a big surprise. Skipper turns on your laptop – and it works!

"My lost assignment! cries Skipper. "You are just too cool, Barbie. You fixed my computer and saved my homework!

"I set up new security software on both laptops to make sure this doesn’t happen again," exclaims Barbie.

Skipper gives Barbie a huge hug.

You can’t just retrieve the files; you have to ensure those pesky viruses don’t come back.

How Do We Fix the Book, Though?

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I fixed my copy by refactoring the printed pages.  You can do that, too. I’m sharing the Refactoring Computer Engineer Barbie PDF I created with the refactored dialogue.  Just print it on sticker paper and cut out the revised sections to update your copy of the book.  You might also want to head over to read that open letter to Random House, too.

I love my Technical Barbies and I want girls (and their parents) to have great role models in real life, not just with dolls action figures.  So books like this need the Best Practices in their writing.  I hope you do, too.

I have another post coming about the computer security parts of this story.  But for now, go fix your copy of this book.  Don’t leave it sitting around in production, waiting for someone to read it when it’s wrong.  Love your Data and Love your @Data_Model.

Cheer Us On, Part 2 – 6 October

Oct 6, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Fun, Need Your Help  //  No Comments

Sunday Yanni Robel (@yannirobel). Rob (@projmgr) and I (@datachick) will be running the Portland Marathon. Yanni has done so many I can’t keep track.

Tonight we did the pasta dinner are now hoping to get a good sleep.

This is my second full marathon and Rob’s first. So this is where you can help. We all us Runmeter, an app that will not only track and tweet our progress, it will also read your tweets and Facebook posts to us as we run.

Today Yanni showed me she had selected a sexy French voice to read your messages. Just so you know.

I can’t even begin to explain how much hearing your support helps during a race.

You don’t have to install anything. All you have to do is tweet at us. There are just a few things you need to know:

– We can only hear tweets directly tweeted to us, with our twitter IDs right at the beginning of the tweet.

– That means that you will need three separate tweets to talk to all of us. If you mention more than one of us, only the first person will hear the tweet.

– We won’t hear retweets.

– We will probably set our apps to tweet our progress every 2 miles or so. If you reply to those, we will hear your tweet.

– You don’t have to include anything else in the tweet. No need for the Runmeter ID or a hashtag.

– We won’t hear DMs or private messages.

– Status updates also go to our Facebook walls. You can also talk to us there, too.

– I am slow. I will take more than 6 hours to finish. You can sleep in and still help.

– Our corral will probably start at 7:15 -7:30 or so AM PDT. But you don’t have to cheer us only as we start. Messages later are appreciated a lot.

I hope you can help us along the way. Even if you can’t, sending good vibes are also appreciated.

And thank you to all of you who supported us during our training runs.

See you on the other side of 26.2 miles. Upright and smiling.

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Need Your Help: Cheer Us On

May 31, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Fun, Need Your Help  //  1 Comment

This Sunday, 2 June Yanni Robel (@yannirobel) and I (@datachick) will be running the San Diego Marathon. Yanni has done so many I can’t keep track.

This is my first full marathon. It will be the first time I have run 26.2 miles. Even typing that makes me queasy.

So this is where you can help. Both Yanni and I use Runmeter, an app that will not only track and tweet our progress, it will also read your tweets to us as we run.

I can’t even begin to explain how much hearing your support helps during a race.

You don’t have to install anything. All you have to do is tweet at us. There are just a few things you need to know:

– We can only hear tweets directly tweeted to us, with our twitter IDs right at the beginning of the tweet.

– That means that you will need two separate tweets to talk to both of us.

– We won’t hear retweets.

– We will probably set our apps to tweet our progress every 2 miles or so. If you reply to those, we will hear your tweet.

– You don’t have to include anything else in the tweet. No need for the Runmeter ID or a hashtag.

– We won’t hear DMs or private messages.

– Status updates also go to our Facebook walls. You can also talk to us there, too.

– I am slow. I will take more than 6 hours to finish. You can sleep in and still help.

– Our corral will probably start at 7AM PDT, although cellphone congestion at the start may interfere with our auto tweets and your responses.

I hope you can help us along the way. Even if you can’t, sending good vibes are also appreciated.

I’m very happy to have Yanni with me for this run.

And thank you to all of you who supported us during our training runs.

See you on the other side of 26.2 miles. Upright and smiling.

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Nominate your Data Steward for a Stewie Award

Sep 10, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Governance, Data Stewardship, Fun, Need Your Help  //  No Comments

Do you work with a fabulous Data Steward?  You should nominate him or her for a Dataflux Stewie Award as part of International Data Steward Day, 11 October 2012.  I’ll be part of a team of elite ninja judges evaluating data stewards for their awesomeness at caring and nurturing good data practices.  Fellow judges Jill Dyché, David Loshin, Jim Harris, Phil Simon, Joyce Norris-Montanari and last year’s winner, Barbara Deemer will be looking to see how well you Love Your Data.  Also, you need to visit that page just to see their yearbook photos, too.

Data Stewards Class of 2012!

It’s that time of year again, when we honor the best and brightest – the experts who not only manage your company’s data, but keep your business running behind the scenes. In other words, your data steward.

From now until September 24, we’re taking nominations for the 2nd Annual Data Steward of the Year Award, also known as the Stewie. It’s an honor reserved for folks who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to get the job done – the true honor students of the data management world.

A special sneak peek of the winner will be revealed at IDEAS 2012 in Las Vegas on October 10. After that, we’ll publicly announce this year’s Stewie Award winner on Data Stewards Day: October 11, 2012. That means the clock is ticking and you have limited time to submit your nomination. Ready?

Nominate a Data Steward Now!

With each nomination you’ll get some rocking buttons – you may have seen me sporting some on my backpack recently.  They have some snark, so they are perfect for experienced data professionals.

 

1 Second Guide to Not Being a Jerk on GoToMeeting

Dec 15, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Need Your Help, Speaking  //  7 Comments

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If you aren’t presenting, MUTE THYSELF.  This isn’t rocket surgery, folks.  Your office background noise doesn’t make you more important.  The fact that you are taking this call from an airport doesn’t impress me.  The fact that you must take a call while you are on the meeting isn’t a positive thing.  The fact that you are multitasking doesn’t make me like you more.  The fact you work from home and have a dog is not cute.  Okay, it is, but we don’t need to know.

 

If you are a fan of Wil Wheaton, you can also share this in his meme, Don’t be a Dick

 

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Please share this with all your frenemies.

 

 

Bring Better Jobs for Returning Veterans – in just 5 Minutes #SQLFamily

Dec 12, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Fun, Need Your Help  //  No Comments

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Super w00t!  I just read the most amazing news at http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2011/12/08/help-the-sqlfamily-give-back.aspx

I’ve blogged recently about how small things that the data community does can make a significant difference in the world. The Microsoft SQL Server Team will donate $50, up to $20,000, to the Pragmatic Works Foundation.  The foundation will provide training to returning veterans: SQL Server, soft skills and interview coaching.

We just learned about the Pragmatic Works Foundation, a non-profit that provides free technical training to veterans, the jobless, and underemployed.  In 2012 the foundation will be embarking on a campaign to bring better jobs for returning veterans. The classes will be taught at military base hotspots around the United States and will primarily focus on introductory technical training for SQL Server and soft skill training and interview guidance. At the end of the class, job placement assistance is given to help the veterans find jobs. The cost to train each veteran for a week is approximately $50. 

So, for the first 400 submissions*, the SQL Server team will donate $50 per submission to the Pragmatic Works Foundation. You can submit your #SQLFamily stories to sqlfamilysubmission@live.com, along with your name and email address. Or, send us a link to your blog or your Twitter handle if you post your story online. We will feature a selection of submitted stories weekly on this blog into the New Year.

I can’t even describe how excited I am that a relatively small number of people, sharing their knowledge and passion with each other, have managed to grow this into something that can touch so many lives.  And that we have more opportunities to make an even great difference in the future.   I can’t wait to read some of the stories!

But we need your help.  Please take 5 minutes to send your #SQLFamily story to sqlfamilysubmission@live.com so that we can max out the donations for this great cause.  Need some ideas?

  • Have you ever attended a SQLSaturday or User Group and had a discussion about how to solve a problem?  Share it.
  • Have you learned something new by chatting with someone on Twitter? Share it.
  • Have you solved a problem faster by getting help wit the #SQLHelp hashtag? Share it.
  • Did someone in the community help you with a totally non-SQL, non-data problem? (Thanks, again Noel, for that downtown parking space for a week). Share it.
  • Did someone blog about something and it made your job easier? Share it.
  • Have you ever just felt better that others were out there to help? Share it.
  • Have you already blogged about #SQLFamily? Share it.

We need 400 submissions to make this happen.  You have 5 minutes, I know it.   Get your story in now.  Make a difference in someone’s life, right now.

PASS Members: Take 2 Minutes to Vote and Do it Right Now

Dec 9, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Need Your Help  //  No Comments

SNAGHTML5ed5790This isn’t a normal plea to get you to vote.  This is a plea to have you show that you care about all the things that PASS does actually are worth doing.

Sure, you might think you do not know the candidates well enough to choose.  Sure, you might think your vote doesn’t count.  Or that it doesn’t matter.  But you’d be wrong about all that.

  • There are plenty of resources to find out more about the candidates and they are collected in one place. There are bios, statements and a forum.  If you need to find out more, you can do it there.
  • Your vote does count.  Nuff said.
  • Your vote does matter.  It matters to the candidates who have already spent a great deal of time to submit applications, to be interviewed and to go through the voting process.  I’m not running in this election, but I know how tough it is to put myself forward for an election like this.  It’s worse that reading speaker evaluations.  It’s worse than a TSA grope.  It’s worse than flying.  It’s much worse than spending 2 minutes voting. 

The least we can do as beneficiaries of all the great things that volunteers do, both Board members and minions, is to take the time to vote.  Not only do you get to pick three people to represent you on the Board, you get to show PASS  that what they do actually matters.

I participate in many volunteer-driven organizations.  It’s sad when only 1% of members can take the time to vote.  We should have thousands of people voting.  Voting closes 20 December, but there’s no reason at all to wait.

2 minutes.  Show them it matters. Go do it now.

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