Podcast #51: Amanda Costello

In podcast #51, Amanda Costello stops by to discuss her role with Minnewebcon and how she got her start as a content strategist.

Amanda Costello is a content strategist in higher education, and an award-winning speaker about working with content specialists and the web, content strategy, building web teams, and sharing ideas to do good work. She’s also the director of MinneWebCon, a grassroots knowledge-sharing web conference in Minnesota.

Amanda will be doing a keynote presentation at the Digital Project Management Summit in Austin, TX on October 7th. (We’ll be there too.)

Podcast #50: Hate On Me

We’ve all clicked on the comment section to a blog, video or news article and immediately regretted it. That, or we’ve read each trolling comment like rubberneckers spying an accident on the freeway. Either way, internet trolls seem to be here to stay. 

In podcast #50, Sally McGraw joins us to discuss her work and share her experiences with trolling and online abuse. Sally is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer, and communications professional who has been blogging for 7 years. She has contributed writing to local newspapers, magazines, and websites throughout her entire professional life, and is an ongoing contributor to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Huffington Post. She is also a weekly contributor to the Fox 9 Morning Show. In addition to writing her popular daily style and body image blog Already Pretty, she has published a style guide titled Already Pretty: Learning to Love Your Body by Learning to Dress it Well which is available via Amazon and ships worldwide. She has also contributed to The FriskyTypeF, and Glamour and guest posted everywhere from the revered fashion blog The Coveted to the wildly popular style advice blog You Look Fab

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Spoofing, Clicking, Hacking and You

Recently a friend of mine posted something on my Facebook wall that gave me pause. She said “I think you’ve been hacked. I just got a weird email from you. If it was from you, forget the ‘weird’ part.” While funny, it was also really concerning. Mostly because I try hard to have good passwords in place in most of my email accounts. And, since I work in the technology space, and specifically in internet technologies, it would be particularly concerning for me to have emails being sent from my accounts to my contacts potentially infecting them too. Needless to say, because of my profession, my blood pressure sort of increased. I immediately responded to my friend and asked about the email – but she was offline. So I sent messages to other friends asking if they’d received anything weird from me. No one had. I sent my friend who’d received the email an address to forward it to and I’ve yet to see it. But, it’s been a couple of days and no one else has reported anything weird. Which lead me to believe – my friend received a ‘spoofed’ email. 

Spoofing is becoming a pretty common practice and I think it’s a good thing to know about. Especially since spoofed emails are usually trying to accomplish one of two things – they either want to scam you out of information or money or they want you to click on a link in order to infect your computer with something. Spoofing is simple – it is the sending of an email that appears  to be from someone that it isn’t from. You can pretty much use anyone’s name, or any organization/brand name to send an email. Because the authentication protocols involved in sending and receiving mail do not require any authentication of the name associated with the email. To be clear, there are all kinds of spoofing. But it’s becoming more of a problem because it’s easier to just spoof a name and gain access to people, their money and their information. Think about it – if you are on Facebook you have a publicly available list of ‘friends’ that is viewable by criminals too. So spoofers can get the names of people you would recognize and trust, associate those names with emails that they send to you to gain access to your computer.

Here’s the thing though – more often than not you have to actually *give* them something for them to get to you. And you do that by ‘clicking’ – on links, on forms and filling them out, on images, on something. Most of the time viruses happen because we click on a link, and people gain access to our computers because we click on something to let them.

Just this week my friend and colleague, Matt Gray, clued me into the news about Miss Teen USA having had her webcam hacked. Turns out she was being watched and photographed through her own computer’s camera and she had absolutely no idea it was happening. I happened to channel surf into a morning talk show that was covering this story and they demonstrated how this ‘hack’ could have happened. The example they used showed a ‘computer expert’ sending an innocent family an email that said ‘your secret admirer has a message for you’ and beneath that was a link to click on. Sure enough the daughters clicked the link and voila – the ‘expert’ had visual access – he was watching them through their own cameras. And they had no idea. When the talk show wrapped up that segment their recommendation was – close your laptop or shut it down at night when you are not using it, or put a piece of electrical tape over your cam. I was disappointed that they didn’t recommend anything preventative.

Yes there are hackers in the world who spend their time trying to access computers and networks without anyone knowing. And yes there are scammers that are getting more and more sophisticated in their ability to fool us. They are trying to get into our homes — to break in. But we have to think about our home networks in the same way we think about the security of our homes. I don’t know about you, but I always tell my little boy, don’t let anyone in, or go anywhere with anyone, even if you think you know them. We need to talk about it first. And I think the  same thinking has to apply to how we review emails and Facebook posts.

So here are some simple ways to decrease the chances of someone accessing your stuff, giving you a virus, or using your own webcam against you.

1) Don’t open emails unless you are SURE the email address matches one with which you are familiar. A name is not enough. If you have to – pick up the phone and call the person you received the email from. But if it looks weird – it probably is. Check the email address carefully.

2) Do not click on links unless you are absolutely sure of what you are going to view. A link hidden behind some enticing words should not sucker you into action. Again – if you need to confirm that your friend sent you some earth shattering video – ask before you click.

Coding Camps for Kids

Last week, I got an email from a dad who was looking for ways to introduce his 1st grade daughter to coding. I had a few suggestions (not all of which were specific to coding), which I thought others might be interested in as well.

The Works: https://www.theworks.org/events-and-camps/
More about engineering in general than coding specifically, but some cool options.
[Disclosure: The Works was the non-profit that my colleagues in Team Pegacorn were assigned to for the Overnight Web Challenge. Though I was a fan of the organization before that!)

Coder Dojo TC: http://www.coderdojotc.org/
Some co-workers of mine are just getting this up and running. Keep an eye on it (or become a mentor!).

Science Museum: http://www.smm.org/classes

Code Academy: http://www.codecademy.com/
Some of the lessons might be advanced for a first grader, but could be a good activity for parents and kids to do side-by-side.

DIY: https://diy.org/
A site for kids to complete Maker challenges, and earn badges. Just signed my daughter up for it.

She’s Geeky: http://shesgeeky.org/
An annual unconference for women and girls. Not coding-specific, but all about STEM. Encourages both professional women and school-age girls to attend.

LittleBits: http://littlebits.cc/
This is a toy, not a camp (and it’s a little spendy) but my kids love these. We have the starter kit — they’ve added more kits and projects since we bought ours.

GoldieBlox: http://www.goldieblox.com/
Another toy. I don’t have it, but a friend got it for her daughter (I think she might have backed it on Kickstarter). At first I HATED the idea of “toys for girls” but when I learned more about the engineer behind it, and her research, I started digging the concept.

What did I miss? Do you have any suggestions? Most of my class or camp ideas are based in or around Minneapolis-St. Paul, but feel free to share other suggestions from other cities and states in the comments!

Podcast #49: Social Fitness

Carol Cantwell is the founder of Fun With Financials, a company that teaches non-profit organizations practices that support informed financial decisions. She’s also a recent convert to exercise, specifically running. Carol popped by the studio (via Skype) this week to discuss some of the social fitness apps that helped her go from a person who could barely run a mile to someone who will be running the Boston Marathon in a few months.

Originally, we had planned on recording this podcast and putting it up around the first of the year. We figured that listeners might have set some New Year’s resolutions to get healthy or exercise more and, in turn, could be extra-inspired to maintain those goals by listening to this podcast. Well, things happen, podcast recordings get rescheduled and now the podcast is going up several weeks after everyone has forgotten that they had even made any New Year’s resolutions.

<sad trombone>

Let’s take this half-empty glass and fill it up a little bit, shall we? It’s time to get re-inspired to get healthy this year. Is a New Month’s resolution a thing? It is now.

Do you have suggestions for some other social fitness apps or sites that we missed in the podcast? Leave a comment, letting us know which ones have helped you the most.

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Podcast #48: Online Event Invitations

Facebook has destroyed online events. What began as a brilliant idea has morphed into the most ignorable feature on the Internet. If you’re in a band, then chances are, hundreds of people have ignored the sweet event invite for your show next Tuesday at 11:00pm at that place they’ve never heard of. 

If you’re active on Facebook at all, you probably have a number of invites in your events section. How many times have you logged into Facebook and been greeted with that brilliant red square notifying you that someone, ANYone has contacted you only to find a message letting you know that the event you’re not planning on going to is happening an hour later than originally stated? 

By clicking ‘no’, you might hurt the feelings of poor Jimmy in the mailroom. I’m sure his band really IS good and they probably DO sound like Spacemen 3 meets Slade. 

You could always do the Minnesota No and click ‘Maybe’, but haven’t we all made that resolution to be less passive aggressive this year? A simpler option to clean out your events section and make it useful again is to just remove it. 

1. In Facebook, click ‘Events’ on the left side of the screen.

2. Hover your mouse over an event you want to remove. A bluish-gray X will pop up on the upper right side of the event.

3. Click that X.

4. Ta da! The event is removed and you don’t have to feel like the introverted hermit that declines every event invitation.

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Podcast #47: Kickstarter (featuring Jeremy Wilker)

It’s been a while since we’ve had a guest on our podcast. This week, we talked with Jeremy Wilker about Kickstarter projects. 

It seems like everyone is setting up Kickstarter accounts to help fund their creative projects with the mindset that everything will go according to plan, and they’ll get their money. According to their website, only 44% of Kickstarters actually reach the desired goal and get funded. Jeremy recently wrapped up his second successful Kickstarter for a feature film titled ‘Death To Prom’. He shared his experiences and advice on how to make sure your Kickstarter is a success.

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Podcast #46: Q&A with the Geek Girls! Girls! Girls!

Take a ride on the wild side with us as we answer questions sent in by our listeners. 

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. They were great. Also, we’d like to apologize to Phil Beavis. Phil, we got to your question, but we had a bit of a laughing fit about your Twitter handle. Deep down, we’re 12-year-old boys. 

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Having It All

This month’s issue of The Atlantic includes an article by Anne-Marie Slaughter titled, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

I came across the article when it was shared in a LinkedIn group that I’m a part of, and it immediately sparked a lot of comments and conversation. I’ve been stewing over the article ever since I read it, and I wanted to take time to really think — and write — about what gave me such a visceral reaction.

I’ve narrowed it down to the following:

All For One Is Not All For All

In the context of “having it all” the word “all”should be a self-defined metric. Here, the author has interpreted her son’s difficulties and her decision to leave her position in Washington, D.C. as a failure to achieve it all. She then takes her evaluation of herself, and extends it out to all women to say that because she has, in her own estimation, not achieved it “all” it is therefore impossible for women, in general, to have it “all” and that feminism has misled us in thinking that we can.

For me, “having it all” is about having choices. By my definition, Slaughter did “have it all” — she had the opportunity to choose, and to decline, jobs. She left one high-powered position to return to her previous one. Not all working women have that abundance of choices. Not all women who work do so because they choose to, but because they have to. Not all women have an engaged co-parent to lean on for family obligations when work gets demanding. Not all women have the flexiblity in their jobs to care for a child, or an aging parent, or a sick spouse. Being able to choose to dial one’s career up or down, being able to take a break to give birth, and have a paid maternity leave…these are luxuries that not all parents have.

To be fair, though, if I take issue with Slaughter extending her definition of all to me, I should not do the same to her. My “all” is not her “all,” and she is entitled whatever feelings she has about her own experience and achievements. But, I would like to publicly say: Ms. Slaughter, I think you have a remarkable career and are quite clearly a caring and engaged parent. I admire your accomplishments, both professional and personal.

“All” Doesn’t Mean “Perfect”

“Having it all” doesn’t translate to “a flawless life.” Slaughter seems to have interpreted her son’s rough period as an indictment of her choice to work, despite the fact that her husband was able to scale back at his job to spend more time parenting. Let’s reverse the situation and say that she had instead scaled back to spend more time as a parent, while her husband pursued his career more aggressively. If her son was still having issues, would his father take on that psychological burden and say, “This must be because I’m working too much.”? Why do we do this to ourselves, mothers? Why do we assume that an issue in our family life is somehow caused by our pursuit of a career? And why do we assume that scaling back would fix it? I’m not saying that the presence of a mother (or father) isn’t valuable to a child — it certainly is. But, it’s also not a guarantee that one’s child will progress through life without rough patches.

Women is not synonymous with mothers. The title of Slaughter’s piece is "Why Women Still Can’t Have It All" which, as written, presumes that until a woman has children, she hasn’t achieved it "all." The subtext being, "Working women, you haven’t achieved it all unless you also have a child. Mothers, you haven’t achieved it all if you don’t also have a career.

Women, Humans, or Parents?

I dislike that this argument is presented as a “woman” thing. “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” would be better titled, “Why Any Human Being Could Never Have It All, And Still Can’t.” That this is directed specifically at women is telling; it’s because this concept of working AND being a good parent is still seen as primarily a “woman’s issue.” It assumes that a woman’s default role must be as primary caregiver, and that in order to pursue a demanding and/or time-consuming career is an “extra.” And that’s because this is still a prevailing cultural norm that women and men have internalized despite decades spent fighting against it. If a kid gets sick, everyone assumes that it’s mom that will go home from work to care for him. We don’t need to think that way anymore.

More importantly, this article is not about women not being able to have it all — it is about mothers not being able to have it all. That’s a subtle, but important, difference. The title, as written, presumes that until a woman has children, she hasn’t achieved it “all.” The subtext being, “Women, you haven’t achieved it all until you’ve had a child. Mothers, you haven’t achieved it all if you don’t have a career.” That sentiment chills me. And it’s why I return to my first point: “having it all” is about choosing what “all” means to YOU. Everyone else, and their opinions about it, can sod off.


I do agree that society needs to change. We need to redefine what it means to “have it all.” We need to start expecting more out of fathers. We need, as women, to stop taking on such a disproportionate amount of the physical and psychological burdens of parenting. And employers need to think in radical new ways about how to create environments that support people — not just parents, but people. We have the technology! There’s no reason why we can’t think more creatively about how and when we work. We don’t all have to be in a cubicle from 8am-6pm. We can work remotely, we can video conference, we can do a million things that help people pursue their careers on a more irregular, personalized schedule that doesn’t sacrifice the quantity or quality of their work, and integrates with whatever other life goals they have, whether it’s traveling around the world, having kids, or training for a marathon.

That being said, as James Joyner pointed out in his blog post, “Why Men Can’t Have It All, Either”:

“All things being equal, those willing to put 90 hours a week into their careers are going to get ahead of those willing to put in 60, much less 40. While there is any number of studies showing that working too many hours is actually counterproductive from an efficiency standpoint, there nonetheless is a rare breed of cat who can keep up a frenetic work schedule for years on end. And those workaholics are simply more valuable to the company, agency, or organization than those who clock out at 5. That means that those of us who choose to prioritize our children are going to get out-hustled by those without children, or those willing to let their children spend longer hours with a partner or childcare provider.”

That’s never going to change. Sorry. So, yeah — if you want to excel a job that requires (or encourages) 90-hour workweeks, and you also want to have kids, you’re going to have problems — probably personal, familial, and professional. That’s not a flaw in feminism or in you — it’s just a basic limitation of the 24-hour day.

Our Big Fat (Late) Book Announcement

It’s official – we’re published authors! We’ve talked about it, tweeted about it, and we’ve been out speaking about it. Now, our book—Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process—is available online and in stores!

Well, okay, it was actually official almost a month ago but since then we’ve been running around like chickens with our heads cut off.

We received our copies right before MinneWebCon and it made us cloud-nine thrilled. It’s surreal to flip through a bound book that you spent so much time writing, reviewing, and then re-writing, and re-reviewing. We even made a ridiculous unboxing video. (Well, Whitney made it. Thanks, Whitney!)

You can pick up the book on Amazon or on the Peach Pit website, or read more information about it on our book page.

We’re proud of the book, and hope that it starts a much-needed movement toward more effective interactive projects, more engaged teams, and happier, more satisfied clients! Enjoy, and let us know what you think by email ([email protected]) or Twitter (@geekgirlsguide).