industry info

Big News!

So, uh, we’re writing a book.

Of course, Jon and Whitney made a video to mark the occasion:

Wait, what? How the…?

You might be asking yourself how the hell this happened. We certainly are.

After our MinneWebCon keynote in April, we were approached by Michael Nolan, an editor with Peachpit/New Riders. We talk a bit more about that whole experience in our latest podcast (#36), but let’s say this: it’s CRAZY EXCITING and it’s been hard to keep our mouths shut about this over the past few months. Peachpit/New Riders are known for publishing some of the best books by the most respected voices in our industry. Books like Don’t Make Me Think, Designing for Web Standards, Elements of User Experience, and Content Strategy for the Web.

We are unbelievably excited to have the opportunity to count ourselves among them. (And the day that we see our names as authors on Amazon will be a mighty proud moment!)

We also need to give a shout-out to Kris Layon (author of New Riders’ The Web Designer’s Guide to iOS Apps and former MinneWebCon director) who not only offered encouragement and advice, but also orchestrated our meeting with Mr. Nolan in the first place. Thanks, Kris. You’re a fine gent, and we wouldn’t be here without you.

So, what’s this book about?

We’re creating an engaging, straightforward guide to Interactive Project Management and the value it can bring to companies and project teams. It outlines both a process — and a way of thinking. The title is Interactive Project Management: A People-Driven Process.

Why project managment?

As an industry, we have a hard time explaining what we do to non-technologists, but this is a critical requirement in nearly every interactive project. A great project manager creates and fosters a connection between an often non-technical client and the project team.

Interactive projects (like websites, mobile sites, and apps) are different from both traditional media and software projects; we can’t simply adopt print or advertising processes and apply them to the web. Nothing in the industry has been standardized; terminology, processes and team structures are different between agencies, and the technology is changing all the time. And while project management is a critical factor in the success of web projects, no one is talking about how to do it well — so agencies, clients and aspiring project managers are making it up as they go.

Other project management books focus on how to create schedules, manage resources, perform risk assessment, make Gantt charts, write briefs, and test code. They tell you what to do, but are essentially just a collection of tactics. And guess what? Creating a timeline doesn’t mean anything’s actually going to get done.

Who’s it for?

Because the book focuses on how to think strategically, alongside tactical tips, it will help all stakeholders think about their approach to projects, peers and clients. So everyone from executives to students will benefit from really understanding how an interactive project should look from start to finish.

Clients are also a target audience. Knowing how their project may work, and what’s coming next, promotes clarity and collaboration from the beginning.

When can I buy one?

Okay, fine. We know you’re not asking yourself that question quite yet. But, it will be out in April 2012, and it should be available for pre-order in the fall. (ZOMG!)

But wait, there’s more!

We plan to blog, podcast and record some videos along the way — so you can follow our progress (and keep us sane) as we write this, our first book. We’re grateful for all the support we’ve gotten from readers of our blog, listeners to our podcast and people who have seen us speak. Every email, every tweet, every conference feedback form: we listen and appreciate it all.

We’re not fooling ourselves; this book isn’t going to be the next Da Vinci Code. But, it’s about something we believe in and we’re excited to have the opportunity to share what we’ve learned in over a decade of managing and launching software, apps and web sites.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. We can’t wait to see where this goes, and we’re happy to have you with us.

Lastly, a pre-emptive apology to our families: looks like we’re going to be crazier than usual until next Spring. We love you.

Informational Interviews

We recorded a podcast (#32) on this topic, but I think it’s handy to have a written guide for this kind of information as well.

So here you have it: the Geek Girls Guide to a kickass informational interview.


Get Noticed

  • It’s totally appropriate to use Twitter (or a message via LinkedIn) to make yourself known to a professional that you’d like to have an informational interview — in fact, that’s sometimes the best way to stand out. But follow up with a more formal email if they bite on your offer via Twitter.
  • Email is also a good option, but it can sometimes be hard to get a response (depending on how much email the person gets).
  • Want to really stand out? Try snail mail; people don’t get much actual mail anymore.
  • Be clear about what you want. “Will you have coffee with me?” could mean a lot of things. Do you want to be friends? Are you asking me on a date? Ask for what you want — and not just an “informational interview.” Say something more specific, “I’d like to learn more about project management.” or, “I’m looking for input on my portfolio.”


  • Ask for 30 minutes. Getting an hour of someone’s time might be a challenge. But, if you can get an hour…sweet!
  • If you can get the person to meet you offsite, do it! They’ll be less likely to be interrupted by co-workers. To that end, if you shoot for a meeting at the beginning of the day the person is less likely to be distracted by the day’s work.
  • Confirm the meeting a day or two before. Don’t be discouraged or deterred if the person has to reschedule; it happens.

Do Your Homework

  • In an informational interview, YOU are interviewing the person you’re meeting with. In a job interview, THEY are interviewing you. So, prepare!
  • Google the living hell out of the person you are interviewing with, and the company the work for. Don’t be creepy, but dig deep. The more you know about what they do and how they got there, the more you can ask questions that are relevant and thoughtful. It may even reveal connections or common interests you weren’t aware of!

Interview Day

Show Up Early

  • If you are meeting someone for coffee, get there an hour early. I’m not joking. You want to be the first one there, so you can buy the person their cup of coffee. This is a critical piece of etiquette! Even if the person refuses your offer to pay — at least you’ve made the offer.
  • If you’re meeting someone at their office, try to be 10 minutes early. That’s early enough to show you’re serious, not so early that it’s awkward. It also doesn’t cut it too close; you want time to take off your coat and organize your thoughts. Whatever you do, don’t be late.
  • Play it safe. Assume that the route to your destination will take you twice as long as it usually does. If that means you end up sitting in your car a block away for 20 minutes just to kill time before the interview, so be it.

Have an Agenda

  • Have a list of questions that you want to ask the person. And not generic questions, either. Be thoughtful; you’ll make an impression.
  • Bringing a notebook and pen is an easy way to make it clear that you take the interview seriously.
  • Watch the clock: if the person agreed to give you 30 minutes and the conversation is still rolling along at 28 minutes, give a courtesy time check. “Do you need to go, or would it be okay if I asked you just one more question?” or, “I don’t want to take too much of your time, and I see our 30 minutes is nearly up.” You can set your phone to vibrate when there are 5 minutes left so that you know it’s time to start closing the conversation.

Close Strong

  • Thank the person for their time.
  • If you got something helpful out of the conversation, tell them.
  • Hand them a business card.


Follow Up

  • A tweet, an email, a paper thank you note? I’d recommend all three! Include a business card with your thank you note, too — why not?
  • It’s okay to try to connect with the person via LinkedIn afterward, but include a personal message, “Thanks for the informational interview on Monday. Your advice about project management was really helpful to me. I’d like to keep in touch, do you mind if we connect here on LinkedIn?”
  • I’d advise against trying to friend the person on Facebook; that just feels too personal. Twitter and LinkedIn are a better bet for staying connected to someone you’d like to stay connected with as a mentor and possible future boss!

That’s it! What do you think? Did I miss any critical informational interview advice?

SXSW Panels

Today is the last day of voting for SXSW panels. We’ve already asked you to vote for us (but, if you haven’t, today is your last chance!). But don’t just vote for us — there are tons of awesome panel options to choose from.

How to Vote

  • Visit the SXSW PanelPicker. (Our session is here.)
  • Create an account (it reduces fraudulent voting), but don’t worry: you won’t be added to any mailing lists (unless you want to be!).
  • Click the thumbs-up (or thumbs-down) to vote!

Who to Vote For

Don’t just vote for us! There are a number of great proposals out there. Need some guidance on where to start?

If you’d like to support other Minnesotans, check out this post by Kary Delaria that includes a list of panel submissions from MN.

Or you can check out this list of panels that have caught our eye as we’ve been browsing and voting over the last couple of weeks. These are all people we don’t know IRL, but whose topics looked interesting to us. And that’s what this is all about! Explore, find new topics and help decide what should — or shouldn’t — be at SXSW!

Project Management for Humans (No Robots Allowed)
Organizer: Brett Harned, Happy Cog
    • What is the most effective way to gather project requirements?
    • What’s better for my project, Agile or Waterfall process?
    • How can I manage the process as it transitions from UX to Design, to Development?
    • How can I effectively communicate with and educate my clients on web development process?
    • How do I deal with all of these personalities and keep my focus on the project itself?

The Emerging Role of Social Media in Education
Organizer: Richard Byrne, Free Technology for Teachers
    • How are teachers using social media to bring global perspectives to their classrooms?
    • What are the obstacles teachers face in trying to use social media in their classrooms?
    • How is social media helping teachers create better learning experiences for their students?
    • How are mobile devices being used to increase student and parent engagement in schools?
    • Why aren’t more schools embracing the use of social media by teachers and students?

No Excuse: Web Designers Who Can’t Code
Organizer: Wilson Miner, Rdio Description
    • Why should designers know how to code their designs?
    • How can designers use code skills in increasingly specialized teams.
    • How can designers develop code understanding if their job doesn’t involve writing code?
    • How can hybrid designers work effectively with other developers?
    • Is there a place for developers with design sense?

Successful People-Based Acquisition: Buying People, Not Code

Organizer:  Bill Boebel, Rackspace Hosting  
    • What made this acquisition by Rackspace special?
    • What made employees and founders want to stay on board?
    • How can this be replicated?
    • What other companies have had success with this method and why?
    • What has not worked for other companies?

Viral Marketing with The Oatmeal

Organizer: Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal
    • How do I come up with creative marketing ideas for a boring product?
    • How do I get people to pay attention to my website?
    • I’ve created some rad content – now how do I get people to read it?
    • What’s a good creative process for brainstorming effective viral ideas?
    • How do I make funny things? How do I make things that resonate with an audience?

Girl Developers++: Getting Women Equipped to Ship
Organizer: Sara Chipps, Girl Developer LLC
    • How can we get more female software developers?
    • Why aren’t women comfortable in traditional educational settings when it comes to technology?
    • How can I start an initiative to educate women in technology in my community?
    • What are some of the roadblocks women run into when learning how to code?
    • As a man, how can I help make women feel more at home in the software community?

Startup Success: Entrepreneurial Women Share the Team-Building Secret
Organizer: Rynda Laurel,
    • What is a successful team, and how do you build one?
    • How to be a team leader, and how to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are so you can partner up with those that compliment you.
    • How to use Marketing, PR, Social Media and Networking to find your team and build communities around your startup.
    • How to look at the big picture and build international teams.
    • How we did it and still encourage others to take the plunge.

Social Marketing Lessons Learned on the Farm
Organizer: Nathan Wright, Lava Row
    • What cultural factors make farmers and rural people “naturals” at building community?
    • What can other businesses learn from the up-and-down commodity markets that drive ag and rural business?
    • How do Dust Bowl and Great Depression memories make for better business decisions?
    • How are smaller ag-related businesses effectively leveraging social media?
    • What makes social marketing a good fit for agriculture-based businesses?

SXSW or Bust!

Earlier this year, we gave a presentation at MinneWebCon called “Creating a User-Centered Culture.” The reception the topic received inspired us to submit it to SXSW. We’d love to go, but we need your help getting there!

We made it through the first round, which accounts for 40% of the decision. Another 30% is up to the SXSW organizers. The other 30% is based on the online votes at the SXSW PanelPicker — and that’s where you come in.

We need your help!

  • Please visit the SXSW PanelPicker and vote for our session.
  • You’ll have to create an account (which reduces fraudulent voting), but you won’t be added to any mailing lists (unless you want to be!).
  • Voting closes on August 27, so vote soon! In fact, do it now. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

In exchange for your vote, we offer you this video. We thought it was funny…we hope you do, too.*

*If you don’t think it’s funny, blame these guys.

Flashbelt Announces 2010 Scholarship Winners

Last year, this blog hosted a heated debate over a presenter at Flashbelt 2009. While a stressful experience for everyone involved, many positive things came out of that very public discussion — one of which was getting to know Flashbelt founder and organizer Dave Schroeder.

For the past three years, Flashbelt has awarded scholarships to attend the four-day conference. This year, the Geek Girls Guide sponsored these scholarships and it’s our pleasure to announce the 2010 winners:

  • Kymberly Wyant, Student – Web & Digital Media Development, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
  • Arlene Birt, Artist & Teacher, Minneapolis
  • Priscilla Mok, Designer/Developer, Chicago

Each winner was awarded a full scholarship which includes a pre-conference workshop ($259) and registration for the conference ($399).

Dave Schroeder, Flashbelt founder, told us, “It was another tricky year to choose the scholarship recipients. All of the applicants were worthy, but these three people really made great cases for both why they wanted to attend and couldn’t, and what they intend to do with the things they learn at Flashbelt.”

All the applicants this year had very impressive applications. In fact, the applications were so impressive that Dave worked out a special deal for all the them: in addition to the 3 “full rides” he gave a 50% discount to all of the scholarship applicants. “That makes me feel great, because the speaker/session line up this year is the best it’s ever been and I don’t want anyone to miss it,” added Schroeder.

Thanks, Dave. We’re proud to be a part of Flashbelt 2010.

Social Media After a Layoff, by Laura Wadzinski

A few months ago, I had a conversation with Laura, whom I’ve worked with in the past, about her recent job search experience. She had been part of a layoff, and her description of how social media had played into her job search struck me as something the Geek Girls Guide audience might be interested in. Sure, there’s the requisite “using LinkedIn to network” kind of angle, but what was truly unique to me was how social media (namely the Group feature on both Facebook and LinkedIn) had allowed this group of people to remain connected with each other long after the layoff was over.

In my own past, I’ve worked at a couple of advertising agencies where layoffs are a part of life. Lose a big client, and everyone braces themselves for the axe to fall. After a day of layoffs, both those who were let go and those who weren’t would generally meet at a bar somewhere and commisserate. And that’s about where it would end.

But that was before social media gave us the ability to organize ourselves on the fly. And Laura’s story illustrates how a group of people — like the ones let go from her company — can self-organize to continue to provide support to each other long after the layoff.

One of the books I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about what social media from a sociological (vs. tactical) perspective is Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody.” (Nancy likes to make fun of my for my Shirky fangirl tendencies, but what can I say?! Dude is brilliant.) The subtitle of his book is “The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” and Laura’s story below illustrates that point perfectly.


This fall I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my job when my position as an interactive marketing planner was eliminated as part of a massive layoff.  As you would imagine (or maybe you know) the days immediately following were extremely confusing and humbling.  I know how to maximize every minute of a 50-hour week job and manage a household, but I felt paralyzed and unsure how to prioritize what to do first, next, or not at all after the layoff.

I began telling myself that I was well-equipped to attack the impending job search.  After all, a job search is the equivalent of developing a marketing plan, of which I’ve spent the bulk of my career in practice. Furthermore, in my most recent position, I was responsible for developing online media strategy (including the use of social networks) for executive recruitment at my company.  So I kept telling myself “I know how to work this thing”.  Then I’d freeze up again.

Within a few days I had my resume updated and was ready to start connecting with my network of friends and former colleagues to help me identify job leads.  The support, information and leads I have received from my established networks on Facebook and LinkedIn have been, and continue to be, incredibly beneficial.

As tactically-focused as I tried to be, there were moments when I couldn’t get through checking my pages without being brought to tears.  Somebody I knew well, or even casually would tell me how sorry they were, tell me I was talented, offer up where they had connections, or ask for my resume so they could pass it along.  The thoughts, the kindness, the offers affected me profoundly. The support and validation from my professional and social networks was as important as the job leads themselves.  I expected some of the kind words and support.  My networks are full of my friends.

What I did not expect was the creation and appearance of a unique group on both Facebook and LinkedIn.  The groups were created by, and for, those individuals that were part of the layoff.  I joined the groups, and would describe them as part job lead swap, and part support group.  When a member comes across a job lead that isn’t a fit for them, they post it.  Usually with an accompanying offer of an introduction to their connection and/or a recommendation.

Recruiters and curious outsiders began requesting entrance to the group and it was put to vote. Some people felt that the more accessible and visible our job search content was, the better (really great point).  However, a majority voted for the Facebook group to stay closed so that we had a confidential and mutually understood place to go, so regardless of whether that day we needed a job lead, a place to vent, or a discussion thread about how to best navigate our severance benefits, it was a safe place to be.  If an unrecognized request to join came through, the group administrator sent it out to the group so someone could vouch.  There actually was a recruiter that got in on the first couple of days before the vote and she graciously announced that she would leave and connect with us on Linked In. We did vote to open the Linked In group to anyone who wanted to help with leads and connections.

The most important thing I learned about using social media in my job search is how powerful it is in delivering qualified job leads.  It helped me avoid the atrophy of sifting through hundreds of openings that were not interesting, or that weren’t a good fit or that I didn’t have a connection to help me get in.  When I did pursue leads, I was going in for my interviews with a recommendation from the connection who had posted the lead.

I also was reminded why I love working in the interactive media space.  It is filled with so many smart, supportive, generous, creative people.  Thank you.

Laura Wadzinski is a Client Services Manager at The Lacek Group.  She has led strategic planning and project management both on the agency side and on the corporate side.

Future Tense

We were on Future Tense this morning, which was pretty cool! I listen to that show every morning while eating breakfast and getting ready to head into the office, so I had a bit of a fangirl moment interacting with Jon Gordon. He talked with Nancy and me — and Jennifer Bohmbach — about Ada Lovelace Day tomorrow.

Check out the audio that aired this morning, or you can also listen to our unedited conversation with Jon (y’know, the one with more ums and ahs).

mp3 file here.

On a Mac, hold down the control key and click and select “Save Link As…” and save the mp3 somewhere on your computer.
On a PC, right click and select Save Target As… (in IE) or Save Link As… (in Firefox) and save the mp3 somewhere on your computer.

When you open the file, it should launch your preferred audio player.

Keep an eye on this blog, and for a worldwide day of blogging about women in technology.

Oh, and in the long version of our conversation with Jon I reference this presentation from Ignite Sydney, “I’m a Barbie Girl…in a CS World.” I really love its message about being yourself, whether or not that matches who people think you “should” be — check it out:

iPad Leakage

There’s a lot of chatter about the iPad today, and not just about its features. Many people are commenting on, and joking about, the name (iTampon is currently a trending topic on Twitter). For 50% of us, the word “pad” means something other than a notebook.

Upon hearing the name, I tweeted: “I refuse to say iPad; sounds like a feminine product. I’m calling it iTab. So there, Jobs!”

Most women in my Twitter stream were either tweeting something similar, or giving me the “Amen, sister.” Meanwhile, comments like this started cropping up from the dudes:

  • seem to be the only one who’s not shocked/grossed out by the name and will go as far as to say it was the only real choice. –@rett
  • sorry, women, you don’t own the word “pad”. – @lolife

It’s not surprising that many (if not most) men are baffled about why anyone would be weirded out by the name iPad. It makes sense because they’ve never (I hope) used a pad and they don’t have any associations with that word. Sadly, I’m having no luck thinking up a parallel product name that men might think was odd but that women wouldn’t care about. (iJockstrap? Nah. iNutpunch? Uh, no. iMorningwood? Hrm.)

So, let’s be clear: is the name iPad going to prevent me from buying this product? No. But it does tell me that it’s unlikely that any women were involved in the naming of this product. (My other favorite example of a product name I’m pretty sure no women weighed in on: the Ford Probe.)

Tellingly, Apple’s promotional video for the iPad contains not. one. woman. It features interviews with the men who developed it, and action shots of male hand models using it. I don’t know, maybe it was hard to find women willing to star in a film called iPad. (I can’t imagine why.)

So, here’s the deal: I’m not offended. I just think it’s interesting that Apple picked a loaded (for women) term for their new product, and it’s strange that they couldn’t be bothered to show even ONE woman using it. And yet, we (and our wallets) will be crucial to its success. But, hell, for all I know this was all intentional. The folks at Apple are no fools when it comes to marketing, and in an “any publicity is good publicity” world, Apple is crushing it today.

All of this just reminds me of how much I’m looking forward to the day when there are more women involved in the development and creation of tech products. After all, we’re already buying and using them at nearly the same rate as our male counterparts.

Podcast #4: MPR Technology Follow Up

I had the pleasure of talking to Kerri Miller on the Midmorning show on MPR this morning.  (You can listen to the show here.) Her guest was Robert Stephens and I was a call-in guest for a short part of the hour.  It is so hard to even try to touch technology in an hour’s worth of time.  It’s even harder to speak to the cultural impact of technology in short bytes.  We try to do all of that here on the Geek Girl’s Guide.  But we try to do it in a way that encourages very broad participation.  We want to open this up to audiences that may not normally be included in a conversation about technology.  Of course when I finished the interview my head was spinning.  The only logical thing to do was to keep talking to Meghan about the ideas we’d only touched on in the on-air chat.  Here’s the resulting podcast.  Enjoy!

Listen Online

Click the cute little button below to stream the audio in your browser window.

Good Enough

This morning at the Clockwork kitchen table, Marty and I had an argument centering around the Flip camera. It went something like this:

Me: I want a Flip.
Marty: Why? They suck.
Me: You sound like my husband! You guys are A/V snobs.
Marty: No, we’re not. We just don’t like things that suck.
Me: Yeah, but it’s fast and easy!
Marty: But it SUCKS.
Marty: Shut up.
Me: No, YOU shut up.
Kjrsten: Here, I had a Flip in my desk drawer. You can have it if the two of you promise to shut up.

One of the points I was trying to make as Marty and I were talking was one that Wired perfectly summed up in their recent article, The Good Enough Revolution:

“We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they’re actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as ‘high-quality.’

And it’s happening everywhere. As more sectors connect to the digital world, from medicine to the military, they too are seeing the rise of Good Enough tools like the Flip. Suddenly what seemed perfect is anything but, and products that appear mediocre at first glance are often the perfect fit.”

Marty objects to the Flip for the same reason my husband does: because the video output is not that great. It could be so much better.

What they fail to understand are the motivations of people like me (whom Flip is presumably targeting): for us, it isn’t a choice between taking crummy video (with a Flip) and good video (with some other device). The choice is between capturing a moment on a dead-simple device, or not capturing it at all. Between sharing videos often (because we can plug the USB device into our machine at a moment’s notice) or sharing them rarely — or not at all (because it’s a hassle getting out the right cord).

So, while the Flip is offensive to people who know how much better it could be, it’s perfect for people who — above all else — just want something simple. (And, frankly, I recently made a video that ended up being half-shot on my Panasonic DMC-TZ5 and half-shot on Nancy’s Flip. The Flip portion has better audio and the video, while a bit lower in quality, is not offensive to the eyes AT ALL. Most importantly, IT GOT THE JOB DONE.)

It’s not like I’m a Luddite. I love technology. But, I also love things that are easy. And, whether you love or hate the Flip (or its output) you can’t argue that it’s easy as hell to use.

The Wired article is a fascinating look at how and when we value “good enough” over “the best” or “most featureful.” For those of us who develop web sites, software and other applications, this is a crucial phenomenon to understand. At what point do we give our users so many options that they can’t deal with it and retreat to something simpler that feels better, easier and less overwhelming?

Another perfect example: Craiglist (also featured in the same issues of Wired). The thing is ugly and clunky, and yet it is the first place I go when I need to buy or sell something. Because IT GETS THE JOB DONE. Wired asked designers to re-imagine Craigslist with a “better” design and you know what? With one exception (the one by SimpleScott who noted, “Why fix what isn’t broken?”), I wouldn’t use any of the versions presented. Better? Perhaps. But, somehow, in getting “better” they lost what it was that made it work in the first place.

[cross-posted on the Clockwork blog]