Firefox OS

This weekend I had the chance to play with a phone running Firefox OS, a relatively new open source mobile operating system. The Flame is the Firefox OS reference device, basically the first Nexus of the Firefox OS world. It’s intended for developers, not consumers. Still, the handset itself is a good-looking, 4.5-inch touchscreen phone with a crisp display, soft back, and bright orange accents on the home button, front-facing speaker, and camera.

In the five minutes I had to play with it, I was impressed with Firefox OS. It’s a modern touchscreen operating system with smooth interactions, an array of apps, and all the settings and customizations you’d expect. In my short time with the phone, which was not connected to the internet, I played a game of 2048, poked around the settings, and panned and zoomed around a maps app. I would have liked the 2048 tiles to slide more smoothly, and the map scrolling and panning to stutter less, but the groundwork is there. It is a web-based operating system that worked offline well, and there was no distinction between local apps and web apps.

As an avowed Android fangirl, my main question about Firefox OS is: why? If a manufacturer or a user wants an open mobile operating system, why not use AOSP and build on top of it?

Turns out that the very lowest level of Firefox OS is Android, with the Java/Dalvik layer removed so everything runs as a webapp, locally or on the internet. For consumers, the web focus means there are already gadzillions of apps that run on this phone. (They’re located on the web.) For developers, it means anyone who knows HTML and other web tech can build a local app without having to know Java or Objective-C (which is a big learning curve and a specialized skillset). Since Android’s hardware abstraction layer is included in Firefox OS, it’s compatible with many Android devices.

I love the open web more than I do Android, so the vision for Firefox OS appeals to me. I hope that with it, Mozilla becomes a serious player in the open mobile operating system game, and do what they did with Firefox the browser: upend assumptions about how software should work set by major companies, and make us all fall in love with the web again.

Accused sexist: “I have a daughter”

Lately I’ve been hearing men who want to prove they’re feminists say this: “I have a daughter.”

I get it. They’re saying that even though they are men, they have a vested interest in making sure women get equal rights, equal pay, less harassment, and fewer threats, so they can’t be sexist. Even President Obama invokes his daughters in Equal Pay speeches. (Though it bothers me less when it’s not used on the defensive.)

The problem with “I have a daughter” is that it’s akin to “some of my best friends are black,” but it’s more socially acceptable. (Awww, what a good dad.)

Having a daughter (or a mom, or a sister, or a wife, or you know, sharing the planet with billions of women) doesn’t inoculate you from being a sexist. Heck, being a woman doesn’t mean you’re not sexist. Trust me: I have and I can bro down with the best of them, when I’m not thinking.

What “I have a daughter” actually proves is that the speaker isn’t self-aware enough, or educated enough, to acknowledge that sexism is so baked into our culture that we all participate in it whether we want to or not. Instead of using your kid as proof of the fact that you care about gender issues, use thoughtful self-reflection instead.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

A couple of weeks ago I did that thing that people do where I mentally strung together a series of crappy things that happened and decided I was having The. Worst. Week. Ever.

Looking back I’m embarrassed about the hyperbole and self-pity. To be fair, that week I spent multiple days at the hospital with a family member getting a serious diagnosis, had to have difficult conversations at work, and got a not-fun lecture about my health at my own doctor's visit. So, by the time I lost my MetroCard, missed my bus, and got weepy in the rain, I was just expecting–no, looking–for more things to go wrong. Why wouldn't they? I had incontrovertible evidence that life was beating me down for some karmic reason, and all rationale went out the window. Turns out that when you’re looking for things to go wrong, they do.

Two weeks later, hindsight offers perspective. Taken as a whole, that particular week was not that great. But I can take any aspect of my life and see it as completely awful, right on track and getting better, or something to be proud of, depending on what angle I look at it from.

The truth is, everything in any timeframe isn't all terrible and it isn't all great, it just is. In the meantime, I get to decide what to see, what to focus on, and what to expect.

Let’s learn together till we’re dead

I’ve spent hours and hours on Justin Hall’s Links.net over the years. From his HTML tutorials and accounts of time with friends to his father’s suicide and his nudie pics, I’ve always thought “holy shit this guy is brave (and maybe crazy!) for publishing like this.”

So I loved Justin’s talk at XOXO, where he described his thesis: that if everyone shared more about themselves online, we’d have a more empathic, more peaceful world. What an idea.

As a Justin and Links.net fan, I was thrilled to see Justin started using a standing desk, partly inspired by my own. Let’s learn together indeed.

Two

Once a year I write a letter to my future self and my daughter about what being her Mama is like. Here’s one. This is two. If you’ve no interest in Mommy-blogging, skip this post.

The first thing I experience most mornings, before I even open my eyes, is a small hand touching my arm. I stretch and rub my eyes open to find a miniature human looking at me. Standing next to the bed she’s eye-level with me, wearing fleece footie pajamas with polka dots or monsters or spaceships on them. The first thing she says is usually “Hiiiiii,” drawn out, with a big grin on her face, as if we haven’t seen each other in ages. Or, if her mother has been coaching her, “Good morninggggg.”

This is what having a two-year-old is like.

Continue…

Short-form blogging

I find tweets too reductionist and Medium pieces too bloviating, so I came to the same conclusion Andy did on mid-length writing. His post reminded me of a working draft I started awhile back called “New rules for blogging.”

This is still a work-in-progress, notes-to-self kind of thing, but it’s been sitting in Draft for months now, so it’s time to get it out. With the obvious caveat that rules are made to be broken (with reason), my new rules for blogging are:

If it’s a paragraph, it’s a post. Medium-sized content gets short shrift these days. Don’t go long. One or two paragraphs count. Then press publish.

Negotiate a comfort zone on two axes: personal and public, tech and everything else (feminism, musical theater, MMA, parenting, etc). 2001-era Scribbling.net was too personal, Lifehacker/Smarterware too tech. There’s something in the middle.

Traffic is irrelevant. Don’t even measure it.

Simplify, simplify. No comments. (Maybe G+ or Disqus later on?) Use Markdown and Draft to write. No pages, no requiring an image every post. No categories, tags, footnotes, special post styles, pages. Virtually no plugins. Default WordPress installation with the most stripped-down theme possible.

Ask for trusted collaborator feedback. Clarify ideas when you’re not sure how they come across. Run a draft by people you trust.

Have fun. Blogging is not your job. Don’t add it to your to-do list. If it’s not fun and you’re not done? Screw it. Take the baby to the park instead.

Guilt-bait for parents

When my circle of (smart, career-focused, techie) Moms passed around this provocative article, How American parenting is killing the American marriage, I didn’t think much of it. Then my spouse brought it up, and joked that it was time we arrange a date night. I’m all for a date night for any reason, but I refuse to indulge the guilt-bait and bad-parent neuroses of that article, and most writing about parenthood in U.S. media.

Thanks to my Catholic upbringing, I’m no stranger to guilt and judgement as a manipulator and shamer. But even someone as inured as I am can’t stand the extreme levels involved in American parenthood, and how we are all doing it wrong. Parenthood is not a religion to me. I’m well-aware of what it’s like to attachment-parent, bring up bébé, tiger-mom, helicopter-parent, or look like I ignore my kid at the park and/or encourage independent play, depending on what angle you’re watching us from. No matter how you parent, someone’s out there saying you’re destroying your marriage, raising a loser, and compromising the future of our country.

And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Love your kid. If you’re married, love your spouse. Figure out your priorities and the life you want to live and go for it. Then, take everyone else’s opinion about what you should or shouldn’t be doing and toss it in your mental trash bin.

Revolution 60

New iOS game Revolution 60 features a cast of complex, strong, female characters, and was built by an all-female game studio. Its success spurred a harassment campaign of its lead developer, Brianna Wu, bad enough to drive her from her home.

I’m not much of a gamer (or iPad user for that matter), but this kind of game is so rare, and so needed, I upgraded iOS, downloaded, played, and purchased the full version. It is awesome. You should get it too, because it’s really fun.

The satisfaction of flipping the digital bird at trolls who can’t stand the idea of women making things? That’s just a bonus.

DDoS

Reading Kathy Sierra’s account of the horrific attacks against her by anonymous internet trolls – and the way the tech community has treated the lead troll since – just chopped my soul down this week. Kathy Sierra, Adria Richards, Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian – every awful detail outrages me more.

Then, oddly, I find myself feeling grateful that my harasser hasn’t Photoshopped my daughter’s face on a pornographic image.

When that’s what you’re grateful for, something’s deeply wrong.

I don’t have answers, but I do have some half-formed thoughts. I’m grateful to the women who are out there braving the worst hordes of mysogynist trolls and speaking up in the name of change. I will continue to support them publicly, privately, monetarily, in any way I can. I’ve always thought it’s every woman’s job to stand with each other, spread the heat as thin as we can, and be our own formidable horde.

But.

Even for allies, there are days when preserving your sanity is more important than educating yet another stranger who wants to know what you’re talking about. Or explaining that “just ignore them” isn’t enough. Or filling out another online abuse report. Or discovering anew how badly our tools fail the most vulnerable in our community.

Those are the days it feels like the unwinnable scenario Sierra described, a DDoS attack on one’s spiritual reserves. And you know what? That’s when it’s okay to opt out.

On those days, I can and will choose to spend my time in safe, private spaces, where I will surround myself with people who feed – rather than deplete – me. That’s a fine choice. I fully support Sierra’s departure from Twitter, and understand why she did, even while it makes me sad.

It’s not a woman’s job to make the world a nicer place for everyone to live in her spare time. Some days a woman’s job is to build her own world and invite only the people worthy of it inside.