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Monday, October 06, 2014

Girl Archetypes

Etsy are doing good work. Apart from creating a massive, global craft and stuff marketplace, behind the scenes they're working hard and investing in women engineers with diversity as a core goal of the company. I'm proud of my friend, Kellan, Etsy's CTO, who's publicly leading a lot of this work. Now I can't find the damned thing, but, the other day on the internet, a tweet shot past me linking to Etsy’s Trying to Fix Tech’s Women Problem. Why Aren’t You? The first step is, throw out the hoodie-wearing boy-genius and build a new archetype on Medium.

New archetypes.

I'm one of those people who love fairy tales. My library is full of them. I'm aware that there's been a lot of writing of girl-centric fairy tales and feminist fairy tales. Hey, I was -- still am -- a huge Women Who Run With The Wolves fan back in the 90s. I just ate it up.

Because I'm sitting here on my couch, bashing my hotspot -- not a euphemism -- and waiting for my new bed to arrive, I have a bit of time to try a quick exercise. I grabbed a random sample from an Irish fairy tale called The Birth of Bran from Project Gutenberg. Instead of rewriting it, all I did was switch the gender and names. I'm excited by how it reads.


+++++ ORIGINAL FAIRY TALE SAMPLE +++++

There are people who do not like dogs a bit—they are usually women—but in this story there is a man who did not like dogs. In fact, he hated them. When he saw one he used to go black in the face, and he threw rocks at it until it got out of sight. But the Power that protects all creatures had put a squint into this man's eye, so that he always threw crooked.

This gentleman's name was Fergus Fionnliath, and his stronghold was near the harbour of Galway. Whenever a dog barked he would leap out of his seat, and he would throw everything that he owned out of the window in the direction of the bark. He gave prizes to servants who disliked dogs, and when he heard that a man had drowned a litter of pups he used to visit that person and try to marry his daughter.

Now Fionn, the son of Uail, was the reverse of Fergus Fionnliath in this matter, for he delighted in dogs, and he knew everything about them from the setting of the first little white tooth to the rocking of the last long yellow one. He knew the affections and antipathies which are proper in a dog; the degree of obedience to which dogs may be trained without losing their honourable qualities or becoming servile and suspicious; he knew the hopes that animate them, the apprehensions which tingle in their blood, and all that is to be demanded from, or forgiven in, a paw, an ear, a nose, an eye, or a tooth; and he understood these things because he loved dogs, for it is by love alone that we understand anything.

Among the three hundred dogs which Fionn owned there were two to whom he gave an especial tenderness, and who were his daily and nightly companions. These two were Bran and Sceo'lan, but if a person were to guess for twenty years he would not find out why Fionn loved these two dogs and why he would never be separated from them.

Fionn's mother, Muirne, went to wide Allen of Leinster to visit her son, and she brought her young sister Tuiren with her. The mother and aunt of the great captain were well treated among the Fianna, first, because they were parents to Fionn, and second, because they were beautiful and noble women.

No words can describe how delightful Muirne was—she took the branch; and as to Tuiren, a man could not look at her without becoming angry or dejected. Her face was fresh as a spring morning; her voice more cheerful than the cuckoo calling from the branch that is highest in the hedge; and her form swayed like a reed and flowed like a river, so that each person thought she would surely flow to him.

+++++ SAME SAMPLE, GENDER FLIPPED +++++

There are people who do not like dogs a bit—they are usually men—but in this story there is a woman who did not like dogs. In fact, she hated them. When she saw one she used to go black in the face, and she threw rocks at it until it got out of sight. But the Power that protects all creatures had put a squint into this woman's eye, so that she always threw crooked.

This lady’s name was Fiona Fionnliath, and her stronghold was near the harbour of Galway. Whenever a dog barked she would leap out of her seat, and she would throw everything that she owned out of the window in the direction of the bark. She gave prizes to servants who disliked dogs, and when she heard that a woman had drowned a litter of pups she used to visit that person and try to marry her son.

Now Frances, the daughter of Uail, was the reverse of Fiona Fionnliath in this matter, for she delighted in dogs, and she knew everything about them from the setting of the first little white tooth to the rocking of the last long yellow one. She knew the affections and antipathies which are proper in a dog; the degree of obedience to which dogs may be trained without losing their honourable qualities or becoming servile and suspicious; she knew the hopes that animate them, the apprehensions which tingle in their blood, and all that is to be demanded from, or forgiven in, a paw, an ear, a nose, an eye, or a tooth; and she understood these things because she loved dogs, for it is by love alone that we understand anything.

Among the three hundred dogs which Frances owned there were two to whom she gave an especial tenderness, and who were her daily and nightly companions. These two were Bran and Sceo'lan, but if a person were to guess for twenty years she would not find out why Frances loved these two dogs and why she would never be separated from them.

Frances’ father, Michael, went to wide Allen of Leinster to visit his daughter, and he brought her young brother Tyrone with him. The father and aunt of the great captain were well treated among the Fianna, first, because they were parents to Frances, and second, because they were beautiful and noble.

No words can describe how delightful Michael was—he took the branch; and as to Tyrone, a woman could not look at him without becoming angry or dejected. His face was fresh as a spring morning; his voice more cheerful than the cuckoo calling from the branch that is highest in the hedge; and his form swayed like a reed and flowed like a river, so that each person thought he would surely flow to her.

I'm curious about this. Not that it's creating new archetypes or anything, but more that it's just interesting to read stories as if the gender roles were simply reversed. Imagine women getting angry or dejected looking at a handsome man! Yes, women can have strongholds too!

I've also consciously created an all-female advisory board for my new firm. It was really interesting to observe a male friend and more informal advisor's reaction to it. He was jealous! I said ha ha!


Posted at 5:25 am

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A different kind of work

I launched the New Deal on July 1st. Since then, I've appreciated and enjoyed several things about it. Firstly, I'm not really sure what I'm doing just yet, but the friendly folks I've talked about about ideas have been very receptive and downright encouraging. I'm deliberately trying not to plan too much, but am focussing on lots of note-taking and doodling, meeting with advisors and talking about what's going on, and research, research, research.

I'm deeply encouraged by how the cultural heritage sector has transformed even in the few short years since I was much more closely involved. There's a completely different tone now, of openness and fun and reflection that I don't remember seeing before.

I've found the people I've reached out to to be genuinely receptive and constructive with me, which is an absolute thrill and a treat. I've already made so many new connections it's almost overwhelming!

I've been spending my days:

That final point might be a bit odd to hear, but, if you have more than $10k in the bank, you should do it too. It's a way to make sure that your family (or friends or heirs or charities) are the ones who end up inheriting what you want them to have.

I'm enjoying formative thinking and work again. It's a place I'm very happy, actually. I'm at my most constructive and creative when I'm designing how something could be, and working out what all the moving parts probably are and how they interconnect. It's also going to be useful to do the fundraising thing, I suspect, because that will force me to consolidate all the tendrils and ideas I have flying around today.

And, I get to sit in my dressing gown with a cat by my side in the morning. Can't beat that.

Posted at 9:48 am

Monday, June 30, 2014

Once you dive, the water appears.

June 20 was my last day as art director at Stamen Design. I worked on about 70 different projects in the two and a half years I was there. It was a blast.

When I left Australia in 2003, the day after the US declared war on Iraq, I had in mind that I would head for London and try to land a job at the BBC because of all the interesting people and projects happening there at the time. One of the main reasons I left home then was because I decided to test myself in an international arena. My simple plan was to travel the world for 10 years, learn as much as I could, and then return home to start a company based on what I’d discovered.

Now, about 11 years later, it turns out that plan is coming to its final stage, at least in part. Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked on some amazing projects -- Flickr, Flickr Commons, Internet Archive, Stamen -- for superstars like Caterina Fake, Stewart Butterfield, Brewster Kahle and Eric Rodenbeck. They are all outstanding in their fields, lovely people, and definite influences on the way I work now. They have variously taught me about polish, value, ego, scale and leadership.

Today, similar to how I jumped in 2003, I need to jump again. It was back in 2008, inventing The Commons on Flickr, that I fell in love again with museums, libraries and archives, and the people who take care of them. It’s time for me to really push on that, to work on it deliberately to see what I can do to help gather and preserve culture around the world.

So, I’m very excited to announce the launch of my own design company. It’s called Good, Form & Spectacle and I can't wait to see where it takes me. In particular, I want to thank Raphael Grignani, Elizabeth Churchill and Georgia Rogers for your support and encouragement. Sincere apologies to Mum (and Dad) too, for not starting this thing in Australia, but San Francisco.

I’m looking for clients, so -- ahem -- tell your friends. The ones who do culture stuff.

this is a photo of my new business cards

Posted at 5:45 pm


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