Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate women in technology and science. Learn more at FindingAda.com and check out a list and a map of all the other blog posts around the world!

We talked a lot about what we wanted to do for Ada Lovelace Day this year, and ultimately we decided to make a list of women who have inspired us in our own lives, versus picking someone famous or well-known.

Nancy’s List

Barbara Lyons and Nancy Branom Genieser, Physicians

My mother, Barbara Lyons, and her best friend from medical school (and the woman I am named after) Nancy Branom Genieser.  These women went to med school in the late ’50s – during that post-war era when women weren’t encouraged to do much outside of the home, let alone become physicians.  But the part of the story that I really love is all of the adventures these women had together.  They were both graduates of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. After completing their coursework, and before graduation, they worked together in a clinic environment on a Navajo Indian Reservation for a year.  They lived and worked with the people on the reservation, really experiencing Navajo culture.  And every weekend they struck out on some new adventure: hiking, canoeing, exploring.  They were young adventurers out to really see the world.  As a kid those stories were so important and so exciting to me.  I found inspiration in the fact that these two bright, funny, out-going nerd-girls could be so accomplished and balance their life of learning with so much fun.  Both of them went on to be very well-regarded physicians with families and lives.  But those stories of their youthful years as young doctors out to see the world were just pure joy to me.

Lisa Corp, Stage Manager Extraordinaire

In college I was involved in theatre and I probably wasn’t mature enough to take it as seriously as I should have to consider it as a career.  I could certainly sing and act and deliver a punch line, but because I was more of a character actor than an ingenue, there was always plenty of competition for the meatier roles.  It was my friend Lisa who encouraged me to think  about theatre “tech.”  I didn’t think I had any actual talent for the construction and design of a theatre experience.  But Lisa disagreed.  Lisa was hopelessly devoted to stagecraft — all of it.  She understood the power and nuance of lighting and sound and the sense of place that a set created and that, when done well, the audience (and even the actors) took for granted.  The environment created by the backstage personnel, more often than not, is another character in any show — with equal, but very different, weight and importance to the story.  Lisa understood all of that and was passionate about it in her own quiet way.  She inspired me to see beyond the spotlight to the, well, spotlight.  And it opened up a whole new world of possibility to me.  It also really influenced how I approach my work today in terms of management and process.  Lisa passed away a few years ago from cancer.  I never told her that, in addition to being my roommate and friend, she had also been a mentor.  I hope she hears that now.

Mary McKinney, Teacher

My 8th grade science teacher Mrs. McKinney taught in a way that suggested that she wasn’t just about validating or encouraging the kids with left brain sensibilities.  I remember her creating an open, positive, fun and experiential environment for learning.  It was the only time in my academic life I remember having a good time in a science class.  It was our energy and our interest, and not our aptitude for science, that dictated whether or not we got any respect in her classroom.  As a result, her class is the only science class that stands out for me from my school years.  Turns out, I did have an aptitude for science.  I just responded better to experiential learning versus textbook learning and lectures.  I think teachers are the unsung heroes of our culture.  Especially now with education being such a politicized, hot-button issue.  Mary McKinney was definitely someone who helped shape my view of the world and my place in it.  For that I am forever grateful.

Meghan’s List

Ms. Voss, Teacher

Ms. Voss taught the first and only computer class that I took in high school. I couldn’t tell you what language we programmed in (I think it was BASIC), but I do have this sweet photo to show of my work:

Yeah, she took a photo of each of our projects. How sweet is that? And that’s back when you actually had to develop film! I’ve hung onto this photo since 1992; I remember clearly the sense of accomplishment I felt knowing that from nothing, I had created something. Sure, it was the cover art from an obscure ’90s band, but come on. I was 17. It felt deep at the time.

I get that same feeling of pride and accomplishment now every time I launch a web site with a team I’m working with. That feeling of knowing that without me (and each of us on the team) the site wouldn’t exist. The more complex the problem we’re trying to solve, and the more constraints on the project (budget, timeline, hardware, software, you name it), the bigger the rush. I love that feeling.

Margaret McInerny, My Awesome Mom

While my mom doesn’t work in the technology field, she’s influenced and encouraged my love of technology in a couple of ways:

First, in 1983, when Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space, I became obsessed with the idea of becoming an astronaut. That year, for Halloween, my mom sewed me a handmade, quilted astronaut suit (with a helmet!) with a namebadge that said RIDE. I have a clear memory of how it felt to wear that costume, and to dream about going into space. I also clearly remember how it felt to have such a different costume; the other girls I knew were definitely not dressing like astronauts. But my mom always encouraged me to do what I wanted, whether or not other people thought it was cool.

Sadly, I have no idea where that costume is today. Even more sadly, as I grew older, the “baby” journals that my mom kept for me (I’m the oldest, I got a lot more ink than the next three did) started saying things like “Meghan says she hates math and wishes it would die.” Like so many girls, I rejected math and science in a way that I regret to this day. Part of my passion around speaking and educating people in technology is to try to prevent that from happening to other young women.

Which leads me to the second point I want to make about my mom. She embodies everything that the Geek Girls Guide is all about: embracing technology, learning new things, asking questions. She’s interested in how things work and is constantly trying things out. She’s a project manager at an advertising agency and is learning now about how to manage interactive projects. She’s on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr. She (with three partners) started a web site that sells photography. She doesn’t always know the technology, but she’s never afraid to ask a question or just figure it the hell out herself. She’s intellectually curious.

In short, I hope I’m a lot like her when I grow up.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

It’s been fun to share with you the women who, while not widely known or famous, have influenced the Geek Girls we’ve become.

Who inspires you?

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 FindingAda.com 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:

Podcast #10 – What is The Cloud?

In our 10th podcast we break down a popular buzzword-of-the-moment, The Cloud. (We also blogged about this topic last October.)

Listen Online


We could recap the podcast, but we’re so dang busy right now (as you can tell from the dearth of posts and podcasts lately). A good complement to this podcast is our blog post about the cloud from last October.

What do you think? Does that explain it? Hit us up with any questions in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.

Gleek Girls Guide

In somewhat unrelated news (except that it’s just further proof of what geeks we are in other parts of our lives as well), we Geek Girls are also hosting a Glee premiere party on April 13 in Minneapolis. You should come! Get more details and RSVP at gleepremiere.eventbrite.com.

Podcast #9: Stupid Social Media Advice

In our 9th podcast we react to a recent news channel’s story on how social media, and especially Facebook, can affect your marriage. What? Yeah.

See for yourself: the most ridiculous social media advice ever: [WCCO video].

Listen Online


We react to the following list of dos and don’ts by psychologist John Buri of the University of St. Thomas. Here’s what he said. You can hear our thoughts about this in the podcast (and in the brackets below):

The Dos

1. Share your username and password with your spouse. [WHAT?!]

2. Include your spouse in pictures and status updates.

3. Tell your spouse whenever someone asks to “friend” you. [Really? Every friend request? Oy vey.]

The Don’ts

1. Don’t criticize your spouse online. [DUH!]

2. Don’t “friend” exes.

3. Don’t engage in private chat. [Um, by this logic you better stop answering your phone, too.]

Take the hilarious Facebook compulsion quiz! http://tumanov.com/quiz/

What do you think? Are we wrong, or is this the most ridiculous crap ever said aloud?

DIY Web Tools

Geeky reader Allison from St. Paul wrote to ask, “My uncle, a retired lawyer, is thinking of offering his services to students, helping them get into law school (and figure out if it’s even what they want). 2 questions: 1. any suggestions on how to build a simple website, and more importantly, optimize it so it shows up in google searches? 2. if he were to try some grassroots Facebook marketing, would you suggest a Group or a Fan page?”

Great questions! Sometimes, when you’re just getting started on a new idea, you have to do things yourself for little to no cost. Here are some thoughts:

DIY Website

For a quick and simple site, my favorite tool is Weebly — even for the least tech-savvy person, it’s a great tool. Your uncle could easily build a small site himself; they have some excellent templates to start with. If he likes it after playing with it a bit, he can upgrade to a Pro account and use his own URL (www.hisname.com instead of hisname.weebly.com). That’s a great place to start, especially if his business is just starting out. If things really start to take off, he can invest in a custom web design. (He can have someone create and install custom design templates into Weebly.)

Here’s a post that Nancy did about inexpensive sites (including Weebly) in ’08.


As long as he’s creating a clean HTML site (which Weebly does) he’ll get indexed by Google. He may want or need to just figure out which keywords to focus on. Google has a keyword research tool; using that, he can check to see how many searches are done with particular words or phrases. The more searches are done on a given word, the more competition there will be to be a top result for that word.

Getting ranked by Google in organic search results takes time; the algorithm considers how long a site has been around and how many other sites link to that site in addition to how relevant the site is to what the user is searching for (which is where the keyword stuff comes in). So, you either have to be patient or consider buying AdWords if you want to show up in search results right away.

Here’s a post Nina Hale wrote for us in ’08 on Pay-Per-Click advertising.

Facebook: Pages vs. Groups

For Facebook marketing, there’s a few things he might consider: first, Facebook Ads are pretty cheap and he could test them out to drive traffic to his website and see if he gets leads from it.

As far as a Page vs. a Group, for what he’s doing I’d suggest a Page. (There is talk that Groups will start to act more like Pages in the future — meaning activity will be more visible, but for right now Pages are the way to go. Especially for a business; a Group is really more appropriate if you want to create a community.)

Your uncle may even want to consider just doing a Page and skipping the “real” web site — as soon as he’s got 25 Fans (which could be friends and family to start) he create a custom URL (like www.facebook.com/hisname) and he could just refer people directly there to contact him. To set up a custom URL for a Page, visit www.facebook.com/username.

I’d think that referrals would be a big source of business for him at first so, honestly, I think starting with a Facebook page and building referrals from there (and maybe also supplementing with some Facebook ads that drive traffic to that Page) would be a great, very low investment place to start!

Geek Camps for Minnesota Girls (and Boys!)

Geeky reader Sandra from Minneapolis said, “I heard a provocative rumor that you have, or will be starting, a summer camp for school age girls.  I have a soon to be eight-year-old daughter who is crazy into computers and I’d love to give her some extracurricular opportunities.  Are the rumors true?”

My, that is a provocative (and awesome) rumor. I wish it was true!

At this point, we are focused more on adults and working professionals and have not ventured into much content for young girls. Not that we don’t have the desire, but with full-time jobs and both of us with young kids at home — we have to focus or risk going crazy.

With that said, here’s what I know about right now for geeky kid camps in Minnesota:

Computer Camps for Girls in MN

DigiGirlz: High tech camps by Microsoft. There don’t appear to be any Minnesota camps running right now, but this may be a good spot to keep an eye on.

Digital Media Academy (U of M): Sadly, all of the kid sessions are currently closed, but it might be something to keep in mind for the future.

Eagles Summer Camp (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math (STEAM) Focus): This appears to be free for all Minnesota students entering grades 6, 7, or 8.

Geek Squad Summer Academy: Camps run by Best Buy and Geek Squad employees on a variety of techie topics.

Giant Camps (Online Camps): For ages 10-17

iD Tech Camp (Macalester College): For boys and girls 7-17.

Science Museum of Minnesota: I have my four-year-old daughter signed up for a rocket class this spring!

Help Us, Readers!

Do you know of any computer camp opportunities for girls in MN (or any other state, for that matter)? Let’s get our girls to geek out this summer!

Podcast: The Cult of Social Media

In our eighth podcast we talk about the cult of social media, what to look for when choosing your social team and how to tell the difference between social media enthusiasm and expertise. We’ve now got three ways for you to listen:

Listen Online

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

Join the Discussion

What did we miss? What do you think is important to illustrate expertise and experience in social media? What successes or failures have you experienced when trying to assemble a social media SWAT team, or find a social media consultant?

Product Review: Corel Digital Studio

Hi, we’re the Geek Girls and we’re Macs. But, hey — we know that 90% of the rest of the world are PCs and we love all our friends, regardless of platform. We recently received a copy of Corel Digital Studio to review (and a copy to give away!) so we dusted off our PC and checked it out for you.


This little suite ended up surprising us a quite a bit! At first glance (and during installation), it seemed a bit overwhelming, but once you really get into the program it becomes easy to use and navigate. 


Digital Studio includes a photo editor, video editor, burning element, and media player, all of which are easily accessed via a Desktop Widget. The widget proves to be very helpful when working on projects requiring all of those features, or just a little bit of a lot of functionality.


Grabbing and editing photos with Corel Digital Studio is surprisingly easy. You have the ability to import from a variety of sources including your computer, camera, mobile phone, webcam, scanner, and other devices (like an external hard drive).

 Once your photos have been imported, you can create albums and projects like a photobook, a greeting card, a crafty collage, a handy calendar, a family slideshow, or a backup disc. Finally, you can share your photo projects via email, Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube right from the interface.

We liked the templates that allowed us to quickly and easily make a family album or fun and totally personalized greeting card.  With Valentine’s Day right around the corner – Corel Digital Studio is a great way to give your loved ones what they really want – something thoughtful and from the heart.



Your videos work much the same way.  Just like photos, you can import video from a variety of sources including, your computer, a video disc, camera, mobile phone, webcam, TV tuner/capture card, a tape-camcorder, internal memory-camcorder, or other (like an external drive). 

Once you import a video, you’ve started your video project. It’s easy getting started with the pre-existing video backgrounds and themes.  We used one to make the test video below. After you create your movie you can export it into a number of file types, all of which come with a great description of the best place to put the files when you’re done (if you’re not file savvy this is a very helpful piece of information). 

Once you have your file saved you can share share it in a variety of ways, put it on YouTube, send via email, save it on your local drive, drop it on Facebook or Flickr (it’s not just for photos anymore). The one function during the save/share process that we weren’t so enamored with was selecting where to save your file. The user experience around this feature was just a little awkward.  But we managed.


For the most part we were impressed with Corel Digital Studio.  Mostly because it is perfect for our audience.  The interface is intuitive and easily navigable by folks who don’t spend their whole lives playing with video. If you’re looking to add a lot of special effects, or you have really specific editing requirements this little program might be too simple for you. But if you want to jump right in and start using your photos and videos in new and creative ways and share them with friends and family then Corel Digital Studio is for you!


The nice people at Corel gave us a spare copy that we can give away. Drop us a line in the comments and tell us why you should get it and we’ll pick a winner using Random.org.  And because we want you to feel the love, the cut off for the drawing is Valentine’s Day (02/14/10) at noon CST.  So comment now and comment often.


Here’s a sample video we created in just minutes:



Contest is over and #6 is our winner.  Jon – send us an email to claim your prize.

Upcoming Event: State of the Industry

We will be at the State of the Industry event hosted by Meetings (Minnesota’s Hospitality Journal) on Tuesday February 2, 2010, holding a series of roundtable discussions on Social Media and how it’s used in the hospitality industry for events and conferences.

It’s not too late to join us! You can still register for the event; while you’re there, enter SOIGUEST10 and save $10!

It’s going to be a fun day and we hope to see some of you there.

To see more events the Geek Girls will be speaking at please check out the schedule. To book us at your next event or conference, drop us a line!

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

With the proliferation and popularity of social media, like Twitter, its easy to forget how powerful a single voice can be.  And yet, like a match, a single voice can spark a raging blaze, perhaps without ever really intending to do it.  As individuals, we often think that when we speak we’re only heard by our immediate audience.  Why edit your content when there’s so little impact? But with social media, that’s not really how it works.  And the immediacy of social – the instant ability to publish an issue to a very broad audience – just complicates the dynamic.  We edit less.  The Geek Girls like to remind folks that fact and fiction or good news and bad news travel at the same speeds in the digital realm. And, let’s face it, as humans, we’re probably more likely to complain out loud than we are to share stories about good experiences. Especially when it comes to consumer or brand or service experiences.  It’s true.  We have expectations around service.  When our experience with a brand comes off without a hitch, we probably don’t say much.  Because we expected it.  But if we have a less than easy encounter with a service provider, we are usually more prone to complain.  And we’ll complain to anyone in the immediate vicinity.  Only now, the immediate vicinity includes the web – Twitter and Facebook and wherever your profile may live.  Don’t deny it.  You know I’m right.  You do it.  But here’s a radical idea – I’d like to suggest that you pause for some reasonable amount of time before transcribing and publishing your knee jerk reaction to an unpleasant encounter.  Because giving it a little bit of time just might be the right thing to do.

I subscribe to cable and home internet services through the cable company and, for the most part, other than the occasional grumble about the high price of cable television, I rarely have a complaint about Comcast.  You may or may not be aware that recently Comcast decided to go entirely digital, which requires that all televisions without set-top control boxes get an additional adapter to receive the all-digital signal.  Comcast informed subscribers via snail mail with a letter that provided instructions around how to order the adapters.  We were given two options – logging into a website and providing a unique identifier and ordering the adapters, or calling a customer service line and speaking to a representative.  Being someone who practically lives online the web option was my obvious choice.  I headed straight for the website, filled out the required fields and provided my ID number, only to be met with an error message stating that the site was unable to process my request at that time.  I tried again, same result.  One last time, still an error message.  My initial reaction was one of frustration.  Don’t send letters out with website information that does not work!  I considered, for a split second, tweeting my frustration.  I even pulled up Tweetdeck for that very reason.  Then I had a moment of calm and decided to just pick up the phone and call Comcast for my adapters. The next day I did exactly that, and you know what happened?  I talked to a delightful human who was beyond helpful and friendly.  My customer service experience with Comcast was, ultimately, perfect.  I got all the information I needed.  The rep was friendly, warm, available, and efficient.  She made it so easy.  I got my adapters by mail just four short days later.  Done. 

It would have been so easy for me to tweet my bitterness.  To be honest, I’m not sure what stopped me.  But now, in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t do it.  Because I realized something as a result of that series of seemingly meaningless events.  I realized that I have some responsibility in all of my brand and service interactions.  Because behind every website and call center and brand promise are people.  We can automate every single transaction.  But it doesn’t take away from the need for humanity in our relationships with these brands. Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s perfectly ok to expect good and reliable products and services from the brand in whom we place our trust.  But there’s a difference between expecting quality and feeling entitled to instant gratification.  The web has sort of muddied these waters and as more and more of us recognize the power that the individual has in the world of consumer relationships, its hard not to have really high, even entitled, expectations. 

I think many of us have by now heard the story of Famous Mom Blogger Heather Armstrong’s dealings with Maytag.  In her case it seems clear that she attempted to resolve the situation via traditional channels before she resorted to inciting the masses following her on Twitter to take up her cause.  But it does illustrate just how powerful these channels can be.  No, not all of us are Dooce.  But by tapping into the power of social media we all have access to much broader and much more distributed networks of people.  The potential for reputation damage goes far beyond your immediate gripe over the fence in the backyard. 

Those of us in the service business are generally just trying to do good and honest work.  The problem with being human is, sometimes you just fall down.  As consumers of goods and services AND social media I’d like to see us all practice a little humanity and recognize our own responsibility in all of our relationships.  In my case, I just picked up the phone.  It was really that simple.  A little patience and effort on my part was rewarded with exactly what I should have expected — excellent service.