Love in the Age of Technology

Photograpy__Love_contest_by_the_riot_machineI love technology. It drives my career, my social life, my consumer habits, my desire to be an engaged citizen, and my need to create and write. Since technology positively influences so many other parts of my life, it should be a boon for finding a mate, right?

Not many people would call me an introvert, but when I like a guy, I can be shy to the point of actually seeming disinterested. So for a while, online dating was great. The stakes are low, the potential seems high, and embarrassment of rejection is lowered to almost zero, making it a nice self-esteem boost. By most metrics, I was successful with it. I was meeting new guys, going out on plenty of dates, having nice conversations, and over the past few years, dated a handful of guys each for a few months.

For a while, I thought taking the pressure off of dating was a good thing. If you lower the emotional consequences of rejection, you make dating easier. But eventually it started to feel hollow, like just a series of interviews, asking and answering the same questions over and over, like the million first dates Dan Slater writes about in The Atlantic. It got me thinking that perhaps that pressure is important. Sure, there was no risk. But was there any reward?

If I just look at a few more profiles, email with a few more guys, have a few more first dates, love is inevitable, right? If we meet enough potential mates, do we eventually end up in a relationship? Can we game the computers, like Amy suggests? And if we can, should we?

If my friends are any indication, one of the most embarrassing things to happen on OKCupid is to be matched with someone you already know. We already value these guys as friends and coworkers, and we often even know they are single, so why is it embarrassing? But over and over, I hear (and have said!) “Oh yeah, I saw him on OKCupid” in a whispered tone.

That should actually be an opportunity, but we’ve become so reliant on looking for someone we haven’t met that we ignore the guys who are already in our lives. Some services actually block your Facebook friends from results. This constant hunt for someone new has convinced me that dating sites are doing us a disservice, so I decided to take a break from using technology to facilitate dating and am taking it old school.

It’s been challenging. I’ve got to be less shy and had to put myself out there more. I’ve been rejected a few times, and that’s never fun. There’s definitely more pressure and the let-downs can be bigger, but it all feels more real. On the plus side, I haven’t had to endure any dates with guys with whom there’s clearly no chemistry. It feels like I’m off the treadmill, and that’s been worth it.

(Of course, the product guy in me thinks – What would a service be like that might solve this problem? Should technology play a role in matching us with people we already know? But that’s another post.) 

Photo by the-riot-machine.

Big Dongles, Public Shaming, and Recruiting Women in Tech

I was bummed to read this article about some public shaming at Pycon. Adria Richards overheard two men making crude jokes – one about forking repos that I haven’t been able to read as sexual, and another about big dongles which was clearly sexual. So she decided to publicly shame them and ask conference organizers to reprimand them.

Here’s where I’m having trouble supporting Adria. This seems like an extreme course of action if you haven’t even asked the guys to cut it out. They shouldn’t be telling sexual jokes in the first place, but there’s value in expressing your displeasure personally, rather than passive aggressively broadcasting it on Twitter.

That said, the temptation to do so is really, really strong, and social networks have made it easier than ever. I did the same thing at SXSWedu earlier this month, and as I did so, part of me thought, “why am I just not turning around and telling these guys to shut up?”

I don’t want to go too far down that path, because it’s a whole ‘nother set of questions (and another post) about the behaviors encouraged by social networks. The real problem in the Pycon controversy is the bigger gender equality problem we have in our industry. There are lots of people trying to fix that, but not enough. Even if you don’t have responsibility for it, it’s everyone’s responsibility to help build a diverse workforce. Here are some simple things I do

1) I ask our recruiting team about it. Recruiting talented women is not as simple as it sounds and does require some additional focus. I wish we did more on that front, but personally I can work to keep the issue front and center. I ask if we reached out to many women, if many showed interest, if any had feedback why they wouldn’t want to work with us, etc. I’m polite but persistent on this front.

2) When I visit one of our offices outside NY and notice a gender imbalance, I say so out loud. When I talk to a team and notice a lack of women, I say so out loud. I’ve learned a lot from this. In some places, the local talent pool is skewed toward men, and we don’t get many women applying for engineering positions. In others, there hasn’t been much turnover or opportunity to create more balance. But keep the issue in the front of your colleagues’ minds.

3) I casually ask hiring managers if there were any qualified women in the applicant pool. If so, why didn’t they make the cut? Did we interview them? Who did the interview? Again, I’m polite but persistent. I don’t want to offend my colleagues or imply they haven’t done their job, but want to make sure they are asking themselves these questions.

Could I do more? Probably. But from my role (which is pretty far from recruiting and hiring), I think it’s a good start.

Delta.com has been broken for months

If I ran an airline, one thing I’d make sure of is that customers could buy tickets. For the past two months, I’ve tried between 6-10 times to book travel on Delta.com, only to be met with this screen when I try to confirm my payment.

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How many millions have been lost because of this error? How much has Delta had to pay in commissions to Priceline, etc, because customers couldn’t complete their sale?