Barbie's Next Career: Blogger Barbie?

The geek feminist establishment has spent so much time hating Barbie, that now it's a little hard to know what to think about the new Computer Engineer Barbie. I predict it's going to be yet another polarising factor, actually. There'll be those who think that Barbie is just mocking what we have tried so hard to achieve. And then there'll be those who'll think that this might actually help prove to little girls that a computing career is a possibility. The comments to this BBC article would indicate so, anyway.

When I was in high school in rural Queensland, there was the obligatory "what do you want to do when you leave school" conversations that had to be had in the run-up to matriculation. For whatever reason - and I don't really know whether to blame the school faculty, the rural sensibilities, or my own strange teenaged assumptions - I came to the conclusion that careers fell into one of two categories. You either did an apprenticeship, or you went to uni. The only apprenticeships I was aware of as being available for girls (all the boys were going to be fitters and turners, and I didn't even know what a fitter and turner was, let alone want to be one) were hairdressing apprenticeships. I didn't want to be a hairdresser. So I decided I'd better go to uni. How I chose my degree is another whole story, that might be best suited for another blog post, but suffice it to say that it took me six years and a lot of money (thanks HECS!) to finally graduate with something that I was proud to have, and that has eventually gotten me into a career I'm particularly fond of.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
-- Douglas Adams "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul"

I spent most of high school flitting between the library for lunch-time sessions of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and the computer lab for marathon BASIC programming competitions with my friends. Christmas holidays were spent at my parent's old IBM compatible trying not be eaten by a grue. Yet the concept of studying computing was completely foreign to me. I loved making things do stuff, I loved destructing things to find out how they worked, I loved creating stories, and then having 2d10 decide the next plot twist for me. If something went wrong I wanted to know why it went wrong. Quite a lot of the time I broke things just so I could try to fix them (and that hasn't really changed much, I pulled apart my Roomba the other day). It wasn't until I got to uni and made friends in the computing lab there (you know who you are!) that I discovered that IT degrees even existed, I think.

I remember desperately wanting (and eventually getting) a Peaches 'n' Cream Barbie for my birthday one year when I was little. Perhaps if I'd been given computer engineer Barbie instead, my story would be different? I'm not sure, but it's my daughter's birthday soon, and I guess it can't hurt ...


News just in: you can pre-order Computer Engineer Barbie on the Mattel site, for delivery in December. Just in time for Christmas!


Update: ... but only if you live in the US. Bugger.

LinuxCon - Boston - August 10-12 2010


I've just put in my application to speak at LinuxCon in Boston in August. Their speaker lineup is pretty impressive, so it would be an incredible honour to be selected.

For posterity, here is the abstract I've submitted:

This talk is a look into why documentation is so important to open source projects. It explains how to create documentation that will empower your users, guide them through the often daunting learning curve of using new software, and in the process make your project look fantastic. Beautiful technical documentation might sound like an  unrealistic fairy tale, but it can make the difference between a successful project, and a wildly successful one.

The talk is aimed at anyone who is involved in creating open source software, and who doesn't know how best to approach the documentation process. No specific technical expertise is required.

And the bio:

Lana Brindley writes technical documentation for Red Hat. She works from her home near Canberra, Australia and is currently getting her hands dirty on middleware documentation. She is hopelessly loquacious, and enjoys writing presentations and speaking in her spare time for fun. She's also been known to wear a red fedora in public.

Lana has been writing technical documentation for open source projects for nearly three years. She has been speaking about Linux generally and technical writing specifically for the same period of time, although her fascination with these topics dates back over a decade. Most recently, she spoke at in Wellington, New Zealand, the Canberra Linux Users Group, Girl Geek Dinners Sydney and Canberra, and a clutch of computer user groups.


Update: I did actually get accepted to speak. Unfortunately, work have declined to fund me to get over there. Never mind. Next year!