Ada Lovelace Day: Kathy Sierra

It’s Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science, and I’ve taken the pledge to write about a female heroine of science or technology.

I am lucky enough to work in an organisation that is filled with intelligent, technologically minded women. JISC and its Services and Innovation Centres have a number of truly brilliant women working for them and I feel lucky to work in this environment.

That said our conferences and events still often seem dominated by male speakers and attendees (though not to the same extent as some web events I have been to..) so there is still much work to be done.

I’m not going to speak about anyone at JISC though – I think it might be a little embarrassing to write about someone I actually know and work with!

Of all the conferences, events, barcamps and geek meet-ups I have been to the best talk I have ever seen was by a woman called Kathy Sierra. She gave the opening talk at FOWA Miami back in 2008 and it is something that has stuck with me ever since. The talk was on the idea of Cognitive Seduction and while at times it exceeded my capacity to comprehend the detail of the talk it inspired me to immediately set out to learn more about it (something that probably happens rarer than it should.)

Sierra was also one of the first bloggers I ever followed – her Creating Passionate Users blog was a must-read for me during my early years of RSS addiction and the disgusting treatment she got online during 2007 which led to her canceling appearances and closing her blog down was an eye opener for me on darker side of the social web that I was at the time evangelising to all and sundry.

She is a successful author and was the founder of JavaRanch an early online community for Java developers dating back to the late 90s – which probably makes her one of the earliest community managers as well.

Her style of blogpost and presentations was also fantastic – filled with custom graphics that made the topics much clearer while maintaining a little humor I think they are still some of the most interesting blogposts on the web.

Since she stopped updating her blog and then later shut down her Twitter account it has been hard to keep track of her career – she still speaks at conferences though and hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to hear her speak again.