March 24, 2009

Shelley Powers on Ada Lovelace Day

In celebrating two uber-known bloggers, david armano recently said, "You can tell who the pioneers are from the arrows sticking out of their backs."

I thought a lot about this saying tonight. Wrinkled my brow over the connotations of words like pioneers and arrows. I've come to the conclusion that pioneers are not always -- nor often -- heroes. Often, pioneers come looking for fame and fortune, put conquest over content, rob native people of their land, their crops, their livelihood, their dignity, and sometimes their lives. Smallpox infected blankets might ring a bell. And arrows in the back might be a proper thank you.

So, pioneers have their own history book pages. I'm here to celebrate the contribution of an ancestor from the original blogosphere, the pre-historic times of online publishing, an indigenous person, one of those who came before the others, who after-settlers have tried to contain and oppress on their way up the twitter scale without success.

One woman in tech comes to mind above all for me, and that's Shelley Powers, Burning Bird, the native, not the pioneer.

Shelley is an indigenous netizen, an original woman technologist and author, photographer and activist, online and off - the earliest female tech blogger to stand up for women's issues online when there weren't many women being heard, when debates got hot and heavy and personal, the brilliant writer who talked until the men went nearly mad from her unwillingness to submit.

What Shelley has done for tech is a matter of public record and Internet lore.

What makes Shelley special is not just what she has done with and for technology, not only her many books, but the richness of her writing and photography beyond the topic of tech. She is proof that the most interesting of us in any discipline are those who have multiple dimensions.

We shout we whisper we cut we bleed we code we paint.

Visit the many dimensions of Shelley, and tell her thank you.


Marianne said...

I agree....and when she says something on Twitter, on her blog, or on someone else's blog it is ALWAYS something smart and ALWAYS adds value.

Shelley said...

Wow, thank you so much, Jeneane. What a lovely, lovely surprise. I blush. I smile.

Liz said...

Jeaneane, I agree, I don't think I have ever expressed how much Shelley inspired me when I was first blogging and finding other women in tech who were blogging. I watched her take the brunt of a pretty huge backlash and she didn't back down.

Anonymous said...

I kept looking on the list of posts to see if anyone had written about Shelley. If I hadn't written about my wife, she was at the top of my list. Nice post, Jeneane.

Jonathan said...


(And happy belated AdaDay to you as well!)

Andrea James said...

An awesome and well-deserved observation.

jonhusband said...

Thanks, Shelley, for all you have done.

Shelley said...

Wow, I think I'm going to bronze this post and comments.

You all have helped inspire me to try something I've been wanting to do, which I'll spring on ya in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I wanted to echo those who have wished you a Happy Lovelace Day, Jeneane. You're one of the Grand Dames of the community, the spark, center, and life. And a good friend through all these years, too.

Jeneane Sessum said...

Bronze Away Shelley - You Deserve It!

I'd say you deserve "IT", but does anyone really DESERVE IT?


Shelley said...

Jeneane, what happened to your web site?

Joseph Duemer said...

Shelly was one of my first blogging inspirations. she helped me understand the medium. So right now I'm sitting in a funky hotel room on Hao Ba Trung Street in Hanoi Vietnam surfing the net. And it seems appropriate somehow: The Trung Sisters are Vietnamese culture heroes. In 47 CE the two Trung sisters raised an army and led it against the Chinese who had invaded Vietnam. Ultimately, the Chinese reasserted their power, but the Trung sisters are one of the reasons that Vietnamese women have more autonomy and freedom than their sisters in China, to this day. So here's to Shelley and Jeneane, the internet's own Trung sisters.