Last Saturday I attended a podCamp in Boulder, similar to camps I’ve attended in Italy. The topics were mostly techie (of course), and it was stimulating to talk with other folks doing social media et al, and get a fresh perspective.
But the most fun part was at the end, when we learned part of the dance moves to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. (I was participating at first – you can find footage of me if you look hard – but had to duck out to meet a friend and bring her back.)
Saturday morning I got up bright and early – way too early, considering that I had barely slept Friday night (jet lag – I had just returned from Colorado Thursday). Succumbing to travel paranoia, I took a taxi down the hill rather than wait for the first bus at 7 am, and got to Lecco station in time to catch the (late) 6:47 train to Milan. Which may have been wise, since the later train I’d been planning to take was also late. As it was, I got into Milan over an hour before the 9 am train to Bologna on which I and several other FemCamp participants would be travelling.
I had breakfast (coffee and a croissant), and discovered some newly-restored corners of Milan’s Stazione Centrale.
The station was crowded with people, many headed out for a weekend at some beach or other. Eventually I spotted Sara, and we soon met up with Michelle. My friend and colleague Lisa met us in the station as well, but she had to take a later train as the one we were on was sold out. The rest of us, including three women from Style.it, had all booked seats in the same train car, but weren’t sitting together, or so we thought. But by some weird logic of numbering, I found that my seat 86 was next to Susan’s 82. Which was great: we had a good long chat (she had said she wanted to take a nap, but I rudely preferred that she stay awake – I was afraid that if I gave in to sleep, I would never wake up).
Although we made the entire journey together, including the walk from Bologna station to the site in via San Felice, I never actually talked to the Style.it women; they didn’t introduce themselves, and they seemed such a compact gang that I was shy to intrude (had Mafe been with them, it would have been different – I already knew her from the Girl Geeks Dinner). Oh, well. I had plenty of good conversation with the others, in a random mix of Italian and English.
Arriving at the site (the HQ of TechneDonne), we were startled at the number of people present, and even more at how many were men. Seeing the attendee list on the wiki, we had already been perplexed at the intent of so many men to participate in what was billed as a women’s event. The guys seemed nervous, however: during the early part of the day they milled about, talking and taking pictures mostly among themselves (to the extent that the photos on Flickr show far more men than women!).
Women were only a slight majority at the camp. Nonetheless, a presenza femminile so much larger than at most tech events seemed to cow the men. Later in the day they warmed up and mingled better – I guess they figured out that we weren’t going to bite them (a disappointment for some?).
The presentations began almost on time (only half an hour late, for a barCamp in Italy, is a near-miracle), but I did not attend any in the morning. Not that they weren’t potentially interesting, but I was enjoying talking with friends new and old in the courtyard, and the interiors were crowded. Everyone else complained of the heat, but I had seen Susan’s warning on Twitter that the forecast for Bologna that day was hot and sunny, so I was dressed entirely in linen, and very comfortable.
Amanda on the left, Tara on the right. I don’t know the identity of the person with the skeptical expression in the background.
I’d just had my hair done the day before. My hairdresser had proposed blonde streaks to lighten up for summer, but I dismissed these as unnecessary – my hair will lighten up by itself in the sun. But somehow Ross persuaded me to do something radical. She’s certainly an influence on my style!
Lunch, as usual, was provided by San Lorenzo. Thanks to the vagaries of jet lag and the half dozen or so coffees I’d already had, I wasn’t that hungry: I ate mortadella, salame, porchetta, bread, a few olives, and, later in the day, biscuits. Then went for more coffee. I didn’t dare touch the wine, or someone would have tripped over me sleeping in a corner of the courtyard.
Giovanna dishes up yummies, carefully observed and recorded
Glamour magazine is getting its tech on lately: the photographer I’d already met at Girl Geeks and RitaliaCamp was present, setting up all sorts of shots. Here, again, is the lovely (and very smart) Amanda:
She also shot Lisa and me for an article on women and networking (I think it was – the journalist who’s to write it was home ill, and will be contacting us later for the actual material). We’ll be happy to talk about women and networking and TVBLOB!
I’d been reading more and more Italian blogs lately, especially since I met some Italian bloggers at a conference in Torino back in December. Luca had endeared himself to me by telling me, as soon as we met, that he had liked my piece on Bormio. And I’d gotten to know Lele Dainesi since he began doing PR consulting for TVBLOB (although, dazzled by the charms of my boss Lisa, he rather ignored me until I established my geek street cred by showing him my own site/blog).
So, in answer to the question “Why are women so under-represented at tech conferences?”, I commented that it might be because we hadn’t been invited, and that, fond as I am of Lele, initiatives like his LeWeb photos make us uncomfortable: “We like to feel appreciated for our brains before our tette.”
Lele jokingly replied that he simply loves beautiful women and, if they have brains as well as breasts, so much the better.
(I was irritated by a similar posting of photos of The Babes of CES – really, guys, you can stop asking yourselves why women don’t come to tech conferences. As I commented on Thomas Hawk’s blog, it’s probably because we’re tired of trying to have conversations with your bald spots.)
^ Diego Bianchi aka Zoro
Another commenter pointed out that I didn’t need an invitation to come to a barCamp: anyone is welcome to attend and to speak. Then I received email from Amanda, a British woman (married to an Italian) living in Rome and working in tech (Excite), wanting to know if I was coming to barCamp, as she would like to meet me. Turns out she works with Diego, whom I knew from vlogEurope, who would also be at barCamp, along with others I knew, or wanted to meet.
So I bought a train ticket on Thursday (100 euros – ouch!) and arrived Friday evening at Rome’s Stazione Termini. From there I would take the metro to the end of the line, near the home of our friends Serena and Sandro. As I looked around me in the metro station, I reflected that, the further south you go in Italy, the more good-looking the men. Not that they’re ugly up where we live, but I’m often astonished at the sheer beauty of Roman men (I admit to prejudice: my husband was born in Rome, though that doesn’t make him a Roman). But no one’s allowed to take photos in the metro, so I couldn’t document the ones who particularly caught my attention that evening. (What you see on this page are men who attended barCamp.)
Serena picked me up at the metro station and brought me home to have dinner (and lots of wine) with the family. Sandro went over my Italian slang pages, making additions and corrections; eventually I want to get him on video demonstrating and explaining Roman slang. (I do have some video from that evening, finally edited and posted.)
Saturday morning Serena dropped me at the bus stop to begin an hour-long odyssey across Rome. The day was beautiful and the ride fun; I had to change bus lines once and ask directions several times (I was delighted at the friendliness and helpfulness of the Romans). I found my way to the Linux Club in via Libetta by around 9:45, for an event that was scheduled to start at 10.
This being Rome, we actually got started around 11:30, with the first speakers starting to talk while some of us were still registering for our badges and t-shirts. I stood in line with Amanda and Antonio (above), a winsome Sicilian philosopher who works for a company that makes adver-games (cool!).
barCamps are informal, and this one utterly chaotic: I had a hard time figuring out what was going on where and when, so I didn’t make it to any of the talks I thought I’d like to hear. But the ones I did end up listening to were interesting, and designed to provoke conversation rather than dispense wisdom in only one direction. Me being me, I got more than a few words in edgewise.
^ Federica Fabbiani, Andrea Cuius, Mystery Woman 2, Mystery Man J
During one such intervento, I pointed out that the Italian blogging community ignores the many foreigners blogging in and about Italy, whose perspective is different and potentially useful. Some people pitched in enthusiastically that they had recently discovered some of these blogs, and in the hallway afterwards several told me that they’d specifically discovered mine (thanks to a recent link from Lele), and enjoyed it – always good to hear!
When I wasn’t listening to “formal” presentations, there were plenty of other interesting conversations going on. Elisabetta, whom I met at vlogEurope, had come down from Milan to conduct live online interviews during dolMedia‘s coverage of the barCamp. She interviewed me about my 25 years online (a topic I had considered speaking on, but there were too many speakers already) and about TVBLOB.
I realized that Robin Good, whose blog I’ve been reading for years, was present – and the photo on his site does not nearly do him justice (nor does mine, unfortunately). I had not been able to locate his talk on Come pagare l’affitto con il sito (“how to pay the rent with your site”), but he was happy to give me individual advice. He, too, had followed Lele’s link to my site recently, so had some truly useful things to say. (I’m now mulling over what I’ll actually carry out.)
Robin is Italian, but writes his site in at least three languages (English, Italian, and Spanish, that I know of – and he may be adding more), and does a nice job of explaining all sorts of high tech stuff even to non-techies – I recommend it if you’re interested in understanding what we nerds are up to.
I spent a lot of the day talking with Amanda, who’s trying to set up a Girl Geeks Dinner in Italy – we need to find a woman who works at a high level in IT in Italy to be our inspirational speaker. I also talked a lot with Diego, about everything possible, and lots of other people. By the end of the day I was exhausted from talking.
Around 8:30 pm, 40 of us moved a few blocks down to a restaurant for a group dinner. Pastarito is part of a chain in Italy, almost American in its approach and menu styling. It wouldn’t have been my first choice for a meal, but it was nearby and could seat 40 people, so probably the best we could do in the circumstances. The food was okay, though nowhere near the level of the dinner I organized for vlogEurope (said she modestly).
^ waiter who looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Fabrizio Ulisse
The dinner in any case was mostly about (more) conversation, though we were all running out of steam by the time we broke up at 11 pm. Diego dropped me and Luca at a metro stop, but the Roman metro closes for (ongoing) repairs every night at 9, and we couldn’t figure out where to catch the substitute bus. So we walked to a taxi stand, and finally found a taxi. Which cost a LOT less, for the distance, than it would have in Milan. I collapsed at Serena and Sandro’s around midnight.
^ Andrea Beggi, Mystery Man X, Pino (who shared an excellent dish of mussels at dinner)
Many thanks to Fabio Masetti (above) who organized it all, very well.
As for Les Boys: if all tech conferences were stocked with this many good-looking men, more women would probably go to them! (Sorry my photos aren’t so great – I really must get a better camera.)
I’ll leave it to the public to decide who is il piu’ figo (the hottest). If you’ve got better photos you’d like me to post or can provide links to (and names for – thanks to Luca for those already fixed), please do! Some photos I’ve already found are Luca’s.