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How A 17-Year-Old Girl Won a Hackathon (evolver.fm)
68 points by njl 1518 days ago | hide | past | web | 80 comments | favorite

Let me tell you a story:

The FIRST Robotics Competition high school team (Mechanicats, from Chicago) and I were testing our robot late one night this February. While we were munching pizza, exhausted, a girl from the team came to me and asked if I enjoyed what I do (I'm the software mentor for the team). The reason for the question, she said, was that she was torn about what to study in college. She told me that her grandmother, who lived in California, told her that she should learn programming! The grandma said she heard that, since there are so few women in tech, her chances would be much greater in getting a good job. I was flabbergasted (this is a South Side school and she's not coming from a well-off family, how the grandma came with this info is anybody's guess). I told her that's absolutely true and she should go for it. She's now enrolled in the rPi based python class I'll start next week.

So there you go, there's the solution to the "too few women in tech". Show young women that this is an huge opportunity, they should seize it. Tell them about the $5k for women in Hacker School. Tell them to participate in hackathons. Unfortunately, many of people focus on negative aspects of this situation. They have a lot to learn from my student's grandmother.

Please teach this to as many girls you can influence.

I'm still not sure how I feel to be getting these advantages though. I feel like, the more advantages like this are offered, the more it dilutes my actual accomplishments. I feel like there's a subtext of resentment and doubt saying "Well, she only accomplished that because she received certain privileges."

I recently won a competition, which is great and all, but I always wonder in the back of my mind if I won it because I was the only woman in the competition.

And I know that's probably crazy but judging some of the HN comments about these kind of things, people clearly do think that way. I just want to be recognized solely for what I accomplish and not "Good for you, you're a FEMALE software developer!"

> the more advantages like this are offered, the more it dilutes my actual accomplishments

plight of all assisted minorities, gender-wise or racial

> plight of all assisted minorities, gender-wise or racial

Is that supposed to be ironic????

What's worse in your opinion, a competition that's hard to enter, or a competition that hard to enter AND where, in rare the case you succeed, you will be denied having won on your own, by your talent alone?

That's the reason I'm somehow against all the "levelling the field" initiatives and outreach programs. I don't care about losers, the one who can't get in the competition.

I care about the winners, and making sure they get the glory they deserve.

This is an issue regardless of these incentives. It's the same as being told your brother must have gotten you into gaming; just being a woman isn't enough for you to be an individual with your own brain.

By the statistics, every man should feel that way every single day.

I think the key is to stop focusing on individuals, and start focusing on the systems. It isn't about the one woman who wins, it is about the other however-many who get to have a glorious disaster and learn valuable lessons about time management. It is about the men who see those women as peers instead of oddities.

We don't need heroes: we need a better normal.

If you are in a better position then others then I'd argue that an accomplishment may very well deserve less recognition than a less privileged counterpart of yours may deserve. That's fine though! Achievement is limitless and a better starting point is a scaffold for achieving greater things.

This is the problem I have with the recent women-in-tech affirmative action as well. I have a female friend who is exceptionally good at what she does and I would hate to see her accomplishments diminished just because she is a woman.

Don't listen to the dummies who love to hate.

This is a slick idea, something I personally felt I would need - I watch WWE RAW with a delay, and sometimes they post news to their facebook feed, which unfortunately spoils part of the fun.

However, I haven't implemented it. I didn't know of anything like it. You did it, great hack. It's something that I would personally use.

Let the naysayers saying you got an award just because of some characteristic that does not define a "hacker" prove you wrong by creating stuff instead of posting stuff that only prove they are the dummies.

Creating stuff is what really defines a hacker.

> I recently won a competition, which is great and all, but I always wonder in the back of my mind if I won it because I was the only woman in the competition.

And you suffer this now, in your generation, so maybe the next generation will have so many women succeeding that this idea will no longer make sense. Having examples to strive towards is always cited as an important part of deciding who you become in life.

You didn't ask to do this. Your post makes that much clear. Very rarely to we really ask for the roles society casts us into. It is simply how it happens.

Reminds me of an old quote, from the film Zulu about the defense of Rorke's Drift during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879:

Private Cole: [After Mr. Witt's carriage rides off, Mr. Witt screaming the British soldiers are all doomed] He's right. Why does it have to be us? Why us?

Colour Sgt. Bourne: Because we're here, lad. Nobody else. Just us.


Nobody's opinion matters but yours. If you doubt you won on merit, you need to decide whether you would have granted yourself the prize, all things being equal. If you are unable to accurately assess your work, you'll always be at the whims of other people's opinions. On the other hand, know your own worth -- even if it means admitting to yourself "this was a gimme, I need more work" -- and you will always be the one in power of your destiny. Which will put you way, way, ahead of just about every other person, including 99% of men.

Aside from that, this is why contests are stupid. And most things in life are contests. What's great about selling products, instead of being employed or consulting, is that you win if you solve the customer's problems, not if they think they should give you a break.

It's great you encouraged her, however I don't think "better odds at getting a good job" is a decent enough reason to hand out to girls. It just doesn't feel...enough.

When she does go on to get a job, does she tell herself "I got this because I was the only girl" or because she has confidence in her abilities to be the best overall candidate? We need to remind girls they have the potential to be the best, not just the best female.

We need to hear what kind of life learning a technical skill will open up to us. Seeing someone else have the passion for their work in tech is the biggest inspiration. This is shown by how the father of the hackathon winner told stories of his latest hack and made his enthusiasm contagious. This is how I was influenced in my childhood.

Focusing on the 'huge opportunity' is akin to saying "Quick! There's a gap, get in now while you're a unicorn, you'll regret it once ratios are more equal & you actually have to be talented to get hired".

Also by getting girls into tech on the sole basis of the advantages of being the 'token female' could develop a dynamic a few years down the line where women feel their worth within a team deminish with every further female hire. This is why I feel talent and enjoyment should be emphasised from the start.

Please emphasise WHY you love what you do, ask where her interests lie. Don't recommend it to every girl. Yes there is a gap but surely we should be saying to girls, gap or no gap - if you feel a sense of connection to creativity & technology & see your future in it, go for it regardless!

This is not a success story unless she loves it. It's far too early to celebrate… she's just enrolled in a class.

However, she points out that “women in tech” stories are also simply “tech stories.” Good point.

As I always whisper to my own daughter, "the computer can't tell you're a girl."

I get what you're trying to do, or at least I think I do, but I also simultaneously think there's something not-quite-right with your statement. I think you need to be careful that you're not reinforcing to your daughter that being a girl is a kind of disability. One that she doesn't have to try and hide from the computer, only people.

One of the joys of family is built in context, a refuge from having to vet every possible meaning of the words you choose for fear of being misunderstood. I have nearly two decades to get my point across.

Maybe '[...] will not judge you for being a girl' would express the sad reality most.

adding "or a boy" would probably help.

Just like "girls can do anything."

Oh, thanks... I missed that line in TFA.

In the world we live in today, the word "girl" in the title is relevant to the story. I eagerly await the day when that story would be no-less-interesting with that word left out.

Love this ^ so true.


I was making a quip about data science techniques being more frequently applied and/or computers becoming self-aware, not a judgment on females in programming.. I apologize if this was not appropriately placed.

Anyone else find the tone of this article to be condescending?

"Let’s focus on how one teenage girl, Jennie Lamere, defeated a room full of smart, motivated, experienced, full-grown men. This would seem to be instructive to the greater argument about women in technology, and besides, it has the added bonus of being -> based in fact rather than opinion <-"

As if the argument for women is based primarily on opinion.

“It’s also important to note that Jennie’s idea is a completely universal, gender-neutral one"

Is it? Last time I checked gender-biased ideas can be just as valuable as gender-neutral ones. Why does Jennie need to 'prove' herself capable of producing gender-neutral ideas?

I think this misreads the tone in several ways.

> As if the argument for women is based primarily on opinion.

I'm not sure I buy the article's notion that hackathons aren't based on opinion, but your swing misses the mark in the other direction. It's pretty silly to fault someone for pointing out that the evidence is especially strong for a point you agree on. A lot of people really do have question about women in tech, why they're in the position they're in, what could be done to improve it, what successes really count, etc. So inasmuch as this is an objective measure of one girl's ability to succeed on an even playing field, it's pretty interesting. The article isn't expressing shock or anything, just promoting the strength of the data point it's presenting. It's a bit like an article came out saying, "discovery of additional irrefutable evidence that evolution happened" and you're like, "Ha! As if the theory of evolution was based on refutable evidence..."

> “It’s also important to note that Jennie’s idea is a completely universal, gender-neutral one"

I read that to mean that she competed with the men on their own terms, not by building something in a different category that had to be compared apples to oranges. She was running the same race. If she built a system for tracking Barbie dolls, she'd be in the position of, "isn't that cute, she made something no else here cares about..." like it's really the Best Woman Project award. The quote is preemtively shooting down potential "that wasn't real" counters.

As if the argument for women is based primarily on opinion.

Not "the argument", it's just that many arguments for women are based on opinion.

Edit: and yeah I totally agree about the "gender-neutral" thing. I was kind of disappointed actually! I wanted to see something unusual, something the room full of dudes wouldn't have thought of :)

I didn't like the author's choice of the word "defeat" to describe Jennie's accomplishment. I didn't know hackathons pitted the men against the women! I understand the connotation (the odds were "against" her in some regard) but I don't feel like it sends the right message.

I get that. I agree with you the article is making a big deal out of the fact that it was a girl AND a teenager. In an ideal world, they wouldn't have any reason to do that because people would have their merits weighed without contextualizing to their demographic incidentals.

In this case, however, I think the motivation in pointing out that the winner was a GIRL and a TEENAGER, is to inspire other young women to study programming. On the other hand, I could totally see them reading this article and thinking "man, they are making a huge deal out of this.. guess I should stick to fashion"

I don't think it's condescending; I think they're just trying to say that anyone can accomplish anything even if it seems the odds are against them. Would you be just as offended if it said "teenage boy?"

The second statement you call out is important because -- and I wish I could find the interviews -- many female entrepreneurs admitted that it was difficult to get funding for projects that didn't have a female skew. That is not to say that gender-biased ideas aren't valuable, but pushing women to work on women-centric issues is already a problem.

“This is a terrific story, and proof that young girls are an untapped resource of innovation,” said Change The Ratio co-founder Rachel Sklar, when we told her the news.

It seemed this young woman acted identically to any young individual interested in tech.

Learned about tech. Lived tech. Talked tech. Practiced, practiced, practiced.

Didn't need any self-victimizing pink ghetto look at me give me an advantage because I'm a poor damsel in tech crapola.

There's always those that can succeed despite the odds against them. Let's not hold up these people as evidence that outreach isn't necessary. For every male kid who programmed his comodo TX-whosits before he could walk, there are a hundred kids who get in it through high school, or take it up in college, etc. Similarly, for every girl who isn't turned off by the male-dominated culture or anti-social stereotypes, there are a hundred girls who could have made it in tech if it weren't for these repulsive influences. Outliers have no bearing on what is appropriate for the general case.

You know what I find tiresome… pink, Audrey Hepburn, shoes. These are the things other "women in tech" assume I am interested in.

I like GitHub and believe it's full of good people. But when they invited me to speak as part of their Passion Project, the invitation package included a hoodie with a pink octocat logo on it, and stickers: Audrey Hepburn octocat wearing pearls, and some other girlie octocat I didn't recognize. Now there's a culture I am turned off by.

Fact: Everybody discriminates against everybody, all the time. Assuming women hate whatever "male-dominated culture" means is just as bad as assuming they like Breakfast at Tiffany's.

To be good at programming (not even great), you need to love it, and to love it requires a special kind of perversity. Your "hundreds of women who could make it" -- do they have that special kind of perversity?

Actually building software is an epic and enormous pain in the ass. You have to love controlling, beating and dominating the computer. Otherwise you'll come to a point where it simply won't be worth the time and aggravation to proceed.

Probably the best way to attract a more diverse set of programmers is to change what programming means, not try to reform the Trekkies who were drawn to the way programming currently is. (Or the women who assume woman programming = wants pink hoodies.) It is the mold that shapes the pot, not the other way around.

To each their own. A lot of girls do like pink and will be drawn to an environment that makes them feel comfortable. This environment may be repulsive to you, but then again you already fit in with the "mainstream" programming culture/environment, so its no great loss. On the other hand, I'm sure there are girls that are in the middle and who are turned off my the extreme girly-ness these events try to push. I can agree that its an unnecessary assumption that all girls would be attracted such a caricature of femininity, and they would be better served by avoiding this trend.

I disagree that one must "love" programming to be decently good at it. There are many programming jobs in this country that don't require supreme levels of talent, passion, or dedication. Those of us in the HN bubble tend to forget there is a big world of software development out there. The majority of it does not require knowledge of lisp, or that one programs on the weekends, or spends hours a day reading tech blogs, etc.

> A lot of girls do like pink and will be drawn to an environment that makes them feel comfortable

"Pink it & shrink it" is a big fat steaming pile of bullshit: https://www.google.com/search?q=pink+it+and+shrink+it

> but then again you already fit in with the "mainstream" programming culture/environment

What makes you say that? I would certainly disagree.

> Those of us in the HN bubble tend to forget there is a big world of software development out there…

Not me. I'm not in the HN bubble -- I dive into it for entertainment purposes and to reach the handful of lurkers who are in my audience. I don't know LISP (and don't care to), don't program on the weekend, don't read tech blogs. Looking back, I don't think I ever coded on the weekend except for pay. But, for a while, I was definitely into the minutiae. And the whole reason I got into programming was because I got a thrill out of making the computer do what I wanted, the control aspect, the power, the thrill of beating it to a pulp.

Which is not a set of traits you can instill in a person by pinking and shrinking.

And that's why I said you can't become even a decent programmer without being pretty damn into it. Or even half-way decent. I never said a thing about "supreme levels" of talent or anything else.

>What makes you say that? I would certainly disagree.

Just by your description of why you are into programming. Your description sounds like the many I've heard from other (male) programmers over the years. The point is that you didn't need any other incentive to try it out, and whatever distasteful stereotypes that may exist didn't deter you. Therefore, you fit in with the typical profile of someone who got into programming (perhaps a better way to put it).

>Not me. I'm not in the HN bubble

I'd say you're in it more than most, judging by your submission history. Just reading it on a semi-frequent basis will alter your perception of what is typical in this field. One doesn't have to go to meetups or conferences to be influenced by this place.

>And that's why I said you can't become even a decent programmer without being pretty damn into it.

Of course, this depends on what you consider "decent", which is undoubtedly influenced by the ideas that float around HN and the bubble. The point about supreme levels of talent was to draw a contrast with the typical ideas that are taken for granted here. What you consider "good" I would consider supreme levels of talent/passion/motivation when judging the field as a whole.

> Just by your description of why you are into programming.

Ahh, I said why I GOT into it. I never said anything about even being into programming any more (cuz I'm not).

Are there good programmers who don't get a thrill out of beating the computer when it's throwing bug after bug? Because bug hunting is a huge part of development and it requires a special kind of perversity to enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it, you hate most of what you do. If you hate most of what you do, you are not going to be very good at it, unless you have a different but equally special kind of perversity. And you have to be diligent about debugging to be a decent programmer. If your code doesn't work, it's pointless to call it code.

> I'd say you're in it more than most, judging by your submission history

You do realize that something like 80% of my submissions are my own blog or my husband's? I'm here for self-promotion, baby, to reach those who haven't yet drunk the koolaid. My blog is essentially the antithesis of the HN belief system. Example:


And my husband mostly writes about how arguments over programming styles are retarded, for which he gets a lot of flack.

> Just reading it on a semi-frequent basis will alter your perception of what is typical in this field.

No, being involved in it -- believing it -- buying it will. But I'm not, and I don't.

> Of course, this depends on what you consider "decent", which is undoubtedly influenced by the ideas that float around HN and the bubble.

I don't read tech blogs. I don't read technical posts on HN. It'd be an epic waste of my time. But I've worked with lots of crappy programmers.

> What you consider "good" I would consider supreme levels of talent

How do you know what I consider good?

You're projecting all kinds of opinions on me that you have no business. For example: our main source of income is running on Rails 2.x… because it serves our customers, and that's our priority. We don't follow TDD because extremes are pointless. Etc. I don't care unless it benefits (or costs) our customers. Bet you didn't know that.

You seem to think we're engaged in some kind of debate, but the "debate" is nothing but you telling me (and HN) how I am. But, newsflash: I'm a person, not some kind of phantom you can make believe, think, and do anything you want.

So. Boring.

Jesus Christ, you're a piece of work. I was relaying my impression from your words and other signals. If my impression was wrong, then so be it. Your hostility is completely unnecessary and just serves to further degrade the conversation around here. If this place is purely for self-promotion, perhaps you should take extra care to follow the rules and assume good faith as this exchange has been an extremely poor reflection of you.

Cool! You've told me so far that…

> but then again you already fit in with the "mainstream" programming culture/environment

> I'd say you're in [the HN bubble] more than most

> What you consider "good" I would consider supreme levels of talent

I get that I'm a very interesting topic. But it's a mystery to me how you consider it "hostile" of me to point out that you are making statements about me that have no basis in fact.

Probably you consider me hostile because you, as part of the HN bubble, don't know how to react politely when being questioned. And, as part of the HN bubble, what you consider to be a reasonable argument, I consider a bizarre ad hominem remark.

See what I did there?

But that's okay, cuz:

> Jesus Christ, you're a piece of work.

Good to know you think so!

Except she wasn't interested in tech. She just started participating in the things her dad did because she was interested in the musical component of some of his projects.

Not everyone has the convenience of having a parent in the industry to get them interested and keep them going, spurring them with ideas and creative solutions along the way. She landed there by chance and look what she's done. Everyone deserves such opportunities.

Going with your explanation, then what happened is the same as when any kid, boy or girl, whose parent is a well connected, relatively well off scientist, shows up at the science fair with the home made electron microscope, or the genetically engineered puppy, or the cloned javelina.

And yes, it would be good to give everyone, regardless of gender or age such opportunities.

Can you expand more on "self-victimizing," what you think that is, and how it expresses itself?

Heh, I thought that was your job.

If you actually are interested, see this post and all of the comments: http://www.thepowerbase.com/2013/04/github-graciously-helps-...

I admit I don't understand the downvotes.

danilocampus invited me to a comment war, I graciously declined with a bit of humor.

So, Github unveiled a diversity initiative. Which would appear to be their prerogative...

Can you help me connect the dots between that and people making victims out of themselves?

See http://www.thepowerbase.com/2013/04/github-graciously-helps-...

Women aren't frail damsels that need your condescending efforts, or need your overly protective assumptions that are mainly patriarchy disguised as a cape to help them cross a puddle that you can manage.

The key to more women in tech is outreach and education, not patronization and tales that they are frail, and need protection and special treatment.

You can have the last word, but next time, try reading the link I share with you.

> Women aren't frail damsels that need your condescending efforts, or need your overly protective assumptions...

On its own, that does indeed seem reasonable, even if dubiously relevant.

But where does the "self-victimization" come in? This remains my chief curiosity and you've yet to address it beyond general hand-waving in the direction of a very lengthy block of text.

If you might kindly boil your position on "self-victimization" into a sentence or two, I would be most appreciative. I am challenged to square it with your other remarks, but I'm certain I'm just missing something.

No one's saying women need to be coddled; the problem is that people recognize that the current state of the industry/the internet are jerks. You can only tell people to ignore bullying so long, especially when those doing the bullying aren't being punished, but those that are being victimized by it are being told to instead change this perceived weakness about themselves.

People should not have to worry about being made fun of while they're trying to learn something difficult. Recently we had that female Mozilla employee whose code (for a personal project, no less) was made fun of by three semi-prominent developers on Twitter. The consensus on HN was that there was nothing wrong with her code, but that she was being picked on solely for being a girl. In bringing the issue up, two of the three apologized, with the third going the route of "It isn't my fault you are offended,".

That is why it is important to foster good relationships, positivity and trust early-on. It has nothing to do with treating anyone like a princess and everything to do with the truth of how people treat women online (and off) and allowing these girls to find mentors and people that inspire them that they can better relate to.

The commenter you linked to doesn't realize that within that repo, there's a Team of everyone that signed up for this, allowing them to start projects and teach amongst themselves. That is the end-game here; allow people to learn without concern. No one seemed to have a problem with the concept of private repos before this and the Ada Initiative's private repo was highly successful; I wonder why.

Instead of feeding the trolls responding to one aspect of my post that nobody actually has any evidence of either way (David brings it up with the weak defense that he thinks people are too quick to rush to sexism and that's a "problem" -- as if being quick to be an unnecessary asshole isn't the overarching issue to begin with), here are some relevant quotes from her initial post that illustrate why the private repos are important:

> I’m lucky to have friends in this industry that know me in person and through my work, and thus feel more compelled to speak up.

> I evangelize open source whenever I meet new coders or go to meetups. I tell them to make something that they would find useful and put it out there. Can you imagine if one of these new open sourcerers took my advice and got this response, without the support I had. Can you imagine?

And her follow-up:

> The emails I got really stuck out to me. Some people had their own stories that were way worse than mine. Sadly, several said that this is why they’d never open sourced anything.

Exsqueeze me?

Two people disagree with you what the consensus of that discussion was. Both people provide links. You did not.

Who is more likely remembering the discussion correctly? The folks that provide links to it, or the person that vaguely remembers it?

And we are trolls and you are not?

This must be feminist logic, because I see this sort of stuff at feminist websites everyday.

Any time you want to provide a simple answer here, that'd be fine. I understand sometimes difficult tasks take awhile, but we're going on days.


> I see this sort of stuff at feminist websites everyday.

And I'm the troll. Figure your life out, dude.

Disagreeing with the nonsense that passes for argument at feminist websites doesn't make me a troll.

Quite the contrary, it places me squarely in the majority these days. Figure my life out? Feminism needs to figure out why so many people (including me) agree with so many feminist goals while disagreeing with feminist tactics.

> The consensus on HN was that there was nothing wrong with her code, but that she was being picked on solely for being a girl

False. They did not know she was a woman when they made fun of the code. And that was not the consensus. [1]

In fact, if they had known that she was a woman, they would have known better than to criticize. Us men in tech are well aware by now that you have to shelter women from the real world, lest they shatter into a million pieces.

Your delusions of persecution are staggering.

[1] Here is what they saw, no indication of femaleness: https://github.com/harthur/replace

> I’m not entirely sure what drives someone to the conclusion that because “harthur”, which turns out to be be “Heather”, is a woman, that by default, I would intentionally discriminate against [Women]. Not every single thing on the internet is about gender equality, or about a minority. In fact, the only reason I’m writing this post is because this kind of continued behavior on the internet is one of the primary reasons this is such a problem.

See http://justcramer.com/2013/01/24/being-wrong-on-the-internet...

And here is the relevant thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5106767

> Your delusions of persecution are staggering.

And they say this community's intolerant!

Recently we had that female Mozilla employee whose code (for a personal project, no less) was made fun of by three semi-prominent developers on Twitter. The consensus on HN was that there was nothing wrong with her code, but that she was being picked on solely for being a girl.

I think that was your consensus, but here is the thread, my very brief rescan of that doesn't indicate to me that her being a woman was the issue, the consensus seems to be that twitter makes it trivial to be an asshole, and many people are happy to jump in.


In general I see lots of assertion that men in tech treat women terribly, but not much evidence. The evidence that is there usually points to events that took place before employment.

In this case, our 17 year old heroine clearly faced no jerks in tech, though it is likely she faced jerks in high school.

And it's not at all clear to me that any abuse she has suffered as female nerd in high school is any worse than the abuse male nerds face.

Uh, go read the wiki if you don't know what self-victimization is, or why contemporary feminists are (correctly) accused of it, or how it presents itself in this rah rah look what the girl did against all odds and oppression of men account of her hackathon win or in Rachel Sklar's quote:

“This is a terrific story, and proof that young girls are an untapped resource of innovation,” said Change The Ratio co-founder Rachel Sklar, when we told her the news. “More and more role models in the space are showing girls like Jennie (who is now one herself!) that this is a place for them, and for their talents. And now organizations like Girls Who Code are providing the infrastructure to get there. The floodgates have opened — the ratio is changing.”


Victim playing (also known as playing the victim or self-victimization) is the fabrication of victimhood for a variety of reasons such as to justify abuse of others, to manipulate others, a coping strategy or attention seeking.

And if it still isn't clear to you, have someone read to you what others, including women, have written in this thread. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5636111

In all these threads, and around the web, and in meatspace too, many women, from all sorts of backgrounds repeat the same messages, and contemporary feminists dismiss them or worse, call them chill girls and queen bees. http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/09/10/a-note...

This sort of contemptuous, dismissive, insulting, ignore them, pat-them-on-the-head-and-tell-them-to-stfu behavior is what passes for state of the art contemporary feminist argument. And better, it's is deeply reflective of the sort of patriarchal argument that contemporary feminists claim to be against but actively work to implement for themselves.


See also https://www.google.com/search?q=wikipedia+american+women+nov... and ask yourself, if you favor scholarships, contests, special projects for American Women Novelists, but presumably not for American Men Novelists, why shouldn't American Women Novelists be cloistered into a pink ghetto category? The sponsors of such projects are saying women are lesser creatures that cannot be expected to compete with men and need special protection, special incentives, special prizes, and special attention.

I reject this thinking and am saddened people think women cannot compete on an equal footing with other humans.

One thing I picked up regarding the article itself and not the story:

"If you remember one thing from this article, it should be that the father of this prize-winning girl hacker (Paul Lamere, director of developer community for The Echo Nest, which publishes Evolver.fm) did not, as one might suspect, force, cajole, or otherwise convince his daughter to take up hacking."

Jennie's father is a part of the website which published an article about Jennie. It doesn't detract from my understanding of the story much, but I felt this fact diminished Jennie's accomplishment in some small way. Not in any meaningful way of course, but I wonder if this story would have been published if Jennie's father was not part of Evolver.fm's parent company.

The article is focused on the creator, a 17 year old girl, and is less focused on the invention. The title illustrates the bias. How a young girl (two underdog classes) won a challenge. The title seems to reinforce the idea that being either and/or both is handicap in this environment and I dare say it is not!

What she built is pretty cool. Good job Jennie.

> "The best part is the feeling of accomplishment and knowing that I made a hack that people reacted positively to."

Amazing what positive feedback can do.

Just one more data point from this hackathon:

Jen is as smart and motivated a 17-year-old I've ever met, and she solved a real pain point of mine with nothing but one day of a two-day hackathon and a greasemonkey script.


If I were her, and the judges were commanding applause from the audience with specific references to my age and gender (this happened twice) instead of my app and skill - if I became this symbolic object of a story we all want to tell - I don't know how I'd feel about that. I wonder how she feels about it, especially in light of stmchn's comment on winning.

Personally, I wish we lived in a world where this headline could read "Smart kid wins with cool hack." I guess when stories like this are no longer news, we'll know we've achieved normalcy.

Exactly. I wish instead of articles like "[minority | disadvantaged | young | old] person wins hackathon" there were articles like "[Intelligent] Person makes cool thing, wins hackathon."

Having run almost a dozen hackathons for high school and college students, I'm not surprised at all to hear this story.

At our last CodeDay in Seattle, a 17-year old HS student built an app that's received over 175,000 downloads on Google Play. http://www.geekwire.com/2013/student-programmer-creates-succ...

We've run CodeDay in five cities so far, with 30-100 students attending each event. If anything, it's a good sign that we can change the culture at the high school level and get more students into technology.


I went to the first CodeDay in LA a few weeks ago and it was quite fun! I'm looking forward to future CodeDays!

Awesome! Feel free to contact me or the local organizers if you want to help us host more of them!

Can you shoot me an email at zchlatta (at) gmail.com? I can't seem to find your email anywhere online.

I was pretty flabbergasted to hear she's learned more at hackathons than her AP Computer Science class. What the hell are we doing in our educational system then? Is any of it actually worth anything if it's not resulting in real learning?

AP Computer Science isn't very challenging. It's essentially a watered down version of the introductory programming class you have to take in college the last I checked. It's also geared towards the AP test so it doesn't exactly foster that much creativity and innovation.

Sadly, a lot of high schools don't even offer this class in the first place. I think the program at my old high school even got shut down.

I'm not surprised. I can imagine a doctor saying they learned more from doing a few surgeries than from years of education on anatomy and surgical techniques. It says that hands-on practical experience provides far more information than theoretical concepts in a classroom. I don't think it would be wise to have doctors skip their education, however, as the education provides the framework of understanding which enables the hands-on experience to be so beneficial.

I was also of the understanding that CS courses were more about the "why things are this way" than the vocational "this is how you make the magic happen". In the doctor example, you can train a paramedic and a doctor to do the same emergency procedures, but when you come to an edge case, it's the doctor that you turn to for an opinion formed from deeper understanding.

Introductory (aka prerequisite) computer science classes seem to be aimed at people who're learning from nothing. If you already know C++ in depth (or whatever language is used), a lot of it is just language-specific feature review.

YMMV, this is judged from local state college/community college.

about the education system, I'm of the opinion that high school is mostly a waste of time; I dropped out 2 years early and got a GED instead. (Don't try this at home.)

How did getting out of high school early go for you? I'm finding that high school is seriously lacking. To supplement, I've been working on my computer science major at a local community college. Unfortunately, doing both college and high school is extremely time consuming and I've been looking for alternatives to high school.

Depending on what you want to do and how overqualified for school you are, a GED is a valid alternative to graduating IMO. That said, you potentially lose a lot of social interaction and sports/clubs which I found to be the most valuable parts of high school.

Personally I was easily able to get 3650 on the GED (out of 4000) which is enough to automatically get into state schools. I have no clue how it would work at a more prestigious school, but at the time that really wasn't something I was concerned with.

I don't feel qualified to say whether it was a good idea because I dropped out after I ended up in foster care (long story, my parents kicked me out after I told DHS about some incidents). Regrettably I wasted several years after this doing nothing but smoking weed and playing video games due to a general lack of motivation. I'm back working on stuff now after quitting games altogether - splitting focus is apparently an impossible task for me.

AP classes are intended to let you pass a test that's equivalent to the introductory university class in that subject, not to be equivalent to a degree in that subject.

In other words, I'd expect the AP Computer Science class to be roughly equivalent to "CS 101" or "CS 1A", or whatever they happen to call the CS class where you learn what about conditionals, loops and basic variables is.

Different sorts of lessons. A lot of formal education is limited by the need to produce moderately competent fodder for cubical farms. It isn't always about producing the best individuals but satisfying the needs of society. Society needs many more Java burger flippers than it needs Turing award winners. There are obviously academic pathways within formal education to pursue individual excellence but they don't suit everyone, especially if they are more practically minded. Competitive activities like hackathons or participating in open source projects seem like a great place to pursue individual excellence. Even better if you are fortunate enough to work in a challenging area. I think our expectations of formal education are often unreasonable. It is a foundation, not the complete answer.

Have you ever seen the AP Computer Science materials? They have always been garbage.

I'm going to go ahead and assume she won it the same way anyone else wins a hackathon, and not bother clicking the link.

By being better than the competition. That is the answer.

Some messages in there for me as a parent. Make time for chatting with my kids informally and away from distractions like tv and Internet. I have been for a few short hikes with my youngest and I probably should be doing more activities like that instead of us both sitting in front of a screen. Also if I treat girls like real human beings and talk to them about life, art, science, tech or anything else and value their opinions they turn out to be just as competent as boys which shouldn't really be surprising.

It's possible to win a hackathon? I thought these things were for fun, not for competition.

It depends, some of them are just for fun, others they have prizes and someone has to win, I generally don't care about it and most attendees don't either.

Good for her!

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