ALERT: A Message to My Email Subscribers

As you already know, I have moved my blog to a self-hosted wordpress dot org site which in the long run, I believe, will provide my readers with a better experience. But as I have just transitioned I anticipate some technical hiccups along the way. I choose to learn by manually doing a lot of the set up for the dot org site myself, so these are some of the growing pains for sexyoctopus.com :

Until I figure out how to install the “Subscribe by Email” plug-in please follow me on Twitter @thesexyoctopus to get my posts immediately (along with other tweets) OR email me at sexyoctopus1@hotmail.com with your email address so I can manually send you my stories until I get this resolved. Sorry for the trouble and thanks for your patience.

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ALERT: Sexy Octopus Has Migrated

Dear Readers,

I have moved this Sexy Octopus blog to a self-hosted wordpress dot org site. Therefore, I will not be posting on this wordpress dot com site anymore. Please pardon the inconvenience and visit sexyoctopus.com at this point to continue reading. I appreciate your patronage.

The change is effective immediately.

Thank you.

Cheers,

Cara

  PS….you can also follow me on Twitter @thesexyoctopus

Why SOPA & PIPA are Creepy: The Best Video Explanation in Plain English

Here is an excellent explanation of SOPA and PIPA and what the implications are:

Talk is by Sal Khan, Founder of Khan Academy (@KhanAcademy), one of the largest free educational online institutions.

These cards were passed out during the SOPA rally in San Francisco at the Civic Center on Wednesday, January 18, 2012

 

The SOPA Fuss: Why the Old Guard is Losing (Relevancy)

Yesterday, history was made. An unprecedented number of ordinary citizens called their Congressional offices to voice their opposition for the anti-piracy bill SOPA. The formidable old guard in Washington was forced to listen as Internet giants backed by activist citizens mobilized across the country through Web blackouts and continuous criticism. The message was clear and lessons were learned. By creating a grass roots community to “Stop SOPA”, ordinary people conveyed the message that people are the innovators capable of making important change. Washington learned that the Internet matters. Citizens were refusing to give them permission to break it. Perhaps the old guard needed to be reminded again what space in time they stood in. Welcome to the New Economy. Hello?

Jonathan Nelson, organizer of the San Francisco/Silicon Valley SOPA rally (and Chris McCann, co-founder of Startup Digest behind him with the big smile)

A substantial number of people convened at the Civic Center in San Francisco for the local SOPA rally organized by Jonathan Nelson, founder of Hackers and Founders. He lined up a group of effective speakers: founders of technology companies, a high-profile Silicon Valley investor, local politician, celebrity, start-up attorney…. It was a group of relevant individuals contributing their thoughts about the historical matter.

MC Hammer: “We need to inform and educate. Government cannot shut down sites with undue process. It’s barbaric.”

The key takeaway from this rally and the national effort was that SOPA is not about creating a deeper divide between government and the people. It’s about reducing the tension, creating a bridge and finding a solution together. Jonathan Nelson and Ron Conway perhaps summed it up best. Mr. Nelson had simply and profoundly stated “We need to educate our legislators.” The intent of SOPA is good. Piracy is bad. But the law is too broadly written by people who are not equipped with the right knowledge and expertise in the (technology) field.

Ron Conway had proposed, “Find a way to innovate a solution. Put together a committee of technologists to solve a problem with technology.” There is no simple solution for a complex matter which involves the Internet, Constitutional rights and the human population. But the relevant discussion should center on educating the lawmakers. How can a law centered on a revolutionary entity called the Internet be effective and do good if it is written by people who are not in the industry? Could it make sense to get the brightest minds in technology who are embedded in the culture – who live, breath and understand the culture, to help come up with a solution for this complex matter?

Ron Conway, high-profile Silicon Valley investor

As we recently observed Martin Luther King Day and as the one year anniversary of the Arab Spring unfolds, we are witnessing a digital community of ordinary citizens mobilizing to stop unfairness. From SOPA to the NDAA, global citizens are trying to create more awareness about social and humanitarian injustices. There is a collective consciousness at work.

These influential citizens of the digital age are the New Establishment. They are the relevant voices. The old guard in Washington and old media are becoming less relevant. Ordinary people are now able to do extraordinary things. They are able to make an impact on society. Hello, extraordinary you. What are you planning to do today to ignite discussion? What are you doing to stay relevant?

Learning to Code Part I: The Power and Elegance of Ruby

I love the San Francisco Ruby community. This community is not based on jewelry lovers but refers to  Ruby, the computer programming language which originated in Japan. The San Francisco Ruby or SFRuby community is a group of developer volunteers and learners.

This weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in the Railsbridge Outreach for Women to learn beginning coding via Ruby on Rails. Ruby on Rails (RoR) is a framework for Ruby. Railsbridge workshops were founded by Sarah Allen who contributes her time and resources to encourage the representation of women in the technology space. She recognized the need to improve the diversity gap in programming. The Railsbridge community is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area (imagine the Golden Gate Bridge) and Ms. Allen’s vision is to “bridge the gap from aspiring developer to contributing open source community member through mentoring, teaching and writing.”

The Golden Gate Bridge: I took this photo when I first moved here.

The Railsbridge workshop started on Friday evening and was completed as an all day event on Saturday. I learned enough skills to build my own game by the end of the course! My instructor was engaging and funny. He had long hair and wore a pink shirt. I had fun learning the new lingo. It was cool to learn about hash rockets (=>), arrays ( [  ] ), and strings ( ”  “) among other things. And even though I got barfing text along the way (think error message), the journey was rewarding.

The guessing game I built.

To me learning Ruby on Rails was not about applying technical skills or thinking like a Math major, but more like using a humanities approach of learning a new (foreign) language and thinking like a Philosophy major. Perhaps the misconception of computer coding is that you have to be equipped with technical skills to learn it effectively. Not so.

At the end of the day, Ruby is a language. Human beings use language to communicate effectively with each other. We learn foreign languages to do good and metaphorically build bridges with outside lands to foster peace and goodwill.  In the Ruby case, we are simply trying to communicate with another entity called a computer. Similar to the multi-lingual diplomat who is trying to do good, the aspiring developer dreams of building something big that will impact society in a positive way. I am not denying that evil exists and there are multi-lingual people who do bad things with their skills, and evil hackers determined to break something good or destroy the world. However, I think the power and elegance of learning a new language is in its potential to do good. Both the diplomat and the developer are both attempting to improve the human experience. I’m just connecting the dots between politics and technology. What have you done lately to contribute to society?

How War Shows the Beautiful Side of Humanity

 

Before my memory fails me I want to talk about a very short but important book I just completed. It’s called “Overcoming Speechlessness” and the subtitle reads, “A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel” It’s written by Alice Walker. I think you may recognize who she is from The Color Purple.

I was captivated by her ability to write so powerfully yet elegantly about the savage acts of war. She effectively conveys the state of speechlessness as you, the reader bear witness to gruesome acts of torture. Men, women and children are brutalized but Ms. Walker also manages to uplift your spirit with tales of courage and hope. You read about the new bride who is raped, tortured, murdered and has her eyeballs torn out but you continue to learn about the journey of another Congolese woman who despite being brutalized, survives and refuses to be a beast of burden. She has come through and continues to smile. She will start a new business and yearns to learn how to use the computer. We learn that the oppressors cannot tear out her heart, her soul or her dignity. They cannot break her spirit.

 

Descriptions are graphic but not gratuitous. The prose is delivered in a way that we want to learn more and understand what our individual role is in all of this. As global citizens, Ms. Walker believes that ‘allowing freedom to others brings freedom to ourselves.’ War has two sides. It’s easy to associate ugliness with it. But it also shows the beautiful side of humanity by calling upon us to do something. The beauty of the tragedy then is how it enabled one Voice (Alice Walker) to eloquently talk about the horror to raise human awareness everywhere. The Voice helps us overcome despair and by doing so it encourages the creation of our collective global voices to spread the word. The World can now find its Voice.

Read more about human rights and international justice in the context of the Bosnian conflict here.

 

Sexy Octopus: A Broad Stroke of Intelligent Insight

I just re-named my blog “Sexy Octopus.”

Sexy because I hope what I say is alluring to your mind and inspires you to think and act differently. Sometimes we are so comfortable in our lives that we get stuck in a sameness and miss the opportunity to try new experiences. The octopus is known to be an intelligent creature. I think intelligence or being intelligent in the digital age is about understanding the value of information coming from a wide range of subjects and “expertise”. Connecting the dots between superficially un-related topics does create meaning. So, I hope my voice provides the broad stroke of intelligent insight which can resonate with you.

 Cheers, Cara