July 09, 2008

Girl Geek Dinner, Zivity Sponsor Recap, Part I

(Part 1 of a 2 part post.)

It's been 10 days since we held an alternative event for women who wanted to attend something for girl geeks, but didn't want to be at an event sponsored by, with speaker from or with photographers by a porn company, Zivity because it felt like Zivity was trying to use credibility of girl geeks just after their founder took off her shirt in a video at the top of Techcrunch. Many women I spoke with were amazed at the lack of understanding of this by the Girl Geek Dinner organizers.

In discussing this event with people the last few days, it's become clear that what we: me, a couple of women who blogged this, as well as numerous women and men who expressed support for our criticism of the GGD event, understood a few important things that weren't public.

When people found out how hard we'd tried to meet with the GGD event organizer, to discuss this before it became a controversy, and what our perspective was verses just the blanket view that we opposed the event in conjunction with a particular sponsor, they really supported the view that we held, which was that we'd tried to talk about it first, were forced to go increasingly public, and that we had a supportable point that women at work, and networking events are included in this, should not be involved with porn, porn companies or photographers paid for by porn companies. And they really supported that we held an event, however last minute, as an alternative, to the GGD event.

I've also learned a bit more about the situation, that I wasn't aware of at the time, which I wanted to share. And I wanted to tell what happened at the Girl Geek Revolution event (that name is, as I mentioned earlier, tongue in cheek, because we really felt we had to have a revolution in order not to have porn related things at work).

So.. here's what I know about the events the past couple of weeks surrounding the Girl Geek Dinner event:

* I was sent an invite to the Girl Geek Dinner event, by @bayareagirlgeek on Twitter on June 16th.


Looking at the website then (Located here, but it's been updated from that time three weeks ago; I saw then that Zivity was a sponsor, but later their sponsorship was removed, the link name was changed to remove "zivity" at the end of it and the title the link was created from, and the language around Zivity sponsored photographers was lightened up.) The event, slated for June 26th in SF, showed Cyan Banister, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Zivity, as a speaker, as well as talked about the Zivity sponsored photographers in the post describing the event.

* Several of us responded on June 16th to the tweet from @bayareagirlgeek, not knowing who it was who was behind the event and the tweet, saying we were uncomfortable with Zivity as a sponsor because it's a porn company and that didn't feel very supportive of women. We didn't hear anything back:


* Again, not realizing who had organized the first Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner that I'd attended on January 31, 2008, I left a comment on the BAGGD blog post announcing dinner #2 on June 26. My comments appeared to be posted, but then later the blog said they were "under moderation." Two other women posted comments, but none of our comments were posted, and appeared based upon the interface to have been deleted. We weren't sure what happened, but discussed this with the "@bayareagirlgeek" in our tweets on twitter, to get the person using that Twitter handle to discuss this with us, as we tried to resolve the issue (see the Summize list of tweets going back to the original invite, and open the "show conversation" links to view the complete conversation.)

* On June 17, I decided to post the comments I'd tried to leave at the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner post to my blog, because I felt really strongly about what was happening, and that porn, in a work environment was not good and would make many women feel uncomfortable and unsupported. And I felt that Zivity in particular, because of the Techcrunch stripper video, was using GGD to get girl geek cred. Those comments are here, and while they didn't comprehensively cover the issues and tell everything that was going on at the time, because they replied specifically to the BAGGD blog post, they were meant to catch the attention via the link (many bloggers follow their inbound links) of whoever had written the post so we could discuss the issues.

* On June 18, I checked back at BAGGD blog and the comments had all been removed and the interface said nothing was "awaiting moderation." But I did see in very small type Angie Chang's email as the organizer. I was really surprised, because Angie and I had been through a similar set of things before.

In 2007, Women 2.0, an organization I believe Angie co-founded and which runs an annual pitching contest for women entrepreneurs, called Women 2.0 Napkin Business Challenge. That contest required that *only women under 35* be allowed to participate. I had tried to leave a comment on the corresponding blog post at Women 2.0 in 2007, but it was not approved. Note also that while this post now says there are 46 comments, they are currently invisible on that post now for some odd reason that probably is a technical glitch though because many of them are critical, and Angie seems to have a history of not publishing criticism by others on her blogs, it could also be that she simply told the interface not to post them anymore. I have no idea.


I wrote a blog post to publich my comments not published at Anglie's blog about the Women 2.0 pitch contest excluding women 35 and over.Angie responded in comments at Napsterization saying she disagreed with me that this was a problem. My thought was first-time women founders need help, no matter their age, and age discrimination in any event was a real problem.

Ten or so months later, Angie pinged me, asking to meet because someone (can't remember who but Eve Phillips formerly of Greylock and currently of Chirp comes to mind) had suggested that I wasn't unreasonable, and that she really ought to hear what I had to say about Women 2.0 (btw, I also spoke at an event Women 2.0 held 2 years ago).

We had coffee in early 2008, and I explained why I really felt that first time women entrepreneurs needed the confidence boost, and the support of an organizations like Women 2.0, as they go out to pitch VCs for money for their startups. This year, for the 2008 contest, Women 2.0 removed the "under 35" requirement, and made the contest open to any team with 6 or less founders, where 50% were women. Though I couldn't attend I thought that was terrific and congratulate Women 2.0 and Angie for opening up to all women the opportunities the pitch contest gives.

So, knowing in June 2008 that Angie was organizing the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner, and had likely produced the blog post and tweets, I pinged her in email, to say that I'd really like to get together to talk about this issue.

After that, I also talked with two other women, who told me they had already pinged Angie, asked to talk on the phone or meet for coffee to talk about the same issue with GGD. That I know of three of us reached out to Angie sometime between the 16th and the 18th trying to talk with her.

* June 20, Angie replied to two of us, requesting to meet on the 21st. Since I was leaving the night of the 21st for NYC, and we were having a 100 degF heatwave, I suggested that instead of meeting at 1pm as Angie suggested, maybe we could do 10am? I both phone texted Angie, and replied in email, as did Kaliya Hamlin, about meeting Saturday for a total of 6 messages between us to Angie offering the option of meeting at 10, 11 or as a last resort, the 1pm time Angie had proposed. I was an hour away from the proposed meeting site in Berkeley, but despite having a busy day and workout planned, not to mention packing and a red eye, I wanted to see this discussion happen. Kaliya also spent the day waiting around for the meeting, skipping working out, and other errands, as she too was just about to leave for a conference in Southern California.

I also found out about the Valleywag and San Jose Mercury News blog posts. (Neither posting showed up in my RSS feed tracking links to my blog).

* June 21. We heard at 4pm Saturday from Angie, who disregarded all the messages to her, but proposed Sunday the 22nd at 11am. By then I was on my way to a family 30th wedding anniversary, and then headed to the airport. Others were off to meetings and dinners, but I replied and suggested we do a phone call (with me in NYC) for 2pm EST/ 11am PST and Mary Trigiani meeting in person with Angie.

No reply was received to our suggestions to Angie's proposed meeting time and no phone call took place.

* June 22, as I was in NYC, I met a woman who was part of Girl Geek Dinners in London, and friends with Sarah Blow, founder of the entire organization (loosely affiliated as it is, though it it branded the same around the world). This woman, as did approximately 20 other women who were attending Personal Democracy Forum in NYC, told me during the PDF party they were appalled that GGD was having a porn company sponsor and sending photographers, and most had read my blog post, seen my tweets or heard about the issue. They all wanted to do something constructive to voice opposition, and expressed support for my efforts. I asked all to write blog posts about their understanding of the events.

* June 23. I received an email from Jackie Danicki who spoke with Sarah Blow, founder of Girl Geek Dinners. Apparently Sarah Blow was "annoyed" with the Zivity GGD situation, and "made GGD remove Zivity as a sponsor."

Because of this, I decided to do a blog post to share this new information as well as more completely explain the entire situation to that time. This post, More on Girl Geeks - Yes, Zivity - No was much more direct in analyzing the situation compared to my previous post that had been just the comment I'd intended to leave on the BAGGD blog, and just responded to their announcement of sponsors and the dinner/speaker event.

* June 24, I pinged Angie again about doing a call with us. She replied that she was "taken aback" by our reactions to the dinner and Zivity's involvement, and would rather chat on Friday, *after* the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner, on June 27. I'm not sure what she expected, but as we were trying to talk with her, the dinner was approaching and I felt that the only way to get my views across and mobilize support against the combination of Zivity and Girl Geek Dinners was to blog it publicly. We didn't seem to be getting much direct talking done. In my post, I had directly addressed the issues of what Zivity is, and why I believed it was a bad choice to have them sponsor the event, speak and send photographers because that was the only option I had at that point.

* June 25, at the Structure 08 conference I bumped into Calley Nye, and later in the press room, she asked me very directly if I'd like to do an alternative event. I did but definitely didn't have time to do it myself. I told her if we did it together, I'd do it. We went to work on holding our own event, in order to have an alternative event that didn't have Porn photographers shooting the attendees. And more importantly, to make the point that porn and it's associated issues don't belong at work.

Part 2 of this will be posted in the next few days and I'll link to it here when it's up.

Posted by Mary Hodder at July 9, 2008 07:53 PM | TrackBack