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Gender in Diaspora

There’s some discussion on Sarah Mei’s blog about the fact that the “gender” field in the Diaspora code base is a text field, and not a dropdown. I paid attention during my cultural studies classes and I personally have no problem with the implications of having more than two choices for gender. However, there is a tension here, as there often is, between having the data be exhaustive and having the data be easy to enter.

I guess I’d take it as a given that the vast majority of Diaspora users will want to identify their gender as male or female, and for this people this change is a small step backward in terms of usability. Having a text field when you could have a dropdown or radio button of just two choices is noticeably less usable. And if you want your gender to be searchable (probably if you’re single), then you don’t get any guidance regarding whether you should enter your gender as “male” or “MALE” or “m” or “guy”. So it seems like some presets in the UX are probably in order, regardless of what the data is stored as.

There are probably implications for pronouns: LambdaMOO offers a great precedent for how to handle them. Here’s a list of their standard presets (they support ten genders out of the box) and then if you want to go off on your own and define a non-standard gender, you have the option of defining your own custom pronouns to match.

Of course, depending on how pervasive the usage of pronouns are in the site, this points to a future where Diaspora becomes a profoundly non-gender-binary sort of place. As somebody who once spent a lot of time on LambdaMOO, I can tell you that the non-standard pronouns there made the gender diversity extremely noticeable. You could make the analogy that Diaspora will do to gender binarism what MySpace did to graphic design. Whether you consider that a plus or a minus will depend on your priorities, of course.

As a side note: I’m reminded of how most sites will separate name fields into fields like first_name and last_name, but the more correct way to do it is to call them given_name and family_name, since that’s more applicable across cultures where they might say the family name first. In fact, bigger companies are more likely to make that change: In the tradeoff between usability and thoroughness a larger company is far more likely to choose thoroughness. So, maybe you could tell people gender is a text field because that will make the Diaspora software more “enterprise”?

Seriously, Google?

Hipster fail whale

Maybe I’m a cliche, but Hype Machine’s “server overloaded” page made me LOL:

Dirt style marches on

The fact that this is a M.I.A. song is less interesting to me than the fact that Hype Williams directed it. Either way, enjoy:

Early-stage time

Well, sometimes when you don’t blog for a while it’s cause you have nothing much to say. And other times it’s because your grand desire to say things is getting overwhelmed by your even grander desire to get shit done, and this has been one of those times. Anyway, for those who don’t know: I’ve left Diversion Media to be the co-founder at an early-stage startup. The company is Profitably, and basically Adam Neary, Chad Pugh, and I are going to be building a site that brings automated financial analytics to small businesses.

It’s still early days, and we’re taking on a genuinely hard problem, so unfortunately we’re not fully launched yet. In the meantime, I’m psyched to be helping small businesses. I’m enough of a capitalist to believe the hype about small businesses holding a special role in the American middle class, and maybe my immigrant background has more than a little to do with that. I’m also really excited to be working with accounting—as some people know, I’m actually a bit of an accounting nerd.

I met Adam through the NYC Founder Institute, which I didn’t attend, but a number of my friends did. And I’ll echo here what lots of people are saying: It’s a very interesting time in the NYC startup scene. Among the Rubyists I know, I’m hearing about a lot more job churn than I usually do, almost all of it in a hopeful direction. As to how many of these hit their mark, time will tell.

Francis became the mayor of the produce aisle

Seen in the window of a C-Town grocery store. I’m not a foursquare user myself, but is there any point to this? Wouldn’t a grocery store be the most banal check-in ever?

Chatroulette: Occasionally funnier than some naked dude alone in his room

God bless the intrepid souls who go on to Chatroulette! to do video chat with totally random strangers. Without their brave explorations, we’d never get screenshots like these:

The 24 Best Chat Roulette Screenshots

Martin Margiela

Via New York’s sales & bargains page, I came across Martin Margiela, a label I’m not familiar with but which has a remarkable web site for a fashion label:

They’ve decided to style it after the default Apache directory navigation, complete with the words “Apache/1.1.34 Server at www.maisonmartinmargiela.com Port 80” at the bottom. If you spend any time on fashion sites you’ll recognize this is pretty gutsy, since 99.99% of the fashion websites are these heavy Flash affairs that scroll you through pictures at a pace you can’t control while playing some generic loungy music. As an added benefit the MM site actually has deep links, which I guess might come in handy if I were so into fashion I were bookmarking specific pages.

Of course, I have to imagine the intersection of men who are really into fashion and care about bookmarkability is probably pretty small, and whether or not this unusual fashion site is helping them or hurting them overall, I couldn’t say. In many ways the values of fashion and the values of web are opposed, and not just because the web is built by people with baggy hoodies and messenger bags.

iciousness

http://bacolicio.us/http://kanyelicio.us/http://taylorswift.com

You realize where this is heading, right? At some point in the future, it’s going to be possible to take any web site on the internet, and then pile on pictures of bacon, Kanye West, Godzilla, Katrina victims, LOLcats, Master Chief, Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, crabcore, and Ron Paul—all by typing in more shit into your address bar. And by “the future” maybe I mean “Tuesday”.

All I know is I’m going to need a kickass bookmarklet to help me keep up with it all.