I often talk about Ada Lovelace in my public talks and in class. In the mid-1800s, she was the world’s first computer programmer – writing code to run on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. Like Babbage, she was well ahead of her time, and an important figure in the history of computing. Which is why Ada Lovelace Day, coming up with Wednesday (24 March), is so cool.
Ada Lovelace Day is the international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science – I’ll be writing a post doing exactly that in a few days. But today I want to encourage everyone that has a blog to sign up to write a post yourself.
There are plenty of innovation angles to the Ada Lovelace story – I’ve explored some of them here briefly. As with Babbage, a big part of the story is the illustration of the difference between inventing something and turning it into an innovation. The Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine were both brilliant inventions, but were never successfully turned into innovations.
Another angle to the Ada Lovelace story is its demonstration of how new ideas are combinatorial. By the time ENIAC went online in the late 1940s, it seemed very new. And yet, it was building on ideas that went back at least to Leibniz in the 17th century, including those that Lovelace developed.
Consequently, I think that the idea of a day named after Ada Lovelace, honoring the achievements of women in science and technology is fantastic. And like I said, I strongly encourage you to create something for the day – a blog post, a video, whatever. The number of awesome women in technology right now is very high, so there are plenty of people you could write about. Some suggestions:
- danah boyd: She is the sharpest academic thinker right now on the meaning of social networks. In a time when anyone can declare themselves an expert, she has genuine expertise. Basically, if I’m trying to figure out what’s going on in social networks, and she’s written on the topic, her writing is what I trust.
- Valeria Maltoni: Another actual expert – she has experience in making online communities work, and has great insights into what this means for firms. Her blog is outstanding.
- Nancy Duarte: There are at least four people in my department that have gotten copies of her book Slide:ology after I’ve raved about it to them. All of us agree that Duarte’s work has helped us become better presenters.
- Suw Charman-Anderson: the inventor of Ada Lovelace Day, and a very insightful writer on social media and journalism. The amount of great content on her site is mind-boggling.
- June Holley and Patti Anklam: Two of my favourite writers on organisational network analysis, and using networks to improve performance. Anklam’s book Net:Work is great, and Holley’s upcoming book on Network Weaving also looks to be excellent.
- Venessa Miemis: Just started her blog at the end of last year, and is already having a big impact with her in synthesis and meta-analysis. She’s built a remarkable community at her site in a very short period of time.
- Caterina Fake: the co-developer of flickr, and now hunch – a site that does amazon-type recommendations for everything. Entrepreneurial, and, most importantly, gets her ideas executed.
- Tara Hunt: she has written The Whuffie Factor, and initiated several start-ups. She’s a social media rockstar, because she has a great ability to distil general lessons out of her specific experiences.
- Jane McGonigal: she develops great video games. Her latest, Evoke, is based on the premise that in the face of increasing complexity, the only way to succeed is through collaboration. A network-based game with a network lesson – what could be better?
- Those are just some of the women from my RSS feed that you could talk about. If you need more ideas, check out The Next Women: Business Magazine for Female Internet Heroes. They talk about hundreds of women who are potential Ada Lovelace Day honorees.
So there’s ten women you could write about for Ada Lovelace Day, plus a few hundred more from The Next Women. And as much as I admire the people on this list, I won’t be talking about any of them in my post for Ada Lovelace Day. I’ll be talking about five women that have had a particularly strong influence on my thinking and on my academic career.
You’ll have to come back in a few days to find out who they are. In the meantime, start thinking about making your own contribution to Ada Lovelace Day!