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051 With Drew Wilson

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Drew Wilson

Web // Twitter

Drew is a designer and developer based in California.

Show Description

This week we were joined by Drew Wilson, a designer and developer (a true cross-bread powerhouse) out of Oceanside, California. Drew created the first widely popular icon font, Pictos. He is a conference organizer, producing ValioCon. He's the creator of web apps like Space Box and Dialoggs. The list goes on and on. We talk about (roughly in order):

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Time Jumps


  • skpdx

    Hellio Drew,

    if you use the term “girls” to women, then it is appropriate to use the term “boys” to refer to men (not “guys”). Of course, i you are uncomfortable routinely referring to men as boys, then you should not routinely refer to women as girls.

    If you paid more attention to such matters, you might even find more women willing to speak at your conferences.

    No doubt there are many reasons why so many women have turned you down when you’ve invited them to speak at conferences. But I think it is safe to assume — contrary to your implication — that women are not inherently or naturally reluctant to speak in front of large audiences (at least no more than men are).

    By the way, I am curious to learn the number of women that you asked to speak at the conference to which you referred. And it might be interesting to know how many of those women had previous experience speaking at comparable conferences, in relation to the previous experience of the men you asked. I also wonder which time slots, etc, you offered to men in comparison with the women you asked. I wonder, too, how much flexibility the men felt they had in regard to their their time slots, speaking topics, etc, in comparison with the women.

    (I do not intend these questions to be accusatory, though I know they sound that way. These are simply questions and considerations every conference organizer should have in mind. The same is true of the following…)

    In the interview, Drew, you spoke of seeking out “doers” who are not simply “talkers”. I wonder just how you learn of the “doers” who are not “talkers”?

    Have you considered how much of the water-cooler-type talk & correspondence & link sharing are dominated by men referring to their work of other men …and how this might leave a great deal of outstanding work, done by women, unknown to you?

    I also wonder if you might be making unfair comparisons in regard to ages, work opportunities in the field, etc, when you determine who is a “doer.” And I hesitate to say this, but there’s always the risk of subconscious, yet blatant, forms of prejudice coming into play when a person divides other people into these sorts of categories.

    Finally, Drew, you began discussing this topic by suggesting that the relative proportions of women and men who speak at conferences is simply not important.

    If I recall correctly, Drew, you even said that if there’s conference where only men speak, then perhaps the conference organizers intended the conference to be for men (who, as you pointed out, outnumber women in this field anyhow). And said that would be fine, because one doesn’t have to attend that conference if one doesn’t want to attend.

    Obviously, you overlooked the fact that some employers actually do require some staff to attend certain conferences,

    But you also overlooked a much more important point — speaking at conferences has tremendous effects on a person’s work opportunities and income (both tied to one’s status & public profile in this field) as well as influence. And these effects even extend beyond the personal gains an individual can accrue from speaking at conferences. There are also larger, overall effects in regard to gender, sexuality, and race.

    Put simply, the more women speak at professional conferences, the more women will be hired and promoted in the field. The same holds true for members of other under-represented groups in the field.

    And, alas, the more white men speak at professional conferences, the more white men will be hired and promoted in this field.

    There is no neutral ground upon which conference organizers can stand.


    PS: I was relieved that the hosts of this show did not join in with Drew and dismiss these concerns as a non-issue. Chris even said that if he ever helps organizes a conference, he would make a strong effort to provide a diverse range of speakers. (The self-interested, “good business sense” reason given for this was, I hope, given to persuade otherwise unsympathetic men to take these concerns seriously.)

    But all this said, I think the hosts could have done better. At the very least, I think you two should have said something, in a light & friendly manner, to point out that perhaps, just maybe, referring to women as “girls” does not help to resolve matters,

    (And finally, I should not have to say this, but the fact that some women in the field might casually refer to other women as girls is irrelevant. Men should not refer to women as “girls” unless they routinely refer to themselves and other men as “boys.” Such language reinforces a structure of power which demeans and subordinates women.)

    • Steve, I have to agree. I’m not usually terribly sensitive to those sorts of things, but after hearing him say “girls” about 20 times, it was making me uncomfortable. I don’t think he was being consciously sexist, but it’s definitely something he should adjust.

  • Can’t wait to hear more about his new project that you understandably left out of your shows notes.

    hmm….something about executing, i think every few months, can’t wait!

    oh ya, another great episode of STS in the bag.

  • First, I should say I love the show. It’s a great resource for front-end devs like myself. However, I do have to share a concern about this episode. When the talk shifted to accessibility,

    I was extremely surprised and disappointed to hear someone like Drew say, and I’m paraphrasing here, that because screen readers are so good now, all you need is good html and you’re good to go. This could not be further from the truth. I’ve done a lot of accessibility work in the last year for a major US bank, and I’m here to tell you, it’s not that easy. In fact it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I’ve been doing this for 16+ years.

    But I think this speaks to the way developers (myself included for most of my career) have just dismissed accessibility. Someone that would make a statement like that has clearly never had to go through a major accessibility review.

    I’m almost equally disappointed that neither Dave nor Chris really contradicted him. But with the work Dave is doing on the Accessibility Project, I can only imagine (hope) that he does not agree. At any rate, I’d like to see you guys follow up on that, but either way, I’ll still be listening 🙂

    • I don’t think the tips Drew mentioned were bad advice, but maybe the “that’s all you have to do” tone of it was a bit of a shortcoming. Complete WCAG2.0 AAA and Section 508 compliance are way more involved and tedious, so thanks for bringing that up here. Also, fwiw, after this recording I decided to build out the a11yproject.

      • Yep, and I really appreciate that. Looking forward to where it goes and hopefully I can contribute.

  • Speaking about women speakers, Angelina Fabbro is pretty good at conferences. Her shadow dom talk was very interesting.

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