Thursday, November 26, 2009

Techno Girl Talk - A New Podcast

Watch this space for more news about Techno Girl Talk, a new podcast featuring female movers and shakers in high tech. Please also follow us on Twitter at @technogirltalk. The name "Techno Girl Talk" is thanks to my half-brother Sasha, a fellow geek and one cool 8-year-old. I'll be bringing onto the show women from all levels and positions across high tech--from sys admins to executives and beyond. We'll hear how they navigated their way through this exciting, innovative, yet male-dominated world--and get their views on the latest industry news.

Meanwhile, eat and drink well today. Give thanks. I know I do.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Would You Tune into a Bitch Session?

Soon, this blog will be much more than a bunch of words. It will be a multimedia extravanganza of sound and fury, signifying everything there is to say about tech, social media and other such important concerns. Today, I head to San Jose to do a video interview with mystery man number one, whose name will be revealed at a later date. Film at 11. (Or, actually, more likely, film at noon in a couple days as I work on editing the video...)

And watch out for a NEW podcast series featuring women in technology. The idea was inspired by an interview I did on Infosmack, a weekly podcast focused on storage and related tech on cool community site Storage Monkeys. In it, we dissected the question of "booth babes" at VMWorld and other tech trade shows. Greg Knieriemen brought me on along with two guys who were, at the time, jousting over the question, Stephen Foskett of Nirvanix and Kirby Wadsworth of F5. (Here are their respective posts on the topic: and

At the time, I pointed out what to me should be obvious--there are plenty of intelligent, interesting and yes, beautiful women in tech. What do we need to hire models for? My argument was further bolstered at a show just a few weeks later when Jay Livens of Sepaton tweeted that he went to Kirby's F5 booth at a storage conference and asked the booth babe who the head of marketing is for the company. Surprise, surprise, she didn't know the answer. Well, perhaps the problem was that her head was so full of debates about data migration and file virtualization that she didn't have the bandwidth for such unimportant questions.

Anyhow, the upshot is that I've had it with the stereotype of the unattractive geek woman who lacks social skills. And I'm out to prove it wrong, week after week. Here's the question, what should I call it?  

My first thought was to call it "Bitch Session." Funny, irreverent, and... um, maybe a little too irreverent? When I bounced the name off my husband, his first reaction was to laugh, but his second reaction was to say, "who would go on a show with that name?" So I ask you, dear readers. What would be a better way to sum up a podcast featuring some of the smartest and most engaging women in technology today? The name needs to be still hip and fun, but perhaps oughtn't invoke the oh-so-politically incorrect word above? Or, are you okay with it? Inquiring bitchy minds want to know....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Twitprosal at Tech The Halls

The holiday season kicked off with a bang this past week as tech mag Technologizer threw a major bash, "Tech The Halls," at Varnish Gallery in San Fran's hip SoMa district. It being the first party of its kind of the season, the goodwill was flowing and the energy high. There was nary a "bah humbug" heard.

The highlight of the evening? A surprise proposal. We had all quieted down for the raffle pick when a guy named Dale stepped up, taking his girlfriend Laura by the hand. To everyone's surprise and amazement, he read her the following tweet:

@dalelarson Dearest @lauralagassa, will you marry me?

Here's the pic I tried to take while it was happening:

OK, so this shot won't win the photo of the year award, but can't you feel the excitement in the room? We held our collective breath as Dale got on one knee, and looked up hopefully at the utterly flabbergasted Laura. Would she accept? What if she ... gasp... turned him down in front of 600 of SF's most media- and tech-savvy? To everyone's relief, she said "yes." The room exploded with applause. Wonder what their wedding will be like. Guess I'll have to look out for #DaleLauraGetHitched on Twitter.

The party rollicked on. Have fun reading the hashtag #TechTheHalls while it lasts. A guy with a Yahoo blog hung up my coat for me, because he was tall and I wasn't. He friended me the next day but I think that was out of guilt because he wasn't there at the end of the evening to get it down for me. Note to the folks at Varnish--think you might want to lower your coat rack to accommodate those under 6'2"? Or is this just one more way to weed out the less than perfectly beautiful?

But really, it was a fantastic, buzzy, crowded bash. The hosts, Harry McCracken and Marie Domingo warmly welcomed all and sundry. Don Clark, SF deputy bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal was clad in a very fetching beret and mobbed by PR folks the whole evening. He sent me an email the next day, but I got the sense it was a form letter he was sending out to everyone who put a card in his hand. Not sure how to respond. Suggestions welcome--how about "Hey Don, can you stop Murdoch from killing the Journal more dead than it already is?" Or would that be too harsh?

Also in attendance, A list blogger Robert Scoble, who did NOT have a video camera with him, and instead mingled smilingly in the crowd. As I took his picture, a couple guys muscled in, saying "We LOVE Scoble and his tweets! We want people to think we know him!" Now that's celebrity. Los Angeles, eat your heart out.

Social Media Club founder Chris Heuer -- who seems to be able to be in several places at one time -- introduced me to guy named Todd Tate. This guy had chops like Sha Na Na and is running some kind of tech music extravaganza thingy. Who else was there? Adam Helweh, who I recently met at Louis Gray's social media breakfast and who knew more about my name than I did (see my earlier post). Sam and Christy Whitmore of Media Survey. With the wine flowing freely (did I mention the open bar?!! Nice touch!) I found myself saying some rather ill-advised things to Christy about my prior employer, Red Herring, which I will not repeat here. Besides, what could possibly be said about that once-great pub that hasn't already been spewed on Valleywag?

OK folks, that's your gossip download for the day. Feel free to add your own tidbits from the event to the comments field below.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Party Time! A Tech Gossip Column

I've been having way too much fun lately. And by that I mean going to parties and calling that "work." Wednesday and Thursday of last week were taken up with many a drink- and talk-fest for Tech Field Day. I was on the organizing committee for that event, which brought together bloggers and other influencers from around the world for two days of tech deep dives at Silicon Valley companies. (See my earlier post for background.)

Here's a pic I took when first arriving Wednesday evening of two of the Tech Field Day attendees, Devang Panchigar ("StorageNerve") and Chris Evans ("The Storage Architect") in the lobby of the San Jose Airport Doubletree. In the background, Tech Field Day organizer and Gestalt IT publisher Stephen Foskett is getting help from the desk about his lost luggage--just one of the many snafus that threatened to derail things (but which somehow never did).

The Field Day itself was a blast, but much has already been written about that, so I'll leave that to the experts. Suffice it to say, this was a group of smart people. In fact, they were so smart that I found it hard to keep up with the conversation, even when it wasn't about tech! That's just sad if you think about it. (Starting to consider going back to school in order to prep for future Field Days...) Here's the list of all the attendees--which is also posted on Flickr with face mapping here:

Greg Knieriemen (Storage Monkeys/Infosmack), John Obeto (Absolutely Windows), Carlo Costanzo (VMWare Info), Rod Haywood (Musings of Rodos), Rick Vanover (Virtualization Review, TechRepublic, Rick Vanover's blog), Stephen Foskett (Gestalt IT, Packrat, Enterprise Storage Strategies), Nigel Poulton (Ruptured Monkey), Bas Raayman (Renegade's Technical Diatribe), Ed Saipetch (Breathing Data, Gestalt IT), Simon Seagrave (TechHead), Chris Evans (The Storage Architect), Devang Panchigar (StorageNerve, Gestalt IT), Greg Ferro (Ethereal Mind, Gestalt IT), John Hickson (Studio Sysadmins), Robin Harris (Storage Mojo), Rich Brambley (VM/ETC/Gestalt IT).

Luckily for me, Field Day event planner Claire Chaplais and I got to have a little girl time to balance out the XY intensity of the thing. I'm just gonna spill it--while the boys were over at 3Par learning everything there is to know about thin provisioning, chunklets and Symantec storage, Claire and I were getting pedicures at a place on Santana Row. A much needed little break!

Thursday night was Tech Field Day's big bash at the Computer History Museum. True, there were a few other tech-related parties that night, which posed some competition. I was tasked with sending out last-minute invites, and I have to admit I began to panic as person after person told me they were already booked. But as it turned out, our party had just the right mix of folks.  So for those who instead headed to the annual Ubergizmo awards night, Uber10, or the Outcast CEO bash in Menlo Park, all I can say to you is, what could possibly compete with a party that included a video of storage rapper 3P and me shopping for computer junk at Weird Stuff?

The party was quite the who's who of the storage/virtualization/networking industry of Silicon Valley: TechValidate CEO Brad O'Neill (who also sponsored the party); from 3Par: raptastic blogger Marc Farley and marketing guy Craig Nunes; Bhava Communications folks Liz Zaborowska (founder and principal), Aaron Quinones and Dana Loberg; John Mark Troyer, the social media guy at VMware; Jim Sherhart of Data Robotics; Karriem Adams from MDS Micro; Jon Toor from Xsigo; a guy from Intel wearing a vintage black leather jacket, Georgiana Comsa of Silicon Valley PR, two people from HP--one of whom was Erin Collopy, who accepted an award for creating the whole "Field Day" concept--and many others. A crew from my client Ocarina Networks were there as well, including Mike Davis and CEO Murli Thirumale, who seemed to be getting along great with the participants--chatting amiably with Gestalt writers Edsai (Ed Saipetch) and StorageNerve (Devang Panchigar).

By Monday morning, I had recovered sufficiently from the craziness of Tech Field Day to attend a breakfast sponsored by
Louis Gray (if you don't know who this is, you might want to find out) for a startup he's working with, My6Sense. Louis has a new consulting company that is shaping up to be very interesting looking, Paladin Advisors. It was quite an honor to be invited, and I couldn't help but look around the room at all the social media heavies in attendance, like Chris Heuer, founder of Social Media Club and Adam Helweh of Secret Sushi, and wonder just what in the heck I was doing there.
But Louis, Adam and Chris were all very friendly. Turned out Adam even knew more about my last name than I do. Apparently, Mugrabi can mean "from Morocco." I was wrong and you were right, Adam, wherever you are. The my6sense guys were really cool, as well. They were both Israeli and so I was able to throw around the fact that as a spouse of an Israeli, I've actually been there and stuff. I've even hit the Tel Aviv club scene.

I got chatting afterwards with the CEO, a serial entrepreneur named Avinoam Rubinstein. He was suprisingly down-to-earth, and bore a striking resemblance to the singer Lyle Lovett. He didn't like that I referred to his company as a "filter" -- with an infrastructure based on artificial intelligence, this app is far more than just a content cheesecloth. Yet in essence that is what it does, taking the firehose of information and serving up a trickle of content that suits one's own reading habits. The difference: It has the eerie ability to figure out your interests before you know you have them. As Louis put it while introducing the company, "my6sense knows me better than I know myself."

The founder, Barak Hachamov was extremely articulate about the potential of the service they offer. His vision--to offer something as useful to a mobile audience as Google has been for search. Here's the pic I snapped of him:

Notice that big basket of toast? No one touched a single slice. Oh, and did I mention that the breakfast took place at the Ritz Carlton SF? Yes, a fancy spot, but one that required I climb a hill and some steps in order to get there from BART. Good thing I didn't wear heels.

And... as I just discovered today, Stephen Foskett and I will be speaking about social media and what we learned from Tech Field Day at an upcoming storage industry conference, The BD Event in San Francisco January 26-28. VaNessa Duplessie, the event organizer will also be part of that panel. If you're in any way connected to the storage industry, I suggest you attend this event. They had an extremely successful one in Boston, and now we're lucky enough to have one in Bay Area.

That's the tech gossip update for today. Be well, do good work, and party on, dude.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Traveling at the Speed of Social Media

I expect to have a lot more to say about what to do--and what not to do--as a blogger after next week. That's because this Thursday and Friday are Tech Field Day, a new experiment in social media organizing. Sponsored by online publication Gestalt IT, the event brings together influential tech bloggers from around the world for two days of talking, blogging, tweeting and hands-on demonstrations at storage, networking and virtualization companies in Silicon Valley.

The event has been the talk of town among storage and virtualization bloggers. On Twitter, the hashtag #TechFieldDay has been active for weeks. In many ways, it's looking to be a model for how to do a viral campaign. Let the participants themselves talk about it, adding in their own thoughts and questions in whatever ways they see fit. And this is exactly how it's been going. Everyone involved is talking about it on Twitter--not to mention their own blogs. This in turn leads to even more chatter and interest. It's a positive upward spiral.

Perhaps most astounding: the event took just over five weeks' time to plan and execute--a lesson in how fast-moving the social web can allow one to operate. But boy has this been an intense month.

The powerhouse behind this is Stephen Foskett, publisher of Gestalt IT. In early October, he had recently returned from HP Tech Day in Colorado Springs and was determined to do something about it. The event in Colorado had electrified the storage blogging community--a select group of whom were brought in for a day and half of demos, tours, and talks about the company's latest and greatest storage offerings.

Until then, many of them thought HP was all over the place when it came to storage. As one skeptical invitee, Nigel Poulton of Ruptured Monkey put it, he arrived believing that HP just didn't "get" storage. He viewed their storage portfolio as "bloated" and "chaotic."

It could've been a disaster, but then again HP really had nowhere to go but up with these guys. And HP had its act together. It recognized that generating a whole lot of marketing "buzz" with slick presentations and PR wasn't going to wash with these hard-nosed, skeptical bloggers. So instead, the participants were given what looked to be carte blanche to poke around the HP site. They gathered around terminals and tried out HP LeftHand, setting up the cluster and getting a chance to see what happened if a cable was pulled out. In short, the crew at HP let them to do what geeks love to do--mess around with stuff in an attempt to break it.

They were allowed to video whatever they liked, including a tour through the data center, where there was much drooling over the newest EVAs. These videos then popped up on their blogs. Great advertising for HP. All through the two days, many of us were glued to the #HPTechDay hashtag on Twitter, watching the photos and comments pop up in real time. In the end, even the curmudgeonly Nigel wrote that he'd decided HP "do get storage." High cotton.

A week or so later, Stephen was effusing on the phone to me about the potential of such an event for all manner of tech companies. He suggested I talk to some of my clients about bringing bloggers in and hosting them for something similar. "Hey," he suddenly asked. "What about having one single event, where several smaller companies could pool their resources and bring the bloggers into town together? What do you think?"

What did I think? I thought it was one of the best ideas I'd ever heard. At that moment, we both realized he had hit on a winner. If he could pull it off--and from what I knew of him, I was certain he could--it could be a chance for a whole lot of smaller companies to get the kind of exposure and understanding of their technology that I as a blogger and social media consultant was yearning for them to achieve. We both began to hoot and holler at once. "Yes. You really ought to do this!" I shouted. "I think I will. This really could work!" he answered. After we got off the phone, I half wondered if he would really make it happen. So many great brainstorming conversations go nowhere.

I found out just a few days later when tuning into the weekly VMWorld community podcast. The host, John Troyer said he had Stephen on the line with an announcement to make. Gestalt IT would be sponsoring and hosting something Stephen had dubbed Tech Field Day-- an "open blogger day" where influential people would come to San Francisco and learn about new products in storage, virtualization, security and networking. The date of the event? November 12-13. This was just over a month away. I gulped. Had it been me, I would've picked, I dunno, December. Maybe even January. Hell, February. Was he sure about that? I asked him when I got him on the phone. He was. "I work best on tight deadlines. And everyone can make it on those dates."

This was one heck of a chance to take, because at the time he announced it, he didn't actually have any companies signed up to sponsor the event. Without sponsors, there would be nothing to show the attendees. And the presenting companies were also going to have to foot the bill for the bloggers' travel expenses--costs that would run into the tens of thousands in all.

I knew that if anyone could pull the rabbit out of the hat on this, he could. What for most of us would be a recipe for ulcers and sleepless nights seems to have the opposite effect on Stephen Foskett. Ideas were pouring out of him.  It would be a "field day" like they have in schools. Three-legged races. Prizes. Contests. A sense of fun.

But would it come together? As a member of what had now become an ad hoc volunteer committee for the event, I was feeling the stress. He had commitments from three companies. But we needed at least five and ideally more like seven or eight to make it work. He confessed that he was experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. One moment he was sure there would be no problem getting the sponsors. The next he was panicked that the whole thing would fall through.

The event was less than a month away, and despite immense interest from several more potential sponsors, only a handful had signed on the dotted line. I reassured him as best I could that it would all work out, but in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but fear the worst. What if, when push came to shove, not enough companies were willing to pony up the money? This is a recession, after all.

In the end, he signed up seven sponsors: Xsigo, MDS Micro, Ocarina, Data Robotics, 3Par, Nirvanix and Symantec Storage. The beauty was that most of these companies were already in some kind of partnership, and so there were natural pairings that allowed companies to share sessions. In practical terms, this means that the bloggers will only have to be taken around to four locations--a morning and afternoon session on each of the two days.

As we were to find out, there would be many more ups and downs in the ensuing weeks. As of this writing, many details are still in process. We need name plate holders. Who will pick up the attendees from the airport as they arrive from Australia, London, Boston, Ohio and the many other far-flung locations this Wednesday? Two of my clients are presenting sponsors, Xsigo and Ocarina. Next week I'll be there to watch each one do a dry run of their tech demo--the success of which will make or break them in the eyes of the participants.

Still, it's hard not to be caught up in the euphoria as the day nears. Whatever happens, this is going to be a social media experiment for the history books. Throughout what has been something of an ordeal, Stephen has kept up the energy in all kinds of creative ways.

For the past week, Gestalt IT has been running a contest, "Do You Know..." that tests people's knowledge of the companies that are presenting at the event. The winner will receive an iPod nano with video. (How I wish I could enter that contest!)

The time between our first conversation about it and the actual event date? A mere 35 days. This, my friends, is the speed of our new social world. To me, this shows that there is a world of opportunity out there, recession or no recession. What will you do with it?