New Video “Code” and the Quest for Inclusive Software, and a big question for Broadening Participation in Computing

June 8, 2015 at 7:27 am 3 comments

The article quoted below is about a new documentary on gender issues in the computing industry.  More interestingly, the article raises an important question for broadening participation in computing:  Can we come up with examples of where a lack of diversity impacts the software product?

“Code” also addresses a question that has been discussed less often. When Reynolds described the film’s theme to her mother, her mother asked, “Well, Robin, why does it matter who’s coding as long as we have the products?” It’s a valid question: If women don’t want to program, what’s the harm? Reynolds told me that it led her to seek out, in her interviews, cases in which less diverse engineering teams created worse products than they otherwise might have. “I said, ‘Can you give me an example of where not having a diverse coding team has affected the product?’” she recalled.

via “Code” and the Quest for Inclusive Software – The New Yorker.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alfredtwo  |  June 8, 2015 at 7:56 am

    It’s hard to know what differences having a diverse team makes if you don’t have diverse teams and their products to compare with mono culture teams and their products. It would probably be worth seeking out examples of both sorts of teams/products for comparison.

    Reply
  • 2. Bonnie  |  June 8, 2015 at 8:09 am

    I was listening to a show on WNYC the other day, an interview with an author who had written critically of the rise of app based companies like Uber and TaskRabbit, which use a mobile platform to connect freelance workers to customers. The kinds of work that these freelancers do have traditionally been a ladder up for immigrants: driving a cab, doing small freelance jobs, cleaning houses, babysitting. But with the rise of the app based freelance economy, this has changed, The person being interviewed noted that studies have found that the freelancers working for these new companies are overwhelmingly young white males, and they are pushing immigrants out of these markets. He made the comment that app-based freelancer platforms that are designed and built by young white males in Silicon Valley are mainly going to appeal and be useful for young white males rather than middle aged Mexican women who do not speak English, who normally would have been taking these jobs.

    Reply
  • 3. Rob St. Amant  |  June 8, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Gaming systems are an example; Gerling and Masuch (http://hci.usask.ca/uploads/249-1.pdf) conclude that “commercial games are not suitable for frail elderly.” But some of the problems they and others describe could have been addressed if the development teams had simply been more aware of variation in the population of potential users. More generally, I think that an accessibility person might point to any but a small handful of applications and say, “This could easily have been done better.” Diversity on the programming team is one partial solution.

    Reply

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