April 19, 2012

Everything you need to know about Coachella 2012

2012 is the first year Coachella has been replicated for a second weekend, and as a first-weekend attendee, I wanted to offer some advice to my second-weekend friends.

I'll start by saying Coachella 2012 was outrageously fun. I was there with classmates from Stanford, and I was supremely impressed with the design of the festival (shout out to my friend Chris Kantrowitz whose brilliance shined throughout). If you're lucky enough to be attending, get excited!


1) Prepare for looooong lines at security to get into the festival every day. They split into men's and women's lines so make sure you're in the right place.

2) If you're not camping, I recommend renting a bike to go to and from the festival. It was a fun and convenient way to get around.

3) Get your drink wristband as soon as you get into the festival.

4) You can get a plate for chow mein noodles for $2 at the chinese food booth. Cheapest food at the festival, and not half bad.

5) Toilet paper ran out all the time in the porta-potties. Bring your own.

6) If you're rolling with a crew, I highly recommend bringing a "festival stick" as it is tremendously helpful when folks get separated from the herd. Also bring el wire or glow sticks to help illuminate the festival stick at night. Your stick probably won't be as cool as Brock Lee, but you can always aspire to greatness.

7) It's my opinion that there are few things more fun than dancing to house music in a huge crowd. If you agree (or if you're just curious), when in doubt, go to the Sahara tent for electronic/house music. It is guaranteed to be the most fun place at the festival. Also, there's a beer garden conveniently located at the back of the tent.

8) Be prepared for a lengthy and claustrophobic exit from the festival on Sunday night after Dre and Snoop.

Coachella Fashion:

1) Step one: Laugh at yourself

2) Looks like it's going to be crazy hot for Weekend 2. Dress appropriately.

3) Neon

4) Headbands

4) Feathers

5) Face paint

5) Glitter / sparkles

6) Arm party


This list is obviously not exhaustive, nor is the exclusion of an artist a suggestion that they're not worth seeing. The line-up this year is so great, and the energy so positive, you almost can't go wrong no matter who you go see. That said, here are my thoughts based on what I saw and heard...

Friday Music:
  • GIVERS (Mojave tent): Early in the day, but such a fun performance. Their female lead is super badass, I promise you'll fall in love with her immediately.
  • Madeon (Sahara tent): Awesome.
  • Alesso (Sahara tent): Awesome.
  • Afrojack (Sahara tent): Awesome -- had other performers join him on stage near the end.
  • M83 (Mojave tent): I got there late and the speakers in the back of the Mojave tent didn't seem to be working. Sounded like listening to M83 at the bottom of a trash can. That said, I had friends at the front who said it was a great show.
  • Swedish House Mafia (main stage): Didn't get a chance to see them, but they've been awesome every time I've seen them before. Friends at the show said it was excellent. Expect fireworks.
  • Amon Tobin (Mojave tent): This performance is unique because of its light choreography -- worth checking out for that alone. Warning: the "music" doesn't really have a melody and is pretty down-tempo. If you're looking to get pumped up and dance, avoid this tent.

Saturday Music:
  • Dragonette (Mojave tent): I didn't get mobilized early enough to see them, but I heard from others that they were a blast.
  • Childish Gambino (main stage): Friends who went said he was hilarious, if a bit explicit.
  • Jeremy Sole (The Do Lab): We were all in a good mood and just bopped over to this stage to dance around a bit. I remember it being really fun. Also, they sprayed the audience with misters.
  • Sebastian Ingrosso (Sahara tent): Can't go wrong with one third of Swedish House Mafia.
  • David Guetta (Sahara tent): Best group dance party of the weekend. Usher showed up.
  • SBTRKT (Gobi tent): Awesome.
  • Kaskade (Sahara tent): Awesome.
  • Radiohead (main stage): I think we were too far away from the stage, and it just didn't sound that great, so we left and went back to Kaskade. Others have said it was amazing, so don't write it off.

Sunday Music:
  • Fanfarlo (Gobi tent): Didn't go, but heard rave reviews from friends.
  • Santigold (main stage): I saw her years ago at the Hollywood Bowl and she put on a spectacular show. She did not disappoint at Coachella. Really fun daytime concert.
  • The Weeknd (Outdoor theater): Didn't go, but heard it was beautiful and chill (as expected).
  • Gotye (Mojave tent): Also heard this was great, but that it really got rowdy when they closed with "Somebody That I Used to Know" (one can only expect that all the girls in headbands suddenly chimed in for a singalong).
  • Justice (main stage): We waited around, but the set started nearly 30 minutes late. We were already walking to Calvin Harris when they went on. Heard good things from those who stayed.
  • Calvin Harris (Sahara tent): Awesome.
  • Beirut (Mojave tent): Strong reviews from friends who went -- very relaxing and chill concert.
  • Girl Talk (Outdoor theater): I was devastated to miss this show because I have a special affinity for Girl Talk live shows. His performance at Treasure Island Music Festival in 2009 is still one of my favorite live shows ever. I think Girl Talk is always fun, if you can make it.
  • Florence and the Machine (Outdoor theater): I heart Florence and think she had the best album of 2009. Don't miss.
  • Dre and Snoop (main stage): Great 90s throwback. Snoop and Dre were excellent. Embarrassingly terrible screen graphics. Whiz Kalifa kept it current. 50 Cent bopped around while his old jams played in the background -- it was clear he's not that naturally talented. Eminem, on the other hand, is just as good as the first time I saw him at the Warped Tour in 1999. The much-hyped Tupac hologram turned out to be a little creepy. Felt like 90,000 people paid to see a grainy video of a Tupac impersonator. That said, friends near the front said the hologram looked way more awesome up close.

April 6, 2012

Solving the Women-in-Tech Pipeline Problem

Today, the final article in my three-part series on solving the women-in-tech pipeline problem was published in The Daily Muse. The dearth of women in technology is not a new topic of complaint, and I'm getting a little bit tired of all the whining without any concrete solutions. In a recent article about the notable absence of widespread technical skills among so-called "women in tech," I pointed about a serious problem: Women aren't choosing to become computer scientists.

It struck me as a big enough problem that I wanted to dig in and share some ways to solve it. After months of research and interviews with a wide variety of people from a 12-year-old girl in the Bronx to a computer science major at Stanford University to a software engineer at Twitter. I identified the three main hurdles women face to pursuing a computer science career, and I propose three solutions. Here are the abbreviated summaries:

Problem #1: Many girls don’t really know what computer science is
As a member of Gen Y, I was told from birth that I could be anything I wanted to be: a doctor, a lawyer, even an astronaut. But no one ever told me I could be a computer scientist. I didn’t even know that was a career path. In 2008, 67% of college-bound boys described a career in computer science as very good or good, whereas only 26% of college-bound girls felt the same.
The Solution: Educate young people about the field
If we want to solve the pipeline problem, the first step is telling young women what computer science is. Computer scientist needs to be a clear career path that little girls can envision and aspire to, the way they do with careers in medicine and law. Let’s include computer scientist protagonists in children’s books and create toys that allow kids to “play programmer” as easily as they “play doctor.”

You can read the full version of article #1 in The Daily Muse or Forbes

Problem #2: You can’t be what you can’t see
In the documentary Miss Representation, Marian Wright Edelman says: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Though hyperbolic, Edelman’s quote touches on a key barrier to women in computer science: a dearth of strong role models. Without other women to look up to, many young women are self-selecting out of a technical career path before they even really give it a chance.
The Solution: Celebrate role models that girls can look up to
Girls need to see that computer scientists come in all shapes and sizes. We all need to be part of that change. Let’s not let grievances about the lack of women in tech ignore the women who are already there. Changing our cultural perceptions of what a computer scientist looks like will take a concerted effort across different kinds of media. Personally, I’m starting with something simple: an online gallery of photos of women who can proudly proclaim, “I am a computer scientist.” If you know someone we should add, please submit a photo. If you know a young girl who thinks she doesn’t fit the part, show her the gallery and change her mind.

You can read the full version of article #2 in The Daily Muse

Problem #3: Girls haven’t coded before
When I talked to women who have decided to pursue a career in computer science, I was surprised to learn that nearly all of them credited early exposure to programming as the greatest factor in their decision to become engineers. Conversely, they cited a lack of early exposure to computer science as the primary deterrent for women who leave—or never join—the field. The sense that boys have a head start creates a high competence threshold for women in computer science, even those who have prior experience in the field.
The Solution: Teach computer science to middle school girls
So, solving the pipeline problem requires giving our girls the confidence they need to go head-to-head with their male classmates. Unless we put our female and male students on equal footing going into college, young women are at risk of perceiving their efforts as a failure, feeling behind, and quitting early to pursue something else. Key to this is getting middle school girls to think programming is cool. As the College Board stats show, reaching girls in high school is too late—at that point, they’re already opting out of studying programming. Plus, the earlier they start learning, the better their chance of success in the field will be.

You can read the full version of article #3 in The Daily Muse

I'd like to give special thanks to a few of the amazing women who shared their stories with me for this series: Kathy Cooper, Taiya Edwards, Sara Haider, J.J. Liu, Omosola Obetunde, Amber Reyngoudt, Stephanie Volftsun, and Sophia Westwood.

And I'd like to give an extra special shout out to the truly inspiring Angie Schiavoni, who founded CodeEd, a national organization teaching underserved middle school girls how to code. If you want to learn more or get involved in NYC, SF, or Boston, check out their website at www.codeed.org.