Girl Geek Dinners Workshop @Apple Store, 16 May 2009, Rome

«Women! The knife grinder is here!» – Apart from funny jokes ;) the italian Apple Store together with Girl Geek Dinners Roma organized on May 16, 2009, a workshop about mobile lifestyle (focusing on the iPhone, of course).

Let’s start from the beginning: what are the Girl Geek Dinners? Linda explained to the audience (nearly 20 people) that a geek is a person passionate about technology in a broader sense: the GGD is a group devoted to aggregate women interested about the internet, new medias and technologic lifestyles. Women are often underestimated in geek communities, and this embarassing clichè generated a lot of discussion in the past, and it’s still unsolved (in my opinion).

The GGD italian group was born in 2007 in Milan, and then arrived to Rome in 2008, and is also present in Bologna and in the Marche and Emilia-Romagna states.

So, the GGD group tries to generate a “critical mass” of geek women, to abolish a stereotype that “computer programmers / power users” are only men: in GGD events boys listen and girls talk, then they blog, exchange vCards (and PGP keys, I’d guess ;) and in general try to harness women power and skills in the field of the computer industry. Networking and a dive into social media is the most efficient way nowadays to reach a great audience, and to build rapidly the aforementioned critical mass: that’s why the GGDs event was focused on social mobile applications and general productivity ones. Presented by two official Apple Trainers (Simona and Riccardo), the workshop started @11.30 AM and lasted nearly one hour.

Social networking

photo: girlgeekdinnersroma


Simona, a long running internet geek with a computer security background, presented the mobile social networking iPhone apps batch: she obivously started with the most prominent as of 2009, Facebook, and presented also LinkedIn: «the two platforms both allow the user to create a profile and reach a consistent userbase, but the target is quite different: FB is more on the “personal” side of things, while LinkedIn is oriented towards a professional/business audience».

Then she went on with twitter and brightkite, two microblogging platforms «that make the user able to broadcast 140-char phrases (tweets) and the kind of usage is completely up to the user. I’ve read people using it as a lifestreaming platform, others using it as a news feed, and even to make something extraordinary :). There are lots of twitter clients for the iPhone, but twittelator pro is my favorite one, because of its lean interface, integration with photo upload services, ability to retweet easily, etc.

Brightkite is similar to twitter but is focused on geolocation: you can check in in the location your iPhone detects while you’re on the go, post 140-char updates and photos, and most importantly makes you able to discover what’s going on nearby. In Italy is quite unknown right now, but it should deserve more attention.».


Bookmark sharing tools: reddit, digg and delicious. Simona: «I think that URL sharing is the basis of information flow, and I always try to share what’s relevant to me» (because sharing is caring I’d add :). All of these platforms also include a mobile version of the site, so that an application is not strictly necessary: it depends on the usage you make, and how you feel more comfortable. Links: digg mobile, reddit mobile, delicious mobile.


Instant Messaging: «Linda previously talked about Skype, the official application for the iPhone was published on the App Store on March 24, 2009, and there are also multi-protocol web services with an iPhone interface that permit the user to connect to multiple IM networks (MSN, GTalk/Jabber, Skype, Facebook, ...): Nimbuzz and Fring. Chatting via iPhone is extremely cool :D and it’s a big money saver over SMS


Miscellaneous: «Nearly everyone of you has got a blog, there are apps to blog-post directly from the iPhone (e.g. Wordpress), apps to post photos to flickr and the google mobile apps. Google services are available mainly via the iPhone web browser, Safari, and have got an optimized mobile interface, but others (such as Google Earth) are dedicated native iPhone apps.

Questions?

  • Q: What can you do on your blog?
  • A: Nearly everything, post, tag, categories, upload media.
  • Q: When will the new iPhone be released?
  • A: Sorry, we don’t know release dates.
  • Q: What about google maps?
  • A: It’s already integrated into the iPhone OS, and with the OS 3.0 release mapping facilities will be available in any app. Pretty cool.

Applause

Productivity

photo: girlgeekdinnersroma

Riccardo focused his presentation on productivity apps, and showcased also general utility ones. He started with AroundMe, an application built up by an Italian developer that shows the nearby points of interests using the integrated iPhone A-GPS. This app had some controversy with Google in its early release times, because it was a paid app that mashed up google maps content that is available for free, and then became a free app and Google offered also his participation in the development. AroundMe is fully integrated with Maps, and as such can show also the distance from any chosen PoI and give the user driving directions to it.

Then, iBancomat: «similar to AroundMe but with a comprehensive database of ATMs, with the ability to setup one own’s bank and save on commission costs :). It was free at the beginning, and now is a paid app. But don’t be scared: prices on the App Store start from 0.79 € cents, and periodically many apps are given away for free, offering you free upgrades as well. There is even an app that helps you to find currently given-away ones!»

Further: Free Translator, free app, it’s an useful language translator for words and small phrases and supports dozens of languages, leveraging the Google Translate service. Pretty useful when you’re abroad (and you don’t mind about cellular data networks roaming costs or spot a free wi-fi :)

Shopping List: «it may look odd to write even your shopping list on your iPhone, but its built-in database facilitates data entry, it has got a “recent items” list, and allows you to insert quantities, prices, and “bought” marks.» Simona adds: «It also allows you to geolocate supermarkets, in order to get a price comparision. And, last but not least, it’s a paper saver, so it contributes it’s one of the small things everyone can do to make the world a greener place.»

Xpense tracker: «allows the user to manage trip expenses, produce statistics and cost per KM/Mile, customize expense categories, make photos to paper bills and export reports in CSV format.»

  • Q: «From how much time is this app on the store, and how many users has it got?»
  • A: «You can get this information from the App Store itself, and also read user reviews. From a couple of monts ago reviews are also grouped by app version, so if an app received 1-star votes in the past but then evolved and pleased its users, you can follow these improvements and give it a try if you want». Simona adds: «Reviews are very important both for users and for Apple itself, because the company listens to its customers and it’s commited to give them an excellent service, talking with app developers (and removing offensive/badly done apps if appropriate)».

QuickOffice: «This is the big one: it was released one month ago, before that there were no app capable to manage and most importantly edit documents on the go. This mobile office suite is composed of QuickWord, a mobile word processing software for .doc, .docx (ReadOnly ATM), .rtf and .txt files; QuickSheet, a mobile spreadsheet able to edit formulas as well (look out for compatibility issues careful, though); QuickFiles makes you able manage documents on your iPhone like it is an USB pen-drive or you can even use a cloud service like our own MobileMe.

  • Q: «Is this app available for the iPod Touch?»
  • A: «Sure, most of the apps for the iPhone are also available on the iPod Touch. The ones that aren’t available use hardware features not available on the iPod, such as the microphone or the A-GPS.»
  • Q: «What’s the storage capacity?»
  • A: «It depends on the iPhone/iPod model, part of the storage is of course dedicated to the iPhone OS and to other applications.»

«We’re approaching the end of our review: now I’ll talk you about 1Password: it’s a password keychain for the iPhone (that you can synchronize with the one you’ve got on your Mac via a paid OSX application) and which ciphers all of your passwords using the AES encryption standard, so it’s pretty safe. Remember though: security is guaranteed by the strength of your password, so choose an “easy to remember but complex one”! You can generate these kinds of passwords using Mac OS X Keychain Access as well.»

Simona adds that, because of her computer security background, «I’m a bit paranoid :) so I definitely suggest you to use this app if you’ve got many passwords to manage. And being paranoid, I’ve got different passwords on all the services I use, so this app is a must».

The last reviewed app was Air Sharing, similar to Quickoffice Files, but not limited to .doc/.xls ones: it supports also iWork (Apple’s office suite) documents, PDFs, MS Office docs, RTF, Plain Text, images in a variety of formats, etc.

  • Q: «Are the docs transferred via Bluetooth?»
  • A: «Nope, it uses wi-fi.»
  • Q: «Is iTunes required? It is free?»
  • A: «Nope, iTunes is not required. This app was free in the past, now it’s a paid one. But on the AppStore there are lots of other choices, check them out!»

Applause, and thanks for coming!

Photo: girlgeekdinnersroma

Conclusions

I enjoyed the event, both because the two trainers presented a bleeding-edge technology that is changing the way we interact with the Internet. I can certainly state that the iPhone is a life-changing device for a geek: having the Internet at hand in any occasion is the definitive power to get fresh information, reference, and to connect with your friends in ways that 5 years ago were sci-fi.

Furthermore, I saw the growth of the internet in the last 10 years, and I can guarantee that women were always subject to discrimination in the geeky world, both because nerds spend their life in front of computers so it’s quite difficult for them (I’d say us ;) to gather social acceptance and get a date with a girl; also because of a long-running annoying clichè that “some things are too complicated for women”.. that is simply plain wrong. We’re all humans, we’ve all got the same brain processing power, and simply because women looks at things differently than men it doesn’t mean they’re uncapable of using technology. They’d just like to be treated as human beings, and not as toys, like the fashion propaganda paints them. I’ll let propagandhi explain it clearly (rated R, maybe):

So, please, women, participate! Engage in communities and discussion, and don’t think that “all men are bastards”: we’re social creatures, not meant to be alone!

Thanks for reading.

 

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