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SXSW Interactive Black Tech Community Meet Up: one of many ways SX is tackling diversity in tech

Tonight marks the first ever SXSW Interactive Black Tech Community Meet Up, one of the many ways the massive conference is doing their part to improve diversity in the tech sector – join us in attending.

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Diversity in technology

When I stay “startup founder,” what comes to mind? A 24 year old white male in a hoodie, no kids, and no responsibilities, right? That’s what comes to mind for most, and it’s a challenge for the industry to improve diversity. While some like Jesse Jackson believe minorities have been “locked out” of the industry (and is even speaking on the topic at SXSW Interactive this spring), others believe getting young girls and minorities interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) career paths has been a challenge as our culture pushes girls to play with Barbies and boys to play with Legos.

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Regardless of the reasons, diversity is a challenge in the tech startup world, and the hoodie-wearing young white guy remains the default representative of the sector, by no fault of his own. I’ve never sat in on any Advisory Board meetings discussing how to keep women and minorities out, in fact, every single time, it is the opposite, yet a lack of diversity remains despite efforts of many to change that.

SXSWi doing their part, hosting diversity mixers

One of the companies putting their money where their mouth is, is South By Southwest Interactive in Austin, where we are headquartered. They’ve long had a commitment to diversity, in fact, when people submit panels to be voted on prior to topics being chosen for each conference, the team utilizes what they call a V-O-W-E-L scale of basic diversity principles (Variety, Opinion, Women, Ethnicity, and Location). They note, “To be clear, our commitment to diversity is a commitment to a smarter community – different kinds of people bring different ways of thinking to the table. Hearing these different ways of thinking help make everyone smarter.”

In that spirit, they are hosting their first ever SXSW Interactive Black Tech Community Meet Up tonight, and their first ever SXSW Interactive Latino Tech Community Meet Up next week.

The Greater Austin Black Chamber stated, “The SXSW Interactive Festival is strongly committed to fostering more diversity in the digital landscape. This commitment stems from the belief that more diversity leads to more creativity — and that more creativity leads to more innovation.”

“The heart of innovation is being open to all possibilities.”

Sharon Mays, Principal at M City Marketing tells us, “As the tech industry continues to grow, the lack of diversity has become an unignorable problem. On the West coast there are issues with misogyny, the “boys club” atmosphere, and other gender-based problems. For Austin it’s a bit different because the city itself, not just the tech industry, is not seen as ethnically diverse. Especially when it comes to Black people. The tech industry contributes heavily to the Austin economy. The perception that Austin is not inclusionary to all races is hurting our community. If we want our city to continue to be a competitive market for tech jobs, then we need to attract the best and the brightest workforce. And that requires casting a really wide net.”

Mays adds, “Events like this mixer encourage minority groups to be a part of SXSW and know that their input and expertise is a welcome addition to the conversations that will be had during the conference. One of the great things about SXSW is that it turns a spotlight on all of the awesome things that are going on in Austin. People leave the conference with a great impression of what life in like in this city.

I think it’s important that we make sure that we are sending the message that Austin is a city that welcomes and values everyone, and that the opportunities available in this city are available to everyone. The heart of innovation is being open to all possibilities.”

Putting their money where their mouth is

As further evidence of the organization putting their money where their mouth is, in 2012, SXSW established a “Community Fund” through “Communities Foundation of Texas” to support local and national organizations and award grants to the winners of several awards, for example, the Dewey Winburne Community Service Awards (honoring “Digital Do-Gooders”), and one look at the list proves they are rewarding more than just the young hoodie-wearing kids.

We may not all agree on why a lack of diversity exists in our industry, nor may we agree on how or why it should be improved, but it is not a myth, and what is needed is for more organizations to do their part to take on the challenge, just as Southby has.

See you at the meet up tonight! Click below for details:

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Tech News

iOS 15 beta has blur nude photos opt-in, but its not without fault

(TECH NEWS) To protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos.

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Woman looking at Apple iPhone representing new iOS 15 beta that will blur nude photos.

In a move to protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos received in the Messages app. Amid privacy concerns, the feature has yet to be released.

The option to blur nude photos is opt-in, reports The Verge, and does not prevent users from choosing to view the photos in question even after being implemented.

This iteration of the feature is distinct from the original one insofar as it will no longer alert a parent or guardian when nude photos are encountered. While this may seem like a controversial change, several experts pointed out that exposing nude content on a child’s device in some households could result in abuse or, as Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Kendra Albert suggests, the outing of “queer or transgender children to their parents.”

With the most recent version of this feature enabled, children who receive inappropriate photos via the Messages app would be able to do two things: choose to avoid (or see) the content, and choose to send a report to a trusted adult if they see fit to do so.

Blurring photos is just one of several aspects of Apple’s Communication Safety suite, a feature that aims to prevent child sex abuse by making it easier for children to avoid and report predatory content.

 

Child on electronic device- iOS 15 beta that will allow blur nude photos should protect children.

Another feature that Apple has tested – but not released – is their Child Sex Abuse Imagery Detection (CSAM-detection), which scans and reports iCloud content that shows child pornography or abuse to Apple moderators for further review. As one can imagine, the feature drew mixed criticism, the majority of which came from privacy advocates.

While the vast majority of humanity can (hopefully) agree that fighting against child exploitation is a noble cause, these groups argue that scanning and reporting individuals’ personal photos via an algorithm opens the door to government interference and increased surveillance. Switching the algorithm’s baseline to scan for things like anti-government content, for example, would be easy, these groups posit, making the feature extremely dangerous in principle.

There is no current release date set for any of these aforementioned features, though iPhone users can reasonably expect them to drop at some point during iOS 15’s development.

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Tech News

Amazon Music debuts synchronized text transcripts for popular podcasts

(TECH) The first feature to hit Amazon Music is auto-generated and synchronized text transcripts for their most popular podcast shows. Sign us up!

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Amazon Music Transcripts

Amazon set out to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts last year by acquiring the podcasting network, Wondery. Now, the company is doing just that with the launch of its auto-generated and synchronized podcast transcripts feature on Amazon Music.

According to an Amazon Music tweet, with this feature, you’ll be able to “Roll it back, jump ahead, and follow along” with the podcast you’re listening to. For instance, you can scrub through the transcript to find that line of text with that quote or movie and book suggestion you can’t quite remember. When you tap on a particular line of text in the transcript, you’ll be able to jump straight into that specific part of the podcast. I can already see all the time saved! But, if you just want to read along as you listen, you can do that, too. The transcript will match the audio as you’re hearing it.

Right now, the company is only rolling out podcast transcripts in the US on both iOS and Android devices. When it will expand to other countries isn’t known, and the feature isn’t available for all podcasts yet. For now, it is only available on a selection of popular podcasts like Smartless, Crime Junkie, This American Life, Uncommon Ground, and Modern Love, but more are coming.

Amazon Music Homescreen

To use it, all you have to do is open the podcasts tab on Amazon Music and select one of the podcasts you’d like to listen to. Of course, you’ll need to select a show with the podcast transcription feature to see it. When your show is playing, on the top of the album art and in fullscreen mode, the transcriptions will be available for you to read along to.

Oh, and if you’re worried about having to read through the ads, you have nothing to fret about. Ads won’t be transcribed. Instead, the transcription will read “audio not transcribed” when they are playing.

So far, Amazon seems to be going strong in the podcasting game with the release of podcast transcripts. The feature makes it easy to search and find what you are looking for in a show. And, for those on a long and noisy bus and subway ride, you’ll finally be able to read the information you previously couldn’t hear.

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Tech News

UX design: If you don’t have it, get yourself an audit made easy

(TECH NEWS) UX design is important. By conducting a simple audit to make sure your site is accessible, you can minimize the number of people that quickly go away.

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Two UX design people standing in front of a whiteboard with a UX map.

A good UX design is essential in attracting and retaining customers. A seamless and positive experience will keep customers happy and bring your business many benefits, like increasing audience engagement and sales.

But, how do you know if your user experience is in need of help, so people don’t bounce away quickly? Well, if UX is not your forte, the best thing to do is to hire a good UX designer. Unfortunately, sometimes hiring one isn’t always within the budget.

So, what do you do then? The next best thing is to conduct a UX audit of your website or app. Not sure where to begin? Fulcrum’s Do It Yourself UX Audit kit is one place to start.

According to the website, this DIY UX audit “can help you gain valuable insights about the usability of your product.” The tool detects problems in your UX, prioritizes them for you, and finds out how you can fix any existing issues.

The tool is made out of free easy-to-use Notion templates. These UX audit checklists are all customizable, and you can print them or save them on your Notion dashboard to use later.

Inside each template, there are cards with descriptions and examples. Depending on if you meet certain criteria or not, you drag and drop the card into the “Yes” or “No” column. When you’re finished, you will easily see what issues you have, and you can work on fixing them.

The templates are divided into Junior and Middle-level templates.

The Junior level has templates for things such as field and forms, login, mobile UX, and architecture. Most of these templates help make sure you cover your basic UX bases. For instance, it looks at whether your website is desktop and mobile-friendly, and if each element makes sense and is easily identifiable.

The Middle Level dives in a little deeper. The “Visibility of system status” audit checks if you are keeping your audience informed on what’s going on. Things like battery life, loading, or Wi-Fi connection indicators can make a huge difference. No one wants to stare at a screen with no clue if what they clicked on is working or not.

If you can afford it and want a UX virtuoso to do the work for you, you can get a UX audit from Fulcrum. The experts will conduct a full-fledged UX audit and create wireframes with solutions for your UX issues.

However, no matter how you go about it, a good UX design is important. Higher rate conversions and user retention won’t happen if your product is just pushing people away.

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