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Diversity-friendly software (SXSW 2017)


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A presentation with Shireen Mtichell. See the notes and references at

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Diversity-friendly software (SXSW 2017)

  1. 1. Diversity-friendly software Shireen Mitchell - @digitalsista Jon Pincus - @jdp23 SXSW 2017 References:
  2. 2. Agenda Anti-patterns Best practices Emerging techniques Challenges A path forward
  3. 3. Three aspects of diversity in software The people and teams that create software The processes we use to create software Supporting diversity in the software itself
  4. 4. Software today works best for people like its creators
  5. 5. Software reinforces power dynamics SoftwarePeople and Communities create empowers
  6. 6. Agenda Anti-patterns Best practices Emerging techniques Challenges A path forward
  7. 7. Best practices Diverse representation, inclusive culture, equitable policies Setting intention - intersectionally Accessibility Flexible self-identification of gender, race,and pronouns
  8. 8. Questions: diversity, inclusion, equity How diverse is your team and community? How inclusive is your culture? How equitable is your organization? What are you doing to increase diversity, inclusion, and equity? How committed is the senior leadership - and the entire organization? Who's responsible for it - and do they have the time and resources to make an impact?
  9. 9. Setting intention - intersectionally Make diversity a priority Educate your team and community Avoid problematic language in products and code
  10. 10. Intention: Questions to ask yourself Is diversity as a goal and a priority? If so, how are you communicating that internally and externally? Do you have a Diversity Statement and a Code of Conduct? Do people in the organization understand microagressions? How are you educating your team and community? Are you encouraging a "call-in" culture? What standards, tools, and processes do you have about problematic language?
  11. 11. Accessibility Design for people with disabilities from the beginning, including Supporting screen readers and other assistive technologies Keyboard-only navigation Color vision impairment Hard of hearing or deaf Seizure disorders and cognitive disabilities
  12. 12. Accessibility: Questions to ask yourself Are you designing for accessibility from the beginning? Do you have accessibility expertise throughout the team? Do you include accessibility in your testing? Does everybody on the team use the software in accessibility modes? What automated accessibility tools do you use? What are you doing to increase awareness and understanding?
  13. 13. Flexible, optional self-identification Allow flexibility (not just a fixed list) Allow multiple choices; e.g., somebody who’s multiracial may be black and Latinx Let people decline to answer Avoid the term “other” Let people choose the pronouns they prefer
  14. 14. Self-identification: Questions to ask yourself Do people have a flexible way to specify their race, gender, orientation, ...? Does it support multiracial, asexual, gender-fluid, and other frequently- marginalized people? Is it optional? Can people choose their preferred pronouns? Have you listened to feedback from a diverse group of people?
  15. 15. Agenda Anti-patterns Best practices Emerging techniques Challenges A path forward
  16. 16. Emerging Techniques Gender HCI Threat modeling for harassment Avoiding algorithmic bias
  17. 17. Gender HCI Gender differences in human-computer interaction
  18. 18. Gender HCI: five key facets Self-efficacy: how confident are people in their abilities? Information-processing style: start by gathering fairly complete information, or try something promising and backtrack if necessary? Risk aversion: how comfortable are people with risk? Tinkering: how much do people playfully experiment with the software? Motivation: interest in technology for its own sake, or in aid of accomplishing something?
  19. 19. Gender Mag A gender-specialized cognitive walkthrough and a set of four personas, for finding gender HCI problems in software
  20. 20. Threat modeling for harassment Threat modeling is a standard security technique An adversary attacks the systems Defenses prevent attacks Mitigations reduce the effect Harassers = adversaries Work with experts (aka targets) as well as studying patterns of harassment techniques
  21. 21. Algorithmic biases Analyze algorithms for “fairness” What does “fairness” mean in your context? Work with social scientists as well as techies Be wary of biases in training sets and historical data Biases can be race, gender, class, cultural, urban/rural, age, ... Make sure algorithms transparent enough that you can analyze them for fairness
  22. 22. Agenda Anti-patterns Best practices Emerging techniques Challenges A path forward
  23. 23. Challenges - and responses Diversity is typically seen as low priority and divisive Choose to prioritize - in an inclusive way See diversity as an asset to product development Look for ways diversity can give a strategic advantage Diversity failures can have huge financial, PR, and strategic consequences Inability to pivot, expand the audience, exit, ...
  24. 24. Challenges - and responses Lack of knowledge about diversity Treat it just like you would any other key skill your organization doesn’t have enough of Budget time and money for training, education, consultants
  25. 25. Challenges - and responses Investment patterns favor cis straight white male focused products Look for non-traditional investments (crowdfunding, etc.) We’re seeing more forward-looking decision-makers who get it We need a few breakthrough success as proof points!
  26. 26. Agenda Anti-patterns Best practices Emerging techniques Challenges A path forward
  27. 27. Start with the highly marginalized Women of color Gender-diverse people People with disabilities - including “invisible disabilities” ... It seems easier to start designing for the usual suspects (cis straight white able-bodied techie guys) But that leaves you with a diversity debt
  28. 28. Start with the highly marginalized There are great designers and developers from marginalized communities out there Get them on your team - as leaders Bring them in as consultants, early users, beta testers, advisors Prioritize their needs
  29. 29. The industry is primed for change
  30. 30. Let’s create a virtuous cycle! Software that embeds diversity Diverse, Inclusive People and Communities create empowers
  31. 31. Diversity-friendly software Shireen Mitchell - @digitalsista Jon Pincus - @jdp23 SXSW 2017 References: