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It's a popular thing to say that abortion is a complicated issue, or a moral gray area, or that there's room for lots of different opinions on it because it's so nuanced. It's popular in general to take this kind of mealymouthed non-position, because it makes you sound thoughtful without requiring any moral effort or stamina.

When it comes to reproductive rights, even liberals are likely to hesitate, to cite bioethics, or to say that abortion is a necessary evil. They're likely to say that it should be safe, legal and rare.

But here's the thing about abortion: the only way you could possibly have doubts as to whether everyone should have completely unfettered access to it is if you're either uncertain about bodily autonomy as a right everybody has, or if you're uncertain about whether it's something people other than cis men should have.

I don't think anyone is really uncertain about bodily autonomy. At least for cis men, we're generally in agreement that one of the rights that all human beings have is to not have any other person in their body without consent.

One of the times when we decide to suspend personhood is when somebody is imprisoned. The widespread acceptability of prison rape jokes shows that the one situation when we consider suspending bodily autonomy okay is when we think somebody deserves to be punished.

So there are really only two reasons for thinking abortion is a moral gray area:
  • You don't think women are really people.
  • You think women should be punished for having sex.

Of course, cis men don't get punished for having sex with other consenting adults, because having sex with other consenting adults is something that human adults get to do. So it comes down to whether or not you're sure women are really people.

(While the effect of forced pregnancy is that everyone with a uterus, including cis women and trans men like me, as well as genderqueer people who have uteruses, the intent behind the pro-forced-pregnancy movement is to control women and punish them for existing as sexual beings. We need to be aware of both effects and intent here.)

Are you sure that women are people? Then surely you believe that nobody has a right to be in a woman's body without her consent.

Do you think that having sex grants implicit consent to pregnancy? Then you don't really think women are people, because we're all fine with men having consensual sex and don't, as a rule, believe they waive any of their basic human rights by doing so. Thinking women waive their bodily autonomy by choosing to have sex really just amounts to treating pregnancy as a punishment for sex.

I'm assuming that people who have doubts about abortion believe that fetuses and embryos are people. If they don't think that, then I really don't know what they're on about (although there is plenty of evidence they don't really think that -- ask a pro-forced-pregnancy person whether they favor punishing somebody who has an abortion in the same way that people who commit murder are punished.) Believing that fetuses are people poses no threat to my believe in the fundamental right to an abortion. Like all people, fetuses have no right to be in any other person's body without that person's consent.[*]

And yet, in 2016, I still live in a country where people considered liberal, progressive, in favor of civil liberties, and so on can still say abortion is a moral gray area with a straight face. I still live in a country where even liberals, even people who support personal freedom, haven't made up their mind about whether women are people.

[*] In answer to the question, raised elsewhere, of what we say if we believe fetuses are people and recognize that they didn't consent to be in the body of their gestational parent: I'd say three things to that. First, the concept that you have the right to self-defense isn't too controversial. You can come up with plenty of reasons why an adult person who is posing a threat to you might not be a totally free agent, but ultimately, your right to defend your body against invasion by them is considered sacrosanct. Second, fetuses don't have the ability to defend themselves, and I'm happy to defer that particular what-if to the time when that changes. And third, being in a situation you didn't consent to doesn't generally confer the right to use somebody else's body -- for example, if you would die without a kidney transplant, and if you didn't consent to have kidney failure, that still doesn't give you the right to force someone to donate their kidney to you if they don't want to.

How to manage your Slack channels

Jul. 22nd, 2016 05:03 pm
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Posted by Slack

Ideas for organizing all your team’s information

Every Slack team starts with a #general and a #random channel, and most grow from there. Figuring out how to organize all of a company’s information around channels can be challenging, but with a bit of forethought and planning, you can keep everyone up to date and on the same page.

To help, we made a short video on everything you need to know about using channels in Slack. We’ll hit on some high points below as well.

Channel basics

Public and private channels, as well as direct messages, are listed in the left sidebar.

Channels in the sidebar

Keep as much discussion as possible in public channels, so everyone can see how and why decisions are made — like when a new logo is decided by the #design-team, everyone in #sales can review the process if they like. Public channels can be searched by anyone at a later date, which grows increasingly important the longer your team uses Slack. New hires can also quickly get up to speed thanks to scrolling up through history to read any channel applicable to their new position. Private channels can only be seen by invited members and are best limited to discussions of sensitive or confidential matters.

Organizing channels

It’s a good idea to start small in new teams, limiting conversations to a handful of channels covering broad topics. If you ever feel discussions are moving too quickly or covering too many disparate subjects, that might be the time to siphon off activity into new, more specific channels.

Channels organized by teams with more specific topics beneath

You’ll likely first want to add channels that correspond to teams inside a company. For example, #sales, #marketing, #engineering, and #design channels. Then as those get busy, you can add sub-topics like #engineering-ios, #engineering-desktop, and #engineering-android channels for people working on specific projects. This helps ensure that no one is distracted by discussions that they don’t need to be a part of.

Naming conventions are great for helping your team find everything they need. The key to a good channel naming policy is making things predictable for employees looking for information later on. So that might mean all project channels start with #proj- followed by the title of the project, and channels that grow from general groups maintain the name of the original, like a #sales-survey channel discussing customer survey results is clearly part of the sales team’s work. For additional ideas, we have an article in our help center dedicated to naming conventions.

Tips for reducing noise and staying focused

Everyone is automatically part of the #general channel, so you might want to limit it to just important company announcements that everyone needs to see. You may also want to establish a default common chat area like #random as the place for informal discussions among your team.

It’s good to keep work channels focused on the work. You can always ask that people move chatter into #random or point out more appropriate channels if their posts are off-topic or out of place.

A great way to track your most important channels, especially in busy teams, is to use the star feature. Star your favorite channels and they’ll rise to the top of the left sidebar, making it easy to stay up to date on discussions.

Leaving channels is easy

And it’s quite alright to leave channels you don’t need to be in. Remember you can always search for things in channels you’re not in, while keeping your channel list limited to your most important discussions.

Matt Haughey probably follows 200 out of the 1729 channels at Slack.

How to manage your Slack channels was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Head Spaces

Jul. 22nd, 2016 07:18 am
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Getting into the heads of children and creating stories that reflect their ways of thinking isn’t an easy thing to do. Some picture books do this quite well, really standing out on bookshelves. I’ve got two new ones on the mind today.
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Posted by Lima Al-Azzeh

Teamwork en pointe

Ballet BC dancers in their finest socks.

Ballet BC is not your average ballet company. There are no prima ballerinas, no dancers hungrily vying for the spotlight. Instead, it’s a place where dancers are given license to create and inform choreography and where, during rehearsals, they can frequently be found willingly lending each other advice on form and technique. It’s the truest definition of an ensemble.

“Most traditional ballet companies operate like a high court: you have the ‘King’ and the ‘Queen’ type figures presiding and everyone else is siloed based on hierarchies; that’s not the type of company we wanted to create,” says Executive Director Branislav Henselmann, speaking of the work he’s been doing for the Vancouver-based company alongside his partner, Artistic Director Emily Molnar, over the last six years. This year, they’re embarking on their most ambitious season yet as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ballet BC.

Left: Executive Director Branislav Henselmann. Right: Artistic Director Emily Molnar

Henselmann and Molnar have an ease about them that makes it clear they’ve been working together a long time. As Executive Director, Henselmann oversees the administrative and production side of things, while Molnar’s duties as Artistic Director have her working with choreographers, running rehearsals, and managing tours and productions.

“There is a very sophisticated machine that we need to build around the performance itself”, says Henselmann, “Something Emily and I talked a lot about is that we wanted to make sure all the work produced backstage is a reflection of what you seen on stage — every word written for a brochure, a website has to be on par with every single combination and movement you see on stage.”

Dancers: Brandon Lee Alley, Emily Chessa, Scott Fowler, and Cristoph Von Riedemann. Photo credit: Michael Slobodian

Their first step was to start having more, and more candid, communication: “We really go in there, we research ideas, we question things, we take that very seriously,” Molnar explains, “We go across a lot of the different areas together and talk about stuff as a team. But when we come to final decisions, we make sure to give everyone — dancers, staff members — a lot more information about how and why we made those decisions. That way there’s no room to invent a storyline about it.”

But how do you get such a versatile team consistently moving in the same direction? Molnar lends some insights here, too:

I think a lot of ballet companies are interested in excellence. And I think it becomes a question of leadership, as in: Do you achieve that through a fear-based situation or do you achieve that through motivation and empowerment?
That sounds very simplistic, but it’s incredibly difficult to achieve. Mostly because not everybody actually wants that. Some people really respond to hierarchy because maybe they like to know they’re proving something, they know exactly where they fit.
But it’s interesting to see how you can create a very equal situation where people are motivating themselves to fulfill their potential. It’s not about things being easy, it’s more about creating an environment where you’re not relying on someone else to push you or create fear in order for you to achieve. You’re doing it from your own desire.
Dancers Gilbert Small and Brett Perry. Photo credit: Michael Slobodian

The duo describe their team as curious and open minded, always thinking of and contributing new ideas. Last year, a pair of dancers asked to take over the company’s social media; they wanted to share their art with their supporters and bring them into their world. To Henselmann, it was a good sign their model is working.

This season’s program is stunning, fresh and contemporary. They work with some of the world’s most esteemed choreographers. They sell out often. Yet, according to industry standards, they’re known to be on the smaller side. A fact that doesn’t seem to phase Molnar.

“There are companies that have way bigger budgets than we do. It goes back to the strength of culture. If your integrity and your premise of why you make — why you’re doing something — is sound and from the heart (or however you want to describe it) that will attract people. And money becomes — obviously, we all have to make a living — but it’s secondary to a greater desire to create change and create meaning.”
Artistic Director Emily Molnar with dancer Derren Devaney. Photo credit: Michael Slobodian

This anniversary is especially meaningful. Molnar likens it to a person turning 30 years old: “What does it mean to be thirty?”, she says, “You have a bit of history behind you, you have some weight, but also this urge to go forward. It’s a really beautiful moment. It’s a turning point.”

If you find yourself lucky enough to be in Vancouver, B.C. this spring, consider catching one of Ballet BC’s beautiful performances. You can learn more about their program here.

What a ballet company can teach you about leadership was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

The Winter Keeper

Jul. 22nd, 2016 01:28 am
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Posted by Lima Al-Azzeh

Dispatches from the frontiers of a job on the brink.

This is Steven Fuller. For 9 months of the year—every year, since 1973—he’s worked all alone as the sole Winter Keeper (or caretaker) for Yellowstone National Park. And this may just be his very last season.

Here, he shares a few of his favorite snapshots from life in the majestic winter wonderland he’s called home for over two decades. Enjoy this rare peek and be sure to listen to his full story below.

Fuller writes, “Waiting for breakfast. Her eyes are closed, her audio senses are focused, her ground-probing ears are fully deployed listening for sounds at the bottom of the snowpack…”
“Up! She hears a sound in the underworld, squeaking or rustling a couple of feet below in the open lattice work of frost crystals at the interface between the snow pack and the earth where rodents are active throughout the winter. What she hears sounds like breakfast.”
“Target acquired. Launch! She is zeroed in on where exactly the vole is, unaware, below the snowpack.”
“Gravity’s rainbow. Maximum ballistic velocity for deep snow penetration.”
“Piercing the snow roof (from her perspective), through the ceiling (from the rodent’s perspective), to snare her quarry. Throughout the winter, voles live under the snow in cosy, dry grass ball nests and move about to visit their seed caches. Any small sound will give them away if a predator is sitting overhead. What a startle for the vole when the ceiling of his world implodes and he is clamped inside needle-toothed jaws!”
“The misfortune of one sustains the other.”
“I am Steven Fuller. I am 69 years old. I have lived and worked in the center of Yellowstone National Park, at Canyon Village, for 42 winters now…”

The Winter Keeper was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

Happy Teams, Happy Customers

Jul. 22nd, 2016 01:22 am
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Posted by Lima Al-Azzeh

The secrets of Slack’s Customer Experience Team

Understanding what makes amazing teams tick (and by extension, what makes great companies great) is really important to us—not just because it helps us better understand how we can work together to build the workplace we want, but also because it gives us insight into how we can develop a product that supports all kinds of incredible teams and the work they do.

So we thought we’d start on home base and talk to some of our own teams about how they operate and, maybe more importantly, what they believe in.

The Customer Experience team bridge Slack’s customers and product teams. In a way, they’re the heart of Slack. In just one year, they’ve grown from 19 members to a whopping 84 team members, supporting over 2 million daily active users. Despite their gobsmacking rate of growth, this team continues to band together to ensure all Slack’s customers stay happy and problem-free (as quickly as humanly possible).

(NB: If you’ve arrived here seeking practical tips on how to use Slack for customer support; fear not, young Padawan, you can find that here.)

Rise in ticket volume over the past year (with that good old holiday dip 👋 ).

It takes one part profound respect for your users …

When Ali Rayl — Director of Customer Experience — started, she was the lone QA (Quality Assurance) engineer working closely with Slack’s engineering and product design teams to build and test the product you use today. We had lots of ideas, but feedback from our earliest customers was really what helped cinch decisions and pave the roadmap.

Incidentally, that’s why Slack’s support system started as feedback@slack.com, not just support@slack.com. “We want people to feel comfortable telling us anything. And now here we are, two years later, and that system is still in place. It’s still feedback@slack.com, we still have ‘/feedback’. The volume has gotten, obviously, a lot greater, but we’re still very open to everybody telling us anything that’s on their minds about Slack.”

Two parts emphasis on being human

Sleuthing through some of the #CE channels in our Slack team (that search really does come in handy), this internally-shared Post by Tuan Tan — a long-time member of the team, based in Asia — captures many of the philosophies established in the early days. Particularly:

“We’re not just here to answer questions and clear the queue. We build relationships, we’re part of the user experience, we’re contributing to make Slack the best it can be.”

To emphasize the importance of building relationships (not just clearing queues), team members aren’t measured by individual achievement (how many tickets or tweets a person responds to in a day), but rather on their ability — as a group — to respond to inquiries in a manner that shows a real human is listening. That’s not to say that ticket response times isn’t important, it’s just not the sole measure of success.

How we communicate with customers is so fundamental to what we do that, in the first few weeks of training, new team members are paired with veteran members of the team who help them find their voice and practice writing responses in their natural tone.

Rayl recognizes this kind of work as the epitome of emotional labor.

“It’s the idea that empathizing, supporting, listening and responding in-kind is a form of work, and it’s emotional work. It’s not something that is easily quantifiable. The support team is responsible for carrying our company’s emotional labor load, and one thing about performing emotional labor is that you need to recharge, which is why I insist that people work hard, but not work a ton. They need time to be with themselves.”

Three parts teaching what you know

Within Customer Experience, it’s everyone’s responsibility to share the knowledge they glean from other areas of the company (at team meetings and within Slack), collectively working to build their institutional knowledge. There are two programs that spur this: The “Possums” program and “Everyone Does Support”.

The “Possums” program was created nearly a year ago, when Rayl and a group of Slack’s lead engineers were discussing the growing volume of bugs reported. They were at a point where they needed someone to own monitoring bug report tickets and directing them to the right people and channels in Slack.

“We need some kind of bug (mumble)”, suggested Nolan. Everyone heard “Possums” and the name stuck. (For the record, he said “bug boss”, but how could we not go with possums? Seriously.)

Now we have “Possums” (experts) in all areas of the product — like extended family members — keeping tabs on what’s happening and reporting back to the core team. Have a billing conundrum? Seek the wisdom of billing possum, Emilie. A question about the new website? Look no further than marketing possum Antonia (etcetera, etcetera).

This kind of team structure has major dividends, not just for team members but, it turns out, for users, too.

“I think that one pigeon hole that people can get put into is that if you want to grow your career, you either need to gain more technical expertise, or become a manager. This type of program expands the opportunities available for everyone.

We’ve split out everything our team does into lots of functional areas and we just say, ‘Pick what’s interesting to you’. You get a smaller team to work with, you get to gain a lot of expertise in something, you get to work closely with some of our engineers, product managers, and designers. Support doesn’t typically get to do that.

What we’re trying to do here is make small teams of people that feel truly connected to the pieces of the product, and the customers, they’re supporting.”

In the “Everyone Does Support” program, product managers, designers, and engineers receive the same training as Customer Experience agents, even signing on for weekly support shifts as part of their core work. With this, everyone experiences first-hand what users are going through, increasing empathy across the organization and informing the way we think about, and build, the product.

And four parts being yourself

A curious thing happened when we peeked into the #ce-team channel; there they were: reams of hilarious, outlandish messages posted by Triage Captains (the person charged with monitoring ticket volumes, assigning tickets to the right area in Zendesk, and providing summary reports at the end of their shift).

obviously will upload a selection with better quality, once I figure out how…

One look at these messages and you might be thinking: “Wow! Look at all that detail, that must take them a long time!” (It doesn’t). Or you may be thinking, “These people are so busy faffing around, they must hardly do any work.” Quite the contrary, this small dose of playfulness doesn’t counter productivity, it fuels it.

It also serves a higher purpose: it helps the team get to know each other, forming bonds and laying the groundwork for trusting relationships that make work more pleasant and that allows people to feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it.

Perhaps the thing that bonds the Customer Experience team most is their longstanding, passionate debate on one of the most divisive foods on the planet: Beets.

The beet-or-no-beet debate kicked up in the Dublin office and quickly permeated across the globally-distributed team. Now when new team members start, no matter where they’re based, they’re encouraged to state their preference. It’s a simple ice-breaker, a fun way to find commonalities with other team members and an instant induction to the team’s culture.

Embracing this kind of common language — whether it’s “Possums” or your stance on beets — doesn’t have to be difficult, or even all that structured, you just have to be willing to run with it (rather than quash it), and include everyone.

Put it all together and what do you get?

Amazing teams are rarely the result of happenstance. Building them requires vigilance, frequent experimentation, and good leadership. Our Chief of Engineering Nolan Caudill captured this perfectly when he wrote:

“Every company builds two things: the products they sell, and the culture inside the company… Culture—which we understand to mean the systems that dictate how employees relate to one another, the work to be done, and the customers—often forms without much oversight. Like any random experiment, the results of letting culture form unchecked can vary between fair to disastrous.”

From the Customer Experience team, we’ve learned that happy, united teams also require programs and structures that allow individual team members to grow in their career, while giving them the freedom and space to be creative, be themselves, and truly own their expertise (with enough downtime to recharge).

Equally vital is recognizing that setting group goals can often be more rewarding than individual ones. Because working as a team, and being measured as a team, means we’re better equipped at supporting our customers and helping them succeed. Customers like that, so much so, it inspires them to tell other people about their experience. That’s when you know you have a product people genuinely love, even if it is a software for business.

We hope this post will give you some ideas to try, or inspire you to start a conversation with your team. Share a story about your amazing team with us at stories@slack.com.

Happy Teams, Happy Customers was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

The show must go on

Jul. 21st, 2016 06:49 pm
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Posted by Slack

Rick Wallenda on carrying on his famous family’s high-flying history

Karl Wallenda is to the circus what Steve Jobs is to tech. He was the one who dared to do what most others would never even think to dream up. In Wallenda’s case, that was putting together the most dangerous, death-defying multi-person acts in circus history, including his claim to fame: The seven-person chair pyramid, performed while teetering over 50 feet in the air on a high wire.

Here he is in 1967 at the Wallenda family home in Sarasota, Florida; around 20 years into his career as a high wire walker and daredevil stunt performer.

Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida

Now here’s Rick Wallenda, Karl’s grandson, third generation high wire walker, pictured 40 years later about to perform a similar stunt.

Photo credit: Heather Prescott Photography

Between them is a family history rife with triumph, tragedy and tradition. Yet despite suffering a great amount of grief in service of their craft, Rick never believed there was anything that could keep the legendary Flying Wallendas grounded. At the Wallenda family home, Rick perches on his mother’s front porch to reminisce over his family’s history.

1946—A lofty idea

Though both Karl and his wife Helen Wallenda had been performing for years in their native Germany, the Wallendas’ fame kickstarted in the 1940s, when the couple moved to the U.S. as part of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus troupe. Their duet was a good gig by all standards, but Wallenda’s ambition had him craving more high stakes high wire acts. This lead him to invent the seven-person chair pyramid.

A copy of Helen Wallenda’s naturalization document when she entered the United States in 1941.

“He didn’t do that trick, the seven on the wire, until 1947 and Ringling actually rejected it,” says Rick Wallenda. “He offered it to them. They said no. 1946 was their last year on the Ringling Brothers circus and they went and formed their own circus and unveiled the seven-person pyramid.”

“The seven-person pyramid is four people standing on the wire, usually men, yoked together with two bars. On each of those bars, another man stands, or sometimes a woman, and those two on that level are also yoked together with a longer bar, then on top of that is usually a girl on a chair.”

So intent on making this the Wallenda family signature, Karl Wallenda had a high wire rig built on the family property so they could all practice at home. After many updates and improvements over the years, the rig still stands—a sacred structure on the family property now used by Rick and his family.

Karl Wallenda showing off the high wire practice rig at the family home in Sarasota, Florida

1962—Fatal Falls

The Flying Wallendas rose to fame for performing their acts without a safety net. “We prefer no net because practice is your best safety device,” explains Rick Wallenda. “The best thing to rely on is practice. You rely on a device, that could fail. My grandfather’s brother fell into a net in 1936. He bounced out and he was killed on the concrete below.”

A safety device promotes false security. We would much rather rely on our skill which comes from practicing over and over and over again. You just do the trick hundreds and hundreds of times until you know you’re going to be able to do it.

Though this philosophy has worked for the Wallendas for generations, it hasn’t always been a failsafe. Rick and the family learned that lesson the hard way back in 1962.

“I was there as a small boy when the seven-person pyramid collapsed in Detroit and two were killed: Uncle Dick and Dieter. Uncle Mario stayed in a wheelchair the rest of his life. He passed away last year, but I do remember all of those individuals, the funerals and everything that went on.”

“It was a tragedy for the entire family. Not just our family. The entire circus business shattered under that. It was the second largest tragedy in circus history. Our family responded by doing the show the next night. They did the show. That’s the way we’ve always responded to things like this.

When something like that happens, an accident, and you lose somebody, it impacts everything about you. There’s not a single function that I’m involved in that these accidents have not impacted to a greater lesser degree. You learn to do things better.

My grandfather, when he died [on the high wire] in 1973, he was doing the stunt for free. From a business standpoint, I don’t do things for free anymore. I get paid to do it. If I’m going to risk my life out there, I’m going to be paid to do it.

My Uncle Mario fell from the high wire, broke his back. I fell twice. One time I broke my back, I didn’t break it bad enough to be in a wheelchair but Uncle Mario was my inspiration for overcoming it. He’s the reason I got back up. We don’t allow the tragedy to keep us off the wire.”

2016—Reaching new heights

Nowadays, the Flying Wallendas’ star keeps on rising. Several members of the family, including Rick, have branched out to form new acts with their own families. Karla Wallenda — Rick’s mother and Karl and Helen Wallenda’s daughter — still manages to pull off a wild trick or two, even making headlines for performing aerialist stunts at eighty years old.

Karla Wallenda performing daredevil stunts through the ages (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)

Rick Wallenda recalls a quote he always heard his grandfather say:

Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting.

After all these years, Rick feels the same way.

Rick Wallenda at the family home in Florida.
The Wallendas‘ practice rig today

“I’m sitting here waiting, even just to practice. I just want to practice. The 2 girls aren’t here right now. My sister’s not in town. My nephew has the flu. I haven’t been on the wire in 4, 5 days now and I’m starting to get a little anxious. I want to get everybody out here.”

Lima Al-Azzeh once fractured her finger picking up a stationary basketball.

The show must go on was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

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Posted by usnationalarchives

The following guest post is by Andrew Weber, a legislative information systems manager at the Library of Congress. It is cross posted on the Law Library of Congress blog, In Custodia Legis.

The National Archives and the Law Library of Congress are hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon for the proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution at the National Archives Innovation Hub on Friday, July 29 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The edit-a-thon is part of the Amending America initiative at the National Archives, which celebrates the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights with an exhibit and a series of National Conversations on Rights and Justice.

Promotional banner for Amending America edit-a-thon, showing National Archives, Wikipedia, and exhibit logos.

There are a variety of great resources that people can draw from for the event.  The National Archives published the dataset of more than 11,000 proposed constitutional amendments to data.gov while A Century of Lawmaking For a New Nation contains U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates from 1777-1973.  There are also many items that you can search and find in Congress.gov.

Interested in joining the edit-a-thon in-person or online? Please visit the Wikipedia page for more information and to register as either an on-site or remote attendee. You don’t need to have any previous experience editing Wikipedia; we’ll teach you everything you need to know. We’d love to have you!

Getting It Right with Jonathan Auxier

Jul. 21st, 2016 07:24 am
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Even if you haven’t read (but especially if you have) Jonathan Auxier’s Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes (2011), you’ll want to pick up a copy of Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, the latest novel from Auxier, during which Peter meets feisty, brave Sophie. Her world changes dramatically when she learns that she, an unassuming bookmender, is a Storyguard, as was her mother before her. When Sophie is given a copy of the magical Book of Who, she becomes a target for Inquisitor Prigg, whose plan is to rid the town of nonsense, especially storybooks, on Pyre Day. This all kicks off a grand adventure for Sophie, Peter, and a whole cast of well-crafted characters in a story celebrating the written word.
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Posted by davidferriero

On June 30, 2016, President Obama signed the bipartisan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Improvement Act of 2016 into law. This law locks into place many of the Administration’s FOIA policies and initiatives and solidifies the role of the National Archives’ Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) in resolving FOIA disputes between agencies and requesters and improving compliance with FOIA.

President Obama Signs S. 337 FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, June 30, 2016

The law:

  • Codifies the Attorney General’s policy that agencies should release information unless “the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption” or “disclosure is prohibited by law;”
  • Requires that agencies alert requesters to the availability of agency FOIA Public Liaisons and OGIS to help resolve disputes at several points in the FOIA process;
  • Directs the creation of a centralized portal the public can use to file FOIA requests electronically;
  • Establishes a Chief FOIA Officers Council to develop recommendations for increasing compliance and efficiency in responding to FOIA requests, and to identify, develop and coordinate initiatives for increasing transparency and compliance with FOIA’s requirements;
  • Requires that agencies post electronically records that have been requested three or more times;
  • Requires that agencies allow a minimum of 90 days for requesters to file FOIA appeals; and
  • Limits the deliberative process privilege to records that are less than 25 years old.

In conjunction with the bill signing, the White House also announced additional initiatives to continue to improve transparency. As part of this effort, the White House asked the members of the FOIA Advisory Committee to look broadly at the challenges that agency FOIA programs will face in light of an ever-increasing volume of electronic records, and chart a course for how FOIA should operate in the future.

The National Archives launched the FOIA Advisory Committee to allow agency FOIA professionals and requesters to collaboratively develop recommendations to improve the administration of FOIA. As I shared with you in April, the first term of the FOIA Advisory Committee ended on a high note when the Committee unanimously voted to support its first recommendation to improve the FOIA process. The Committee’s development of a consensus recommendation is an important milestone because it shows how agencies and requesters can work together to improve the FOIA process.

The second term of the FOIA Advisory Committee will kick off on July 21 with a meeting in the National Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater. Please visit the Committee’s webpage for information about future meetings and the Committee’s work.

We welcome Congress’s bipartisan, bicameral work to advance transparency, and the President’s new initiatives.

[personal profile] jazzyjj
Howdy folks! I'm back with my 3rd book review. This time, it's a poetry book. The book I'm reviewing this evening is "The Collected Poems of Maya Angelou." I read Angelou's book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" back in high school and loved it. Fast-forward to when Bill Clinton first got elected President. It was then that I heard a lovely poem written and narrated by Maya Angelou. I guess I'm showing my true political colors, lol! Actually I was never that much into politics, and nowadays I pretty much dislike it altogether given the nasty shit that's been going on in the world. But back to the book. Then a couple years ago I saw that one of her poetry books was available in audio from the Library of Congress, so I jumped at the chance.

I'm glad I read the book. I like poetry, and these poems were no exception. Ms. Angelou definitely has a gift for writing, and a wonderful voice. The narrator did a nice job. She even did the same accent. So if you are a Maya Angelou fan and haven't read this book, it is definitely one you'll want to put on your reading list. I for one am so glad I did. I'm not going to bother summarizing these poems, because Angelou pretty much covered a wide array of topics in this collection. I hope to find "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" in audio, and re-read that one too.

News from the Slack Fund

Jul. 19th, 2016 07:37 pm
[syndicated profile] slack_feed

Posted by Slack

11 new investments to help you do more with Slack

It’s been seven months since we launched the Slack Fund to invest in companies building on the Slack Platform. Today, 11 new companies to help you plan, create, give feedback and more joined the portfolio. For all the details, head over to the Slack Developer Blog!

News from the Slack Fund was originally published in Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Read the responses to this story on Medium.

#ElectionCollection Challenge

Jul. 19th, 2016 10:00 am
[syndicated profile] nara_feed

Posted by usnationalarchives

Todays post comes from Jeannie Chen, Social Media Coordinator for the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives. This post can also be found on the American Experience PBS blog.

Share your quirky, cool, and surprising historic memorabilia!

#ElectionCollection banner

Get out your historic buttons, bumper stickers, hats, and banners! We’re starting a weekly Instagram challenge called #ElectionCollection to feature your Presidential campaign memorabilia.  

The Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and American Experience PBS invite you to share the unique personal histories surrounding Presidential campaign memorabilia. Cultural organizations keep these artifacts for their historic importance, and individuals save them for the feelings they evoke on a personal level.  #ElectionCollection is a space for people to share their favorite mementos from past campaigns.

We’re encouraging museums, libraries, and cultural organizations to make #ElectionCollection their own by sharing artifacts from their collections. We’re also inviting the public to post images of their own memorabilia and tag it with #ElectionCollection.

In honor of Election Tuesday, we’ll publish a new #ElectionCollection Instagram challenge every Tuesday from July 26 until the Presidential election on November 8, 2016. We’ll also feature quirky, cool, and surprising historic #ElectionCollection memorabilia on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the blogs of the National Archives and American Experience.

How it will Work:

  1. Each week, we’ll invite the public and our community to a new #ElectionCollection challenge.
    • We will feature objects from the holdings of the Presidential Libraries, the National Archives, and videos and imagery from American Experience PBS.
  2. Each challenge will ask people to feature a different category in election memorabilia.
  3. Show off your cool memorabilia!
    • Post your memorabilia photos on Instagram and tag #ElectionCollection.
    • Tell your friends! Get your followers and community involved in showing off their own #ElectionCollection treasures. You never know what you’ll find in Grandma’s attic.
    • We’ll share highlights from each week of what you all post.

Not on Instagram? No problem!  You can share your #ElectionCollection on any social platform.  Here’s where we’ll be posting:

National Archives:

American Experience:

Talking picture unit designed by the Transport Publicity Corporation for Herbert Hoover’s 1928 campaign. Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Talking picture unit designed by the Transport Publicity Corporation for Herbert Hoover’s 1928 campaign. Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman campaign button, 1944. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman campaign button, 1944. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

John F. Kennedy campaign poster, 1960. JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

John F. Kennedy campaign poster, 1960. JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

JCPL Carter gold donkey pin

Carter gold donkey pin, 1976. Carter Presidential Library and Museum.


Sunglasses designed and manufactured by A. Dean Watkins Co. for Gerald R. Ford’s 1976 presidential campaign. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

Reagan-Bush campaign hat with bumper sticker, 1980. Reagan Library.

Reagan-Bush campaign hat with bumper sticker, 1980. Reagan Library.



commute notes

Jul. 18th, 2016 08:46 pm
grrlpup: (rose)
[personal profile] grrlpup

hopscotch numbered from the top with tiny hopscotch beside it

I am pretty sure I’ve never seen a hopscotch grid numbered from the top. I kept trying to make sense of it after I had walked past, and ended up walking around the block to look again.

I have, however, seen a tiny hopscotch marked “for cats,” and I wonder if that’s what the smaller one is here. I can’t quite read the numbers.


orange racks ready for Biketown bikes

Portland’s Biketown (because co-sponsored by Nike) bikes arrive tomorrow! The racks have been in place for a week or so– people happily started locking their regular bikes up at them, and then the city sent out some grumpy tweets and added the CAUTION tape.

This rack is just outside my office, so I’ll try a ride down by the river on my lunch break sometime soon. I admit, I don’t really understand the customer base for bikeshare. Commuters would want their own bikes, right? Some tourists will use them, in good weather, if they’re not afraid of sharing the road with cars downtown. Maybe close-in bar hopping after the bus stops running? I guess we’ll find out.

This post also appears at read write run repeat. Comments read and welcomed in either place!

[Linkspam] Monday, July 18

Jul. 18th, 2016 03:59 pm
tim: A bright orange fish. (fish)
[personal profile] tim
An open letter to the author of the "I'm a closeted trans woman and I'm not coming out" essay, by Katelyn Burns (2016-07-13). "How many times will a closeted trans person read your essay and convince themselves again that not transitioning is the correct move?"

Not your feminist dream girl, by Raquel Rosario Sanchez (2016-07-13). "Like men, women are multifaceted people who can simultaneously support terrible policies and empowering ones. They are political candidates whose personal and political lives may make us cringe at points and cry with emotion at others. Feminists have pushed for more strong, complex, imperfect female characters on TV and in film, in order to get away from the one-dimensional women we are usually presented with in media. In Hillary, we have an influential woman who is just that: she is not the easy-to-figure out stereotype we expect women to be."

Invisible Talent, by Kaya Thomas (2016-07-14). On the frustrations of being a Black female computer science major and being told by an industry desperate to pretend its cultural failure is a "pipeline problem" that you don't exist.

Evidence, by feministkilljoys (2016-07-12). "My proposition is simple: that the evidence we have of racism and sexism is deemed insufficient because of racism and sexism." Long, meaty article about the function of demands for evidence of racism and sexism.

"The Best Time I Pretended I Hadn’t Heard of Slavoj Žižek", by Rosa Lyster (2016-07-14):
My advice is intended only for special occasions. It is for when you have an itch to scratch, and that itch is called, “a puerile desire to get on other people’s nerves.” All you do is stonily deny any knowledge of a person or cultural touchstone that you should, by virtue of your other cultural reference points, be aware of. These will of course be different for everyone, but my favorites include:

Žižek, John Updike, MORRISSEY (only for experts), Radiohead, Twin Peaks, David Lynch in general, Banksy (only for streetfighters), Withnail and I, Bauhaus (movement), Bauhaus (band), Afrika Burn, the expression “garbage person,” A Clockwork Orange, Steampunk (this one is really good), Jack Kerouac, “Gilmore Girls,” Woody Allen, the expression “grammar nerd,” the expression “grammar Nazi,” cocktails, bongs, magical realism, millennials, Cards Against Humanity, trance parties, bunting, many comedians, William Gibson, burlesque, the Beats, The God Delusion, sloths, anarchism, Joy Division, CrossFit, “The Mighty Boosh,” and Fight Club.

A White Male Led Revolution Against American Inequality, You Say?, by D Frederick Sparks (2016-05-22). "This blind spot, not being able to see these things because they don’t have to, is why I find it highly unlikely that white male left progressives are going to be the ones who identify and anoint the messianic figure in American politics who will lead the revolution against inequality. And if I had to wager, I wouldn’t put my money on said messianic figure being a privileged white male from the Northeast. I’d put my money on a black woman from the south or a Latina from the Southwest, someone who on an ontological and inter-sectional level understands the various power paradigms that contribute to unfairness in this country and can competently speak to and address all of them, and not just get fixated on one."

Dissociation is scary. Dissociation is safety, by Sarah Gailey for the Boston Globe (2016-05-08). CW: firsthand discussion of having PTSD and being triggered. This article describes what it's like for one person to have PTSD -- it's only somewhat close to my own experience, and if it isn't like this for you then you shouldn't assume it means you don't have PTSD, but more stories are always useful.

Martin Luther King’s hate mail eerily resembles criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement, by David Matthews (2015-08-18). Title says it all.
[syndicated profile] nara_feed

Posted by dominic

Editors’s note:  On June 14–16, the National Archives hosted its second GLAM Boot Camp. This program, funded by the National Archives Foundation, is an outreach-focused, skills-building workshop for Wikipedians partnering with cultural institutions. You can read more about our first GLAM Boot Camp in 2013 over on the Wikimedia D.C. blog. The following summary of the event comes from three of our participants: Kelly, Rob, and Kevin.

GLAM Boot Camp attendees with Archivist of the United States David Ferriero (CC-BY-SA, by Fourandsixty)

GLAM Boot Camp attendees with Archivist of the United States David Ferriero (CC-BY-SA, by Fourandsixty)

Last week, fifteen Wikipedia editors converged on the National Archives to attend the GLAM Boot Camp. “GLAM” stands for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums and “GLAM-Wiki” is an initiative to encourage the Wikipedia community and cultural institutions to create partnerships to the benefit of both.

The participants came from across the United States. Thirteen states were represented: California, Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Some were veteran Wikipedians of many years, others were relatively new. All were interested in bringing back what they learned to help engage in local efforts with cultural institutions like museums, libraries, universities, and historical societies. Previous attendees of GLAM Boot Camp have worked with institutions like the University of California, Berkeley and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). One graduate of the GLAM Boot Camp 2013, Alex Stinson, is now the GLAM-Wiki Strategist for the Wikimedia Foundation, and returned this time as a main trainer for GLAM Boot Camp 2016.

The boot camp was a three-day intensive training provided by staff from the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, American University, and the Wikimedia Foundation. Most of the training occurred in NARA’s Innovation Hub, but participants were also able to go behind the scenes at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Attendees learned how to work with different types of cultural institutions and how they could engage those institutions and their audiences with not only Wikipedia, but other Wikimedia projects, including Wikimedia Commons (a free image and file repository), Wikidata (a collaborative metadata knowledge base), and Wikisource (an online library of public domain texts). They also gave individual lightning talks about the work they were doing with their own local cultural institutions.

Participants also got a chance to implement what they’d learned by participating in an editathon at Innovation Hub that was open to the public. An editathon is a public event where Wikipedia editors, members of cultural institutions, and the general public help each other collaborate on editing Wikipedia about specific topic areas. As part of NARA’s Amending America initiative, National Archives staffers hosted an editathon about LGBT history.

Several GLAM Boot Camp participants will be taking what they learned back to their respective universities. Kelly Doyle, a Wikipedian in Residence for Gender Equity at West Virginia University Libraries, works to close the well-documented gender gap on Wikipedia by recruiting students and academics alike to add content about women to Wikipedia—and specifically women from the Appalachian region. Kelly plans to partner with archival libraries throughout West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania by adding information and freely licensed images to Wikipedia from these institutions holdings about this underrepresented group on Wikipedia. Kevin Payravi, an undergraduate at the Ohio State University, leads a student organization, called Wikipedia Connection, that encourages Wikipedia editing for students and faculty through weekly workshops, editathons, and other events. Kevin plans to take what he learned back to fellow Wikipedia Connection members, and then work as an organization to collaborate with the University’s libraries and archives to bring free content to Wikipedia.

Why is work like this important? Everyone reads Wikipedia. It is often said that Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that “anyone can edit,” but, unfortunately, relatively few people do. Even cultural and information professionals are often hesitant to edit, unfamiliar with the website’s rules, jargon, and tools. GLAM Boot Camp graduates can work with their local cultural institutions to help them engage with Wikipedia and other Wikimedia websites, tools they can use to enhance their collections, further their educational missions, and expand their audience beyond the walls of their institution. As the seventh-largest website in the world, Wikipedia has the potential to offer even the smallest cultural institution a global reach.

Kelly Doyle, Wikipedian in Residence for Gender Equity at West Virginia University

Robert Fernandez, Assistant Professor, Reference/Instructional Librarian, Saint Leo University

Kevin Payravi, President of Wikipedia Connection at the Ohio State University

The Power of Love

Jul. 18th, 2016 05:09 pm
[syndicated profile] kirkus_ya_feed
We girls were sitting in the dark, watching an animated film of a gazillion sperm with dark crooked eyebrows and grimaces of effort and strain, snarled lips with teeth showing, all of them in a race of wriggling tails, trying to get to the egg, who was batting her long eyelashes, awaiting the lucky dude’s arrival.

Plot bunny

Jul. 18th, 2016 12:57 pm
brainwane: several colorful scribbles in the vague shape of a jellyfish (jellyfish)
[personal profile] brainwane
The Ghostbusters crew gets called in to visit the main New York Public Library building (the Schwarzman Building, with the stone lion statues out front) ... because weird happenings are afoot at the new Hamilton exhibit.
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