Friday, 19 June 2015

InspireFest Day 2

Today was, as the title suggests, my second and last day at the InspireFest sci-tech conference in Dublin. Today was, for me, more social and less informative then yesterday, but there's a time for everything so this was good. I attended fewer talks and sadly took no notes, so it'll be a shorter post. What a relief, am I right?

Did I hear someone say chronological? Let's go.


Catch the early train in hopes of not being late for my interview with Harry, and seeing Christine. Maybe catching the Taoiseach's speech too. Have to take two trains, but all goes well. Arrive at the BGET around 9.30.


Enter BGET, find out I've missed the Taoiseach's speech. Am told it wasn't particularly good, and that he quoted a lot. Watch the "CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap" panel.


Sneak up on Harry and jump on him - maybe not the best way to greet someone in person for the first time, but he's good craic. We go up to the VIP lounge to do the interview, very fancy indeed. I've been pretty nervous about how it'll go as this is the first face-to-face interview I've done, but he's a great interviewee and communicator so it goes well. I'll have a post up on Sunday with the interview in it. He tells me he thinks I could definitely be on the Digital Youth Council and it's a big pity he didn't know me when I was going into fifth year. I agree, but it's very nice to hear. Not to add to the already huge Harry fandom, but I really do think that boy is a great leader and people person.

10.36 (ish)

Sit outside the auditorium and message Christine until she finally comes out to me. When she comes out, we wander around for a while (unfortunately missing Sue Black), paying a visit to the Google floor and trying on Google Cardboard. It's pretty cool, I like the rollercoaster experience. We also talk to some people who work in Advertising at Google Dublin, which is awesome. Seems like a great job. They said the best thing about it is the people there. 


Christine is an artsy person, so we go back in to watch the design lectures, starting with "Putting the A in STEAM" (Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts and Maths). I'll be honest, I don't get the point of STEAM - STEM promotes one set of things and has been very effective at that, but if we include Arts you're effectively promoting everything, which is the same as promoting nothing at all. Imagine telling schools to focus on, well, everything. That's not focus.


Costello Quote: "Is there any normal people food?" upon seeing all the vegan and gluten-free food. 


"D-STEM, STEAM and Design Thinking" panel begins, with the President of IADT and some other people. This is fairly interesting for a topic I don't have much interest in, and I like how passionate the President is about IADT and how it brings together psychologists, designers, English students and technologists to solve problems and merge design and technology. 


Global Intel VP for the Internet of Things (IoT) hosts this next session. He gives a bit of a presentation, then MCs as others give theirs on similar topics. Jessica McCarthy from Intel and some kids from the Trinity Walton club give talks, then Laura Browne talks about how she won the Intel Galileo competition with her really awesome tool. I really admire the way she solved problems. 

12.50 - 13.00

This is essentially a keynote for the sole purpose of revealing a Hunger-games-transforming dress. A mix of design and tech, the metal butterflies on the dress fly away if someone's hands come too near. This is popular with the audience. 


I tell Christine about the very dubious food so we go to a nearby Spar to get some cheap food, since the conference catering insisted on being so fancy yet unappealing. Christine gives me donuts because she's great. 

Seriously, what is this drink?

Excitingly, I get a selfie with Susan McKenna Lawlor! She's really cool, she designed the mission-critical ESS for the Philae lander on the Rosetta-to-67P mission and gave an excellent speech yesterday on it. People I wanted selfies/an autograph from: her, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Bethany Mayer, Margaret Burgraff. 

We soon bump into Anne-Marie Imafidon, head Stemette and organiser of Outbox Incubator. We need to take a selfie, she says, so I get going rounding up Outbox acceptees. Outbox praises how fast I did it later, which is nice. Émer Hickey arrives in the nick of time and we have a selfie with Catrina, Christine, Émer, Edel, Vanessa, me and the organisers. It's one of the very first times I've ever not been in the front row of a photo, since late arrivals were arranged haphazardly. 

The photographer has yet to send me the group selfie so here's a picture of Christine and I. 

Brianna Wu keynote - GamerGate/Spacekat

I know very little about GamerGate, only that there was a Zoe Quinn, someone's boyfriend and a lot of angry and irrational men sending death threats. Not really sure how Brianna fit into that, but over the past ten months she's received 106 full-on death threats, with lots more harrassment online. At the start of her keynote, she plays a compilation of some of the Tweets sent to her and it was very disturbing. Like, "I want to murder you and rape your corpse" disturbing. I'm messaging this guy I know during and he's extremely contemptuous of her, so I don't really know what to think.

Brianna gets a standing ovation. Now, while the harrassment she went through is horrible, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell didn't get a standing ovation, nor did Bethany Mayer or Susan McKenna Lawlor or Shelly Porges or Margaret Burgraff. So, in protest, I remain sitting down. I do clap, but it looks like I'm the only one in the place not standing. Gotta maintain integrity, you know?

The Founders

There are five speakers here, from four companies. GenderGap Grader have two people who used data science and designed a website to teach people about the gender gap, I gather. Laetitia Grail displays MyBlee Math, which is a cool app to help kids learn maths, and then Ciara Clancy shows us her startup Beats Medical, which aims to help Parkinson's patients who suffer from gait freezing (like Edel's project). I really like Ciara's presentation, it's very polished. There's then a talk from the Dublin Commissioner for Startups.

The Investors

Sharon Vosmek of Astia speaks well here, saying we don't need to develop or fix girls any more, we just need to invest in them. Good call. Let me keep my development things like Outbox Incubator though, k?

16.25 (approx)

Christine and I leave during the panel, as we're getting tired of hearing about gender inequality. We find Edel and Caitlin Donnelly (DYC) outside too and have a chat. It's sad to see the floors being dismantled.


We return to watch Cindy Gallop give the closing address. She's a very powerful speaker and not afraid of her opinions - it takes guts to go up and talk about her website where people upload, essentially, amateur sex clips. The idea is to reduce the stranglehold of the porn industry that's so harmful to women (etc., etc.) and stop teenage boys getting such unrealistic "sex ed". People are to upload the normal, funny, awkward, messy, human bits of sex to reduce the stigma. She says women should do two things: make a shitload of money, and do a shitload of good (her words). She really emphasised the making money. She reminded us every business plan should be unique.

Even if it did promote women a bit too much, it was a spectacular keynote. She said that, since the dawn of time, women have been "sharing the shit out of everything in a way that don't". She reminded us that women are the world's greatest consumers and consumer influencers in every sector, and yet car ads are still targeted to men. Her solution to gender inequality is money, as she says "All those barriers will fall away from all of us when we can prove that women can make a shitload of money." Again, great keynote. 


People come up to me separately and say they recognise me from my blog. Awesome. 

17.40 (approx)

Christine and I leave the building and hug goodbye. I make my way back to Pearse Station. I never really knew where I was going but I always knew where I was and found the right turn just in time, so I didn't get lost. I think I live in a permanent state of "pre-lost". 


I catch a train and feel super jealous of everyone who got to go to InspireFest Fringe. I've been under strict parental orders to get home before eight, so I can't. I hope you all enjoy yourselves tomorrow though. 

There was very little Silicon Republic action today, weirdly enough. I'll have a post up tomorrow with highlights and my reflection on the past two days, then my interview with Harry will be up tomorrow.

Going home

I have a lovely surprise on the train in the form of Laura and Caoimhe from school. We chat and catch up the whole way home, it's great. I also have a nice chat with David at Scotch Hall. 

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