What’s your DEI why?

I was nicely challenged in a recent interview to share how and why I came to care about diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI).

My short answer was, and is, that DEI is simply the right thing to do: that *everyone* deserves to be heard and respected, and to feel like they belong (especially in a workplace environment!). And the world is better in multiple ways if everyone can contribute: we all know something that no one else does.

But articulating a longer answer, my own ‘how and why’, was a struggle. I realized while trying to answer that no one had ever asked me before. And I’ve been so focused on learning more and finding ways to help that it hadn’t occurred to me to reflect on, or share, my how or why. On the spot, the longer answer felt hard because there are so many things I’ve seen and heard over so many years (more than could fit into the whole interview timeslot!) They generally fall into two clusters:

  1. Public stories (news and books) of outrageous bigotry and injustices – which I could certainly list and share
  2. Personal stories of disrespect and microaggressions and conscious & unconscious bias that I’ve witnessed and experienced, from and with family and friends, feeling ‘othered’ and seeing them treated as ‘other’ – stories which I mostly don’t have the right to share.

My personal stories encompass religion, gender discrimination, birth defects, medical/mental conditions, use of a wheelchair, sexual preference, neurodivergence, race, skin color, language, education level, hearing impairment, vision impairment, speech difficulties, language and accent. In short, they include almost everything that shows up in company diversity statements and at the end of job descriptions reassuring candidates of non-discrimination, and include some things that aren’t.

On reflection, I realized that some of the people I grew up with also witnessed those experiences and shared some (not all), yet even today they do not value DEI and social justice. How have I ended up caring about DEI enough to start doing something about injustices, while they have not? Is there a threshold which my cumulative experience surpassed, while theirs did not? And I have to wonder: if not for my personal experiences, would I have even cared about the big public stories?

  • If I would have cared anyway, then
    (1) the personal stories aren’t my why, and
    (2) it raises the further question of why, clearly, not everyone cares in the absence of (enough) personal experiences. If personal experiences aren’t the key differentiator in who cares about DEI and acts on it, and who doesn’t, then what is?
  • If I only cared because my personal experiences primed me to be empathetic to the public stories, then it doesn’t bode well for getting society to address bias, because:
    (1) in order to for society to want to do something about bigotry, more of society will have to first suffer from negative bias (more total harm in the world)
    (2) the most privileged people who control society never will care because they won’t have enough of those negative personal experiences,
    (3) as more people suffer, care, and act to address bigotry, suffering will decrease, and fewer people may reach the threshold that makes them care about addressing bias, and this vicious cycle may repeat ad infinitum.
    Having said all that – none of this is an excuse for not supporting DEI; it’s still the right thing to do.

But why isn’t the short answer enough? [Why] do we humans seem to need to see, hear, or live a certain threshold of personal experiences of being ‘othered’ to drive our DEI why? … If it would actually help build empathy among more humans, I’m open to sharing some of my personal stories, although I’m not sure even now if I give a useful, concise answer without violating the confidences and privacy of people I care about. That will need a lot of thought.

Even so, I’m not sure it will make a difference. Maybe building awareness of more people to be above the threshold isn’t the answer; maybe lowering the threshold is. Not sure how to do that – any ideas?

And I’m curious … has anyone ever asked you how and why you care about #DiversityEquityAndInclusion? How do you answer? What is your DEI why?


2nd meetup of Women in Agile-Raleigh

WiA Raleigh Meet-up: The Big Secret About Great Teams

WiA Meet-up: The Big Secret About Great Teams

Thursday, Aug 22, 2019, 5:45 PM

940 Main Campus Dr
940 Main Campus Dr Raleigh, NC

34 Members Attending

Join us in an interactive, immersive learning experience! Often, great teams are fun to be on. Work does not have to mean tension, stress, and headaches. Think about it. When were you last highly productive, clear-minded, creative, and feeling positive about yourself and teammates? Probably, it was when you were on a great team. We now know the sec…

Check out this Meetup →

For Raleigh-area folks interested in agile: the second meeting of our new Women In Agile chapter will be on August 22 after work at the ABB Corporate Research offices on NCSU Centennial Campus. All genders welcome – I hope to see you there! Capacity is limited to 50, and 34 seats are already taken, so get your RSVP in soon.

Thanks to David J Gentry, Lori Kikuchi, and Christine Babowicz for their hard work in organizing the meetup!

#womeninagile #diversityandinclusion #agile #teams #trust

data privacy at the home show

Ever wonder where all of those social aggregator sites get all of that personal information about you and your family and friends, and how all of those senders of unsolicited postal and electronic mail got your addresses?

Today we stopped in at the Raleigh Home Show for a few hours. The first person who greeted us just inside the building handed us each a ticket and told us to go over to the bank of waiting tablets to register to win a $250 gift card. The first 3 questions were simple enough – name, phone number, email address. OK, maybe; I have throwaway info I can use. The next page asked further questions that seemed to be completely unnecessary for administratively awarding a gift card: gender, age range, marital status, family income level, etc. Suspicious now, I played along with random responses on more pages of nosy questions to get to the end page. On the last page with the AGREE button, I clicked through to read the T&Cs. Guess what? By clicking AGREE, one would be consenting to letting them use all of this personal information as they like AND, if selected to ‘win’ the gift card, consenting to travel at one’s own expense to somewhere (in tiny print, there was a list of places which didn’t seem to be in the Raleigh area) and have to sit through a 90-120 minute timeshare presentation in order to receive the $250 gift card. How many people, I wonder, had clicked AGREE at this show without reading these T&Cs? We clicked DISAGREE and got out. I’ve seen better rewards at walk-in timeshare tour offers.

After finding the box office and buying our tickets (a very reasonable $10 per person), we entered at the admission gate, and were greeted by another person who handed each of us a different award ticket. He indicated that we should stop at a new set of kiosks inside the show, at the bottom of the escalator, to register to win a ‘free’ $15,000 remodel. Care to take a guess about how much personal information was requested to enter this second drawing? Yup, same things, and even more. As a test, one of us clicked on ‘married’ and was prompted with a new dialog asking for spouse’s name. Nope, sorry. And the requested household income brackets were even more specific and higher-ranging. We worked our way to the end of the questions on one of the kiosks, and got to a URL for the giveaway. Mobile browser in hand, I pulled up the rules.

Although the kiosk had not allowed proceeding in the giveaway signup without choosing an income range, the giveaway rules page claimed that income information was not necessary to enter. A tiny link at top for the privacy policy for “*** Marketing Services” (I refuse to give them free publicity by naming them or linking to their site) pointed to a PDF link on a site for the same timeshare promotion company. And the privacy policy URL was a dead link! A search on their site did pull up a privacy policy, but it explicitly stated that “THIS PRIVACY POLICY DOES NOT GOVERN PRIVACY PRACTICES ASSOCIATED WITH OFFLINE ACTIVITIES.” – so, not relevant to their giveaway at the show? (FWIW, the policy says that they DO sell and share nonpublic personal information to third parties.) Finally, the giveaway page indicates it sponsors a single $15,000 prize for the entire sweepstakes signup period of Jan. 1-Dec. 10, 2019. There is no mention of how many events will be eligible for this one prize, but logically, it would be many events like the home show, and thousands of people, making the odds of winning quite small.

Interestingly, the sweepstakes web page says anyone can enter manually by sending a postcard with full name, home address, email address and phone number. No marital status, no income range, no gender, etc. required. So why do they ask for it at the kiosks? The obvious answer is on the page: they will make money from using attendees’ data for “promoting various products and services”.

Bottom line? Beware of ‘free’ giveaways that ask for more personal information than needed to administer the giveaway, and aren’t up-front about who is sponsoring them. If you’re going to the Raleigh Home Show tomorrow, or a similar event later this year, consider skipping the kiosks if your personal data is worth more to you than a miniscule chance at winning a $15,000 home remodel or, worse yet, a $250 gift card that you need to travel at your own expense and endure a 2-hour timeshare tour to collect.

Welcome (again)

If this is your first time on our agileteams blog here on wordpress.com, welcome! (You may have been automatically redirected here from agileteams.com or agileteams.se. If so, yes you are in the right place!)

We are in the midst of a migration of our old self-hosted WordPress blog to wordpress.com. Eventually, our relatively-static page content may move here as well. We’re glad you are here, and we invite you to look around and comment – feedback and engagement on the topics we at Agile Teams care about is always welcome.

Two privacy improvements

Tonight I finally tackled improving my online privacy by making two changes:

DuckDuckGo promises no ads and no tracking.

Zoho mail promises no email scanning, and says they are Safe Harbour compliant.

So far, so good with both. I only ran into one quirk getting Zoho IMAP configured on my phone (need to use syntax server:port). Liking DDG so much already that I got their iPhone search app, and am just loving the speed and relevance of the search results.

I’ll post an update after a few weeks to months of runtime with them. For now, I expect to sleep better tonight!

How applications for 3D user interfaces are like the ocean

Pristis pectinata - Georgia Aquarium Jan 2006

So what’s 3D navigation really good for?

After learning how to fly around the world, I stepped back to think about where the innovations might lie – what the ‘low hanging fruit’ and the ‘holy grail’ might be for making the most of Leap Motion and similar 3D interfaces.


In some environments, not touching a control device is a Good Thing. A few scenarios that quickly came to mind:

  1. wearing gloves (e.g. for insulation or protection) which could make it hard to use conventional devices (like mice and keyboards)
  2. not wanting dirty hands (or gloves) to crud up control devices, and
  3. not wanting clean hands (or gloves) to be contaminated by potentially dirty control devices.

To me, these exploits seem like the low-hanging fruit – quick wins. (I’m not saying they’ll be easy to accomplish – for instance, how much will a normal pair of winter gloves interfere with recognition of hand gestures by people working outdoors? But they’re somewhat obvious applications to target.)

Beyond touch-free

Thinking about ways to exploit touch-free user interfaces with existing applications is fun and cool, just like Tom Cruise’s gloved computer navigation in Minority Report. It’s like having a touchscreen in the air, and some useful things can be done with just that.

Yet it’s a far bigger, but more interesting, challenge to think of completely new ways to use 3D touch-free controllers to do things that maybe we don’t yet dream of being able to do. That’s where the real innovations to rock our world will come from. But how can we discover them?

Trying to ‘see the water’

We humans are capable of being “perfect filters”: our assumptions can be so deeply ingrained that often we don’t even realize we’re making them. As Alan Willett so nicely analogized at SEPGNA 2012:

“Most of us are like fish in the water – we don’t see the water.”

Just as ocean water is hard for the fish swimming in it to see, applications where 3D control (not just a 2D virtual touchscreen) is useful can be hard to see. Finding the killer apps for 3D interfaces will require questioning ourselves about assumptions we probably don’t even realize we’re making about how we interact with our computers.

3D spreadsheets FTW?

As an example, look at how we use spreadsheets to store and manipulate data. We are so accustomed to a 2D paradigm that thinking about navigating our row,column oriented spreadsheet tools with a 3D interface like Leap Motion seems silly. (At least, that’s what many of my colleagues said when I asked if or how a Leap controller could help them do their daily work on computers).

But what if 3D control became commonplace? What kinds of workbook tools could we have, and what new insights might we gain, if we could explore data cubes instead of sheets?

Look Ma, two hands

What sophisticated controls might be possible with two coordinated hands instead of one? In my experience this is very hard to do with devices, yet humans can learn to do things with two independent hands all the time, like playing the guitar. (Seriously, have you ever tried to use two joysticks or mice at once, one per hand? If you’ve ever gotten it to work, let me know! I’m not a hard-core gamer, but to me, it’s like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time.)

The holy grail for gestural control

A perfect storm for gestural controls would seem to be be combining all three benefits: to have touch-free, two-handed, 3D navigation. Now that I want to see – and do – someday soon.

Leap Motion and the Leap Motion logo are the trademarks of Leap Motion, Inc. and are used here by permission.

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Leaping around the world

My next adventure after Touchless app for Windows was flying through Google Earth with Leap Motion.

I quickly got GE configured for 3D control and, like everyone else, promptly had the earth spinning wildly! I also kept seeing the ‘dots’ on the screen from Touchless, along with GE’s unexplained fat and thin up/down and left/right arrows. After disabling Touchless from the system tray, the dots went away, but my control didn’t improve.

The support forum FAQ article showed two distinct user populations: those that loved flying around the world via Leaping, and those who found it frustrating. Videos seemed to help many people, so I visited the company’s channel (it had 13,741 subscribers as of my visit).

I found lots of videos, mostly 2 weeks to 2 months old. The initial promo video provided by the company for leaping with Google Earth was cool-looking, but only 29 seconds long, and pretty useless for helping someone learn how to fly like that: it was impossible to judge correct hand position relative to the controller because the controller wasn’t visible in the video. More promising was a playlist of 40 videos on how to #LeapInto Google Earth, plus some direct video links from the support forum.

Fortunately, it became clear that some early adopters who tried it out had started documenting. Julia’s #LeapInto Sweden was short but helpful. By far the most useful link I found for guidance on flying without spinning was Leap Motion – Google Earth instructions. This video showed correct hand orientation and control, and explained what the fat and skinny arrows meant and how to navigate.

With that start, within an hour I was able to navigate comfortably around the buildings of NC State Centennial Campus and around Raleigh. Relaunching it an hour later required a bit of re-learning, but I was soon able to fly around San Francisco and under the Golden Gate Bridge, just like another demo video showed. I spent another 30 min or so flying to Vatican City, Sweden, the Statue of Liberty, and some places I used to live in the US.

Now I actually feel comfortable enough to consider showing it at an internal technology demo tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear what people think!

Leap Motion and the Leap Motion logo are the trademarks of Leap Motion, Inc. and are used here by permission.

All other trademarks and registered marks are the property of their respective owners.

Leaping into Windows 7

Next adventure after Painting by Leaping: the Touchless app for Windows – can I wave at my laptop to scroll and click instead of using a mouse?

I found a developer video (based on v0.7.3) illustrating Visualizer and other functions on Windows 8, and another video which seemed to show using Touchless instead of keyboard and mouse on Windows 8. Great, but I have Windows 7.

One thing that perplexed me after installing my Leap Motion software was the appearance of a new “Flicks” system tray item. Microsoft’s “What are flicks?” article says flicks are for a pen or finger only. It seemed logical though that the ‘flicks’ conventions for navigation (e.g. upward flick to scroll down) would apply to the Leap Motion controller.

Today (August 8) I launched the Control Panel to try out the Visualizer and was prompted to download another update. I did so, then tried launching Touchless from Airspace. It threw up the User Account Control dialog, I granted permissions, then – nothing. It just stopped. I saw one brief popup from the system tray about a smudge and needing to clean the window of the controller. I did that, but still no dice.

Restarted just for fun and relaunched Airspace and the Touchless app. No apparent change – nothing happened when I moved my hands over the sensor. This time I looked for hidden system tray icons, and found a new one. It didn’t actually say “Touchless” – it just said “Interaction”. “Open Help Guide” launched IE8 (my default browser for corporate reasons) with the tutorial. It doesn’t run well in IE though. Switching to Chrome let me see the tutorial. Back in the system tray icon, I looked under the Interaction submenu and saw that it was “Disabled”. I changed it to “Basic” and now I was able to see fingers on screen. Yay!

One immediate observation: the mapping of gestures to monitor only works on the primary monitor – no obvious way to navigate or control apps on the second monitor that I use when my laptop is in its dock.

Next I tried practicing scrolls and clicks and zooms on the tutorial page in Chrome. Clicking in the vertical scroll bar worked. The scroll and zoom gestures didn’t. Tried a Word document and had trouble scrolling in that, although a light overlay of a mouse kept showing on screen. I had some luck “clicking” the mouse buttons, but that’s not really what the sensor is good for! The keyboard icon popped up sporadically too – it wasn’t clear what I was doing with my gestures to trigger it. I opened a PDF (saved earlier from the PC Magazine article “10 Best Apps for the Leap Motion Controller“) and had similar results trying to navigate in Reader.

I revisited the Support Forum at this point to look for clues. I found one topic on what to do if the error “Touch Emulation Driver Corrupt or missing” appeared. Well, I wasn’t seeing that error, but touch emulation certainly wasn’t right. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try the advice – manually installing MultiTouch from the Leap Motion directory. After a User Account Control dialog, I got a dialog for about 15 seconds saying “Installing, this could take a few minutes…” When it finished, I switched back to Reader, and now two-finger zooming worked. Yay!

All in all, some progress and some frustrations. I tend to work with multiple apps and windows open at once, and I frequently made accidental clicks on other windows on the screen. I clearly need practice – and will look for more crowd-sourced tips before I try it again.

For fun, I tried turning ‘flicks’ off from the system tray. It didn’t seem to affect behavior at all.

Next stop: world travel with Leap Motion and Google Earth (the 11th item listed in the PC Magazine article).

Leap Motion and the Leap Motion logo are the trademarks of Leap Motion, Inc. and are used here by permission.

Painting by leaping

Adding my first Airspace app

After getting started with my Leap Motion controller, I proceeded to ‘got’ the free Corel® Painter® Freestyle™ app. The prerequisites listed on the page looked OK, although the page warned that it would need 79mb and ‘more space might be needed’ for .NET 4.0; so this app will make an interesting test of whether .NET 4.5 would meet the dependency.

When I clicked “Get App”, the Airspace store page for Corel Painter® Freestyle™ prompted me for my password, then quickly switched to ‘Purchased’, and my computer got a bit sluggish. For a few minutes, I assumed the app was being downloaded in the background to my laptop.

I did something else for about 15 minutes, but my Airspace home page hadn’t yet refreshed to include a new app button, so it wasn’t clear what was going on. [Based on later experiences with app ‘purchases’, no apps seem to actually download until Airspace is refreshed by exiting and re-launching.] I tried exiting the Airspace page by File|Exit, to no effect. Closing it by clicking the X at top right worked, though.

On restarting Airspace from my desktop shortcut, it detected that my LM sensor wasn’t attached, and offered me the option of continuing with mouse only. Again, this feature probably originated as a convenience for development and testing, but leaving it in for customers is a sign of thoughtful error handling in the design of the software. I selected that option and continued.

My Airspace page now loaded with the 5 previous apps plus my new Painter Freestyle app which began “Downloading …” About 15 minutes later, the download had finished. This seemed quite slow, even given that the app needed about 150 mb for its application files. Then I got a new Dependency page that didn’t tell me exactly what was needed, only asked me to install the “Painter® Freestyle™ Dependencies”. I always like to know what’s inside those boxes before I install them – so for now, I didn’t.

Painting in Airspace

Once I got the Orientation app working (see next story), I was able to launch this app without any difficulty, and without installing any additional prerequisites. It launched pretty fast and ran well (unlike Cut-The-Rope, which still doesn’t run).

Actually painting something with the app clearly takes practice. On my first tries, I found it hard to move to the toolbar above the paint area (to choose a new brush or color) without unintentionally painting. This needs more trial time before I can ‘draw’ any conclusions.

Saving a Painting

Saving my crude paintwork as .RIF (the default) yielded a 2644kb file (for a 1280×800 canvas). Windows, of course, didn’t know how to open it from Explorer. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to open the file from the app and save it as .PNG without using the controller (.JPEG, .TIFF, and .PSD formats are also supported). The PNG file wasn’t much smaller, but saving the JPG as ‘good’ quality or 65% yielded a compact 181kb file; at 80% or ‘high’ quality, the file was 265kb.

I’m not much of a non-digital artist, so I don’t expect to be creating any masterpieces with the app. 🙂 Strictly for the curious, here’s a half-size image of the example:

First try at using Corel® Painter® Freestyle™ with the Leap Motion controller

First try at using Corel® Painter® Freestyle™ with Leap Motion

More adventures to follow …

  1. Leap Motion and the Leap Motion logo are the trademarks of Leap Motion, Inc. and are used here by permission.
  2. Corel®, Freestyle™, and Painter® are trademarks or registered trademarks of Corel Corporation and/or its subsidiaries in Canada, the United States and/or other countries.