By now you’ve likely heard about the mind-bleedingly sexist debacles at TechCrunch Disrupt. Perhaps you’ve even read about them over at the Hot Button.
I want to talk about the other hacks created at TechCrunch Disrupt that have been overshadowed by such juvenile nonsense. Alexandra Jordan, who is nine, presented a web site that she had co-created called Super Fun Kid Time. It organizes play dates for kids at the elementary and middle school levels, who don’t have tools like Facebook or Twitter to manage their social lives, but want to make organizing activities easier for their parents.
The description for the hack is incredible, and outlines an idea that is actually useful for families: “Kids go to SuperFunKidTime.com and register their parents or guardians who get an e-mail from which they can confirm the account. Once confirmed kids can log on and find their friends from school, and request play dates. If both kids agree on a play date ALL guardians of both kids get e-mails and texts to the contact point supplied in registration, including each others’ contact information.”
Though Alexandra had some help, her father, Richard Jordan, confirmed that she led everything on Super Fun Kid Time. “In case anyone’s wondering: The idea for the app, all Alex. Leading the design with a pro designer, Alex. Pitch script, Alex. She’s awesome,” he tweeted.
Among the 261 other hacks on the Disrupt wiki, there are many more demonstrating truly innovative ideas. There’s CareTen, an app facilitating direct feedback between patients and hospitals; Postcards for Change, a site that simplifies social change campaigns; Kovert, an incognito GPS app that lets people navigate without having their eyes glued to their phones; and EmotionLine, an app that listens to users’ days, tracks overall satisfaction, and helps them recall happy moments or move in new directions.
On the cool-but-not-majorly-disruptive side, there’s Newsly for voice-controlled news consumption; and Netflix Showdown, a Chrome extension that helps users decide what to watch on Netflix in under three minutes.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Few of these hacks made headlines.
The beauty of hackathons is the creativity their free-form structures inspire. The products that come out of them are entirely dependent on participants – good and bad. To write them (and even TechCrunch) off because of a few unchecked bros (which organizers probably could have never anticipated) discounts all the good work being done by others in the tech industry – and at Disrupt 2013 itself.
This isn’t to say there aren’t widespread problems in the tech industry. There are, from big ol’ corporations right down to startups – especially when it comes to inclusivity. Tech shares the same power and privilege issues found at all kinds of organizations, though it has spent a lot of time in the spotlight lately; and does seem to attract many people more self-interested than most.
I’m also not suggesting that we don’t talk about these issues or terrible presentations. I agree with Aron Solomon when he says: “We have to call out what we see and hear and, most importantly, feel in startup culture that’s just not acceptable. And it does actually need to be me and you and everyone who becomes the startup police.” If we want better communities, a better industry, and better products, these conversations have to be had.
But the other part of that is giving the spotlight to the great ideas coming out of tech, and letting the bad ideas and even “jokes”– ahem, Titstare – fall to the bottom. Events marketed as being innovative and disruptive should live up to the meanings of their buzzwords by establishing some basic guidelines and encouraging a wide variety of participants.
If we encourage and cover more Alexandra Jordans, better work and better representations of tech will rise to the top. Don’t you think it’s about time?