Oh hey, I haven’t blogged here in a month.  Why?  Because I’ve been way too busy with life!  To catch you up, here’s an Executive Summary of Exciting Things that are in my line of sight right now:

Social Media

by Harper Wray

Genderfork

I recently added a form that lets people tell me whatever’s on their mind about gender anonymously. Dozens of people pounced on it, and my little blog curation brain exploded.   We’ve now got an active talkative community, a constant feed of brilliant thoughts, an influx of new profiles, and a really nifty twitter stream.  I have a thousand things to say about all this — on anonymity and gender consciousness — but I’m still trying to collect my thoughts.

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Boffery

We showed up in Forbes.com, the Village Voice, a Fox News late show, and — somehow — Italy. A thousand people are knocking on our doors for beta invites right now, and we’re working our asses off to get the site into shape.  We’re also thrilled about bigger questions that this buzz has brought up in the communities around us: How do we currently talk about sexuality with our trusted friends, and where we want to take that conversation from here?

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Ventana

Cerado Ventana is evolving like crazy into something of endless potential.  BlogHer’s using it to make search widgets (so gorgeous!), Social Media Club is passing it around as a member directory, and, yes, we even got Barack Obama on board (well, okay, not him personally, but still). Inside scoop: we’re working on a new major iteration of the system which should be live within a month.  Expect another major influx of useful widgets and customizable iphone apps as soon as I can set that free.

Art

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Can I Sit With You, Too?

Hey, guess what? I’m in a book!  And the book happens to be fantastic — it’s full of stories of social awkardness in the grade school social scene… stories that are so absurd you know they have to be true.  Mine’s called “Will you go out me?”  (yep — i’m telling that one).  The proceeds benefit a special needs program that directly takes care of some of my favorite bloggers’ kids, so it’s extra-worth the cover price.  Go buy it. You’ll love it.  Swear.

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Mosaics not Mortagages

This one’s not mine, but it’s something I want you to know about.  My good friend, artist John T. Unger, is using the recession as a reason to get more creative.  He’s been designing his dream studio for about a decade and is finally ready to build it, but now can’t get a loan because the banks are too screwed up with the economy.  So instead, he’s selling gorgeous high-end custom mosaics to raise the funds.  If you know anyone who’d be interested in this shinyshiny art, please send them John’s way.

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Queer Open Mic

Hey hey hey — Queer Open Mic is THIS FRIDAY! Come play!  We went underground for a little while due to a loss of venue, but now we’re back and better than ever at Modern Times Bookstore (it’s perfect!). This Friday, we’re featuring Aimee Suzara, who rocks my socks. Sign-ups are at 7pm and show’s at 7:30. See you there!

Life

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::Stupid Grin::

I accidentally fell in love… but that’s all I’m gonna say about it… unless you get me out for dinner… in which case I’ll tell you everything.

I have really exciting news for you (if you haven’t already heard me bragging like crazy about it): I’m the new co-host of San Francisco’s Queer Open Mic!  This is an incredible opportunity for me to give back to something that’s been deeply special in my life for a long time.

The Queer Open Mic has been my creative home for the last year and a half — I go religiously, I love the atmosphere, and I love the people.  Cindy Emch — the open mic’s founder (and the host who’s handing the reigns over to me) — worked her butt off to create a space that felt safe for poets, prose writers, comedians, singer-songwriters, and other artists who fell anywhere along the gender and sexuality spectrums to share their work with one another — even when it wasn’t perfect.  The result was always rich show of ecclectic work that felt deeply personal, creative, inspiring, and generous.

Can you tell I’m in love with this venue?

Oh, and let me tell you about the features!  At every show, there’s a feature performer who takes up about 20 minutes in the middle of the show, and they always knock my socks off. Sometimes it’s a local hero, sometimes it’s a kick-ass artist on tour from another state, and sometimes it’s a bright and shiny Queer Open Mic regular who’s doing their first-ever feature performance.  No matter how you slice it, the show is always intense and beautiful.

by Terrence Taylor, http://flickr.com/photos/fivestar/2035033862/But enough of my gushing, let’s jump to the details.  My first show as co-host is next week and I want you to be there.  To make sure you have plenty of reason to clear your calendars, I’ve booked one of my favorite people on earth — a soulful, funny, kinky, creative, and drop-dead adorable singer-songwriter named Fivestar.

Allow me to introduce you.  Fivestar writes…

I’m originally from South Texas and have been making trouble in the Bay Area for 6 years.  When I’m not working with video and the web, you can find me riding my bike, exploring the fabulousness of this city and making music.  Music has been an emotional outlet for me as far back as i can remember.  I’ve been writing music for ten years for the sole purpose of dealing with heartaches and joys.  Aside from a few past public performances, I mostly sing for my friends.  I started performing Queer Open Mic a few months ago and am excited to find more people to share my passion with.   Thank you!

Visit http://www.iamfivestar.com or http://twitter.com/iamfivestar for more.

The show will be followed by a table full ‘o beer at Zeitgeist (an outdoor bar filled with picnic tables and attractive hipsters) to celebrate Fivestar’s performance, my new role as co-host, and the fact that my best friend from high school just moved to San Francisco (it’s about time, girl!). So even if you can’t make it to the show, you should come out and share a pitcher with us there.

Are you in yet?  Here are the details…

What: Queer Open Mic, featuring Fivestar (and Sarah Dopp’s first night as co-host!!)
When: July 11, 8-10pm (sign-ups start at 7:30), followed by beer at Zeitgeist
Where: The Three Dollar Bill Cafe, San Francisco’s LGBT Center (1800 Market St.)

About the Queer Open Mic
Queer Open Mic is a twice monthly gathering of poets, performers, writers and artists of all types to come together and share art. Proto-feminist and genderqueer in scope, QOM aims to combine raunchy enthusiasm, warmth and community, unapologetic queer, radical politics and sweet rhythms to create a space for spoken word, poetry and performance that is multi cultural, multi gendered, completely inclusive and dynamic. QOM is hosted by Sarah Dopp and Mollena Williams. Please show up around 7:30pm to sign up on the open mic list. You’re encouraged to read one piece of work that is five minutes or less. And by encouraged we mean threatened with spankings, shoe throwings and general hilarious tantrums if you don’t follow the rules.

Okay, here’s the plan:

Everyone in the Bay Area who’s paying attention right now, please do the following (even if you’re in a monogamous relationship)…

  1. Go to CrazyBlindDate.com.
  2. Walk through the SF Bay Area site wizard (it doesn’t ask for any personal info until the end)
  3. Make yourself available for Sunday, Monday, and/or Tuesday nights (the more the better).
  4. Make your territory as broad as you feel comfortable with, but at least include San Francisco’s Mission District (you can get there. i know you can).
  5. Make yourself available for all ages and genders with no other restrictions (come on! you can deal with this! okay, specify gender IF YOU MUST).
  6. Use the “Intention” box to be honest about the fact that you’re just doing this for fun and to meet new people. (You should probably mention that monogamous relationship of yours, too.)
  7. Finish the wizard, sit back, and see who it sets you up with (you can always say “no”).
  8. Show up (even if it seems really really weird. You’re totally allowed to bail after 20 minutes).
  9. Twitter an update about your date every time you or your date goes to the restroom (keeping in mind that your date might see those tweets).

You’ve got nothing to lose except your pride, and that’s really not worth keeping anyway. Ready? Go.

It started with a conversation about dating. I tried define my dating class to a friend, and quickly came up with a string of words that sortakinda summed it all up: intelligent independent creative queer professional. This class includes me, and I had to acknowledge that we’re sometimes hard to date.

Another friend-in-this-category, sfslim, quickly noted that we’re also a hard class to find. I decided to take this as a challenge, and put out the following request to the Internet:

quick poll: would all the self-identifying “intelligent indie creative queer professionals” pls raise their hand via @ reply, dm, or email? May 19, 2008

I wasn’t really expecting the results. So far, over the course of a day, 25 people have raised their hands. They’ve come through public replies, private direct messages, email, facebook messages, and IM. More than a quarter of them have come from strangers. A handful of them have been unsure if they really fit, so let me describe what I’m talking about here:

Intelligent – Do you notice change? Are you witty? Do you see patterns in what’s going on around you? Do you critically analyze the opinions that come your way and consciously decide which ones to accept? Can you usually find the information you’re looking for on the Internet?

Independent – (I didn’t really mean indie in the label-free musician sense. I was just working with limited character space.) Do you insist on keeping a flexible schedule? Do you create interesting projects to work on? Do you define yourself by your skills and passions instead of by the name of your workplace? Do you enjoy time alone? Do you (at least try to) examine any sentence that includes the word “should” to make sure it’s right for you before accepting it?

Creative – Do you come up with new ideas when you’re in the shower or taking a walk? Do you have a form of self-expression that feels satisfying and allows you to be playful? Do you enjoy brainstorming? Do you like to make things better? Do you value the time you spend thinking and experimenting? Do you believe your perspective matters?

Queer – Does your gender or sexuality just not quite fit the traditional binary categories (man or woman; straight or gay)? Do you feel excited when you see people playing with or challenging those traditional roles? Are you hopeful that things are shifting in a direction that will better encourage you to be yourself? (This category is big and complicated, and I’m not gonna get into its subtleties here. You pretty much get belong as soon as you say you do… even if you’re not fond of the word.)

Professional – Do you make (at least some of) your living doing things you’re personally passionate about? Did you intentionally choose your line of work? Do you bring unique value to your work? Do you feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for your career path? Do you have a strong sense of personal integrity about your work?

These descriptions are my own perspectives, and none of these categories have clear boundaries to them. To me, this combination of traits is gold, and I want to know as many “identity revolutionaries” (to use sfslim’s term) as possible who share them.

I’m not putting out a call for people to date (although, hey, if the shoe fits…). I’m putting out a call for community. Rally up, folks! Tell me where you are! I believe we’re more powerful when we’re connected, and I know we each have a lot of work to do.

As a side note, to answer a question someone asked: No, I’m not going to publish this list anywhere. Many people are raising their hands privately, and it’s not my place to share their identities, even with each other. I believe you have the right to tell and curate your own story.

If you’re part of this fantastic class of people (which I’m now just calling the IICQP folks) and haven’t already raised your hand, please do so. Leave me a comment, send me an email, shoot me a twitter reply, find me on facebook… whatever you prefer.

Just raise your hand.

Edit: As of 9pm 5/20/08, the total number of hand-raisers is 41. Hot damn, people! I love you guys!

Edit: It’s June 9th, and we’re totally up to 53, oh-yes-we-are.

sarah-on-engage2.jpgAs promised, I hit the Engage.com-sponsored Love 2.0 party last night and asserted my peaceful protests about their website’s rigid category structure. I met the CEO, the Project Manager, the Front End Developer, and the Art Director. They were all very friendly and tolerant toward the tall queer trouble-maker in the black wig, and I was impressed with how amenable they were to my concerns about their dating service.

The question was: Why can’t I be bisexual on your website?

The answers were along these lines (with my reactions in italics)…

  • That was a database decision. We made it possible for you to be straight or gay, but bisexuality requires searching the entire database, and that’s a big load on the servers.
    • Good news! Enterprise-level databases and servers are capable of handling full searches now! Really…
  • You can! You’re free to switch back and forth! You can be one way one week and another the next!
    • That’s great that you allow people to be fluid about their identities (really, that’s important, and i’m glad you’re doing it). But I’m not excited about dividing my time into “straight weeks” and “gay weeks.” I want to represent myself on your site consistently and honestly, and not have to make a decision on which group of people is allowed to court me at a time.
  • We thought about it, and we’d still like to do it, but it’s just going to require so much code to make it work. It’s very complicated.
    • I hear ya. It’s hard. That’s rough. I believe in you, though. You can do whatever you want to do. You have the tools.
  • It’s a matter of release dates and product management. We’ve got so much going on, and we’re working on making the site better all the time. We just haven’t been able to get that piece in place.
    • I totally understand. I’m a project manager myself. I know this stuff gets messy. You can’t get it all done at once. So… are you working on it?
  • I agree, it’s important, and we want to be the kind of site that welcomes everybody. We should have that done by the end of the year, and we hope you’ll come back when the site is more open.
    • Fantastic! Thanks! I’ll keep an eye out for the changes! It’s been great talking to you. I look forward to becoming your biggest fan.

engage-1.jpgSeriously, they’ve been really good about this. I’ve had several follow up email exchanges with the people I met at the party, scheming what an ideal site could function like, and discussing the pros and cons of organizational styles. Their VP also responded to my original email, stating she agrees with my point and that they would do their best to get it right.

I’m excited about Engage because they’re merging new ideas about connections with models people are already comfortable with. By the way they’ve responded to my noise, I can tell they sincerely care about making their community happy. They’ve just got some growing to do.

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I love Seth Godin’s post today on Workaholics:

A workaholic lives on fear. It’s fear that drives him to show up all the time. The best defense, apparently, is a good attendance record.

A new class of jobs (and workers) is creating a different sort of worker, though. This is the person who works out of passion and curiosity, not fear.

The passionate worker doesn’t show up because she’s afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it’s a hobby that pays. The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation… because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour. The passionate worker tweaks a site design after dinner because, hey, it’s a lot more fun than watching TV.

I have been trying for years to explain this to friends and family: why I’d rather build a website than read a book or watch TV.

“What do you for fun?”

“I work!”

“No, seriously…”

“No. Seriously.”

I’m not gonna say that I always get it right — the balance between work and self-care — but I will say that it’s an absolute gift to be living in a world where I get paid to do what I already do for fun, and where “going to work” and “doing my hobby” are often the exact same thing.

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Some people rely entirely on prayer. I find that prayer yields better results when I augment it with social media. Here was my recent cry to the Universe (made through a friends-only social networking website):

“I need to buy a car right now and I don’t know where to start. I haven’t owned a car in three years! I want something reliable that will run forever and gets good gas mileage. I don’t want to spend a lot and I’ve never bought a car without help before. Um… crap!”

The suggestions started rolling in. Honda Civic. Toyota Corolla. Vehix.com. Cars.com. Carfax.com. Kelly Blue Book. Names of trusted mechanics. Tips on finding the right insurance agency. Info about smog checks and DVM registrations. Reminders that rush hour traffic is sometimes slower than Caltrain. Reminders that I don’t have to do anything without help, ever, if I don’t want to.

This sent me in the right direction for research, and I quickly narrowed down my focus to exactly what I wanted: a 2000-2004 manual transmission 4-door Toyota Corolla with power locks/windows and in a dark color, somewhere local. Excellent. That was easy.

But then I scoured the listings and couldn’t find one. Well, that’s not true — I did find one, but it was at a really sketchy-looking small used car dealership with a disturbingly bad website. The car went crashing off my radar when I saw the dealer’s horrible “About Us” photo. Um, no.

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[This photo is a direct lift from the website. I did not reduce its quality for dramatic effect.]

I went back to my social networks to tell them my tale of woe, and they agreed that the man behind the desk was not to be trusted. Peanut gallery quotes included: “where’s his computer? this is well into the 21st century; every work desk should have a computer at it,” and “The picture looks like he’s finalizing plans to take over the world… from his computer-less desk. Haha! ‘You’re right, Skeletor, it will be as easy as taking candy from a baby! Mu-hahahaaaa!’

Meanwhile, I was decompressing on Twitter, feeling discouraged about the process and getting a lil’ bit silly in my musings. The twitterpaters cheered me up with hedonistic influence and emotional support. I remembered that I was shopping with an army behind me. They had my back.

And then, something magical happened. A friend who had been watching my prayers sent me a link to My Dream Car, being auctioned on eBay Motors from a dealership just south of San Jose. The “Buy Now” price was exactly my budget and exactly the value on Kelly Blue Book. I tried to brush it off as “too far away,” but then another friend offered to drive me there.

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Frantically, I asked the Universe for tips on buying from dealers, and it filled my head with suggestions. Then I researched the vehicle history report on Carfax (completely clean) and looked up everything I could find out about the dealership. 400 people on eBay told me they were wonderful to do business with. That’s social media shopping for ya.

I showed up and walked straight to the car. The receptionist quickly tossed me the keys and let me take it for a test drive. It was just as delicious as I hoped it would be. The saleswoman showed up and asked how I was doing. I said, “I like this car. Can I buy it from you?”

She smiled and said, “Yes.”

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I’m meeting Surfer Dude in just over an hour. Reality is starting to sink in. This has the potential to be very strange.

(Fortunately, I’m still mostly entertained by the whole thing.)

Watch twitter — hopefully i’ll be able to send smoke signals from the ladies’ room!

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I usually try to keep my love life out of the public blogosphere, but this story just needs to be told. I have a date tomorrow night with a guy who is six feet tall and looks like a surfer dude. He enjoys talking about movies, society, philosophy, and politics, and is looking for someone mature and responsible. Sometimes he can get bored easily. Sometimes he smokes. He’s white, he’s college educated, and his religious beliefs are “Other.”

Crazy Blind Date - BetaI also know his first name and his age, and that’s about it. We’re meeting at 7pm at a bar in San Francisco. And no, a friend didn’t set us up… unless you want to call CrazyBlindDate.com a “friend”…

CrazyBlindDate.com was started by the folks who brought us OkCupid — the free social networking / test-taking / dating site that’s given the pay sites like Match.com and eHarmony a run for their money. And so far, I’m impressed.

The premise is simple: you tell them a few things about yourself, who you’re looking to meet, where you’re willing to travel, and when you’re willing to do that. Meanwhile, other people are on the site doing the same thing. The Internet Brain lines you up, makes a match where requirements coincide, and asks both parties to confirm the date after showing basic information about the other person. This includes very blurry pictures of each other, as a teaser. Once you say yes, you’re committed to it.

CBD - Blurry Pic

Thirty minutes before the date, they open a phone relay so that you can send text messages to each other via CrazyBlindDate’s central number (you don’t actually get to see the other person’s phone number). This helps with the “spotting each other in a crowded bar” issue. Once you find each other, you’re on your own. Then, after the date, you provide feedback for each other on the site. This helps in coordinating and verifying future crazy blind dates.

Blind dates are inherently sketchy-sounding. Blind dates without mutual friends involved, even more so. That’s why I’m excited about this site: they’re taking something that has massive screw-up potential, and handling it well.

My favorite thing about the site is that it stays focused. When you get there, they don’t start by asking for your login info; they start by asking what city you’d like to go on a date in (sorry — it’s only active for Austin, Boston, NYC, and SF Bay right now). They then walk you through a full dating wizard, convince you that yes, this really could work, and get you emotionally invested in the process. THEN, at the end, after you’ve already checked your schedule to make sure you can have a date tomorrow night, they suggest signing up to actually make it happen. It’s clean, friendly, American-buddy-style language that sets an encouraging tone and asserts some basic etiquette. There’s nothing extraneous thrown in to distract. Not even any ads. And the service is free.

Since the site is pretty new, it’s not overrun with a massive dating pool yet, and finding specific kinds of people at specific times can be hard. I didn’t specify age, gender, or any other personal details. I also set my region to cover most of San Francisco, and I listed wide time slots. That seemed to do it.

What does Surfer Dude know about me? He knows that I have a shaved head, I like to talk about technology and poetry, I’m really just testing out this website, and I’m not planning on sleeping with him (let’s just get that out of the way now!).

CBD- Status

The rest will come out over a beer tomorrow night.

Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it.

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You may have noticed that my last post was about having a full plate. You may have also noticed that my last post was nearly three weeks ago. These are not coincidental. They are quite related.

But while I have a few free moments on “Indigenous People’s Day” (or “Columbus Day,” if you live in a less rebelliously liberal part of the United States), I’d like to give a quick summary of my recent technodrama and its unexpected happy endings.

First, Gmail. I posted awhile ago about getting locked out of my gmail account. Fortunately, I received some very valuable feedback from a reader who has now become a very valuable friend to me (yay for broken tools creating new connections!) and was creatively persistent with Google. Forty-two days after the incident, I finally received an apology from them, along with instructions on how to now access to my account. My Gmail account is alive again! The irony is that I had forty days and forty nights to completely detach from it and pronounce it dead. It feels sort of like a zombie now. (A zombie that wants to eat my brains.)

Second, the Treo. Have I told you about the physical health of my beloved Palm-driven cell phone? Let me put it this way: every single person on my web development team has been threatening for more than six months now to steal it from me and destroy it so I will be forced to get a new one.

More specifically, the antennae is held on by a paperclip. That paperclip is held on by green electrical tape. The earpiece has broken off. The holder for the stylus is so loosened that I’ve now lost three of them and have given up on carrying one. The front face plate has separated from the back of the machine and is being held on by a single loose screw (and the paperclipped antennae, when it happens to be attached). The RAM is so overloaded that it takes 5-10 seconds to load the dialing screen when I’m ready to make a phone call.

BUT IT WORKS FINE! I DON’T SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS IS ABOUT!

The laughable part is that I’m paying for full insurance on the machine (which is all of $6 a month), and I could have claimed it for repairs or replacement a long time ago, given its condition… even without my coworkers first stealing it from me and throwing it into the bay.

The camel’s back broke yesterday, though, when I dropped the machine on the pavement and cracked the front face plate. Now it took four fingers clutching the machine from three different sides to hold its pieces together well enough to get a signal. It still worked — no, really, IT STILL WORKED! — but okay, yeah, it was probably time to take advantage of the insurance.

This morning, I did a final hot-sync with my computer to back up the data… which turned out to be quite an undertaking because the hot-sync port is mostly broken, too. The task required propping the machine halfway up on the edge of a notebook and weighting down the cradle port with a pair of heavy metal scissors, stepping back, and holding my breath for ten minutes, praying that the precarious sculpture wouldn’t move before the sync was complete. It took a few tries to get it right.

Then I walked into the Sprint Repair Center at 4th and Folsom, slapped my busted Treo down on the counter, and announced, “My Treo is exploding in on itself and eating its own brain. I have insurance. What are my options?” The man ran some diagnostics (which amounted to dismantling the tape and paper clip and watching it fall apart in his hands like some kind of gag gift), and returned with a concerned look on his face.

“We can’t repair this for you,” he said apologetically.

“Oh,” I said with disappointment. “But I have insurance…”

He interrupted me. “We’ll have to replace it for you.”

“I am TOTALLY OKAY with you replacing it for me,” I reassured him. “COMPLETELY FINE WITH IT. But, um, how long will it take? Do I need to go without a phone for a few days?”

He pulled out a new Treo and handed it to me. It was already connected to my phone number. “Here you go,” he said.

“That’s it? I don’t need to sign anything? Or pay a deductible?”

“Nope. That’s it. If you’d like, you can wait ten minutes and I’ll transfer your contacts.”

“No, that’s fine, I have it synced on my computer,” I said.

And I ran home gleefully, laughing and skipping in puddles and dreaming about all the beautiful ways this new phone will fall apart on me over the next year.

Ah, beginnings!