Why non-English Language Options Online Matter (or: A Bilingual Culture Nerd Walked into AlterConf)

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at AlterConf, a traveling conference centered upon matters of diversity and inclusion, mainly in the tech and gaming spaces. My topic, “Opening the Internet: Looking Beyond English Dominance”, was my first ever submission of this kind and I’m grateful to the organizers for the chance. I’ve said words to a room, taught, and given presentations at school, but hadn’t presented a talk like this before. My perspective on the matter was coming more from my interest in culture, my own background in social science, as well as experience as a bilingual person, than a strictly tech basis. Yet, even while being about tech central to many of our lives, it went beyond that.

Technology is a series of tools, but we must center people in ways that we don’t always do right now. With so much creativity and the speed at which we come up with new options, sometimes we need to step back and make sure they work for as many people as possible. And if they don’t right off, have solid plans for that accessibility to come.

My conference experience was a positive one, and the day was filled with informative and even inspiring talks from different voices.

I’d like to thank my friend who shared her story with me to use, and to those who told me that this topic opened their eyes to why these options matter in our connected world. I’m looking forward to exploring these matters further. Stay tuned.

Please enjoy more talks from AlterConf NYC 2016 and from previous events at the AlterConf YouTube channel.

How the Mafia Saved Christmas

Over a casual conversation about our respective tree decorating the other day, my mom casually mentioned that the mafia was responsible for our Christmas one year. The…mafia?

Ariel Christmas ornament

Ariel ornament on my Christmas tree this year.

The owner of the local lunch counter in Brooklyn, which was apparently frequented by a few mob-connected gentlemen, had mentioned our situation to them. We were poor, since my mom has been on disability since I was little. Christmas was often hard, and while my grandparents always invited us to dinner and often had at least a few gifts, we still had to make do on our own. My mom struggled to keep us fed, clothed, and with the necessities on an everyday basis. Sometimes that didn’t happen.

I had no memories of any of this when she mentioned it, but when Mom spoke about the tree in our then-shared bedroom, which I got all to myself around age nine, it triggered a hazy puff of remembrance. How we slept every night in December with the smell of fresh pine in the air, and how we hated having to get rid of it. That tree sat between our beds in the center of the room, lit and festive. The mob guys were also responsible for a few small gifts under our tree.

While I don’t condone the actions of the mob, they did arrange that Christmas for my mother and I. A very unusual year. It’s things like this that make me think about the other side of people that do terrible things.