I’ve separately described the diversity problem of not having enough women & minorities (and for that matter, not enough people in general!) in computer science. I’ve also described some of the factors that reduce the number of people entering CS, and what general form solutions must take.
I especially believe that stereotypes are getting in our way. Stereotypes in our society say that computers are for white male nerds who naturally feel an affinity for those computers. Anyone else – minorities, females, and even white males who don’t self-identify as nerds – has absorbed a message that this isn’t natural for them. Solutions to ensure that women and minorities feel they can succeed, MUST include breaking down our societal stereotypes. We also need to get more role models into the public eye.
When our media repeats this trope of white male computer nerds time and time again, we absorb it and it becomes part of our internal biases. Cultural norms tend to be self-reinforcing because the media is naturally inclined to produce content consistent with their audience’s expectations. And the media is not necessarily good at measuring how much market opportunity exists outside accepted cultural norms. So, the only way to change “the media” is to take matters into your own hands: start delivering your own independent stories, building a community of supporters, and demonstrating that the new content has marketable value.
So, what am I building?
I have a plan for an action-packed novel, starring young adults, who literally save the world through software. These characters don’t fit the mold of the stereotypical software developer. The story is compelling, exciting, and relevant to our present-day lives.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot at this point, but here are some teasers.
- Imagine that software companies start trying to increase their talent pool, by running free schools. Low income students/orphans would benefit.
- It is set in the near future. Imagine what might be going on with our transportation system. And what kind of mischief hackers can cause. Or an AI.
I want all young adults who read the novel to picture themselves in software careers… Without really realizing it. So it has to be a world-class rip-roaring thriller and just happen to change our perceptions along the way.
Current status: Rather than maintain specific details at this location, I’ve opted to keep all status on Kickstarter. You can find details on current state here: Kickstarter project status.
The goal: It is my goal not only to write a world-class novel that anybody can enjoy, but also to market it well enough that its popularity rivals that of the Hunger Games. Yes, I have lofty goals. But I’m not doing it to earn money: I’m doing it to get more students, especially women & minorities, into computer science. All proceeds from eventual publication of the novel and its derivatives will be donated to causes that support bringing more women and minorities into computer science, like Girls Who Code, code.org, and TEALS.
Here is the framework of my plan:
- I thought up a plot and characters, and spent a lot of the down-time during a 2-week vacation this past summer writing up my ideas.
- I hired a ghostwriter to turn my ideas into reality. Not only will she do a much better job than I would have, she’ll do it much faster.
- I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the ghostwriting. Ghostwriting a novel of this length costs between $35-45K; I raised $40K. Minus KS fees and taxes that’ll be about $35K.
- I also still have a site up to accept pre-orders of the book.
- To be honest, both the KS campaign and the Celery pre-orders exist more for building a community and spreading the word than about raising money. I’m doing what I can to continue that community-building effort while the book is being written, including building up this site.
- Once the book is written, I want to publish it through traditional channels if possible. That’ll involve catching the eye of an agent who can get it in at a publisher. I’ll self-publish if I have to, but I want the widest possible audience.
- If spending money can improve my chances of publishing the novel, or help me expand the audience who reads it, I’ll build a plan for how I’d spend money, and approach Microsoft (and perhaps other tech companies) asking for it! For example, I may need to go to marketing events, book signings, etc.
- It may improve my chances of traditional publishing if I have at least a plan for novels 2 and 3, so I am working on those ideas now.
- … After the bestselling novel becomes a box-office hit movie, zillions of people will enter CS and I win. Right? 🙂 Well I can dream. I do have a friend who wants to help me produce an indie movie, if it comes down to it.