Aleen Mean

Computer <3

I’m of an age where I can remember my first encounter with a computer. I was still small enough that I could go into work with my mom and take naps under her desk, maybe three or four years old. One day, Mom showed me the monitor of a computer. I don’t remember much, just a few pixelated cars on a color screen, but I was absolutely transfixed.

And that’s just where it started: I remember Mom explaining to me that the computer someone donated to a preschool wouldn’t run any programs because there were no disks for the machine (whatever that meant), amber text against black backgrounds, and typing in random gibberish because I didn’t quite have a grasp on sentence composition. I remember sitting at the computer learning the alphabet in my kindergarten classroom in lieu of going to the crafts table, playing Where in the World is Carmen San Diego and Number Munchers in computer class when I was older, and the sound of dot matrix printers making Print Shop creations come to life. I remember having to stay inside from recess when I got sick in the winter and playing Oregon Trail on the green-screened classroom computer.

I remember the computer Mom’s employer let her bring home so that she could work (a Macintosh Classic or Classic II) and how much my cat, Princess, loved the fireworks screensaver. I remember when that computer went away and was replaced by 100-series PowerBook and how magical it was to have access to a computer that could sit on my lap. I remember the first time I changed a font in a word processing program and the novelty of printing to a page that wasn’t attached to hundreds of other pages.

I remember the first time I was able to access the Internet, during a summertime computer class I took with a friend in a town over an hour away. I learned about search engines (AltaVista, thankyouverymuch) and felt overwhelmed by the enormity of possibility.

I remember our first computer, the one that wasn’t one of the few perks of Mom’s job as an educator. It was just before I graduated from the 8th grade and we put a call into Gateway for a quote. For whatever reason, they built and sent the computer to us even though Mom made it clear that she wasn’t planning on ordering that day. Computers were expensive and Mom didn’t want to keep it, but it ended up staying in our house. After a while, we found an Internet service provider and I was busy keeping our only phone line occupied, miscounting the number of minutes I was dialed in, talking in chat rooms, and teaching myself HTML. I spent my 16th birthday on the phone with Gateway tech support after I’d managed to install a particularly persistent virus (and learned a valuable lesson about opening files from strangers) and quickly learned the value of reformatting my computer’s hard drive.

While computers haven’t been ubiquitous my entire life, many of my memories are tied to them. I was so fortunate to have a mom who told me, from an early age, that I should absolutely grow up to work with computers. In some ways I think I was lucky to have few friends, as it was harder for society to tell me that I shouldn’t pursue a career in technology because of my gender.

Because the fact of the matter is that the toxic background message for girls is that they aren’t suited for technical careers. We show them princess movies where women have to be rescued, give them dolls to mother, and encourage them to be quiet and demure. To make matters worse, even though women were the first programmers, there aren’t a lot of female role models in tech nowadays. In the movies and on TV, computer programmers are almost always unkempt dudes, not inquisitive women who come up with the improbable solution at the last second.

This is why I’m such a ardent supporter of App Camp for Girls, a program that shows girls entering the 8th and 9th grades that programming is a fun way to bring their thoughts and ideas to life. It teaches them that they are capable of writing code when so often they’re told that doing so is not for them. Most importantly, App Camp for Girls shows these kids that they are not alone. I always felt weird because of my interest in computers but many, many other girls shared my fascination; I just didn’t know any of them.

Yesterday, the App Camp for Girls 3.0 Indiegogo campaign hit its halfway point. We’re trying to raise just under $50,000 more, which will mean that more camps can start in more places. If you can spare some money, please consider donating to help us reach our goal. I know it’s overused, but every little bit helps. Don’t have an extra buck or two? That’s okay! You can still have an impact. My friend Virginia Roberts wrote an excellent blog post with ideas of ways you can support both the women volunteering and the girls participating in camps.

I’m so happy to be a part of such an amazing organization as well as the larger Apple community. Technology is nothing short of the combination of magic and science, and it’s only going to get more magical as it becomes more inclusive. This is just the start of amazing things.

WWDC 2015

It’s my habit to trail after Justin when we’re in crowds. He’s tall and looks intimidating, so the sea of bodies tends to part as he makes his way through. This means that I don’t have to think about the crush of people as we walk and it frees me up to people watch, which is one of my favorite things to do.

In 2011, things were no different. As he made his way to the correct area of Moscone West to register for Apple’s Word Wide Developer Conference, I looked around and noticed that there were alarmingly few women in the mass of people. I vowed then and there that I would attend the event someday.

This year, I had my chance. Apple partnered with over 20 organizations dedicated to helping increase diversity in tech to offer scholarships to their members and alumni. Because of my involvement with App Camp for Girls, I was eligible for one even though I’m not a developer and I don’t really have any experience programming in Objective-C or Swift. In order to apply, I had to write an app about myself and submit it. I did so in less than two weeks.

And I won one of 350 scholarships, which was truly not what I expected.

I’ve used the word surreal to talk about my week as a WWDC attendee over and over again, but it’s the best I can come up with. Instead of Justin, I was the one rolling out of bed to attend sessions and meet people I’d heretofore known only online. After years of watching them online, I sat in the same room as a keynote.

I even got a horrific selfie with Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at the WWDC Bash.

There were so many non-conference things to do: parties, fundraisers, wandering the town looking for late-night milkshakes (Mel’s was always there for us)….

I spoke at AltConf to help people learn how to make tech more welcoming for everyone and appeared on a panel with Brianna Wu of Giant Spacekat and Jean MacDonald, founder of App Camp for Girls.

I even got access to the 1Password for iOS source code and made a few minor changes that’ll be released in the next update.

Diversity was a hot topic this year. Formality varied from Christina Warren’s exclusive interview with Tim Cook to my AltConf talk to conversations around town. While there were more women in attendance this year than in 2011 there were still very few of us, and I saw a whole lot of white people while wandering the halls.

A beautifully staged picture was posted to Tim Cook’s Twitter account on Monday, but it was hardly representative of the gender breakdown of scholarship recipients. I stopped going to to the scholarship lounge because it was full of teenaged boys and I felt like a complete creeper sitting in there. Girls were definitely awarded scholarships, but the disparity in numbers was pronounced.

I’m optimistic, though. In the four years since I set my goal to attend the conference, gender diversity at WWDC has increased noticeably. Awareness is even greater now, and amazing programs like App Camp for Girls will only increase the number of young women applying for scholarships and pursuing development careers. I think we’ll continue to notice a difference on that front. Over the next year, I’d really like to see the conversation shift toward including people of color more so that they can also see increased representation in technical spaces.

I’m truly excited to see where we will all be next June, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams. My thanks to Apple and its employees, who I know worked hard to make the event memorable for us all.

New Apple

When the WWDC keynote started with a video from Bill Hader, I tweeted, “This is a new Apple.

Today, Phil Schiller took the stage with John Gruber at The Talk Show live. I don’t think this is something that would have happened even a year or two ago.

Steve Jobs was all about products, design, and experiences. It obviously served Apple well, but I think things are starting to shift as Tim Cook really falls into his role as the new leader of the company. It’s been long enough now that those who believed Apple would be doomed under his watch are no longer of any import–clearly the company is alive and well.

In the last year, Tim (can I call him Tim?) has done more to put a human face on the company than Steve Jobs ever did. Last year, he ended years of speculation about his sexuality with a wonderfully written article in Bloomberg. He’s talked about his commitment to increasing diversity in technical spaces. Just a few days ago, he stated that the dearth of diversity in the tech community was one that we created ourselves. Apple is taking steps to improve that (I’m attending WWDC on a scholarship because of my involvement with App Camp for Girls), and yesterday’s keynote had female engineers on stage for the first time since 2007.

I believe that we’ll look back on Tim Cook’s time at Apple and see how it became about people and not about things.

I’m excited to be a small part of this, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.


I wasn’t going to do it. The day before we stopped in Belize and spent hours traveling to and exploring Mayan ruins. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours in close to a week, and I wanted to take full advantage of a day at port to get some much needed rest.

As is so often the case, sleep proved elusive and I headed to the coffee shop much earlier than I’d planned to. So early, in fact, that I met some of my friends who were waiting to go on an excursion. I made a split-second decision to go with them instead of staying aboard the ship.

Soon, we were off to take a ride to the coral reefs off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. We walked down to the belly of a boat and sat facing windows looking out into the depths of Caribbean Sea. I saw stingrays, barracudas, and so many tropical fish. The coral off of Cozumel was a drab black rather than the neon hues I picture when I think of tropical reefs, but the water! The water was such a glorious blue-green that the white of my phone’s screen looked pink when I pulled it out to capture video. When we got off the boat the world was so brilliantly white it hardly seemed real.

This morning, I was surrounded by a similar blue-green light thanks to a towel Justin draped over the master bathroom’s window to keep the early morning light at bay. The reminder of the majesty of the sea and being with friends whom I adore was a fantastic way to start the day.

Apple Watch, One Month In

I was a first-day recipient of the Apple Watch, thanks to a husband who set his alarm for 2:55 AM on preorder day (we were in Georgia for Creative South) and my decision to forgo the more popular Space Gray Apple Watch Sport in favor of the silver and blue.

I wasn’t in love with the idea of spending $350 on the Apple Watch, but I needed it for work and I was intrigued by the potential for fitness tracking. I’ve worn a Fitbit for years. I started with the Ultra, then upgraded to the One and wore the tracker clipped to my bra. Some of my more sensitive friends would avert their eyes when I tried to check the number of steps I’d taken; however, I didn’t want to switch to a wrist tracker because I’m one of the weirdos who relied on a watch to tell the time. By the time trackers with clocks were released the “iWatch” smoke was too dense to be dismissed, so I waited to see what such a device would offer.

I was reservedly excited leading up to my receipt of the Apple Watch and went so far as to pitch a column about my fitness adventures (Christy Turlington Burns is great, but most people are not marathoners). I’m glad that didn’t come to fruition because I’ve been underwhelmed. My Apple Watch has provided a nice reminder to get up and move around for a bit every hour, even if it’s only for a minute. The exercise tracking has been lackluster for me, though. On Wednesday, I walked nearly 15,000 steps. I spent a lot of time huffing, puffing, and sweating up hills in Portland, but my Apple Watch counted exactly zero exercise minutes.

So fitness is currently kind of a bust for me (I’m rooting for you, Watch OS 1.0.2!), which I thought would be the Apple Watch’s crowning glory. So how am I using it?


Managing distractions is of paramount importance to pretty much everyone but it’s especially important for those of us with ADHD, since our attention strays easily and can be difficult to recapture. As a general rule, the first thing I do when I get a new electronic device is turn off email notifications. I keep my phone silent and vibration-free unless I’m expecting a call, especially now that my blue and green friends can coexist in Messages on my computer. The thought of my wrist buzzing for every email, text message, calendar notification, sketch, tap, and heartbeat bypasses unappealing and goes straight into stomach-churning territory for me.

To mitigate distractions and make sure the notifications I receive are meaningful, I have almost all of them turned off. Those that remain are:

  • Calendar. In a perfect world, meeting times never change. I’m really good at remembering original plans, but abysmal at keeping track of changes to them. This is why I get a notification 30 minutes before every calendar entry, so I have plenty of time to get ready for whatever I have scheduled.
  • Activity. While it’s not working to track my exercise, the activity app is still helping me get up and move around more frequently. The step count is always pretty close to that of my Fitbit (which I wore for the first few weeks after I got my Apple Watch), so it gives me a decent idea of how active I’ve been on a given day.
  • Simple. If my debit card is used, I know about it almost instantly. This might be my favorite thing about owning an Apple Watch.

Simple Notification on Apple Watch


The high-resolution jellyfish, flower, and butterfly faces are beautiful, but offer little in customization (especially complications). The same holds true for the Solar and Astronomy faces. I don’t like analog faces because, despite years of practice, it’s difficult for me to glance at them and register the time. This leaves me with one watch face: Modular.

I’d much rather have a gorgeous butterfly fluttering its wings, but Modular gets the job done thanks to…


Apple Watch Face

It didn’t take me long to settle on the information I wanted to appear with the time, especially since less is more for someone who is easily distracted. I’ve always preferred watches that include the date, so adding that was a given. I keep a complication for the current temperature on display, though that may change when Phoenix consistently hits the triple digits (37.8 or more degrees Celsius, for my non-US friends). I also keep my activity rings in constant view.

When I use the timer on my phone, I find myself doing a weird app-switching dance to find out how much longer I have left. The complication on Apple Watch makes it easy to check in on the countdown, but it looks ugly when it’s not in use. I add the complication when I know I’m going to need it, then remove it when I’m done. It’s not elegant, but I prefer it to the annoyance of timing things with my phone.

I used the battery complication for the first week or so until I was sure that the promised all-day staying power would be a reality. I have yet to receive a low battery warning and decided to get rid of that clutter pretty quickly.


There are those who disagree, but I dislike all of the Sport band colors and refuse to pay a hojillion dollars for another band (the Modern Buckle, the only band I even find even slightly attractive, barely fits my wrist anyway). I got the bright blue don’t call it rubber band because I found it the least offensive of the non-black hues. I always felt a bit self-conscious wearing it, especially when my shirt was a contrasting color. After about a week, I decided to drop the $50 to buy a black band and am much happier. If anyone wants to buy a 38mm blue band, let me know!


I lift my wrist and speak to it, just like Dick Tracey. “Hey Siri,” I say confidently. The lackluster Modular face stares back.

What I’m saying is that Siri on Apple Watch and I don’t communicate well, despite my best efforts. I’ve stopped trying.


I don’t have a lot of friends who have an Apple Watch, so I don’t send or receive many sketches. They’re…fine? I don’t really see the point.


It’s been over a month and if my Apple Watch isn’t pristine it’s pretty dang close. I’ve bumped it against counters and walls, as is my wont, and I don’t see any imperfections.

As for water resistance, Justin started wearing Apple Watch in the shower a day or two after he received it; it seems no worse for the wear.


When people ask me how I like the Apple Watch, I shrug and say, “It’s fine.” There have been several comments on my lack of enthusiasm. The fact is, my life hasn’t changed much because of this particular device. Maybe I’ll change my tune as third-party apps evolve and improve, but I’m not using any at this point in time. For now, it’s an expensive watch with a lackluster activity tracker, which differs only slightly from my expectation of a watch with a great activity tracker. I’m reserving overall judgment, but I wouldn’t recommend that anybody rush out and buy one right now.