How To Diversify Any Conference You Attend

SxSW 2012 Panel on Race & Diversity

On Monday, March 12th, I participated in my fourth panel at SxSW 2012 titled: “Race: When to Hold it and When to Fold it.” The purpose of the panel was to change the conversation from “What can technology conferences do about diversity?” to “What can attendees do about diversity at technology conferences?” If you have a few minutes to spare, listen to the full panel via the link above.

In this post, I’d like to focus on why recommendations are a big part of diversifying conferences and how conference attendees and speakers can help.

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#BlackPeopleMovies: Racist or Just Playing?

Twitter Search

Right now, #blackpeoplemovies is at the top of the Twitter Trends. What does that mean? A lot of people are currently talking about about movies that black people like on Twitter. We all know sometimes just the mention of race in topics (notably those that are related to black people) can make people nervous. But there’s a twist in this hashtag, that isn’t uncommon to others before it and I think it should be considered before anyone pulls the “racist” card.

Twitter Search

Racist or Just Playing?

Some of the tweets above would appear racist at first glance. This tweet by a fake CharIie Sheen is a perfect example. It’s also been retweeted over 1000 times. Digging into the stream of this hashtag may give you a different perspective if you’re willing to listen. Largely, black and spanish young adults and teens are listing movies they like that feature predominately black and or spanish cast-members like Friday, Set It Off, Baby Boy, and House Party 2.

The rest are people cracking the best jokes they can possibly think of. Katt Williams, a hilarious black comedian, had the second most retweeted tweet, “The Devil Wears Polo“. Most people might not even see the joke in his tweet (it’s ok if you don’t).

Once in a blue moon someone pulls the “racist” card (or tweet in this case). Is #blackpeoplemovies a racist trending topic? I don’t think so (some tweets may be). It’s childish and edgy, but overall harmless. Most of all, it’s exactly the type of conversation I’d have  with my friends on a Friday afternoon: a silly and pointless conversation.

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HP WebCam Software Ships With A Racial Flaw, How Would You Respond?

Thanks largely to my Twitter followers, I ran across a video demoing HP’s face-tracking feature in their laptop webcams. Unlike most demos, this video had an unexpected twist which could stir up some trouble for HP in the near future. After viewing the video, I’d love to hear how you would handle a situation like this if HP were your company in the comments.


Is HP Racist?

After watching the video, if you think HP seems racist you need to watch this video first: How To Tell People They Sound Racist by Jay Smooth (@JSmooth995)



I’m not calling HP anything, but this video will definitely shed some negative light on their company. Two employees at a store show a very serious problem with HP’s face-tracking feature in its webcams: it doesn’t recognize black people. To be more accurate, it’s not recognizing the guy in the video who happens to be black. However, it immediately recognizes a white lady and tracks her movements like a baby watching its mom. Will this apply to every dark-skinned person that tries out the feature? Who knows, but the evidence in the video points to an answer that will bother a lot of people.


What would you do with a fatal flaw like this being shipped out to customers that are impacted by the flaw?

  • How would YOU handle this situation from a PR standpoint?
  • What would you do to prevent something like this from happening in the future?
  • Can you look at this as an opportunity for HP? What do you see?


Looking forward to hearing your comments and tips!

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