Hedy Lamarr, co-inventor of an early technique for frequency hopping, which was the predecessor for wireless communications, was born 100 years ago today.

I came across Lamarr early this year, after having a very thorough introduction to ‘how the internet came to be’ from some friends of mine. Then, I discovered that Hedy Lamarr’s Wikipedia article introduction barely mentioned her incredibly significant scientific inventions – instead, two paragraphs were dedicated to her “great beauty” and her acting. Needless to say, I didn’t appreciate this; so I changed it. As things turned out though, I ended up making things a lot worse.

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Within international development and elsewhere, organisations are moving towards “evidence-based decision making”, or “data-driven” decision making, as a step towards more responsible and effective development programming. Commitments to these kinds of process are, generally, celebrated as an acknowledgement that development needs to take into account what has come before, and react in an iterative and progressive way.

However, I can’t help but feeling that lauding ‘evidence-based decision making’ without questioning how it is being implemented, is perhaps a little naive, and needs to be more nuanced in order to be truly effective. Essentially, there are two main problems that I see.

Firstly, the assumption that we humans are rational beings, who upon being given new information, will act logically as a result.

Secondly, that “evidence”, or “data”, are essentially “truth”, and that making decisions based upon these is unquestionably a route towards better decision making.

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I’ve been meaning to migrate my blog off Tumblr for a while now, and on to Github pages. Why? I don’t like the writing/editing interface for text in Tumblr (the window is too small to be able to see much text) - certain bits of html disappear between the visual editor and the html editor - it’s difficult to use images or put code snippets in, and I want to be able to write in Markdown, to name just a few reasons. I also like the idea of creating lists or resources that other people can contribute to - ie. via Github - that can live on my site, and I want to be able to customise it a little more easily than Tumblr offers.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with a few fabulous ladies who work in international development, to ask them about their experiences as feminists within their sector, and also their opinions on the role of feminism within global development.

The recording of the discussion we had aired last night on Berlin Community Radio (with a short introduction from Kate and I, and some gorgeous tunes from Naomi Wachira), and you can listen to the show below. I also wanted to quickly highlight here a few key points that stood out for me throughout the discussion.

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I’ve just spent the weekend at AdaCamp, a two day event aimed at increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. It was great, and gave me lots to think about, some of which I’ve tried to outline here.

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Responsible Data Book Sprint

Last week, I took part in a 'booksprint', which involved bringing together a group of people from different disciplines, to collaboratively write a book from start to finish in just three days.

It was my second booksprint - the first being this, "How to Read and Understand an Oil Contract", which I coordinated logistics for, and participated in as target reader - but my first as a fully-fledged writer. It was a brilliant experience, for a number of reasons - some obvious, some less so.

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I woke up this morning to see this post by Jillian York, “Courage – it’s not just for white men”. Suffice to say, I wholeheartedly agree with it, especially the idea of remixing that wholly reductive image released by Pirate Parties International.

As Jillian mentions, there are a whole host of women and people of colour that didn’t appear on the remixed version she produced; so, here’s another, with the people who came to mind for me.

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Across the global development sector, the idea of opening up data and becoming more transparent is taking hold. One might even say that it has become reasonably well established; almost every week, new data portals commissioned by global development organisations are appearing.

Undoubtedly, this move towards transparency and open data is, in theory, a positive development. Responsibly sharing data on global development projects is potentially, a crucial step towards more effective international development projects, both in terms of more efficient development programming on the side of the practitioner, and in terms of increasing accountability for citizens affected by projects.

So surely the flourishing online data portals are a good thing?

Not entirely. While the intentions are undoubtedly good, the results are often much less so.

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A couple of weeks ago, one of my best friends handed in her PhD, in geology, and the TLD .rocks went on sale. Clearly this was a sign, so I bought her what has to be the best domain for a geologist named Sorcha to own:

I built her a little present on the site, too – a memory game, with photos she took during the PhD, and the place names, meaning that she's basically the only one who will recognise the pictures and be able to do it really from memory. Once the game has been completed successfully, a 'to do list' appears at the bottom of the page, so it's hidden to most viewers.

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Yesterday, I went to a fantastic wedding. It was truly wonderful for a number of personal reasons, given that it was my brother's wedding (!) – but it was also, for me, a great example of how an old-fashioned institution like marriage can be brought into the 21st century, and celebrated without gender-bias.

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