It's Ada Lovelace Day, the day when we write about women scientists, engineers, technologists, and mathematicians who have influenced us. I had a post in draft about Denise Paolucci, but then Geek Feminism did a nice but too-short profile of her on Wednesday as part of their usual Wednesday series profiling geek women. So, rather than waiting until today, I just posted what I'd been planning to write as a comment on that post:
We can do better than four sentences about Denise, can’t we? I’ll start.
In 2003 and 2004, the heyday of LiveJournal, I did some amount of volunteering for LiveJournal technical support, which was entirely volunteer-run. It was remarkable. There were a lot of people working very hard to do support well — not only to answer users’ questions well, although they certainly did that, but also to create a staggering amount of infrastructure that helped other support volunteers do their jobs better. There was incredible camaraderie among the support volunteers. None of this would have been possible without Denise, who spearheaded the whole enterprise. There had to have been a million things on Denise’s plate at LiveJournal aside from answering users’ support questions, but still, now, years later, she remains at the top of the LJ support “high scores” list.
The amount of effort and love that was poured into doing LJ support right was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it since — except, of course, on Dreamwidth, where, of course, Denise is also topping the high-scores list in addition to the million other things she does. It’s amazing. She’s amazing.
My comment was followed up with a bunch more comments raving about how awesome Denise is from a bunch of people who are more familiar with her work than I am, which was exactly what I was hoping for. I especially appreciated Skud's comment that links to a bunch of posts Denise has made about a staggering variety of technical topics. Read this or this and tell me it isn't more readable and more compelling than most of the stuff people salivate over on Hacker News. In fact, now I remember that the reason I wanted to write about Denise in the first place is because not long ago, I stumbled across a mailing list post of hers while I was searching for something unrelated, and not only did I find it compelling enough to read from beginning to end, but it utterly changed how I thought about the subject matter. The notable thing about this is that it's not notable. Aside from very, very indirectly when I was doing the LJ support volunteering thing, I've never worked with Denise, but I get the sense that she just regularly dashes off this kind of incredibly high-quality, thought-provoking writing in response to idle mailing list questions like it ain't no thang. Any software project lucky enough to have Denise working on it is lucky indeed.