There Were Women In The Room: This week Paul Ford and Gina Trapani sit down with Claire L. Evans to chat about her new book, Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. We discuss the impact of online communities, how weird the dot-com era was, and the stories of the women who made things work. We also get a window into Y△CHT’s future project — the Broad Band Musical!
Claire L. Evans I just went to Twitter recently and they have a really great cafeteria so f — you know, for that alone —
Paul Ford [Sighs] I mean this is —
CLE They had every kind of hot sauce I’ve ever seen. I would say [mm hmm] maybe 300 different kinds of hot sauce, regional.
PF Can you just imagine that decision making process?
CLE It’s not a decision making process. It’s like, “What can we get? Oh all.”
Gina Trapani All.
GT Yeah, all.
CLE There’s no choice!
GT [Chuckling] [stammers] But the paradox of choice every person who wants hot sauce has to face [laughs].
CLE It’s — I mean I always say this but when you have everything you have nothing, and I think that that’s a pretty good analogy —
CLE — for a lot of [chuckles] like internet services.
GT I agree.
PF I mean that’s — that could be Twitter’s motto [laughter] [music fades in, plays alone for 16 seconds].
PF [Music ramps down] Claire L. Evans, thank you, for being on Track Changes with myself and Gina Trapani.
CLE I’m very excited to be here. Long time listener, first time caller.
PF Oh! [Chuckles] Let’s talk about episode 47 then.
CLE Oh shit! [Laughter]
PF Rich is out of the office so Gina’s joining me.
GT Hi Paul!
PF Hi Gina!
GT I’m thrilled to be here. This was like a gift from the universe that we’re recording on uh International’s Women’s Day.
PF Which McDonald’s has chosen to honor by [GT snickers] turning its arches upside down.
PF Is that real or just an internet horror show? I can’t —
GT You know it was one of those things where I saw the headline and thought, “I can’t.” And then just let this week go — like go by.
CLE All of them?! Or?
PF I mean there’s no way that they went out and turned the arches upside down. So I’m assuming it’s some sort of weird hoax.
PF Yeah, exactly. I don’t know what’s real at all this point. But I know one thing that’s real which is that Claire L. Ev — what’s the L for?
CLE Uh Louise.
PF Claire Louise Evans.
GT That’s a good middle name right there.
CLE Yeah I know. I know.
GT Mm that’s good.
PF Uh wrote a book which is mostly what we’re mostly gonna talk about called The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. Actually the title of the book is [someone snickers] Broad Band, two words! Two words!
CLE It’s cool you led with the subtitle!
PF Well it’s above the — it’s above —
CLE The subtitle is what tells you what the book is really about.
PF I have this fan —
GT I really wish that we could bring all of our listeners here to see the cover of this book.
PF I know.
GT First of all, the title’s amazing but the — the cover . . . is something.
PF Frankly, in the time allotted, I doubt we’ll get much further than that [GT laughs] so like if I was to get beyond the cover, what would I find?
CLE You would find a history of technology, a history of computing, and network computing and the internet. A real — basically a computer history told through women’s story — a corrective, if you will, of all the books we probably have all read about Silicon Valley and the “garage to riches” stories of entrepreneurship and — and development. These are stories about the women who were in the room the whole time and no one asked about.
PF So —
CLE Their experiences.
GT It’s a corrective.
GT I love it.
PF I mean that’s really —
GT An addendum. Let’s — let’s actually [chuckles], let’s get the whole story told.
CLE The first of many I hope. Not necessarily for me but in the world.
PF What’s one of the myths, right? That — that — where there was a woman the whole time?
CLE Um there’s a bunch of stories. I mean there’s — it starts early, you know? It starts with the legally — the mandatory Ada Lovelace coverage, you know? It has to start there.
PF You don’t have a choice.
CLE I don’t. I don’t — — it’s, yeah. I have to. Otherwise —
PF Otherwise what would nerds name their daughters?
CLE [Chuckles] It’s medically impossible to write a book about women and computing without beginning with Ada Lovelace but, you know, there are the — the stories that we all kind of know, you know, the early programmers, if we’re sort of [PF mm hmm], if we’re woke to these things we know that the first computer programmers were women [mm hmm] and we know that they worked in the basement of the war theatre developing ballistics trajectories for impossibly giant machines, and that they elevated, you know, the brute act of punching, you know, chords into one another, and punching holes in cards to an art form and a language. But I found very interesting in the process of writing this book discovering that uh there were all kinds of interesting contributions being made later in [chuckles] computing history. That that it’s not just these like sort of often trodded out uh iconic foremothers like the Grace Hoppers and Ada Lovelaces, but women working in hypertext development for a decade before the web and, you know, the women who were running the information center of the earliest version of the internet, uh keeping all the references in one place and essentially serving as the — the human Googles of their day. Um the first women to develop online communities and to publish on the web and make interactive media interesting and good. So it’s a litany of those kinds of stories.
PF Talk about her for a minute. Who was that?
CLE Well! One of my favorite characters in this book is a woman names Jaime Levy, are you familiar with her?
PF Mm hmm.
CLE She was kind of a rockstar of the cyberculture years.
PF Yeah. Yeah.
CLE She was — she was the Kurt Cobain of the internet in the 90s. A super interesting character.
PF Like she might’ve been on the cover of Mondo 2000 or something like that.
CLE She def had a presence [GT chuckling] in Mondo 2000.
PF Yeah ok.
CLE She was like, you know, “Cyber Girls Just Wanna be Wired” in Newsweek [PF and GT laugh], you know? That kind of [others continue laughing] . . . that weird period of time when the internet was becoming a big deal and nobody in media knew how to talk about it. So it was just —
PF Yeah it was either for violating children or it was really cool. Those were the two public narratives [GT yeah, yeah] [CLE laughs] right? There was that early cyber crew.
CLE Yeah. There were a lot of really — what they call the early true believers.
PF Mm hmm.
CLE You know the people that — that saw the web for what it was at the very beginning and decided to do things on it that were beyond just, you know, “Here’s my homepage. My name is Lisa, and here’s my dog.”
PF I mean women get forgotten from activist histories too. It was a kind of an activist scene, early days.
CLE Yeah! I think so I mean there was a kind of, you know, the cyber pu — cipher punks and stuff. Cyber punks and the cyber punks and . . . yeah.
PF And everybody was welcome.
CLE Everybody was welcome.
PF That was supposed to be the whole thing.
GT Yeah, weirdos welcome.
GT In a way I think that — that is no longer the case.
CLE Well nobody was making any money, that’s the thing.
PF That is the thing.
GT That — that is the thing that changes —
CLE There was this sort of magical —
GT — everything.
CLE — window. You know, I — I profile a couple of people that were in, you know, web publishing in the early days. People that started magazines like Word.com. I don’t if you were a fan —
PF Marisa Bowe.
CLE Who was the best.
PF Mm hmm.
CLE You know and they managed to exist in this brief moment of time where there was no clear rule about what was supposed to be online. Uh people thought they could make money but nobody really knew how. And so they just hemorrhaged money at creative people [mm hmm] to do stuff that was interesting. So Marisa Bowe, for example, you know had this infinite budget to amazing interactive stuff and amazing publishing for several years. Never made a dime for the company that uh owned the magazine. Eventually the magazine ju — the company IPOd and fired everybody. As they do.
GT As they do.
CLE And then came back, another company bought them, and the second company that bought them was a fish waste processing company that was trying to [GT laughs] rebrand itself in the dot-com era. I mean this ludicrous period [GT laughs] of strange wealth and people trying to do their best and make interesting things within. It’s a pretty interesting — I mean it’s not that dissimilar to today, I suppose.
PF Well . . . the internet part is — is corporate and stable and — [right] and sort of a substrate of all human culture but the blockchain part —
GT Well, I was gonna say: the blockchain — the money’s in the blockchain now.
PF Well that’s literally —
GT What are we throwing money at? Is it messenger apps? Is it chat apps? Is it blockchain? Is it —
PF It — it reminds me of that era though. Like it really [yeah] does because there’s just sort of like, “I believe and I don’t care,” and then after it crashes people will be like . . . “I still believe. [Yeah] I still believe.” And that’s what happened with us. I mean we just sort of stayed, and stayed, and stayed until finally there was a job here.
CLE I really — I think one of my big takeaways from talking to these people and working in this area for awhile now . . . is just how little we value long-term care and maintenance when it comes to building things [GT yes]. One of the people I profile in the book is Stacy Horn who founded the BBS called Echo in New York in the 90s. Late 80s actually. And Echo never made really any money and it never even transitioned to the web cuz she couldn’t afford to do it at the time. It still exists. It’s still a BBS that like 150 people use [PF mm hmm]. And she has just devoted 25 years of her life to just fostering and caring for this community . . . which is something that I think is so beautiful and totally unglamorous and totally uh separate from the kinds of mythologies that we tend to see uh lionized in tech culture of serial entrepreneurship, you know, [GT yes] she’s just taking care of something cuz she’s responsible for a community. And I think that’s really beautiful.
PF Two strands here, right? There’s the like . . . there were people who were involved in creating the infrastructure and technology of the internet and they were, some of them were women, and then there’s this other thing where it’s like there were women who were . . . building the culture and the community which it kind of doesn’t get classified very often as like “technology work” in the same way as “I made a startup.”
PF And so the book is about both of those groups.
CLE Yes. I think that’s a much needed corrective. I — we — we mythologize the box but it’s the users that changed the world, right? I mean it’s what you do with it [PF mm hmm] and I think that the culture work, the development of making things worth linking is almost as important as making the conventions for linking, right?
GT Yeah, I mean it’s broadening the definition of what making the web, you know, was. It wasn’t just about like standardizing protocols [CL yeah] and writing code [yeah], right? It was about building the places that people wanted to come and connect and share.
CLE That’s the point of it all, isn’t it?
GT Absolutely. Absolutely.
PF Well this has always been the thorny problem too is because moderation has always been seen as sort of low-level work, and kinda women’s work, like it’s often women who are [yeah] the head moderators, and [yeah] many of the women who are like — like I’m thinking of Heather Champ or Jessamyn West or people like that [yes] or people like that who have been out and really talked about moderation culture and the amount of labor involved. And it’s critical. It’s key to these communities.
PF But it doesn’t get the same amount of credit as I wrote um you know a page of code.
PF Probably because I think you — you — the computer does the code over and over again, but the human has to keep doing the moderation, right? [Others laugh] And we’re like, “Eh. . . that’s not how it’s supposed to work!”
GT The efficiency’s from the code but hmm.
PF I mean that narrative almost gets in the way of the perfect computer narrative.
CLE Yeah! For sure I mean and it’s not like moderation doesn’t exist anymore, it’s just been outsourced.
CLE To people who are invisible to the [?] user.
PF Literally to like the Philippines.
CLE Exactly. So it’s — it’s still there. It’s just — it’s — it’s really — it’s a really hard job . . . and it’s become much harder than it ever was. I think, you know, moderation in the BBS days meant being, you know, kicking somebody off if they were being rude. But now it’s flagging photos of beheadings and rapes. It’s a much [chuckles] more problematic affair.
PF It seems to, yeah, I mean every article that you read where they actually let somebody into the moderation center it’s like you just get this sense of hundreds of human brains being destroyed [CLE yeah!] by steady desenti — desensitization to horror.
CLE Yeah, they’re seeing the underbelly of — of humanity.
GT Definitely. But there’s also the — the like having to make decisions that are just not very clear cut [CLE mm hmm]. Like it’s — it’s interesting watching like the trans community like watching someone go through top surgery and be like, “Well, I wasn’t allowed to show my bare chest then but now [CLE yeah] it’s totally inline with Instagram rules.” Like there’s just a lot of grey area and there’s a lot of discussion around this [yes] about like how do we — how do we enforce these rules in, you know, in a way and define them and anyway, not to get into all that.
CLE No, that’s super interesting.
GT I’m interested to know how to know how did you choose the women that you featured in the book? So you start off with —
CLE Just threw darts at a board. No [others laughing], I’m just kidding.
GT But I love — I love —
GT [CLE laughs] I love that you started with like the, you know, the mainsta — the ones that you can’t write a book about this without featuring [yeah] but then you move into the folks who are — you’re really raising visibility for.
CLE Yes totally um different reasons I mean when I first started writing this book I felt very much burdened by the responsibility of every single human woman who had not been included in other books.
CLE Like I basically wanted —
PF Just got a phonebook, yeah.
CLE — to publish a list. Yeah, exactly.
GT This would be the paralysis that would stop me from starting [yeah!] — starting this project at all.
CLE It was paralyzing! And even — even in the chapters where I focus on specific technologies. Like I couldn’t address every single women who worked in hypertext, I could only address a handful of them. I had to have like a long heart to heart with my editor basically where said, “You can’t write an encyclopedia. You’re writing a narrative. You’re writing a story [GT yeah] and people have to feel connected to these characters.” So ultimately I tried to choose people who were representative of certain moments, atmospheres, and times in history that were relevant to, you know, the way that we deal with our experience of the internet. So . . . you know, it’s not everybody but it’s — it’s people that sort of that can speak to a larger theme, if you will. Um a lot of that is just people that had the most interesting stories or the most compelling interviews. But I tried to include as many people in the footnotes as possible.
PF Like obviously you go into a project like this going, “Wow, there’s a lot of untold stories here. We gotta tell ‘em.”
PF What surprised you the most? Like where did you go, “Oh my god, I never expected this”?
CLE Hmmmmm. The hypertext stuff really blew my mind. The fact that, I mean, I’m — I guess I’m a millennial. I think I — I think I cut — I was born in ’84. So I think I’m a millennial. Regardless —
PF Yes. You are.
CLE My experien —
PF Gina and I can tell you, professionally —
GT Yes. Yes [laughs].
CLE Ok thank you.
PF You’re a millennial. Yeah.
CLE Thank you. So my understanding of how the world’s information is navigated is really predicated on the way that the web structured hypertext.
PF Mm hmm.
CLE And I never really understood that it was something that predated the web. That there were, you know, over a decade of — of academic and research oriented work that was and sort of tried to define and develop the conventions of linking, and that there was all this incredible, beautiful thought about how best we should connect ideas to one another. And then the web just is sort of this, I would say, somewhat inferior manifestation of those — of those principles and it just happened to work really well and be free, and be on the background of the internet, therefore it’s where we are but I think often what it would be like if we lived on a web where links went both ways, for example, or [GT yes] in several directions, or we never had to worry about a 404 error because the information was not embedded contextually in the document but was actually this, you know, metalayer that lived on top that could be kept updated and kept protected because that information about what connects ideas is just as important as the individual ideas being connected.
PF I mean that’s the thing: the web took all that and it was like, “Yes, that’s wonderful but I’m going to set it on fire and throw it out the window [CLE yeah yeah] into the garbage that’s down below.” And then what was terrible is, and Gina remembers this, was the standards would show up and try to get the old hypertext back in. Oh! That was good stuff to see.
PF But um cuz I mean there’s be like — I would get excited cuz I was an early hypertext nut. And I was like —
CLE I could see that.
PF Oh yeah a really big shocker [all laugh] and uh — uh and it would be like, “Oh x link, finally! We’re gonna have our two-way but XML linking!” And uh —
GT I really had to come to peace with this.
GT Like I had [stammers] a similar feeling like, “Oh if we had just — if they had just — ” Then I was like, “You know what though? The lack — like the simplicity meant that [CLE yeah] people used it and adopted it. Like I [stutters] I get it. Like I get that it’s a tradeoff but I’ve come to peace like the web wouldn’t have been — wouldn’t have been if it had been any [CLE for sure — ] more difficult.
CLE — it wouldn’t have been scaleable at the same [yeah] level.
GT And no one would’ve known how to use it or do it and like, you know, [for sure] nerds like me wouldn’t have been making [CLE laughs] webpages on a mainframe [laughs].
CLE But I do —
PF We would all be building awesome CD-ROMs [GT laughs].
CLE Doesn’t that sound nice? [Laughs]
PF That’s right it would be like working for Voyager Company Number 37 making, you know, this — broadband wouldn’t have come out on paper, it would come out as a CD [ugh] with actual little postage stamp size video of what —
CLE What I wouldn’t give [GT and now — ] to be able to produce a broadband CD-ROM.
GT I literally don’t own a computer that I can read a CD-ROM anymore —
PF No, I don’t either.
GT I got my kid’s school pictures on a CD and I was like, “I — I can’t do anything with this. So here we are.” I’m ok. I — I think I’m ok with that outcome.
CLE Get an external drive! C’mon!
GT I — I know [laughs].
CLE Don’t give up.
PF No, give up [music fades in, plays alone for six seconds, ramps down]. Hey, Gina! [Music fades out]
GT Hey, Paul.
PF What are you doing today? What are you working on?
GT I’m here at uh at Postlight at 101 5th Avenue building big, beautiful, complicated platforms for amazing clients.
PF You’re finishing up a project right now, right?
GT I am finishing up a — yeah! I’m in the like two weeks to launch state right now which —
PF Oof, yeah.
GT Yeah, that’s a — that’s a unique uh let’s just say unique and interesting stage of the project process.
PF I don’t see you that often these days [GT laughs]. Yeah this is like — this is — this hour is actually this is your vacation for the year.
GT I’m like, “I’m gonna work from home today. I’ll just be — I’m just gonna — ” And my Slack status is just like “coding”.
PF Gina just moved her desk into a corner and she’s so happy. She’s — cuz she’s just like, “I’m in a corner.” [GT laughs] Oh it’s so good.
GT I love everyone at Postlight.
PF No, no, it’s great but you just —
GT I also love having my desk in a corner.
PF I do too. Mine’s in a corner now and I’m just like, “I’m not vulnerable anymore. [GT laughs] So, so comfortable.” So if — if you want people like this to come and talk to you about things that they can build for you. Big platforms! We build — essentially we build platforms that build businesses for people like Vice, giant banks, little tiny banks too, we’ll take all the banks, and uh media companies, not-for-profits, NGOs, uh we work with lots of folks.
GT It’s true. We — we work with really great people building amazing businesses and products and uh I feel lucky to be here.
PF Yeah, you know what? It’s just — it’s a conversation. So if you wanna have that conversation you just get in touch at email@example.com and — and tell us about the things you wanna build and we’re very clear. If we — if we’re a good fit, we’ll tell ya. And if we’re not, we often know the next step. So —
GT Yeah. We’ll point you in the other direction, whatever that is [music fades in].
PF Alright. So please get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org [music ramps up, plays alone for eight seconds]. Claire [music fades out], I feel that — that we’re talking about this book and it’s nice. You’ve come — you’ve come in as author [I am]. You’re very authorly. And I don’t wanna . . . deauthor you too much because it’s a good long book by a good publisher about a serious subject but you’re also a rockstar.
CLE Well I’m — that’s generous [laughs].
PF Well look, the cultural category has changed over the last, you know, it’s —
CLE Yeah, no, I play music. I’m in a band. Yes.
PF Tell — tell the people about the band.
CLE Uh I’m in a band called YACHT which is often mischaracterized uh the name, I mean, often mischaracterized as being a reference to luxury culture but actually is an acronym for Young Americans Challenging High Technology.
PF This is why it’s always in CAPS.
GT So good. That’s why it’s all in CAPS.
CLE It’s always — I mean we try to get it always in CAPS. You know sometimes people will go proper case and we have to send an email and it’s just the worst.
PF You should just FedEx the YACHT Style Guide to [CLE laughing] to every [GT laughing] tour promoter and every — you know just sort of [laughs].
CLE You know the weird thing is if someone does it proper case one — you know how it is. You know [PF yeah] the Times put us in proper case one time and then now —
PF The New York Times.
PF Let’s, c’mon, we have a broad audience here.
GT So that’s — [laughing].
CLE Sorry, The New York Times . . . ten years ago when we were still relevant put us in proper case one time and um now it’s forever. You know? People keep saying, “Well, The Times did it.” Doesn’t matter [PF Ahhh!] what the musicians say!
GT [Inaudible] Yeah, yeah.
PF YACHT’s a long going concern now, right?
CLE Yeah, YACHT has been around since I wanna say 2002.
PF [Breathy] Wow!
GT Wow! That’s impressive.
CLE Well it’s kinda — we were talking about longevity earlier and this is something I really believe in like sometimes musicians will do this thing where they get self conscious about their bands, so they start a new band, or they start a side project with a different name, or they go solo or whatever. And all of those permutations are ways of kind of concealing your true nature as an artist in a way. Like I really believe in just continuing to do something for a very long time under the same name and maybe it doesn’t make sense in the moment, and maybe it’s like, “Oh that’s a change! Why are you still the same band? Now there’s five of you instead of two and you’re playing rock music instead of, you know, electronic music. What’s going on?” But in the rearview it’ll all makes sense.
PF It’s true. Ten years from now people will be like, “That was a really interesting moment for YACHT.”
CLE Yeah, totally! It’s like, yeah, it’s — I think it’s like when Neil Young started making synth music or whatever. Like, there are — I’m not comparing myself to Neil Young but I’m saying artists are allowed to change. And I like being a mutable creature under the same alias.
GT I like that. That’s a radical —
PF But that is also —
GT — acceptance of your — of yourself.
GT A body of work. You know?
CLE I love that. Yeah. absolutely.
GT A body of work. Yeah.
PF It’s also just accepting um it’s the funny thing with Neil Young too right? Because he’s just like every now and then there’s like a two year period where you’re like, “What the hell just happened?”
CLE Yeah, like, “Oh he’s rockabilly now, I guess.”
PF Yeah. Yeah. How do you balance your — so you — there’s a few people in here. There’s the like, “I get on stage on perform.”
PF “I sit at a computer and write.”
CLE A lot of that.
PF And then there’s also the sort of user of technology, I’m assuming when you’re making the albums and doing stuff.
PF How — like . . .
GT How do you move between those?
PF How! Yeah!
GT How and when? When do you move between those?
PF Well cuz it’s hard, it can be hard to find balance between those different context shifts.
CLE How badly? I — I don’t think that there’s — I don’t have a refined system. It’s kind of moment to moment. Uh I tend to work laterally. So . . . even if I’m, for example, this book was written over the course of two and a half, three years, the last three years during which we also made an album and toured, and did a bunch of other things. And it’s really like, “What’s most pressing in the day?” You know?
PF Mm hmm.
CLE “Today we have to finish this song because we told the mastering guy that we’d have it done by Friday. So today we’re a band, you know? But maybe next week we’ve got some time off, we’re not on tour. Oh maybe we’re going on tour, going to San Francisco, I can take an extra day and go visit Brenda Laurel or whatever.” And then I’m a writer, you know? So it’s really about fitting it all in, schedule wise. But there are days that I tear my hair out and I have no idea what I’m doing and I feel like a total fraud, like everybody.
PF Well this is the — so polymaths strike me as people who end up in very stressful positions.
PF Right? Like [GT laughing] you’re just sort of like, “I can do it ah — — ah — ah — all!”
CLE It’s also so weird to exist in several different spheres like in the music world no one give a shit as me as a writer. Like the fact that this book came out like not a single, you know, music outlet was like, “Hey, Claire from YACHT wrote a book.” Like no one cares. You know?
PF Mm hmm.
CLE And in the — in the authorly world that I’m in now like no one really cares that I’m in a band. And it’s — — I feel like there’s a big missing piece of information for everybody. Like, “Oh hey, I’m doing a bunch of stuff. It’s interesting, I think.”
GT Especially if the work is happening in parallel tracks and feeding each other, I mean —
CLE Yeah we’re all very siloed in the contemporary media landscape, you know?
PF It’s also a betrayal to switch. It’s a betrayal.
PF You’re not supposed to be able to the do them both. And it’s —
CLE I know.
GT It’s true.
CLE And we resent it when actors starts bands and, you know, or whatever. It’s —
PF Yeah I mean I was a good writer for many, many years. Now I may [inaudible] again.
CLE Oh you do it!
PF I know, yeah. But it — what I do is I just sort of like keep it in a box . . . cuz otherwise it’s — it’s only now starting to kinda — because what people realize now is like, “Wait a minute. You actually you’ve been a little bit of an entrepreneur for awhile and you can write about that.”
PF Like that would be cool. But it took them a minute to — to get that into their brains.
CLE Well you write — you sort of — you write about things that exist in the same sphere as the things that you do.
PF THat’s right.
PF That’s right so there is alignment there, right? Well it’s —
GT Well you’re not singing about the subjects in your book?
CLE They should.
GT [Laughing] They should! You totally should!
CLE [Sings] “Grace Hopper was a coder!” [PF and GT laughing] That’s what the band sounds like. It’s very hammy.
PF It’s just — it’s you’re gonna do the musical. The Broad Band — The Broad Band musical would be be good.
CLE I mean I’ll do it all.
PF Oh wouldn’t that be amazing?
GT That would be amazing. And you could do the music.
CLE I wanna go. I wanna do it all. Yes. Yeah. Good idea.
PF Ok so um alright so really what we can expect from you next is a giant hurricane of multiple projects in any given time.
PF Ok so who go to amazon.com or a local independent bookseller or Barnes & Noble —
CLE Or any —
PF Or really any — any place books are sold.
CLE Or audible.com.
GT Or audible.com. Read by the author!
CLE Yeah, read by.
PF Oh yeah did you do that?
CLE I did.
PF Oh that’s exciting.
GT How many days did it take you?
CLE It took four days of nine to five.
PF What’s your — is your book reading tone like this one? You gotta kinda modulate it, right? Just like —
CLE I, you know, it’s so hard to say because I thought that I was reading it in a very kind of . . . chipper and engaging way and then I listened to the audio recording [chuckles] and it just sounds like [GT laughs] I mean I’m sure it sounds good to other people’s ears [PF yeah] but to me it just sounds like someone pouring gravy onto a tray.
GT Well, listening to your own voice [laughs].
CLE [Laughs] Yeah it’s a nightmare.
GT Really and truly a nightmare.
PF Yeah but also — I mean this is a — this is a substantive book. You can’t be chipper and engaging the entire time [CLE that’s true] or it’s a horrible nightmare [others laughing] for the person. “No, no! Have more hors d’oeuvres. No! More hors d’oeuvres! No more hors d’oeuv — ” Like it’s after page 200.
GT Did you have to read like IP addresses and — and email addresses?
CLE You know it’s funny there was so many things that I thought I knew how to pronounce that I didn’t [others laugh].
GT You didn’t. Because you’re a reader and a writer and then [yes!] you’re like, “Hmm.”
CLE And there’s — there’s no shame in not knowing how to pronounce words because it means you learned it from reading and reading is good and —
PF Oh it’s so great. We — we’re big reading fans at the company.
GT We are [laughs].
CLE I love that. But my producer on the audio book is a person who knows how to pronounce everything uh because it’s what she does for a living [GT yes] and so she would just pause me, you know, all the time and say like, “No it’s midWIFery, not midWIFEry.”
PF Yeah, I know. This — and PR people are like that too. They’re just like, “Bluh, bluh, bluh, bluh, bluh,” and you’re like, “Oh — ok.”
CLE But it’s [stammers] I don’t — I would argue that with arcane pronounce — like it’s minutia-ee, not minu-sha. But I feel like if I said minutia-ee in conversation [GT you’d be like, “What?”], 90 percent of people would tell me that I was wrong.
PF Yeah that’s unforgivable [others laugh].
PF You — you cannot say minutia-ee.
CLE [Laughing] Yet it’s the correct way of saying it!
GT I would be like, “She totally — ”
CLE What a quandary!
GT “She totally said that wrong.” Like that’s what I would be [chuckles] thinking in mind. “That’s not how you pronounce that.”
PF But that’s like, you know what? That’s like Catholic school Latin. A nun taught them that. That’s not.
CLE Anyway, the scene at the audio book recording studio: amazing.
PF Is it?
CLE It’s all these super nerd brilliant audiobook producer people who know all kinds of specific, arcane information about lots of things cuz they work with — on books. And then it’s the talent. And there’s all these like voice actors wandering around who are maybe out of work actors in LA or just people who have, you know, doubled down on benefits of being a voice actor. There’s a whole community around it, apparently. People follow voice actors from book to book. They’re like the rockstars and it’s so funny to see.
GT That’s why I’m so impressed when they never ask the author to — first of all, I only wanna hear the book from the author personally. Like as a reader. But I’m always impressed when they ask the author because you’re like . . . as good as a voice actor or good enough —
CLE I hope!
GT — at expressing. Well, I mean, you know, I’m a writer and a reader and not much of speak — I mean I think that there’s [laughs] —
CLE I’d listen to an audiobook you recorded.
GT Oh I appreciate that. I do.
PF Yeah, I mean, Gina, you’ve recorded 50 million podcasts at this point and I would say —
GT Yeah and I — and [chuckles] — and I’ve never listened to one because I wanna jump off a bridge [laughs] because hearing [CLE word] your own voice.
PF So uh who should read this book? Damnit.
CLE Just anyone with eyes! I would hope.
PF Literally anybody who’s like, “Hey, wait a minute there might be a part of this story I don’t already know.”
CLE I mean I think it’s a fa — there’s a lot — even if you’re not interested in technology. Although, if you’re listening to this podcast, I highly doubt that is the case.
PF Yeah, it’s pretty much the case [CLE laughs].
GT It’s the case.
PF It’s a good audience.
GT If you’re here, you should get the book. If you liked Halt and Ca — Catch Fire.
CLE Yeah, if you liked Halt and Catch Fire, if you liked Hidden Figures. Uh —
GT Oh yeah!
PF Oh yeah.
CLE No, I think it’s a fi — I mean I think it’s readable. It’s full of like wonderful, funny geniuses that I got to meet over the course of a couple years who I adore and I want other people to adore. Um I think it’s a valuable corrective. I think it’s only the beginning of a longer investigation into these things. But if you are a user of the internet, it’s your legal responsibility to read this book. It’s mandatory!
PF Ellen Ullman’s been on the show. We like Ellen Ullman.
CLE Oh! You have!
GT Yeah, we love Ellen.
PF Oh yeah. [Chuckles] Gina like melted [GT laughs].
CLE She’s my [sings] herooooo.
GT Yeah yeah yeah.
PF So Ellen Ullman . . . says this is a “necessary addition to the story of women in computing, about known heroes, and the fearless women and punks the world needs to know more about.” So —
CLE What she said.
PF Alright. Broad Band, Claire L. Evans. Portfolio Penguin is the publisher. It’s uh it’s nice. [Music fades in] It feels good in hardcover. So you could buy a digital version but you could also get this sort of beautiful book that goes on your shelf. Thank you, Claire.
CLE Thank you so much for having me on the show.
PF Alright. Go out there. Buy a copy of Claire’s book. That’s enough. That’s enough from everybody here. Uh email@example.com is how you get in touch if you need us and we are ready to talk to you about building platforms that build businesses on a global interweb. Uh we’re here to help, firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know if there’s anything you need or anything we should cover. Thanks! Alright, let’s go! [Music ramps up, plays alone for five seconds, fades out to end.]