Last weekend I attended “Hack MS”, a hackathon aimed at reducing stress for people with Multiple Sclerosis. My mom has MS, so I decided to finally attend a “proper” hackathon (as opposed to hack days, givecamp, etc). I’m happy with the product I ended up with, and extra happy that my teammate was OK with releasing it open source… but overall I don’t think I want to do this again.
As soon as I got there, I was immediately asked to sign a video/photo release form, and it was pretty clear that there was no way to say “I’m not okay with this”. There was no explanation what the video was going to be used for, and everything screamed “marketing.” (I was too flustered to ask that night, but I did ask the next morning, and yes, it was for marketing- but I’m still not sure if it’s marketing for Biogen Idec or Hack 2.0)
Actually kind of uncomfortable with all of the surprise cameras at this hackathon
— Kelly Dwan (@ryelle) February 7, 2015
I don’t particularly like to be on camera. I never know what I should be doing, I become immediately over-conscious of every movement I make, and I can’t focus on what I was just doing*. Not a great mindset when I’m trying to create a functional product in a day.
There are of course other reasons someone might not want to be on camera (detailed at Geek Feminism Wiki), and when it came down to it the photographer and videographer were definitely professional (I wasn’t followed around or anything). But it still made me uncomfortable, because in addition to how anxious it made me, I was also wondering how much focus I’d get as one of the few women at the event. Since I have no insight into how the organizers chose photos to use, I can only guess, but my photo did in fact end up on the website.
In the end, I left some comments and links in their post-event survey, so maybe cameras will be less prominent at the next event, or there will be a clear way to opt out.
* The only exception to this is when I’m giving a presentation, like at a WordCamp (or even the project presentations at the end of the weekend). There I’m already in the mindset for people watching me, and it doesn’t put me on edge the same way.