Listen to Podcast

Melissa McEwen is a tech consultant and writer merging two passions and careers. She is a writer for Quartz, Submain, and more, while working as a Content Manager for Glitch. You can check out her website and social media profiles by visiting

Melissa McEwen - Transcript

Melissa McEwen (guest): Well, I didn't get diagnosed with ADD until I was older, my parents kind of like didn't believe in that people with ADD tend to over commit to things and oftentimes that left me feeling like so exhausted all the time. So I built this like kind of like a board in Trello, which is like, it's like a project management software and it has a column of things that I'm doing currently and I want to keep that column with a maximum of five things. So I don't want to become so tired and exhausted.

Simone Salis (host): I am Simone Salis. Next step on The Hoomanist, today's guest, Melissa McEwen. This is The Hoomanist and I'm your host, Simone Salis. Today's guest is Melissa McEwen, Tech Consultant, Developer and Writer, Publishing for a quartz sub main Code Like a Girl and more. Ms. McEwen is also the former food and drink Editor for the Chicagoist merging her life, two passions in careers like coding and food. She currently works as Tech Marketer and Content Manager for A Glitch while she also previously worked with Corona, Lifewater, The American Medical Association. And in her free time she's a contributor to open source projects like Gaspe, also grading her student's project seemed css, html, various api's and react. You should check out her social media and her work visiting her website Melissa what came first? Writing or coding.

Melissa McEwen: Coding, definitely when I was a kid my Dad worked in IT, and he would always have old computers that he would give us to like play with, my sister and I have a younger sister and so I would play around on those computers. And I started going on websites like X Pages is one and Neopets and I would like tinker with the code and make like little websites and stuff about like horses.

Simone Salis: The kind of about horses. You'd be the kind of person who would it be like, right, clique viewsers.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah; yeah.

Simone Salis: Do that. And when was this?

Melissa McEwen: Oh, gosh, when I was like 13, 14 and early 2000.

Simone Salis: 2000 and stuff, like that.

Melissa McEwen: Okay, my Dad was, he was like a Sales Engineer and my Mom was a Homemaker.

Simone Salis: But then writing came.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, I started writing too. I mean, writing was definitely part of the culture there to add a live journal, and I did a lot of coding for my livejournal and like image editing and stuff, but I also was writing a lot in my livejournal, but I wasn't that into food. I was kind of a picky eater, so…

Simone Salis: And where did you grow up?

Melissa McEwen: I grew up in Marietta, Georgia.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, my family was a little weird. I was homeschooled and so I did have a lot of free time for things like playing around with code. And then my family moved to Chicago, my Dad got a job transfer when I was like 15, and I went to school and I still do a lot of free time because I didn't do my homework or I never been to school before. I didn't know you were supposed to do your homework, and I didn't like know how to make friends or anything, so I just played around in the Internet. I didn't know how to use a lock, like on a locker and I was too afraid to ask anybody. So for like two years I just carried around all my stuff.

Simone Salis: Okay but at some point somebody [3:33 cross talking]

Melissa McEwen: Yeah; yeah I think it was like in gym class because we have to use a lock for gym class and finally I just was like, how do I use this?

Simone Salis: Yeah, let's crack this code.

Melissa McEwen: I mean if Youtube had been available I could have just looked it up on Youtube. That's what I do for everything now.

Simone Salis: So, you would have preferred like instead of going like, if you're going to do it yourself…

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, I don't want to let anyone know. I don't know how to use a lock.

Simone Salis: Okay, it was that component…

Melissa McEwen: It's so funny because even to this day have trouble using locks.

Simone Salis: Where did you go to college?

Melissa McEwen: I went to Champagne, Urbana, Downstate.

Simone Salis: Okay, what did you study?

Melissa McEwen: Agriculture.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: And the reason I studied that is because my grades were not very good and people considered it back then a backdoor into the [inaudible 4:16] to go to the agriculture school because they had lower standards.

Simone Salis: And then you would transfer?

Melissa McEwen: You transfer out.

Melissa McEwen: But I never transferred out because I was like, oh, I like this. This is fun, anyway.

Simone Salis: So, you completed the studies in Agriculture?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: And is that still part of your life?

Melissa McEwen: I learned a lot in it and you know, you study like Economics and you study Accounting and Ecology and I took Technical Writing too, so you know, it's a pretty. I thought it was a pretty useful degree and I didn't switch out, so I also actually messed up my major in Agriculture because like there were two majors next to each other and I put the wrong one. I meant to major in Ecology and I accidentally ended up signing up for Ecological Economics.

Simone Salis: So, when did you realize that?

Melissa McEwen: Oh my first day. And I was like.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: And I was like, and they were like, you can switch next year. And I was like well shit …

Simone Salis: Yeah, that's a long time before a 24- hours realization.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: Like that, so you switched that for one year.

Melissa McEwen: No, I didn't.

Simone Salis: You didn't you just…

Melissa McEwen: I didn't know what economics was and I was like, oh I like this.

Simone Salis: And how did the. What did you do as soon as you got out of College? Did you search to look for a job? What are you doing?

Melissa McEwen: I did Americorps.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: And in College I had done IT because I was like, I need to get like money. I would work at the dorms as a network technician and I also did some coding for lab and when I graduated I did Americorps.

Simone Salis: Okay. Where'd you go?

Melissa McEwen: In New York City.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: So, I was totally unprepared for.

Simone Salis: Why?

Melissa McEwen: Like it's so expensive and they give you like hardly any money and they won't let you work any other jobs. So yeah, that was rough. I was thinking like $10, 000 a year or something or whatever. I went into like debt to do it, so they kind of like didn't have that much for me to do and I ended up doing a lot of their IT stuff and so right after that I got hired into IT at Columbia University. So, yeah.
Simone Salis: Okay, and that's when you started like to focus…?

Melissa McEwen: That's was my first job where I had the title of Developer.

Simone Salis: I read, you know, looking in a little bit of what you did. You do have an incredible amount of articles for the Chicago [6:23 inaudible] food.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: Because you were the food and drinks Editor, right.?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah; yeah.

Simone Salis: How did you start that?

Melissa McEwen: I guess I was doing some food writing occasionally because I have my Agricultural background, and then I started doing some blogging and then I applied to be the Editor there. You know, a lot of people were like kind of mad that I was the Editor because I had no formal background in like Journalism or anything. It did was a disadvantage, like I didn't have any, like I didn't know how to handle like some of the pitches and stuff and I was amateurish about other things, but also was like, I guess I did bring a fresh perspective.
Simone Salis: How did you feel about that? Like when you start a job and you in theory you have people already have the imposter syndrome when they are overqualified, so I guess that when you recognize that, how did you feel about that? What did you bring to…?

Melissa McEwen: I mean coming from tech I have a very DIY attitude, you know, like I have like an attitude like, oh, if I don't know how to do it, I'll figure it out kind of thing and that can be good and bad. Like I mean there are definitely instances of me DIYing when I should not like when I like put up curtains yesterday and they fell down.

Simone Salis: Okay, still do that.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, stuff like that. I do stuff like that all the time. Like I usually want to try things myself first and see how they work and only go to a professional if I need to. I'm like convinced I can just do things myself.

Simone Salis: What projects do you work on in your free time that you do like that? For example, that terrible table that you see there. I made it…

Melissa McEwen: Oh, great. Yeah, I mean I made my own shoes before…

Simone Salis: You made your shoes?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: How do you make shoes?

Melissa McEwen: I took a class at the Chicago School of Shoemaking, so at least I did like, not just like look up a youtube video.

Simone Salis: Yeah, right.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, I had professional instruction.

Simone Salis: So, okay you went …

Melissa McEwen: So, I've screwed up shoes many times though.

Simone Salis: You screwed up shoes?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, like I made a pair and it was for my boyfriend and I was using a stitcher machine I had never used before and I was like two millimeters off, which doesn't seem like a lot, but when you think about like around your foot, that makes a huge difference if you have like a whole foot and you take like two millimeters away and he couldn't even get them on, so…

Simone Salis: Well you think of millimeters, which is unusual.

Melissa McEwen: Oh, yeah I get a lot of trouble for that at the Shoemaking School. People really get mad.

Simone Salis: Oh, because you would use a millimeter.

Melissa McEwen: Oh, yeah. Like I've also taken classes at the upholstery school here and like they're really big and like not using the metric system. I love the metric system.

Simone Salis: Why do you like it?

Melissa McEwen: Like, I'm not very good at doing Math in my head for some reason. And definitely the metrics system makes it easier to do Math. Like, and I hate fractions.

Simone Salis: Yeah I still find centimeter so much, like kilogram and kilometre. Everything is so much more linear.

Melissa McEwen: I had this teacher at like some other class, she was handing out like fraction charts. I'm like, no way am I using this.

Simone Salis: So, you work on projects on your own and you like this kind of like a physical approach to building your own things and trying those things. How does it work for you? Because you know, making a living as a Writer versus making a living as a tech worker, probably…

Melissa McEwen: Oh, I'd definitely rather be like, you know, like a Writer full time. And that's kind of why I moved into content marketing because I do like to code but I don't like most IT jobs very much and I was very unhappy in IT. And I was really unhappy in the Web Developer jobs that I had. I was so unhappy and like I lost one job because like they kind of shrunk my team, and then they tried to transfer me. And they messed up my transfer and then so I was on the job market and the job market for software developers is terrible. And it's like. And I was like why am I doing this? Like I hate this.

Simone Salis: And you were doing like one of those whiteboard…

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, it's like the whole charade where you've got to pretend to like love this stuff. And I'm like, I honestly don't, I hate it but it's funny because I hate working as a Software Developer, but I obviously love software and writing software.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: So I was like, what am I going to do with myself now? And I took a break and I did some freelancing and then I started doing content marketing and I was like, you know I never thought I'd be in marketing. And honestly I looked down and marketers, I don't know, I guess because my Dad was kind of like a salesperson, so I was like, I don't know, it just was like, it just felt like not me or something or not like doing real stuff. And that's really unfair of me and I was really wrong about that. But, you know, I realized that's actually where I fit in best. Not In sales though, but in marketing.

Simone Salis: Well you said that you need to pretend to love this stuff. Does that happen with like big tech companies when you're doing interviews?

Melissa McEwen: Oh, yeah.

Simone Salis: Or in general with the top called startup culture.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, both like they really want you to like talk the talk and be like, Oh, I just love.

Simone Salis: I love doing supports to a stranger

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, and actually I like doing like support actually I just don't like, like the, I don't like agile and I know that's really controversial and people are going to say that I haven't done real agile or whatever, but the way agile has been implemented in like 99 % of organizations that use it where you're doing like these sprints and the way it manages projects, I can never thrive in an environment like that. So, basically these white dudes and I'm going to get some hate for that, they were at like a ski resort or something, probably also wrong, but it definitely were white dudes. And they were like, oh let's make this way for like managing software projects. And then it became this pyramid scheme where you get, like, at first it was like, fine, you know, if you're, it's some guy's managing their own software projects, that's good. And then you get like this whole industry of like trainers, and the way it's been implemented in like enterprise software development is totally different than like a bunch of people managing themselves or in like a privileged position. It's just a way to like in my opinion, to turn software development into this like heavily micromanaged process that has like all these people constantly watching you.

Simone Salis: Okay. So, it's a little bit of an algorithmic surveillance of soft…

Melissa McEwen: That how it feels.

Simone Salis: It what it feels to you.

Melissa McEwen: And I've worked on a lot of organizations that…

Simone Salis: How do you spell that?

Melissa McEwen: Agile, AGI…

Simone Salis: Okay. Like

Melissa McEwen: LA, and I still…

Simone Salis: Like, the word agile.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. There's a book written by a layman about Agile and I'm really interested to read it. So it's, it's by Dan Lyons. He's like, he's written like he, he wrote a memoir about being a writer, working at a startup. And then he did this book about how Silicon Valley is making work miserable and it features Agile. So, I was like, yeah, I got to buy this book because first of all I'll support anybody who hates agile. And second of all, I want to see how like he explains it to a layman because that's the topic I'm also interested in, like how to explain software culture to layman.

Simone Salis: 13:36: Hello, I am Simone Salis, and this is The Hoomanist, support for this show comes from you. If you would like to keep enjoying new episodes regularly, please become a supporter now., visit I am Simone Salis, and this is The Hoomanist today with guest, Melissa McEwen, Tech Consultant, Witer and food enthusiast. So Melissa, how do you explain software culture? Because I noticed that you say white dudes, for example

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, yeah. I mean software culture is very dominated by silicon valley, which is of course a very white dude centric kind of… It definitely affects people in software who live in Chicago or live in like Austin. So, you know, if you're not part of that culture, you know, you can feel like an outsider and it can be hard to find a place to work or a place to fit in.

Simone Salis: What are the value that you a clash or embrace of this kind of like software culture?

Melissa McEwen: You know, being sort of like a feminist. I mean, there is a lot of hatred of feminism in, you know tech culture. Being a woman, it's also like you're outlier in a lot of ways. You're not the majority. I mean, the early texts meetups I'd go to, I'd be like one of two women.

Simone Salis: I had a chance to talk with a person who, she works at Pixar and she's the Director of Photography for lighting for some movies like Cocoa or brave those things. And she is a Physics graduate and a coder and she's part of women in tech. And in her case, she also mentioned the thing that she's part of lesbians in tech…

Melissa McEwen: Oh, yeah.

Simone Salis: Which in case, you know, if we feel part of a minority like Lgbtq or that kind of stuff, she was really excited because she was like, this is really my people. It is women who code and then also who identify as LGBTQ. But the results at other associations like girls who code, which are supported by google and plenty of other, have you ever been part of or worked, contributed to any of these organizations style?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, but I made sure to only focus mainly on ones that are… and for a long time I was very unhappy with these organizations.

Simone Salis: Why?

Melissa McEwen: Like I was wondering why there were so… I didn't feel like they were really supporting me and then I realized, you know, I want to join organizations that are worker lead, not lead by people who want to you know promote their company. Women who are working, who are actual workers who want to work to make the industry better and sometimes that's going to go against some of the corporate values of places like Google, you know, because Google, you know, a lot of women work there and are very unhappy, and their management style is, you know, very anti woman. So…

Simone Salis: Have you seen lately the payouts to harassers?

Melissa McEwen: Oh yeah, yeah. They had a nice walkout a out. And that's really promising, you know, to have a, that's a movement that's worker led and that's not going to be getting any corporate sponsorships anytime soon, but those movements are growing. So…

Simone Salis: It looks to me that you might have a specific idea of like what a tech workers should do in the late 2010, stuff like that.

Melissa McEwen: I mean there's all kinds of tech workers of course. And a lot of tech workers aren't like don't fit the stereotype too. I mean a lot of tech workers now or frankly, you know, we have this idea that the tech worker is a white man, and he's wealthy, and well off and very privileged. But honestly, you know, you go into even Google now and a lot of people are contractors and contractors usually aren't, you know they're disproportionately immigrants, disproportionately people of color, often more women, and they don't have the same benefits. They don't have the same privileges.

Simone Salis: Tech worker need to organize.

Melissa McEwen: Oh yeah. I think tech workers need to, you know see the system for what it is. And also like ally with these people who are contractors. I mean, I really think in the end, I think the contracting thing is a big threat to, you know, everything in terms of like, you know, the stuff that a tech worker, you know, an average Software Engineer who's an employee takes for granted, you know, like health insurance for example.

Simone Salis: Yeah.

Melissa McEwen: Like, when I was contracting they said they would offer health insurance. Turns out the health insurance is $400 a month for a single person and average software developer who's like an employee, you know, doesn't ever have anything like that often. Like you're, you don't pay anything. Your company picks it up. And I was like, you know, how do these people, they're also software developers too and how do they end up in this position where they are so much less privilege and you know, it's a lot of these like kind of gatekeeping practices like technical interviews, like white boarding. It's also like people discriminating against people for not speaking the same like English with or without an accent, you know.

Simone Salis: So, there a lot of filtering…

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: Designed too, which I mean is, it's the scope, it's the goal of an interview. But at the same time depends on the [18:38 cross talking]

Melissa McEwen: Oh yeah, there's filtering a for a certain type of person…

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: And you know, I like to help people who are having trouble with being filtered, you know, get through those filters because I honestly, even though I've had a lot of trouble interviews, I'm like in a pretty privileged position because I grew up with my Dad in tech, you know I’m upper middle class and so, you know, and I also have had a lot of exposure to tech culture that they might not have. Tech culture is also very like blind to the fact that most like people who work in tech aren't like they're not hanging out on Twitter or they don't go to conferences. They can’t afford to go to conferences, they might not even know about them, and there's this one article that calls those developers that, you know, don't, aren't part of the sculpture, The Dark Matter developers. And there's like very little like attempt to even reached these people. I think being aware of them, it's also very important as a marketer in getting into this kind of like blinders where you think, you know, you're just writing for these conference attendee kind of people. Who are all like, they all work in big tech and they all have their Twitter and they have 10, 000 followers and you know, that's not most people, and that's not most people using or buying your product. So.

Simone Salis: Actually that's how I learned about you. I was looking up a very nice thing, how to remove the likes automatically from Twitter and I ended up having ghost likes after I tried to delete some and I tried to do a search for that. And it came up an article of yours explaining why ghosts likes when you try to automatically remove likes from Twitter, Appen, and I thought that's pretty niche. But then I read other articles from you and I thought she structures it well. Like it's missing a how to it, it gets. We shared a lot, you get a lot of people looking at. Well, not that specific one necessarily, but other things, you know.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, I mean I hope like I have some people who follow me who like haven't really considered some of these issues about workers' rights for example, and maybe are considering them because they started following me. Maybe, I don't know. I mean I could do more activism I'm not that involved I mean I know people were more involved in organizing, but I also worked for really small companies so, um, it's a bit different, but I know people who are like organizers that like Google and stuff. So I think their work is very important.

Simone Salis: What about your personal, you? Because you [20:58 inaudible] …

Melissa McEwen: Oh, yeah, and not I do a lot of that for work, you know and I love doing that because I mean, I think like there's another problem with tech guides and stuff is that I think often, I think the reason content marketing became popular is because you needed stuff written. That was like written on a little bit of a level that like anyone could understand, and a lot of tech documentation is unfortunately written by people who are like, they wrote the code… Simone Salis: Yeah.

Melissa McEwen: Of course they like, it's hard for them to get into the mindset of the user who's like struggling, and right now my specialty it's working with like technologies that honestly like I have no exposure to before. Like I worked with A Frame which is a Web VR…

Simone Salis: What is that?

Melissa McEwen: It's like if you have like a Google cardboard or whatever, you can look at virtual reality scenes and oculus and stuff, and it's pretty cool. And like, you know, coming to it like I’m familiar with coding but I don't know anything about this. And writing guides on that level I think is a useful thing to do.

Simone Salis: What are you focused on now at Glitch? Because you, you mentioned this framework Web VR.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, A Frame and it's like it's an easy way to build like virtual reality experiences just with like HTML. It's pretty cool, and now I'm working with discord bots, which is really interesting because the discord bots making culture is like totally separate from tech normal tech culture because it's usually like teenagers and they have no familiarity with tech culture or like I'm coding really. A lot of them are beginners, so like some of the practices that they do are interesting.

Simone Salis: So, you teach there?

Melissa McEwen: I'm working on like educational content for that.

Simone Salis: Okay, you create a good educational content?

Melissa McEwen: And so with the idea people are already using our product Glitch to make bots, and I'm going to make it easier for them to make bots that not only work but work like, well, because we get so many questions where people, they made a bot and they're having trouble with it.

Simone Salis: If you had to explain Glitch to a person who never used Glitch and is not a technical person, what would you say that it does? How would you say it?

Melissa McEwen: I mean just think of like any technology, like a bot or like a Twitter Bot and you can just like make it, like have it running like right away.

Simone Salis: Okay…

Melissa McEwen: And you just use other people's working code and just like we call it, remix it, which is create your own version of it and you can modify it to do whatever you want. Networks like right away.

Simone Salis: Okay, so basically it's a catalog of a shared code.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, or you can write your own code…

Simone Salis: Write your own and make it available for everybody else…

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: And you take that and eventually you can create your twitter Bot or whatever other API you're going to attach that to.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. Like I should migrate that twitter likes thing into Glitch.

Simone Salis: I would use it immediately…

Melissa McEwen: Isn't if you go just like remix it and use it right away because the instruction in that article, that's before I worked for glitch it uses like python and you would have to install python on your computer, you know, that's a little daunting for most people. And I sometimes I get messages on Twitter regularly like from people who like, oh, I want to delete my ghost likes. How do I do it? I've got a, we do this like app making, oh clock at glitch where we work on like an app that like we think people might be interested in or were interested in for an hour. I should do that for one of mine.

Simone Salis: Yeah, there will be, there will be nice. So you have these events and analyzing one theme, one app, like one function?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, like everyone just works on like their own apps for fun.

Simone Salis: What are some of the most interesting ones you have seen?

Melissa McEwen: Well, I often really use like Youtube really once like chatbots and made a lot of chat bots with glitch.

Simone Salis: But I know there's the pokemon one.

Melissa McEwen: Oh yeah. There's a pokemon one I made that was fun. There was another one that someone else made, it was like procedurally generated planets and procedural generation is like when you basically write code to like draw things or make things and it can make them randomly and it would generate the surface of this planet randomly. And I was really like impressed by this, it was 3D2, and so I use it in my, like what VR starter kits that are coming out soon.

Simone Salis: Okay, so, in your web VR project or virtual reality, on the web there is this procedurally generated…?

Melissa McEwen: Planet.

Simone Salis: Planets.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, so every time you visit the planet it's different.

Simone Salis: A single planet that is procedurally generated?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, well actually it's like five planets…

Simone Salis: Five planets.

Melissa McEwen: It's easy to make your own planet, yeah.

Simone Salis: It's easy to make your own planet, yes…

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, this is normally one…

Simone Salis: That's why I love the next media module, it's easy to make your own planet.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, just make this volcano planet and IC planet. So, many planets…

Simone Salis: So, it grows according to the rules that you decide to do and…

Melissa McEwen: It's basically Math.

Simone Salis: Okay, it's physically, it's like a fractal, like a mandelbrot fractal that express it a little bit different.

Melissa McEwen: Yes, its like take these ice colors and draw some like rocks and stuff. Yeah.

Simone Salis: That's pretty cool. So even in VR, creating and seeing how to do it.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, and like I did not write this math myself, but I part of coding culture and like the glitch facilitates is like taking other people's stuff and turning it into your own stuff.
Simone Salis: What is the difference for you? Not just workwise, not just like, you know salary wise or maybe, yes I don't know. But what is for you the difference in sensations between coding and writing? In a way that you say like, I'm happier now that I'm moving towards content marketing and writing because that's what I do. So what are, what is the thing that writing gives to you more than coding on a personal level?

Melissa McEwen: Well, I think they're on a work level. It's like about control and like being having a good relationship with your own work, and having you know some control over how, what the quality is like. And of course all writers get to do that. So. And I'm lucky I get to do that in both my code and writing right now. Whereas like many jobs in coding, it's like you have very little control over what the product is like, what it does. It's very specialized, you just get tickets and you do the tickets and you have sprints in the sprint is like a two week period where you need to finish all your tickets. So, that’s a system that is very difficult for me to work on too. And I'm sure that there are people who thrive in that system, but they were not me, so, but writing and coding like they're very related to me and they always will be because, you know, ever since I was doing those like websites, they were all like, I was making like, with my journal, I was like, you know, doing this CSS themes for my life journal to make it look pretty. And editing images for like custom icons and writing a ton of posts all at the same time. So…

Simone Salis: What does your boyfriend do? If I can ask.

Melissa McEwen: Oh, he teaches English at UIC.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: He just got his PhD there.

Simone Salis: Okay, so he's an English Teacher with a PhD?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, and he has a book that just came out called, I find your lack of faith disturbing. It's about star wars and geek culture.

Simone Salis: Oh, okay.

Melissa McEwen: He's actually done a ton of podcasts. He's an [27:58 inaudible].

Simone Salis: All right, nice. How did you guys meet? If I can ask you.

Melissa McEwen: On Tinder, yeah.

Simone Salis: On Tinder. Okay.

Melissa McEwen: Oh yeah. It's so funny I was working with these people when I was contracting who were maybe not so him and I told them I met my boyfriend on Tinder and they were like, “I can't believe you tell anybody that, that's a sex website”. And I was like…

Simone Salis: Not necessarily.

Melissa McEwen: Like a normal dating site now, but even if it was a sex website…?

Simone Salis: What is the problem, it's kind of a taboo? Right. Like people do not. I think everyone, almost everyone under the age of 35 uses apps to meet or talk to someone. But when you get the question asked like, how did you guys meet? Nobody goes like, oh we met on an app, like usually people make up an excuse yourself.

Melissa McEwen: Oh yeah. And I don't care. I'm totally open up…

Simone Salis: So, you go to your Mom and Dad, and you go like, well yeah, we met on Tinder.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, I know they would be surprised, honestly.

Simone Salis: Well they are technical…

Melissa McEwen: I am very into like computers and stuff and I tried to… I did use some like apps and stuff for Tinder, like automation and stuff though.

Simone Salis: Oh, so what do you automate on Tinder?

Melissa McEwen: I was using like this, you're not supposed to. There's no open API, I was using the software that was like, it would send messages like you know, just like, I mean it's funny because a lot of women I noticed complain that men's first message is usually like hi or whatever, but like usually when you send hi it's just to like; like are you there, are you interested? You know, it's just like pinging someone.

Simone Salis: What else would you say there? Because I'm also like, well hi, it's simple. But then, what would you say?

Melissa McEwen: I guess people expect like a novel about their profile. So this app, it just sent out, like hi messages.

Simone Salis: Okay, so how many did you send in a session? Like how long was the API session?

Melissa McEwen: I mean I would not. I would only send like 10 a day or so. And…

Simone Salis: Are you one of the people that got the automated high?
Melissa McEwen: I think so.

Simone Salis: Does he know?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. No one is surprised by this knowing me.

Simone Salis: Okay, they would.

Melissa McEwen: I mean to think I would care about like what kind of message I sent someone I don't even know. But there is like this, like etiquette and dating apps that you're supposed to like care about this person you haven't even met and I wasn't going to play into that. I don't care.

Simone Salis: Yeah, it makes sense because isn't the first time that you meet a person in real life. You'd say hi. Like what else do you say? Like, nice to meet you.

Melissa McEwen: I guess some of my female friends were like, oh you date like a man.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: But yeah, I definitely was not into the like take it very seriously.

Simone Salis: So, you met your boyfriend through Tinder after you sent an automated?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, after the automated message, you know [30:37 crosstalking] conversation. And then I would try to move it towards meeting in real life as quickly as possible. God, I sound like a scumbag, but it's true. And then you know, you're to meet that person and see what they're like.

Simone Salis: So, you, that was the reason like you thought that you needed…

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: To meet as soon as you could because you actually want to see the person in real life.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah and, you know go on a real date, you know?

Simone Salis: Okay, where did you guys…. Like this is personal stuff, so you might not want it. Feel free [31:02 cross talking] will tell me to change topic.

Melissa McEwen: I have literally no filter, we went to, oh, what's the name of that place? Its a hotel called hotel. I thinks its a hotel but it's a bar at a hotel.

Simone Salis: Okay, you we to a hotel for your first date, that's intense.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, Broken Shaker, its a bar and a hotel downtown and it's quite a nice bar because this is also evil plotting on my part. It's a coffee shop that turns into a bar later, so you can go on a date to go for coffee and if the day is going well…

Simone Salis: Then he turns into a bar.

Melissa McEwen: Into cocktail, yeah.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: If it doesn't go well you feel like [31:37 cross talking]. But of course you know, being a woman you do. There are some like, I mean I did go on a lot of, I mean, so when my female friends asked me about how to meet someone on Tinder, I don't know if anyone would follow my advice because I did go on a lot of creepy bad dates.

Simone Salis: You did?

Melissa McEwen: Oh, yeah.

Simone Salis: Okay.

30:43: Hello, this is Simone Salis here. This is The Hoomanist, honest conversations for technologically aware contemporary humanists, get new episodes as soon as they are released on apple and Google podcasts, Spotify, Alexia or on

I am your host Simone Salis, and this is The Hoomanist with today's guest Melissa McEwen. Melissa is a Developer and Writer, Publishing her articles on Quartz, Medium and more, and Melissa what is the creepiest…?

Melissa McEwen: Oh Man.

Simone Salis: Top three. One of the top three.

Melissa McEwen: I don’t know this isn't really like this is weird and I'm a weird person so I appreciate weirdness. But like this guy and I are like first date he brought me like a gift.

Simone Salis: Oh, when was that?

Melissa McEwen: And it was, it really creeped me out. I don't know why,

Simone Salis: What was the gift?

Melissa McEwen: Oh, mah, it was like notebooks with like bugs on them.

Simone Salis: With bugs on them.

Melissa McEwen: And I like bugs. So, yeah, it gets cute in earnest. But like at the time that like, I don't know, it just felt like so serious.

Simone Salis: All right. Listen, a stranger brought you a notebook with bugs on it as a gift because he knew that somehow he was in your profile or you told him?

Melissa McEwen: I told him.

Simone Salis: Okay. So he went a step too far.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, yeah

Simone Salis: Like here it is, but oh, of all the things that I was looking up, you know where I'm going probably after you mentioned bugs.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: I read this thing which is a whole website on pet jumping spiders.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. That's probably what I'm most known for on like part of the Internet.

Simone Salis: You are most known for that? You think.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. Yeah, because I run like the website for that online, it's a pretty used websites, so…

Simone Salis: It is, it has a lot of information and I didn't even know the premise of the website is like, well some people like to jumping pet spiders as pad. I'm like okay, they're like do look cute.

Melissa McEwen: They're very cute and people say that like I've helped them conquer their fears of spiders before. So, that's flattering.

Simone Salis: They look cute and fun because they look like it's the spiders that look like they're wearing goggles like…

Melissa McEwen: They have big eyes…

Simone Salis: Like big goggles.

Melissa McEwen: Furry and they, I mean like person posts most responsible for making them like popular spy like this guy, he, he's an animator, I don't know where he works, but he does computer animation. He did this thing called Lucas of Spider, he like heavily made the spider look like it has big, adorable eyes and fluffy. And people love those. So, yeah…

Simone Salis: So, they maybe more popular?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: When did you have your first spider?

Melissa McEwen: I mean, I've kept spider since I was a kid I was really in spiders.

Simone Salis: Okay, so you were like, mom, Dad, I want a pet, all right, a spider, all right.

Melissa McEwen: I mean it wasn't, I didn't ask anyone's permission. I would just bring them home.

Simone Salis: Oh, you just brought one home?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah; yeah.

Simone Salis: Okay, I guess that's, Melissa.

Melissa McEwen: Oh, yeah.

Simone Salis: What did they eat? They eat?

Melissa McEwen: Well when I was kid, I don't have them anymore, actually.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: My last passed away, she was quite old, but she would eat, flies.

Simone Salis: Okay, she would eat flies. How long did they live? It pressed up.

Melissa McEwen: Three years is probably the maximum that is known for this type of spider. But she was about two and a half, so.

Simone Salis: Okay, so she was approaching?

Melissa McEwen: Okay I was hoping she may get to three, but you know, she clocked out.

Simone Salis: How do you get one? You just go to a store, like you have a pet store. Melissa McEwen: They sell them at like Reptile Fairs.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: A lot of people in, like I run the Facebook group for it and it's like, it's like 6, 000 people or so, and a lot of people come from the community of like reptile keepers. People already have exotic pets, like most people already have like a snake or a lizard and they want to get like maybe even have a tarantula.

Simone Salis: Okay. Some people, you know, they get a dog because the dog is there and your needs, you can take a great care of it. But it does, this thing [36:38 inaudible] funny, silly things and etcetera. And um, what does the spider, what can you give to the spider, what does the spider give to you? Or you just keep it.

Melissa McEwen: I mean, people do handle them. I prefer not to because it's kind of, I mean, I don't want to hurt the spider, you know, they're small. They're only about like the size of like a quarter at the biggest silver dollar, maybe at the largest ones but some people do handle them. There is some anecdotal people say that the spider gets used to them and like climb in their hand, they'll also like, as my spider aged, like little gray, she was my oldest spider. She would take, she'd take like sugar water from a Qtip I'd handpick for her.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: She'd take like little treats, like I'd give her like a tangerine or something and people don't know that they can eat that, but they can, that can't be their primary diet. But if they want a snack, they can have some sugar water.

Simone Salis: Do they get sick? I mean, I guess they do because they are living beings.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: But how do they get sick?

Melissa McEwen: The most common way that they die is a mismalt, which is when they're shutting their exoskeleton and it goes wrong in some way.

Simone Salis: Oh. So you can't bring them to the Vet. Right.

Melissa McEwen: No.

Simone Salis: Like what if the spider is a sick, you can't go to the Vet…

Melissa McEwen: I have a textbook that my boyfriend got for me at UIC that's like about emergency medicine from vertebrates. There are some Vets who have treated them, but it's like really rare to find…

Simone Salis: Okay, it would be like a specialty.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, very specialty. There's an exotic Vet that's in Chicago, I believe, but I don't know if anyone else had treated jumping spider. And jumping spiders are like $30 and most people are not going to pay $100…

Simone Salis: To say, yeah.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. So um, but, and there's also probably not a lot of people going to do. I mean give them fluids and proper humidity and so serious things that you need to take care of and tweaked like even more like if it was a fish tank. I mean I kept a, I kept aquatic pet wants and it was way harder though. I kept the crawfish, it was terrible. Like constantly changing the water, monitoring water quality, the spiders were easier.

Simone Salis: But your boyfriend got you a book about a medical care

Melissa McEwen: From the Library.

Simone Salis: Oh, yeah.

Melissa McEwen: I was like, can you get this book from the library because it's like a 1000 dollars on Amazon and he, since he's at UIC is the academic library. So.

Simone Salis: Okay. Yeah. So I'm making a mental map because you do like spiders, you like to write about food, you created a bot to contact people on Tinder as the first step for you.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah; yeah.

Simone Salis: And you like to code. What other things do you have has passions? Like this kind of… Because you said I'm a weird person. Why do you define yourself that, what do you mean by that?

Melissa McEwen: I read this book, it was by this life coach called Barbara Share, and it's called Refuse to Choose and she calls, it's about like, people who like have a lot of passions and how they can shape their career. It's a pretty good book. I think she's way more over optimistic about how she… She's very positive about how it is. I guess I should be more positive about it too, but I'm like, oh, I wish I had fewer interests. And it's so funny because people are like, so many people talk to me. They're like, oh, I need a hobby. I'm like, you can have like 20 of them.

Simone Salis: I feel the same way.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah 30 of mine and I have plenty more, you know.

Simone Salis: Oh, you have been homeschool, but that used to be a problem for me in school. I literally had teachers that would tell my parents during feedback sessions and stuff like Simone is smart, but he has so many different things that he tries to take care of. That he is not going to focus on a single one. And everyone was like, yeah, what about that?

Melissa McEwen: I mean my Parents were like me too. And, you know, I don't know if it has to do with like some according to the book, Refuse to Choose like some people who have this, have ADD and I definitely have ADD and I'm like all my relatives do too. And so I don't know if that relates to that, but it definitely, it can be an advantage like if you do content marketing because it means I know about a lot of different things and like it makes me very able to find new things and talk about them really quickly. Um, it's bad probably if you're like a regular, if you want to be like a really great Software Developer who has like one project that like is used by thousands of people, like I think about the core, like Gatsby developers and that's like all they do with their spare time basically. So, and they're very, they have this level of deep knowledge that I'll never have, and I admire that if I would just like do whatever I wanted, I would just like stay at home and not do anything. And I know people work from home who do that, and that's fine. Good for them if they're happy with that, that's fine, but I think I would go a little stir crazy if I did that. So I need like incentives to make myself go out of the house, which is like I have to make plans with friends, I have to like play Pokemon Go, sign up for some exercise classes, that kind of stuff. So otherwise stay inside and drink tea.

Simone Salis: So, for your, for your personal health, you try to organize and create, do you have a routine that you create?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, I use this App called Abetica…

Simone Salis: What is that?

Melissa McEwen: It's like an RPG App with a to do list and I've been using it for like years and I did some back when it was … I did some fixing bugs on it a long time ago really minor ones. I contributed to the code base a long time ago, but I know that they may use that code base anymore. But…

Simone Salis: How does it work?

Melissa McEwen: You have like a character and like you have to do lists and when you complete that on your to do list you can like win other items, so like you can get a hat for your character or whatever and you can have like a team that you like, you go on quests with and if you don't do your to do list your like your whole team gets punished. So

Simone Salis: Oh, wow.

Melissa McEwen: Like you're battling the Dragon, and the Dragon, like if you don't do your to do's the Dragon and we'll like damage you can have like hotlink spells and stuff. So yeah, it's great.

Simone Salis: So, it gave you a fine. You're a self imposed duty.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah; yeah. And so I have a routine on that that's like, it tells me to do stuff like, well it's me telling me to do stuff, but it's like a, I have one on my task list for Sunday, which is to make plans with friends.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. And that's, yeah, sign up for exercise classes, that kind of stuff. So.

Simone Salis: Yeah, I noticed that I'm working from home for a while. I noticed that I need to work out early, like two or three times a week. I need to get ready in the morning as if I were going to work.

Melissa McEwen: Oh yeah, like getting dressed is key.

Simone Salis: Yeah.

Melissa McEwen: I almost like 90% of the time I'm like, I get dressed and get ready to pretend to go to an office, but like there are, there is an occasional day where I start my day in my pajamas and I'm like, damnt. It's usually like I'll be drinking coffee and just relax and I'll look at my computer and there's something to do and then I'll start working. I mean, my pajamas and then it's like 12 0’clock, and I’m like…

Simone Salis: It becomes just like totally hypnotized and like going with the flow with that instead of one thing.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: And then, especially with computers, right? Once you start one thing, one another tab is there, and then another tab is there. And another tab is there, how do you know, have you ever used one of those co-working spaces?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, and I don't get any work done in them.

Simone Salis: You don't, why?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, I don't know. I think it's like I'm very easily distracted.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: So, yeah, I just have trouble settling in and like I’m just like talking to people and getting coffee and it's easier for me to relax in my own space I think. Glitches in New York City and I've thought about moving back. So, it's very expensive sadley, in New York City,

Simone Salis: You know, I usually asked this, but did you grow up religious? Like did your family…?

Melissa McEwen: Very; very; very religious.

Simone Salis: Very; very; very. 3 very.

Melissa McEwen: Oh, yeah. Evangelical Christians in the 90’s I'm very like, there's this like whole media empire called focus on the family that did like Christian, like media and stuff. And I remember growing up with a lot of that stuff and like we listened to Christian rock music and went to church a lot. We did this thing called like Awanas where it's like this thing where you go to church on like Wednesday night and you memorize Bible verses and you win like awards for doing it. And my parents were pretty strict too about stuff.

Simone Salis: Okay, so it was actually like a…

Melissa McEwen: Shelter.

Simone Salis: Your shelter, okay.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. You know, there's a pretty active Twitter community for people who are X Evangelical called X Evangelical.

Simone Salis: And so you can do… you are currently X to identify yourself?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: As an X of an Evangelical.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah I’m not as involved with that community but I read a lot of their stuff and I definitely identify with it. And I'm in some Facebook groups for people who are excellent schoolers and stuff that are interesting.

Simone Salis: How do you, do you touch that side in your life right now of spirituality of religion at all?

Melissa McEwen: Mainly through, you know, experiencing with nature, you know, like when it's warm outside I like to go outside and take pictures of like bugs and stuff and you know, be around animals.

Simone Salis: So, nothing organized, just just, just experiencing what it is.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah. I feel like that's my relationship with the world, like the, you know, the wholeness of nature or whatever.

Simone Salis: The guyer?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: What would be a side project or a… do you have any project that you would like to pursue?

Melissa McEwen: I mean I'd like to travel more. I don't travel as much as I used to, when I was younger I used to try to travel…

Simone Salis: To Portugal?

Melissa McEwen: I studied abroad in Sweden and then from there I went to a lot of different places and then when I graduated college I would travel like once a year do like a big trip and I haven't done that in awhile. And because I think like, I don't know, I don't travel as much as I used to, but I think it was, it felt easier when I was younger. So like some of my favorite trips, I went to Scotland and backpacked around the highlands and I went to Glasgow and I worked on a farm on the islands. That was, it was great.

Simone Salis: You worked on what?

Melissa McEwen: A farm.

Simone Salis: You worked on a farm for how long?

Melissa McEwen: Like a week or two.

Simone Salis: What did you do?

Melissa McEwen: It was through the worldwide workers on organic farms around you like buy a membership to directory and then you can find farmers and like work with them and stay on their property. And this property they, it was more like a bed and breakfast with like a big garden that cheap too. And we did a lot of like… it was like late autumn. So we did a lot of like preparing for the winter, like winterizing…

Simone Salis: Okay.

Melissa McEwen: Greenhouse sort of stuff and gathering seaweed teases fertilizer that they do that they're in the islands.

Simone Salis: If you had to use any kind of advice to any kind of independent worker, either remote or a coder or writer, what would that be?

Melissa McEwen: I mean, one thing that has helped me a lot recently is like, well I didn't get diagnosed with ADD till I was older because my parents kind of like, didn't believe in that. But yeah, so when I got diagnosed with ADD I read this thing and it was like people with ADD tend to over commit to things like, you know, you see something, someone is like, oh do you want to speak at this event or do you want to this? And I'm like, yes, yes, yes, I'll do all this stuff. And oftentimes that left me feeling like so exhausted like all the time. So, I built this like kind of like a board in Trello which is like, it's like a project management software and it has a column of things that I'm doing currently and I want to keep that column with a maximum of five things. So, I don't want to become so tired and exhausted. And so that makes me have to say no to things sometimes. So like people are like, oh, can you come to this? I'll be like, nope, you know, but I can maybe later in the month I can do this other thing. So I have read this project management book about this thing called Kanban, and it's like a Japanese method of project management that I think Toyota invented it. And it's like it's based on like work in progress limits, and so that is based on I just consider my whole life this work and progress limit and there's things that I want to do in the future. Like I need to renew my passport I'll put in this like backlog column, which it's very funny that I talked trash about tech project management, but you know, I think some project management methodologies like when used with common sense and caring about other people and be very good. So, in this example of me using this for good, my own good.

Simone Salis: So, you're not necessarily trashing my eyes tech know management techniques and other things.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, there's good ones.

Simone Salis: So, your trying, what you are critical of seems to me is the one that abuse people.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah the ones that are deep humanizing and people will stop and say, hey, maybe this thing that we're doing, like it makes people's lives worse. And there's very little loke accountability, its so funny because tech is a data driven, but there's very little like if you stop and ask people, you're like, this actually lead to better outcomes. A lot of people are like, I don't know, so yeah. But the Kanban method for managing my life and preventing me from doing too much is actually I think it's pretty effective so far.

Simone Salis: Japanese people, right?

Melissa McEwen: Yeah.

Simone Salis: Okay. So self care and learning to say no.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah; yeah.

Simone Salis: And to balance yourself to not to exhaust yourself...,

Melissa McEwen: It's a lot of passions, it's very easy to say yes to everything.

Simone Salis: Alright, Melissa McEwen today on The Hoomanist. Thank you, Melissa.

Melissa McEwen: Yeah, thank you."