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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Author Jolie O'Dell on Android Photography, Hook-Up Apps, and Women in Tech

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Jolie O'Dell is one of my favorite San Francisco writers. In the brief time we've known each other, we have eaten lunch at a strip club, gone trampolining at the House of Air, and played charades at the Palace Hotel after Brian Wilson beat us both in the SF Weekly Web Awards for "Best Twitter Personality." By day she's a whipsmart tech journalist, formerly of Mashable, and now of VentureBeat. By night, you can find her waxing domestic at her kick-ass blog, The Single Housewife. O'Dell recently published her first book, Android Photography: A Guide to Mobile Creativity, which teaches you how to create, edit, and share pics with the Android's in-phone camera. Filled with practical tips, app low-downs, and lots of gorgeous photos to inspire, I want to buy this book and I don't even own an Android phone. O'Dell and I talked about her book, whether lesbian hook-up apps are a pipe dream, and Feminism 101.

So how'd your SXSW panel go? Do you still think SXSW sucks, a la your blog post from last year?

SXSW sucks more than ever, man. I didn't go to any of the parties or events or anything, I just tried to do my journalism and mind my business. But the same problems from two years ago kept coming up -- d-bags, stolen equipment, broken equipment (someone trashed our set overnight), and some fun, new strain of Black Plague that's had me laid up in bed for almost two weeks. Never. Again. I'm getting knuckle tats that say "never again" just to remind me.

I worry about technology-related books because technology changes so fast. It seems like every few weeks, something has become obsolete. Do you worry that your book will become outdated in six months as the software and apps change?

See, that's why I put in some hefty chapters on the basics: How to frame a shot, how to look for compositional lines that will make it interesting, how to shoot a landscape with a very small camera, how to not look like an egotistical jerk when posting photos of yourself on the Internet. There's a fair amount of how-to and app coverage, but even most of that is fairly evergreen over the next couple of years, because those apps get pretty frequent updates.

The design looks really sleek. Did you take all the pictures?

I'd say I took about half. The other half (and the majority of the Gallery section) came from other amateur and professional photographers around the world. Sourcing those images and getting to know some of the photogs was a really interesting process that put faces and names to the large online community.

What's the best Android app for night photos?

None that I have found yet. Night photography, unless you're going for the flashed-out hipster look, is something that's probably best left to professionals or professional-grade equipment.


I encountered some comments on your blog like this: "If the photos in the book are half as good looking as she is, the book will be amazing." I have a hard time believing anyone would say that about a dude who wrote a book, unless it was Ryan Gosling or something. I know it's supposed to be complimentary, but how do you deal with the sexism you face as a woman in a heavily male field?

I roll my eyes and cash my checks, man. I can't go through Feminism 101 with these guys, which is what it would take to teach them that those kinds of "compliments" are really insults. I speak out about it when I can and when it's egregious, but responding to all the comments like that would eat up way too much time.

Do women in startups have to work harder to be taken seriously?

In San Francisco, I feel like they have to put on a certain facade of seriousness and not being overly attractive or not caring overly much about their appearance or having an awesome social life. It's almost as though the Hoodie Mafia in SOMA can't handle the thought of a cute, vivacious woman who also has a brain and can hustle her butt off when it's time to do business.

Now for the important questions. You interviewed the creator of the gay male hook-up app, Grindr, recently, who talked about Blendr, his app for the gay ladies and the straights. Do you think lesbians would actually use it? I feel like it's a pipe dream.

I've never been good at guessing what lesbians will do, but based on my own experiences, it seems less likely that we'd be hooking up with one another based on the extremely light data set you'd find on a mobile app. Whether we'll be using the app to introduce ourselves to one another or navigate the social scene better remains to be seen.

I know I can get it at Amazon, but are there local places that have your book too?

It's at a few places -- Urban Outfitters, Target. Nothing super duper mom-and-pop-type local, not that I know, anyhow. I might make a push for that when my next book comes out, though.

Will buying your book get me laid?

Laid until you can't walk right, yup.

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