Mashup mocks SXSWi's 'geo' obsession, gender imbalance

Two Digg employees have built "Wheretheladies.at," a relatively simple map mashup that tries to figure out which South by Southwest venues are populated by the most females.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

AUSTIN, Texas--It would be very clear to an uninitiated bystander at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi) this week that the annual nerdstravaganza is full of people talking about a zillion location-based social-networking applications.

There are the various campaigns and tie-ins for rival check-in services Foursquare and Gowalla, the local-deals promo from iPhone app Whrrl, and the litany of "where is everyone?" mash-ups perhaps best personified by Vicarious.ly, an uber-aggregator of Foursquare and Gowalla check-ins from Austin as well as just about every other sort of social-media updates coming out of SXSWi. Developed by SimpleGeo, another location-based services company hoping to make a name for itself at SXSWi, Vicarious.ly is a digital avalanche of "geo" data. Designed with the tongue-in-cheek aim of letting people who aren't at SXSWi feel a piece of the action, it might just give them headaches.

It would also be very clear to an outsider that the gender ratio of SXSWi is on par with that of the audience at a WWE wrestling championship, except that many of the male attendees look like they probably have more apps on their iPhones than women in their contact lists. (Sorry, guys; that might be a little bit harsh, but you get the idea.)

Enter Wheretheladies.at, a gag on behalf of two Digg employees, Jeff Hodsdon and Danny Trinh. It's a SXSWi map mashup in the manner of Vicarious.ly, but it cuts right to the chase: It tells you where to find girls. The map aggregates public Foursquare check-ins at SXSWi from female users--Hodsdon said in a Twitter post that it guesses gender based on first name, so it's not totally accurate--and then ranks Austin venues by which ones have the most women checked in. Early on Sunday evening, it looks like it was the SXSWi Web Awards party that topped the list. (It thankfully doesn't veer into stalker territory: you can't see the names or Foursquare profiles of the women in question.)

Thrown together quickly, Wheretheladies.at isn't actually all that useful (many Foursquare check-ins are not public, after all), but that's not the point: it's about the message. Geolocation obsession, coupled with a way to address the perpetual "this party is a bunch of dudes!" complaint, is more or less the perfect app to poke fun at the hype machine that is SXSWi 2010. Thumbs up, guys.

Disclaimer: I realize that there are thousands of smart, inspiring, and fun-loving women in attendance and speaking at SXSWi, and this post is not meant to downplay their presence in the least. But let's face it: we're outnumbered!