DIY Deep Fakes: an alternative point of view

I wanted to offer some alternative thoughts on the presentation entitled ‘DIY Deep Fakes‘ with the subtitle ‘Why Deep Fakes are dangerous, and how to make them‘. I don’t represent the Microsoft MVP Program, any other Microsoft program, or Microsoft. The backstory is that the presenter, James Ashley, was an MVP for ten or so years, and he was removed from the Program as per his blog post here. I have not met James although I’m a Microsoft MVP, holding the Award for 8 years.

The title of the presentation is DIY Deep Fakes. Straight away, that’s a call to action: literally, ‘do it yourself’. The first part of the presentation, James rightly points out that there are bad aspects to deep fakes, specifically, political objectives and pornography. Then, James walks you through the technology on making deepfakes, as per the subtitle. From the 37th minute to the end, the recommendation comes to try FakeApps with your browser in ‘incognito’ mode, antivirus on, and machine not connected to the network. For the record, I am absolutely NOT recommending that you create deepfakes. If you want to learn about AI, there are plenty of other fun, safe ways.

Let’s look past the presentation for a moment, and consider the consequences.  It’s not a huge jump to imagine that someone watching that would think, hey, why don’t I try that thing that the MVP did by myself? And before you know it, they’ve created a deepfake porn video, using Microsoft technologies, inspired by a Microsoft MVP, a well-respected community leader. Personally, I don’t believe that Microsoft would want that. The consequences could be tragic. In the video, James specifically calls out some of the virtual machines on Azure, from 33 minutes in the video for this purpose.

What could the presentation have achieved instead? The presentation could have shown more clearly how to identify a deepfake, how to report it if it is hurtful, and how to technically distinguish a truth from a lie. The presentation could have used the time and communication opportunity to do something to help combat this pernicious misuse of technology, and do good something really positive for community health, diversity and inclusion. I would like to have seen MVPs inspire a culture of positivity by clarifying how to catch deepfakes, and speak out forcefully. Instead, we get a presentation from an MVP about how we can make our own deepfakes and your title is literally a Call to Action on making deepfakes: Do It Yourself.

I don’t know the situation about James being removed from the MVP Program, or what happened, and all I have to go on is the presentation that James has tweeted, and James’ blog here. And, having reviewed both, that’s all I have to go on, and, quite frankly, I have no idea why this presentation was never questioned by anyone. Why not go for the technical and social challenge of preventing them in the first place? I’m all for open debates, but the presentation circumvents the debates by showing people how to create them; foregone conclusion.

James is right on one thing; anything along the lines of revenge porn, porn without the consent of the participants, porn created to hurt people, deepfakes etc etc are absolutely painful. When I was at university, one of my classmates photoshopped my face into the body of a porn actress, and printed out tons of copies and put them on the university dorms and they refused to take them down. Twenty years later, I still cringe when I think about it. I only found out about it because the male students all sniggered when I went past and eventually one of my friends told me, and I went to visit one of the rooms and there ‘I’ was – up on the wall. It was beyond horrifying. When I close my eyes, I can still see the picture. And that was just a picture. An actual movie would be much, much worse, and why oh why would that be given airtime? Why should I have to sit in conferences where someone is literally showing how to create deepfakes?

On a separate note, I have written about my own MeToo experience here and other places (it carries a trigger warning) and how the technical community participation has helped me in my healing process. I’d have loved it if my fellow MVPs would show support by helping to stop the problem, which is an interesting and technically complex challenge. I’d want to feel that the MVPs are on my side, as a fellow MVP and MeToo survivor/campaigner, and leading the community away to calling out deepfakes.

If you James or anyone else does respond, I hope that you’ll consider wisdom and good judgement in making a considered response. To quote Aeschylus:

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

My wisdom is hard won, and I hope that this perspective will be considered along with all of the heat that seems to be happening. It seems as if the argument has got down into the weeds of simply apologizing to anyone who has seen the video, or attended the presentation at Summit, and who was upset by it. I have to say, the argument does not consider the impact of our voices as MVPs and as a community leader. Our voice carry as an MVP and I suspect many people would be horrified if someone made a deepfake porn as a result of this session. I’m not sure that this consequence was ever considered.

I don’t want to have to attend conferences where a well-respected speaker is showing audience members how to make deepfakes. They can get that information from anywhere on the Internet, sure, but the problem is, as a community leader (MVP or whatever) we set direction and tone. MVPs can help move the needle, and I’d have liked MVPs to be the people who speaks out forcefully and with conviction about the pernicious misuse of this technology, and helps move the needle for good. It’s not about creating them as a beautifully technical experiment, it’s about stopping the hurt that they can cause.

I hope that people in the technical community will consider the consequences of the DIY – literally, Do It Yourself – talk because the consequences go far greater than just potentially upsetting one of the immediate attendees. It’s the principle and the spirit that’s wrong. I don’t speak for MIcrosoft, the MVP Program or anyone else; this is my thoughts. For me, MVPs are given a great platform and opportunity to do something really great. Stopping deepfakes is hard, and perhaps the session should have been about that instead; still a great technical session, but one that really sets the tone as a great example of community leadership.

People have to think ethically and carefully about technology and it’s use and misuse, and who can get hurt, and how it could be stopped. I don’t think it’s right that we see lots of deepfakes inspired by MVPs. I think we need to strive to show wisdom and judgement as the leaders that the MVP Program recognizes us to be.





Setting up an online time capsule for your children, using OneDrive

I’ve set up an online time capsule for my son, which constitutes all my photos of him and us together.

The death of Peaches Geldof prompted me to think about what would happen if/when I die? What memories would my son have of me? I see from the news that Peaches Geldof took a lot of family photos. 
Like most people, I have a lot of CD, DVD drives etc with lots of photos and videos on them. I doubt someone would take the time to go through all of these media drives for photos; certainly, I never bother.

I didn’t want those photos and memories to be lost. Since my son and I do a lot together, there are a lot of photos of him but not so many of us together, because I am the one holding the camera. I am going to change that. I’ve decided that I will ask passers-by to take our photographs together more so we have photos together.

How did I set up my online time capsule? So what I have done is this:

– I’ve set up a OneDrive account for my son, with an email address and a password which I have given to him. Go to for your free account.
– I’m going through all those hard drives, flashes, old phones etc with photos on them
– I am categorising them roughly by date, and creating a folder for each year.
– I’m then uploading all the photos, by year, onto OneDrive using my son’s email address and password.
– I have also done the same for my father. He is my backup.

It’s a gift that never stops giving 

Women in Technology: Children at Technical Conferences

I read a post with the same title by Tim Radney, which I loved. In his post, which I suggest you read, he talks about taking his son to a technical conference. I thought I’d write a little bit about my experiences taking my son to a couple of User Groups in the UK. A few months ago, Mark Broadbent (SQL DBA guru and a great friend of mine) needed a speaker at the last minute for his Cambridgeshire PASS Chapter user group. I said I would do it, but I’d have to bring my eight year old because it would be too late to get a babysitter. Very fortunately, Mark agreed that I could bring my son.  At this point, I have to thank Mark for his patience with my son, who now calls him ‘his big friend Mark’. Mark introduced him to games on the mobile phone and didn’t mind that my son ate more food than anyone else! To introduce my son to everyone, I asked him to offer everyone a chocolate and then everyone settled to hear my Big Data session. My son and I went home happy.

I run HUGSS, a SQL Server user group in Hertfordshire. I’ve taken my son on the odd occasion, and he sits really nicely, reads quietly whilst the adults are talking, and eats as much as he gets his hands on. We are a very small group at the moment, and so far, nobody has minded too much. 

For those of you who haven’t worked it out already, I’m a single mother and have been for a good while now. I play mum and dad. For me, the hardest bit of being a parent is “teaching your child how to walk, and then teaching them how to walk away”. I didn’t set out to be a single mum and it wasn’t the life that I had planned for myself, but we are where we are. I do the best mum and dad combined roles that I can do. I love my job, I love the sqlfamily that I come across, and most of all, I am blessed, really blessed, to have a smart, wise, loving little boy in my life with a big generous heart and wonderful chuckle who opens my eyes and teaches me something new every day. He loves cuddles and TS Eliot poems about cats. He loves soldiers, Nerf, lego, iCarly, Hallowe’en, ice cream with sprinkles on top and loves being read limerick poems. I count myself lucky each and every day. I want more than anything to make his dreams come true and give him the brightest, best future that is in my power to do so.

So, in my role of mum and dad, I used to worry what people would think of me as a ‘single mum at a tech conference’ as an attendee, presenter or organiser. There tends to be less female attendees, and I wonder what percentage of those are in my demographic. I then wondered if perhaps other women worried as I did, that I would be odd-one-out. Then it struck me that perhaps, by sharing my story, that perhaps other women who share my life experiences might realise that actually, it isn’t an issue. People accept you for who you are. Community is community. I believe one hundred percent that there is no community as welcoming as the ‘sqlfamily’ and I have found my ‘home’ there. You already have a shared passion for tech and everybody is learning, and if I can do this, anybody can. 

Otherwise, I’ve never taken him to a larger conference and we are both not ready to do that. I think that it would be too much for him (he is only 8, after all!). I’m a mum before anything else, and I’d be fully involved looking after him than I would in doing community work or helping people with SQL Server or BI questions. When he is older and might benefit from the experience, such as doing computing science at secondary school, then I might be more inclined to take him so that he can be inspired by meeting some of the brightest minds in tech at sql server conferences, for example.

Normally I try to keep my family life separate from my professional and community life, but Tim’s blog celebrated family and technology, and inspired me to write a little so I’ve shared a few thoughts here. My experiences and opinions will be different from other people’s, but I had hoped that these thoughts might help someone somewhere.


New to SQLPass Summit or Charlotte?

I’ve travelled five thousand miles to come to SQLPass Summit, and now I’ve arrived! I’m writing this blog with extreme jeglag so please excuse any errors. So, what should an out-of-town Brit do in Charlotte when not at SQLPass Summit 2013 sessions?  
Here are some ideas:

SQLSentry are showing their usual stellar community support by offering a SQLSentry Shuttle, which will take you around. See here for more details. Make sure to bring your name badge and ID! Here are more ideas:
  • PASS Photowalk: Join Pat Wright and other #sqlfamily members for a morning of photography.
  • Exhibitor Reception: Eat, drink, and see all the latest solutions. Remember to get your PASS to Prizes card stamped by all participating sponsors and exhibitors.
  • #SQLKaraoke: Join Pragmatic Works for karaoke with a live band!
  • Kilt Thursday: Join Grant Fritchey and clan clad in your kilt!
  • Community Appreciation Party: We’ve reserved Charlotte’s iconic NASCAR Hall of Fame for all attendees to enjoy. Sponsored by Microsoft and PASS.
I hope to see you at these event!
Kind Regards,

Speaking at Raona SharePoint Day on 2nd October in London

I’m speaking on Business Intelligence and SharePoint at the Raona SharePoint day on 2nd October. You can follow Raona on Twitter for news

With demos of Vodafone, Telefonica and Ecoembes, it will be good to see SharePoint in action. Sometimes people need examples so that they can see what to do with technology, and to spark ideas. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; technology is essentially a creative process, so why not take a look at what others have been trailblazing in the field.

If you’d like to register, here is the link and I hope to see you there.

How do you introduce yourself to people at SQLPass Summit?

In less than two weeks, I’ll be on a flight from London to Seattle to attend the SQLPass Summit at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center in Seattle, WA.  Essentially I will be travelling a round trip of 10,000 miles and seven time zones to be there.  Why would a Scottish girl, born in Kilmarnock and now living in the Home Counties, end up at the SQLPass Summit, I hear you ask?

SQLPass Summit 2012 will be my second Summit, and it already feels like what we Scots call a ‘homecoming’. I mean this in the traditional Scottish sense of far-flung people who return to their home – I think, in the US, the word ‘homecoming’ has lots of different meanings. As a Scot, I see it as a ‘trip home’ where you belong, a warm place. Summit is s a great place to meet people who are as passionate and excited about SQL Server and data as I am. I love meeting other Business Intelligence specialists, and we often swap ‘horror stories’ about deployments and projects. There is a real sense of community that happens outside the sessions. 

So, it is worthwhile to attend SQLPass Summit? I’m travelling thousands of miles to do so, giving up my vacation time. This is my second Summit. I’m a ‘repeat customer’ since I felt at home amongst people who ‘get it’ about SQL Server. That doesn’t mean that everyone is an expert; there are real experts, and ‘newbies’ who just want to learn. That’s why they have a range of sessions from beginners to experts. Further, I think it is impossible to know everything about SQL Server. As a product, it is simply too big now. In version 6.5, maybe. However, there are so many ‘veins’ to SQL Server, it’s possible to wear some ‘hats’ more comfortably than others. Some of the beginner sessions allow me to learn about new areas of SQL Server that I don’t normally get the chance to explore; it allows me to have ‘me time’ to get the ‘skinny’ on a topic – otherwise I don’t get the chance!

How do you introduce yourself and start chatting to technical people, for example, other SQLPass Summit delegates? It’s tough walking up to someone you don’t know, in a large conference. I know – I still get very shy when I meet new people. Here’s a tip: if you fancy chatting to someone, then just try one of the speakers and/or volunteers. I tend to ask people (a) their name (b) what they love most about the technology and (c) a bit about their role, and how they got there. I try this trick since I’m shy myself, and find it easier to draw someone else to talk than do it myself. At SQLPass Summit, there will be a lot of DBAs, devs, and Business Intelligence people around, so you will probably have shared experiences in doing similar things. One reason I do speak is to overcome my shyness. I think that is has helped to ‘manage’ shyness better, rather than having it go away.

Saying ‘hi’ to one of the speakers or volunteers is a great way to start; they will know their way around, and, by definition, the ‘speakers’ will like to speak! SQLPass Summit is a friendly place, and I hope that people will feel at home there – a ‘homecoming’ of SQL Server fans.

I have to mention that I’m also speaking – twice! Since Summit is the pinnacle of the US SQL Server scene, I want to emphasise that this is a huge honour and I’m tremendously grateful to have been picked. The speakers all work very hard to try and make sure that the audience learn something.  Here are my topics:

Business Intelligence and Data Visualization in SQL Server 2012 [BID-204]

Mobile Business Intelligence for Everyone, Now! [BID-102]

If you do see me around, please come up and say ‘hi’. I can introduce you to other people, and I’m more than happy to share my love of Business Intelligence to anyone who will listen.

If you’ve any other tips for ‘ice breakers’, please feel free to post in the comments. I will learn from your feedback, too! Thank you in advance.

See you there!

SQLSaturday Cambridge Swag!

Here is a picture of the Copper Blue swag that we’re giving away to attendees of the Cambridge SQLSaturday 162 event that’s being held on 8th September.

There’s still time to register for my precon, but there are only a few places left so you’ll need to be quick! No, I’m not just saying that 🙂

It’s a foldable water bottle with a carabiner so you can attach it to your laptop, clothing, bike or whatever. We wanted to give away something useful and practical. It holds nearly half a litre!