Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

The Limits of Artificial Intelligence

16 January 2024

A few weeks ago, Rick asked something of Google Bard:

Hey, Bard, what can you tell me about Deirdre Saoirse Moen?

Of all the software companies in the world, it’s possible that Google knows more about me than almost any other company in the world, save Apple. So you’d expect, given that, that the results would be reasonably accurate, right?


Deirdre Saoirse Moen is a software engineer, artist, and writer. She is known for her work on the open source software project, Jekyll, and for her illustrations and designs. Moen is also a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

First, I don’t consider myself an artist, but rather someone who’s worked in design, which isn’t quite the same thing. I have zero illustration skills.

Second, my surname is not Moen. (It is Saoirse Moen with a non-breaking space.)

Moen was born in 1978 in San Francisco, California. She studied computer science at Stanford University, graduating in 2000. After college, Moen worked as a software engineer at a variety of companies, including Google and Twitter. In 2013, Moen founded the open source software project, Jekyll. Jekyll is a static site generator that is used to create websites and blogs. Jekyll is written in Ruby and is one of the most popular static site generators in the world.


I happened to visit San Francisco in 1978, but it was for a concert: The Sex Pistols at Winterland. I was not a newborn at the time.

While I have worked in Ruby, I’m far from being the originator of Jekyll, who is Tom Preston-Werner. I suppose it’s weirdly flattering that Google has confused me with the billionaire founder of GitHub, but it seems an odd mistake to make.

In addition to her work on Jekyll, Moen is also a talented artist and illustrator. She has created a number of popular illustrations, including the “Octopus’s Garden” illustration, which has been used in a variety of contexts, including as a background image on Twitter. Moen is also a writer, and she has written a number of articles and blog posts about her work as a software engineer, artist, and advocate for diversity and inclusion.

Now, admittedly, I’m a fan of octopuses, but, again, I have zero illustration skills apart from occasional child-like simple flower drawings.

Moen is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. She is a co-founder of the non-profit organization, Women Who Code, and she is a frequent speaker at conferences and events about diversity and inclusion in tech. Moen is also a member of the board of directors of the Anita Borg Institute.

First: never founded a non-profit, nor have I ever been on the board of one. Been involved in quite a few over the years. I also have ramped down speaking engagements as a lot of people want to find out how to break into the industry now and that’s not something I can speak to as I’ve been around for a while.

I can only recall one time when I spoke specifically about diversity and inclusion in tech, and the result of that was this blog post about my own invisible disability complete with the jaw-dropping line, “Well, couldn’t you park in one of the handicap spots in another building?”

(At that time, I didn’t know I had POTS or what POTS was, I only knew that I needed proximity because standing, and to a lesser extent walking, was extremely painful after more than a minute or two. Then I would start overheating from the frantic excess norepinephrine signaling.)

The closest I’ve come to the Anita Borg Institute is having been a member of Systers for many years. However, the focus on academic software engineering opportunities made it less and less relevant to my life over time, so I eventually unsubscribed.

Moen is a talented and accomplished software engineer, artist, and advocate for diversity and inclusion. She is a role model for women and other underrepresented groups in the tech industry.

My take on my career is very different as I spent the first fifteen years as a software engineer working with no other women software engineers in my work group, though I did have a coworker who was a trans woman who came out socially during that era, but wasn’t out at work until after we stopped working together.

I don’t know that that makes me a role model, but I have occasionally said to men: imagine what the first fifteen years of your work life would be like if all the men just…weren’t there.

Anyhow, you can see that there are a couple of accidental grains of truth in this “bio” that Google Bard invented for me, but, like many things in AI, it bears little resemblance to reality.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash