Saturday, March 23, 2013

What you should know about the dongle joke

Here is a short list of things that many people completely miss about the entire "dongle gate" situation. (back story here)

Before one hits the world to "support" one party or another in this whole mess, think about the following issues.


  1. Everybody was excited about how well represented women were at PyCon
    • "Dear world, I'm going back to celebrating that fact that #PyCon had 20% female attendees. I hope you will join me. Cheers, LH"
  2. Nobody actually has come forward and described the "dongle" joke in detail
  3. To "fork" a repo is a technical term, and was used in the context of it being a mark of code quality.
    • "I'd fork his repo" for example, was provided as a strange compliment
    • It has been denied that "fork" was meant to be a stand-in for "fuck"
  4. Adria Richards' role was "developer evangelist"
  5. Adria Richards herself tweeted dick jokes prior to the encounter
    • "you should put something in your pants next time...like a bunch of socks inside one...large...sock. TSA agent faint"
  6. Adria Richards tweeted her own bizarre philosophy about racism prior to this event:
    • Black people CANNOT be racist against White people. Racism is a position of the oppressor who has the power
  7. Adria Richards was playing "Cards Against Humanity" at the PyCon conference and posted a picture on Instagram.
    • Hint: The game is played precisely because it's inappropriate!
  8. Adria Richards publicized that her employer supported her without question:
    • "Hey @mundanematt, it's clear from the last 24 hours you're a bully. @SendGrid supports me. Stop trolling."
  9. Well before tweeting pictures of the male developers, Adria Richards made similar mistakes same mistakes at earlier engagements:
    • Danielle Morrill used the word "Money Shot" at a conference session title. Without talking to Danielle about it, Richards told her blog readers that Morrill was "promoting porn"
      • Adria's site, butyoureagirl.com, had article initially titled "Wordcamp Boston’s Ignite session turns to porn pitch for votes"
    • Made a scene of a comic Jane Wells created from an XKCD strip, arguing that the woman stick figure looked silly compared to the male stick figure.
  10. People are saying "Adria didn't want anyone to be fired". Yet she did not apologize to the developers, and even favorited this tweet that was dismissive of the consequences:
    • "@paxdickinson Pretty sure a python developer isn't going to be out of work for long in this market. Unless he makes dick jokes in interviews"
  11. The developers were in no way addressing Adria Richards.
    • They were not talking to Adria
    • The joke did not reference females in any way
    • There has been no evidence put forwards regarding any prior interaction between the parties involved
    • A sexual joke is not necessarily a sexist joke.
  12. The developers did not harass, threaten or intimidate Adria Richards in any way.
    • From the photo, it is obvious several males knew their photo was being taken by a rather attractive woman. From what they knew, she was going to post it on Facebook and caption it "Look at all the ugly neckbeards!" - but they didn't say a single word to her.


Put yourself in the position of her employer, SendGrid. You have an employee that finds themselves in this situation frequently - even in the company of other females. 

You have an employee that tweets using her company persona anything that happens to come to mind about race relations.

Furthermore, her job is developer evangelist. Her ability to do her job rests on a good relationship with the community at large.

The employee has told the masses of developers that the company has her back for all time, and that several of them are "trolls" circling around in an unsafe, anti-woman community.

Her entire identity has morphed into not something that interacts with the community at large in regards to its core goals, but rather one that stands out as critical of it.

The icing on the cake is that her choices harmed the reputation of other companies that attended the event.

A programming conference, at its core, exists not to propel some social justice agenda. It exists to talk about programming. If your ability to primarily engage people on that topic comes into question, you are no longer a developer evangelist.

So step back for a moment and ponder a terrible situation.

But do not, for one second, believe that Adria Richards is somehow a victim of a crime committed by the developers at that conference. 

Finally, the focused suggestion that SendGrid should simply re-hire Adria Richards is actually sexist. If you think sock-joke Adria should be employed while it's somehow OK for the dongle-joke male to be terminated, then you happen to host a sizable amount of gender bias.

11 comments:

  1. It's great that you put together a list of facts about the situation. However, it's hardly the unbiased list of related facts that it somewhat appears to be at the beginning.

    I do NOT support what Adria did, but I do think it's worthwhile for everyone to understand her side. Not because she's right, but because she might not be quite as wrong as people make her out to be.

    I would also be worthwhile -- if this is really to be a list of relevant facts -- to point out the vicious and ugly comments directed towards her. It's a fairly large oversight to miss that.

    So with that said:

    "#2 To "fork" a repo is a technical term, and was used in the context of it being a mark of code quality."

    That's true. But, people also use it as a sexual joke. In this case, it wasn't being used sexually, but I think many people would have thought the same thing.

    "#5 Adria Richards herself tweeted dick jokes prior to the encounter"

    True. The context is different though and it's worth remembering that. Adria isn't saying that no one can ever make sexual references. She's saying they don't belong in a professional context.

    "#9 Well before tweeting pictures of the male developers, Adria Richards made similar mistakes same mistakes at earlier engagements:"

    The story that Amanda paints is a gross exaggeration of the facts. If you read the details, Adria comes out looking just fine.

    "Danielle Morrill used the word "Money Shot" at a conference session title. Without talking to Danielle about it, Richards told her blog readers that Morrill was "promoting porn""

    Actually, Adria mentioned this in a podcast, not on her blog. And it wasn't just the session title -- the talk abstract referenced how you can think like a porn director. "Promoting" is an ambiguous term, but it was somewhat celebrating porn.

    "Made a scene of a comic Jane Wells created from an XKCD strip, arguing that the woman stick figure looked silly compared to the male stick figure."

    That wasn't her objection. Her objection was that the women in the comic strip were made to look unintelligent (unlike in the original comic). Also, she raised this objection in a perfectly appropriate way: by commenting on the blog post which announced the shirt.

    "People are saying "Adria didn't want anyone to be fired". Yet she did not apologize to the developers

    She did state that she didn't think they should be fired.

    "and even favorited this tweet that was dismissive of the consequences: '@paxdickinson Pretty sure a python developer isn't going to be out of work for long in this market. Unless he makes dick jokes in interviews'"

    That's not being dismissive exactly.

    "A sexual joke is not necessarily a sexist joke."

    No, it's not. However, sexual jokes DO make a lot of people uncomfortable. And, when you do things that make one gender uncomfortable, it can be seen as sexist.

    "Finally, the focused suggestion that SendGrid should simply re-hire Adria Richards is actually sexist. If you think sock-joke Adria should be employed while it's somehow OK for the dongle-joke male to be terminated, then you happen to host a sizable amount of gender bias."

    What happens at work is different from what happens socially. That said, I think it's absolutely ridiculous that one of the guys was fired.

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    1. How seemless and easy the blog post was to compile. Your comment seems like a struggled effort to see good where no good can be seen. Seriusly, using your ethod, even hitler can be justified. and any other person. We get how gender-biasness sucks and is horrible, but doesn't mean you can do anything and tag its for gender equalty reasons infront of it and immediately make it ok.

      So talking that stuf at a proffessional settings isn't the way to go. -It was a personal conversation(1), so is cussing and so many other things people still do without any backlash in any setting-including taking pictures without permission from others(2). Oh yah-How about taking random pictures of people and immediately posting them on social media outside-Thats proffesional... All in all being a person like that and immediately trying to get everyones backing by connecting it to something that ACTUALLY matters. Thats like saying, I am an introvert. Introvert commit suicide alot, so don't treat me bad. You simply want to connect your desire to be king over others to an actual thing that matters. Stop backing her up for no reason.

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    2. We call that a "REACH" where I come from, a passive-aggressive reach at that. Obviously Adria didn’t take into consideration that she was representing not only her company, but the employees of that company, and the investors of said company. In addition to that, it appears she also put a sourness on the event. An event that had boasted a large percentage of female attendance.

      Her company had every right to fire her for her behavior. To try and justify her behavior is to support her behavior. I believe Adria saw an opportunity to create a sexist incident that simply wasn’t there. This is typical amongst Social Justice Warriors. But, what SJW’s fail to realize, is the culture and environment they are creating has the same consequences for them. There’s a reason why companies have policies and HR departments. There’s a reason why we have laws and courts. People can’t run to Twitter for Social Justice every-time they are offended, or perceive themselves as being offended. Perception isn’t reality, it is merely your perception of your own reality, in which most cases is distorted by your own biases and ego. Adria’s biases, or rather her ego in this case, just so happened to get her fired.

      Edward L. Bernays wrote a book titled “Propaganda,” which explains a lot of this Social Justice we see today, especially within the neo-feminist movement. I definitely recommend you give it a good read. It will change the way you view things.

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  2. Thanks for your comment!

    Agreed that context matters.

    One thing to ponder about - is the conference more of a professional environment than her Twitter feed?

    People on Twitter love the disclaimer - "my opinions are my own" or something like that, as if it gets them out of everything. Somehow Adria's comments on Twitter are her private comments, yet the men speaking to themselves in a large crowd are somehow speaking on a pedestal? Where does that come from?

    The men had a reasonable expectation of privacy, even if they were at a large event. However there can be no expectation Twitter, the medium Adria used to share her opinions.

    I have not seen any writing/tweet from Adria that suggests she is unhappy about the firing, but I will update the post when I find it. I intend to address the ddos in another post.

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    1. That's a really good point.

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  3. Very very late here. But I would like to add something.

    I don't have so much of a problem with Richard's original Tweet. We all have made stupid decisions in the heat of the moment.

    Where Richards completely lost me though was with her rather obnoxious blog post where she elevated herself to Joan of Arc and managed to ride in an entire group of high horses. I don't think I am the only one. I am sure if she would have shown some humility when it blew up things would probably not have gone as far as they did.

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    1. I hear where you're coming from, but for me, your last statement explains why I do have a problem with her "tattling" on twitter. She wanted it to blow up, but in her favor, with everyone congratulating here for standing up to the patriarchy and fighting for all the poor, defenseless female programmers of the future and have these two guys crushed by the public shaming of White Knights rushing into to rescue this victimized damsel.

      And seriously, when are we going to expect women to act like adults? If a man had very puritanical values around sex and would've found those same jokes inappropriate, we would be telling him to "man up" and ask those guys personally to stop and we would tell him to do it in a respectful manner. But god forbid any woman should happen to have her delicate sensibilities offended, heads will roll and in the end, its the fault of all men for some made up reason.

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  4. Coming a bit late to the game, but I thought you might enjoy my take on the issue.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/04/09/kamala_harris_donglegate_and_sexist_double_standards_117869.html

    Love your blog!

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    Replies
    1. I'm catching up on comments + readings - your article is great! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. What is frustrating about the Adria Richards affair is just how much is missed because no time line is ever put together. As someone who followed this closely here's the timeline:
    A. At Pycon, 2 men setting directly behind Adria were talking. One made the infamous "dongle" joke, and one of them also mentioned 'forking a repo' later in the conversation whether it was sexually connotative or not.
    B. Adria did her tweet.
    C. As can be found in the Pycon minutes, the men were spoken to, they apologized. No one was thrown out of the conference, despite what Cathy Young says above.
    Now, at this point one could argue that Adria did nothing wrong in particular. It wasn't (at the time) against the conference rules to tweet to the conference organizers if one had a problem.
    D. It's a day or two later. Adria posts the whole thing on her BLOG and compares herself to Joan of Arc. She was saving some future little girl from the horrors of a dongle joke! Presumably her feminist readers start pressuring Playhaven, the mens employer to get rid of them.
    E. The Playhaven CEO announces one of the men was fired and cravenly apologizes.
    F. The internet (including Anonymous and 4chan) get wind of the whole sorry saga when someone claiming to be the guy fired posts on Hacker News. He says he's sorry for the dongle joke, but that 'forking the repo' was innocent & also that he was given no warning before the original tweet and complaint.
    G. Adria hears of this and claims she is sorry he got fired but does not apologize.
    H. People pressure SendGrid, Adria's employer. There is a DDOS attack on the Sendgrid server. Adria is canned within 24 hours of this attack, and one of the main reasons is inability to do her job as a "Developer Evangelist" since she upset so many in the community.

    Given all that, I don't think Adria was as innocent as many try to make her out to be. This should have ended with her complaint at the conference, whatever you think about how she chose to do it. Instead she fanned the flames in a very self aggrandizing manner by making that blog post.

    Clarence

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  6. bizarre philosophy on racism...Well, it is a fact that racism is a matter of the impact of power over combined with prejudice against...For a majority of people of colour, they are not in a position to have "power over" a dominant White majority. Thus, Ms. Richards' statement is far from bizarre. People of colour can be and many are prejudiced against various groups of people, including their respective races (also known as internalized racism). I hope you can find my comments useful to you.

    ReplyDelete