I live in the Netherlands, a very open-minded country with same-sex marriage, equal rights and were women seem to me to be even slightly more dominant over men (but this is just my perception).
All this without safe spaces, forced quotas at conferences, codes of conduct and people that police every word you say. There are laws against harassment of course, and that's enough.
Of course, it's not perfect, but there are rarely if ever any big incidents due to discrimination (to my knowledge).
Looking at the USA instead I see people getting offended pretty much for anything. As a consequence discussion gets neutered to the point where everybody is afraid to express even small controversial ideas or make the next "dongle" joke for the fear of repercussions.
I have also seen a lot of videos of people getting beaten in the streets for holding up signs with which "offended" people did not agree. Is that freedom of speech? We had such things in our history in the "old continent" and they were definitely not called this way.
This is one of the big reasons that always kept me away from the USA, even for short trips at conferences. Here in Europe to me it feels much safer and open minded, with all the flaws and imperfections that there might be.
If what another commenter mentioned, that they did blind-reviews of the papers, then this is actually quite appalling to me and sends the reverse signal that we don't really care about your paper, as long as you fill up our quota.
I also deeply believe that this is inherently the wrong way to fix this kind of problem. It's like treating symptoms instead of actually treating the underlying disease. If the papers accepted were all male, then why not ask "why was it only papers from men that were qualified enough?" or "why did only men submit papers for our event?". If the former is true than we need effort into investigating why more women aren't writing these papers (be it quality or just plain quantity), and if the latter then look into the marketing/awareness on the paper submitting process.
EDIT: Included links to the comments that mentioned the blind-reviews.
Semi-related: While I haven't seen it, I saw an interview with Jordan Peele about the movie "Get Out". He mentions that he wanted to tackle the fact that while Obama definitely helped the US move to less racist tones, it was never really solved, it is just there hiding under the skin with super-awareness to not be racist, which arguably is not the desired effect - there shouldn't be awareness at all about race period. I feel like this effect is somewhat similar to what is happening here, and the fact that the US is not able to hold any reasonable discussion at all on these topics doesn't make me optimistic on their capability to handle these issues. I feel like PC culture is causing way more harm than good.
Imagine the reaction if a group of male organizers had decided too many women were speaking, and you'll understand how other people feel about this decision.
When sexism like this is tolerated it only discredits any claim that equality and fairness are the goals.
What you're talking about is superficial equality. Your point is correct within that narrow context, but I don't think superficial equality is all that interesting.
I want a society where everybody gets an even shot, at which point I find it highly unlikely we'd end up at 50/50 - given programming has been both male-majority and female-majority over time I'm damned if I know in which direction it'd fall, but 50/50 usually means "you have forced people to be here who would've been better/happier somewhere else" and my feminism involves the radical notion that women have agency too.
The fact that programming has been both male-majority and female-majority at different times proves my point, and undermines yours. There is nothing inherent about it that makes women select into or out of it. Society pushed women into it back when it was a low status profession and now pushes women out of it now that it's a high status profession.
 When people say equality of opportunity they really mean something well short of that. Equality of opportunity means that's if you take a sample of say 1,000 kids, they should experience extrinsic forces over their lifetime that aren't correlated with race/gender/etc. I.e. some kids might have it easier because they have rich parents and some kids might have it harder because they have poor parents, but there shouldn't be a systematic pattern to those forces. But when people invoke "equality of opportunity" I am skeptical they mean doing something about the fact that statistically a random black kid is going to grow up in a household that only makes 60% as much as the one a random white kid would grow up in.
The other point is that in a free society, you cannot guarantee equality of outcome because people are going to make personal choices that will be magnified and influenced by whatever sub-culture they are immersed in. Professional basketball in the early days was over-represented by Jews, because it just so happened that interest in the game went viral in that sub-culture.
Tech has an over-representation of men because it grew out of a particular nerd sub-culture. There's nothing wrong with doing outreach to get non-traditional sub-groups developing an interest in programming, just like there's nothing wrong with the NBA running clinics in China to get Chinese kids into basketball. But it's not racism that the demographics are the way they are! In a free society you should expect that!
Arguably yes. The NBA itself is an irrelevantly tiny portion of the economy. But it creates a huge pressure on African American kids to focus on being successful through sports instead of academic pursuits.
What do you mean "arguably yes"? What are we losing by having blacks be over-represented in the NBA?
>But there is a huge pressure on African American kids to focus on being successful through sports instead of academic pursuits.
BY WHO??! Who are these individuals who are pressuring black kids to focus on sports instead of academics?!? I have never met such a person.
Professional Hockey is dominated by White Canadians and Russians. Baseball is over-represented by Latino/Hispanic players. Asians, who are 5% of the US population, account for almost 25% of all Physicians. Which industry has this perfect ratio of races that should serve as a model for us all. And you conveniently side-stepped the issue of 1) why it is race/ethnicity where proportionality should be prioritized over (for example) religion, and 2) is it even reasonable to expect that such a ratio to be achievable in a society where people are free to choose and 3) what the heck is the actual gain to society if it is versus the cost of brainwashing people to want things they don't actually want.
How much do you know about the personal experiences of African American teenagers?
How much do you? How much do middle-class black Americans in New York know about the personal experiences of poor black teenagers in rural Louisiana? How much do you know of the personal experiences of second generation Polish Americans in Chicago? Or recent Chinese immigrants in San Francisco? Or poor White Protestants in Appalachia.
What is your point?
Would you support limiting professional teams from hiring black people to allow for a certain number of Asians?
Would you support universities reducing their intake of Jewish students to stop over-representation?
Would you support hospitals hiring a maximum 5% Asian doctors?
It's a symptom of one.
> And what the heck are you supposed to do to fix it?
Deal with the problems that deny so many black youth any better opportunities than the lottery-ticket of aiming for success in sports.
The true equality would be when the conference organizers see 12 good presentations, and don't even think to dig into what identity class they represent (unless the conference is specifically organized to represent identity classes). When did you last seen statistics about hair color or eye color of conference presenters? How about blood type? Maybe AB- people are underrepresented? You get the idea.
If you are ever so slightly open-minded about it you could consider black Americans to still be systematically oppressed by the criminal justice system. Read a bit about the criminalisation of marajuana, sentencing procedures, the industrial prison complex etc..
Or to be less glib, that's a great question, and like many, not simple to answer well.
Mostly, it seems like a lack of positive reinforcement and role models (leading to self selection out at early ages), mixed with sexism in a a variety of forms (leading to lack of opportunities, or hostile environment and self selection out at later ages).
But that's an oversimplification.
It's not as if men went into tech because of positive social reinforcement for being a nerd.
There's still a social stigma attached to it, which I'd love to see change, but it affects both men and women.
Tech isn't new. Why haven't women chosen to enter tech in the same numbers they've chosen other male-dominated fields?
As to law, it didn't happen by magic. After openly excluding women into the 1970s, law schools and law firms made concerted efforts to increase the representation of women. Large law firms not only track demographic information for hiring and promotions, they disclose it to legal publications who report on it. These days much of it has become self reinforcing. Frat culture has a hard time surviving in an environment where a big chunk of the clients are women (a quarter of existing Fortune 500 CLOs and a third of new ones are women).
And yes, men largely do get into stem fields because there is huge positive reinforcement and many positive role models.
Yeah. Traditionally all the cool kids were the math and computer whizes with glasses and pocket protectors - not the star football player. Yeah. Got it.
>And yes, men largely do get into stem fields because there is huge positive reinforcement and many positive role models.
Uh huh. Can you quantify that? Or did you just sit down and think really really really hard about it so it must be true.
>and many positive role models
Is that actually a real problem? Are you saying a white kid will be dissuaded from playing basketball, or even being an NBA fan because the best players are black?
In similar spirit, are you really trying to argue that a young girl will not be able to be inspired by Woz, or Jobs, or Elon Musk because they are men? What dystopian, ugly world are you living in?
There's absolutely a stigma against not confirming to prevailing norms, which is a bit of a different discussion. Also the mess that is putting hundreds or even thousands of adolescents in a confined space with minimal oversight.
>Uh huh. Can you quantify that? Or did you just sit down and think really really really hard about it so it must be true.
Why did you get into it?
>Is that actually a real problem?
Yes. Though, representation generally is probably a better way to have said it. Though availability of role models and mentors with similar life experience is a factor as well.
>Are you saying a white kid will be dissuaded from playing basketball, or even being an NBA fan because the best players are black?
Fandom and participation aren't the same things, and while there's some overlap between former participation and later fandom in sports, it's far from 1 to 1.
I'm not sure if white kids would be discouraged due to lack of representation in the NBA. All other things being equal, yes, that's a likely outcome. But all other things are not equal. Race and sports in the US is an interesting topic in its own right.
>In similar spirit, are you really trying to argue that a young girl will not be able to be inspired by Woz, or Jobs, or Elon Musk because they are men?
Not at all. But a lack of representation has a few different impacts. At the personal level, individuals find it easier to identify with folks who they see as being like them. What exactly like them means varies, but the younger the child, the less abstract they tend to be. Second, parents and teachers are influenced by lack of representation, so it feeds back into a loop of lack of community encouragement, which doesn't help.
>What dystopian, ugly world are you living in?
The same one as you, of course.
Null hypothesis. YOU are making an unsubstantiated claim. What is YOUR proof of this structural racism. And feel free to define your terms, because I have no effin clue what 'structural racism' is.
Here's an alternative explanation, people are influenced by the sub-cultures they are in and ideas that go viral in one sub-culture, may not go viral in another. In the early 1900s professional basketball was dominated by Jews. Why basketball? I don't know. It just happened to strike a chord with that specific population, in that specific time.
I'm not saying this is the reason, but what it is, is an example that YOU have to dismiss or account for to prove YOUR claim.
>If the answer is "self selection," explain to me what could possibly cause women and black people to self-select out of high paying interesting jobs?
An average salary for a radiologist is $350,000/year. Why aren't you a radiologist? I'll tell you why I'm not. I would rather shoot myself than spend the amount of time it takes to become a radiologist because I have no interest in it. I have no interest in memorizing massive amount of latin names and reading volumes of biology and anatomy text books. Similarly, if you don't love programming, programming is an insanely boring and tedious profession. You may sit in-front of a computer screen for days trying to find a bug that occurs sporadically under some very specific conditions. I find that fun, others who have no interest in it will want to shoot themselves too.
So to answer your question: "I don't know" but if your criteria is human irrationality, I can go on and on and on and on... Why are middle-class kids borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to private liberal arts colleges with no real hope of landing a job that will provide them an income to pay of those loans? Come to think of it, why do humanities degrees even exist? Why do people buy lottery tickets when investing the equivalent money will net them a significantly higher return rate?
Humans are not rational agents. We're driven by emotion.
Since you reject my hypothesis, I'm asking you to suggest an alternative. And your alternative appears to be, "I don't know why, but for some reason black people just don't like money." Which doesn't make any goddamn sense. Sure individuals are different, but why would we expect groups of people to have such distinct preferences? To me your theory smacks of rationalization.
I reject your hypothesis on the basis that you have provided no evidence.
>I'm asking you to suggest an alternative
An alternative to what? Why there are less black people and women in tech than there are Asians and whites? I don't know. It could be any number of reasons and none of them may have to do anything with racism or misogyny. You can't just prove your assertion by saying "well i can't think of anything else it could be therefore racism must be the cause".
>And your alternative appears to be, "I don't know why, but for some reason black people just don't like money."
Your paraphrasing of a position I put forward is disgusting. It isn't at all what I said. At all.
You also missed my point. I'm not saying I believe my alternative. I have no evidence for it just like you don't have any for yours. I put it out there to demonstrate that there are potential alternatives that would need to be taken into account.
>Sure individuals are different, but why would we expect groups of people to have such distinct preferences
That's a good question. A type of question that one could study and get a Masters for or a PhD. Certainly there is plenty of precedent at least when it comes to tastes in movies, music and food. So why would you just dismiss it out of hand and blame racism?
If one presupposes that men and women are literally just the same. As in they have the same distribution of proclivities and personality traits across their gender this would be the most logical conclusion to reach.
As an aside. Anyone ever heard of David Reimer? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer
Insofar as being "fucked up with regards to race." I've heard there are literal open market slave auctions going on in the Middle East.
Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestiniens.
India has a brutal caste system.
That's all worse than section 8 housing IMHO.
The US is a huge, multifaceted place, and like anywhere so large, you will find things both awful and wonderful. But life is a lot less chaotic than the news agencies claim. And the histrionic folks, while loud, are a lot fewer in number than the amount of airtime their doings get would have you believe.
tl;dr- Come on over, the water's fine. You'll probably make some friends. Everybody wins.
Don't be. TSA is stupid theater, they suck, but probability of anything happening to you is very low. Probability of anything beyond mild irritation happening to you - unless you one of high profile people that Powers That Be have a beef with - is vanishingly low.
Yes, it still happens - millions pass through TSA every day, and you'd have a number of cases where usual silliness rises to the level of dangerous idiocy, and these cases would be widely publicized and criticized, as they should be. But pure numbers game suggests your chances of becoming one of those is very small. If you take some basic precautions - like not standing out too much, being polite and not arguing with them, however stupid the proceedings look, etc. - even smaller.
In fact, on my latest travels, I personally have had much more irritating experience with London security that with TSA. On top of everything TSA does (which they did too), London people were severely understaffed for some reason, but if you think that made them move at anything faster than a glacial pace, you'd be so wrong. They were so Zen I'd be envious if I wasn't so concerned about missing my flight because they need to swab my books and slooowly bring it to some mysterious machine and slooowly come back and so on... But still it wasn't much more than mild annoyance summarily.
> But I am scared I'll get into trouble on the border because of my HN and Facebook posts (e.g. against US drone strikes).
Nobody cares. Really. They don't have resources to read every HN thread.
The good thing I'll say is that somewhere around 57 million people visited the US last year. 99.9%+ had no trouble other than long lines and the general frustration that comes with long distance travel. So your fears, while completely understandable, are also very, very unlikely to cause any actual trouble.
We get it, people who comment on sweet puppy Instagram posts aren't under threat. Sure. But the IT folk, especially people having access to sensitive information or white/black hats can definitely expect a plethora of insolent questions at the airport, asked in small creepy rooms somewhere at the back, from people who refuse to even identify themselves. Is that even legal?
Shall we also mention the looming danger of own laptops being banned on flights? Either use a Chromebook-like device (which, I have no doubt, will steal your private data, why else would they setup such a honeypot anyway) or GTFO, that's USA's policy.
I've made up my mind. I am not going to the USA for now. There's undoubtedly a huge pool of interesting people who can make some of my business dreams come true there but I am not sure being recorded in an unofficial "special target" list for life and having my devices every time I go confiscated is worth it. I'd say no.
(I exaggerate a bit of course, but to the average guy like myself losing even a $250 throwaway device is something that I will feel.)
So he probably was on some kind of a radar. Are you? Then you concern is completely warranted. Are not? Then it's not.
Like, at levels only seen in 1 out of every 100,000 visitors, making it quite likely you'll be one of the 0.1-% percent if you hold these extreme viewpoints?
Criticism of TSA are certainly fair, but as someone that flies to the US from Europe monthly, the fears are definitely overblown.
Seriously, don't sweat it. The fears are overblown and not based on any actual data other than anecdotes from highly vocal bloggers/etc.
About 1 million visitors a day enter the US through airports in the US and about 360 are denied entry -- most of those because they had prior visa violations that deemed them inadmissible and others because they didn't have a valid visa. So 0.03% denied entry. In the U.K., that percentage is about 0.02%, just for comparison.
I think you're missing a 'not' in there somewhere. :)
I've also lived for years at a time in a half-dozen other countries around the world.
So far, there's no other country I would rather live in than the USA. YMMV, and I respect that.
But please also consider that I am speaking from relevant experience.
How does this affect a coding conference you ask? Because it affects everything. You don't do something like that as a society and expect that the consequences will disappear just a few generations after you stopped doing it.
So yes, everyone in the U.S. is really sensitive, with good reason. Frankly it's a miracle that safe spaces and sensitivity training are the worst atonement we have to deal with. People in many regions of the world are fighting decades' long bloody wars over less egregious circumstances.
 In college I used to be anti-PC. Then when I was living in Atlanta, I walked across one of the streets that historically served as a dividing line for segregation: http://socialshutter.blogspot.com/2012/10/when-street-names-.... I went from my trendy white midtown neighborhood to a predominantly black very low income neighborhood. For me, it was a major "holy fuck everything is fucked up" moment.
"Hey, if you need a special training to realize you can't shove large cumbersome objects up somebody's ass, then maybe you're too fucked up to be in the police force in the first place.
Let's try something else -- intelligence and decency. You never can tell, it might just work, it certainly has never been tried before."
I feel that in such areas USA just refuses to acknowledge the existence of a very, very basic common sense.
Instead of these people being relentlessly persecuted and jailed, they received "sensitivity training".
So yeah, I'd sue them to hell and back, and will fire any person in the chain of command who even remotely resists that decision. Which of course wouldn't ever happen, for one reason or another. I don't know the reason(s) but it's baffling that these people actually ran free, don't you think?
I think the more important issue is to make sure you selection committee is not biased. While it might be nice to have a selection committee made up with the front-page names in the start-up industry, you'd probably be better off skipping those that act more like fraternities.
We are becoming crippled by our own will. It's sad to watch and the pendulum response was the 2016 election.
Who precisely is it that's doing this?
How many departments of government, academia, and business are there today which depend on a continued societal belief in postmodernism's collectivist explanation of oppression and victimhood?
If humanity achieved the goal of absolute equality, would those currently employed in the diversity and inclusion industry simply find new careers or would they continue to find new ways to segment humanity into oppressors and victims in order to retain the power and salary they are accustomed to?
"Trillion dollar diversity and inclusion industry?" That's ~1/18th of the entire US GDP--which firms, etc., do you include in this sector of the economy? I can't think of a single example.
This is why it's hard to reason through these topics. Either I'm told it's verboten to even discuss the implementation details of equal-opportunity initiatives, or I'm told it's some vast global conspiracy master-minded by Pam in HR who, having apparently learned the secrets to controlling the national discourse, can find no better application for that secret than keeping her job in HR.
Is that a joke? There are literally laws, with actual prosecutions, in the Netherlands designed to police every word you say.
A big hint to the difference is that my Black American friends spell it capital-B Black. Almost all of them live in, or are from, majority black neighborhoods. The majority listen to different music, and even have different diets compared to my white friends. They speak differently and have different names and are a distinct group of people. This isn't me making this up either; this is paraphrased from a Facebook post by an American Black friend of mine. There are large parts of the country where they can't rely on help from the police, and a significant portion of the country will actively hate them if they marry a non-Black person. I do have some black American friends that aren't like this. They spell it lowercase-b black, they live in mostly white neighborhoods, and aside from the color of their skin they are indistinguishable from another white person in that neighborhood. But those are a minority. The majority of Black Americans are capital-B Black, and they have much different lives because of it.
In the Netherlands however, there are no large Black neighborhoods. (There are "black neighborhoods" to some degree, but orders of magnitude smaller.) None of my black Dutch friends would "capitalize the B" so to speak. The average black Dutch person has a pretty similar life to the average white Dutch person: there wouldn't be much of a difference in where they live, their diets, or their schools. A black Dutch person won't have to worry that the police won't help them.
That can help you understand the race tensions in the US. To a somewhat lesser degree it can help you understand our LGBTQ+ and gender tensions. Sure, there aren't "female neighborhoods", but there are LBGTQ+ neighborhoods, and both women and non-straight people face discrimination. The Dutch women I'm friends with have pretty gender-mixed friends, while I'm usually the only male friend of the American women I've been friends with. The same for LGBTQ+ people - they tend to mostly make friends among themselves in the US, while my queer Dutch friends are mostly friends with straight people.
Basically, in the Netherlands everyone is the same, but in the US people form groups. A big reason for that is that the American groups formed out of necessity. If you were going to be killed for being gay, well it makes sense to have mostly gay friends. If you're going to be lynched because you're Black, well it makes sense to make friends with other Black people. The Netherlands experienced racial tensions to a much lesser degree, so these groups never formed.
Gender equality in IT is a realistic important issue, but this is just taking it to a crazy level.
I think this is problematic, but I also think it's inherent in a society that truly wants to allow freedom of expression. Why do we still have the KKK in America? Why do we let things like Breitbart exist? In Germany they have restrictions on Nazi-related things and discussions, and they seem to have turned out pretty well. We need to hold the right people accountable when bad things happen, and pretty much up and down the whole chain, that doesn't happen, because freedom. Hell, we even have judges who have allowed "affluenza" to be used as a legal defense for things as heinous as rape.
> This is one of the big reasons that always kept me away from the USA, even for short trips at conferences.
That's just silly. The first bit of your post was good, but now you sound like someone who really needs to take themselves less seriously. You don't have to avoid going to a continent because you don't like the tone of their culture wars currently. There are plenty of people who think all sorts of shit there, and if you really can't find any people who live up to your European standards then how about going for the natural world etc? (European speaking here)
I can't comment on the present social climate or attitudes in NL generally, but the history seems pretty similar. Sufferage at about the same time, anyway.
Anyway, think about who is offending and being offended. No is being beaten in the streets for saying, "Actually, I think Bill Maher is the height of comedy."
Also, holding a sign that, explicitly or implicitly says, "I am inherently superior to you, and I fervently hope you will all die and come to ruin, what are you going to do about that, huh, <expletive>?" seems unlikely to be well received anywhere in the world.
As a society, we need to consider the implications of what is going on here. In what way could this move possibly be said to be anti-racist/anti-sexist? It just isn't. If anything, abandoning your speakers because they are male/white (presumably), is itself bigoted. Consider how it would feel to be bumped from a speaker line up because of your race/gender.
They have an agenda and it hasn't got anything to do with code.
"Oh God, I liked a talk by a white male! Cancel everything."
'Speaker information will be used in any final reviews necessary to break ties and bring a balance to the speaking line-up.'
I am genuinely embarrassed not to associate my real name with my public speech. Having calculated the potential cost (and the low-impact of my message), though, it was either speak pseudonymously, or not at all.
I can't speak for what GitHub did or didn't do, but a common problem is that there is a huge step before review that you can't skip. You must coach, encourage, and counsel the types of people you want to submit talks! If you don't, don't be surprised if they don't submit because of the treatment or impression they have from other events in the past.
Pro-active outreach to underrepresented groups is the way to get better events and a blind review process is no panacea despite many organizers seeming to think it is.
It's suggested here that they did blind review and then wanted to tweak for diversity. That's just not how it works. You need the diversity up front in the submissions.
The whole thing is ridiculous. To fight perceived discrimination, those people are doing even more direct and overt discrimination.
Suppose a female new grad goes to Electronconf and sees all male speakers. Suppose she goes to other conferences and it's the same story.
She feels there's no way she'll be able to break ground and be recognized as successful. She slowly drops out and leaves the industry and goes somewhere where she can make friends like her.
Now suppose she sees plenty of female speakers and she thinks to herself "wow this is awesome, I wanna be like her, she was like me 5 years ago". She stays in industry, and possibly becomes a speaker on future.
Once the cycle of people being motivated and seeing others like you starts, you see a diverse set of candidates joining the industry.
>She feels there's no way she'll be able to break ground and be recognized as successful.
Does a person like that actually exist? Have you ever met a person that was so discouraged and distraught by the fact that many tech conferences have more white male speakers that she decided to leave the industry?!
Or are we just spinning a hypothetical person that does not actually exist?
>Once the cycle of people being motivated and seeing others like you starts, you see a diverse set of candidates joining the industry.
Again, is that actually based on reality??
This is line argument is so frustrating. I strongly suspect you're just making things up. You have a particular belief and you used a totally made-up scenario as validation for your belief.
I don't know if it's true or not, but I find way more in common between me and the nerdy girl studying programming in my class than between me and the tall athlete playing football. I would have thought that our shared love for programming and geeky stuff would be a sign that this is a space with shared values, more than the gender of the speakers.
Of course, this may be a skewed perspective since there have always been men in the hobbies that I picked; but I would also think that a woman breaking into programming would be aware of the existing gender disparity, just like I am aware I would be a "gender minority" if I pursued teaching or psychology(things I was actually interested in due to great female role models in my youth!)
How does cancelling the conference help anybody? The minority of women that may have otherwise met and inspired each other no will no longer meet. Everyone is worse off.
> Once the cycle of people being motivated and seeing others like you starts, you see a diverse set of candidates joining the industry.
Do you think this really applies in the computer industry? I've been doing this for a while, and at no point have I had - or cared to have - any heroes to emulate. I work with computers because I like computers - not because I like people!
Height: Hey, all the conference speakers are really tall, there's no way I a 5'4" male be a conference speaker.
College: None of the conference speakers are from my university hence there's no way I from an unknown university can make it in the industry.
There are already a ton of female only events including conferences happening in the tech industry and if most cutting-edge stuff in a narrow field/tech (electron) is being done by male counterparts (or they are more interested in speaking about it) that shouldn't be a bad thing.
Do you think Marie Curie or Ada Lovelace were motivated by the amount of women in science and engineering?
Is this a joke to perpetuate the "can't go alone to the bathroom" meme?
But what she found was radically different. The successful kids didn’t just live with failure, they loved it! When the going got tough, they didn’t start blaming themselves; they licked their lips and said “I love a challenge.” They’d say stuff like “The harder it gets the harder I need to try.”
Instead of complaining it wasn’t fun when the puzzles got harder, they’d psych themselves up, saying “I’ve almost got it now” or “I did it before, I can do it again.” One kid, upon being a given a really hard puzzle, one that was supposed to be obviously impossible to solve, just looked up at the experimenter with a smile and said, “You know, I was hoping this would be informative.”` - Aaron Swartz, http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/dweck
Another way to look at the scenario is to go "Oh cool I'll get to be the first woman presenter, instead of the millionth."
In order to lift women up, yes it's necessary to push men aside to make room. But women are being and have been pushed aside every day by men for almost all of history.
GitHub, that's who.
It is much easier to put up a more equal lineup of speakers and probably picking up few less insightful presentations. While somebody could also attack this approach, it would be much more difficult as you would need to argue that somebody who was left out due to their gender would have given much better presentation than somebody who was included. This would be so complicated that it is not likely to create the angry mob effect.
I don't think it's particularly hard to defend yourself against that. You simply claim that for some reason women don't want to come to your conference so there wasn't enough submissions, and then promise to aim to do better.
Maybe it's just me who feels that intent to fix is better than trying to cover up our problems. If i had any interest in this conference now I'd consider not going.
and more people included in your sample, more chance of finding amazing A++ engineers that can help the industry, your dev platform, etc...
I doubt it. Now people are just going to think it's a waste of time trying to submit to this conference, and so lower quality material will be presented, and those in attendance aren't going to be as impressed and may not return. It's frankly a great way to to ensure you only ever hold one conference.
Wasn't everyone included in the sample? Did they reject any paper based on how the sender looked like?
> on face value you can't argue with your logic but if you want to play the long game and help create and contribute to an industry that includes people from all demographics than this is a very smart move.
The way to play the long game in this is precisely accepting applications from anywhere, anything different is detrimental. So no, not a smart move.
Well, whatever. Myself, I was just about to look into Electron having heard so much about it lately. But if this is how they run things, I think I'll just look elsewhere to satisfy my cross-platform development curiosities.
 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14481090
There are fun statistics such as that women who are not immediately recognizable as such have a higher pull request acceptance rate on github than their male counterparts, whereas women who are easily identifiable have a lower one.
You can even be an open-source developer of one by starting your own project.
Maybe that tells you something about the general interest in programming by women. If people aren't volunteering, maybe they just aren't interested in that thing?
If you were completely dedicated to Electron you wouldn't postpone it, since what matters is the content, not who tells it.
One of the great problems I, and those I work for, have is getting quality educational resources to the particular minority population I serve. My blood boils when I hear stupid crap like this because you are actively doing it wrong and worse: freezing out the people you want to help by not helping them grow and generating bad will in everyone else. We need the best experts to train and lecture people.
That doesn't imply that women are worse or unable, it's simply a matter of proportion.
It's like saying men are underrepresented at yoga classes.
To counter this of course, parents buy their daughters lego sets with female scientists in lab coats glamorously posing with telescopes. Instead of, say - buying them actual scientific toys like gyroscopes, electronics kits, or lego's own genderless DIY programmable robot.
It's like trying to find causes (and solutions!) as for why my marketing friend doesn't like programming. He just isn't interested!
"Congratulations @Github for hosting an all male conference!"
> This Code of Conduct was forked from the example policy from the Geek Feminism wiki, created by the Ada Initiative and other volunteers.
And their request for speakers at https://cfp.githubapp.com/events/electronconf-2017 contains:
> Selection Process
> Submissions will be initially blind reviewed by a panel of GitHub employees from a range of departments and backgrounds. Speaker information will be used in any final reviews necessary to break ties and bring a balance to the speaking line-up. Final selections should be complete by June 6, 2017.
GitHub has a history of turning pro-minority & pro-women into anti-white-male and even anti-white-female. For journalists to have a pop at them when they fail to meet the set goals of their own politics should be expected.
They are fighting a political battle and the open source community has found itself in the middle.
GitLab and BitBucket are both great places to host your code and neither hate my guts for the way I was born.
I think this was an insult to all the speakers who no doubt dedicated time and effort, and made changes to their schedule for their talk, and got a slap in the face instead.
Perhaps they identify-as other race than they appear-as. After all, race is just a social construct: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/race-is-a-social-...
This wasn't enforced from outside. It's the organisers who agreed: yup, that's not what we want to do (https://twitter.com/nmsanchez/status/870811022306574336)
Stop for a moment, think of how you'd organise a conference. Is it different? Will people find it inviting? Will they find it interesting? Go ahead, and organise it! Every community and group of organisers can shape the events they create the way they want to. ElectronConf organisers made such choice.
For the people that worry so much about speakers... I haven't done many talks (2 bigger events), but if I heard my talk was delayed so the conference can be rebalanced / less of a white sausage party, I'd be glad. Others may not share that opinion. But don't assume everybody will.
Edit: Yes, there are better and worse ways to go about it. Realising too late and reverting the original list was not the best. Reaching out to / inviting diverse groups rather than fixing balance later would be better. Hope they learned and will do it better next year. Organisers which care about it from the beginning somehow manage to get a decent m/f split - both in the audience and in the speakers. (see linux.conf for a good example)
Edit2: A few people assume that talks will be dropped / replaced as a result. I don't know what the organisers are planning, but there's always an option of adding another room/stream. Until any talks are confirmed as dropped, this is just baseless speculation.
I usually hate doing this, but hey.
From that twitter:
>OG tech diversifier. GitHubber. Lecturer, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.
And her github is: https://github.com/nmsanchez?tab=repositories
Two repositories have only a README, with, more or less, one line in it. One has a document about, not surprisingly, "diversity in tech" (and a code of conduct, ofc). And one is a fork. Her contributions to other projects sing the same song.
There is also a link there to her profile on https://medium.com/@nmsanchez
>Lecturer at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. VP of Social Impact @ GitHub. Founder of Vaya Consulting. Purveyor of fine race/class analysis.
All this kind of behavior rubs me the wrong way so i won't even comment on it all.
To be honest i never had a high opinion of electron as a piece of software, so i don't know why i am even here. Sorry, i guess.
If the organizers actually cared about diversity beyond being optically correct to their peers, they would plan scholarships, flights, and lodging for a diverse population that cannot normally attend and event like this. Changing the speakers is the least effort, least effective method of adding diversity to our industry. They picked lazy and cheap over effective.
Frankly, the thought that a minority population can learn more for like minorities versus the original presenters is insulting and promotes a stereotype that closes more doors.
"white sausage party" - the thought you are advocating for diversity yet feel it ok to insult anyone's race / creed is troubling. People who insult others or make them uncomfortable with their slurs and jabs are the basis of the problem.
You're making an assumption here that the blind selection process will change or that added/substitute papers will not chosen by the same criteria. I'd wait for the followup, before judging the followup ;)
I agree it could be done in a better way, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
Clearly they won't be because now diversity is part of the additional criteria. I don't have to wait for the follow-up as they've already given the information.
Hindsight is 20/20, but we've had enough of these to actually analyze what the problem is. The organizers took the out the will require the least time and money but looks good on a brochure as opposed to furthers a goal. Having grown up and worked on a reservation, I am well aware of the nice photo op versus the effective program.
A couple other comments said that they did a blind review of the submitted papers. I can't think of a farer review process.
If in fact, the goal is to out on an enjoyable conference on the topic of Electron.
On the other hand, not caring about it and accepting that you're just getting dominant group X submissions is not a terrible thing. But we're social creatures - if everybody nearby is similar but different from you, either you'll feel uncomfortable, or have a bard-level charisma. So by allowing your group to become almost entirely X, you're enforcing the limit on your submitted papers pool even further.
(applies for many (all?) X, where X influences your life in any way)
Self-segregation, so in-vogue nowadays. That, by the way, is also not the way to do things.
> No review process is more fair. But if you end up with all-X selections from a blind-review, you may be advertising to a very homogeneous culture. As a result, you may be limiting your pool of ideas to choose from and reaching only a local maximum. There are usually great non-X engineers, as long as you reach out to them. Mixing multiple varied-X groups usually results in more diverse discussions and ideas, in my experience.
Moving the goalposts, as usual for this kind of crowd. What would be your way to blame everyone but the people not submitting papers if you were told that the organizers did reach out as many different groups as possible? I know of several, I'm just curious to read which you'll use.
If we were discussing what-ifs, then I'd say - tough, maybe next year they'll have more success. But that's not the situation we're discussing. An organiser responded with "we can do better, we're postponing", so I don't have really a comment to that.
Maybe the solution is to stop being racist and sexist.
And I agree, asymmetry is part of the problem. As a white male, there's not a lot of derogatory terms regarding my skin color/sex that I'll get upset about. But there are tons of derogatory terms for minorities and historically oppressed groups of people where those words will carry a weight that I've never experienced.
I recommend reading
Of course, it's a complex topic, and there's a lot more great material which would help you get a better understanding.
While particularly focused on a specific type of racism in the US, includes a decent 101 on racism generally -
The very first definition in your own link on racism:
> : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
Inherent inferiority, I'd assume, fits within that mind frame.
As for sexism, the second definition.
> : behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
Now you'll start thinking of ways to complaint to the dictionary so that those definitions can be changed in a way that it's only about "minorities", I'm sure.
Like, saying all-white is inferior to mixed is not the same as saying white is inferior.
Also, do recall usages b and c, and that they are important to consider, and specifically see my third link for better explanation of how.
That you don't see it is framed as a question. Ok, look at it harder and come back to me when you have an actual answer instead of a question on your own reading capacity.
> Like, saying all-white is inferior to mixed is not the same as saying white is inferior.
Yes, it is, that's exactly what it is. I'd ask you which mental hoops led you to think it isn't but I know every single one of them will be a fallacy so I won't bother asking.
> Also, do recall usages b and c, and that they are important to consider, and specifically see my third link for better explanation of how.
You don't get to tell me which definitions to use. And I'm not reading some rant rationalizing why racism and sexism is good based on the target.
"I'm not sure how saying that a non diverse group is inferior to a diverse group is equivalent to saying that the specific elements making up the non diverse group is inferior[. Could you please clarify]?"
Thought it was implied. Sorry to be unclear.
>Yes, it is, that's exactly what it is. I'd ask you which mental hoops led you to think it isn't but I know every single one of them will be a fallacy so I won't bother asking.
You haven't added anything here, just restated your original thinking that I don't get.
Here's what makes sense to me:
1 + 1 = 2
1 < 2
1 = 1
>You don't get to tell me which definitions to use. And I'm not reading some rant rationalizing why racism and sexism is good based on the target.
It's not that there are more than one competing definition. There are several complimentary ones and ignoring the rest does not promote better discussion.
If you read the third link, that's so not an accurate assessment of it's contents.
No, no, you're doing a false equivalency. This is what you're saying:
1+1=2 but 2>2 if the second 1 is of a different race/sex/orientation/etc.
> It's not that there are more than one competing definition. There are several complimentary ones and ignoring the rest does not promote better discussion.
... According to you.
To restate again, for clarity:
1 type + 1 type = 2 types
2 types > 1 type
1 type = 1 type
How is this false?
I am not sure what to say to your second point. I didn't make up the definitions, or the way language works.
Yep, that is good and I agree with that, I'll let it pass that i wasn't what you were saying earlier giving the context.
But it still doesn't justify postponing/cancelling something just because it's "1", it's discrimination against that "1".
> I am not sure what to say to your second point. I didn't make up the definitions, or the way language works.
I'm not arguing that the definitions exist. I'm arguing your assessment that only using a particular one stifles discussion.
But it is what I said.
>But it still doesn't justify postponing/cancelling something just because it's "1", it's discrimination against that "1".
As to whether it is appropriate to postpone or cancel the event, I'd say that's up to the organizers, their goals, etc. If they specifically only want to put on a >=2 event, and they cannot, the justification seems adequate.
I'm not sure how, in that context, it equated to discrimination. I'd expect them to have cancelled regardless of the "1" in question, in this case.
You said, if I understood correctly, that the definitions meaning "there are essential qualities applicable to all members of a group" was the only relevant definition for purposes of this discussion.
I said, no, the other definitions are complementary, and must be considered.
You said no, they should not be considered.
I am unclear on how this is not stifling to the discussion.
Like, freaking out about having to think about it. About not being able to sail through life without ever having to.
No, this stuff doesn't belong in HN, I don't accept it; this isn't tumblr.
Nobody is complicit of anything just for existing. At risk of invoking Godwin's law, that's exactly what the nazis said about every jew, including children.
> About not being able to sail through life without ever having to.
Yeah, let's not pretend you aren't a person who's had so much privilege that the biggest thing you think to fight about online is the diversity quota about some conference in an emerging (bad, but that's IMO) technology.
Like you just did with your comment.
Counterpoint: no, it doesn't. Because, being against racism against white people or sexism against men is not the same as being in favor of racism against non-white people or sexism against women. You're doing a false dichotomy.
> Like you just did with your comment.
Good thing I'm not in the USA and I'm not white, then. Now you'll tell me I have "internalized racism."
I'm also gay, facing actual discrimination because I can't even get legally married in my country.
And none of that makes retaliating to racism and sexism with racism and sexism ok. Nor it does retaliating homophobia with heterophobia, of course.
And to the degree one benefits, and takes that for granted, and perceives the calling out of those benefits as a form of persecution, then yes, there's a degree of complicity.
But no one's saying (well, not anyone on HN, anyway, and not most people on Tumblr) that white people or me should be persecuted. Just that they shouldn't be accorded undue advantages to the direct detriment of others.
How you get to Nazis from that, I don't know.
Still arguing about complicity just out of existence. Last time I'm replying to you because you won't understand, but at least now my comment is just as visible as yours.
> And to the degree one benefits, and takes that for granted, and perceives the calling out of those benefits as a form of persecution, then yes, there's a degree of complicity.
Again, calling out unfair benefits is not bad. Attacking the people directly based on their race and sex is. But you do you and keep pretending I'm doing the first, it's the only way you can avoid the cognitive dissonance of your narrative after all.
> Just that they shouldn't be accorded undue advantages to the direct detriment of others.
Yeah, no, this isn't what's being argued here, again. Nobody should have inherent advantages over anyone else, that's a non-starter, it's obvious.
What I and the others you replied to here is calling out is a direct snub on a group of people because of their race and sex. If you don't see that as racism or sexism (or are selectively pretending that those aren't bad things) doesn't matter: It is racism/sexism and they're bad things.
Now you'll tell me that you'd think they did the right thing and that you won't consider that a snub. And I sure will believe that.
As I knew, this is what you hope starts happening. So don't pretend that what you want is diversity, it was patently obvious from your first statement that it isn't what you want, and your backpedaling in every single reply didn't work.
Glad you're back to your original intent, though, it's honest.
Are there any open submission conferences which have had speakers who are all WoC?
It seems like a distraction to discuss hypothetical diversity problems that don't exist, instead of real ones that do.
This is the exact kind of bs response that I was expecting from somebody who doesn't really understand what's going on besides whatever the latest outrage article they just read said they should be outraged about.
The sailing through life bit was specific to the context of being untroubled by the need to examine ones relative privelege or lack of, and the structures affecting same.
Not to imply that not having to think a out these things means life is automatically easy. You can still get cancer, get hit by a bus, etc.
You say that if people were not so quick to call out perceived racism or sexism things would be better.
I say if people were not so quick to be personally insulted when perceived racism and sexism are called out, things would be better.
Did I misunderstand your point?
Yeah... If a second room were confirmed, your rationalizing by saying that talks wouldn't be dropped is baseless speculation.
If this is the underlying thought guiding GitHub -- yes I've read the other stuff about the company -- it might be time to start setting up my own git server.
"We're not releasing this killer new feature because too many white people worked on it."
Oh get over yourselves. Why would future speakers not feel like token representations used to meet an imaginary quota?
The organizers have the right to do whatever they please, but I don't understand what they hope to accomplish by calling off the entire conference. It seems like that just hurts everyone.
(I'm a white dude, just for full disclosure.)
P.S.: Does anyone else wonder if this is a cover for something else? Maybe there were speakers they did not want to allow but also didn't want the backlash of denying?
This seems more like poor planning than anything else to me. Github's culture is such that they have no problems with abruptly cancelling the event after they are called out. However, if that's their culture, you would think some diversity plan would have been baked into the speaker selection process.
At the very least, they could have injected their own speakers, right? I assume, given the way they work, that they have some female staff that's knowledgeable on Electron.
Sorry, this thread is already over-represented by white male commenters and will be closed until more under-represented minorities comment above a specific threshold.
Cancelling means everyone loses.
Unless the organizers think by skewing the sample they can somehow change the underlying data. (Which maybe to a very minor extent but probably not much).
Short of that they are simply damaging their own conference and thus subverting dissemination and development of their own platform.
This kind of thing is a canary IMOP. When peripheral issues (to the tech.. it's about the tech right?) subsume critical issues it ain't headed in the right direction.
But hey, I wasn't going anyway. If the tech is any indication, the Electron conference was 20X as expensive as the QT conference :)
 - what times we live in...
1. They could've reached out to many more different groups if that's what they wanted (and it's not like that's a bad thing anyway).
2. That out of the way, they shouldn't postpone it based on the characteristics of the speakers they got. Now that is a bad thing.
3. They shouldn't have pointed out that it was precisely because of that they postponed it. "Logistics problems" would have worked just as well as an excuse.
Now all this is visible and bad for everyone. I don't care about electron either way, but many people do. Just a cavalcade of errors this thing.
Try being a kindergarten teacher in the US and spend a ton of time on Twitter complaining how you gender isn't represented enough in your industry.
Like less than a paragraph, idk if this was a big conf but this is not a satisfactory explanation.
Clearly they don't work any more.
On the Internet, no one knows if you're a green Martian.
Like until the time only 50% of speakers are homo sapiens?
* If not for the increasingly inescapable fact that a lot of OSS projects are moving to GH, just as they lived on SourceForge a decade ago, I would have zero use for GitHub to either submit patches, access, or publish software. I'd be content on Bitbucket alone.
* This is a conference about yet another front-end technology.
Referring to the speakers themselves: "We published a list of speakers that does not reflect the standards to which we hold ourselves."
Again referring specifically to speakers: "more diverse slate of speakers."
Because this stems from a SV tech company in 2017.
You don't actually think they meant "diversity of ideas" ... did you?
In the UK there are nine protected characteristics, and you've only listed 3 of them.
And assuming that only those 3 are important you've ignored trans men.
But yes, rather rediculous. Totally agree. It's like survelience and terrorism. Just a stupid excuse to gain Goodwill w/ some groups and avoid a different problem they don't want to deal with.
Hope you weren't offended, I just wanted to make a point. Of course your views matter
I consider myself liberal, but I feel this business of grading everyone by their race and sex is the exact antithesis of liberal ideals. What happened to MLK's ideas of not being judged by the color of your skin, but by the content of your character? Yes, I understand that things like subconscious bias and privilege can complicate this ideal, but at the end of the day, we shouldn't be surprised that anyone gets angry when they are told "Sorry, we don't want anymore of your race/sex, we've already got too many of your kind."
(Um, also, maybe we should stop this HN tradition of making copy-editing changes to other people's posts? What does it actually achieve? Especially as we've no idea whether we're writing our first language)
This action by ElectronConf is an attempt at affirmative action, but winds up being the opposite. Affirmative action is where you reach out, support and encourage those that represent the diversity you want. Meanwhile this (as communicated here) is just throwing up their hands and waiting for the diversity issue to resolve itself, at the cost of coming off really unfair to the people currently represented. Really weird.
We live in a world that harshly discriminates based on gender, race, socio economic background, wealth etc. And its human nature that if you don't see people like you rising to the top that you will think there are legitimate reasons and potentially just give up.
And that would be good why? See, every time there is a top there will be losers. Personally I think that's unavoidable but we could work a little harder to flatten out the landscape so that the various lotteries matter less.
That's why companies push for diversity on boards and in leadership positions because (a) it encourages people minorities/women/etc to strive for those positions and because (b) homogenous viewpoints are destructive.
Fucking hell, I want to be seen as more than just a disabled trans woman, I want people to look at the shit I've done and say "Wow, she's really awesome, let's hire her/accept her into our college", not "Wow, she's super oppressed! We can get grants if we do nice things for her!". Hiring me/accepting me based on "diversity" is the most patronizing thing you can fucking do. I don't need your help because I'm a minority, and viewing me as just a trans person instead of viewing me as a normal candidate is breaking me down to nothing but my identity, and that's transphobic as fuck.
b) Almost all Fortune 1000+ companies are doing this today. And it's been conclusively shown to be improving the quality and strength of the board and encouraging more diverse people to join the SLTs.
c) Not sure what that rant at the end has to do with anything.
That's what being against meritocracy means. A system based on something other than merit. If the people in charge aren't the people with the most merit, they aren't really qualified.
>Almost all Fortune 1000+ companies are doing this today
Appeal to popularity is a fallacy
> And it's been conclusively shown to be improving the quality and strength of the board and encouraging more diverse people to join the SLTs.
Do you have citations for those?
>Not sure what that rant at the end has to do with anything.
Personal reasons, mainly. Just tired of being seen as nothing but a trans person. Yeah, it's part of me, but I hate when people make that my entire personality.
Merit isn't an absolute, there's no test that shows what your merit would be to a company. Diversity adds to your merit, both through positive PR and through having a range of experiences to draw from when dealing with a problem.
 is a product design decision, not a programmer's ignorant error. "A product should side with a child against their legal guardian who actually paid for the product" is by no means the consensus across all cultures.
Even as an LGBT person myself, I probably wouldn't have thought about the implications of the second one.
The first one is fixable by not being a shit programmer. You don't need to know anything about the names of other cultures, you just need to know that everything should be using Unicode, although I agree that Euro-centrism dominates programming and computer science in general.
Also, because people will see my comments and scream something about me being a white cishet male or say that I "sound like a cisshit". Shit's happened to me before and I try my best to squash it before it happens again.
Assuming that any attempt to change the system necessarily involves hiring/promoting "unqualified" people shows one of those biases: the bias to believe that anyone who does not resemble the existing majority must be "unqualified" or else they'd already have succeeded.
Which is much like the economics joke: an economist and his friend are walking along, and the friend spots a $20 bill on the ground reaches for it. The economist says "that's impossible -- if it really were a $20 bill it would've been picked up by someone else already!"
We know that the old convenient lies -- "people of that race/gender/etc. just aren't as interested in our field" or "evolution shaped their brains to be good at other things, not at this thing" or... well, any of them -- are just that: lies. We know that when a more level playing field is forced upon an industry, suddenly that industry stops looking a lot less white and a lot less male, and further stabs the heart of the "it's a meritocracy" lie.
Promoting the lie of "meritocracy" is, at this point, insupportable and indefensible, no matter who does it or why.
You're not describing meritocracy, which has literally nothing to do with majority conformity, but literally reduces to ability. It's the most unbiased position possible.
There is literally zero unjustified bias in a true meritocracy.
When trying to build a meritocracy, pre-existing bias can certainly skew who has more ability, because some group or other has better access to education or opportunities for acquiring better experience. The solution is not to decry meritocracy, but to enforce those principles even more strongly.
The closest thing to a consensus on programmer productivity is that it's impossible to quantify. How can we objectively predict ability when we don't know how to objectively measure outcomes?
> The closest thing to a consensus on programmer productivity is that it's impossible to quantify
Precision isn't as important as accuracy, and this is achievable. It's difficult, but not impossible.
The most generously I can interpret this is that you are claiming that the poster you are responding to does not authentically hold the views you disagree with. Please correct me if I'm wrong here, because if that's all you've got, it's a horrible way to argue and poisons debate.
Apply it to yourself - a quick overview of these threads show that there are a lot of people who share your viewpoint, do you think that me claiming that you don't authentically hold those views and are only arguing them in order to get people to like you would be a good addition to the debate?
Claiming that nobody could possibly have a genuine different opinion to you says more about you than about them.
Anyone seriously espousing the idealism of pure "meritocracy" needs to put aside their gradeschool naivete. Next you'll start quoting Anne Rand back to us. It's one of those ideas that sure sounds good... I mean, who can possibly argue with the idea that they should pick the best speakers with the best content?
Until you actually think about it.
What you fail to recognize is that, unless you can find me quantitative measures that can be used to determine a person's skill, meritocracy isn't about merit. It's about convincing fallible human beings of the level of merit. And that means running up against both conscious and unconscious cognitive bias.
So the reality is, like it or not, if you want a fair shot in the professional world, you damn well do need the help of people fighting the good fight against personal and institutional bias. Hell, 20 or 30 years ago it's entirely possible you wouldn't have had a job at all if it weren't for the actions of people who came before you who understood this and fought for a more inclusive society and workplace.
But it's rather easy to rail against policies like affirmative action when you've already benefited from them. It reminds me of anti-vaxxers who argue about the rarity of diseases to justify not getting inoculated, not realizing that that situation exists because people got vaccinated.
That's what programming was like before these people chasing big paychecks invaded.
I mean it is pretty odd that you would do a call for papers and pick out those you liked the most without knowing race or gender but then replace some just because it turns out they had the wrong gender/skin color/whatever.
It's actually totally understandable.
Let me explain.
The conference organizers clearly have diversity as a goal.
In their naivete, they thought to themselves "we want equality for everyone! I know... let's just make this a pure meritocracy! Then there won't be bias and everyone will be happy!", and so they used a blind review process.
Of course, it didn't dawn on them at the time that if you took a blind random sampling of programmers, had them write presentations, and then approved them, you'd end up with a lack of diversity because the industry itself has an almost comically absurd lack of diversity.
So unless the average skill level of individuals in minority groups is extemely disproportionately higher than the average population (which rather contradicts the idea that race or gender don't impact skill), they would be poorly represented because they're poorly represented in our community in general.
So after approving their blindly reviewed set of presentations, they realized, shoot, they have an alarming lack of diversity in their presentations (read the above two paragraphs again if you don't understand why).
And so now they have to go back to the drawing board. All because they didn't understand population statistics.
There's no reason to require diversity for a conference talk.
In your opinion.
Feel free to run your own conference adhering to your own values, and feel free to skip this one.
But the breathless, hysterical overreaction to this by some in the tech community is simply juvenile and absurd.
It's postponed, not cancelled, though.
Its new tech, conferences are important promotion opportunities, especially for tech as maligned as Electron is.
This seems like bad optics, and I feel bad for anyone who was accepted but gets bumped for a new presenter of the "right demographics".
Personally even if I was someone who would at some point be interested in speaking at such a conference, I would now avoid applying for fear of being accepted wholly or in part to fit their female quota as opposed to on the merit of my proposed material.
Like maybe they were trying to get some legit outreach going but it fell through, who knows?
To me, the work of Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates is that the dialog around racism has to be open, transparent, honest. Especially becomes important if you're developing tech that will impact everyday people.
Another thought. To me, racial oppression is like a virus that is replicated particularly when the oppressed are shamed into silence, complicity, or the sense the they have to adopt the memes, mental constructs of systematic oppression. So like, what do we mean when we say meritocracy?