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PyCon Code of Conduct changed to avoid public shaming (github.com)
395 points by Argorak on Mar 21, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 371 comments



After reading all sides of the story, I see why there is so much anger towards Adria. However, it is unacceptable for her or SendGrid to be attacked digitally.

Adria did an arguably right thing in a wrong way at the wrong time.

1. Assuming the way she said it happened is correct, the guys behind her made a sexual (forking/fucking; Dongle/Penis) not sexist joke. If it were even to be seen as sexist, it was towards men.

2. I find it hard to see how taking their pictures and "shaming" them would have made anything thing better. It only set them up to be lynched verbally or otherwise.

3. It was a PRIVATE conversation in a public setting that was overheard. It happens to the best of us. There are 100s of bloopers on YouTube of broadcasters saying embarrassing things when the mic was supposed to be off.

4. She appears hypocritical because at the same PYCON she sexual jokes on Twitter (far much more public) while representing her company (having your company on your profile is almost same as wearing a badge at a conference. Not to include the use of the PYCON hashtag)

5. As a DEVELOPER evangelist for her company, she should be more patient with developers by a massive factor compared to people in other roles. It makes no sense evangelizing for/to people that would be uncomfortable dealing with you. Appeal to understanding, not fear.

6. It is good to know she can stand for herself. Unfortunately, I have to say she got the incident and methodology wrong.

All this will pass, and hopefully serve as a lesson for participants and us observers.

Edited: Spelling of Adria


> Adrea[sic] did an arguably right thing in a wrong way

It seems she did 2 different things.

1) She reported an incident that made her feel uncomfortable. (I think she did the correct thing here, at least I agree with it)

2) She posted a face photo of some attendees from a sponsoring company, publicly (not just for PyCon attendees but for the whole world) along with an insult "ass clowns".

[note: 2 came before 1 as well]

2 is completely unacceptable and I am disappointed and disgusted at PyCon for not kicked her out. Image you go around with a phone snapping pictures of attendees, immediately send them to twitter with insulting tags below.

I think she should be the one to lose her job, and PyCon should issue a public apology (a little edit in Github won't do it, sorry). If she doesn't understand why what she did was wrong, she shouldn't be invited to PyCon in future years. How about this, if she comes, I won't.

PlayHeaven -- what can I say. I haven't heard of them before but they sure are on my black list as of yesterday. To terminate an employer after he has been slandered online is disrespectful. I refuse to do business with you and will go out my way to tell everyone what you did.

(There is another side issue here and I think it goes beyond hypocrisy I think it is straight malignancy. I think she pondered her odds and decided to roll the dice, given her position she quickly climbed the popularity ladder from 0 to 100 in a one day, I have no proof of this, only she knows, but her job title combined with her previous off color penis jokes on Twitter point me in that direction).


Isn't publishing someone's photo without their consent, like, illegal? I'm aware that copyright of the picture rests with the photographer, but if you want to publish someone's picture (and, as far as I understand it, tweeting is 'publishing'), don't you need their explicit consent?


No, you don't not need consent to publish a photo of someone. You need consent to make money off of that photo because you're making money off their likeness. But even in that case, it's a civil, not criminal offense.

This applies to photography in public. A conference can have their own policy about what is and isn't okay. Although if the convention center is a public building that may complicate things. Even if the conference had an issue with it, it's not illegal.


Depending on country (state).

From what I remember in US in general (I am not a lawyer blah blah). There is little protection for taking pictures in public. But there are protections from profiting from those pictures.

I can see, given her position, that she thought she could profit very nicely from it, there might make an interesting case.


No.


Then why blur faces in some published photos / video footage? I live in the UK, could be a different legal situation here...


In the U.S., you might see blurred faces on a reality TV show because the show is making money. In that instance, a signed release or contract would be needed to show people's faces.

But an individual posting a photo in public for not-for-profit uses is protected under the 1st Amendment.


Definitely different in the US.

I don't approve of what she did, but there was nothing illegal about it.


1) You don't get to tell someone what is offensive to them. 2) Totally agree, it was not a wise choice. 3) You don't get to tell someone what is offensive to them. 4) You don't get to tell someone what is offensive to them. 5) You don't get to tell someone what is offensive to them. 6) It's true, not all the best choices were made.


You seem to believe that offense is subjective to the individual. Should we then be responsible for everything we do that offends others? What level of recourse should they have for being offended? If we think that punitive action is appropriate given an offense, how do we determine what a legitimate offense is, versus a non-legitimate offense?


I don't see how offense could be anything but subjective to the individual, really. (Yes, I know there are things that are considered objective to the sub-group, but even within those sub-groups, there will be disagreement. That's clear from the various threads on this topic on HN.) The question many of us struggle with is where to draw that line between that "individual objection" and "free speech" - and how flexible that line should be.


1600 Penn (great show, btw) had an episode where people picketed the White House for the environmental policies. Through a series of hijinks, these people got an audience with the President to express their concerns. Once in there, it becomes a cacophony as some argue for public transit, others argue to corporate responsibility, etc. They had some "thing" in common, but each had much different ideas about what really brought them there.

So, I find true your statement that even within subgroups, there is disagreement over an offense's legitimacy. Yet, we as flawed humans still seek objective punishment for others's offenses, even when we don't personally ascribe to claiming those offenses for ourselves. This to me is the most interesting part of all of this, that everybody has a ready-made opinion about what thing should happen to these people involved even though the original offense was 100% subjective. This brings up some interesting questions:

1) Can one really be offended by hearing a story about a subjective offense from someone else, and thus pass legitimate judgment? If so, what is the real offense - the original act, or merely what the act represents. 2) If the true offense is about what the act represents, then does passing judgment on the offensive party appropriately handle the situation? 3) If an offense is a subjective thing, then does it need to be personal, and directed toward the offendee in order to be legitimate?


> Should we then be responsible for everything we do that offends others?

Yes.

> What level of recourse should they have for being offended? If we think that punitive action is appropriate given an offense, how do we determine what a legitimate offense is, versus a non-legitimate offense?

If people finding out publicly that you did it would cause you to lose your job, that might be a good indicator.


I'm sure it would offend (maybe sadden too) my grandparents very much that I don't believe in God, but I don't see that as a reason to never speak my mind about the fact that I don't believe in religion.

Nor should my believe in God have anything to do with my job, however I've worked at a place where that would certainly lead to me being let go if I were to mention or discuss that at work with my boss, but what I discuss between friends is my business and not his.

I don't see how I need to be responsible for making sure you, or anyone that might be overhearing or reading my words, is not offended by what I am saying.


I take offense that somebody as stupid as you could post on this forum.

Please cut of your hands.

See how that doesn't make any sense? Heck I get offended by overly politically correct people and people who get easily offended.


Well, let's say I'm offended by your username. I'm so offended that I feel the proper punishment should be paying reparations of no less than $1M to the charity of my choice. Is it my offense taken by your username a fair offense? What standard is used to determine what offenses are legitimate, and what determines a proper punishment for that offense. Furthermore, how are you to know in advance that your username is offensive to me?


Sure, and let's say that I'm offended by your face, and I want a million dollars for that. How do we resolve this?

It seems to me that we exist in a community that has a pretty well-evolved process for determining what is reasonable.


We take it to court, and if it doesn't fit within the boundaries of law, a judge has two options: toss out the case, or attempt to expand the boundaries of law by interpreting existing law in a new way. If the former, we are at an impasse, so how can we determine if our offenses are legitimate or not? If the latter, then now it is up to a judge and/or jury to use their subjective reasoning to pass judgment on whether the offense is legitimate.

The point I'm getting around to is that everyone tosses about objective judgments for people who cause subjective offenses. To me, this is pretty illogical. Most times, what we perceive as legitimate offenses are those by people who are the loudest, most influential, or greatest in number. It has very little to do with what the truth is, rather an opinion of the masses that has been manipulated that way.


For a functioning society, there must be some kind of barrier between "legally acceptable" and "socially acceptable."

"If it's not illegal, then it's okay" will not lead you anywhere you like.


The Hollywood Blacklist was completely justified then, because employing (suspected) commies subjected your company to negative publicity. Alternately, firings can represent the witch hunt of the age (except when it is actual witch hunts and they are actually setting them on fire.)


but people can take offense to anything, so that means you would be responsible for all of the stupid things people get offended about.

People don't have the right to not be offended. I think you are half right, but offense probably has to be both given and taken, not just taken.


Yeah, I mean, if we're in a public place I'm gonna do my best not to upset you. If we're at your place, I'll leave; if we're at my place, you've gotta leave. If it's a bad enough disagreement we can take it to court and let someone objective sort it out. That's how we all get along.


Then that someone doesn't get to publicly shame me for what is offensive to them, and doesn't have the right to ask me to stop.

My joke. Not meant for you. Stop listening.


Except that you can't stop listening because you're in a public situation!

I've sat through some train rides myself where I had to listen to people having 'private conversations' riddled with jokes about gay people.

I can tell you that will make your blood boil. I just got up and moved away, but doing that at PyCon during a talk is quite a bit harder.


If think you are ugly, are you obligated to wear a bag over your face in public?


It's quite true that you can't tell someone what is offensive to them, but that's entirely beside the point. If someone is offended by something and takes no action then that doesn't matter at all. But if someone does something in response to how they feel they were offended, we're going to judge that response by how reasonable that offense seems to us.

If the two men in the situation we're talking about had been making crude remarks directly to her and she had contacted the organizers I don't think any body (I care about) would have questioned her actions. If she had pulled a gun and shot them, then I think everybody would agree that that was unjustified. And if she had complained to the organizers because the men were wearing VI polo shirts and she was a diehard emacs user that would also be unjustified.

And there are some forms of receiving offense, such as when a racist seeing a black person at a Python convention, where them taking any action at all based on that offence would be wrong. I'm sure there was at least one person like that at PyCon, but I'm also sure that society has trained them to keep their mouth shut. And a good thing too.

So we don't get to tell Adria what is offensive to her, but when she shames someone based on that offence we will judge her shaming based on how valid we judge to offence to be. If one of the men had told her to her face that women didn't belong at PyCon then I think her actions would have been entirely justified. As it was, not so much.


Dude, it's vi and Emacs, not VI and emacs.


Either offensiveness is completely subjective in which case it is sole, entirely and complete the concern of the individual claiming to be offended.

Or there is some standard for offensive remarks, in which case you absolutely do get to tell people that they aren't offended by that.

Note that if offense is subjective you don't get to complain about others making you offended -- that is by definition your own feelings.



This is brilliant. "Nothing happens when you're offended."


> 1) You don't get to tell someone what is offensive to them.

That would mean you can't be upset for her publicly shaming the guy. You find that offensive, she does not.

You can have it both ways.


Sure, I can't tell you what you should be offended by, but I can tell you your offense is unimportant and selfish.


"However, it is unacceptable for her or SendGrid to be attacked digitally."

She could have simply changed seats but chose to use digital methods to publicly humiliate two people, one of whom was consequently fired apparently.

"What's good for the gander is good for the goose."

BTW isn't this rather Orwellian? Anything you say anywhere can be dredged into view of the public? Is privacy possible anymore?


Well it seems like the other shoe has dropped:

https://www.facebook.com/SendGrid/posts/10151502570463967


As someone said on the [dead] thread, way to make a bad situation even worse.


She used her credibility as a member of SendGrid [a sponsor of the conference] to reinforce her statement. These guys did not even endorce their behavior via a company. They were 2 individuals who were talking to each other, she ease dropped and made a mountain out of a molehill.


Instead of a learning opportunity, this has turned into an enormous fustercluck.

It would have been better for Adria Richards to address the matter directly rather than post a photo on twitter, but it was not wrong for her to address the matter.

Similarly, nearly everyone can agree - including Richards - that the employer who allegedly fired one of the people involved in the incident clearly overreacted.

There are learning opportunities in these incidents - opportunities to learn the best way to address a real issue when it comes up. The goal should be growing awareness and respect, apology and forgiveness, and reconciliation.

But the extreme outburst of misogyny - the insults, abuse, and physical threats including threats of rape - is perhaps the biggest learning opportunity of all: the opportunity for an entire community to recognize that it is still dysfunctional in terms of gender equality.

Edit - SendGrid just announced that they have fired Richards. Yet another instance in this cluster of reactive ugliness and missed opportunities.


> It would have been better for Adria Richards to address the matter directly rather than post a photo on twitter

This isn't a case of "it would have been better", it was a case of "what she did was clearly wrong". She overreacted as did the man's employer, and she has not shown any remorse.

> But the extreme outburst of misogyny - the insults, abuse, and physical threats including threats of rape - is perhaps the biggest learning opportunity of all: the opportunity for an entire community to recognize that it is still dysfunctional in terms of gender equality.

I haven't seen here on HN any of the insults, abuse, or threats you mentioned, nor have I made any myself. Do not blame all of us just because a vocal minority have gotten out of hand, and certainly do not use it as a tool to shame us into silence and shut down what is so far a reasoned discussion on the matter.


"She overreacted as did the man's employer, and she has not shown any remorse."

The problem is that people are attributing to her certain actions that she was not involved in. She didn't fire the guy; the employer did, based on his interpretation of the actions.

If calling attention to potential misogyny results in a witch-hunt or in victim-blaming, the underlying problems won't be addressed.

lizzard (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5411276) wrote this earlier:

"We need to be able to call out bad practices. People deny doing this stuff, they say we should report it, they say we should report it non-anonymously. Sadly every time we do... the same thing happens as a result."


The problem is that people are attributing to her certain actions that she was not involved in. She didn't fire the guy; the employer did, based on his interpretation of the actions.

I am continually perplexed to see this argument. Two guys made inappropriate jokes in a public place and the same people who agree that "we didn't mean any harm" is not a valid defense for them offer a "she didn't mean any harm" as a defense for Adria's decision to publicly broadcast her complaint.

I applaud Adria for standing up and not tolerating unacceptable behavior, but I strongly disagree with the way she stood up. As she writes on her blog, she "began to contacting the PyCon staff via text message" and "PyCon responded quickly not just with words but with action". That would have dealt with the problem, without escalation that resulted in one of the guys getting fired.


the same people who agree that "we didn't mean any harm" is not a valid defense for them offer a "she didn't mean any harm" as a defense for Adria's decision to publicly broadcast her complaint.

You misinterpret the reaction. I'm not suggesting that the guys meant any harm. It's in their right to make the joke, and it's in her right to respond, and anyone telling you that the guys meant harm but she didn't is applying a double standard.

"escalation that resulted in one of the guys getting fired."

If this were escalated but didn't result in one of the guys getting fired, we wouldn't have this conversation.


You misinterpret the reaction. I'm not suggesting that the guys meant any harm. It's in their right to make the joke, and it's in her right to respond, and anyone telling you that the guys meant harm but she didn't is applying a double standard.

I guess I didn't express clearly what I meant. When someone makes an inappropriate joke in a professional setting, a lot of people agree that "I didn't mean to offend you" is not a valid defense and point out that they just shouldn't have made that joke in the first place.

Yet a lot of those same people claim that Adria bears no responsibility whatsoever for one of the guys getting fired. That's the double standard I'm referring to.


>If calling attention to potential misogyny results in a witch-hunt or in victim-blaming, the underlying problems won't be addressed.

What misogyny? From what I understand, they made a joke about the word dongle in a gender-specific way. Does a play on words about your gender's anatomy really equal misogyny? Maybe some people need to learn what misogyny actually means.


I think it's because her last name is Richards, she is sensitive to dick jokes.


I wrote potential because, although I see it as a joke between two people, I can see how others could be offended.


Offensive or even offensive to women doesn't mean misogyny. Misogyny is a hatred of women. Nothing in his comments comes close to demonstrating a hatred of women, or even intent to offend women.


It's not "misogyny" to disapprove the actions of a person who happens to be a woman.


This is very familiar to me, because it happens any time a woman complains about something at a convention, even if directly to officials (meaning not publicly): https://twitter.com/search/realtime?q=%40adriarichards&s...

There are many level-headed comments in there on both sides, but also plenty of violent and hateful comments. It doesn't matter whether the report is private or public--the subject on both ends will come out on social media, and the attacks will come. I've seen it happen too many times to think it's isolated, or related to the approach.


>I've seen it happen too many times to think it's isolated, or related to the approach.

Can you show us an example of another such time?


The people involved usually come to an amicable solution, so there's no need to dredge examples up. It seems to happen any time there's a convention, so you can catch the next one as it happens. You can open a TweetDeck column (or search tab) with the Twitter handle and watch the abuse fly by when it does.


It wasn't wrong for her to address the matter, but she addressed the matter wrong regardless. Taking offense to a random conversation that you're not party to is one thing, but taking a picture of the people and calling up your significant number of followers and media presence in an attempt to ruin the offenders without so much as letting them have their side of the story surely is not in any way defensible.

True, the backlash that ensued got very heated, very quickly. But here's the point: both sides are wrong. And as more discussions happen with the parties that were involved, it's seeming like Adria may have even misheard part of what she was taking offense to.

So what's the fix? Understanding. Understanding that people will be people, and you can't fix people. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, talk to them or an authority. What Adria did was just bound to cause more trouble, and she had to know that. I agree with you that there are opportunities to learn the best way to address a real issue when it comes up. The real issue is how a media figure plays off controversy to ruin the lives of people they don't agree with. We need to address that. This has absolutely nothing to do with gender equality.


There's some psychotic sociopaths on the internet. There always will be. That doesn't mean "the entire community is dysfunctional." On the contrary, I think the community as a whole has reacted quite rationally.


As long as the community hasn't found a way to root those out, our reaction was worthless, rational or not.


You're being ridiculous. These kinds of people exist. They exist in the real world and they exist online. The fact that they exist doesn't ruin anything for anyone. You just ignore them (unless they become actual threats) just like you do in real life. See: Westboro Baptist Church.


I think the most vitriolic reactions have been from non-community people.


Yes, the "activists" who insert themselves to disrupt other communities to promote their own personal infamy.


I hesitate to call a random teenager that reads reddit, 4chan and knows how to download LOIC an "activist", even with the quotes around it.


How do you "root" people out who are using random Twitter accounts to post garbage?


Good question. But as long as this happens, no sane discussion is possible via an online medium.


It got crossposted on various places that have little/nothing to do with programming, so hopefully most of the nasty stuff was just from random dickheads rather than the python community.


The threats and lewdness is certainly coming from elsewhere, and that's not just a "no true scotsman" statement. It's run-of-the-mill Internet Hate Machine stuff, happens whenever a politically-motivated event occurs. /b/ filled multiple threads with battle cries last night.


Bingo. The meanest reactions have been people with a particular axe to grind rather than Python community members.


The problem with this is that it gets into dueling fallacies. Your opposition is arguing from induction (judging the whole based on the actions of a few), with a generous helping of Black Swan (deliberately ignoring counterexamples in favor of personal experience). But you're going on No True Scotsman (excluding people from a group based on factors that don't actually have anything to do with group membership) with a side of the Fallacy Fallacy (assuming that a fallacious argument must therefore be incorrect).

Public shaming is a very powerful thing, and not inherently good or evil. Some people need to be shamed for what they've done, and others need the threat of shaming to keep them in line. But shaming's power makes it dangerous, and not to be used without very careful, independent verification that it's warranted: that wrongdoing was indeed committed, that it was committed by the target, and that shaming is both appropriate and necessary as a consequence of that wrongdoing.

The "independent" part of that is important. Even if we discount the possibility of malice, there are too many ways for things to go wrong. Definitions can be unreasonable, identities can be mistaken, memories can be faulty, evaluations can be based on incomplete information, and so on. The involved parties are, in all but the most egregious cases, not qualified to make those decisions unilaterally: they're too close to the incident. In all but the most egregious cases, the involved parties are too close to the incident to be qualified to make these decisions unilaterally. Even in the most egregious cases, the very things that make one side qualified to make some of those decisions also disqualify that side from making the others, which is why we have courts in the first place.

I think PyCon's actions here are quite appropriate, and a marked improvement from the earlier code of conduct. There's room to improve even further -there should be some basic outline of a process for reviewing and investigating incidents- but this is still a step in the right direction.


My comment was from empirical observation.

A lot of the angriest comments are from 'manosphere' bloggers and tweeters whom I know are not programmers. They are leveraging this event to complain about women and feminists, but they don't have any skin in the Python community.


> But the extreme outburst of misogyny - the insults, abuse, and physical threats including threats of rape [...] entire community to recognize that it is still dysfunctional in terms of gender equality.

Do you mean community of internet trolls?


This comment doesn't really seem to be replying to the post about the updated code of conduct at all.


Instead of a learning opportunity, this has turned into an enormous fustercluck

I'm still holding some hope that after expending a lot of time and energy trying to distill an extremely gray situation into black and white, the communities involved will have something to learn from this.


Not to mention the spaz going on in the other thread about sendgrid's outage...

It doesn't matter if its a DDOS attack or some other outage. A quick scan of the comments leads me to believe quite a few people are actually happy with sendgrid's outage.


Yes! Thank you!


Having experienced PyCon for the first time this year, I am extremely saddened by how these events have unfolded. Ironically, I think this particular issue is eclipsing how female and kid friendly this conference is.

I have attended and spoken and several conferences (probably reaching the upper 80s) and this year's PyCon was more female-supportive than any other conference I have ever attended (Google IO, OSCON, WWDC, Where, BarCamps, etc etc).

Honestly, I was (happily) surprised about how many women attended and spoke. 20%! Of course, this number may seem low if you just blur it out, but in our industry, if you have ever attended any other tech conference, you will realize why 20% is such a high number.

The amount of attention and support PyLadies got from the PyCon/Python community was nothing short of outstanding. I sat during the PyCon PyLadies Fundraiser auction. I saw how crappy card games and posters signed by Guido and PyCon organizers sold for $300. I saw how the community managed to get "A 30-min Walk from Jack Dorsey" as one of the things to be auctioned. You don't just get that an item like that by sitting idle. Somebody from the PyCon community had to pull some strings and go through some efforts to get that for PyLadies. Heck, some guy, 1hr before the auction just gave his personal Chromebook for auction because he wanted to help the PyLadies cause. PyLadies raised 10K in less than 2hrs. All community-driven. I have never seen - in any conference - a community putting so much effort to push the goal of increasing women in tech. Never.

And yet all this drama is painting such a different picture of what I would consider the best conference I have ever attended. The biggest effort I have seen for women in tech, out-shadowed by a silly penis joke and all the drama that ensued after that.

To the PyCon organizers and PyLadies community as a whole: Don't let this get to you. You did an amazing job. To me, it was such an inspiring conference, that it will always be in my schedule. The large amount of kids coding in python and playing with their Raspberry Pis, the ad-hoc tech donations that were being done teachers, the support to PyLadies, all that stuff that really matters, did not go unnoticed. It is just that we are not as loud as the rest. But we care. Thank you!!!


> Ironically, I think this particular issue is eclipsing how female and kid friendly this conference is.

This is the biggest thing that bugs me. PyCon this year was awesome, and instead of talking about record attendance and all the other positive things we're talking about a stupid dick joke.


+1000

Yes, this is the saddest thing about the whole thing


I applaud the PyCon organizers for clearly delineating what is acceptable behavior and what is not. I especially applaud them for including public shaming in the "unacceptable" category.

The rest of their code is there to protect conference goers. The sections discussing harassment are there for a reason - harassment is a real problem at these events.

Similarly, conference goers should be protected from the threat of being publicized as a less-than-human creature on the Internet. There's been some discussion of the reaction to Adria and Jesse. There could just as likely have been a strong, dangerous reaction to the men who made the comments. Saying "these guys are a threat to women" on the Internet could actually put them in danger, and no one should expect to be put in that situation by attending PyCon.


> There could just as likely have been a strong, dangerous reaction to the men who made the comments.

'dangerous'? Really? Are people who fight against sexism really 'just as likely', is in, have displayed a pattern of the same behaviour in the past? Or is this a false equivalency?


Let me put it another way. Do you think that every conference goer should behave the way Adria did? Whenever a conference goer feels offended, he or she should immediately take photos, publish them on Twitter and on a blog post along with insults like "asshat" and otherwise humiliate the individuals as publicly as possible?

The reason I ask is so I can figure out whether you're debating whether it's OK to publicly shame people in this manner, or whether you're quibbling over the degree of risk you're exposing someone to when you publicly shame them the way Adria did.


I think it's interesting that public shaming isn't the answer to problems, but that a lot of people don't seem to appreciate that.

It's not just Adria. Remember John Scalsi and "When Gut-Boys Attack"? http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/11/14/when-gut-boys-attack/

Same thing. Take a person, smash them publicly, and hope that the everyone watching will get the idea and stop doing that thing, because of fear of similar punishment.

...but, I was under the impression there was a pretty well defined protocol for handling public sorts of hate-speech like antisemitism, and trolling, and that had been shown in all kinds of circumstances not to work.

You get all the same reactions we've seen here; a social reaction against the 'shaming' group to socially prevent similar shaming from happening in the future.

Which totally mitigates the potential benefit of the original action.

The correct responses have always been:

1) Don't engage with obvious trolls. These are a lost cause. You're wasting everyone's time.

2) Speak positively about the topic instead of negatively about the other person

3) Engage with the people who are doing the wrong thing and try to correct their behavior so they become mini-champions of 'the right way' in their own community, thus spreading correct behavioral policy organically.

I thought that this was well known stuff; we certainly covered it in college. I'm boggled by this whole bizaar extravaganza. It's such a cliche.


3) is horrible. It only works if you assume that you are so much smarter and have more knowledge than the people who are involved in the issue, and that you can therefore come up with an argument that they haven't heard before that is still so utterly convincing that they turn 100% around.


> I think it's interesting that public shaming isn't the answer to problems, but that a lot of people don't seem to appreciate that.

The main point for public airing of this information is to inform others of the attitudes and behaviors that exist and to provide evidence of an actual problem.

> 3) Engage with the people who are doing the wrong thing and try to correct their behavior so they become mini-champions of 'the right way' in their own community, thus spreading correct behavioral policy organically.

This only works if you are a member of the peer group of the people doing the wrong thing. In the case of adria richards, she is a woman of color addressing behavior that tends to come from men, so I don't think it is fair to say that this would be a realistic thing to do.


I think the key here is to treat everyone like people. By publicly shaming two individuals and associating them with sexism they are being turned into figureheads for sexism. Real people make mistakes, say stupid things, are affected by their environments and upbringing, have prejudices and biases that they acquired from a life-time of interacting with other people. Everyone is like this, many people do not even realize what some of their biases or prejudices are. Turning them into into figureheads strips away the complexity and says "these guys are what is wrong". Which is complete and utter bullshit. They were just two guys having a private conversation.

If someone says something in private that you disagree with then you should bring it up with them in private or get and intermediary, like the conference organizers to. They may have been very sensitive to gender issues and sympathetic to her agenda but she will never know because she never put the effort into discussing it with them.


The problem is not PyCon. This is not an issue that should be solved by changing a code of conduct.

This is a problem with a person and her over zealous and ridiculous actions.

Let's be clear here, there should be nothing wrong with making dick jokes to your friend. Did he say "Haha, look at these dongles. They look like dicks. But we don't need them because have dicks! Maybe they should give these to the women so they can be better programmers with big dicks like us."? No.

We are living in a world where people increasingly feel the need to be "personally offended" by things that don't even involve them.

What if the male in question made an Englishman, Irishman, and Scotishman joke? Hell, they're pretty fucking funny! And you know what? They involve the Englishman doing something desperately stupid. Being an Englishman, am I offended? Fuck no.

This entire situation is beyond ridiculous.


It seems that of late sex (or talk about sex) = sexism.

Well no wonder then, that we can't have decent penis joke no more.


Let it not be forgotten that talking about sex in the wrong way in the wrong context actually is abusive.

If they were talking about Adria's body parts, or what they would like to do to Adria. Or propositioning her for sex. Or saying "hey baby" to her. Or trying to start a creepy conversation with her about her sex habits. These are among astronomically many possible examples of how you can talk inappropriately about sex to someone.

As a general rule, don't talk about sex to strangers, if you can't pick up any pattern of what is abusive or not.


Ah, but then they would be talking about her, not about sex.


Props to PyCon (and jnoller especially) for taking the issue seriously and not over-reacting or playing CYA.


I'm a little confused, what about privacy laws? Yes, you are at a conference, but that doesn't give anybody the right to take your picture and post it on twitter, without asking your permission, right? (Sorry, German here, so if the laws in the US are completly different, please ignore).


> "Yes, you are at a conference, but that doesn't give anybody the right to take your picture and post it on twitter, without asking your permission, right?"

Even in Germany this is legal. The right to photograph someone is usually delineated by the principle of "reasonable expectation of privacy". Note that this is a legal term that has been defined both through legislation and via decades of case law in many countries - so personal definitions of it don't apply here.

Common places where courts have upheld the reasonable expectation of privacy include restrooms (including public ones), a home, a hotel room, etc. A conference talk is not one of these places. Which is to say, people are free to photograph at will.

Note that should the property be private, the owners (or agents thereof) are entitled to disallow photography. Note also, importantly, that the right to disallow photography does not include the right to confiscate any photographs already taken. The most the property owner can do is remove the individual from their premises or have them arrested for trespassing.

Note also that while photographing someone in a public place is not a violation of any criminal law in most Western countries, it does not shield you from civil liabilities - you can still be pursued for damages, libel, or defamation (which seem like it may be relevant in this situation).

There are some countries and territories with substantially stricter laws regarding the likeness of people. Japan and Quebec for example are places where the right to photograph someone in public is not protected by default.


You are wrong about the law in Germany.

As you correctly stated, taking photographs is very unregulated (and wasn’t regulated at all until a few years ago) in Germany. It’s only illegal to take photos in the places you listed. (Actually it’s not so much about specific places. The photos have to invade a private area of life, though that usually means places like the home, hotel rooms or restrooms are off limits.) This barrier is actually relatively high, not everything is immediately an invasion of a private area of life, even if it might seem so. A normal shot of you hanging out in a conference room with hundreds other people? Not an invasion of a private area of life.

This also means that privately owned but public spaces are not included there, like, say, conference halls or train stations or shopping malls and similar such places. As you also correctly stated, the owner can disallow photographs, though by default (i.e. if the owner doesn’t have any rules) taking photographs is perfectly ok.

The issue is publishing photographs. There the barriers are much, much higher in Germany. If there are people in it, the default is that you are not allowed to publish them unless every person in the photograph agrees. Now, as always with the law, there are (of course) exceptions (e.g. if people are only incidental to the photograph and not the main subject, say if you take a photo of a building and there happen to be a few people in front of it), though none of them apply in this case. Publishing this photo wouldn’t be legal in Germany (taking it would), though it is important to note that in Germany those depicted in the photo would have to come forward and press charges. Otherwise the police is not allowed to investigate or charge people. (You could say that the default assumption of the law is that everyone in published photographs agreed to it and if you don’t it’s on you to come forward.)

However, that is not the case in the US where both taking and publishing this photo is perfectly legal. So I do not really see the relevance of this discussion.


You're right - I looked into this and it looks like Germany actually has very strict laws regarding this - as strict as Japan's, on cursory examination.

It's a shame, IMO - Europe is the birthplace of photography, and of street photography in particular, and we are still reaping the benefits of the historical record provided by decades of laissez-faire attitudes re: photographing strangers.


As I said, there are exceptions. As there always are with the law. Here they are (in German): http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/kunsturhg/__23.html

You don’t need permission to publish photos of historical significance. That’s pretty much why newspaper photographers can exist in Germany. All those kinds of photos – if they do not invade some private area of life of the depicted persons – are totally fine.

As I already mentioned, the same is true for photos in which the people are not the main subject – though if some person is easily identifiable you likely do need their permission, even if they are not the center of the attention. This exception is mostly so that someone ten pixels in size or so cannot rain into the photographer’s parade.

Or – and this can apply to street photography – if it serves a higher interest of the arts. I think the general recommendation for street photographers is to make eye contact with who they photograph and check that way whether it’s ok. Also, walking up and talking to who you photographed isn’t super hard. As I already said, photographing without publishing is nearly always ok, so you can shoot first and get permission later. Also, since those depicted actually have to press charges it’s not like the police will bust your exhibition and confiscate your photos. Someone who is on some published photo has to complain. And even then there still is legal wriggle room. The right to privacy is one of the rights defined in the German constitution – but so is the freedom of the arts. If those two collide judges have to weigh them against each other and decide which wins. I guess shots of someone picking their nose in public might might make privacy win, shots of someone drinking coffee in a cafe might make freedom of the arts win. (Also, it’s not like this is a felony. It’s a private law issue.)

Photos of assemblies or demonstrations or similar such events are also ok. Huh, now I’m questioning my statement that the published photo is not covered by one of the exceptions. My interpretation of this was always that this covers all kinds of political events. Being able to publish photos of political events or demonstrations is important for a democracy, that’s the light in which I always saw that exception. However, the actual text of the law is very generic and probably makes reference to all kinds of events, not just political ones. I wonder how the courts interpreted this in the past.

So I guess I can’t say after all whether publishing the photo is ok – not the least of which because the paragraph ends with a sentence that screws up all clearly delineated lines: All those exceptions are null and void if those depicted have a justifiable interest in preventing that. So an exception of an exception.

Now I’m frustrated. And actually want to study law.


> "You don’t need permission to publish photos of historical significance."

That's insufficient for the sort of photography I mean. There is a tremendous amount of historical value provided in even shots of the mundane. Look up the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Treng Parke, among many others - these are photographers who captured regular people, in regular situations, in daily life, and in doing so provide a valuable historical record decades later.

The historical record of a people is, IMO, not embodied in photographs of famous politicians and actors, but rather in regular people - and to disallow their photographing by default inhibits this. The concern isn't just historical, it's also artistic - if we disallowed photography of people without explicit model releases almost all of the photography in art museums today would not exist.

> "Or – and this can apply to street photography – if it serves a higher interest of the arts."

That's an incredibly vague - and conservative - angle on it. Street photography has traditionally pushed the boundaries of what society finds acceptable, and for the most part it is always vindicated over time. Most of the challenging, worthwhile street photography would not hit the "higher interest of the arts" bar at the time they are taken.

Your standard basically means that whatever is being done has been accepted by mainstream society already as a valuable art form. Now tell me, how much of new art is already accepted by society at large at the time of creation?

Take a look at, for example, the work of Bruce Gilden, whose working method is still controversial today, but I for one am glad he has the freedom to do it.

> "I think the general recommendation for street photographers is to make eye contact with who they photograph and check that way whether it’s ok. Also, walking up and talking to who you photographed isn’t super hard."

I do street photography almost every day. I know this - it's easy to get permission, it's hard to shove a piece of paper in someone's face and have them sign their legal rights away. The bar isn't "subjects should be consenting", it's "subjects should have signed a legally binding agreement". That is the part that is unreasonable.

> "As I already said, photographing without publishing is nearly always ok, so you can shoot first and get permission later."

You want to track a stranger on a street down later, put a legal agreement in front of them, and get them to sign it?

> "The right to privacy is one of the rights defined in the German constitution – but so is the freedom of the arts."

All around the world, almost universally, the protect of the "arts" extends only to what has already been deemed acceptable. Street photography still isn't recognized consistently as an art form, much less a protected one. Like I said before, to define acceptability as "worthwhile arts" merely protects what doesn't need protecting: art forms that mainstream society already finds palatable and desirable.


With very constrained exceptions, in most jurisdictions of the United States, it's entirely legal to take a photograph of an individual in a public place and post it to the Internet without their permission.


Bear in mind they were not in a public place, but a conference venue - which would almost certainly be private property. It is totally legal to prohibit photography in such cases.

However, normally this has to be made explicit (through signs, or the like) - it's assumed it is allowed unless otherwise stated.

I wonder if going forward conferences will consider banning photography in future, for better or for worse.


I'd be a little surprised.

The photograph doesn't seem to really be the issue, just an obvious thing that Adria did "wrong" for people to seize upon.

It seems like the exact same situation could occur if she had simply reported them through their names rather than through photography.


Thank you for the explanation, that clears a lot of things up around this topic


The operative phrase here is "reasonable expectation of privacy," as in, you're fair game to have your photo taken unless you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.


Ah, ok, thank you. I'm probably spoiled by Defcon, where there is a strict "No Pictures if you don't ask" policy.


IANAL, but I believe it does. In the US, what matters is whether you have the expectation of privacy, and sitting in a conference room you obviously don't.

(There's other stuff that comes into play when you try to profit off such photographs, so the situation can get more complicated than that.)


The conference would most likely be considered a semi-public place and therefore have limited expectations of privacy. In general your right to privacy is dictated by the reasonable expectation of such, E.G. when at home you've got a reasonable expectation of privacy, but when out in a public location such as a mall or restaurant it isn't really reasonable to expect privacy.


That's nice.

Especially when the harassment is "two friends taking to each other in some row".


Since when does everyone have the right to being offended?

To put this into context, Adria is most certainly allowed to be bothered the comments made during this conversation. However, there has to be a distinction between whether or not this is private or public.

If this fellow went on stage and then started to make these jokes, it could be considered inappropriate and as a result she would in my mind have a valid complaint. It is similar to how Michael Richards made some rather off-colour remarks about a certain ethnicity on stage, which as a result ruined his career. If he had made these comments in private, I'd imagine that he'd still be making terrible attempts at sitcom pilots.

However, when it is a conversation between two parties where she wasn't included but just ended up overhearing it, then she has no right to complain. These guys may be obnoxious to you, but you can remove yourself from the situation quite easily. Tweeting a photo of them was uncalled for however, but she could have still made a photo-less quip about them which would have been appropriate.

Public shaming people for their private conversations is uncalled for when it is specifically targeted. Adria doesn't need to apologise for being bothered over it, but she certainly should for going about it the way she did.

[edit]

Sendgrid responded:

Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards. While we generally are sensitive and confidential with respect to employee matters, the situation has taken on a public nature. We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers. As we continue to process the vast amount of information, we will post something more comprehensive.


They forgot to add that all childish jokes should not be shared amongst each other, ever.


Childishness, silliness, and lewdness is a core part of what Monty Python was about. Monty Python's style of humor was encouraged in the Python programmer culture from the beginning. It's ironic that Pycon's policy would prevent me from publicly reciting some of my favorite Flying Circus skit lines.


She could have just slapped him with a fish like any grown adult would do and found a more deserving target of righteous indignation.


A true Pythonista would not be offended by a dongle joke. The following link has a penis song from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life http://youtu.be/p9PiqCeLEmM


Well if the enforcer was dressed like a Colonel, then maybe people would accept it.


No silliness will be tolerated. I hate silliness.


There is a certain category of an especially nasty person who loves taking up 'high moral ground', as it is generally promulgated by powers that be of their time, and using it to mercilessly destroy their fellow human beings. They are drunk with evil power and the sheer simplicity of it: just apply a glib label to your victim.

Pagan, heretic, catholic, protestant, blasphemer, republican, communist, anti-communist, racist, sexist....

Nothing new under the Sun. I wonder what will be the next 'in-vogue' label. The labels change but the type of person who is fond of using them is always the same, always nasty.


Seriously? Dick jokes aren't misogynist,and the joke the guy made wouldn't even earn a PG rating. Plus, it's a private conversation. If they had said something truly sexist (eg commenting about the body parts of a female presenter) I would at least understand being offended, but public shaming would still not be justified for an eavesdropped conversation.

It sucks, but it's really apparent that this woman used the hot button issue of sexism at tech conferences (which is a legitimate problem in professional presentations) to get attention for herself and her personal "brand" of anti sexism crusader... meanwhile, crying wolf like this potentially reduces the chance that later complaints will be taken seriously, and that actual sexism will be written off as a similar case of 'help help I'm being oppressed'!


Dick jokes may or may not be misogynistic depending on the intent and the context. The default assumption that a woman's actions are to attract attention? That's misogynistic. Stop doing that.


OK, so I should have clarified the type of dick joke.. if the joke was "I'd like to put my dongle in her input jack" it'd be at the very least sexist. This one was not.

"The default assumption that a woman's actions are to attract attention" That is not at all my default assumption. In fact, I'm very much on the side of the women who do experience sexual harassment at conferences and are brave enough to speak up about it.

But as for the circumstances here (joke that was pretty benign and didn't concern her, public shaming) and the person involved, yes, I do believe it was for attention.


This is tricky.

"Dear Attendees,

If you feel you're being harassed, please don't tell anyone but us. Thanks."

As a general rule I think we should be working to empower people to handle situations on their own (part of that handling will likely include notifying organizers). Not disenfranchising them so they've got no recourse but to report something to a group of people selected for their ability to run a conference, not necessarily mediate disputes.

Do I happen to think that "public shaming" was appropriate here? Probably not. Do I think it's been effectively used by many groups in the past to effect change, yes. The fact that PyCon and many other conferences have adopted a code of conduct is evidence of this.

When a group asks me to constrain how I behave outside the confines of their event (on twitter for example) I tend to apply it universally. If I can't talk about the bad I most definitely will not talk about the good. I'll not have a third party filtering my communication that way.


That's not really what it says though - "Report the harassment incident (preferably in writing) to a conference staff member - all reports are confidential, please do not disclose public information about the incident until the staff have had sufficient time in which to address the situation. "

It's saying 'please tell us first and give us a chance to sort it out to everyone's satisfaction'.

That's really not tricky at all.


> As a general rule I think we should be working to empower people to handle situations on their own

I totally agree. There is nothing here prohibiting you from telling immature people to cut it out.

> Not disenfranchising them so they've got no recourse but to report something to a group of people selected for their ability to run a conference, not necessarily mediate disputes.

The only thing this "disenfranchises" you from is trying to start lynch mobs whenever you feel like it. That is rarely an appropriate method of mediating disputes or resolving a problem, and I am totally happy that they are discouraging it.

> Do I happen to think that "public shaming" was appropriate here? Probably not. Do I think it's been effectively used by many groups in the past to effect change, yes.

Public shaming is a drastic measure. It should only be used if you have exhausted other more reasonable methods of resolving your problems. You should only reach for that hammer when you face systemic issues.

I have seen no evidence that the PyCon staff turns a blind eye to sexism or inappropriate comments. That's the kind of thing that deserves public shaming; when the system itself is broken.

> The fact that PyCon and many other conferences have adopted a code of conduct is evidence of this.

Yes, but once you have a system that is working, you threaten its efficacy by continuing to try to effect change in spite of it.

> When a group asks me to constrain how I behave outside the confines of their event (on twitter for example) I tend to apply it universally.

They are not telling you how to behave outside the confines of their event. They are telling you that the appropriate venue to bring your disputes at PyCon is to the PyCon staff, not your legion of twitter followers.

If the PyCon staff doesn't handle things appropriately, then go ahead and start handing out torches and pitchforks.


You can tell everyone about the issue and not name any names or post photographs that identify people.


> Note: Public shaming can be counter-productive to building a strong community. PyCon does not condone nor participate in such actions out of respect

I think the "out of respect" is unnecessary and somewhat nonsensical. Out of respect for whom? I think it's fine to just say that PyCon, like any reasonable organization, doesn't participate or condone in such public shaming, period...because the reasons to not engage in it are myriad.


It's on Github... Fork it and make a pull request?


Easy with that word...


I'de fork that repo.


True. It's mambo jambo just to make a point that they've dealt with the issue.

You know what would be better for the conference? A no pictures policy like defcon.

That way,people would not be able to violate others privacy for their own agendas.


(Your point stands, but it is at least interesting that DEFCON apparently removed that policy, AFAICT.)


can't find anything newer than this https://www.defcon.org/html/defcon-20/dc-20-press.html

"July 26 – 29th, 2012"

[...]

"Photography/video without explicit permission is forbidden."


> 3) Don't be surprised if you get your picture taken.

> For good or bad, the DefCon policy of no pictures/video is gone. So don't be surprised if people randomly take your picture... Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll put you on their facebook.

-- http://defcon.stotan.org/faq/rules.htm

> Then there was a policy change. (Last year?) that pretty much said, "cameras are okay anywhere at Defcon" though there were disagreements on how much was included with "everywhere at Defcon" such as CTF players, room, and screens.

> Yea it was changed last year, but I still told everyone at 101 NOT to take pictures without permission (ie: While DefCon Policy say's this, you may want to do this) And I probably will do it again, because it's a good rule to have. The "Policy" may say that pictures can be taken anywhere at anytime. But the actuality of the situation is that people may still get really really pissed at some random person taking their photo.

-- https://forum.defcon.org/showthread.php?t=12309&highligh...


Note: "mumbj jumbo" is the term.

"mambo jambo" is incredibly racist against Latinos, but I promise not to try to get you fired over it, or call you an "ass clown"


The comments here are curious. The bulk of them are arguing the finer points of rampant speculation. Why did the guy get fired? What were her motives? Was their conversation intended to be private?

This is all beside the point. Engaging in such conversations is feeding a witch-hunt (on either side).

The facts as I've seen them are simple. He made a penis joke which could be overheard. She took offense. He admitted it was an offensive penis joke. He got fired.

The telling point for me is her other behavior. She made a penis joke on Twitter. Unless she admits that that joke was offensive, she's a hypocrite.

I find that more offensive than the original joke. Being offended at behavior you do yourself is at best naive. At worst deliberately hypocritical and amoral.


Less than 30 mins ago: "Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards"

https://www.facebook.com/SendGrid/posts/10151502570463967


Passive public shaming could be the future with Google Glass and like tech. Your behavior won't need to be actively "reported". If it happens within range of someone wearing Glass, what you say and do could simply be recorded, indexed, and searchable by anyone.


I don't see how penis jokes, fucking jokes, etc. are in anyway sexism, misogyny or otherwise against women. They're against prudes and the sexually repressed. They're inappropriate in some contexts.

If you feel they are sexist, etc. It is you who are being sexist and demeaning cause you've accepted the stereotype that women should be virginal, sexually repressed, are frail and weak needing protected from thoughts of sex, sexual innuendo, etc.


Nothing to see here. She manipulated a bunch of guys (dressed up as woman, smiled while taking their pictures, giving a very false and manipulative premise) and publicly difamed them over something he/she overheard. Which could be totally taken out of context...

To be honest, anon taking an interest on her is a fitting end for someone who values the privacy of others so low like she proven to.


They can amend the rules all they like but they'll never arrive at a set that properly covers all the various behaviors that people rightly find objectionable.

In the process of trying they'll very likely end up with a set of contradictory and/or impossibly ambiguous rules. They'll also encourage people to think that by compliance with the rules they've done all they need to. They'll encourage still others to abuse the rules in ways detrimental to other people. And they'll discourage a lot of harmless and possibly useful / interesting / fun discussion out of fear that it will be interpreted as a violation.

Gender bias and stereotyping are problems of culture. The various violations are all questions of judgment. Those judgments will always depend on questions of context. That doesn't mean the problems are unimportant or that there can't be consensus judgments of a full set of facts. But it does mean you cannot solve questions of integrity and intent and interpretation with external rules.


Should this open the door to a discussion about the ethics of public shaming?


Public shaming is a tool in the kit, but in this case it was the first one that she reached for. From her blog post, it sounded like it was out of frustration over other incidences (maybe even worse cases of offence / harassment) that she had also ignored. It was the 'straw that broke the camel's back' so to speak, and unleashed her pent up anger/frustration.

Personally, I think that there were other avenues to pursue this, without resorting to public shaming. It adds nothing to the generic goal of 'improving the community for women (present and future)' which seemed to have been on her mind (at least from her blog post). Talking about it in public promotes that goal, but naming names does not.


I very reluctantly have to agree that it is a tool in the kit, however as far as tools go I would have to liken it to resorting to a government coup because that pothole you reported last week still hasn't been filled. Sure it might be necessary in extreme situations, but equally extreme discretion and forethought is absolutely necessary.

As to it being a culmination of other offenses, that's a bit too speculatory for my taste. Who's to say the other alleged offenses weren't just as minor, to such a degree that, as in this case, I might not consider them an offense at all?

I do agree that it did not add anything to the goal of improving the community for women. If anything, it should be seen as a setback. As it is, this only serves to instill fear in men such that any slight misstep could result in extreme disciplinary action, ranging from public humiliation to loss of income.


Public shaming is essentially an appeal to the mob. And mobs are very dangerous.

The API for class InternetMob has exactly one function call: start(). You can't tell if it succeeded or failed, or if it will succeed later. You cannot stop it after it has started. Even if it succeeds in going after your initial target, it may then turn on someone else you do like, or even yourself.


Public shaming is a tri-edged blade with no handle, made of fire. Yes you can wield it, but you are going to get hurt, possibly badly, likely you are going to take somebody who just stood next to you down with you too. If you hurt your intended target, you can't control the degree and it is going to have unintended consequences that you can't stop, let alone control.

Do you really think it should be in the toolkit?


As a weapon of last resort. Even then, only when retreat / choosing your battles doesn't make sense.

For example, if something progressed to getting the police or lawyers involved, at least some amount of it is going to be public record. Even though it might not (initially) be broadcast widely, it would eventually hit the tech press if it stemmed from events at a tech conference.


> Do you really think it should be in the toolkit?

As a last resort, it can be necessary. Let's imagine a different situation where, at a public con, an individual A suggests sexual congress to an individual B just met (already inappropriate), B simply declines but A doggedly keeps trying (veering into straight sexual harassment), B reports to Con staff who blow B off.

At this point, B's options are basically calling the police of yo's own accord or going public. Both are probably going to blow up, and considering B has just had a run-in with despondent authority (con's staff) making B less likely to trust the next level of authority with correctly handling the case (or even handling it at all).

Public shaming is the nuclear bomb in the toolbox, but even a nuclear bomb can have a use.


It's a complex and multi-faceted ethical question. Involving issues of empathy, unintended consequences, power asymmetry, confirmation bias, and lynch-mob justice.

No. I don't think we're ready to have a discussion about that yet.


I just want to remind everybody in this thread that the "offending, sexual comments" were two adult men joking that "dongle" and "dong" sound the same.


I'm incredibly impressed by how PyCon has handled this whole thing (both their CoC and how they arbitrated it, and their success in attracting 20% women to a programming conference.) Compare it to e.g. the BSidesSF fiasco.

One of the awesome things about Python is that two of the best Python developers I know are female, along with maybe 20-30% of "good" programmers who program primarily in Python being female as well. It really seems like one of the more inclusive technical communities.

I wonder how much of that is due to the language itself, how much is how it's been used in academic programs, and how much is due to the people who were originally involved in the language, the conferences, etc.


It appears that Adria Richards herself was just fired. https://www.facebook.com/SendGrid/posts/10151502570463967


I just issued a pull request that would add test cases to the Code of Conduct. It's at https://github.com/kstrauser/pycon-code-of-conduct/commit/14... .

The idea is that:

1. It's good to define exactly what we want to happen in various test cases. Either we can get consensus ("yeah, that's how it should turn out!") or decide that there's no clear answer. Both results add valuable information to the process. 2. We have examples to compare the actual Code of Conduct against to decide whether it achieves the results we want.

I'm not directly related to PyCon in any way other than as a happy attendee. As of this moment, I have no support (official or otherwise) for this project. I just think it could be a useful tool and an interesting exercise. Please jump in if you agree!

PS: The syntax is awful. I'm keenly aware of that, but I'm not aware of other testing frameworks for English documents and I'm making it up as I go along.


This doesn't seem very well thought out outside of the present scenario.

If someone is raped at a conference and blogs about it, naming their attacker, are they in violation of conference policy for engaging in "public shaming"?

In a non-sexual context, if someone is caught trying to hack into attendees' computers (another code of conduct violation), is tweeting a photo of them saying "look out for this guy" a violation of conference policy?

Remember this: The best solution to offensive speech is more speech, not less.


Everything else on the side, but taking pictures of unknown people and publishing them along with the names and full info constitutes a serious invasion of privacy. Not sure about US laws, but almost everywhere in Europe this is totally illegal to do. Model or owner release is absolutely required to be able to publish any pictures of regular people or private properties. For exactly this kind of reasons.


When the history of our times is written, I trust that someone will note the enormous addition of rules to cover situations that should be managed by common sense and good will, the subsequent discovery that the rules do not prevent all bad behavior, and the addition of still more rules.

Does anyone really believe that the Code of Conduct will effect a real change?


Both Adria and the guy who made the joke lose their jobs? What a disaster.

NOBODY should have been fired over this an any side. WTF.


IMHO, this is another perfect example of conflict caused by communication failure. If Adria communicated her feeling when she heard the joke to the joker he would've apologized immediately and nothing would've happened afterwards. Many more people would've remained a calmer and more pleasant mood.


The comment thread here is incredibly sad and depressing and perfectly illustrates how deeply misogyny is threaded through this community and industry.

You might want to go and find a female friend and have them read what you wrote. I think their responses might be enlightening.


Please do not attack entire communities. Especially like now when there have been very few misogynist comments in this discussion.


Huh. And here I thought the reason people organized socially was to exclude the unlikable.


Here is the tweet that seems to have motivated the patch to the PyCon Code of Conduct: https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/313417655879102464


Why does a conference about a programming language need a code of conduct? Does anyone even read it before conducting? I know it gets a lot of attention after conducting.


Why does everyone care? There has to be some point where people realize how insignificant the issue that they are freaking out over is, on all sides.


There are some things people in these threads are chronically getting wrong.

First, lots of people are making the claim that this was a "private" joke. It was not. If it was a private joke and they shouldn't be punished for that reason, then they should have been able to say anything, and as long as everyone who was meant to be in the private conversation appreciated it, it would be wrong to punish them because it was private.

So here's an example: What if they made a joke wherein they said, "Let's lynch a <n word>"? They likely would have been kicked out, could easily have been fired, and no one would have much sympathy for them. Why? Because it's not in private. They were at a conference, which is a community gathering with community standards to make sure that everyone feels welcome, and they were talking when literally surrounded by attendees they don't know. What they say absolutely has an effect on how welcome others feel. We've decided that it's important enough that all feel welcome that we've made codes of conduct.

So once we've established that there are things they could have said that would make their behavior unacceptable, you're now saying "that comment didn't warrant this response", not "this was a private conversation! how could they ever kick them out or fire them for that?"

And at that point, we get to all the arguments that this joke "wasn't sexist". It is true, that the joke itself was not sexist; it did not objectify women, suggest that they are less than men, etc.

But it was contributing to aspects of the tech industry's culture that make it less welcoming to women, and for that reason, it is unacceptable at a professional conference. (It's also just crude and might make some men uncomfortable, and so is unacceptable for that reason too.) In nearly every context that a woman in tech finds herself, she is surrounded by men. This can often make them feel somewhat unwelcome or uncomfortable. Even little things, like a few people who make comments suggesting that they're nontechnical, or a few people asking them out at every single meetup they go to, can make them feel less comfortable and less valued for what they came to the conference to do--be technical.

Anything that contributes to the feeling of the conference being a boy's club, or sexualizes the environment, can make this worse.

Finally, many people ask, "Why didn't she just say something to them?" While I don't think going straight to twitter was the best she could have done, I also don't think people understand how difficult it can be to approach someone and call them out on behavior that makes one feel uncomfortable, especially in a space where one already does not feel especially welcome or taken seriously. If everyone yells, "you should have just talked to them!" every time a woman immediately complains to organizers about inappropriate behavior, you're just encouraging more women to silently feel unwelcome, and likely drop out of the community, rather than speaking up and helping make the community better. I agree that, when comfortable, directly speaking with the offending party is best way to deal with these problems, but those who have been made uncomfortable have absolutely no responsibility to do so, and shouldn't be pushed to do it even if they are not comfortable with it.


> "Let's lynch a <n word>"? They likely would have been kicked out and no one would have much sympathy for them. Why? Because it's not in private.

Your point about the n-word is wrong. Being private has nothing to do with it. It is using the word at all, and the type of person that using such a word implies, that would cause the huge backlash. It wouldn't matter if someone were secretly recorded in their own house making that joke and then publicly outed on youtube--they would still be fired/shunned etc. Public vs private has nothing to do with it.


She was comfortable enough to publicly shame them and call them ass clowns...


I flirted with Python for a while, but couldn't stop obsessing over the built-in recursion limit. Now, seeing what goes on at PyCon, I'm SO glad I switched to brainfuck. There's not only no brittle speech police there, there's NOBODY there.


Feminists so fun


One of the reasons I've taken an interest in this whole fiasco is that I occasionally make "colorful" jokes. Not dissimilar from the two guys at PyCon. I make every attempt to keep these jokes private between my friends and I, but I'm sure others have heard me make them. Some people might find them funny, others may be offended. It scares me to think that making an offhand penis joke could result in being publicly outed on Twitter with no opportunity to defend myself.

I believe that Adria Richards did not handle the situation appropriately. I believe she's being a hypocrite by taking offense one day, and making her own penis joke on Twitter the next. I believe that she's further stoking the internet's rage by refusing to admit any fault. I think the other women that are jumping to her defense are doing themselves, and women in technology a disservice. They are not thinking critically or putting themselves in the conference attendee's shoes. I'm quite sure they would not like to be publicly outed for a private conversation.

Public shaming was not the right way to handle the situation. An apology from Adria would have gone a long way in defusing the situation. She chose not to go this route. I'm sad that a silly penis joke turned in to this.

Preemptive Edit: I do NOT believe that ANYONE should suffer the wrath of the Internet. I do NOT believe that ANY conference attendees should have to sit idly by and listen to penis jokes. I'm only saying that publicly shaming these guys was a mistake, and that an apology for the mistake could have basically fixed the problem before it got this far.


What's amazing to me is the cognitive dissonance required to make the leap from Adria publicly outing someone (questionable, but not egregious given you know, the public venue) making an off-color joke to 'she got these people fired'.

Their boss finding out what they said got them fired. Because what they said wasn't appropriate in the opinion of their employer. Period. Full stop.


  | what they said wasn't appropriate in the
  | opinion of their employer
There's more nuance than that. By tweeting it, she turned it into a public issue. The scale of the issue changed. The guy's employer probably fired him to avoid association with negative publicity, and to try to avoid being seen as supporting what he said. The fact that the guy was publicly shamed led to that. Had identities been anonymized while the issue was discussed publicly, then things may have turned out differently.

I don't think that she set out to get the guy fired, and it wasn't through direct action, but she did up the stakes.


How is a conversation in earshot of tens of strangers at a public event a private conversation?


The same way that if you and I were standing in the subway discussing the finer points of <topic potentially offensive to people on the same railcar> or cracking stupid jokes regarding the requirement for some software to have a dongle.

Just because someone in that crowd can be offended by something we say doesn't mean jack shit, unless it is directed directly at them I don't see how it applies to them.


That's entirely a matter of opinion. I think you're wrong. PyCon's code of conduct does too. I think adding a clause about not public shaming is good though. These comments were creating an environment that reasonably made someone uncomfortable. PyCon's updated policy gives people a safe and productive way to deal with it. There's still a risk it'll leak out (as it often does), but it at least lets everyone know what the expectations are.


She probably didn't want to get them fired. But it's hard to argue that she didn't want to cause them real damage, at the very least to their reputation. And it should be plainly obvious to someone with a media presence that anything negative they say about someone will ripple well beyond that person's own realm of control.

Everyone says things in private they wouldn't want their employer to hear. People curse outside of work. People drink and smoke. People break the law. They don't get fired for it because there's no one taking pictures of it and blasting it across the Internet. What we have here is irresponsible disclosure. You might not be able to forecast the full effect of such an action, but you have to know it's not going to be good for anyone involved.


> Everyone says things in private they wouldn't want their employer to hear.

That's the difference in this case. The men in question were not in the personal life having a private discussion, they were attending a conference that their employer was a sponsor of and they were marked as being representatives of that sponsor company via their badges. They are already damaging their own and their company's reputation by making dumb sexist jokes at a professional-for-them event.


It's already been established that the joke was not sexist. Please stop claiming that it was.


Good luck with that statement, buddy. Anything remotely related to sex and said by men is sexist. Apparently. Don't ask me why.


Until the day a man feels equally comfortable telling a sex-related joke to a woman as to another man, all such jokes are, by definition, sexist. We as a society are not open towards sex and the real sexist men feel that it is to their advantage that women should feel more embarrassed about sex jokes, even a woman have no reason whatsoever to feel that way.


>Until the day a man feels equally comfortable telling a sex-related joke to a woman as to another man, all such jokes are, by definition, sexist.

Okay, then in this case the sexism isn't a bad thing. That's called protecting myself. As this fiasco has demonstrated, you might get me fired for it.


You make a key point: the men were not in their personal lives having a private conversation. I also used your "professional-for-them" in another post.


It was her public outing that caused this situation in the first place!

Also, do you think if there wasn't as much drama going around that these men still would have been fired?

There is much more to this situation then an employer finding out that one of their employees make a dongle joke at a conference, and decided that was grounds for them to be fired. It is much more likely that the employer doesn't want to be associated with the debate taking place online, rather than being appealed by their employees actions.


If a man had posted that tweet, their firing would not have been notable and the internet would not be calling for boycotts, 'justice', apologies nor issuing death threats.


If a man had posted that tweet, likely nobody would have paid him any attention aside from maybe an eye roll from how easily offended he was, how he lacked a sense of humor (even if the joke wasn't very funny), and how he resorted to extreme passive aggressive tactics instead of simply saying STFU to the guy making the joke.

And if the tweet had still somehow garnered a lot of attention and gotten someone fired, he would have been condemned much more strongly for lacking the basic human decency not to out someone publicly, lacking the empathy to express regret over a man with a wife and three kids losing their job, and not manning up to admit they didn't handle the situation appropriately.

In other words, if a man had posted that tweet, he would have received much worse treatment, because this has everything to do with the tweet being an inappropriate reaction to a silly joke, and nothing to do with discrimination against women.


That's an unsupportable assertion.


But shucks, it "feels" like it's true. Therefore, in the poster's mind, it is.


No, sorry, the situation was started by someone doing something which is at least rude.

They robbed the butcher's cash. It is his fault for leaving it in the counter. Sorry: it was the robber's fault and the butcher's imprudence, nothing more.


So throwing out a hyperbole to point out absurdity: if this man had been stabbed rather than fired, would you still say that if they didn't want to be stabbed, they shouldn't have made a rude joke? If the community is just so far out of control like people here are saying it is, who is the actual irresponsible party here?

Making the crude remark might be rude, but it hurts no one. There was no real damage from the joke. Public shaming is rude and hurts everyone involved. It can now be measured in real dollar amounts. That's not a consequence of the joke, that's a consequence of irresponsible journalism.


> So throwing out a hyperbole to point out absurdity: if this man had been stabbed rather than fired, would you still say that if they didn't want to be stabbed, they shouldn't have made a rude joke?

I can't even begin to explain how fallacious this argument is.


Note that I explicitly called out the hyperbole of the statement. If the argument is that he got fired because he made this joke rather than because Adria posted about the joke, then surely it should follow that any alternative consequence could be subbed in, right? His employer was mad enough about his joke to fire him. Is it not possible that, in a hypothetical world someone else could be mad enough about the joke to cause him physical harm? And since it's his fault for making the joke, then it's his fault he got injured. Adria did nothing wrong, because he didn't get fired because of her tweet, he got fired because of his joke.

The idea is to point out that his private conversation would never have been made public without Adria, and Adria as a media figure should be able to see the negative consequences of her actions. There are better ways of handling the taking of offense.


It's called Socratic Method.


We live in a politically correct world, and employers will do the wrong thing in order to save face because it's more expedient. It's hard to both try to help run a business and simultaneously wage war over social discourse.

The pattern is that firms will react, and overreact, to what they perceive as a scandal involving hot-button issues. The firing was a mistake but maybe the people involved were afraid of what might happen if they didn't do it. Or maybe they were acting on the same social outrage that Adria was acting on.

The point is there's a whole social anti-pattern behind the firing and it's incorrect to pin it on any one actor to the exclusion of others.


Then those employers should be punished via the same public shaming mechanism. If this is the new way to do things, fine, but it works both ways.

Never heard of PlayHeaven before. Now it is on my black list. I will make sure to remember it. Unless I read a public apology with an offer to hire him back, I will make sure to go out of my way to let everyone know about them.

PyCon -- making off color jokes is reason to take statements and escort people out in front of everyone, but posting insulting face pictures on attendees (sponsors none the less) is ok? Nope. It is not 'OK'. There should be a public apology. Guess which one makes PyCon a hostile environment? Imagine someone saying "I refuse to attend PyCon if the person who posted a picture of naked woman in one of the slides comes too". Everyone understands that, sympathy flows on twitter etc. Now what if I say I refuse to attend if Adria attends. I don't feel safe and don't feel welcome when my face could easily end up twitter with an insult underneath. Isn't that the same issue?


It doesn't work both ways, because the employer is not subject to the same external pressures that the employee is. The employer answers to the general public, the employee answers to one easily-scared manager.

It's related, but not equivalent.


I meant it is similar in how public shaming and humiliation is accepted as a valid way to deal with such situations.

Initially it was probably done more to companies. It is probably the most efficient way to get a large corporation to listen to a customer -- fear of public shaming.

Adria applied it a personal level and in the context of a tech conference. That was the "new" twist here.

From an external point of view a scared manager, a small pyramid of scared managers, or a single owner doesn't matter. I see it as a corporate response. That is what makes manager's job hard -- making such decisions. He made a bad decision, the company or higher ups haven't responded yet, or apologized.


Exactly. Think of yourself as an employer - either you retain the employee and get branded as a "Women unfriendly company", or as a company that harbors "Male chauvenists". Or you just fire the relevant folks and save face.

Both are tough choices - but its obvious which one is the most (to the employer).


Hopefully with more incidents like this, employers branded as "overreacting, bending over backwards PC twats" will start receiving similar unfavorable treatment as the aforementioned labelings.


Not all employers will over-react and fire someone. The employer could have chosen to keep him and say the standard, "We regret. . .We do not condone. . .We have taken appropriate action. . .The specific action taken is a private personnel matter." Yes, it's BS to some degree, but in this case it would have been valid. And yes, some people might have still called for his head, but I suspect that number would have been relatively small.


Hypothethical example: if a feminist group attacks a company which employs a person, then the company is pressured into letting said person go, because they don't want to get associated with misogy, as that might decrease profit. In that example the feminist group is clearly responsible for the firing of the guy, even though the company technically made the decision.

You can't just lay the blame on the company which has to operate in reality, and has to protect their brand. That said, part of the blame is also with the company.


This is exactly what we would expect to happen. Company's that employ and protect people who reinforce misogyny should held accountable for that, although I would argue most groups prefer education and training over discipline and firing for the most common work-related sexism issues.


Their boss finding out what they said got them fired.

You know, we don't actually know what they said. We also don't know for sure why the guy was fired.

It might help to keep these things in mind before yelling "off with their heads" or "off with her head".

For the record, I'm neither defending them nor saying Adria handled it right. I could go on, but I already blogged about it [1] and I'm tired of repeating myself.

[1]: http://beardseye.blogspot.com/2013/03/off-with-their-heads-p...


You know, we don't actually know what they said.

And that's the single most astonishingly under-emphasized fact about this whole ridiculous "discussion."


That blog post is one of the better things I've read about this issue.


>Because what they said wasn't appropriate in the opinion of their employer. Period. Full stop.

Ha. Hardly.

The guy was fired because the company didn't want to deal with the wrath of angry internet armies following along with Adria Richards.


The person being fired is a direct consequence of her tweet and/or blog post. She has thousands of followers. It isn't likely she thought nothing would come of it.


Or maybe a viral picture of a misogynist with the company tshirt would be motivational enough for the company to fire him (maybe summed to other things in him the company didn't like, who knows). Is he really a misogynist jerk? Does not matter: the picture was published to twitter with that message implied.

EDIT: I'm not saying he's a misogynist, in fact I think otherwise. What I'm saying is if she implies he is with a photo attached, he can easily be seen as one.


misogynist (mĭ-sŏjˈə-nĭst) n. One who hates women.

Please explain how that applies to someone making a joke about "forking and dongles"


Read my comment again: it's not about what he is or what he's done, but what the picture (and her explaining in her blog or HN) made it seem. Of course it's not sexist, let alone misogynist.


a picture of a misogynist...

Jeez.

Do you have the raw text of the "dongle" joke available? If not, then on what basis are you labeling this person as a misogynist?

Really now -- you're making a specific, and highly charged accusation about this person. If you can't provide substantiation, then you should step back and apologize.


Read my reply to aviraldg's comment. I'm not saying he is a misogynist. I'm saying that as soon as she posted the picture (and blogged and etc) he's as good as a misogynist.


Got it - thanks for the clarification.


My thoughts exactly. She may have overreacted, but it's irrelevant. She's free to say whatever she'd like in her personal life just like these two gentleman are.

The employer OTOH, made a very stupid decision based on an opinion someone expressed on the internet. They are the ones to blame, not Adria.


Period. Full stop.

Not. There are also issues of fabricated evidence and due process involved.


Totally agree. The employer owns absolutely all responsibility for terminating the employee. However, I do not believe it would have been out of line for Adria to have said something like "I heard one of the guys in the photo I posted on Twitter yesterday was fired. I just wanted to say that I'm terribly sorry to hear that and my intent was never to cause harm! I'm very sorry!" I believe contrition on her part would have nipped this whole thing in the bud.

I also know that had I posted that picture which resulted in someone losing their job, I would feel great remorse and WANT to make amends. Especially given the relatively minor infraction (private, but overheard, joke).


So she should apologize because someone was offensive, got outed for it, and their employer felt that was reason enough to can them? I have to disagree, you do not have a right to remain anonymous while making a space unsafe and if the company you are representing feels that you've made them look horrible, they have a right to discipline you (although I believe a firing was too severe, if you fired everyone who had a problem with keeping things professional you'd have no workers, companies are better off with some kind of sensitivity training for the staff).


> So she should apologize because someone was offensive, got outed for it, and their employer felt that was reason enough to can them?

No. What he said was:

> I do not believe it would have been out of line for Adria to have said something like "I heard one of the guys in the photo I posted on Twitter yesterday was fired. I just wanted to say that I'm terribly sorry to hear that and my intent was never to cause harm! I'm very sorry!"

Not that she should have done it, but basically that he thinks it would have been a good idea and could have been a solution to the entire fiasco.

For someone who is so publicly concerned with professionalism, I feel Adria should/could have either:

1. Not taken a semi-secret photo of the guys with the intent of publicly outing them. If she was really offended by the comments she should have gotten up and contacted the event staff. The unprofessional thing to do would be to take a conversation out of context, pair it with a picture of the guys, and tweet it to thousands of people. What's the end game there?

2. Assuming she did tweet as she did, the professional response would be to apologize to the guy that got fired. Saying that she's sorry that he got fired (not even that she's sorry for getting him fired, which is obviously debatable) would have, as the above poster noted, nipped the whole thing in the bud.

The other factor here is that Adria was obviously villainized and attacked seemingly from all angles. I understand that this would be a hard thing to deal with, but I can't exactly empathize with her. Tweeting about the incident is one thing, but taking a picture of them is taking it to another level entirely - and not a very professional level at that...


Given she tweeted shortly afterwards that pycon staff were dealing with the problem and she was happy with that, I think she implicitly wasn't condoning any action taken by anybody afterwards.

Making that explicit might have been a good thing to do at the time; I don't see that such a statement would've needed to be in the form of an apology though, merely a clear dissocation from the stupid choices made by an HR department she has no control over.


Sure, she didn't need to apologize (and hasn't). Look how good that's worked out for her and SendGrid.


I do NOT believe that ANYONE should suffer the wrath of the Internet

I would encourage everyone to react more slowly and deliberately to stories like this that outrage them. This applies to companies firing people as well as people using the complex facts to support their existing points of view.

Slow down, everyone. Injustice will still be there for you after your blood pressure goes down.


> Slow down, everyone. Injustice will still be there for you after your blood pressure goes down.

That's why you should follow Prussian military complaint rules. The Prussian military allowed all soldiers to file complaints, even against officers. However the rule was that you could only file a complaint after one night had passed.

The idea is of course that you can think about what happened and reevalute it. Naturally the rule has its limits. If you are actively harassed then try to find help immediately. But in most cases it is a pretty good rule.


I very deliberately didn't comment on this story when it broke yesterday and had to actively fight my instinct to point out just how obviously wrongheaded some people were.

Now, if nothing else, I can look back and be proud that I wasn't baited into saying anything hostile or embarrassing.


There is really nothing to be gained in those "rage fests". And this whole incident clearly shows that. One bad decision after another escalating the situation. When it's over there won't be anything gained but only destroyed. So far we have two people without a job and two companies with a tainted reputation.


I'm still holding out some hope that we'll be able to get to a reasonable middle ground. All parties gainfully employed again. Coming together to show more empathy and restraint about creating hostile environments, public shaming, and rushing to judgment.

In a way, since so many people acted so badly, it should be easier for everyone to apologize and de-escalate while saving face.


I think they should fire all of them. It's the only way they'll learn!


I think this was unavoidable. Because the guy was forced to apologize publicly and was fired by the (excuse my words here) pussy ass company that's scared of getting tarnished of a little tweet by adria.

If either one of those three didn't happen, I think this could've been avoided.


Makes me wonder if our glacial justice system in the US is intentional, to avoid this kind of thing.


There is plenty of commentary from the founders to indicate that. Judges are suppose to be above the "rule by mob" mentality. Choosing justices according to hot topic political views as we have been recently is directly counter to the whole purpose.


I'm sure that's a big part of it. Things like due process and jury trials are slow, but they're the best things we've got.


>Slow down, everyone.

Unfortunately, those who most need to heed this advice are the least likely to do so.


Fucking NorCal. Nobody in NYC would've blinked at that joke.

Relevant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FAI_-woNh4


This is so true.

Mind you, I run with a fairly politically-charged crowd -- pro-feminist, pro-gay, firmly anti-racist and anti-sexist -- the kind of people who wouldn't think twice of throwing you out of a bar, physically if necessary, for saying something legitimately creepy or offensive. But still I can't imagine that kind of a joke getting anything more than smirk, or a roll of the eyes out here.

Really now, some people need to get a grip, and a sense of perspective.


"the kind of people who wouldn't think twice of throwing you out of a bar, physically if necessary"

How is this type of reaction any better than saying something anti-feminist, anti-gay, racist or sexist? Sorry but people need to get over the idea that they have the right not to be offended. If you're offended then you can say "I'm offended", you can leave, you can ask the person to leave, you can offer a rebuttal, etc. But physically man-handling someone or reacting in a way that suggests that they have someone violated your "right not to be offended" is wrong because you have/should have no such right.


Apparently you don't hang in bars too often.

If you're at a bar and you're ruining the vibe in any way, you need to get out. If you don't leave when asked, you will be gently but firmly escorted to the door. It's just the way things work.

But again, this refers to bars and other private establishments. I wasn't talking about how things should be handled in society at large.


Totally. My anecdotal experience with the Bay Area is that people are really quick to freak-the-fuck-out at just about everything and turn around and make some awful, emotionally-sourced decisions.

Breath, people!


The New Yorkers I've worked with--me being a good innocent God-fearin' Texan--would certainly support your opinion.


Call me crazy, but something tells me this guy wasn't just fired for this incident. Good Python help can be hard to come by and firing someone over a private dongle joke has been seen by everyone, including Adria, as a total overreaction.

That being said, telling a woman that she should be raped or killed over such a circumstance (which did happen on Twitter) is also an overreaction. This sort of thing happens quite a bit to any woman who seems to challenge the status quo culture of tech. Both women AND men I know are saddened that this happens.

People shouldn't feel that the speech police will reign down on private jokes not directed towards specific people. And no woman should ever be threatened with rape or death, especially when she is not reponsible for the overreaction that ensued.

While you are right in thinking that perhaps an apology would stop all this, you have to consider the price that Adria paid because she was sick of hearing evidence of "bro culture" in programming. Have you ever had someone tell you that you should be raped? Do people wish you dead? I doubt Adria would disagree with your assessment, as she could never have anticipated that the man would have been fired. At this point though, she is probably hoping she can still do her job without getting hurt by some. Your hindsight observation doesn't really help here.


Some people posting on here seem to think that what Adria had done represents an evolution of social pressure for change. But in the end they will both have been fired by their employers because they were associated with bad publicity and not because of what they may have done. I think that is the lesson of this event for why, regardless of the reasons or the legitimacy of her being offended (I think a separate but legitimate discussion btw,) the way she responded was a mistake.


I believe she's being a hypocrite by taking offense one day, and making her own penis joke on Twitter the next.

I've seen that argument tossed about. There's a difference between reading someone's Twitter stream and hearing someone's joke while sitting in the audience at a convention. The former is reading content from someone you chose to follow, the latter is the equivalent of having people talk behind you in a movie theater.


Since when did it become ok to vilify someone for a private conversation? A private conversation in a public area is still private. This woman was guilty of listening to a private conversation, taking some sort of offence and then going out of her way to publicly shame them. Anyone trying to defend her is not thinking very clearly.

If you look at her own posting history she is guilty of off-colour jokes and downright racist comments. The whole thing smacks of hypocrisy and self publication.


It's not a private conversation.

I can't even ignore the conversation of annoying people three seats down in the train. When people in the seat behind me will start talking during a conference there would be no way for me not to listen to their conversation.


Just because you have good hearing and/or are incapable of focusing on something else does not make the conversation less private.

A private conversation is one that is intended to occur only between the parties involved. Your being able to hear it or not is irrelevant if the intention and expectation was that the conversation is meant to be between specific parties.

I understand this is not completely black and white, but fail to understand why anyone should take offence at a conversation they were not meant to be a part of and where they don't understand the history and social dynamics of the people involved in the conversation.

I can think of all kinds of situations where a private conversation, if overheard and taken out of context could be devastating to those involved.


According to her account, their initial jokes were based off of a conversation that she was directly involved in. Based on that fact, in her position I would not have considered their conversation private.

Furthermore they continued their discussion while the presenter was talking. That right there is going to annoy people around them, even if they had the most innocent conversation in the world. Which they weren't. In fact her description left me with the impression that she thought they were specifically joking about her.

Basic scenario. Off color jokes starting off of your conversation, that you feel are directed at you, by random strangers in a public space. I can understand her getting upset by that. She may have been mistaken in her impressions, but her unfortunate emotional reaction is understandable to me.


I can't help but feel that, if she had thought the comments were about her, her response would have been a great deal more.. pointed.


You also can't ignore the history and social dynamics of women at tech conferences. There's a sordid history of misogyny at these things.

I remember just last year reading horrible accounts from either blackhat or defcon (can't remember which). I understand PyCon is almost certainly of a different breed, but the history can't be overlooked in this situation.


It was Defcon, but I can't see how what happened there is any way related to what happened here.

"People have treated women badly at tech conferences before, thus it's perfectly valid to overreact and ruin the career of a guy who did nothing wrong"

What?


You're putting words in my mouth.

Just as Adria didn't know the history of the guys behind her (for example, the nature of the forking joke), those guys need to understand that while no one else may have been actively participating in their conversation, their talk can still effect those around them.

I absolutely do not comprehend how so many posters here can place the blame firmly on one side or the other for how things transpired. Neither side handled this perfectly, failure to acknowledge that someone could hold a differing view than you on what is "offensive" or "sexist" or an overreaction is a very close-minded stance to take (I'm not speaking to you particularly on this, since I haven't looked at your other posts)


>You're putting words in my mouth.

Not really. I'm rephrasing your argument to be more blunt. What I said was definitely the spirit of your post.

>Just as Adria didn't know the history of the guys behind her (for example, the nature of the forking joke)

She didn't need to, it was none of her business.

>those guys need to understand that while no one else may have been actively participating in their conversation, their talk can still effect those around them.

Still has nothing to do with Defcon.

>I absolutely do not comprehend how so many posters here can place the blame firmly on one side or the other for how things transpired. Neither side handled this perfectly, failure to acknowledge that someone could hold a differing view than you on what is "offensive" or "sexist" or an overreaction is a very close-minded stance to take (I'm not speaking to you particularly on this, since I haven't looked at your other posts)

I just think your argument was phallacious, and was pointing out why. Also, see what I did there?


I appreciate you using my actual words this time! Is that what you wanted me to look for? I will disagree that it was the spirit of my post though. I take no stance in my post as to whether the reaction and ruining of his career were valid or not.

My comment you replied to dealt specifically with the point that SeanDav made about Adria not knowing the "history and social dynamics" of the people she was overhearing, implying that she may misinterpret their jokes. I think this is pretty valid. Inside jokes can certainly seem one way when they're actaully another.

My suggestion was that the history and social dynamics at tech conferences (defcon included) is also an important factor here. If you're in an environment where you know there is a history of offensive behavior. I think it's prudent to be careful about saying something potentially offensive, unless your goal is to make some point or actually offend. Also, due to conference experiences such as Defcon, attendees may be more vigilant regarding perceived offensive behavior, resulting in overreaction.

I've been careful not to agree or disagree with any of the parties involved, rather, I'm just trying to lay out additional factors which could be contributing to this fracas.


"A private conversation is one that is intended to occur only between the parties involved."

What are your thoughts on the Romney 47% remark? (that was recorded by a bartender at the event)


The ideas behind libel and slander laws apply here. The larger your public profile, the less protection you have from libel and slander.

Mr. Romney was saying politically relevant things at a politically relevant dinner while running for a political office. The recording was perfectly legal and I'd consider moral. The people have the right to know the truth about the politicians they're voting on.


I don't pay much attention to American politics, but Romney was running for public office. Arguably the most powerful political role in the world, which makes his private opinions very relevant to everyone.


If you run for public office and believe that everyone who [correction: doesn't] vote for you is sub-human, that is a reliable indicator of how you will treat the people who didn't vote for you.


If you spoke up in that conversation on the train, do you think you would normally be well received? No. Although you could technically hear it, it was nevertheless a private conversation.

I suspect there is probably an element of culture at play here. Having spent a good deal of time in cities, I see absolutely no connection between being able to overhear a conversation, and that conversation not being private. In fact, I have internalized this such that it is actually difficult for me to pay attention to private conversations that I can hear. In return I expect, and in practice receive, the same courtesy.

I wager that many people who think that "if I can hear it, it isn't private" have not spent much time in situations where private conversations would become impossible by that logic. Learning social boundaries where physical boundaries do not exist is a skill that could easily go un-exercised.


I don't believe that "if I can hear it, it isn't private". On the other hand, if I'm saying something that I know could be overheard and offensive, I usually choose my words a little more carefully, especially when I will be in close proximity to others for a while - like when I'm sitting at a conference, in a movie theater, etc. On the third hand, I recognize that everyone's filter is calibrated a little differently and that some people have no filters - which is why we have written codes of conduct. Yes, learning social boundaries is a skill that could go un-exercised - which is another reason for the codes of conduct.


Ever seen Steve Hughes on being offended? If you're offended, so what, nothing happens. If we all walk on egg shells because any kind of discourse might offend someone, you'd suck the air out of the room.

Seriously, by the rules at PyCon, I'd be afraid to have any conversation for fear I might say something off hand, get publicly shamed for it and fired for it before having a chance to state my case for something that could have been taken out of context or doesn't offend the audience I was speaking to.

No one else is responsible for your emotional state. If someone is intentionally trying to antagonize you that's one thing, but no one should care if you're offended by something they might have said when they are not speaking to you.


I don't necessarily disagree with any of this. I merely am voicing a point of view to counter those who seem to find it inconceivable that these people thought they were engaging in private conversation. I find it highly probable that they, while fully aware of the fact that they were in a mildly dense crowd, considered themselves to be having a private conversation.


I know crackers have the same issue. They can't help not to look when people freely type their passwords in front of them during conferences. How can they not look memorize that password? And from there to use it or post it on twitter is just a small step right?

Admins has the same problems. A co-worker ask them for help fixing their emails, and the content of those email are just there. How can they not see the conversation about sexual diseases being present in the inbox. And from there to complain on twitter about it is just a small step.

Polite behavior is to sometimes not look/listen/read even if its being done right in front of you. At least one should have the decency of not go out and post it on twitter, even if one is "offended" by what you saw/heard.


People use POP email at work all the time. I can see their plaintext passwords coming through the network monitor (which it's my job to review), and I've seen some patently offensive passwords being used. This brings up two of your points: First, I ignore the fact that I can see their username and password. The responsible thing to do is to completely forget that you can see it. I have no business with their login information. I'm completely aware that the only thing I can do with this information will cause damage to myself and to the person who unwittingly gave me this information. Secondly, I ignore the words on the screen. Because it's not something that was designed for me to see in the first place.


Shouldn't you advise them to use POP over SSL?


We can advise them to use whatever we want, the trick is getting them to listen. Our corporate email disallows POP, but we aren't in the business of blocking their personal email on our non-secure network.


It's a personal conversation then, in either case, its NOYB. Unless he was using actual obscene words, I don't get it. She can't be offended by behavior she herself publicly broadcasts on twitter to anyone who follows or reads her feed. A conversation is the same way, you can't help who chooses to sit next to you and eavesdrops on your conversation.


If someone intercepted an email you sent to your friend and your friend only, would that email be considered public communication?


Perhaps irrelevant counterexamples:

>Since when did it become ok to vilify someone for a private conversation?

* Having a private conversation during a movie or play is generally considered the action of the worse sort of villain.

* Plenty of people have been vilified and sent to jail on the basis of statements made privately.

* Just because something is private doesn't mean it isn't disruptive to people within earshot.

>A private conversation in a public area is still private.

* You don't generate a cone of silence by addressing a statement to a particular person. It is likely that people around you can still hear you.

* Furthermore in a public venue you have no expectation of privacy.


> Just because something is private doesn't mean it isn't disruptive to people within earshot

Just because something is disrupting people's ears, that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. Ultimately it becomes a freedom of speech issue.

The joke wasn't sexist. Sexist jokes offend me too. But am I supposed to stop making sexual jokes now because somebody around me might get offended? Sorry, but fuck off and don't listen if you're a sensitive bitch.


>* You don't generate a cone of silence by addressing a statement to a particular person. It is likely that people around you can still hear you.

And... so what? If I walk through a cafeteria and someone says something I don't like while chatting with their friends, I have the right to get them fired over it? I don't understand how people are advocating that.


  The whole thing smacks of hypocrisy and self publication
I don't think so. I think she has just made a mistake.


No. Looking at her Linkedin profile the person is a women-in-tech evangelist. This incident - especially posting the photo of the offenders on Twitter and the subsequent penis joke - served to make the news to give her visibility. The PyCon code of conduct serves to provide a pleasant atmosphere at the conference, it isn't a weapon or a means to make the news.


Fabrication of evidence -- referring specifically to the "forking" joke that wasn't -- goes well outside the bounds of making a simple "mistake."


This is not true. Any conversation had in a place where it could easily be overheard by others is legally not a private conversation. Even if it was had between a client and an attorney the privilege that would normally exist would not.


I don't see how legal realities are at all relevant here. What is relevant is social expectation.


Who on earth has a social expectation of privacy when they are talking in a room full of people with whom they are in very close proximity.



Alright, next time I'm out somewhere and I hear someone making racist jokes or swearing in front my by little brother I wont say anything. I'll tell my brother we have to respect their social expectation of privacy.


Do you expect me to say that's a bad idea? We must have some serious cultural differences because as far as I am concerned, ignoring it and minding your own business are the only reasonable actions in such a situation. How can you possibly live your life confronting every stranger you find objectionable?

If for you privacy only exists when invading it is physically impossible, then can you really say that you have a concept of "respecting one's privacy" at all? It would be more accurate to say that you "respect the acoustical properties of walls".


There's a vast difference between asking people to consider the other people within earshot, and publicly shaming them.


There's a difference between reading someone's Twitter stream and hearing someone's joke while sitting in the audience at a convention.

I've pondered this myself and, at least in this situation, I disagree. How can it be a fireable offense to make a penis joke in a room where a few people may overhear it, while it being completely ok to tweet the penis joke to the whole room?

I know you would only receive the joke if you follow her, but most people are following her because of her status in the tech community, not because she has great dirty jokes. In my eyes, this makes her joke an even worse offender than Alex's. They were both made in a professional environment but one was a private conversation that happened to be overheard, the other was a public broadcast to a portion of the tech community.


> How can it be a fireable offense to make a penis joke in a room where a few people may overhear it

You should take that up with the people who did the firing. The only thing that happened at PyCon was that the organizers told them to knock it off and they did.


That's fine, you can change 'a fireable offense' to 'unacceptable' or in her own words 'not cool'. My point and Adria's hypocrisy still stand.


OK, let's give it a try:

"How can it be not cool to make a penis joke in a room where a few people may overhear it"

Since it is against the PyCon CoC, pretty easily.


We're talking about two different things. I made no mention of PyCon rules because the sexual joke was clearly against their rules. What I'm talking about is Adria's double standard for what is offensive and what is not. So lets try this again:

"How can it be not cool to make a penis joke in a room where a few people may overhear it, while it being cool to tweet the penis joke to the whole room?"


A tweet can be retweeted, it's absolutely meant to be public, while the former was meant to be private.

In other words, you are saying one should be more careful about offending others in private conversations then on Twitter?


The fact that the former was meant to be private doesn't grant it a reasonable expectation of privacy. When you're in a public place where you're likely to be overhead, don't expect privacy.

More importantly, the issue of privacy is irrelevant to what I was saying. In one situation, you're attending an event and someone is ruining that experience for you. In the other situation, you're reading someone's content by choice.

Lastly, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not actually claiming that Adria is or isn't a hypocrite; I've read her blog post and her comments and I have my own opinions on her. I'm claiming that the above argument is not valid when trying to call her a hypocrite.


It is relevant. The entire predicate of this situation was that she is offended by such jokes because they oppress women (a bizarre and utterly arbitrary conclusion, by the way). If an overheard joke made between friends is oppressive to women in her view, then a public tweet of the same nature must also be oppressive to women. It's hypocrisy made plain.


I don't know, I felt pretty blind-sided when someone linked to that Twitter post here on HN and I was hit with a gasp penis joke. I was just on HN to be informed of the current events at PyCon and all of a sudden this lady I don't know is putting tweets about penises in a place I might accidentally read them.

/sarcasm


No, it is hypocrisy. She was clearly feigning offense. She eavesdropped her way into internet infamy and her behavior was so extraordinarily irrational, I'm disappointed the PyCon organizers (and everyone else who has encountered this story) didn't laugh her out of the convention.


There's a difference between reading someone's Twitter stream and hearing someone's joke while sitting in the audience at a convention.

At the conference: was this a quiet, whispered joke between two people overheard by someone determined to eavesdrop, or was it make in voices loud enough that people sitting nearby had no choice but to listen? Or somewhere in between?

On the twitter feed: was this more of a personal twitter account that was technically public but clearly intended for friends, or was this an account representing someone in a professional capacity that might be followed purely for work-related reasons? Or somewhere in between?

The medium itself actually isn't the most relevant factor here. The context of the statement or tweet is probably more important.


< the latter is the equivalent of having people talk behind you in a movie theater.

And here we have the center argument why some people don't go to a movie theaters. Its noisy. The volume is not set to a personal setting. Its crowded (and by definition, again noisy). While one can ask extra loud people to tone it down, you can't eliminate all sound a crowd has. So long people talk to just the person next to them, that is often considered acceptable. The only other option is to view the movie at home.


> The former is reading content from someone you chose to follow

Only if the account is set to private. Otherwise it's way more public than a private conversation in public.


While annoying, "talking in a movie theater" should not be a valid way to push something from "acceptable" to "offensive."


If you're going to publicly shame people for making inappropriate puns you'd be well served to keep your own semi-public behavior impeccable.


So people communicating in sign language can never have a private conversation unless closed off in a room?


Most of the people offended / affected by that are angry because the poor guy got fired over this. I think it was wrong to do this tweet, but she wasn't the one to get him fired. The employer should have the courage and stand behind his employees instead of firing him over appearantly nothing.


It was an overreaction, but 'Women in Tech' is a hot-button issue. The ultra-conservative approach is to distance yourself from everything that could be construed as promoting a "boys' club" in tech.

Disclaimer: I'm not supporting one side vs. the other here. I bear no grudge against her, but feel that she made a mistake in the way that she handled this.


This is true and actually contributes to the fact that women have a hard time in tech. If a company simply fires people as a CYA move nobody is ever going to seriously learn about and address sexism within that company as the decision makers there would rather just ignore the problem than do something about it.


Agreed. What did the "unfired" people left at the company learn from this? That it's unacceptable to ever have bawdy thoughts, let alone verbalize them? That it's unacceptable to make comments like that, ever - and here's why? That it's unacceptable to make comments like that in professional environments - and here's why? Or that you shouldn't make comments like that around Adria? This could've been a teachable moment for them and they blew it. Or maybe they didn't - we don't know what was said to the fired employee and remaining employees.


> Public shaming was not the right way to handle the situation.

I find it odd then that the mob went after Adria, doing exactly what they are calling her out for doing, and publicly shaming her.

Saying that she started it, or that two wrongs make a right, or any like that is only highlighting the hypocrisy.


There's a fundamental difference between publicly shaming someone who made a semi-private comment (I'm assuming the guy in question did not stand up and yell the joke to the entire conference) vs. publicly criticising someone for comments they themselves made in a way that was extremely public.

If she wants to take something like this public, she should expect the responses to be public.


That's the first time someone has made that distinction, so while that might be your belief, that's the general public in outrage over what she did does not follow in this belief. The comments speak for themselves: publicly outing someones mistakes is not the way to resolve these situations.

You, obviously, feel differently.


I have a hard time parsing your first sentence. As for your second sentence, I agree, and so does most of the friends and co-workers of mine that reacted to Adria's tweet with utter outrage.

Many in public because far more than me felt that a public response is a perfectly acceptable reaction to her public harassment of someone else.

The only way I can interpret your comment given the "You, obviously, feel differently" is that you are talking about "publicly outing" her mistake.

But she did that herself, and the moment she did, public criticism became fair game.

(The threats and insults against her, and DOS against SendGrid, on the other hand, are disgusting and shocking and reveal that certainly she would have plenty of valid gender and discrimination issues to comment on - just not by publicly shaming someone who did not harass her even if the joke might have been totally inappropriate for the setting).


In other words, it's OK if men do it, but not if a woman does it.


That's not even remotely close to what vidarh said. Try reading it again.


This is a textbook example of the type of response that causes some men to go completely off the rails in these type of discussions.

Your insinuation is extremely sexist and insulting in it's implications.


One distinction is that the comments made by the developer were directed at his colleague, while her tweet was directed to the public, or at the very least to those that followed her on Twitter at the time of her tweet.


That's the distinction. The joker made a private comment, which was made public by a third party. Adria made a public statement. There's no hypocrisy here; Adria wanted attention to her comment.


It was not a private comment. People keep saying it. Speaking to someone does not make it private.


Was there a large audience to the comment? Was it directed at a general group of people? No. It was directed at a single other person, and she happened to overhear it. So it was private. That it was made in public and within earshot of others does not make it a public statement.


You're assuming that the people who are against public shaming are the ones doing it to her. "The mob" you speak of is not a thing.


<offtopic>Sorry - I hate to be a grammar nazi, but this is something I feel more people should know about: "wraith" means "ghost" whereas "wrath" means "anger."</offtopic>


Yes, thank you very much! I constantly make this mistake. I've edited :)


In many ways, the issue here boils down to what happened to these guys in the context of having joked around with each other in a private conversation. And what happened is tragic. Someone got fired for it. Someone's livelihood was affected by this. Not to mention the emotional shock this surely caused.

What's right and what's wrong? Sometimes the answer isn't easy. Private conversations between friends have been known to have content that surely someone, somewhere is bound to find offensive.

The other effect is that there are people who hear what they want to hear --or read what they want to read-- rather than what was actually said or written. All you have to do is watch Fox News, CNN or, for that matter, any news show to see this effect.

HN is perfect proof of the fact that this happens. I've seen it a bunch of times and I've experienced it myself.

A joke is a joke. A dumb comment is a dumb comment. It happens. And, if it hasn't happened to you (plural) yet it surely will at one point or another. I don't know any perfect people.

What saddens me in this case is the firing. I think that was wrong. Way wrong. And absolutely unfair.

One thought that went through my mind is the idea of surveillance cameras picking up private conversations. One could argue: Well, be aware of it and act accordingly. Then there's the question, perhaps legal, of what actually constitutes a private conversation protected by privacy laws. Does one have the right to publish the contents of someone else's private conversation, whether it was overheard or picked-up via intentional or unintentional surveillance? I don't know. It's a bit disturbing because of the potential implications on the assumption of privacy in otherwise public settings. Now you have to look around before having any kind of a conversation because you don't know if anything you say, offensive or not, might come back to pummel you on the Internet.

I would not be surprised if lawyers are involved at this point. I'd certainly go talk to one right away if I was on the receiving end of something like this and it affected my job.


Once, sat in the audience at OSCON with people I knew, a particularly inappropriate joke occurred to me that I thought the friend sat next to me would appreciate.

I sent it to him via private message using my laptop.

That way, the conversation was -actually- private, rather than 'private plus whoever else sat near me overheard what I said'.

This is not a difficult concept for me, though my primary motivation was 'not distracting the people around me' rather than what they might have thought of the content.


> That way, the conversation was -actually- private

Except if the person in the seat behind you took a screen shot of you or your friends computer screen and then posted it on twitter. There are enough epic fail photos of people playing games during lectures / senate voting to make that a real possibility.


If they lean over my shoulder and read my screen intentionally, they've taken a specific action to do so and I'm comfortable defending myself on the basis that in that case I had an expectation of privacy, and if they were offended by what they read while they were violating it that was their problem.


As public figures (celebrities, politicians) have found out, once the information is out there, how it was obtained seems to be unimportant except in court. It won't really matter what your expectations were when it goes public.

I do find this tragic but the way it is these days.


Private conversations between friends have been known to have content that surely someone, somewhere is bound to find offensive.

We were short on cubicles a while back, and about half a dozen people from the team I'm on were sharing a conference room as an office. They kept a counter on the wall, for "number of times we would have been called to talk to HR today, if we left the door open and were overheard".

Then there's the question, perhaps legal, of what actually constitutes a private conversation protected by privacy laws. Does one have the right to publish the contents of someone else's private conversation, whether it was overheard or picked-up via intentional or unintentional surveillance? I don't know.

I looked into this a little bit, from what I remember it more-or-less corresponds to whether the people in question know (or could reasonably expect) that they're in public and is about the same as the rules regarding eavesdroppers and peeping toms (or maybe it's exactly the same and the laws don't care about technology?).


When you are a geek and attend a conference, you are certainly going to tweet everything relevant about it. Well, Adria Richards decided that silly joke was worth tweeting.

I am sad for the person evicted from his job, but then again: f you do not know your environment, you should not work in it. And tweeter is as strong as it gets.

It is hard, but these are real life jobs and real life conferences and real life education and real life people. Deal with it: the only way not to appear on tweeter the way you would not like to is to... behave VERY CAREFULLY.

You do not want to look dumb? Do not act dumbly.

Silly jokes during a talk are like using a public wifi at RSA...


> [i]f you do not know your environment, you should not work in it.

I think part of the issue is that Adria's been in this industry for long enough to know that these situations are not new and we've all seen examples of how it should be handled. Furthermore, dick jokes are not exclusive to any gender or any industry. Despite that, she did something extraordinarily and knowingly cruel. Cruel because she has so many followers. Cruel because she was representing her (now former) employer. Cruel because she was trying to use the situation as a talking point for women's issues and claimed to be fighting on behalf of women in this industry - so far as to call herself a modern day Joan of Arc - when it wasn't a women's issue at all. It was irresponsible all around.

What you said about the men here knowing their environment applies just as much to her as it does them. You gotta know when to fold, and it has nothing to do with silencing victims (as some people are claiming) and more to do with common sense and picking the right battles in the right ways. Not public battles intended to humiliate that actually end up hurting your gender and get you just as publicly, and humiliatingly, fired.


Silly jokes at a conference are like using a public wifi at RSA...

This is a terrible analogy, and your point is incomprehensible: If you don't know your environment, you should not work in it? Then we should never, ever attempt to enter a new field (including the first time), as there's no way you can ever know what you're getting into until you're in it, and we're all still learning about each other. Permanently.


I said environment. You do not start a job 'out of the blue' (as a matter of fact, it is impossible). Environment, just the environment. Please, please.

I know my words are hard but...

The analogy is terrible why? Running risks is risky whatever the risk.


One of the riskiest thing, probably by an order of magnitude, the average American does every day is get in their car and drive to work. In fact, it's probably the most dangerous thing they do all year.

The problem with your statement is that it's impossible to know what every single person around you will find offensive. It's not a solution, because it's assuming the impossible. And when you go reductio ad absurdum, it basically boils down to everyone never saying anything to anyone for fear of offense, which is clearly not the desired goal.


I don't think you were worthy of being downvoted, but I your last sentence is terribly redunctionary. Breathing carries a risk, I could breathe in a fly and choke and die. Should I private conversation be a public affair, I think is the question. It's regrettable that anyone make a joke that offends someone or turns away a minority from the tech community, but where does one draw the line.

At least, I hope that's what we're discussing, I think I might be aiming a bit high.


Try the public wifi at DefCon... and even then the wall of sheep will be nice enough to blank out most of your password for your safety.


Have I said anything wrong?


You seem to say that publicly calling these guys out on twitter was OK and to be expected. Some people will disagree with that. I'm not sure downvoting is strictly supposed to be for registering disagreement though.

Also not everyone tweets all the time. I don't know anyone technical that does, only non-tech folks.


When supporting women's right on Hacker News you tend to get a disproportionate number of downvotes compared to 'normal' topics.

That means that if your comment usually would just not get any upvotes (which yours wouldn't since it wasn't terribly well written) you'll suddenly get into negative point territory on these issues.

If you look you'll be able to find other comments as well which easily pass the 'constructive discussion' criteria of HN comments but are deeply in the gray nonetheless.


Good god this is so false. I cannot even begin to comprehend that someone would make the statement that anyone supporting women's rights will be automatically downvoted on Hacker News. You can't imagine any other reason the post would be downvoted? How about the statement that you shouldn't say anything you wouldn't want tweeted out of context? How about calling Twitter "tweeter"? Or the implication that this guy had it coming because he should have known better than to try to have a private conversation without it being plastered on the Internet?

There are a number of reasons someone could have downvoted this post, and the first one that jumps to your mind is that a great number of people on HN inherently hate women and don't believe in equal rights. Seriously, I can't even fathom...


If you take a look at my comment history you'll see that I tend to comment on womens rights issues quite frequently, since I'm LGBT myself so their cause is quite close to my heart.

I can tell you from experience that I've seen my votes go up and down 5 or 10 points easily when I comment on topics like these. I've never noticed that for any other comments I make.


I post not infrequently on these issues (this is an aversion for me as this is a case where the female party is unambiguously wrong and behaved in a manner no better and arguably worse than the two guys) and I never see what you claim. So I'm not saying you're wrong, but I am skeptical of it being endemic to the topic.

The post whose downvotes you are ascribing to misogyny can also just be called a poor post. Which, FWIW, I do.


I could understand your statement if the post in question was a worthwhile contribution to a discussion, was well formatted, and had a reasonable writing style (grammar and spelling). But with as many flaws as the post had, attributing the downvotes purely to an apparently large population of misogynists on HN seems to be a strawman designed to further the already controversial discussion at hand.


He seemed genuinely confused as to why he received these downvotes and I just tried to inform him that, apart from his comment not being particularly good, he was probably also the victim of excessive downvoting due to the polarizing nature of the topic.


Your first statement is an unprovable assertion. He might get an equal number of upvotes from Adriana-supporting hardliners, but perhaps they are just outnumbered.

You are trying to frame this conversation in terms of 'you support women in tech if you make apologist comments for Adriana, you are a hardliner if you think she overreacted and should be brought to account'. It's a bit of a false dichotomy.

I think this is a particularly polarizing event that is causing a lot more downvoting than normally happens on HN.


I've adjusted my first statement to be more neutral.

As for your last sentence, I can tell from experience that threads on womens rights topics tend to be more polarized in general and cause a lot more downvoting in general which is exactly the point I was trying to make initially.


"When supporting women's right on Hacker News you tend to get a disproportionate number of downvotes compared to 'normal' topics."

Slightly off topic, but if that is the case, then so what? I'm pretty sure it could be scripted (go through all HN topics, check downvotes etc. you could make this reasonably scientific). The point is still, should we even care? Why must we feel like there is a need to shape this fact or alter it according to some PC dogma? Let's be tolerant and leave the community to downvote/upvote as it wants. If it reaches a critical mass then those taking offense will find a way of reacting appropriately (downvoting anti-feminist posts, stop posting on HN, etc.) If HN posters are for the majority anti-feminist, then it is. There will be some people that take offense to this, other's not. The assumption that we can't offend or be offended needs to be questioned.


Thanks for the pointer and for the details. Yes, when in a rush my English gets really awful.


By the way, the dumbest thing to me is the firing of someone just for that, I did not make this clear in my previous posts.


I believe she's being a hypocrite by taking offense one day, and making her own penis joke on Twitter the next.

I can't find anything resembling a penis joke in her recent Twitter feed.



Thanks (so it was 6 days before her "outing" those guys, not the day after).

Either way, the hypocrisy she exhibits is quite astounding. Those in glass houses...


Is it really that hard to act like a professional adult while you're at work? The simplest solution is to simply stop telling penis jokes at work.


Agreed. But there are obviously huge differences in definitions for acting like a professional adult. I think people even disagree on when/where you should have to act like a professional adult - if at all.


I'm quite sure they would not like to be publicly outed for a private conversation.

It's not private if you're in public and other people can hear you. What would you think if they were describing the details of their company's upcoming S-1 filing? Private conversation still?


Whether you believe she was appropriate or not (I don't but that doesn't matter) the fact is conversations and actions made in public are not ever really "in private".


I agree except I don't think there is anything wrong with some silly innuendo. If that really offends you, you need to sort your life out.


".. I do NOT believe that ANY conference attendees should have to sit idly by and listen to penis jokes."

Nobody need do so. Simply move to another seat.


> Nobody need do so. Simply move to another seat.

Or better yet, tell them to knock it off.


Actually, if you are in the audience of a conference and there is someone talking in the front, any disturbance to the people around you is at least impolite. And if anyone should leave it's not the one who is silently sitting there and listening.


there's no opportunity to defend yourself from a tweet? tweet back. certainly you agree twitter is effective now that a bunch of racist, sexist scumbags used it to harass her company into firing her.


I look forward to the day when debates are settled by who has the most twitter followers. Or who has the loudest voice.[1]

[1] http://youtu.be/IiZeOgxpCmI?t=1m43s


Public shame is not a problem. Public shame is less about an individual and more about sharing expectations with a community. Shame on people who can't help but blurt out clumsy penis jokes in essentially tight quarters at a professional conference.

Go and make colorful jokes everywhere and then defend yourself on twitter. Who's stopping you/them? They have twitter accounts, no? Represent yourselves. More words tell us more about you. Maybe we can laugh with you. Maybe your words are so witty that they make us believe you should build our next project? Maybe someone's inability to control their thoughts and words hints at their abilities to develop solid projects following best practices?

Seeing, mostly, entitle, white men parse apart interpretation and imply that women are not thinking critically when supporting an small instance of truth to power smacks of just how low social IQ is amongst the development community. It is inspiring to see the scale of the backlash. More acts of this nature will follow and awareness of expected behavior will have positive effects for women in tech. Nobody is really arguing that clumsy penis jokes have a place in "beige" professional environments, right?

It's not about a silly penis joke. Adria is obviously comfortable with silly penis jokes. It wasn't content, it was all about context. She's not comfortable with certain attendees' sense of entitlement to communicate a message that turns her professional environment into a space where she is not considered equal, let alone valuable. She mentioned the catalyst of the young girl's picture. She and that girl are not annoyances within the men's club of seriously capable developers. They are humans on some point of the same journey as everyone else in attendance. Why should they not be afforded the same benefit of NOT having to constantly worry about some set of barriers to success?

Certain communications in a professional environment indicate if people within that environment have power and control. These comments, in that context, imply that those individuals felt they could not be compelled to behave in socially acceptable ways. If they weren't willing to stand up with their company's logo on their chest and say it through the mic, they know that expressing it in the seats signals to surrounding ears that they have the power to act outside normal bounds of decency. The environment is toxic and hints at even worse environments outside that venue.

Also, wordplay on forking a repo is particularly anti-social. The developer is the actor who is enabled to control the object of the action because the object was not performing for them. An analogy to rape is too obvious. It's just not joke-worthy. The outcome should have been expected. The more we talk, the louder the backlash, but the public awareness is likely to have a net positive effect long-term.


I think we would all do well to pay more attention to this comment. While I disagree entirely with jack_trades, I believe their comment provides the most compelling rationale for both Aria Richards' behavior and that of the PyCon staffers.

It's been a while, but I have encountered these ideas before. This idea that reporting someone to those in authority because their behavior is "indecent" is, somehow, "speaking truth to power". That the off-hand comment of a person is a clear indication of "a sense of entitlement" and "and indication of power and control". The idea that some puns around the term "forking" and "dongles" is not only anti-social but also a clear rape analogy. You may have heard it before as well: 70's era feminist literary theory.

It's not my intention to argue about the validity of Gilbert and Gubar's arguments, I just want to point out that's where I first read about these ideas and first heard a lot of this terminology. I think it's also worthwhile to note that these ideas really took hold in academia, they were talked about quite a bit when I was in college during the 90's.

In any case, in my opinion, the real problem is the complete inversion of power. I understand that there are many environments that make women feel unwelcome and I agree that this needs to change and should change. On the other hand, an environment where men feel unwelcome is not the solution. The goal should be that everyone feels welcome. Aria's solution, keeping everyone on their toes for fear of being "reported" to "the authorities", is no solution.


>Public shame is not a problem.

Consider that the ramifications of public shaming have changed now that your shaming can go viral and become a subject of debate among millions of people worldwide. This isn't even the world of fifteen years ago, and human tribal behavior hasn't adapted to these mediums.

Some man made an inappropriate joke and now the WORLD is shaming him. A woman's shaming tactic has subjected her to WORLD backlash and scrutiny. Both of these escalations happened because handling this infraction was not handled at the proper scope.


The ramification of our current context on undesirable behavior is great, but daunting. The attraction of this issue by that many means it has great importance to that many people. This is the spark.

To see mostly men try to defuse and take air out of the severity or gravity of the blow-up is telling. The ideas coming into play have powerful cascading effects. If you let women stand up for themselves on this, they'll stand up some more, and more, and more... until a certain group of men don't feel comfortable expressing ideas or behaviors that most would know they shouldn't. When those miscreants can't do that, maybe they'll look at my behavior next with a greater sense of entitlement???

For better and worse, we live in the current context and people are learning the new ropes. This is an example, and as I note above... There will be more of this and the net result will be that peoples' better natures will put in check anti-social habits and behaviors.

Bringing to light the issues, through spectacle, and bringing weight, in the form of tighter cycles of mass communication to action is all that "scary social justice theory stuff" becoming agile-like. This is open-source, agile-process social change.

To try to put the brakes on by trying to get people to keep it quiet (yeah, right conference organizers, really? you've seen how this works at universities) or to rein in the pace or scope of change is to be on the wrong side of history.

We are headed towards meritocracy and some people are fearful of what that implies.


In your theory, how do you make sure that only good shaming and not bad shaming happens? How do you be sure that people don't post hateful provocative lies about people that make them the subject of this social pressure, or at the far end, mob violence?

It's not about "keeping it quiet," it's about being responsible and filtering what you say before you just upload it to the world, because it could turn into a conflagration.

>you've seen how this works at universities

I saw a while back how a campus exploded because somebody saw a person walking at night with a blanket wrapped around them and thought it was a KKK member. Great plan you got here, have you ever considered how it could go wrong?


PyCon is a conference for Python programmers, professional and amateur, no where is the term "professionals only" stated. It's a conference for people who have an interest in Python.

If it is, maybe I missed the business attire requirement, and requirement that you have to be a professional Python programmer sent as a representative of a company to attend.

There are professional conferences, very corporate in nature, PyCon is not one of them.

It's not a professional conference any more then a Star Trek convention is professional.


The PyCon code of conduct[1] appears to clearly disagree with your characterization that the event is not for a professional audience:

> All communication should be appropriate for a professional audience including people of many different backgrounds. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks.

> Be kind to others. Do not insult or put down other attendees. Behave professionally. Remember that harassment and sexist, racist, or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate for PyCon.

I understand you're trying to use "professional" in the sense of being someone who earns their living using the language and wears a stuffy suit, but that's not the sense used by the GP or PyCon.

[1]: https://github.com/python/pycon-code-of-conduct/blob/master/...


Do you think a code of contact like that is only required in professional settings? I would imagine Star Trek conventions probably have codes of conduct that read pretty similar, if you remove the explicit references to professional conduct in particular. Same with a classical music convention, or something. They probably don't explicitly say you must act in a professional manner, but I would imagine the other requirements would match pretty well.


Even if it wasn't a professional conference, as another poster said, it was "professional-for-them" if their badgest identified them as being affiliated with one of the conference sponsors. I wouldn't have responded as Adria did, but I do believe they should have acted more professionally, which would include recognizing that their private conversations could be easily overheard.


How does making a joke about forking a repo and the fact that 'dongle' sounds like a slang term for a penis suddenly make women not equal or valuable?

Also:

>The analogy to rape is too obvious.

No. No, it's not at all. You have REALLY try to live in a world where you're being oppressed by evil "entitled white men" to think that.


Also, wordplay on forking a repo is particularly anti-social.

Would you care to recite the exact wording used in the forking remark for us?

Otherwise, how are we to know that it was "wordplay", or otherwise anti-social or inappropriate?


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