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An Apology From TechCrunch (techcrunch.com)
79 points by USNetizen on Sept 8, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 168 comments

Anyone coming here, wondering what happened, there were two presentation which were clearly inappropriate. First one was an app called TitStare, which allows you to view, upload, and share softcore photos of.. use your imagination. The second, circle shake, was an app to measure how fast you can jerk your wrist, upload and share your scores, accompanied by a pretty wild presentation.

I think the first one must have been a joke, because titstare.com was only registered today:

  $ whois titstare.com
  Creation Date: 08-sep-2013
Video of the presentations @ http://valleywag.gawker.com/techcrunch-disrupt-kicks-off-wit...

>I think the first one must have been a joke, because titstare.com was only registered today:

How does when the domain was registered affect whether it was a joke? The hackathon took place last night through today. I think it is supposed to be a mobile app (if any code actually exists) anyway, so having a domain isn't super important.

Thanks for the details. I've never read an article I learned nothing from like that one. Sexism aside, these two presentations are too funny for me not to think they were done intentionally.

> Sexism aside, these two presentations are too funny for me not to think they were done intentionally.

As opposed to being done accidentally?

These presentations were, of course, intended to be jokes. In fact, I'm sure they were designed to be harmless, unoffensive jokes.

Who cares?

Children and adults who were rightfully offended were all in the audience. TechCrunch showcasing an app designed to turn objectifying women into a social network is absolutely absurd.

I'm not a woman, but I also don't think that these types of "jokes" are acceptable at any sort of conference. If you want to joke around with your friends, fine. Hell, if you want to make an app called TitStare on your own time and publish it, great--but for an all-ages industry conference to publicize it? That's wrong.

I believe that the tech industry as a whole is doing great work towards being less misogynistic and being more diverse. Stunts like this at well-known events are huge road blocks towards that goal.

I am a woman and I found them funny, but that is my 2 cents :)

Sure, and I'm positive that you weren't alone.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't make joke apps, but TechCrunch should not have let them take the stage.

I'm not sure it's clear what we should discount "joke" apps as not being serious business. After all, they built a place where users upload offensive photos and allow folks to vote and share ... just like 9Gag, Reddit, and countless other legitimate, funded, businesses.

As far as it getting publicized that's on Tech Crunch. We can all blame the perpetrators but I still fail to see how this is a tech thing. News stations get phony phone calls everyday and some of them get through. To some people they are funny, while others are offended. This whole TC mishap is turning out to be a cheap attempt at making the tech industry seem misogynistic. I'll reiterate, it happens in every industry.

Male sexual desire is healthy. Heterosexual men like tits - deal with it. There's nothing "objectifying" or "misogynistic" about it. Jesus, what's wrong with you people? Is a man allowed to even look at a woman or is even that considered misogyny? I like women and no amount of buzzwords will make me ashamed of it!

Reread the GP; it is not arguing with you at all. The issue is the appropriateness of such things within the professional sphere (of which a hackathon is a part.)

> "Sexism aside..."

Well, there's your problem.

Whoops, how did I end up on this stage? I've never even seen this presentation before! Must have been an accident!

(of _course_ they were done intentionally.)

> app called TitStare, which allows you to view, upload, and share softcore photos of.. use your imagination

I don't see the problem. Pornography is perfectly legal and big business.

Well, yeah, but at TechCrunch Disrupt? There's a time and a place for this kind of thing and it's not at a generalist startups and software industry conference.

why not? The porn industry has been responsible for a lot of technological innovation on the internet. They were pioneers for electronic billing, for streaming video, for high scalability websites, and for user-uploaded content.

Should we exclude all content with a sexual nature, even if there is good technology behind it?

You have a good point about the porn industry.

If someone were presenting a true technical innovation that happened to be inspired by the needs of that industry, that would not be objectionable as long as the 'product' itself weren't displayed in the presentation. (e.g. this innovation in streaming video software enables 10,000 concurrent streams etc etc)

Though if it were the AVN conference rather than TechCrunch, showing the product would be practically required. You, know, for demonstration purposes ...

The event is keep us abreast of the new products, as it were.

I see what you did there.

it's the misogyny, not the pornography, that's problematic here.

It is pure cringe, hard to watch without feeling embarrassed, neckbeard and brogrammers.

That was absolutely hilarious. I encourage stuff like this. Have a little fun people, nothing to apologize for. Who actually got offended?

I hope you're joking. Besides the flurry of tech presenters and writers in the audience that were offended, a nine year old girl was at TechCrunch Disrupt demonstrating a product. Seeing as TCDisrupt isn't marketed as an 18+ event, it should be held to the same standards as any other public, professional gathering of individuals.

Judging by TechCrunch's reaction, they wholeheartedly agree.

IMHO both apps are tacky, however, I feel the whole thing is clearly a joke that some people found funny and some didn't. In any event, I feel the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

I watched the videos and, while the Circle Shake presentation was cringeworthy, it was very mildly sexual at a conference that's aimed at adults, not children. There will have been people in the audience swearing in casual conversation too, possibly within earshot of the kid. I don't think anybody's equally upset about that though.

Regarding TitStare, I feel as though tackiness has been conflated with sexism. I just cannot see how such an app is sexist, especially given the fact there are plenty of bisexual and lesbian women. Conversely, if there were an app called ManButtStare, I'm really just not sure there would be the same response.

The reason I'm not offended by either of these apps is not because I'm a man (I'm not in the demographic for TitStare anyway given the fact I'm gay), but because the developers' intent didn't appear to be malicious or bad. It just seemed to be a joke that some people got offended over, but then again, I'm not sure why people think the world has to be so sterile so as to prevent people from getting offended.

I'm open to being wrong.

The straight women will still be alienated. It's not as if as long as you're not alienating some women (bi and gay) that it's fine.

It also objectifies women. They're propagating the belief that women are only interesting as objects of men's sexual desires.

They don't have to explicitly do something sexist or racist to have a negative effect. Sometimes negative effect can simply be achieved by inaction or mis-action (action that isn't explicitly wrong, but has overarching negative effects).

The reason why you probably won't be offended by "ManButtStare" is because such a thing rarely if ever happens. You are in a male-dominated tech industry already so you don't feel alienation from that trivial instance of female-centric thinking. The problem with Titstare is it adds (in the wrong direction) to compounding attitudes of male-centric thinking and a male-centric industry, with negative consequences of alienation of straight female participants. This is a negative because there will be suboptimal appropriation of female talent into this sector due to alienation. More and more females will just end up going into fashion or art or English literature so they can join their gay, metrosexual, and non-sexist bffs.

See how I stereotyped fashion as dominated by gay men? Perhaps it is, but by promoting that attitude, I probably just added a little bit there to discourage a straight guy from going into fashion even though he may be good at it. That is bad.

>They're propagating the belief that women are only interesting as objects of men's sexual desires.

Nope. That's just your interpretation of it and says more about you and your biases than it does about the makers of that app.

>The reason why you probably won't be offended by "ManButtStare" is because such a thing rarely if ever happens.

Yep, because women definitely never stare at men's butts. Basically, women lusting after men is okay because... women just don't lust after men? Men, on the other hand, are to be shamed for expressing their sexual preferences. This is sexism at work.

If there were kids there then this was certainly done in poor taste, but clearly this was a prank. As for not screening, I can see how they would trust the good in people but just like anything tech related, you never trust anything user submitted.

Sorry but I really think everyone should collectively loosen up.

Hear hear.

For example, I always drop the n-word when I'm walking around. People should be more like me, I don't get offended by that kind of language, why should anyone else? Sometimes people do, and I'm like, "What? Why're you getting so offended? I'm not offended, why are you?"

I'm kidding. I don't ask "why are you?" -- that doesn't matter LOL 8-)

For some reason, black people get especially offended at this kind of stuff. No clue why. I mean, I don't get offended and that's literally the only thing that matters when considering whether something should or shouldn't be said. Not the audience, the venue or the event.

Literally, only my own sensibilities matter. Everyone else should loosen up. Like me.

Your reply would be entire spot on if the word "tit" and the n-word were equivalent. One is a body part that both men and women share. The other is a racially charged word that has more than a century of really bad history behind it. And, see how both you and I couldn't say the n-word? That's a tip off that it's not the same. I have tits. Yes, they are man-tits but they are tits nonetheless. The n-word, however, isn't something I'll be caught saying except in very specific company (explaining the history to my 12 yr old, for example).

I can't say I agree with the GP post, since I didn't see the presentations being discussed, but I know your comment is off base.

The point is not "N-word == Tits"

The point is that, you, the reader, obviously understand that a word, concept or type of behavior can offend others and would therefore abstain from employing it. Or at least exercise judgment in doing so, because you understand that you have a measure of responsibility when speaking publicly.

The inanity of GP's comments is staggering. He is literally saying that because he, himself, is not offended by such humor that everyone else should similarly relax their sensibilities.

If you understand that some language and behavior can offend others, even if you personally are not offended by it, then you already get the point of my argument. If you fixate on disproving the (not-claimed) equivalency between racial slurs and an app about breast obsession -- then you have missed the point.

The point is that, you, the reader, obviously understand that a word, concept or type of behavior can offend others and would therefore abstain from employing it.

What this really means is that it's not you who should take responsibility for your emotions, it's everyone else that should watch out for you.

What exactly did you get offended by? If you claim that prank was sexist in any way, you clearly lack the ability to judge a situation and its context.

Totally agree dude. That's my stand when I drop racial slurs ("slurs" am I right?)

It's not my job to know which words are going to upset another person's emotional state! I'm not a mind reader! My responsibility is only to say what I want.

Seriously though -- it's absolutely-fucking-hilarious that you think I'm the one lacking situational awareness. The guys who got up and made boob jokes? Total awareness, perhaps even masters of humor.

People who are offended, or can see why it would be particularly offensive to some women -- no awareness. Amazing.

Get to the point and state exactly why you got offended.

I never said I was offended, and that doesn't matter. You said that people should not be offended, and the only reasoning you offered for this was that you thought it was funny. My point is that your singular perspective of the humor is not alone sufficient in determining whether or not it's appropriate for the audience, or whether other people are appropriately offended.

You appear to be saying that simply because you are not offended, nobody else should be -- which is an incredibly stupid position to hold. I don't care to explain to you why breast obsession apps and mock-stroking in front of and all over an audience are offensive to others. I doubt you would get it anyway.

Yes because tit is exactly like saying "nigger".

I'd love to hear what you think are the salient differences between getting up and presenting Titstare, and showing something fictitious like "N-watcher"

Evidently your reaction if someone got up to present the latter would not be "LOL guys loosen up!" -- even though you are not someone at whom the humor/offense is targeted. Why the difference in attitude?

The problem with that comparison is that I can easily imagine some spoof "Racial Profiler!" app being showcased as a joke. Perhaps an app that allows Atherton residents to report "suspicious" behavior.

But I guess the larger lesson here is: do not try these things unless you're The Onion, SNL, or Key and Peele.

I mean, this http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/09/the-re... was not comedy and it happend all of a few days ago.

I bet you go from 0 to Hitler in under 6 seconds.

Central to your comment is that you are comparing my post to a Hitler/holocaust argument. Ironically then, you have invoked Godwin's Law.

no, I'm saying you are the sort of person who thoroughly enjoys self-righteousness and making baseless accusations about (your perception of) the beliefs of others.

Not going to bother continuing a conversation with someone who gets as offended by tits as they do the word "nigger".

Such a noble stand!

You're not stupid, you get the point no matter how obtuse you're pretending to be. You know that I'm not saying that "tits == N-word" and you know that such an equivalency is not central to or required for my example.

You simply don't want to admit that the only explanation of your position is to say "well black people have a right to get offended by the N-word, but women aren't allowed to object to breasts being objectified."

The prank wasn't brought to light with the intention of offending women. It's a play on an activity with men, we look at boobs. Not everything involving sex is made with the objective of targeting someone, it's just a joke. If you fail to see it as such, that's your problem.

Right on. I have some white friends who, when there aren't any black people around, call each other the n-word. They're not targeting any particular black person, so obviously the behavior is completely acceptable. It's a joke, you know, a play on actual racist behavior.

If you fail to see it as such, that's your problem.

The good thing about this position is that you lack such self-awareness that you would never know the extent to which your limited perceptual abilities cripple you. The bad thing is that you likely do understand the objections here, and are therefore a keyboard jockey. Accordingly, you would never have the courage to make such a ludicrous stand in a public, mixed audience, thereby giving others a fair, advance bozo alert.

Hahaha wow whatever you need to tell yourself to feel better.

Well, aren't we edgy.

Or, just maybe, you should care about the sort of atmosphere and culture that this app contributes to just that bit more.

It really depends on how you view the event. If it is just a bunch of blokes hanging out, I can see (but do not agree!) with your point of view.

If you see it is as even a semi professional event, then I do know how you could justify it.

If professional events are "just a bunch of blokes hanging out", that's a pretty good example of how an industry could be systematically sexist.

You may not have been personally offended, but if you're not able to understand why somebody might have been offended then that really does sum up why lots of people think tech has a problem with misogyny.

The fact 'it was a joke' really isn't an excuse...I'd argue it actually makes it worse.

I don't understand why the presentations in question were sexist/mysoginistic. Immature? Yes. Crude? Yes. Probably shouldn't have made it on stage? Yes. Sexist? I'm unconvinced.

I also don't understand why they were only a problem because they were "sexist". The apps were parodying behavior that well... many men engage in -- which is something you can acknowledge regardless of your gender. The immaturity alone should have been grounds for exclusion. Calling them out specifically for sexism seems to be a little heavy handed.

Were there shots of men's cleavage? Nope? It was sexist by any reasonable definition of "sexism". Pointing that out isn't "heavy handed", it's the truth.

Whoever doxed them was heavy-handed, but since I haven't seen any threat worse than "I will never work with them" apparently not that heavy-handed. There are consequences for performing your sexism for all the world to see.

Let's say I've just spent the last 30 years on an isolated island in the south pacific. Could you define sexism for me, please, in a way that doesn't make it sound like "thoughtcrime" from 1984.

Could you please provide an extensive list of things that are ok to be offended by and that others have to accommodate?

No, because we have judgement. (And any given conference has its own rules regarding inclusivity and anti-discrimination).

>> No, because we have judgement.

Oh right, I forgot that we all have a one, shared judgement and that material that is offensive to one person is equally offensive to everyone else.

>> any given conference has its own rules regarding inclusivity and anti-discrimination

It appears that in this case they did not have these rules, the article says that they failed to "establish clear guidelines for these submissions".

P.S. I find your comment extremely offensive, could you please remove it? Thanks.

Except we don't. There are no clearly defined rules of what exactly defines sexism outside of "referring to women in a a way that makes anyone anywhere feel uncomfortable." It's entirely subjective and based on community, culture and societal standards. It's a landmine with wheels. Even if you stand perfectly still, it could bump into your leg at any moment and, I don't know, annoy you to death with shrill platitudes about patriarchy.

Please read and understand this: http://therealkatie.net/blog/2012/mar/21/lighten-up/

Thanks for posting this! Was looking for it but couldn't find the link. Josh Rehman's comment there is also pretty good:

> This is a great example of what I call "petty injustice". The sheer volume of petty injustice causes far more net harm than "great injustice" but because it happens incrementally it is incredibly hard to combat for precisely the reasons you anecdotally state.

> When someone tells you to lighten up, have a script ready. Something like, "What you just said was one small example in a long-standing pattern of subtle discrimination that I've had to endure for years. In that context, it is not okay for you to tell me to lighten up."

Hilarious if you're a male teenager. Not so hilarious if you're a woman, or the parent of a girl interested in tech, or generally someone who is well aware of the detrimental effect of sexism.

Perhaps the fact a young woman, aged 9, presented her hack at the same event.

Really hope you're joking. If you encourage stuff like this, you should prepare for a long, lonely unsuccessful career riddled with lawsuits.

Offended? No. More like annoyed by the inappropriate (for the setting), lame humor.

I watched the two presentations via the valleywag page others have cited. The problem I see with TechCrunch's apology is that they are mixing up terminology. I don't think either presentation was sexist and especially not misogynstic - what they were was sexual.

Modern society has a similar problem distinguishing between racist humor and racial humor. While there certainly can be overlap between -ist and -ual humor, my general rule for distinguishing the two is that -ist humor stereotypes to get laughs while -ual humor laughs at the stereotyping.

Lots of organizations think the line between the -ist and -ual is too fine and prefer to outright ban the acknowledgment of any issues at all. If we forbid discussion of race at all then you never have to think about whether a topic is racist or racial. Same with sex, if all mention of sex is forbidden then there is no chance of someone saying something sexist.

If an organization wants to take such a "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach that's their prerogative, but they should be clear about it. Don't say "any type of sexism will not be allowed" say "any mention of sex will not be allowed."


Ted Dziuba has mentioned the tech industry being extremely sex negative, and him being almost afraid to criticize it because of the inevitable massive backlash he would face. And this is being reinforced by the increasing "don't even mention anything related to sex in a prrrrrofesional setting" approach being taken by a lot of popular organizations these days.

For example, just look at github's repository forking message. Before, it used to say the not-very-funny-but-would-still-bring-a-smile-to-your-face "Hardcore forking action". I'd bet good money this was changed to the unassuming dining table due to these same sex-negative, puritanical people who claimed it was somehow making them feel oppressed or uncomfortable.

Sex is a biological need of humans. A lot of the tech industry has forward, progressive views on things such as gay marriage. Why retain these puritan, intolerant, purse-lipped attitudes towards sex-positivity?


4chan is that way >>>

>Sex is a biological need of humans. A lot of the tech industry has forward, progressive views on things such as gay marriage. Why retain these puritan, intolerant, purse-lipped attitudes towards sex-positivity?

Because feminism is invading. If you can't see this, you've probably not been a part of the tech industry for too long.

Because feminism is invading. If you can't see this, you've probably not been a part of the tech industry for too long.

You appear to be saying that feminism == puritanism. That's just completely wrong.

You're right that it was "sexual". However, I'm not sure that the industry has enough average maturity to handle frank discussions of sexuality, especially in big, diverse groups.

Given the demographics of the industry, I don't think it was an accident that it was "TitStare" rather than "DongStare" or "CockStare". I'm sure you could imagine that the nature of the app might make the women in the audience feel a bit odd, that the big punchline was an app about looking at their breasts. Especially since a lot of women feel like they are already struggling for legitimacy in this industry, which is considered by many to be dealing with a sexism problem

> Given the demographics of the industry, I don't think it was an accident that it was "TitStare" rather than "DongStare" or "CockStare".

Translation from roundaboutspeak -> English: Yes, it was an app marketed at men (though remember that there are lesbians and bisexual men and women as well that like tits) that sexually objectified women.

If sexual objectification was the sole reason that made women leave an industry, there should be no women working for Playboy or the porn industry.

Last I checked, there were plenty of women working willingly in both.

In general, sex workers choose their profession out of desperation.

In general, it depends on where in the world they are, and in general (if we're framing this in terms of the same women for whom a hackathon might be accessible), they are driven by characteristic/ psychological factors (Sexually Transmitted Diseases:Volume 26(2)February 1999).

That's also pretty demeaning to women whose choices deserve to be respected, rather than pitied ("poor, silly women!").

Desperately trying to escape the shittiness of your life through drug abuse, and from there getting into prostitution, is still desperation.

Say what you will about respect, but I find it disgusting that our society demeans women by congratulating them for entering sex work as a profession. ("Oh good for you, you made a free choice to take off your panties for me! What a sweet little empowered capitalist you are!") There are plenty of abolitionist women's groups around the world that agree, for example:


Say what you will about personal choice, but I find it empowering that our society enables women by letting them them freely enter sex work as a profession.

^ See what I did there? You believe sex workers are homeless druggies, I believe they are efficient businesswomen. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. At some point, it basically becomes your personal views about exchanging sex for money, and the morality involved therein.

Which is exactly what I'm saying about the current fracas -- it is a few people who have quickly-offended personal moralities that have been outraged by TitShare or whatever. Tying it to a larger issue of "this is why women don't work in tech" is a futile exercise.

Of course morality is personal, what else would it be?

And there are plenty that don't. Presumably you don't claim those women for yourself, though.

There are also plenty of women that will tell you they are freely choosing to submit to male authority by wearing a head scarf, or binding their feet which requires breaking the arches so they can fold them in half (in centuries past), or working for significantly less money, or, or, or...

In general, I don't take people's words about the freedom of the choices they've made at face value unless they've first convinced me that they're actually free to make those choices, and that includes freedom from longstanding emotional baggage and unresolved internal conflicts.

Playboy? Hollywood? Advertising?

the nature of the app might make the women in the audience feel a bit odd, that the big punchline was an app about looking at their breasts.

The app was about photos of men staring at breasts, not about actually looking at breasts - the butt of the joke were the men who selfishly stereotype women as being defined by their breasts and act as if their breasts are there for men (e.g. the reference to the recent news story that looking at breasts makes men more healthy even if women don't appreciate being reduced to an object that makes men more healthy).

> why not "DongStare"

Because it is very common for people (plenty of women have also internalized this behavior) to stereotype women based on their breasts, but it is orders of magnitude less common for people to stereotype men by the bulge in their pants. The joke was about the people who do the stereotyping not about the anatomy itself.

I'd like to stem a couple of obvious, but inevitable (for HN and some other tech communities) criticisms that are bound to appear:

1) Yes, this stuff is tasteless and offends the sensibilities of most decent adults. (Invariably, someone likes to point out that it offends everyone, and conclude therefore that it can't be misogynistic)

2) Yes, people differ in their tolerances for crudeness in their humor. First, I think most people can agree that none of this was actually even funny -- as in, these presentations did not successfully execute the elements of humor. Second, a hackathon is not the place to get up on stage and pretend to come on the audience. There's audacity -- which, when coupled with other necessary elements can make for a great presentation -- and there's poor taste.

3) Yes, some women will take particular offense to these presentations and they are justified.

Allowing a couple of dumbasses to get up and laugh about staring at breasts and dropping terrible puns -- even when their presentation is self-deprecating and they hint that they know how crass they are being -- sends the message that the organizers and the audience accept the premise of the presentation: that leering at women's bodies in a completely unaware manner, is acceptable. It's not -- please let there be nobody who contests that point.

(Aside: a woman in a low-cut shirt is not putting her breasts on display for public consumption. And leering is different than looking -- nobody is saying that you aren't allowed to notice the attractiveness of a woman.)

Getting up and pretending to inseminate the audience is just gross, and as an act, it is at the same level as the guy in my seventh grade class who drew a full-page phallus in my yearbook. His excuse is that he was thirteen, and assumed that everyone else was as obsessed with his genitals as he was. That people are laughing about this sends another message, and I can understand if women are more sensitive to that message than men -- who were themselves thirteen y/o males at one time.

I don't know if I've demonstrated why things like this create an environment where it's hard to say, seriously, that women should get into tech.

There's another one: that this kind of thing might be crude and distasteful, but it isn't specifically sexist.

The sexism is in knowing that it will make most women somewhat uncomfortable, and some women very uncomfortable, and not caring.

> The sexism is in knowing that it will make most women somewhat uncomfortable, and some women very uncomfortable, and not caring.

I'd go so far as to say that how is an app that is all about exploiting women NOT sexist?

It is more than just making them uncomfortable. Some pics are taken of women that are drug addicted or white slaves or both. For most that do it on their own initiative, it is a decision they will regret later, but unlike a one night stand, it isn't just for one night. Those images stay around forever.

Personally I thought the demo was meta-commentary about absurd photo-sharing apps, community standards, and the combined awkwardness/humor of "men caught looking" (and then we, the audience or hypothetical users of the app, "caught looking at men looking"). Regressive, yes, but also recursive.

The chosen example photos seemed to have as their subject the male gaze, not the breasts themselves. And, unless staged, such photos don't usually capture a "stare" but a "furtive glance": it is an artifact of the photo-taking (and then sharing) process that turns a momentary glance, that the subject might have hoped noone would notice, into a permanent, ranked "stare".

The audience laughter was as much or more uncomfortable-distancing as it was enjoyment/approval, and the cultural differences in gender-sensitivity-taboos between Australia and Northern California added another interesting dimension to their act.

I would consider it one of the more interesting performances in the SF Fringe Festival (http://www.sffringe.org/appl/), now through September 21st on stages across San Francisco, and all the more notable because it was not, technically, an SF Fringe Festival entry or venue.

The chosen example photos seemed to have as their subject the male gaze, not the breasts themselves.

Yes, so many people seem to have missed this key point. To quote from the opening sentence in the presentation - "Titstare is an app where you take photos of yourself staring at tits."

Right there, they have just assumed the audience is entirely male, entirely straight and entirely just as crass, rude and objectifying as they are.

Even if the app weren't also obviously sexist and offensive, those assumptions are.

(They are also insulting every man in the audience. I take personal offense that they assume I am as uncaring and lazy as they are.)

they have just assumed the audience is entirely male, entirely straight and entirely just as crass, rude and objectifying as they are.

No more so than other presenters assume that everyone in the audience is just like themselves.

I don't believe any hack of the 250+ presented was intended to be equally useful to 100% of the audience. The 9-year-old certainly didn't assume the audience was entirely children looking for playdates.

Since the presentation obviously wasn't serious, imputing any serious 'assumptions' to the presenters is silly.

It's not even an app, really. It's a 'Joke App Mockup' – a bit of trolling performance art. You give it more voice and power with your outrage.

How is staring at breasts supposed to 'exploit' women? You have an extremely puritanical attitude when it comes to this. I wonder what you think of nude photo models.

Go back to the 17th century.

I think you may have misread ScottBurson's post. I interpreted as, "Some people might claim it's not sexist. <new line> But it is, because..."

Just to be clear -- all I'm saying is that the argument (that these things aren't sexist) is being made -- as you can see if you read through the rest of the discussion.

Clarified my comment. Sorry- not trying to get you into trouble.

Distilled into management of expectations.

When you go to an event like this, or say a TED talk or some type of technology conference (VMworld, PyCon, etc), I assume a G/PG rating, unless told otherwise. Sure they were jokes, just told in the wrong setting. Some people like to push the boundaries, and if you give them a soap box, they will speak. This should be news to no one, but when you show PG-13, or R content to someone expecting a PG show, joke or otherwise, then eyebrows will raise.

As an example, lets say you went to see Louis CK [1], is anyone going to be outraged if he did a bit about either of these things, maybe, but that's what they signed up for, both were jokes right, what is the difference, people expect and want a PG-13/R rated show when they signed up to see Louis CK.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_CK

Yes, I agree with your point.

When you're at an event with tens of people, you can look around and see who in attendance. All youngish tech guys? Great, let's push the boundary for stupid humor. That's an acceptable judgment, although I personally would still keep it professional. It's an understandable assessment.

If, though, there are hundreds (thousands?) in attendance then prudence would suggest that you raise the floor of acceptability. The lowest common denominating factor has gone way down -- that people here all breathe air and want to see hackathon projects is about all you can safely assume. To come out and jerk off with your phone on stage is very poor judgment and not at all calibrated with the audience.

Some things do not need to be explicitly spelled out, and it is not negligence on the part of the presenters to expect people getting up to speak publicly to exercise a basic level of judgment. The conclusion, "I can't safely assume that everyone here will find this funny, or at least tolerable," is not difficult to arrive at given the circumstances presented.

Agreed. Would be nice if the people running a hackathon like this simply put a note "Keep it family friendly" (which, with a 9 year old presenting, seems reasonable).

Context matters a ton, but don't assume people have a clue, spell it out. "Keep it G rated, this is a family friendly hackathon" ...

I would like to see the opinion of someone who actually brought their young child to the event... or even, ideally, from a child in attendance.

When parents bring a child to an event that's traditionally ~99% adults, I'm not sure that what they want is for the event to down-shift to be more 'family friendly'. They may be trying to show their child more of the authentic grown-up world.

I think that's what my parents were after when they brought me to R-Rated movies at the age of 9. (Or perhaps, they were just too cheap to hire a babysitter.)

But, your parents KNEW it was R-rated, they didn't go into an UNKNOWN and then got whatever they got... I am fine with a hackathon saying "This is X rated, for improving <pornsite>" -- that is perfect fine, it isn't about the specific expectation, it is about SETTING one.

Having no guidance means that if this is acceptable is far more grey... I think it if was supposed to be G-rated, everyone would agree it was not.

Clear boundaries and expectations help everyone, from a parent deciding if their children should participate to an adult deciding if they want to attend.

I think one of two things happened. The first is TechCrunch simply didn't screen the hacks being presented in any way before they went up on stage. The second is they did screen them, but whoever did the screening had no problem with the two problematic submissions.

It's pretty clear to me the latter was has occurred, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the language in the apology refers to a failure to "properly screen", rather than screen. Secondly, TechCrunch originally tweeted a link to one of the two hacks in question (subsequently deleted). And finally, it's a high profile event being broadcast live. You're screening the presentations if only to avoid potential legal and liability problems.

And it's because of this that I have a hard job taking TechCrunch seriously when they say "we've worked hard to counteract it in our coverage and in our own hiring". It only takes one or two incidents like this to totally undermine any credibility you might have.

I was one of the people who presented at the hackaton today (ChowDown) and I can say that there was no screening, since the only material requested was names, a brief description and special needs (adaptors, etc.).

a brief description...

Whoever was reading the "brief descriptions" should have known better.

Having gone to the NYC hackathon hosted in May for the last 3 years, I can tell you that the submissions are NEVER screened beforehand. All they want to know is the name and a Tweet-sized pitch.

That's really surprising to me. Is the NYC hackathon broadcast live as well? The main reason I assumed there was at least some vetting going on was because the potential for legal / embarrassment / etc on a live broadcast is so much greater.

Either way, I think it's safe to say they'll probably be looking for a bit more info up front in future.

Yes, everything is live as well. There is absolutely no screening, and definitely no pre-approval process for the deck being presented, as most people are working on it right up until they have to go on stage. I was able to find one of my old videos by doing a quick Google search, but nothing more recent: http://on.aol.com/video/mybill-is-demo-hackathon-ny-2011-517...

I'm with you on the second part. Hard to miss screening an app called "Titstare" - I'm not sure how they could have missed that, unless, like you said, someone had no problem with it and let it go on anyway.

This is the list of hacks. No one had a "tit..." anything. https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B9ROtg3duDfzZG8tMERW...

Their promised fix, "every presentation is getting a thorough screening from this hackathon onward", destroys something that was neat about their hackathon: an essentially free minute on stage to do whatever wild/strange thing the entrants wanted.

Yes, such freedom means some embarrassments, promotional spam, offensiveness, and weak/unfunny jokes get on stage.

But no-prior-restraint errs on the side of project-inclusiveness and free speech, gets the most possible teams/ideas on stage, and avoids the endless rathole discussion of exactly what the "officially enforced content standards" should be.

Now, the extra overhead of screening (or debating corner-cases) could easily mean fewer teams on stage, simply because of the extra effort required inside an already chaotic and time-bottlenecked get-on-stage process.

Some teams will water down what would have been an interesting/memorable presentation, beyond what's strictly necessary, just knowing a content-screening filter must be passed. With screening in place, appearance-on-stage now implies a level of 'approval' from the organizers that didn't previously exist. That invites further controversies over the precisely-acceptable boundaries, and a bias toward more taboos and caution over time.

Ultimately, the people such content-policing is purported to protect may not get a net benefit out of the smaller, tamer forum that results.

On the other hand, maybe a team that was previously going to take some lazy, stereotypical sexist copout will now stretch themselves to do something novel, or even interesting instead.

I've always wondered why in the US everyone loses their shit over a tittie app, but in Europe you can have billboards containing nothing but naked breasts advertising a conference.

Source: http://metro.co.uk/2009/09/11/giant-boobs-advert-turns-heads...

Related question: would everyone lose their shit if the app was called GuyStare and was aimed at women to look at hot guys?

It's because sexism only exists in the United States.

No, it doesn't.

(that is the joke you see)

That's just how the world works. I don't understand some parts of the middle east where men are apparently going to "overcome with lust" if they see a woman's ankle or her hair...

>advertising a conference

The art world has a different culture than the business world.

Yes. But a lot of people seeing those ads were business people. Some had business meetings in cafeterias overlooked by those giant boob billboards. A lot of the people were elementary school kids on their way to school.

etc. etc.

It seems if somebody tried to put out a billboard like that in the US the public would be satisfied with nothing less than seppuku.

I'm always amazed about how puritan is United States.

anecdotal evidence in Slovenia != general truth in Europe

Does it count Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands or Italy as Europe?

I wonder if the biggest reason why things like this keep happening is because we're all on a state of "high alert" in the tech community. Hear me out.

Right now in the tech world we've got ourselves in a big damn tizzy over anything even slightly sexual in nature.

By contrast, almost every single other medium we encounter on a day to day basis (TV, movies, magazines) is HIGHLY sexualised and makes absolutely no apologies for it. I've seen TV ads on primetime more offensive than some of these presentations.

I wonder if we're just going to keep running in to this issue again and again in the tech world simply because our standards are so out of whack with what the average person deems appropriate?

First of all, not everything that's ok in an entertainment medium (TV, movies) is ok in a professional setting. I don't think presentations like these would have been appropriate at a conference of lawyers, doctors, artists, or biologists, either.

That said I think this also has to do with the extreme gender imbalance. Tech conferences are very male-dominated. I think the first photo here really gets this across, of the restroom line at another conference in SF:


Imagine that you're a woman and you're walking to the restroom, past a line of 40 or 50 men. And now, imagine they've all just seen a "joke" presentation about staring at women's breasts. You might feel like a bit of a target, don't you think? It could be pretty uncomfortable.

Whereas, if we had a gender-balanced industry, and if we had, say, 47 men in the men's restroom line and 43 women in the women's restroom line, a presentation like the ones we're discussing would still be offensive and inappropriate, and still really not ok, but it might at least feel less personally threatening.

I think the difference here though is conferences like this are intentionally positioned at being more casual and less formal/professional. I doubt lawyers even have similarly casual conferences of this nature. In the tech world, we've intentionally positioned our conferences to be this way. I honestly think therefore that people will be more likely to bring their normal set of standards to bear in situations like this.

Now, I have a question for you. Imagine that you're a woman and you're walking to the restroom, past a line of 40 or 50 men. And now imagine those men have any time recently walked past a magazine store where upon they saw hundreds of magazines depicting women naked (ie. every single magazine store anywhere).

Or imagine those men are discussing the latest episode of Boston Legal, a typical TV show depicting a professional setting (legal firm) which contains highly sexualised themes (like, again, pretty much every show on TV today).

I'm not saying this is a good thing. I'm simply making the point that the standards people seem to be applying in the tech world seem to me to be completely out of whack with what society in general deems appropriate.

Imagine that you're a man who has to pee really badly. Not every issue tips in men's favor.

Are people actually outraged? Since when did hacker culture take such a large turn toward political correctness?

You had to create a new HN identity to post that? Afraid of something?

Hacker culture is no longer a good-ol-boy's club for good reasons. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't feel very included in a culture that denigrated me like certain hacker events of late do to women.

I didn't have an HN identity. I felt like this might be an interesting discussion, so I created an account.

Is it a big secret that men like to look at boobs? I'd like to meet the women who were so offended by such an obvious joke. In the entire circle of women I know, I really can't think of one who wouldn't recognize the playfulness of the idea (and not take it seriously).

If a female made an app that included men's butts, would people have the same reaction?

"If a female made an app... would people have the same reaction?"

Probably not, but that is because men aren't trying to release themselves from the clutches of institutional harassment and marginalization in tech. It isn't like you can just swap the pronouns for your argument - because in doing so, you also swap the historical context and culture, and when you do that then you come to different conclusions.

"If a female made an app that included men's butts, would people have the same reaction?"

All things being equal, yes. However, men don't have women catcalling at them in the street, don't have to put up with women ogling them in public, get away with more pay for doing exactly the same work, are more likely to rise to positions of power, are favoured by many systems of monarchy, don't have to put up with other people acting as if they own their bodies and have a right to tell them what to do with them, etc, etc, et-bloody-cetera. I like the way that you think only women can possibly be offended by this kind of behaviour. - a man

> If a female made an app that included men's butts, would people have the same reaction?

When the jester mocks the king it's funny. When the king mocks the jester it's just mean.

The situation is inherently asymmetric, which makes but-what-if-they-were-(men/white/straight/etc.) arguments facile at best and disingenuous at worst.

Presenting it at a conference like this reinforces the image of the industry as dominated by white men, and being exactly the sort of really uncomfortable app that can put women off of being a part of the industry.

Even if all things were equal, Tits and Sixpack apps would still be all about objectification, and I for one would be fine with that not being encouraged either.

No; they'd be making homophobic jokes instead.

For example of a gender-swapped situation that made the man in question extremely uncomfortable even without the history and cultural norms that excuse rape, I recommend reading about Jon Hamm's penis: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/jon-hamm-tired-of-jo...

Yes, people are actually outraged. Because it's outrageous. This isn't "political correctness", this is "how not to shit on the fellow members of our profession".

Telling people to Lighten Up[1] is not an adequate excuse for shitty behaviour.

1. http://therealkatie.net/blog/2012/mar/21/lighten-up/

The examples in that blog post are discriminatory, and if I were her, I'd be very pissed off. However, the coworkers' comments were directed at her specifically.

In this case, it's some men saying they like to stare at boobs. It's not saying women are bad programmers, and it certainly doesn't seem like they're trying to say "men are better than women." If anything, it's saying, "We're dumb males. We like to look at boobs. We made a stupid app to look at more boobs."

What bothers me is that, as I read some of these comments, I don't see outraged women but rather a bunch of white knights. This is not a big deal; in this particular case, "lighten up."

The point of the post was not to try to give you examples of discriminatory behaviour (and if you think that's the point of the blog post, you've missed the point entirely).

When we, as an industry, create an atmosphere that degrades members of our community, it's not adequate to say "lighten up, it's just a joke, get over it".

You seem bothered about who is getting outraged. In my case, I'm a programmer who talks to high school children about careers in technology. Several times I've been in a position where I've told young women: "this attitude exists, I'm sorry, we're trying to change it", and to the young men: "this attitude exists, it's up to you to change it". The 9 year old who presented next to those idiots got a real world taste of the industry she's entering, and I sincerely hope she manages to navigate the waters. In the meantime, I'm vocal because I'm fighting the "lighten up" attitude - your attitude - in a younger generation.

I've seen that "lighten up" article posted no less than 4 times in this comment thread, except the unasked elephant in the room appears to be this:

At what point precisely does someone's, or a group of someone's comfort factor with a given topic begin to influence whether that topic should be discussed, parodied, subverted, etc?

On the left side of that point is where "lighten up" is an acceptable response to someone who is indeed being oversensitive or prudish.

This has to be an acceptable response somewhere along this continuum, because the alternative is to censor every single bit of humor ever, because I'm pretty sure I could dig up some person somewhere who is offended by a "why did the chicken cross the road" joke, let alone a reference to sex in any way.

On the right side of that point is obvious, where something is clearly and obviously inappropriate and probably damaging. Racial slurs, overtly sexist remarks, etc.

So. Where do we draw the line? The fact that this comment thread even exists would tell me that we don't have that nailed down.

Political correctness is sensitivity to the minority, and is generally not a bad thing.

there's a difference between appropriate consideration of minorities and over-the-top political correctness.

simply put, intent matters and people need to accept that a reflexive hostility towards puerile male humor does not advance the cause of women.

Nope, intent isn't magic. http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/intent-its-fucki...

And puerile male humor is often intended to drive women away from the boys' club.


intent isn't magical but it is legally meaningful. if our laws recognize that intent matters maybe you ought to also.

So if I drive drunk and mow down a few people... I'm fine as long as I didn't mean to kill people after driving drunk?

Intent doesn't always matter, and in this case of puerile humor it doesn't matter.

The world could be 99% white, and if I spoke from the perspective of a white person, as if white people are God's gift to humans, I'd be insensitive to the 1% of non-white people. I'd be instilling in the minds of non-white children growing up thinking somehow they are worth less, and are lesser human beings. The whole point of political correctness is that you don't have to actively say negative things about other people, races, or religions to have a negative effect on them.

I may not have intended it because of ignorance. I may not have intended it because I have never met a non-white person, and everyone I've met has not been offended by it. But that does not mean my actions are without real consequences to non-white people who happen to hear me when passing by, or from normalizing this action so that later other white people end up adopting this attitude in front of non-white people.

The titstare app is pure and simple objectification of women. That 9 year old programmer is coming into an industry and shown that the most interesting thing about her will probably be trumped by her breasts. She's being placed into a culture she can't genuinely adopt (unless she's bisexual or lesbian) because she's not a man. This is alienation. It may not be intentional, but it does have negative effects due to ignorance.

"That's treating people with respect gone mad!"

If you take away the sexual, objectifying context, the joke's no longer funny. "EyeContact" isn't an app.

It really doesn't matters whether they were trying to diminish a class of people's humanity and reinforce the widespread idea that that group's autonomy is subservient to straight men's desires, or if they were just exploiting that dynamic because they were too incompetent, lazy and uncreative to produce something of value and didn't care that the dynamic they were reinforcing is demeaning and harmful. Either way, it's worthy of scorn.

"I don't work for the NSA because I want a universal surveillance state: I just work here because it's hilarious when I tell my relatives that I know their shopping lists!" It being a joke doesn't make it better.

Hacker culture is growing up on stuff like Heinlein articulating non-monogamy and other departures from the mainstream. This is just the plague of the professionally offended drawn in because software is big business now, and the crimethink-seeking drones employers must appoint just to avoid being sued into oblivion.

Also Heinlein's sexism and completely non-reality-based portrayals of women.

Martin Fowler still said it best: "I have a different vision - one that sticks it to the suits so hard it will make their eyes water. How about a community where women are valued for their ability to program and not by the thickness of their skin? How about a community that edgily pushes new boundaries without reinforcing long running evils? Perhaps even a community where women reach equal numbers? Such a community would hand the suits the defeat in the long battle women have been fighting for centuries. I'd love to be part of that."

When I first saw the TitStare thing, I thought it was a Google Glass hack to let you stare at boobs without actually looking at them directly.

While still a really sexist thing, I thought such an app would be an interesting hack, and make quite a statement about the future of these wearable technologies... might be considered an art project if cast in the right light (and also probably renamed).

But a boob-photo sharing app? Sexist and boring.

If something is actually good it rarely has to hide behind something like sexism. It's not like you read xkcd and think "I wish it had more dick jokes".

No, it's not like you read xkcd and think "I wish it had more dick jokes".

I would prefer my xkcd with an extra side order of dick jokes with fries. Please stop generalizing your personal likes and dislikes and rebasing them onto the rest of us.

Ah, the downfall of HN personified.

The circle jerk application had overtones that were sexual, not misogynistic.

The presentation may have been inappropriate for this venue, but it's shallow-minded to pretend sexual and sexist are the same thing.

Making this to more than a kinda childish joke is more of a problem than the act itself. By elevating this to a "Look how troubled our industry is" kinda thing, its just gonna get more of an issue.

The only way this will change is if it doesn't become the naughty thing it is right now. And this seems to be quite a US-centric issue, stemming from the paradoxical opinion about women in US.

Anywhere else, this would just have been a funny joke, and everyone would have laughed and thought the people were silly and unproffesional.

Anyone who gets offended by this, has more severe issues than the guys who did this.

It's reassuring to see, based on the comments here, that a large majority of HN users see this issue with this type of behavior and are against it. There are still a few I noticed who haven't matured beyond their teen years yet, though.

Anyone know the details of what happened? Can someone elaborate on this?

This. What did I (we) miss?

So it's come to this? A society that prefers that male nerds spend their time indoors working on a computer screen from an early age is bound to end up with socially inept geeks. The real shame here is that these young (and old?) men don't realize there can be so much more to a relationship than staring.

If the parents of these young men won't do their duty (including the whole junior high blind date scenario), I'd suggest that the best course of action for teaching the resulting lepers is the smoyer social skills class. In short, you'll learn the basic syntax of male-female encounters, as well as the all-important order-of-operations as follows:

1) Looking a girl in the eyes (and don't look down)

2) Having a conversation

3) Having another conversation

4) Asking for a date (repeat as needed)

5) Staring (and maybe even touching) with permission

Our advanced course features additional materials to help when you need to meet the parents, get engaged, get married and live happily ever after. So there are scenarios where its permissible (and even flattering) to stare, but you geeks are doing it all wrong.


Unfortunately, there's a grain of truth in a lot of what I wrote. Many of you are as dismayed as I am that this happened, but some of you laughed along without realizing you should be uncomfortable. You need help!

From my understanding that hackathon is basically just a way to get free tickets to Disrupt. Thus no one takes it seriously and you get things like this.

The problem with these particular presentations is that it distorts the whole event. There have been about 250 presentations so far today (and they're still going).

You can watch here: http://techcrunch.com/events/disrupt-sf-hackathon-2013/live-...

1) Yes, probably a lot of people was here to get the free ticket (including myself)

2) Most people (including myself) still took it very seriously (proof all the people who worked 20 hours straight and slept on floors for few minutes).

It's sad that in hacker culture, forgoing sleep is seen as "taking it seriously". From my experience at game jams, and from the people who run these game jams, skipping on sleep is an almost certain guarantee of failure.

Sorry for the off topic.

We presented at the hackathon, but how did you get the ticket to Disrupt? We asked and they told us that they were going to email them to us, but so far, no ticket in the email ... ;-/

"no one" is your own opinion. Plenty of people take it seriously because the tech industry has a problem with this type of behavior, and these presentations don't help its image any.

file this under the ever growing file of evidence that the tech industry has lost its sense of humor.

Exactly. Those two guys up on stage really did seem to think they were being funny - where has all the genuine humour in tech presentations gone?

its ok to try to be funny and fail at it.

Just crass. 15 minutes of fame and they got it. But are they capable of designing and commercialising a real idea? We can all take short cuts to get publicity (I'm thinking of an app called 'check my package' which photographs and then invites comments on mens' anatomy). Poor form from the organisers - in the world of grown up tech we expect better. Plenty of room for fun but not schoolboy stuff.

Sidenote: I find expressions of religious faith particularly offensive and harmful to children. We should ban any faith related apps from tech conferences.

I don't get what's there to apologize for. Both projects were funny. One of them was distasteful. That's all.

At least Jizabel and Gawker now have something to write about for the next fortnight.

Machine-generated search engine spam is also a problem in our industry, like the machine-generated search engine spam TechCrunch offers at:






being syndicated from a content farm with > 100,000,000 such junk pages.


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