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> I have no idea whether her claim is true or not

The Internet has worked very hard in the last couple of decades to make the truth, the actual truth, completely nonexistent in our lives. It's a discouraging threshold to realize that it doesn't even matter if what she is saying is true or not. I'm serious. It doesn't. Those days are over.

There is no truth any more. We now live in an age where one's interpretation of what is said first is the truth for them and they act accordingly. Some will interpret it as "pissing on a parade," as you see here, and will harass her. Some will interpret it as God's honest truth and will advocate accordingly. As a species, a lot of thought leaders have patted humanity on the back for how well-connected and well-informed we are with the Internet and 24/7 mentality being such a focused point of our lives, when in fact I think the truth is we're now a post-fact species.

Observe the reaction to @LeaVerou's timeline in the last couple of hours to see what I mean, in particular Ashe Dryden's condemnation of her (reasonable) position. We've long passed the era of human history wherein reserving judgment until all the facts are known was the most ideal course of action for all parties. We're never getting it back, either, and we have to live with that now. I can think of unbounded examples of this. Sunil Tripathi is the first to spring to mind.

As for the topic at hand, my cynicism tells me that I'd bet the farm on everything she's said being accurate. I do, however, wish to withhold judgment on both sides without being accused of enabling the decried behavior. That's an alarming trend from a certain vocal group in this industry, a "with us or against us" mentality that bothers me a lot. I've been called a "rape apologist" in the past for simply saying I didn't have enough information about an alleged rape to reach a conclusion.

I have to be honest, it's discouraging to be intelligent enough to see this, because it makes life feel hopeless. I can see what the old idiom about ignorance and bliss means now.




@LeaVerou's points all seem pretty spot on to me. It may be that @nrrdcore was harassed, but again, we don't have too much solid information in front of us. Jumping to conclusions, both about @nrrrdcore and Github does not make any sense, yet here we are doing it, why? Because one of the parties involved is a female. I don't mean to sound insensitive here, but isn't that what sexism is? Basing our judgement based on gender? We should be waiting for the facts and evidence here.

EDIT: And I just want to say, if @nrrdcore is right which she very well may be, then I agree that she should speak out. But we shouldn't be judging the situation until we have hard facts.


Not jumping to conclusions is a form of jumping to conclusion.


How, then, does one avoid jumping to conclusions? By taking the word of whoever first goes public over an incident? Right.


I'm sorry, but that is some straight 1984 blackwhite shit. There is no way around calling it that.


No, you're absolutely wrong.


I think you are looking at the past with a very large set of rose-tinted glasses.

"Those days are over."

Like the idealized 50s household of Leave it to Beaver, those days never existed in the first place.

Ask 4 people the truth of what happened at any single event (let alone a long series of events) and you're likely to get 4 different accounts with at the very least very different points of view based on pre-existing bias and in many cases you will get fundamentally contradictory reports on basic facts. And all 4 people may even be absolutely sure of their own recollection and answering you as truthfully as they can. I'm not even getting into people being purposefully deceptive yet, you don't have to go nearly that far to slip off from the "truth" of things.

This was true well before the Internet existed. I would argue strongly that if anything the Internet has made sussing out the truth easier than it has ever been because you can use the massive amount of data on it to build consensus which on matters such as these is the best indicator we have as to how actually true any single person's report of events is.

Of course, this forces us to disregard outlier reports on both the positive and negative and only make conclusions when a consensus comes through, but it is fairly easy to do that (unless you are specifically emotionally attached to whatever it is the issue is).

Was Julie Ann Horvath harassed? I have no idea. But if 5 more people pop up and say they either witnessed or experienced the conditions she reported, I will certainly start to think she was. Is github a place where such harassment occurs? Again, I have no idea, certainly I can't make a decision one way or another based on how I feel about their products because there is no relation between the two things.

No matter what happened, if she was harassed I feel pretty comfortable with her "airing her dirty laundry" because of the specific context wherein she either purposefully or accidentally became somewhat of a public face regarding github being a good place for women engineers to work.


Perhaps you should consider that most of those who have not rushed to judgement and are waiting on facts are not nonexistent but are merely saying nothing on Twitter nor anywhere else about it.

It is very easy to think that the Internet makes everyone worse sometimes, instead of what it actually does: expose us to our worst more than ever before.


I applaud those reserving judgment while simultaneously realizing that they do not matter, either. The only voices on this topic will be the ones that have made up their mind, for better or worse. That's the real shame.


It's somewhat promising that the top-voted comment here was posted and reserves judgement.


I sympathize with your position and the uncertainty it brings; I myself have struggled with these issues, which is what got me interested in epistemology.

Sadly I think, if anything, your position is still a bit naive; the Internet may have exacerbated the problem of truth by giving everyone a soapbox to spout their own version, but I think this problem has always been with us, since the dawn of human communication. While we gain some information through first-hand experience, a great deal of our knowledge comes from cognitive authorities[1] who we rely on for second-hand knowledge. So a significant portion of our knowledge rests upon our faith in the testimony of others. Granted, we can take steps to try and minimize our chance of error, such as consulting multiple sources, but it's hard to eliminate that leap of faith entirely.

But it's worse than that. Even agreeing on the "facts" is not enough to guarantee a unified interpretation. Different people may view a singular event through different lenses, based on how that event fits into their own personal narrative; this becomes especially apparent when dealing with contentious political issues.

So yeah, I agree: the Internet has made it more difficult to get a firm grasp on the truth. But when it comes to matters outside our own immediate experience, that grasp has always been nothing more than a useful fiction.

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


You concluding that I was blaming the Internet in obliviousness to all the rest of the points you shared (which I already know but deemed out of scope for my specific complaint) is, in itself, a misinterpretation. That you then built upon that misinterpretation to call my position naive is a very interesting comment in light of what I'm saying.

Before computing, I was a journalist. Nothing you said is news to me, though you used some epistemological concepts to make a similar point to my own.


Sorry if the suggestion of naivety came across too harshly; didn't mean to imply you didn't know what you were talking about. I just find this topic really interesting (competing narratives, the Lippmann-Dewey debate, etc.), so I jumped at the opportunity to ramble about it.

Again, my apologies.


No worries. I'm not offended, I just noticed the interesting irony.

I learned long ago to not be offended by things people say on the Internet, along with my ability to stomach images that would probably make anybody else pass out. I'm not convinced all of the Internet's effects on me as a human are good.


The cargo-cult phenomenon dates from before the internet, but the internet (and certain historically recent social changes, too, I think) create an echo chamber of massive proportions that changes the nature of the phenomenon. In this environment, it becomes much more difficult to insulate yourself from cargo-cult thinking, and much more difficult to tolerate opposing opinions.

(@jsmthrowaway I'd enjoy discussing this in more detail off-forum, if you'd like.)


Just for the record, even though I wrote about the parade, I am not aware of harassing that person.

I don't know what your problem is with the parade statement. I'm not a native speaker - I actually took it from a Robbie Williams song... I thought it just means ruining somebodies parade.


It's an idiom that minimizes the person doing the pissing. For example, if I organize a group night out for my team and convince the company to pay for drinks, and someone complains over my head to say "I don't drink so it's unfair for the company to pay for drinks" and gets that expense approval reversed, that's pissing on a parade.

(And yes, that example has happened to me.)

Your implication by using that idiom is that GitHub has a good thing going and Julie's accusations ruined it for everybody. I'd avoid idioms in another language unless you're sure, because that one in particular carries some teeth depending on how you use it.


Maybe it is also a difference between UK and US? Since Robbie Williams was using it for himself I figured it couldn't be that minimizing.


I'd simply hesitate before basing your understanding of the English language on a song written to air dirty laundry.


Thank you for the clarification and the advice. It's just not practical as a non-native speaker to always be sure about the exact meanings of the words you use.

Also, there are by now more non-native speakers of English than native speakers in the world, so perhaps giving some benefit of the doubt is always a good idea.


You can understand how tough that is for a native speaker, though. Thanks for being reasonable about talking about it and being willing to learn!


We are closer to the actual truth than ever before. Pre-Internet we had the news and gossip. Now at least people can share their perspectives directly without censorship.


It's very interesting that you used the word "perspective" there, and I'd request that you dwell on why I find that interesting, as it relates to my point. You've actually reinforced my point without even realizing it, given that what we have now across the board are firsthand accounts. Think about what a firsthand account actually is.

Put another way, our bar for truth is now understanding. If you misunderstand something I say to you, what you've interpreted is your truth. The world is experienced subjectively and it is very complicated, and misunderstandings happen far too often in my life (in both directions) to not be queasy about firsthand accounts being the new truth.


You feel queasy about firsthand accounts compared to what, exactly? Secondary sources are weaker than primary sources. We now have unfettered access to most primary sources, whereas before we had to rely on secondary sources and their interpretations and biases.


Yes, everyone experiences the world subjectively. How do you inform others of that which is outside your experience? How do you learn without factoring in your own persective? We aren't talking about science here.




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