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It's funny you should mention that, as that episode from nearly 20 years ago (!!) has come up much more in the last year than it did in the two decades prior. Of course, the reason is not an accident; it's a direct result of those who vehemently disagree with my handling of the Noordhuis pronoun incident.

Anyway, your request is entirely fair, and let me be clear that I (obviously?) regret the have-you-ever-kissed-a-girl response (which was actually an obscure Saturday Night Live reference). I was young, and it was stupid -- and I regretted it shortly thereafter, for whatever it's worth. I have never actually met David in person, but if I did, the first thing I would do would be to look him in the eye and apologize.

That said, I do think that this is contrast to the Noordhuis incident. I know that this position is not popular here (and that I will be downvoted into oblivion), and that it's likely foolish to revisit this, but just to make clear my position: I am understanding (very understanding, given my own history) of gaffes made on the internet. The Noordhuis issue, however, was not a gaffe: it's not that he rejected the pull request (that's arguably a gaffe), it's that when he was overruled by Isaac some hours later, he unilaterally reverted Isaac's commit. (And, it must be said, sent a very nasty private note to make clear that this was no accident.) This transcended gaffe, and it became an issue of principle -- one that I feel strongly about. So what I wrote at the time was entirely honest, and it is something that I absolutely stand by -- more than ever, actually.

The inarguably contrast is this: I regretted the have-you-ever-kissed-a-girl response; I do not and will not regret my handling of the Noordhuis incident -- and any company that would not employ me over this is a company that I would not want to work for.

Incidentally, I don't think you should have to apologize for what you said 20 years ago, because it was 20 years ago and that's ridiculous. But I do think you were an ass for escalating the Noordhuis incident the way you did, not because of your opinion on pronouns. And I voted you up because downvoting because of petty disagreement _is_ getting ridiculous around here.

Haha, hi, thanks for showing up on the thread. Not that I have any real justification in having opinions on something you said to someone else while I was in third grade (... although I think I was using Solaris then), but as a random member of the open-source community, I do appreciate you saying this clearly. :)

I did see it brought up first by some obvious single-purpose-troll account on Twitter in the midst of the pronoun incident. And just to make sure I'm being totally clear, I'm not bringing it up because I want to dog you with it, but because I think it's a great example of how everyone's fallible, even the people that I most look up to for how they push a community to be better. The standard isn't perfection and it's not about individuals per se; it's about improvement, as a community. We ought to criticize so we can build a better community, not so that we can knock each other down at the first mistake.

I was actually glad you brought it up. When I saw the New York Times story, I naturally thought back to my own episode(s) -- and it's been on my mind anyway because it came up on HN as recently as yesterday.[1]

Part of the peril of social media is that everyone becomes a public figure -- whether they want to be one or not. Those who are more traditional public figures (e.g., politicians, actors, athletes, business leaders) often have the personality attributes that make it easier to deal with scathing public criticism (though I don't think anyone particularly likes being excoriated) -- but most normal people actually don't. As a culture, I hope that we will be both more tolerant of mistakes made on social media -- but also more aware that (at some level) we all need to act as public figures when in public. Certainly, it's a thorny, complicated issue -- and one that is decidedly (if not canonically) modern.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9028497

Its fruitful to reflect on such past behavior both professional and personal. I have my share of regrets as well. None of us are without fault, just some of us have our mistakes more amplified than others. It important to learn from such things.

In interest of personal edification (since you seem to be open to feedback) the one criticism I have about the Noordhuis incident is that in my opinion if you felt as strongly as you did about publicly chastising Noordhuis it should have been done from your personal blog and not from the Joyent blog. I feel this was slight abuse of power and influence of the Joyent brand, specifically because you mention the intent on terminating his employment if it was within your power. I don't think that belongs there as permanent public record. That said, I think your desire was to make it clear to the community that gender biases were not going to be tolerated and to me that intent (for the most part) came through.

I do think its plausible that Noordhuis wasn't quite represented properly and that he had strong opinions about process and how commits are merged but those strong opinions were interpreted as an intent to have gender bias. But I don't have enough information to know for sure, that's just how it looks to me.

In the end regret is an entirely personal thing and we all get to decide what kind of person we are going to be. I would also like to suggest that regret isn't black and white there are always ways we can conduct or communicate more effectively and perhaps this could be a take away for you. Could there have been a way to achieve your goals equally/more effectively with less of a direct expense to Ben??

As someone who has worked directly under (and along side) you I have a deep respect for the way you conduct yourself professionally. I see you as someone with integrity, which is probably why you feel comfortable bringing up incidences you have been criticized for (this something far too rare). I offer my perspective as a friend so take it for what its worth to you.

I appreciate (as always) your thoughtful candor. And I (certainly) appreciate your kind words with respect to my personal integrity; the sentiment is very much mutual!

In this case, we may have to agree to disagree: I felt (and feel) that a message from Joyent -- not a message from me -- was called for: members of the node.js community were calling Joyent to task for Ben's behavior, and I (we) felt that it was Joyent that needed to respond. That said, I appreciate your willingness to speak your mind and to earnestly engage on this issue!

So here's the thing I've always been a little fuzzy on. bnoodhuis' reversion said (to isaacs) "All patches have to be signed off by either me or Bert."

The reaction would seem to indicate that this is like telling Linus Torvalds he needs approval to land patches in Linux. Was there anything codified anywhere explaining that this was the case? Did that rule only apply for code and not docs changes? Was the sign-off rule not actually written down anywhere?

FWIW, here's the SNL reference.

Video: https://screen.yahoo.com/star-trek-convention-000000768.html

Script: http://snltranscripts.jt.org/86/86hgetalife.phtml

Someone might have posted a link in the original thread but the episode was 10 years old and YouTube was 10 years away.

>it's a direct result of those who vehemently disagree with my handling of the Noordhuis pronoun incident.

Could it be because of this recent OSNews article bringing it to a bunch of people's attention?


Whenever the Noordhuis incident comes up, I'm always quick to point out that `git push -f master`ing a non-fast-forward commit without prior warning is already halfway to a firing offense.

EDIT: No, wait, it was a revert commit, this just raises further questions.

That's not the reason, and you know it.

"On the one hand, it seems ridiculous (absurd, perhaps) to fire someone over a pronoun -- but to characterize it that way would be a gross oversimplification: it's not the use of the gendered pronoun that's at issue (that's just sloppy), but rather the insistence that pronouns should in fact be gendered."


The biggest issue is the way that you handled this. You did this appallingly. You still seem to be puzzled why people still bring this up.

In a community project, people often do things you aren't going to like. Ben rejected a push, and he steadfastly maintains that he did this for good reasons:


Now instead of communicating with Ben, giving him the benefit of the doubt as a non-native speaker of English and calling him out publicly in the way you did was an absolute classic case of what you do NOT do.

In a community run project, the dynamics are different to being in a corporation. The first rule is: you are dealing with a lot of people, from a lot of different backgrounds. There is lots of room for misunderstanding. The absolute golden rule around dealing with a popular project is to try to wrangle this appropriately and with as little heat as possible.

So let's review what you did:

1. You posted one of the most inflammatory, aggressive posts I've seen in a very long time. You took no time to talk to Ben about his position and to talk him around to making an apology and reversing his decision.

2. You compete with StrongLoop. You basically told your competitor that they should fire one of their best developers to the project. Your company may have been a main initiator of Node.js and you see it as largely the steward for the project, but your own employee reversed the decision of a major contributor.

And this is where you really stuffed up. For some time there had been rumblings about how Joyent was biased about the way they accepted commits and directed the project - rightly or wrongly. There was a perception of bias towards Joyent's interests. That's not necessarily a correct viewpoint. But you started a chain of events you now can't control.

Joyent has finally setup a Foundation, but has now got a fork competing with the core project. StrongLoop is one of the groups backing io.js. A large number of your core developers are publicly backing io.js.

3. Community leaders, like yourself, aren't meant to send abusive messages over blogs. You called him an arsehole. You called for his sacking.

Let's underscore how tone-deaf you have been, and completely clueless over how to run an open source project:

"While we would fire Ben over this, node.js is an open source project and one doesn't necessarily have the same levers. Indeed, one of the challenges of an open source project that depends on volunteer effort is dealing with assholes"

You don't realise how much damage you did. I agree with gender neutral language in technical writing. Many others do as well. If you had dealt with this differently and not decided to become a self-aggrandizing pundit, then you would have probably shown that Joyent can deal with controversial matters maturely and civilly, play nicely with others, resolve conflict, and you'd have the high moral ground.

Now you just look like a bully, and I'd say you were the catalyst for the io.js fork. You also opened yourself up to your own past, which you also regret.

As I say - you've basically given us all a text-book case study into how not to manage an open source project.

P.S. FWIW, I upvoted you.

I don't care how much anyone dislikes Cantrill, but standing up for Ben about this is a mark of shame.

> You took no time to talk to Ben about his position and to talk him around to making an apology and reversing his decision.

Whereas just above:

> it's that when he was overruled by Isaac some hours later, he unilaterally reverted Isaac's commit. (And, it must be said, sent a very nasty private note to make clear that this was no accident.)

I don't know why you thought you were privy to all the communication that went on in this situation, but that sentence ought to indicate to you that you are not, in fact, omniscient.

The fact that Ben remains absolutely unrepentant on this issue, and sees "I was following the project's rules to the letter on an issue which I myself dismissed as trivial" as a valid excuse should be to his lasting shame, and you should be ashamed of perpetuating it.

You're right - I didn't see the private correspondence - Bryan certainly never mentioned it before now.

I certainly don't feel ashamed about calling out the bullying behaviour of Joyent. It's never ok to call someone an arsehole on a company blog about a competitor's employee, let alone call on his sacking. And who knows what the content of that nasty note was - perhaps he called Bryan an arsehole, perhaps he said that he thought that the change was rubbish, maybe he was passed off that the change wasn't discussed, maybe he thought that it was gasp a beat up, or maybe he swore at Cantrell for being a jerk?

Whatever it was, it's irrelevant. It's not the approach an open source leader should take, it certainly didn't concubine anyone about gender neutral language, it was hostile, ungracious, gave Ben Noordius no way of graciously apologising (had he wanted to) and it led to unnecessary schisms in the project.

All up, Bryan looks like a bully, Joyent look pompous and overbearing, the reasonable debate about gender equality is obscured by the abusive language and tone of the post, Ben Noordius appears to have been wronged, and a nuanced debate about gender neutral language is rather appallingly sidetracked by a man who uses dominant and crude language to ram his pint across - most likely due to political and personal reasons.

I gotta love the iPad spell checker. Puts words like "concubine" into the weirdest places.

I can see an organization having an internal gendered pronoun elimination policy --who cares. But I think one should allow anyone writing any contribution to use whatever pronoun gender they prefer. Encourage women to use feminine grammatical gender and men to use either grammatical gender pronoun.

Leave it up to the writer to decide.

For what it's worth, I prefer the neutral 'they' but I also don't get caught up in grammatical genders. Imagine if English had retained grammatical genders for regular nouns --as german and spanish do. What, so we rewrite the language and change grammatical gender because it gets conflated with biological gender?

Also, when I read text and it has the grammatical gender opposite mine, I don't feel disenfranchised by the text. It's not something I keep conscious of. I'm not pronoun hunting, and I think few people do that. Reading would become incomprehensibly distracting.

It's the same as when you see the pronoun 'you' Do you automatically believe it refers to you personally? I know I don't. Same with he, she, they, they're all a third person abstraction.

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