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Jon Ronson: How a Tweet Can Ruin Your Life (esquire.co.uk)
424 points by Jem 929 days ago | hide | past | web | 506 comments | favorite



The world is replete with examples of why you should never use your real name with your online identity in any way (although in this case, the guy's employer found out over a photograph; which is even more troubling.)

If there's anyone worse than Adria in this story, it's both Hank's and Adria's former employers. You don't destroy a person's life over a comment or a blackmail threat. But as they say, if corporations are people, then they are clearly sociopaths.

That said, there was this excerpt: "I know you didn’t call for him to be fired. But you must have felt pretty bad." "Not too bad, he's a white male. I'm a black Jewish female."

Followed by this later on, in the same interview: SendGrid, her employer, was told the attacks would stop if Adria was fired. Hours later, she was publicly let go. "I cried a lot, journaled and escaped by watching movies,"

Her lack of empathy is absolutely staggering. And, "if I had kids, I wouldn't tell jokes"? Seriously?


I don't think it's a lack of empathy. It feels like anger at a system that caters to men in a field she very much enjoys and wants to be included in. Unfortunately Hank happens to be a fairly good guy who is defended by this system and oblivious to it. He's an unintended casualty of her anger at something bigger.

I had many of the same reactions as you when I read her words. But I've been trying very hard to imagine what it's like to go to PyCon as a minority, and to have someone sitting in earshot comfortably make jokes that make me feel threatened all while watching a talk on inclusiveness. While the emotional image of a little girl wanting to get into your field is up on screen.

And then to have everyone defend that person and behave like you're the one that fired him just because you voiced your discomfort publicly.

I don't agree with Adria's public tweet, and Hank got way more than he deserved (as did Adria) over it. But I can totally see how she could have been driven to do it, and I can even see how she would feel now — after all she's gone through — that she should not have to apologise for it.

From that article it sounds like she came out of this worse than Hank, who got another job almost immediately. And you have to wonder — did Hank get another job so fast because our field is dominated by men, and they are likely to feel for him and have the same initial reactions as we do when reading this article? Unfortunately there are not many people who will feel for Adria. I'm sure she knows it.


> I don't agree with Adria's public tweet, and Hank got way more than he deserved (as did Adria) over it. But I can totally see how she could have been driven to do it, and I can even see how she would feel now — after all she's gone through — that she should not have to apologise for it.

She used her status and influence in an irresponsible way, and she consistently avoids any responsibility into what happens, while blaming her victim for what happened to her. I don't see the empathy here. I can understand why she would end up like that, and she sounds like she has a lot of issues to work with. But she comes out as an extremely unpleasant person.

> From that article it sounds like she came out of this worse than Hank, who got another job almost immediately. And you have to wonder — did Hank get another job so fast because our field is dominated by men, and they are likely to feel for him and have the same initial reactions as we do when reading this article? Unfortunately there are not many people who will feel for Adria. I'm sure she knows it.

I feel for her. She shouldn't have been put through this crap when she was a kid, and she deserved none of the abuse, death threats, etc, that got poured on her. At the same time, I do think she needs to behave like an adult and realize that she has a responsibility in what happened.


She probably didn't get another job because she's in the field of 'developer evangelism' and publicly skewered a developer without giving appropriate thought to the consequences of her actions. I think that might be an indication to employers that she might not be an appropriate candidate for the position of 'developer evangelist' unless they're willing to take on the risk associated for the benefit provided.


Right, I also seem to recall (and am absolutely ready to be corrected) that she name dropped her employer in it too, a la "I and we will make sure we never use any product produced by you or your employer", and that a large part of the firing was not a blackmail capitulation but "Adria has no authority to speak on behalf of the company".


"You're the person who publicly shamed a developer, which got him kicked out of a conference and fired, and then became a public target and had your employer DDoS'ed as a result, and you want to be the public face of our company to other developers? Yeah… maybe not."


> I do think she needs to behave like an adult and realize that she has a responsibility in what happened.

Presumably you mean the tweet, not her childhood abuse, just for people who might misinterpret the somewhat ambiguous reference.


Yes, the tweet. I hadn't realized the ambiguity.


> jokes that make me feel threatened

I really don't see how hearing two guys in a crowd of 800+ people talk about big dongles would make one feel threatened enough for a comment like, "Have you ever heard that thing, men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them?" She feared for her life over tasteless toilet humor in a crowded conference? Bullshit. Her Victorian sensibilities were offended over a crass joke. And now she's engaging in histrionics after the fact to justify her response.

Frankly, I'm really sick and tired of the pervasive image in America that all men are rapists and child molesters. You talk to a woman on an elevator, or you accidentally make eye contact with a child that isn't yours for a brief second, and everyone assumes you're a sexual predator because penis. Sure, I'll accept that men are more likely to be. But we're talking about 0.000011% of women versus 0.000018% of men here.

> Hank got way more than he deserved (as did Adria) over it

That we can both agree on. If anyone needs to be shamed here, it's these companies that we allow to put expediency over human lives. It's not okay to fire a father of three because someone managed to generate five minutes of buzz about them on Twitter. As consumers, this is partly our responsibility. And I for one will recommend strongly against ever using SendGrid to anyone who asks. It's too bad Hank didn't name his employer as well.

> Unfortunately there are not many people who will feel for Adria

Still, the complete and utter lack of empathy, along with playing the race card (way out of context I might add), is clearly doing her no good here. If I read her comments, I wouldn't hire her either.

And again, this is where it's good to separate your real name from your online identity. No, we shouldn't have to, but when employers behave like this, it's just proper diligence. We don't know Hank's real name here; his current employer may not even know about this incident. If Adria had done the same, maybe she'd be employed now too.


> I really don't see how hearing two guys in a crowd of 800+ people talk about big dongles would make one feel threatened enough for a comment like

To her it's not 800+ people, it's 800+ men where you are one of the few women. That's not something I can say I've ever experienced. Personally I can't see how the joke is threatening, but I can't dismiss her feelings over this just because I find it tough — or even impossible — to imagine.

I've tried to read this article as Hank and Adria explaining their honest feelings. If Adria is being honest about her feelings, then I can see how her reaction came about. Even if I don't agree with it.

Like I said, I don't think the joke itself — or Hank himself — was the target of her anger. It was the environment, the culture, and the system which allowed Hank to make such a joke in earshot, comfortably, making her feel utterly excluded and even threatened.

You claim it's histrionics, but it might be real things she is feeling. What if she really felt this way? Shouldn't we try to understand Adria as well as we understand Hank? By dismissing her so easily we make our field more exclusive. We say, "I can't imagine that so you mustn't have experienced it. It's not a problem because I can't see it."

> Still, the complete and utter lack of empathy

Perhaps you are right in perceiving a lack of empathy. I don't think it's because she hates Hank and wishes bad things on him. I think it's because she is viewing Hank as an oblivious part of a system which puts her at a significant disadvantage.


> Personally I can't see how the joke is threatening, but I can't dismiss her feelings over this just because I find it tough — or even impossible — to imagine.

The same Adria who herself made penis jokes on twitter a few days earlier and who was playing Cards Against Humanity at the same PyCon conference?

What happened to her is shameful and can't be condoned in any way, shape or form, but she engaged in the same (or some would say worse) behavior that she was criticizing Hank for. Double standards much?

>Perhaps you are right in perceiving a lack of empathy.... I think it's because she is viewing Hank as an oblivious part of a system which puts her at a significant disadvantage.

That's the definition of lack of empathy, Hank clearly expressed empathy for her, she didn't even consider the possibility that her public shaming could have serious consequences.

By the way, I believe she was in her right to complain about the joke to the organizers in private, it's the public tweet with the photo that crossed the line.


Cards Against Humanity details - http://s3.amazonaws.com/cah/CAH_MainGame.pdf (full download of game cards).

NSFW!?!


Twitter isn't a professional setting like a conference session, and anyone joining in a game of CAH is deliberately opting-in to a situation where offensively funny combinations are the entire point of the game.


Twitter is way worse, it is a public forum, with thousands of followers and she used her account as an official representative of her company. (in a PR kind of capacity even.)

The dongle comment was a conversation between two people, it was not private, but it's audience was intended to be limited to two individuals.

The CAH game could offend someone that passed by (it was played in a hallway), what would have happened if someone took a picture of her playing CAH and tweeted "Not Cool Guys/Gals"and made a blog post about feeling treated at PyCon?

https://instagram.com/p/W_A1xlAacg/


Yes, they are. Where were they playing CAH? Oh, at "a professional setting like a conference" (not in a session, certainly).

Did they seek the approval of others around who weren't playing, and ensured that they felt emotionally safe?

I somehow doubt it.


On the other hand they can't go around claiming to have a deep seating sensitivity to offenses -- the image she was trying to portray. That she was just shaking in fear of being murdered because of a dongle joke.

She is misrepresenting her character and manipulates the public image of herself to stir controversy, drama, and in turns she actually hurting the cause she claims to champion. If anything that is the thing I don't like about what she did the most.


> On the other hand they can't go around claiming to have a deep seating sensitivity to offenses.

Why not? I can be scared of ax-wielding murderers while still enjoying a haunted house where people in an ax-murderer costume jump out at me.

You expect offensive stuff in a CAH game. You don't expect it being mumbled behind you during a keynote.


>You expect offensive stuff in a CAH game. You don't expect it being mumbled behind you during a keynote. //

She chose to be offended. There was nothing inherently offensive about the comment as it's reported. It was apparently a private comment to a friend.

If I'm eavesdropping on some friends talking amongst themselves then I'd expect to hear all sorts of crass lewdness TBH. If I then choose to be offended perhaps the lookout is on me, that I should stop eavesdropping other's conversations.

The situation at hand — to borrow your metaphor — is like someone coming out of a haunted house, seeing someone across the street dressed as an axe-murderer (but clearly in fancy-dress), then crossing the street to harangue them because one should know axe-murderers frighten them and that some how the happenstance of your co-locality gives them the right to control over your attire.

If you don't like the content of private conversations that you can overhear, as an adult, in a public setting, then your choices are to put up with it, move out of earshot, or ask the people to censor themselves.


"She chose to be offended. There was nothing inherently offensive about the comment as it's reported. It was apparently a private comment to a friend."

She chose how to act on the offense she took, and she chose irresponsibly. She chose how to handle the aftermath, and she chose questionably. But she didn't "choose" to be offended in the first place. That's a bridge too far. She was listening to a keynote presentation about women in technology, overheard some sex jokes being made during that presentation, and took offense to the jokes, perhaps especially in light of the context and the timing.

Now, I find her described rationale for the offense she took (fear of violence) a little extreme. But who am I to judge her feelings? I'm not a woman, and I am certainly not the survivor of what sounds like a horrifyingly abusive household. I have no basis by which to speak from those perspectives, and so I can't summarily dismiss them as invalid. That's not my call to make. That's not my place.

I don't agree with her actions, and I find her lack of apparent remorse very disturbing. But I don't presume to set some universal, male-perspective standard for what is or is not offensive to people. I can see how the jokes could have offended any hypothetical women in earshot at the time, and perhaps some men as well. I personally would not have been offended, but I am not every person. My perspective on what's offensive and what isn't is not the de facto norm.

Completely agree, however, that the more mature course of action would have been to confront the jokesters in person, or move away, or perhaps just lodge a complaint with the PyCon organizers. The public shaming was uncalled for, and it had disproportionately drastic consequences for all concerned.


I know people disagree with me frequently on this, but most conferences aren't professional settings either. You register and you go, that's the criteria. And people do a lot of "unprofessional" things at and around them.


Code of conduct for 2013 US Pycon

https://us.pycon.org/2013/about/code-of-conduct/

> 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.


> 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.

That does really not fit well with playing CAH...


I was wrong about PyCon, but I stand by my position that these events aren't actually treated as purely "professional" even if there are minimum standards of behavior. People wouldn't go if they were. But she wasn't playing Cards Against Humanity _at_ PyCon. Arguably because she represented Sendgrid, she should have been more professional on her Twitter, though.


"But she wasn't playing Cards Against Humanity _at_ PyCon."

Uhh... scroll up:

https://instagram.com/p/W_A1xlAacg/

Caption on that picture, by @adriarichards, "Playing, Cards Against Humanity, #pycon" (And that picture is a hallway at the venue).


Well, shit. But I guess that proves my point. These things aren't actually treated as professional events.


Oh but she was.


> To her it's not 800+ people, it's 800+ men where you are one of the few women. That's not something I can say I've ever experienced. Personally I can't see how the joke is threatening, but I can't dismiss her feelings over this just because I find it tough — or even impossible — to imagine.

I think there's a reality here outside of anyone's feelings, which is that the jokes mentioned in the article are neither sexist nor threatening. If she feels attacked or threatened, well, that's her problem.

To be clear, I do believe there is plenty of sexism in the software industry. If there's a joke that we don't know about that Hank made which was actually sexist, then I'm happy he got fired, and I don't think Adria was overreacting. But if the jokes in the article are the full story, then she wasn't even overreacting--she was reacting to something which she shouldn't have reacted to at all. The jokes aren't sexist.

> You claim it's histrionics, but it might be real things she is feeling. What if she really felt this way? Shouldn't we try to understand Adria as well as we understand Hank? By dismissing her so easily we make our field more exclusive. We say, "I can't imagine that so you mustn't have experienced it. It's not a problem because I can't see it."

She probably does feel that way. I have no reason to doubt that she feels the way she says she feels. But just because someone feels threatened doesn't mean their feelings are right. Certainly there are people who would be threatened by a black woman at a conference: and those people can go fuck themselves. It takes more than someone feeling threatened to justify firing someone. I'd have to see some joke that they made which was actually sexist or threatening.


> I think there's a reality here outside of anyone's feelings, which is that the jokes mentioned in the article are neither sexist nor threatening. If she feels attacked or threatened, well, that's her problem.

I think that's a bad attitude and it puts people off who might want to join us.

If she feels threatened by an innocuous joke, which seems to be the case, then we need to take a serious look at why that is. What is it about PyCon that can make a woman feel like this, and how can we help?

In my mind she and Hank are both fairly intelligent, rational people. It's not normal for her to have felt this way and I don't blame her for experiencing that.

> doesn't mean their feelings are right

But she's not a crazy person, she was a developer evangelist for a well known company. She was well spoken and calm. Her response to Hank's original Hacker News comment was quite pleasant and seemed to acknowledge that bad situations can happen even though Hank is a good guy.

Yet she felt threatened by an innocuous joke because of the atmosphere of the conference, because she was vastly outnumbered, and because we are unwilling to address this. We are unwilling even to take her feelings seriously, even for a moment. Almost everyone here dismisses them out-of-hand, how is that attractive or inclusive?


> I think that's a bad attitude and it puts people off who might want to join us.

I do not think that the solution to the gender imbalance in tech is to stop calling spades spades. The jokes made were not threatening or sexist, and if she felt threatened, her feelings were not justified.

Women are just as capable of reasoning as men, but they're also just as capable of being wrong. There are real sexism issues to address in the software industry. At a conference a few years ago, a coworker of mine was followed back to her hotel room by a drunk conference attendee--THAT is sexist and threatening. At a Ruby conference, a presenter showed slides of women in bikinis and made lewd comments about them--THAT is sexism. I don't think inventing a sexism issue where there isn't one does anything to solve the real problems.

To be clear: I do think that it is productive to look at what the software industry is doing wrong in relation to women. All I'm saying is that this particular instance is a red herring.

> It's not normal for her to have felt this way and I don't blame her for experiencing that.

I don't blame her either, but I don't think there's any conclusions to be drawn from how she felt. She just was wrong. People are wrong all the time.

> But she's not a crazy person, she was a developer evangelist for a well known company. She was well spoken and calm. Her response to Hank's original Hacker News comment was quite pleasant and seemed to acknowledge that bad situations can happen even though Hank is a good guy.

One can be sane, gainfully employed, well-spoken, and calm, and still wrong. I think any sane, gainfully employed, well-spoken, calm person will freely admit that they have been wrong many times.

> Yet she felt threatened by an innocuous joke because of the atmosphere of the conference, because she was vastly outnumbered, and because we are unwilling to address this.

What about the atmosphere of the conference made her feel threatened? If there was something that happened at the conference which was actually threatening, that is the problem, not these jokes. If there is threatening behavior going on, I'd love to figure out a way to stop it. But jokes about dongles and forking repos are not threatening behavior, and pretending they are does nothing to solve anything.

Yes, she's vastly outnumbered. That is a well-known problem which I would like to solve, but I think that will require coming up with solutions, not just telling people they're right when they aren't.

I don't think we are unwilling to address this, I think we HAVE addressed this. Just because people don't agree with her doesn't mean they aren't listening.

> Almost everyone here dismisses them out-of-hand, how is that attractive or inclusive?

Sure, we can lower our standards to include people who can't differentiate between something threatening and something non-threatening, and that might allow us to hire more women. But that would defeat the purpose. Women are just as capable as men and we can include them without lowering our standards.

Pretending women are right when they're wrong is not the way to be inclusive.


> I think it's because she is viewing Hank as an oblivious part of a system which puts her at a significant disadvantage.

Isn't that the definition of empathy? She sees Hank not as a person, but just as a part of a system, never thinks of the consequences her actions have on him, never even considers that he is going through some rough times, and that he (as a person, a human being) sometimes makes a mistake and then apologizes...


You claim it's histrionics, but it might be real things she is feeling. What if she really felt this way?

Her feelings being real don't make them acceptable or reasonable. Take the below example.

http://reason.com/blog/2015/02/19/male-student-banned-from-c...


I just want to say that, although I don't fully agree with you, I really appreciate you chiming in with your thoughts on this. It's given me plenty to think about.

In the event that you are right, and she's really being sincere, then I hope she gets help to work through her issues. Especially over the parts about her childhood at the end.

> I think it's because she is viewing Hank as an oblivious part of a system which puts her at a significant disadvantage

Yes, but the "system" isn't in any way Hank's doing, nor Hank's fault, and is no justification for a dismissal of empathy.


Thank you, I appreciate this discussion with you too.

I often wonder what my reaction to these sorts of articles would be if the genders were reversed. And I find that I more quickly and easily empathise with males, which makes me wary that perhaps my feelings when reading these articles are not completely rational.

I believe both parties did something thoughtless, Adria more so than Hank, but the anger here and how we vilify Adria is so different to how we talk about Hank. It's almost like she's not even human, just some delusional sociopath filled with hatred. I imagine if I were a woman reading this thread I would feel very excluded.


There are a lot of idiot trolls on the internet saying all sorts of ridiculous things. Usually it's better to just ignore them.


Thanks for writing these comments. I think you're doing a better job of attempting empathy than the people criticizing Adria for not showing enough. :)


Once she said she had no regret for him getting fired, and that it was ok because he was a white male, any sympathy that could have been had was gone.

She's like the white man who shot the black kids in Florida because he was threatened by their loud music.


I don't think your analogy applies here. I'd liken the situation more to stealing a CD from a record store. The CD's are easily replaced, but you were caught and now you're serving life in prison.

Even though we know that stealing is wrong, would you feel bad for the record store?


I'm saying she's borderline mentally ill, perceiving threats that don't exist from offense she takes from immature comments.


> You talk to a woman on an elevator... and > everyone assumes you're a sexual predator > because penis.

A woman's fear of unwanted sexual advances, assault, or rape from an unknown male when she's in a vulnerable position is entirely reasonable. Many women receive unwelcome sexual advances on a regular basis. Most men have basically no point of personal reference for this fear, but we should try to be aware of how the woman might perceive us rather than whining about being unfairly slighted.

According to the CDC, 18% of women report being raped at some point in their lives, versus 1.7% of men.[1] Given that, I think it's reasonable for women to feel a need for caution when dealing with strange men talking to them in elevators.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/sv-datasheet-a.pdf


What's the percentage of validated rape allegations? Certainly it's non-zero. Day-after regrets, explaining pregnancy or seeking abortion approval from parents, etc. And what is the definition of rape? Groping on a subway, forced intercourse, or somewhere in between? 18% just sounds insanely high to me. That sounds like more like an epidemic.

What does this ratio work out to in terms of chances any given one man is a rapist? If we ranked this as one person per allegation, that would be claiming that nearly one in five men are rapists, and that's patently absurd. If we had ~28 million male rapists in this country, our prisons would be absolutely overrun. Even if you claimed each rapist had ~10 victims, that's still an absurd number of male rapists.

At any rate, it's still bullshit that I am treated like a sexual predator. As an asexual, I'm the last person on the planet you need to worry about. It's disgusting when people single out groups based on race, on female gender, on religion, on sexual orientation, etc. It should be just as disgusting to do it towards men with regards to sexual assault.

Even with the absolutely ridiculous ~1:5 scenario, this woman was in a room with 800+ other men. There was zero chance she was in harm's way here.


An article recently made it onto HN about how rape is seriously underreported by men, and that the real rates of rape or sexual assault are nearly equal. This of course is a controversial finding, but not obviously flawed either. According to this study, it's roughly 1:2 men to women, not 1:10 as the CDC reports.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/04/male_...


Replace "men" and "women" with "blacks" and "whites". Is it reasonable for white people to feel a need for caution talking to black people in an elevator?


If they're using racial slurs in their conversation, yes, it is. It entirely depends on the topic being adequate for the venue or not, not on the races or genders of the participants.


> A woman's fear of unwanted sexual advances, assault, or rape from an unknown male when she's in a vulnerable position is entirely reasonable.

not always : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHCqz-J51IU&list=RDEHCqz-J51...


One of the giveaways of her character was when she wanted the HN post about him losing his job removed.

What is the reason for that. Seems just like such an irrational move.

Except it isn't.

It isn't because she recognized Hank was using (perhaps inadvertently) her tactics. In her eyes he was telling the world he was a victim. There is nothing more frustrating than having her own methods turning against her.

If anything, that cuts directly to her motivation and is a window into her character.


"Frankly, I'm really sick and tired of the pervasive image in America that all men are rapists and child molesters. You talk to a woman on an elevator, or you accidentally make eye contact with a child that isn't yours for a brief second, and everyone assumes you're a sexual predator because penis. Sure, I'll accept that men are more likely to be. But we're talking about 0.000011% of women versus 0.000018% of men here."

Yes. In my "other life" I work in fire and EMS, and in uniform regularly have parents stop us and point us out to their kids - "If you're ever hurt or in trouble, you can ALWAYS go to these people, they're safe.", or the look of absolute trust when someone thrusts their sick child at you, hoping for you to make it better. And that, somewhat unsurprisingly, sometimes include seeing that child in undress.

Take off my uniform.

My partner spent several years in childcare, both at centers and as a nanny. We're out in public and she sees a crying child? She goes to it, talks to it, hugs it perhaps, reassures.

Me? Not a chance. For better or worse, societal conditioning is that that is something I as a male /do/ /not/ /do/. Because it's nefarious that I'd even want to.


Please don't use "pedophiles" as a synonym for "sexual predator". It's not the same, and it's very stigmatizing for people who are attracted to children but decide to not act on their feelings.

Here is a great thread on the parenting Stack Exchange that explains the issue: https://parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/18782/what-sho...


Ah, you're absolutely right, thank you. Please accept my sincere apologies. I've corrected the wording in the original post.


Let’s put ourselves into a position where we can be compassionate. As a woman in the tech industry and because of the utter lack of diversity, it is safe to assume that from the get go, attending conferences like this could be staggeringly intimidating.

Viewing it from this perspective outlines how easily one could be hypersensitive to comments, looks, smiles because you’re already going into it with that perspective. Now add in a childhood that consisted of abuse by a father to a mother and the shame she felt in attending school, we can now begin to understand her reality.

Adria has blockages in her life that are keeping her from living a life free from the burden she is carrying around. The very same blockages that may be contributing to what seems like a lack of empathy on her part. My only hope is that she seek out the right healer.


I'm truly sorry that she lost her job (as well as for her history - no one should have to go through that), but "hypersensitivity" doesn't really jive well with "Cards Against Humanity" and "public penis jokes."


"But I can totally see how she could have been driven to do it, and I can even see how she would feel now — after all she's gone through — that she should not have to apologise for it."

You can understand, yes, but that hatred-- and allow me to say that again-- hatred is not something that we can excuse on the basis of race alone. Adria really hates Hank; hated him so much that when she called down the twitter brigades, she happily tweeted something along the lines of "I feel like Joan Of Arc."

Hank found a new job because, fundamentally, he was innocent. Because he did not intend for anyone to get hurt, and did not join in the bandwagon that later attacked Adria. He even apologized to Adria, who still blames him for everything and showed absolutely no remorse.

Some believe that systems of oppression don't exist and pin everything on the individual, e.g., racists. And then there are people who believe those systems are all that exist and that any action undertaken by a member of that system is the fault of the system, e.g. other kinds of racists.

Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum, there are certain actions that are inexcusable.

The intent and desire to destroy an innocent's life is one of them.


See I don't get hatred at Hank, I mean, I did initially read it like that. But when I took a step back I started to see it as hatred of being excluded in a field you love. Hatred at the obliviousness of Hank — his inability to realise how vulnerable she felt simply attending a conference because she was in the minority.

I think her view of Hank is to disregard him — kind of "Oh he'll be okay, the system's on his side." She doesn't really acknowledge him because it's not about him. We've made it about him because it's so easy for us to empathise with Hank but not with her, which is exactly part of the bias she's upset about.


> Oh he'll be okay, the system's on his side.

I think Ronson strongly suggests that this is in fact the case.

Ronson's a great journalist for acknowledging the complexity of a situation without attempting to offer answers he's unqualified to give, imho.

> “So you’re in your new workplace…” (Hank was offered another job right away) “…and you’re talking to a female developer. In what way do you act differently towards her?”

> “Well,” Hank said. “We don’t have any female developers at the place I’m working at now. So.”

> “You’ve got a new job now, right?” I said to Adria.

> “No,” she said.

Incidentally thank you for all your comments on this article. They're really thoughtful and have helped me understand what is clearly a very big issue much better.


You're right but it's still vague. It wasn't made clear on how or if they went about getting new jobs. How many resumes sent out? How many interviews? We don't know what their experience level is...etc...etc. Those questions miss the point of what you are getting at (gender/minority bias) but there is still a technical angle in getting a job.


Agreed, this article is fantastic and so are interpol_p's comments.


> being excluded in a field

She wasn't being excluded. She wasn't being made fun of. She wasn't being oppressed.

If the joke was, "lol that dongle reminds me of penis!" then the only significance of that joke is that it acknowledges the existence of human sexual organs. That's it. That's all it does by itself.

All that about being offended and excluded and threatened, that is all baggage that she brought with her into that situation. She imagines that the joke was, "lol that dongle reminds me of penis ...and reminds me that we must continue to oppress all women muhahaha!"

That's her imagination. She made that part up. Hank didn't say or imply or even think anything remotely like that. And it doesn't matter if other people share her delusion - any more than it would matter if this was a religious issue and she was claiming someone had committed blasphemy. It doesn't matter that other people share the delusion that god is real.


> She wasn't being excluded. She wasn't being made fun of. She wasn't being oppressed.

Unfortunately that isn't how she felt. Her feelings should matter to us just as Hank's feelings matter.

> the only significance of that joke is that it acknowledges the existence of human sexual organs. That's it.

No one is arguing that the joke is not innocuous, or that the joke is somehow sinister. I've been in Hank's shoes, I've made stupid jokes about sex.

I'm not arguing that Hank deserved any retribution for making that joke. He seems like a really nice guy. It was horrible what happened to him.

I'm arguing that there is a problem because someone doesn't feel safe when an innocuous joke is made. And a lack of diversity is the root of this problem.

Unfortunately when this topic comes up here we all question Adria's motives, we accuse her and call her delusional. We deny her feelings, and in doing so we exclude her and other women. We make the situation worse.

We should be trying to understand how she came to do something so rash and question the culture and environment that brought this horrible situation about.

We should give Adria the benefit of the doubt and assume that she is not a monster, then we will see where the real problem lies.


> We deny her feelings, and in doing so we exclude her and other women.

Now that comment is sexist, because you deny men the right to have the same feelings. It's easy to pick nits, especially in those fields.

I don't think that anybody denies Adria's right to feel offended, at least not really. Feelings are irrational, that's why we don't get to fully explain them logically (quite convenient). Actions, on the other hand, should be rational, and we are often judged by their rationality.

We can only speculate how Adria felt, and it doesn't really matter. Her actions and words are what got her into trouble. When compared to the comments she overheard on the conference, it is not just out of proportion, but completely out of direction as well.

Perhaps the worst part is that this kind of attitude actually _hurts_ tolerance instead of improving it. I'd love to have a productive black Jewish female on my team. I'd hate to have someone obsessing about racism, sexism and hurt feelings, regardless of their race and gender.


Reminded of a quote that resonates with me, in general:

“It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what?"

[I saw hate in a graveyard -- Stephen Fry, The Guardian, 5 June 2005]”


> Unfortunately that isn't how she felt. Her feelings should matter to us just as Hank's feelings matter.

It was unreasonable for her to feel that way and even the author of the article acknowledged that.

She can feel however she wants, but she is responsible for herself, no one else is. It is not Hanks' responsibility to make sure she isn't offended by a simple joke. It may have been inappropriate, but that's not the same thing.

There was no fairness in what she did.


Well, to me her feeling are irrelevant. She could've have been feeling fear, anger or may even enjoyed the joke and tried to share it and it's creator.

All this happened because of what she _did_. And doing is different of feeling. You don't choose your feelings, but you choose your actions.


"Unfortunately that isn't how she felt."

So ... a man's behavior made her feel a certain way, such that she bears no responsibility for her reactions and their consequences?

What is felt or what can be said is dependent on the circumstances of your birth, chromosomes, and DNA?

Take your argument and spin it, and you're allowing that women are responsible for men's actions based on how the women act and behave.

Or you can allow the one and deny the other. That's a hell of a double standard.

My read, from the original airing of this, and from Ron Johnson's interviews here, is that Adria Richards absolutely wasn't suited for her job. She's overtly racist and sexist, ascribing people traits, or passing judgement on what they can or cannot do or say, based simply on race and gender.

She's got something of a history of this, as Amanda Blum has pointed out: https://amandablumwords.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/3/

She took what was, at the very worst, a slightly immature situation, and made it far, far worse. And continues to.

I've seen plenty of behavior from men (or boys) that makes me cringe. I've called it out at times. I've also seen (or received) it from women. And, for that matter, men. Truth is we're sexual creatures, and the boundaries between professional and personal do get crossed. Failure to recognize that (and behave accordingly) is a problem.

I've also had my own issues with behavior of others from time to time. Sometimes I'll comment, but if I'm at at a structured event that doesn't work (and I've met plenty of people of various stripes and persuasions who seem dead-set on finding an argument), I'll find someone who can intermediate -- an arbitrator frequently does blunt the emotions of to principle antagonists.

Could there be reasons for Adria's behavior in her own personal history? I'm not a psych professional, but I've had my own personal experiences (some extremely painful, damaging, and expensive) and done a fair bit of reading (including of psych texts and manuals). Seems valid to me to conclude that it very well might. And that if she does in fact have a history of such behavior, she'd do well to receive some sort of assessment and therapy for it. And I wish that she lived in a society which made such treatment far more accessible. Her behavior certainly has interfered with her professional and personal relationships, from the evidence I've seen.

But people own their own responses and feelings. An irrational or aberrant response is just that: irrational and aberrant. A person with a mortal fear of snakes shouldn't work in a reptile exhibit, a pyromaniac shouldn't work at a firehouse. And a woman who's constitutionally hostile to white men should probably find herself a position where she's not called on to deal with them diplomatically and spread corporate good-will.

Someone whose response to everyday situations gets other people hurt, or fired, or threatened, isn't behaving normally. Adria's response in this regard is no more valid than the road-raging executive, the raving street person who attacks someone for no reason, the child who throws a tantrum, or the jilted lover who goes into a screaming rage encountering an ex on the street.

Was she rightly fired? Absolutely. Ideally she wouldn't have been hired for the position in the first place.

The threats she's received since? Uncalled for.

Her failure to own her own actions and recognize her error? Inexcusable.

Oh, and the answer to men and their behavior around women dressing or acting provocatively? That's something the men own.


> his inability to realise how vulnerable she felt simply attending a conference because she was in the minority

Aren't we granting too much power to minorities? Let me tell you a story that happened to me.

I once went to a Java developers meetup. I'm a Lisper, probably the only one that was attending, so I was a clear minority (that was 3 years ago, back before everyone jumped onto functional programming bandwagon and started replacing 'A's in their company logos with lambdas, etc.). I actually only went there because my friend was giving a talk about Git. That, and they had free pizza. But I digress.

Anyway, there was this guy showing an interesting library for Java, name of which I can't remember now, that was aimed at seriously reducing the amount of cruft and boilerplate one has to write, replacing common patterns with annotations. I thought it was a great idea, and wanted to congratulate him, but suddenly, the entire audience started criticizing. That it's wrong, it's not "the Java way", etc. I voiced my opinion, that it clearly improves readability, for which I heard that I "don't get the Java way of doing things". I think I might also heard someone telling me, "you're a Lisper, this is different, you won't understand".

Now should I be offended at that reaction? Well, I felt bad, but should I cry foul, and vent out on the obvious discrimination of concise languages? Should I Tweet about how misolambdic the people on that conference were? How they hate metaprogramming? Should I get someone fired from their job because they told me I'm a Lisper, and thus don't understand Java? I'm a minority after all. I can't even get a job in the field I love, and have to code PHP to earn my bread.

I don't think anyone would find affirmative answers to above questions reasonable. And yet in some cases, it's apparently fine to overhear a random joke and turn it into a mess that gets two people fired from their jobs, just because you're a part of a minority. Do we want a society that's afraid of minorities? Because in a way, it validates discrimination - when people see that the smaller group has a disproportional ability to cause damage, it makes people hate them, not welcome them.

Moreover, I believe that not being easily offended is the sign of being a mature person. You shouldn't let some passing airwaves upset you to the point of losing control.


Did you just seriously compare being a Lisper to being a minority?

So, if I try to understand your choice of comparisons, do you live with oppression because you're a Lisper?


> So, if I try to understand your choice of comparisons, do you live with oppression because you're a Lisper?

If you call my peers laughing at me for "learning this weird thing" for the past 3 years, then yes, I live with oppression.

But more seriously, the reason I chose a clearly absurd example is to separate the issue from the emotional weight people give to topics about sex. I see this emotional attitude as a reason people get so irrational about the topic.


Aren't we granting too much power to minorities?

Why should we be the ones who have the ability to grant power?


We're granting the power by our reaction. If we're willing to accomodate even most absurd demands on the threat of being attacked by the rest of our group, we implicitly grant a minority the power to do whatever they want with us.


Parent is wrong though. Nobody is granting anybody power.

Hank's employer had the power to shrug off the episode and keep employing him. Instead, they ceded their power to a minority/controversial view.

Adria's employer, on the other hand, was actually being attacked over the situation. Maybe they could have withstood it, maybe they bucked early. Still, it's not like anyone granted 4chan users power - they already had it and decided to use it against SendGrid.


> Hank's employer had the power to shrug off the episode and keep employing him. Instead, they ceded their power to a minority/controversial view.

To cede your power to a minority is exactly to grant that power to them. That's exactly what I'm talking about.

> Adria's employer, on the other hand, was actually being attacked over the situation. Maybe they could have withstood it, maybe they bucked early. Still, it's not like anyone granted 4chan users power - they already had it and decided to use it against SendGrid.

SendGrid didn't grant 4chan the power to DDoS them. But they surely granted the trolls power to get someone from the company fired over a stupid Twitter dispute. The next time they'll be considering whether or not to launch another attack to get someone fired, they will be more eager to go through with it.


The situation is different because there isn't a 2000+ year history of Java developers discriminating against Lisp developers.


If, howewer, there was such a history, would me making fuss over the situation in the story above make my behaviour justified?

The point is, there is always a minority to be found and a member of such can always find a reason to feel offended - but this by itself does not justify being aggressive. I used a clearly absurd example to separate the issues from sexual themes, because those get people emotional and irrational.


I don't think anybody is saying that being in a minority is justification for being aggressive. I think what some people are saying is that being oppressed might be a justification for being aggressive, but I can't say for certain. I'm just an average Asian who appears like an average Caucasian.


Adria's immediate comment on the situation [1], conveniently not mentioned in the article being currently discussed, expressed anything but hatred for Hank.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5399047


Yeah, it's odd her opinion in the interview didn't seem to match that public HN comment, which I remembered too (thanks for finding it).

I'd guess the article author didn't notice/find the HN comment, or he would have asked her about it, I'm curious what she would say (she never meant it, she was just trying to save her own job? She changed her mind? She has complicated feelings?)


To be honest, I'm a little bit skeptical of the honesty of the interviewer. Even if she said the things in this article, it's possible many of those statements were taken out of context. Someone here linked to this blog post [1] from someone apparently close to Richards, where the writer is classified as being manipulative and duplicitous in order to obtain 'the first interview' with Adria Richards.

[1] http://www.shakesville.com/2015/02/the-falsest-of-false-equi...


Hm, you/they think the interviewer intentionally made Richards look as bad as they could, or something? I don't really know.

The article you link to is worth reading -- it's critiquing a different article by Ronson in the NYTimes Magazine, not the OP by the the same author in Esquire. Obviously he used the same research for both though, and the critique might apply to both. The NYTimes one indeed reduced Richards to 'an anecdote', it was not focused just on this case, like the Esquire one was, and the Esquire one is a lot more clear about the consequences Richards faced. I think he did a somewhat better job of depicting the fucked up stuff that happened to Richards in the more recent Esquire one, but perhaps it's still not fair.

Obviously Richards has actually suffered way worse 'retribution' than 'Hank', and it is indeed illustrative.

But I'm struck by Richards comment in the article you link to:

"This has been my M.O. for several years, and it's how most people who run blogs operate: You experience something that generates strong feelings; you wrote a blog post. Pretty straightforward."

Yet she blames 'Hank' for tweeting about his own strong feelings about getting fired.

I have no idea if he was wrong to tell the joke or not; I am absolutely sure she was right to complain to conference if she felt threatened by it. I think the conf hosts did the right thing -- they didn't kick him out, they just told him, hey, cool it.

It's fucked up that he got fired; and it's even more fucked up that Richards got fired, and harassed and threatened by a mob, and had her career ruined way more than 'Hank'. What happened to Richards is definitely instructive, and that women in tech _know_ that there's an internet mob of misogynists waiting to try and ruin their lives... provides some context explaining where she's coming from, for sure. I'll admit I don't think she was or is responding compassionately or entirely rationally... but I understand why.


"and it's even more fucked up that Richards got fired"

I'm not as sure. The article posted a somewhat misleading explanation, that it was capitulation to stop DDoS attacks and other harassment of SendGrid. But it wasn't mentioned that Adria used and name-dropped SendGrid and her "power" there to vocalize the issue, and that wasn't something SendGrid authorized or employed her to do.


Come on, you really think every time an employee mentions their SendGrid employment in a blog post about their personal opinions about something, they get fired?

Yeah, this kind of argument you are making on the internet is indeed an example of how many people were piling on to somehow blame her for... following the conference's policy on such things, basically.

This is a boring debate, but it is, yes, super fucked up how Richards has been treated, and she has been treated much worse than 'Hank', who was also treated poorly and unfairly.


> The article you link to is worth reading -- it's critiquing a different article by Ronson in the NYTimes Magazine, not the OP by the the same author in Esquire. Obviously he used the same research for both though, and the critique might apply to both.

Both articles are adapted from a book he's writing called "So You've Been Publicly Shamed"


I'm not as sure as you. He also didn't probe a few fairly well known queries people had of Adria, like how her hypersensitivity meshed with making regular penis and sexual jokes on her Twitter, and others. He queries his subject, as a good interviewer should, but in the end lets her statements stand on their own and that she has a right to her opinions and thoughts.


I don't agree with framing this as men vs women. And your post does it quite a bit.

> But I've been trying very hard to imagine what it's like to go to PyCon as a minority

No. It is a programming conference. It is not a forced place to be, it is not torture, it a programming conference. Framing this as some kind of a jungle full of dangers, rapists and murders lurking behind their little laptops, wearing geeky t-shirts is a bit crazy.

There are real inappropriate comments, sexual innuendos, harassment, both in the workplace and during conferences but this wasn't it.

By blowing this up she is fighting against her own cause because it diminishes the importance and impact of those things. It brings them down to the level of "oh crazy irrationality, and overreacting" which is the typical excuse for dismissing them. Next time someone is really harassed, the offender can just say "Oh she is pulling an Aria on me" or something to that effect.

> — that she should not have to apologise for it.

Yes she should have. Everyone expected Hank to apologize And he did. Not expecting her to apologies further excusing her lack of empathy is discriminatory and sexist.

> And you have to wonder — did Hank get another job so fast because our field is dominated by men, and they are likely to feel for him and have the same initial reactions as we do when reading this article?

I don't wonder. I am quite sure he got a job because others realized he was a decent person, who said a stupid thing, made a mistake, apologized for it. A person you want working for you. It wasn't because he had a penis or because he was white.

Adria on the other hand showed her character and her character is not one I would want on my team. She is manipulative, lacks empathy, likes controversy, and promotes discrimination and sexism.


> I don't agree with framing this as men vs women.

It's not my intention to frame it this way. Sorry for giving you that impression. My intention is to frame this as an invisible problem to us as men.

My intention is to try to help people reflect on why they are so quick to anger about Adria, but realise they are perhaps not seeing a bigger problem.

I say this as someone who initially had similar angry reactions and then took a step back and tried to place myself in her shoes.

> No. It is a programming conference. It is not a forced place to be, it is not torture, it a programming conference. Framing this as some kind of a jungle full of dangers, rapists and murders lurking behind their little laptops, wearing geeky t-shirts is a bit crazy.

I'm not framing it like that. That may not stop PyCon from feeling like that for women.

Let's say there are women who feel unsafe at PyCon. Shouldn't we be concerned about this? Shouldn't we communicate them and try to figure out how we can include them?

Most of what I see in this thread moves to dismiss such women as delusional, because obviously PyCon is not full of rapists, it doesn't matter what women feel, they should get over it.

> Yes she should have.

I think you are taking my quote out of context. I'm not saying she should or shouldn't apologise. I was trying to explain how I could understand, after all that's happened, why she wouldn't feel the need to.

We have made this all about Hank. Probably because it's easy for us to get in his head. But I don't think she sees Hank as a very important figure in her experience of this situation so far. Hank was an oblivious and unfortunate side effect of the exclusion she felt at the conference.

> It wasn't because he had a penis or because he was white.

Software is a male dominated field right now. It is so easy for men who read this article to be angry at Adria and feel sorry for Hank. Just look at the reactions in this thread. That alone gives him a great chance of regaining employment. I'm sure the original HN thread had some guys saying "get in touch, we'll give you a job!"

> Adria on the other hand showed her character and her character is not one I would want on my team. She is manipulative, lacks empathy, likes controversy, and promotes discrimination and sexism.

You've twisted her into a monster in your own head. I wish I could convince you to step back from your feelings for a while, try not to let anger cloud your judgment. I think she was a pretty reasonable person who did something a bit thoughtless out of emotion. It blew up, the employers made terrible decisions, and everyone blamed her.

My entire point in this thread has been that we should examine what makes our field so threatening to women. It's the death by a thousand paper cuts thing — women face so many tiny challenges that seem innocuous on their own, and we are oblivious to all of them.

And instead of deciding to show understanding when situations like this arise, we show blame and demonise the real people involved.


> I say this as someone who initially had similar angry reactions and then took a step back and tried to place myself in her shoes.

That can only go so far. I rage inside when people don't move over on a long escallator, rage when they cut me off. In my head I call them all kinds of terrible things and so on. But I don't go do anything about, I don't yell at them, don't give them dirty looks, don't do anything visibly. I then forget about. See I got offended, but dealt with it.

As someone cannot just go around taking pictures and publically shaming others because they got offended. One has to have another facility (part of brain) to look objectivly at the situation adn say "I got a offended, but I get a bit irrational about this, I better switch seats, or move over or do whatever calms me down".

What if I had the power to fire the person on the escalator. What if I am their boss? I tweet about and then fire their ass.

Will you defend my feelings of anger and my actions, or will you say "this person is not normal, they are wrong to do what they've done".

> Shouldn't we be concerned about this? Shouldn't we communicate them and try to figure out how we can include them?

Oh I agree. I have a daughter, I would absolutely hate to know that if she wanted to persue the same career these venues would be an unwelcoming place or worksplace harassment is goin to happen and how it will affect her.

But _this_ particular case is not a forum for that discussion. If anything mentioning Adria's case in general and sexism or harrasment undermines and diminishes the cause.

> Most of what I see in this thread moves to dismiss such women as delusional,

In this case nothing promoted that belief more than Adria. That is why I want to distance the discussion about harrasment and sexism away from this case.

> I was trying to explain how I could understand, after all that's happened, why she wouldn't feel the need to.

Ok I see your point. Sorry, I misread that part.

> It is so easy for men who read this article to be angry at Adria and feel sorry for Hank.

Completely disagree. If Hank was Adria and Adria was Hank. This community would be 10x more agressive towards Hank. I am not talking about death threats and other horrible and illegal things 4channers did to Adria. That is absolutely undefensible and criminal. I am talking about a forum like HN or the article we are discussing.

In other words I am convinced this is about injustice. Attaching this to feminism or women's rights in the workplace is what Adria did, but in reality it has very little to do with it, I believe.

> I think she was a pretty reasonable person who did something a bit thoughtless out of emotion. It blew up, the employers made terrible decisions, and everyone blamed her.

Sorry, I got a bit emotional about it. Not because I hate women but because of the part where she wanted Hank to remove his comment about how he lost his job. Let's stop for a while and think about it. That seems like a small hotheaded move, kind of insignificant. But it very significant. It shows something very revealing about her character, which is those things that I wrote -- lack of empathy, manipulation, hyporcrisy. Did you figure out the significance of that request? The significance is that she thought Hank would be using the same tools she was -- presenting himself as a victim. And for her, from the very first moment, it was a about public controversy, about PR, about stirring drama. When she read his response she realized she lost her gamble. This did not look like a bit of thoughless emotion. This was a well thought out operation on her part.

Maybe you can rationalize it or see her side better. But I think I see her side as well.

> My entire point in this thread has been that we should examine what makes our field so threatening to women.

100% agree with that sentiment, but disagree that this particular case should serve as a discussion platform for it.


I'm sorry, Hank got more than he deserved (edit: being fired not the harassement), but not Adria. She posted the tweet WITH the photo. She started this. She (if I remember correctly) was some PR/evangelist in the company. What she did was exactly the opposite.

I could understand if she tweeted about 'two men' making those jokes/whatnot and complain about it, BUT without a picture. With it, I honestly believe she got off easy... If it was me (regarding of it being a joke that was taken out of context or not), posting my picture like that would make me try and do everything to get damages from her, and her employer if she was there in any official capacity.

I believe we should be inclusive of women in tech in all capabilities, and even admit it was an unfortunate joke, which I probably wouldn't make in that scenario, but what she did was actually a set back to the 'women in tech' movement. She was selfish and after the whole mess, still unapologetic. I'm sorry to say, but I'm pretty sure this brought even more doubts to folks wanting to hire women in their companies, let they now get another Adria.


> I'm sorry, Hank got more than he deserved, but not Adria.

From the article:

> Someone sent Adria a photograph of a beheaded woman with tape over her mouth. Adria’s face was superimposed onto the bodies of porn actors. Websites were created to teach people how to make the superimposing look seamless — by matching skin-tones. On Facebook someone wrote, “I hope I can find Adria, kidnap her, put a torture bag over her head, and shoot a .22 subsonic round right into her fucking skull. Fuck that bitch, make her pay, make her obey.

See my previous post about proportionate response; this ain't it. Even if Adria is not making herself a likable person, by shaming Hank in public and failing to accept any blame for the backlash, this is not something that she deserved because of that.


Sorry, I meant in relation to being fired, not the harassment. My apologies for not making that more specific (I've edited the post)


I thought so :-) But young people could see your post and take it at face value, thinking that such harassment is justified.


I wish we could all just leave off those "of course, I'm not condoning the threats" statements and also the "you didn't include such a statement, would you like to add it?".

Not so much because it adds unnecessary words and gets tedious after reading slight variations of it for the umpteenth time.

But because we as a community, no matter how much we quarrel and bicker about everything, wouldn't ever endorse such harassment.

Not a single one of us. And no reader, inside or outside the community, could ever be mistaken and think a single HN commenter would.

But maybe you all are right, and it is needed. I'd just like to think it isn't.


> I wish we could all just leave off those "of course, I'm not condoning the threats" statements and also the "you didn't include such a statement, would you like to add it?".

> But maybe you all are right, and it is needed. I'd just like to think it isn't.

I think it still is—the harassment, after all, did occur. And while it would be nice to think that none of her harassers are active on HN, I really don't believe that's the case.


deserved is maybe not the right word for it, but I certainly feel no empathy for her. She made her decision, she went on her crusade and she got the obvious result. Not the result she wanted, but the obvious result regardless.


I don't see how she got what she deserved. What she did was wrong, but nothing to deserve graphic death and rape threats.


You are right, and I edited the post to specifically point to the firing part only)


Yet she didn't think it was a big deal to make penis jokes herself. She's a hypocrite, plain and simple. And the way she acted in the post-interview appears to indicate she thinks it's OK for her to try to publicly shame people just to make a spectacle. Even when she's guilty of the exact. same. shit.


What Adria did was not OK. She could have addressed Hank and his friend, and talked to them. Tell them she overheard and it was offensive to her. Engage in discourse. Educate them about how their remarks come across.

Instead, she chose to deny them the right of any defense, and publicly shamed them on the Internet, including their picture. And somehow, this is supposed to be OK? Why? Because she's part of certain minorities, as she's so keen to point out (jewish, black)? Because of her gender?

If a "white male" had done anything like this, how do you think the world would have reacted? He would have been labeled as a "hacker", "doxing" an innocent and defenseless minority member and as opening the flood gates for anonymous online assault and abuse.

Obviously, what happened in retaliation by the anonymous legions of idiots on the Internet is terrible and even worse than what happened to Hank, and she certainly didn't deserve anything like this.

I realize this is a publication targeted towards a male audience, and it is clearly coloured to favour Hank's side in this. But if the depiction of Adria in this article is even close to genuine, I have a very hard time feeling bad for her. Some of her quotes are just out of this world, and often based on nothing but conjecture:

- Quote: "Maybe it was [Hank] who started all of this. No one would have known he got fired until he complained. Maybe he’s to blame for complaining that he got fired. Maybe he secretly seeded the hate groups." - Without giving any kind of tentative evidence, she's accusing him of funding hate groups, and downplaying her fault in his bad fortunes.

- She claims she feared for her life after hearing Hank make a silly forking joke. In a crowded audience, she thought he was going to kill her, right there. What the hell is that about?

- Quote: "Hank’s actions resulted in him getting fired, yet he framed it in a way to blame me. If I had two kids, I wouldn’t tell ‘jokes’" - Seriously, if every father who ever told a mate a poor joke with some sexual innuendo were to get fired, we'd all be out of a job. Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.

- She snarkily claims that Hank is devoid of sympathy or empathy towards other human beings, while ironically being incapable herself of empathizing with his plight. She just goes on to repeat that all of this is his fault, including both of them losing their job, and all the threats she has received.

- It also sounds (especially at the end) like she blames him personally for being born into an unfair world, where he was born with more privilege and opportunity than her, but that's bringing us a bit to far off topic.


What is threatening about that joke?


Nothing. Maybe she was offended, I can't speak for her, however there's no such thing as a right not to be offended. Her racist sanctimonious posturing is disgusting. We have real issues of race and gender in the US, but this? This woman is why guys like me tend to simply not care that much about these issues. There are too many people who make it their mission to be offended just so they can get back at the 'man.' As far as Sendgrid, I would bet money that this woman wasn't fired exclusively because of a DDoS ransom. She likely was a pain in the ass because I'm certain working around her in a constant state of eggshell walking.

Anyone have her Github? Is she even any good? I would expect with the size of the chip on her shoulder it would be difficult to work.

I don't know her but her issues seem to be deeply psychological. I would be afraid to work anywhere near her brand of hatred. Ironically, according to the article, she posted a penis joke. The gent in the store merely used a puerile entendre and she flips out? I suggest that she seek professional help.


Do we really need to judge the quality of her code in order to evaluate her point of view? One doesn't have to agree with how she continues to handle things, or take offense at the joke oneself, in order to perceive that another might have different thoughts about it. I think that the whole ordeal is/was overblown, but to come away from this article merely thinking that she's racist and sanctimonious (I'll agree a bit with the latter) is missing an opportunity for critical self-evaluation. Getting riled up at her reaction ("bet money", "pain in the ass") does nothing to deepen mutual understanding in the workplace. Seeking out and lambasting those that make it their mission to get back at the "man" is an "eye for and eye" -- I think we've come a bit further than that in 4000 years.

Also, for one that says "I can't speak for her" and "I don't know her," you seem quite willing to go all out to discredit her as being the stereotypical irrational woman. [1] She herself isn't necessarily present in the discussion. What is the point in eviscerating her as you've done? Playing armchair psychologist does nothing to make workplace interactions better. This whole situation seems like a great place, at the unfortunate expense of Hank and Adria, for the tech industry to meet in the middle between "making dongle jokes is cool, get over it" and "the white-male hegemony needs to be dismantled."

[1] http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HystericalWoman


That's exactly it. We find it so hard to understand how that joke is threatening. It's almost impossible to imagine. It just sounds like a dumb joke.

But look at how Adria describes her feelings in the article:

“Have you ever had an altercation at school and you could feel the hairs rise up on your back?” she asked me.

“You felt fear?” I asked.

“Danger,” she said. “Clearly my body was telling me, ‘You are unsafe.’”

I believe she actually felt like this. And that it is possible for women to feel this way at a conference heavily dominated by men. But we are oblivious to it, we can't even imagine how it feels.


> I believe she actually felt like this. And that it is possible for women to feel this way at a conference heavily dominated by men. But we are oblivious to it, we can't even imagine how it feels.

I can't imagine what it is like to crave for a cigeratte. If our industry were full of nonsmokers, would we then have to go out of our way to accommodate people who want to smoke in their offices?

The joke wasn't directed at her. Her response was directed at him. She still seems to be in denial. Did she have to eavesdrop on a conversation that she wasn't a part of? She doesn't represent women. She represents herself and the high horse she commands.

I'd never hire her for anything related to developer relations. No sensible company should after her demonstrated lack of responsibility.


> I can't imagine what it is like to crave for a cigeratte. If our industry were full of nonsmokers, would we then have to go out of our way to accommodate people who want to smoke in their offices?

In this case, the metaphor would be more accurate the other way around. If the industry were full of smokers, would it make sense for them to accommodate people who don't smoke? We definitely should, and we do, because secondhand smoke is damaging.

The person in the minority is the one that was being hurt. Restraining yourself from telling silly jokes won't hurt anyone; feeling threatened in an unsafe environment does, and this is how it is perceived an industry where women are in the minority. "Grow a thicker skin" is a legitimate reply up to the point where you accept them to tell you: "Right, but tone down your behavior". You can't expect the other party to be the only one to agree with everything you do, if you are not willing to concede something as well in return.

You can and should be able to set up as many private venues where you can behave in as rude ways as you want, as long as all people participating in them have accepted those norms. But at public places, open for all, it's good to know that there are expectations of polite behavior, and people should respect those limits.

> The joke wasn't directed at her. Her response was directed at him.

Quite right. That's why her behavior is not acceptable either, because the expected conduct between adults is to handle personal grievances in private. But the way she handled the situation doesn't make her concerns invalid, and we should not conflate the first with the second.


Thank you for your reply. We agree on so much. However, I'd like to point out that the middle ground is not always the best way. Sometimes, the other side is flat oiut wrong. Reminds me of the wikipedia article about a wwe wrestler where editors found two conflicting numbers for height so someone had the great idea to average them out.

> You can't expect the other party to be the only one to agree with everything you do, if you are not willing to concede something as well in return.

Yes, you can. Are you really saying that I can't tell jokes to my friend for the fear of offending an eavesdropper? Yes, we need to do more to encourage diversity in cs. No, I am not willing to watch my every word for fear of triggering an eavesdropper.

PC has gone too far.


> However, I'd like to point out that the middle ground is not always the best way.

That would ring true if the persons asking for a middle ground weren't expressing severe concerns of distress, and the point you defend was somehow meaningful and essential. When the side you defend is "I want to tell dirty jokes in public" and the other is going "I am reminded of rape threats because we have proof that people in similar settings tend to commit hostile behavior", your side doesn't come up very sympathetic.

> Are you really saying that I can't tell jokes to my friend for the fear of offending an eavesdropper?

In the middle of an ongoing talk at a conference??? No, you can't tell jokes there that can be overheard (why wouldn't you just whisper to his ear?), as you shouldn't do it at the cinema while the movie is going on. That's called basic respect - the other people went there to listen to the speaker and do some networking. Or if you do, the least you should do is have the decency to apologize when someone else tells you off.

> No, I am not willing to watch my every word for fear of triggering an eavesdropper.

You can tell jokes to your friends at the pub, or at the office café, or any place where social rules are relaxed. That's not being PC, it's common courtesy to adapt your behavior to the social setting. If you can't or won't control your behavior at more formal venues and distinguish where it's proper to behave informally and when it's not, people would be right to avoid being around you.

Social rules are there to avoid friction, and allow everyone involved to find a compromise they can live with. You are not entitled to behave as an insensitive asshole, in particular when people is asking you to stop. You can legally do it, but it doesn't mean it's morally right. There are venues where you can tell bad jokes to your friend, please limit yourself to doing it at those places.


> You are not entitled to behave as an insensitive asshole, in particular when people is asking you to stop. You can legally do it, but it doesn't mean it's morally right. There are venues where you can tell bad jokes to your friend, please limit yourself to doing it at those places.

I absolutely agree with this point. I'd just replace the last sentence with please don't put up private conversations of people with photographs and identifying information on Twitter or another public forum for everyone to see.


The usual response to danger is flee or fight. She didn't flee. She didn't confront them. She shamed them publicly instead (which made it considerably more likely that they would take revenge physically instead). What is more likely, that she did this because she felt threatened, or because she felt like she could use her status to get back at the system?

Not to mention the part where she herself tweets dick jokes.


I would consider shaming them to be "fight," in this instance.

I feel really bad for Hank, he totally did not deserve it. I also feel really bad that Adria felt so uncomfortable that she did something so rash.

Both of their actions and reactions seem so natural to me. The upsetting thing is that our lack of diversity makes these situations so unavoidable.


> I would consider shaming them to be "fight," in this instance.

More like shooting someone in the back.

> I also feel really bad that Adria felt so uncomfortable that she did something so rash.

That is where we differ. I do not believe her explanations. Not when she tweets the same kind of joke herself.

> The upsetting thing is that our lack of diversity makes these situations so unavoidable.

This particular situation was avoidable. But yes, diversity is a big issue.

> Both of their actions and reactions seem so natural to me. The upsetting thing is that our lack of diversity makes these situations so unavoidable.

Everybody makes bad call. The difference is in how you handle your bad decisions, and what lessons you draw. Adria does not even begin to recognize that she acted wrongly towards these two guys, and generally gave a bad name to feminists.


> That is where we differ. I do not believe her explanations. Not when she tweets the same kind of joke herself.

I think that brings up a very good point. You can make these jokes when you feel safe.

Hank felt safe at PyCon, it was easy for him to joke right there in earshot of many like-minded people.

Adria felt safe tweeting such a joke from her own computer.

Adria did not feel safe at PyCon. This should be a huge problem for us. We should be questioning this, not Adria's mental capacity.

I don't believe Adria is a sociopath, or delusional, or any of the number of things she has been accused of being in this thread. I believe she is a rational individual, much like Hank, and that she felt intensely uncomfortable at PyCon due to her minority status. I believe she feels how she described — just like I believe Hank feels how he described.

> Adria does not even begin to recognize that she acted wrongly towards these two guys, and generally gave a bad name to feminists.

I don't think Adria is very focused on these guys, and for a lot of people that comes off as hatred or a lack of empathy — especially because we, as guys, empathise in particular with Hank. So her lack of acknowledgement is so easily felt as cruel.


Thanks for so eloquently describing what I've been trying to articulate about these sorts of situations. People can react in ways that appear hypocritical, irrational or plain malicious when they're put in circumstances that make them feel unsafe, uncomfortable or unwelcome. This can happen to any of us.

Those actions shouldn't be praised, but they also shouldn't be judged outside of their context. It's really hard for people like us in a position of relative privilege* to empathise because we're put in these situations so much less often, if ever.

It's so important for us to recognise our internal biases and confront them. Until I read these comments I didn't realise just how much better I'd empathised with Hank just because he's way more similar to me than Adria is.

* I hate to use the p-word because of its stigma but I really can't think of a better word


> Those actions shouldn't be praised, but they also shouldn't be judged outside of their context.

Imagine that you live in a bad part of town, and that you have been assaulted before. Somebody takes out a pocket knife and starts carving a figure on a tree. You lash out and kick them in the crotch. Congratulation, you completely overreacted. I expect that most people would apologize and feel kind of bad for having taken out their frustration/fear/whatever on somebody harmless. Especially when they had a long time to think about what they did.


> Adria did not feel safe at PyCon. This should be a huge problem for us.

I don't know what to think of her explanations, which may or may not be sincere, and may or may not have been made up after the fact. Lack of non-white males in the tech industry is definitely a larger issue than this individual case.

> I don't think Adria is very focused on these guys, and for a lot of people that comes off as hatred or a lack of empathy — especially because we, as guys, empathise in particular with Hank. So her lack of acknowledgement is so easily felt as cruel.

I wouldn't go as far as hatred, but lack of empathy, certainly. Judging from her "I wouldn't make jokes if I had kids" comment, she clearly believes he had it coming.


> Judging from her "I wouldn't make jokes if I had kids" comment

That comment really hit me too when I first read it. Because I have kids and I would make jokes like that. I thought it was insensitive.

But then I tried to see things from her point of view and maybe I wouldn't feel so bad about Hank. He got a new job quickly, he didn't get death threats.

And maybe she doesn't have kids, so she's just spouting off some opinion about how you should behave as a parent without really knowing. But so what? Why should we be so angry about this and vilify her?

I think much of the anger directed at Adria in this thread is irrational — our feelings are telling us to make this a big deal when it isn't, the problem is elsewhere.


> Everybody makes bad call. The difference is in how you handle your bad decisions, and what lessons you draw. Adria does not even begin to recognize that she acted wrongly towards these two guys, and generally gave a bad name to feminists.

Has she ever claimed to be a feminist?


She claimed at the time that she tweeted to defend women in tech (which is a perfectly fine cause to defend).


That might make her a feminist by definition, but it's far away from some of the more visible factions of feminism. I wouldn't assume she identifies as a feminist just because she agrees with some of the core tenets.


What I understand by "feminist" is somebody who is for equality between men and women.


> Not to mention the part where she herself tweets dick jokes.

Only Jews can tell Jew jokes. Only black people can tell n* jokes. Only a woman can tell dick jokes without shame?


Your comments have led me to see this situation in a new light. It doesn't make a lot of sense for someone to feel threatened by a dongle joke. Those happen every five minutes at tech conferences. It makes more sense if she was suddenly lashing out at perceived sexism in the entire tech community, with the picture of the little girl on the screen combined with vaguely sexual humor acting as a trigger.

But. If she was so tightly wound that a dongle joke caused a sense of danger so profound that the hair on the back of her neck stood on end, then she's probably dealing with personal psychological issues. We shouldn't confuse the mental state of one person with the situation of all women in technology. I don't think anyone is happy with the current levels of gender imbalance and sexism, but that seems like it might be a separate issue.

There's a such a thing as too much empathy. If someone is exhibiting abnormal behavior then the best thing to do is to focus on getting them the help they need, and then question what factors in society might be contributing to their mental state. The majority of women can sit in a room full of men and overhear a dumb joke without feeling the need to publicly shame people. I definitely understand where you're coming from, but this seems to be an issue about this particular woman and her psychological state. I do feel some empathy for her in that respect, but she's still responsible for her actions.


> “Danger,” she said. “Clearly my body was telling me, ‘You are unsafe.’”

I believe she genuinely felt the way she describes, but I don't think she felt it because of her gender.

I would take a guess that this kind of feeling isn't present for the vast majority of women -- indeed, there was no danger.

I find it more likely that the feeling had something to do with the trauma associated with her father knocking out her mother's teeth with a hammer when she was a kid, as detailed in the last part of the article.

An innocuous joke that triggered a disproportionate emotional response, seeded by past trauma.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_trauma#Symptoms


> I would take a guess that this kind of feeling isn't present for the vast majority of women -- indeed, there was no danger.

I can attest to this. My friends in computer science - both male and female - make bad sex jokes all the time. We all laugh at them.

I don't think it's fair to assume that only men can enjoy dumb jokes.


> An innocuous joke that triggered a disproportionate emotional response, seeded by past trauma.

This psychological point is the key issue which seems to have unfortunately been missed in a lot of the HN discussion.


Of course it's possible for women to feel this way. It's possible for men to feel this way as well. That doesn't make it reasonable, or something an emotionally mature person would feel and act upon.


Bingo! Her feeling of 'danger' was irrational unless there have been a wave of sexual assaults at developer conferences that I'm unaware of. She has no control over being offended or not, but she does have the ability to control her reactions to such offense. If it really bothered her why not just tell the guys, hey can you please not use that sort of humor around me?


It's frustrating to hear a bunch of white men who normally stick around groups of other white men talk about how someone who is very different - black, female, Jewish - is silly for feeling threat in situations where white men don't feel threat.

When people of your racial/religious group are murdered and attacked and harassed (and anti-Semitism is still a thing) her perception of threat is no doubt heightened.

It's unreasonable to expect her to confront people making dumb jokes if she feels threatened by them.

(However, her actions are not acceptable. She could have sought out conference organisers and told them.)


It's also bizarre.

The interesting thing that happened: A bilious internet mob.

The thing being discussed: The legitimacy of an individual's mental state. Not even the reasonableness of their reaction to the mental state, the mental state itself.

I can certainly empathize with feeling fear that I am perfectly aware is irrational, looking at pictures of people up high makes me queasy and I stop looking before I break into a cold sweat. Pictures!


> But we are oblivious to it, we can't even imagine how it feels.

Nobody can imagine how would a random nerd from a 800-people conference would feel over a joke. Shall we ban joking? Fine people that use "dirty" words? "Your tone of voice makes me feel deeply offended, thus I have all the right to sue you" ? Where does this road end?

What makes me feel extremely annoyed is the whole political correctitude and feeling-catering that slowly turns normal human communication into bland, tasteless pulp.


No, we shouldn't ban any of that.

Why would that be your take-away from this?

The problem is the lack of diversity in our field leads to these horrible, unfortunate situations where people feel threatened and jokes which are not intended to be harmful are felt to be much worse.

It means that we shouldn't be dismissing Adria and feeling for Hank because that's what always happens and what will keep causing these situations to happen in the future.

If we want to feel safe about making bad sex jokes then we need diversity in our field. We need everyone to feel safe just being there before we can all act like we're safe and comfortable enough to be ourselves.


> No, we shouldn't ban any of that. > Why would that be your take-away from this?

People have very different sense of humour. As long as people are expressing that sense of humour via jokes, there will be jokes that are not seen as funny by the others that (over)hear them. I think it's safe to say that there will always be sex-related jokes as well. Thus, unless we stop joking completely, I don't see a way how we could completely avoid bad sex-jokes in private conversations. And if there are such jokes, there's always the risk of the wrong person hearing them and feeling offended just because the joke is a) bad and b) about sex.

I fully agree that we are lacking diversity, and there are things that we could do better to make the tech field more open. Self-censoring our private talks is NOT one of those things.


You're right that I can never directly relate to being a female. All I can do is think about things logically.

If she truly had this kind of response to an innocuous joke, I think that says more about her own insecurities than about the behavior of Hank. Feeling danger in response to a bad joke in a crowded room is not a reasonable response to have. It's grossly over-proportionate.

How far should we go to cater toward the irrationalities of others?


This reminds me of when I go out running at night. I avoid running near men (particularly groups of men) because of a fear that I'll come to harm: specifically rape. It's irrational, and unreasonable, but it's the reaction I have nonetheless. (This is common, FYI, many women feel like this.)

I don't expect other people to cater towards my fear, but acknowledging that it's real and that it happens is important. Ridiculing it won't make it go away.


> I avoid running near men (particularly groups of men) because of a fear that I'll come to harm

It's not irrational. I'm a man and I avoid groups of people at night, too. It's an absolutely reasonable precaution. I avoid other men because I don't want to put my life in danger unnecessarily, and I avoid women mostly because I don't want them to be alarmed by my presence.

These are what I would call rational fears, because they're about minimizing risk. It's also very clear that, say, if I required sudden medical assistance, I would probably trust any stranger I come across in the city at night to do the right thing 99.9% of the time. These are the mechanics of false negatives vs. false positives.

> I don't expect other people to cater towards my fear

Exactly. This is an important point because being afraid of something another person might do doesn't necessarily mean it's an accurate reflection of that person's intent.

And this is the fundamental breaking point where I think reasonable people start to feel a disconnect in the flow of the dongle story, because Richards is asserting both now and then that her life was in danger, and while it's easy to at least consider this feeling was real, the main question becomes did those guys do anything to cause that fear?

Because if they did not, it's unreasonable to blame them for causing this fear. I don't think a lot of people would say this fear itself is unjustified, but using it to attack someone who apparently did nothing to cause it is, and this whole disaster is a missed opportunity to talk about the factors that cause it.

This is not to detract from the stupidity of genital jokes in general, which amazingly both parties appear to be fond of.


As a white nerdy male, there is an analog that I feel similar to your running scenario. I grew up in the suburbs, more of a sheltered upbringing due to the makeup of the neighborhood. For many years, when I'd be walking downtown, if I saw a group of people that looked like they were from a typical rap video (not specifically any race, but more the group's clothing and body language, although race does play a part of it), I'd turn down another corner. This is mostly due to what got fed to me by TV and other sources, and the knowledge that a nerdy white guy is probably the most hated vulnerable person in that area at that time. Now I know that this is totally irrational, and it wasn't until I forced myself to not turn a different corner each time, that I started to get over it.

Now on another level, I'm a very bashful person, so I have a hard time looking at people in the eyes when I talk to them. Therefore my eyes are pointed at a 30 - 60 degree angle downward towards the floor. And guess what is in that line of site if I happen to be talking to a woman at work? So I learned to just stare straight ahead, or start messing with my phone, whenever a female coworker passes me in the hall. Just to avoid giving the impression that I'm looking her up and down, due to my natural instinct to avoid eye contact by shifting my gaze downward towards the floor after seeing someone make eye contact with me (which, as mentioned, can be taken the wrong way, and land me in HR).


> Ridiculing it won't make it go away.

Certainly not. It's a very complicated issue that starts with the common popular stereotype that all men are sexual predators. We live in one of the safest times in human history, yet the news has us all believing we are in constant, imminent danger.

But you are in fact thousands of times more likely to be hit by a car while jogging than raped. Yet almost nobody feels immense fear when a car drives by them.

I have OCD, so I deal with irrational thoughts all the time. I can truly empathize with how difficult they are to dismiss, even when you understand just how irrational they are.

The ridicule here is because Adria acted on her irrationalities and ended up costing a guy his job over them.


But do you have that fear running around in a public area with 800+ random people?

The fear itself is reasonable, perhaps not fair, but reasonable. But if the fear is so strong for you that you can't even feel safe in the above description it's an issue with you and not them.


No, but I've been one of just a small handful of women at a dev conference and it can be incredibly intimidating.

On the plus side, the queues for the loos are always short. ;)


Sure, but intimidated isn't fearful of one's life. We all get intimidated in social situations regardless of gender. I'm sure it's worse at dev conferences for women with respect to intimidation, but I don't think it's outside the norm for it to happen to people.


I avoid running near men

Here's a true story for your consideration, a little while ago, walking home through the park which is unlit, after working late, I came across a female jogger lying unconscious on the ground. I did some basic first aid, called an ambulance, and waited with her until help arrived.

If she'd seen me in the distance and veered off the track because MEN she would have collapsed in the bushes and died of hypothermia probably that night. Have faith in people and they will be there for you when you need them.


That sounds like something that goes deeper than the subject at hand.


We shouldn't chalk up her feelings to "her own insecurities" and we should assign them up to a serious lack of diversity in our field, which can make people feel excluded and unsafe.

If we can't acknowledge this woman's feelings seriously then we can't include her. That's not good enough.

I've seen Adria called "delusional", and "in need of therapy" in this thread. It makes me sad to think how quickly and easily we dismiss her.

The joke was innocuous, and I agree that her response was over-proportionate. I agree with you. The difference is I don't blame her for those actions because I think I can see how she felt in that situation. Same way I don't blame Hank for making a stupid joke because I've been there too.


@interpol_p: As a thought experiment, what if the joke had been, "Where does the king keep his armies? Up his sleevies!" ie. entirely innocuous and commonly told in third grade classrooms. If all parties had behaved identically and this same controversy had blown up as a result of that joke, would you still be taking the same position that you do in your comment here?

I'm asking if you acknowledge the existence of some norm in our society for the reasonableness of being offended. Is there a point beyond which we as a society say, "No reasonable person would ever be offended by that, so we're sorry you're experiencing negative emotions and rising hair on your neck, and we're sorry you feel like murder is imminent, but this is not actually a problem and there is a negligible probability of you being killed based on a joke about the king's sleeves."

Note that a consequence of denying such a norm is that we must frequently reorganize our society to please myriad extremists of many stripes, many of whom have mutually exclusive demands.

Conversely, if you admit the existence of such a norm, is this controversy just a discussion about how to construct an algorithm for calibrating it? I'm genuinely asking these things, not being snarky.


> But we are oblivious to it, we can't even imagine how it feels.

Open AND closed spaces should be forbidden due to agora- and claustrophobia. The problem is with surrounding, not the sufferers, right?


Rubbish. If someone feels some way about something I say when I never intended any harm to them by it then its entirely their problem. Her comparison with the schoolyard bully is moot, because there presumably would have been intent towards her in that case.


While I don't agree with Adria's actions, this is simply nonsensical. The most prejudiced person I know honestly feels as though she is intending no harm when she says that miscegenation should be illegal. It's still her problem that she's a galloping racist and hurting other people.


She could say that all humans should be forcibly rendered sterile before puberty and it still wouldn't be hurting anybody. It's a terrible idea, of course, and I don't much care for it.


That's not true. Creating a hostile environment and perpetuating attitudes that lead to prejudiced action is hurting people. The words you say tug towards the culture you want, and when that culture's thing is hurting the weak, you're responsible for it.


why should we be expected to accommodate aberrant, pathological behavior? Adria's feelings may have been authentic but they are so far away from reasonable or appropriate that I think we're actively harming our community by humoring her. At some point we have to just accept that Adria has some really profound issues that make her incapable of interacting normally with white men.


>I believe she actually felt like this

Then think of how terrified she must have felt when she was laughing and joking with a beer and surrounded by men playing Cards Against Humanity, with all those sexual and racial jokes. Poor "black, jewish" girl! Maybe we should expose the names of all those men in the photo and get them fired too ? I mean, She felt fear!!!


I think the danger has to be substantiated in order for a larger crowd to care. Was Adria in actual danger? Did she actually feel fearful? If a person felt in danger, would she take a picture of the two men she felt endangered by, and then tweet it to publicly shame them? As a person who has gathered a substantial amount of Twitter followers, what did she think was going to happen to the two men? What was her ideal world outcome? That the two men would become embarrassed and apologize as examples to future men, and then their employers would allow them to keep their jobs?


Sometimes I can't believe what I am reading here on hacker news.


If Adria feels unsafe at a day-time conference attended by professionals, in her own country, she should seek professional help.


If your mental/emotional state is at odds with the reality of your circumstances, therapy is in order, not scolding the hapless bystanders you blame for your delusions.


Are you suggesting she is delusional because she felt something that you cannot imagine feeling?

When a woman in our field says "I felt this way" we say "No no, she's delusional, therapy is in order." Instead of asking why and trying to understand what led to these feelings. This sort of behaviour doesn't help us become more inclusive.


> Are you suggesting she is delusional because she felt something that you cannot imagine feeling?

If she felt in physical danger when in reality she very much wasn't, then yes, that's delusional, almost by definition.


She is delusional, because most women do not feel _unsafe_ being at a conference. Even where most attendees are men. Fearing for your physical safety, when the joke the guy made was not addressed at her, was not about females, is delusional.


> But I've been trying very hard to imagine what it's like to go to PyCon as a minority, and to have someone sitting in earshot comfortably make jokes that make me feel threatened all while watching a talk on inclusiveness.

There are tons of cases where people have been made to feel uncomfortable by their peers in the software industry because of their race and/or sex. Racism and sexism are definitely problems in the software industry.

But this specific case is just ridiculous. Look at the actual jokes involved. "That hardware has a really big dongle"? "I would fork that guy's repo"? The butts of these jokes were a fictional piece of hardware and a (probably white) male, respectively. There's nothing in those jokes that could logically lead a woman to believe that the jokers would cause her harm. Just because a joke is sexual doesn't mean it's sexist. This wasn't even an overreaction: it was a reaction to something that wasn't sexist.

Internet feminism is a particularly poor representation of modern feminist thought. Most modern feminists say that women are just as sexual as men, and that women don't express their sexuality because of social pressure--an assertion which is gaining some scientific evidence. Ironically, Adria is enforcing a stereotype that anything sexual is anti-female. From that perspective, Adria's actions are the sexist ones, not Hank's.

I agree that both Adria and Hank got worse than they deserved in this situation. Certainly losing their jobs is too much, and nobody should ever have to experience death threats. But I find it a lot harder to be sympathetic to Adria in this case. If I were her employer I'd definitely be having doubts. If my engineers are making sexist comments I will fire them, but someone who accuses people of making sexist comments when they aren't making sexist comments is a liability.

Of course, there may be more to this story we don't know. Maybe Hank made some other jokes that were actually sexist.


> I don't agree with Adria's public tweet

Turning around and asking them to stop would have been enough. If they didn't (by shrugging her off, or laughing at her request, or whatever) that would have been grounds to publicly shame them.

It doesn't matter who got off easier or worse. There could be a million reasons why Adria didn't get another job: the male-dominated industry is one. Here's a personal challenge, which of these would you hire:

* A female registered sex offender.

* A male who avoids tackling problems head-on and instead appeals to authority in order to get those problems removed.

I don't see a gender issue here, I do however see excuse and justification issues. Things still work out the same way in the end if you switch the genders around.


"registered sex offender" is pretty meaningless without context - in some states getting caught peeing in a bush after a night of drinking in college can result in that label.


I was going for the "worst" kind. Not everyone might agree with me, but I honestly don't see a severe offender as an impediment to being able to get a project done and would happily hire one.


As for getting a new job. Adria was in a public relations role. Any future employer would have to be comfortable with the way she handled herself. Especially since she is not apologetic for it. Hank made a crude joke that was overheard, pretty much the extent of his wrongdoings.


You can't on the one hand argue that offending people in a public environment is wrong by yourself making a very public complaint to the whole world...


and to have someone sitting in earshot comfortably make jokes that make me feel threatened

I can understand angry, but not threatened. None of the comments I heard come close to a threat and everyone involved admits they weren't directed at her.


There are differences between Hank in Adria.

* Hank did a private joke while Adria took the issue to the public (tweeted to her 10,000 followers) * Hank was a developer while Adria was a developer evangelist, so she officially represents the company publicly. It's important to note that a lof of her Twitter followers probably followed her because of her position at Sendgrid.

Which is why I can understand Sendgrid's decision, but less Hank's employer's decision. Not based on the blackmail, but because it became hard for such a dividing personality to assume a position that involves public communication with a developer community that may or may not agree with everything you think.


As a developer evangelist you would think she could have handled it better.


Great point. She was speaking in her capacity as a SendGrid spokesperson. Putting that on a private Twitter account totally unaffiliated with SendGrid might not have had the same outcome.


I don't think that would have helped as I'm pretty sure she tweeted something to the effect of "SendGrid's got my back" shortly before getting fired.


Ah, thanks for the clarification. Still, the article made it sound like the public firing was a direct response to the DDoS blackmail (corporate expediency) rather than about her actions. Of course, it is possible that it's like you said, and was in the works already.


I would assume it was both. Assuming they were already thinking about the problem, that forced a decision. Either way, when the whole thing came to their attention, they had to have realized that her action, as noted "speaking in her capacity as a SendGrid spokesperson" had made her utterly toxic to the vast majority of developers who are not "black Jewish females". If she displayed any of the attitudes WRT responsibility evident from the Guardian article if and when they talked to her, the decision would not have even been very difficult.


> And, "if I had kids, I wouldn't tell jokes"? Seriously?

This. Young netizens need to learn the meaning of "proportionate response". There were two adequate courses of action given the offence:

- Confront the guys, and shame them face to face for their behavior.

- If the goal was to change such misogynistic behavior of men at that kind of events (which is a reasonable and even courageous thing to do), the proper action should have been to describe the incident withholding the identities of the guys, precisely to not get them in such trouble. “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, as they say.

Doing the later would have achieved the desired goal while avoiding the whole nightmare to all involved. But linking their names to the notice of wrong behavior was an irresponsible thing to do; in particular, performing such public shaming on the internet, which never forgets and where things can go viral and turn against the one doing the shaming, as it happened.

Edit: Not to mention the disproportionate reaction of the employer, and of everyone that started bombing a company over this. Seriously guys, what's wrong with people when they're online?


But what was the misogynistic behaviour? I didn't see women enter into it at all, the article said that the joke was about a guy.


It doesn't mater to my argument whether you think the comment was misogynistic or not; that's a red herring and figuring it out is not the most important thing regarding the incident. What matter is that Adria thought making sexual jokes in a conference was disparaging towards her, so she had every right to express her discomfort in public; what she had no right was to link her shaming discourse to the actual person who made her uncomfortable, without even letting him know about it. Personal affairs need to be kept private and discussed face to face before shouting them from the rooftops; that's simply the adult way to behave.

Many women in the tech industry have stated a legitimate concern that, being in a minority, they feel very disturbing a "bro culture" in professional settings where sexual innuendo is unabashed, even when those are not directed at women - if not for other things, because that culture encourages some black sheeps to perform regrettable actions which are misogynistic, like unwanted sexual advances while discussing a business deal.

After being made aware of such frequent and repeated complaints, the responsible way to behave in such contexts, when there are women present, is to restrain yourself and avoid such comments even if you don't agree that they are misogynistic, unless you're 100% sure that all the women present are OK with them.


Ah, you're right.


> If the goal was to change such misogynistic behavior of men

Making a sexual innuendo about dicks or whatever isn't misogyny. Please, tell me how talking about dicks is an exhibit of contempt for women. The "joke" doesn't even have to do with women.


> "Not too bad, he's a white male. I'm a black Jewish female."

This makes her racist and sexist at the same time.


Technically she is not, according to [1]

/s

[1] https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/6039856858


Oh. So she's actually racist. Great.


Power imbalances and systemic issues are helpful for discussing society-level problems. It's useful to understand the broader society a jerk grew up in and see how certain societal norms might be involved.

I'd still be a jerk if I insulted a straight guy for being straight, and I wouldn't use "it's not bigoted because of a power imbalance" as a shield when someone calls me out on it. The power imbalance doesn't excuse it, and no amount of mincing words will make my words/actions look better even if I might be right if we keep it to a society-level discussion without considering individuals.


Plus, she digs self-awareness.


The many people who called for Hank to be fired and sent intimidation and threats and participated in the DDOS are all worse than both Hank and Adria.

Hank's joke was perhaps inappropriate (it's impossible for those of us that were not there to even apply our own personal standards, volume, tone, etc. all factor into such things, and they are impossible to describe objectively).

Adria's response is similarly hard to judge. I don't think the incident as she described it deserved much remediation. Certainly not beyond the resolution internal to the conference where he apologized. But I also think that there needs to be room to make mistakes. Sometimes people really are jerks, and they should be called on it, even if sometimes there is not wide agreement that they were jerks.

But somehow, instead of focusing on the bile and rage that many internet participants see as part an parcel of participation, which are clearly inappropriate and not in any way useful, here we have dozens of comments picking at the details of what happened at the conference.


The one thing 4chan trolls would love more than being left alone to their trolling is to not be.


Because we can somewhat reasonably change what happens at conferences, while you can't change the internet mob being the internet mob.


HN is extremely supportive of the mob justice meted out on uppity black women, and there are numerous supportive comments in this story thread to that effect. Most HN readers don't even see a problem there, much less one that needs any attention or remedy.

Sure, any rational examination of the situation would suggest that Adria's "offense" (saying something she didn't like was "not cool" on her personal Twitter account) was just about the most minor thing a human could possibly do, but the more important thing to HN is that she was a black woman challenging a white man, and that simply cannot be allowed to stand.

> The many people who called for Hank to be fired

Did anyone, at all, call for "Hank" to be fired? His name isn't even publicly known.


> but the more important thing to HN is that she was a black woman challenging a white man, and that simply cannot be allowed to stand.

Oh get off the racism/sexism card already.

If Hank were the black woman and Adria were the white male, then I swear on my honor I would feel exactly the same way toward both parties here.


Well... I do agree it's not the most empathic response, but if you read the article again is that the weirdest lack of appropriate emotion you see?

I must say I'm more concerned about the combination of her father beating her mother to pieces with a hammer, and her writing an upbeat and loving letter to him some 20 years later... To me that's the heartbreaking story here.

UPDATE: Edited to clarify that I think there's room to empathize with Adria.


"Not too bad, he's a white male. I'm a black Jewish female."

Nice quote here. As you say, it really does make Richards look empathetic. /s

But seriously, this is not good for her image.


No, she doesn't look empathetic, but, considering the broader context, how much empathy can you reasonably expect?

He lost his job and got a new one "right away" (according to the article). She also lost her job, was bombarded with all kinds of threats (death, rape, etc.), had to go into hiding and still doesn't have a new job (at least as of her interview for the piece).

I'm sure she could improve her image if she were better at faking some empathy, but I understand why she wouldn't feel much.


He lost a job for sharing a private joke with a friend in a public setting. Who hasn't done that? He then apologized and wished the one who made his joke public well. His line of work is, at the core, developing software.

She lost her job for tattling on a private joke shared with a friend that she overheard. She then tried to get the claim that she cost someone a job taken down, blamed the victim for his own problems, and blamed the victim for her problems. She is also quoted being quite racist and sexist. She may also have used her PR position to cause much of this (I've heard but have not seen conclusion evidence that the account she used was officially associated with her company.) Her line of work is, at the core, PR.

That one was hired and the other wasn't should not be a surprise.


> No, she doesn't look empathetic, but, considering the broader context, how much empathy can you reasonably expect?

Lots. The "broader context" is that people who aren't Hank harassed her. As a result, she suggests that Hank organized that harassment.

i.e. she isn't sympathetic to Hank because of a ridiculous excuse she invented.

I understand you want to have sympathy for a victim. Fine. Sympathize with Adria for the abuse she got. But also point out that her lack of empathy for Hank is itself a red flag.


But why not expect empathy? Hank has empathy for Adria, saying she didn't deserve what she got. It doesn't look like Hank was the one who instigated all the death threats and abuse, so why not feel empathy towards him for losing his job?


That, and her own childhood. We tend to relativize bad things in terms of what we've experienced ourselves. If I had seen my father beat the teeth out of my mothers mouth with a hammer I'm not so sure I'd be up in arms about somebody losing their job...


So you're saying that you'd be irreparably damaged for life? Overcoming those past experiences means understanding that they were aberrations.


That depends. If you think that somebody who feels limited empathy with someone who lost their job (and quickly got another one) is "irreparably damaged for life", then perhaps yes.

But you could think of it in the opposite way as well: Perhaps our empathy should be directed more towards those that have it toughest in life, and less towards those with whom we can easily identify? In that case I'd say it's the 4chan guys that are "irreparably damaged", and the HN crowd obsessed with Hank's restitution... well, "damaged" but perhaps not "irreparably". ;)


She has a job, and still very active in the tech community.


I would hope that she would use the time for some introspection, and correct her racist attitude. Then she might find it easier to get a job.


> why you should never use your real name with your online identity in any wa

While I agree with most of your post I don't agree with this statement. In my opinion hiding behind a username not tied to your real identity is nothing more than a stopgap, eventually someone will link "byuu" with who you really are or more likely you will make a slip up and expose yourself. DPR did everything he could to conceal his identity while running SR and he still screwed up. Even if you don't make a mistake I believe that we aren't too far off from computers being able to analyse written comments/posts/tweets/etc and then link identities together based on writing style, posting time, and other metadata. It is because of this and the following two reasons that I nearly always post under "joshstrange".

1) I stand by what I have said and when I find out I'm wrong I like to publicly admit that. I'm not going to pretend I'm perfect, none of us are.

2) By posting under my real name I am less likely to say something that I will have to backtrack on, it would be a lot easier to spew off the cuff responses (which I'm still not perfect from doing) thinking that I was hiding behind some username that would never be linked to me.

Pretty much I think that one day all my other identities will be easily linked back to me so why try and hide?


For those of us who are older, the internet was a way to express ourselves without having to deal with the backlash of having views that weren't popular in your local community.

being liberal in a conservative community, for example.


This is a very good point, as a 24 year old I will be the first to admit that my ideas may be wrong or misguided (It is what I believe at this point in time but beliefs need to be flexible to adjust to change and I believe mine are). I do see the internet as a way to talk as humans where we are judged by/on our thoughts/ideas and not things like race, political views, religious views, sexual orientation, etc which I understand conflicts with my previous statements. I'll never forgot some of the forums I was on as a kid where I was able to be myself and not be brushed off for being so young, I loved that feeling. Sadly I worry that I won't be able to find that again.

There is a great deal of self-censorship that I do because I expect every comment I make to come back later be it positive or negative. It's less of "Oh I won't post that comment" and more of "I won't go near that forum/board/community in case I were to get doxxed". It's just that trying to be anonymous is so hard and even people that think they are doing a good job slip up all the time and get doxxed. If people trying their best fail what hope do I have?


> DPR did everything he could to conceal his identity while running SR and he still screwed up.

DPR screwed up by running the largest drug trafficking system in the world. I make software to play old video games. While I'd love to flatter myself into thinking I were that important, I doubt I'm going to get the force of the entire US government trying to link my identity over my perfectly legal online actions.

But yes, anyone can eventually screw up. The nice part is that my real name is also really common. I can just make a new pseudonym if I have to. Changing your real name, still doable, but not quite as easy.


> DPR screwed up by running the largest drug trafficking system in the world.

Agreed and I understand that it was the government that linked his identities I think that while they may currently be the only one's able to do that today I don't trust that they anyone won't be able to do that in a few years time. Look at how old/bad/cracked encryption can be decrypted in hours on even your parent's desktop computer and how things thought secure just years ago can be cracked with supercomputers or cloud computing today.


Her lack of empathy is absolutely staggering. And, "if I had kids, I wouldn't tell jokes"? Seriously?

Did you read to the end, about her childhood?

She quite obviously has mental issues.

The guy simply shouldn't have gotten fired over a such a childish remark. His former employer is the one who made the real mistake here and who should be at the center of any public shaming.


> If there's anyone worse than Adria in this story, it's both Hank's and Adria's former employers.

Worse? One (presumably) could've had a ruined business due to DDoS which could've led to much more layoffs than just one-I'm-very-sorry-for Adria. Hanks' employer could've had much more troubles than simply loosing money - by having a "black-jewish-feminist-hater" in his staff.


There's this concept of Dane Geld, popularly known also as "not negotiating with terrorists". If you show that you're willing to bow down to a random DDoS attack and fire someone as ransom, it only validates this method of action against you.


That's what terrorists do - they are trying to make an impression that their possible actions are much for dredful that what they'r asking from you. But it doesn't make you particularly bad if you feel scared, does it? And act out of fear? Like giving up something yours - one of your employees or, say, one of your freedoms?


I think you might have that concept backwards. Danegeld was payment to "terrorists" presumably arrived at through the pragmatic notion that paying for protection was better than being dead.


When people say "dane geld", they often refer to the poem of R. Kipling, "Dane-geld", which explains why you should not pay it. That's what I was referring to.

http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_danegeld.htm


Adria specifically pointed out that she doesn't identify with the feminist movement, so I'd say it's a bit of a stretch to posture he may be a "black-jewish-feminist hater"


Yea, you're right. But this whole story is a lot about "exagerration" leading to brutal consequences. You remember - Adria overheard just one single innocent word(the joke itself wasn't innocent but pretty cool for techies). And (suddenly!) imagined herself a rapists target. And she was saved from their violent desires only by asking help from conference officials! Then everyone finds out that Hank is a brutal sexist, apparently! And you're saying "a bit of a stretch"! Here's a stretch - I believe he should've been thankful that was just fired and not electrocuted as sexism treatment that I'm sure was planned as the next logical move!


why you should never use your real name with your online identity in any way

I believe exactly the opposite. People say horrible things hiding behind anonymity. Those of us who freely identify ourselves actually attempt (albeit sometimes feebly) to talk to others as if we were in person. If we just treated each other on-line like we did in person, most of this shit would never happen.

- Proud self-identified member of Hacker News for 8 years. (see profile)

EDIT 1: I love engaging others on-line when I know who they are (the way HN was for a long time) much more than anonymous strangers. I would be phony if I felt this way and remained anonymous

EDIT 2: Why would anyone want to work for someone who would fire them for gossip, on-line or otherwise? Firing is almost always an extreme overreaction and a clear demonstration of one's inability to run their business. Fuck 'em. Find another job with someone a little more righteous. (FWIW, things I say in person in the workplace are probably much more offensive to those who don't get it than anything I'd ever say on-line.)


This works fine if you have a unique, identifyable name, and aren't afraid of the consequences of that name.

Exposing that you are a woman via your name over the internet results in harassment. Same with being black, Arab, or Asian. Same with Gay, TG, etc.

If you'd like to experience this effect, create a fictional profile which publicly advertises you as a "furry", and try and interact with the internet. You'll be amazed (and repulsed) by the responses.


This works up until the point when some belief you expressed years ago becomes outmoded. Look at Brendan Eich; a political donation from 7 years prior, of which he made no public note and was only attached to him because of legal reporting requirements, was trudged up and used against him. I know this isn't an example of an online anonymity issue, but it shows the very dark path of intolerance we're going down, and that if you can't even safely have normal, mainstream, registered political donations attached to your name in the internet age, you definitely can't have an account that expresses political perspectives with any meaningful verbosity attached to your name.

Unless you're totally, totally vanilla, and can guarantee that you will never express a controversial thought or opinion, there is little reason to take the risk of attaching your Real World identity to your comments and leaving an opening for the online mobs.


I have real trouble squaring "public mores change" and "that dude donated money to a thing that is dedicated exclusively to hurting people." Sure, that thing he likes that was dedicated exclusively to hurting people is no longer in vogue. Does that make his decision to help a thing that was dedicated exclusively to hurting people less bad because more other people were okay with it then than are now? Eich backed something that was always wrong, and yes, should be held to account for it. If Strom Thurmond was still alive you can bet I'd say the same thing about his efforts against, you know, the Civil Rights Act.

Now here's the real thing: not only did Eich back those reprehensible politics, he by all indications continues to do so. Heck, I'm probably one of the more vocally left-wing posters here, and I was a proud libertarian nutter ten years ago. My politics have wildly shifted and I am personally embarrassed by some of the idiotic beliefs I once held--but I'm not ashamed of the journey I took to get here and I own the whole damn thing. "I believed it then, with the best information I had, and when I got better information, I changed my mind." If Eich had been a neutral actor, had mildly believed something and shifted with those public mores instead of financially supporting them, had said "you know, I believed that then, I've grown as a person, and because of X and Y I no longer believe it"? Nobody would have had a beef. But he'd supported it concretely, and apparently picked that hill to die on in his moral calculus. So he, metaphorically, did.

There is a lesson of the Internet to be learned here, though: you will be viewed through the lens of history and you will probably be viewed through it during your lifetime. You don't have to be uncontroversial. But you do have to be just, be generous, and be good in your dealings. Or you will be judged harshly, and I'm honestly pretty okay with that.


> Now here's the real thing: not only did Eich back those reprehensible politics, he by all indications continues to do so.

I feel like a large number of people didn't seem to grasp this, I agree with everything you posted here and said similar things when that whole ordeal happened.

> My politics have wildly shifted and I am personally embarrassed by some of the idiotic beliefs I once held

I too have experienced this and I too will not try to hide or whitewash my history. I was who I was then, for better or for worse, and that doesn't mean I'm the same way now. In fact I like to try to correct my previous self as publicly or more so than the original statement so it's easy to see that that opinion was old and has changed since if stumbled across.

> "you know, I believed that then, I've grown as a person, and because of X and Y I no longer believe it"

I would have been the first to defend him if he had done this and would have been outraged if the same outcome had happened under these new circumstances. He didn't, and so I'm not.

> There is a lesson of the Internet to be learned here, though: you will be viewed through the lens of history and you will probably be viewed through it during your lifetime.

Exactly, I have full confidence that comments I've made under usernames I used prior to using my real name will one day be linked to my current identity. So much that I've seriously considered linking them myself now and disputing any views expressed that I may no longer hold in a couple of blog posts. It's why I switched to my real name, it's a constant reminder that my name is attached to everything I write even if I don't use my real name.

>You don't have to be uncontroversial. But you do have to be just, be generous, and be good in your dealings. Or you will be judged harshly, and I'm honestly pretty okay with that.

Agreed.


Well said, thank you.

I'm always disappointed when my colleagues don't understand that I'm not against Eich for his opinions. This isn't a free speech issue. I'm against him for donating money for the express purpose of harming other people [1]. And he (and others) did, for five full years. And popular opinion certainly doesn't justify it.

It pains me just as much that the Mozilla board chose to promote him to CEO, knowing his past already.

[1] just like corporations aren't people, money isn't speech. Ridiculous rulings can change the laws, but they can't alter self-evident truths. We have a warped Supreme Court at the moment that also thinks racism is over, and that 170-year (or ones beyond the heat death of the universe) copyright terms are okay because the constitution only bars infinite terms.


The "reprehensible" politics you're discussing are still very much mainstream. A very substantial section of the population, 45%+ at last count, not only does not view them as reprehensible, but holds them itself.

Eich is obviously of a different opinion vis a vis the harm caused by Prop 8. The question is, if one political fasion can be successfully characterized as "exclusively harmful" by its opponents, is it worth the risk of having your Real Name attached to any political comments?

Since we don't know now what will one day be considered a "lens of history"-style retrospective, perhaps the most prudent course of action would be to engage in discussion anonymously only. If we believe that one should be able to express political opinions without reprisal, we should deeply value the protection of anonymity.

The entire affair recounted in the article shows that if you make the wrong person mad and they have the right friends in the right places, you will face very real consequences merely for expressing a different opinion. In the case of the article, the difference in opinion was whether juvenile jokes like "fork my dongle" are funny. In the case of Eich, the difference in opinion was whether Prop 8 helped or harmed. Who knows what it will be when they come for you?

Eich's forced resignation is a free speech issue. We can't value free expression or free speech if we witch hunt everyone who refuses to recant their contrarian political positions. You're pretty OK with this now insofar as you, for whatever reason, happen to agree with Eich's shamers, but please be aware there's no guarantee that your political opinions will always be in favor. Would you be singing the same tune if you'd been dragged in front of the McCarthy Committee and/or blacklisted for being "vocally left-wing"?

I don't want to imply that private entities are not within their rights to choose not to hire someone with whom they disagree politically. They are within their rights to do so, but that doesn't mean it's good behavior. If we value meaningful freedom, we need to take a serious look at our shaming, revisionist political culture and do what we can to curb jumps to hostility, incivility, or shaming. Sometimes people disagree, and that's OK.

Suppose someone does oppose the Civil Rights Act. Should this person be stripped of their right to work? Should they be placed in prison for holding a "dangerous" or "exclusively harmful" political position? Is it OK if they oppose it on procedural grounds, i.e., they believe the Civil Rights Act has good ideas implemented incorrectly or suboptimally? What if they actually reject the modern racial narrative? How do we tell which oppositional arguments are legal and which aren't? Will you be publishing a guidebook on this soon so that we can make sure we never get caught on the wrong end of the "lens of history" (which, by the way, for any meaningful value of history, can't be viewed in the lifetime of the author)? Should annual endorsement of the Civil Rights Act become a precondition for the maintenance of American citizenship?


When did having a bloc have anything to do with the morality of a thing? If 51% of people think that black people shound be hung from trees, is it now okay? "But 45% of Americans agree"--cui gives a shit? Maybe 45% of Americans are assholes. What is just and good doesn't change because you threaten me with the McCarthy Committee or a blacklist. I don't hold many political positions on whose hill I'm not comfortable dying, so bring it.

What really troubles me about this conversation is that you are persistently trying to reframe attacking the basic humanity of other people as "disagreeing". This is far, far more substantiative than a disagreement. Eich and his weird tribe are welcome to believe, in their heart of hearts, that gay people are lesser and unworthy human beings. They do not get to hurt people who've done them no wrong. Eich decided it was his place to put his money on the line and fight against the rights of people who demanded them, and you don't get to call off a fight you picked and agree-to-disagree when the fight goes against you.

Pity the man. He's not allowed to be the CEO of Mozilla. At least we all agree he's a human being, even if he can't do that for the people he'd have had reporting to him.


>What is just and good doesn't change because you threaten me with the McCarthy Committee or a blacklist. I don't hold many political positions on whose hill I'm not comfortable dying, so bring it.

I think most people agree that morality isn't defined by consensus. We're not talking about morality in the objective sense, to the extent that such a thing exists. We're talking morality as perceived by others and the very real consequences that can flow from remaining consistent in one's moral perspective, while the rest of the community's view shifts. When that view turns against you, is it really fair to say that you shouldn't be allowed to do your job anymore? You may be OK with economic martyrdom if it comes down to it, but it's unlikely you actually want that to disrupt your life.

You're acting as if there is an objective test that proves your perspective is moral by definition. No such thing exists. That's why people disagree on these issues and it's why it's important that we maintain decorum and civility while disagreeing -- good, moral people can have differing opinions. Very few people are truly evil.

It's extremely unlikely that Brendan Eich would argue gay people are "not human beings", or even that they are "lesser human beings". That is not the premise of Prop 8. The fact that you can't see it any other way just shows how effective gay rights advocates have been at radicalizing a substantial portion of the population.

Homosexuality is a behavior. Gay marriage is the question of whether the government should subsidize or sponsor that behavior in the same way it subsidizes and sponsors heterosexual behaviors. These aren't questions of identities, they're questions of practicalities. People can disagree on them and still be good people.

You understand that only a few short decades ago, your position would've been the one that got people fired, right? It's cool that you think it's objectively right, and it's your prerogative to believe that. But you should acknowledge that differing viewpoints on these matters should be tolerated as a valid form of free political discourse. Free speech means we tolerate the contributions of our fellow citizens, even if we strongly disagree. I would suggest that depriving fellow citizens of income they're currently receiving specifically because they disagree on a political issue, whether it's gay marriage or the humor in dongle jokes, is not respectful of the basic freedoms that allow a democratic society to function.

This conversation is great supporting evidence for the argument for anonymity when discussing any significant controversial issue. PG's essay "What You Can't Say" addresses this also; unless your life's goal is to rehabilitate the particular social taboos of your time (that is, unless martyrdom is your goal), it's probably best not to get directly associated with that rehabilitation effort.


> We're talking morality as perceived by others and the very real consequences that can flow from remaining consistent in one's moral perspective, while the rest of the community's view shifts

I understand what you're saying, and I would certainly be outraged if Mozilla fired a CEO for supporting equal rights.

The problem is you seem to view everything as relative shades of gray worthy of equal merit. This is patently false. There is a such thing as clear, objective, unambiguous, right and wrong in this world. Slavery? Wrong. Misogyny? Wrong. Anti-miscegenation? Wrong. Segregation? Wrong. Bigotry over sexual orientation? Wrong. What do these all share? Immutable human traits that cannot be changed nor chosen, that harm no one. They're examples of hatred and derision, of treating others as "lesser" human beings instead of as equals.

Now if you want to discuss something like abortion ... we can have a really meaningful conversation, because there are no perfect solutions to these problems. One's rights trample on another's, and vice versa.

This is not such a case. I don't care what the popular opinion is at any given time, what Eich did was absolutely reprehensible.

> Gay marriage is the question of whether the government should subsidize or sponsor that behavior in the same way it subsidizes and sponsors heterosexual behaviors

As always, if it were about kids and reproduction, we wouldn't allow infertile and senior couples to marry.

The government should clearly not be subsidizing relationships at all, but since it is, it must do so fairly. Even our insane Supreme Court realized this vis-a-vis DOMA. The 14th amendment is very clear.


I had a pretty fiery response queued up, and my browser crashed. I'm glad you posted instead. Thank you for your eloquence.


I'm going to let PG do the legwork for me here:

>I suspect the only taboos that are more than taboos are the ones that are universal, or nearly so. Murder for example. But any idea that's considered harmless in a significant percentage of times and places, and yet is taboo in ours, is a good candidate for something we're mistaken about.

Again, from his essay on taboos. [1] Most everything you've cited as an objective wrong was practically universally considered an objective good nary 60 years ago. The morality around slavery was so murky that a years-long civil war was fought between the opposing sides on that issue. Are we just supposed to believe that everyone that lived south of the Mason-Dixon line was naturally insipid, evil, and amoral? As PG states, unless it's universally regarded as evil across all (or nearly all) civilizations, it's very likely that a particular taboo does not cross into the "objectively evil" territory. Slavery has been pretty widespread throughout human history, so that should clue you in that there are possible morally sympathetic readings of it (which usually hinge on the belief that the enslaved group is naturally inferior and couldn't survive without the master group).

>As always, if it were about kids and reproduction, we wouldn't allow infertile and senior couples to marry.

I disagree based on two important elements. Heterosexual couples could become fertile at any time; you never know when infertility will reverse itself if the couple is otherwise healthy and under 40. Post-menopausal women or other permanently sterile heterosexual partners are OK because they are examples that reinforce the need for permanent heterosexual coupling and family structure, even if they are unable to produce children on their own, and secondarily, they can provide a natural parenting context with male-female parental duality, as biologically mandated, if they ever obtain a ward. Homosexual sexual activity can never result in reproduction and can not provide the male-female parental duality that is necessary to produce a child by natural means.

Marriage is really about all of society, and not really about the couple that gets married. It is fine for one to believe that gay marriage is beneficial, but it's not fine to pretend like there is no change in the behavior endorsed and that opposition is based solely on discriminatory motives. Whatever you say you are, or whatever you actually are, heterosexual coupling and homosexual coupling are two different behaviors that could have differing ramifications on society as a whole. Thus, the cost-benefit is worthy of some consideration, and differing opinions are fine, even using a standard that disallows all "discriminatory" rationale (which standard can't really be considered an objective good either).

I'm not really trying to escalate this into a debate on gay marriage, but I think it's important to delineate the logic that gay rights campaigners fight hard to obscure. Gay rights advocates don't want a conversation to get started; they just want everyone to believe that their opponents are naturally evil, so they go around and make a frowny face until it gets people like Brendan Eich kicked out of jobs, and they can then point at Eich and say "He was so evil he got fired! Only evil people would dare oppose us".

Perhaps you don't believe a male-female parental duality is important. Perhaps you don't believe that marriage is an institution that deserves state protection or benefits. Perhaps you don't see any meaning in the evolutionary imperative that children can only be produced by opposite-sex partners. All of this is well and good. You are welcome to your beliefs. The important thing is to accept that others are welcome to their beliefs too, even if they differ from yours, and that that doesn't automatically make them "lesser human beings" (or "bigots", the currently popular shorthand).

>The government should clearly not be subsidizing relationships at all, but since it is, it must do so fairly. Even our insane Supreme Court realized this vis-a-vis DOMA. The 14th amendment is very clear.

The 14th Amendment is anything but "very clear", and again, the fact that there have been so many differing interpretations of it is evidence that its meaning and implications are debatable by reasonable persons. It's a bad, broad law.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html


> Most everything you've cited as an objective wrong was practically universally considered an objective good nary 60 years ago

Again, it doesn't matter what the popular opinion was on this. PG stops at murder. I stop at looking at other human beings as inferior life forms based on immutable traits.

I am supremely confident that in 60 years, my specific views won't be viewed as bigoted by future generations.

> Are we just supposed to believe that everyone that lived south of the Mason-Dixon line was naturally insipid, evil, and amoral?

Everyone that lived south of the Mason-Dixon and believed that black people were property? Which would be a majority, but certainly not every single person in the south then? Yes. Yes they were.

> which usually hinge on the belief that the enslaved group is naturally inferior and couldn't survive without the master group

Black people seemed to be subsisting just fine in Africa before being dragged over here on slave ships.

> you never know when infertility will reverse itself if the couple is otherwise healthy and under 40

So you support banning marriage after the age of 40 then, got it.

> Post-menopausal women or other permanently sterile heterosexual partners are OK because they are examples that reinforce the need for permanent heterosexual coupling and family structure, even if they are unable to produce children on their own

... or not.

What an unbelievable load of horse shit you are spewing. I can't honestly believe you typed that with a straight face.

If you're going to be this fatuous, then I'm not even going to bother with the rest of your post.

But just so you don't claim this is an ad hominem attack: the APA (and most every other unbiased organization that have studied this issue in depth) disagrees with your bigoted narrative: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/10/adopted-children.aspx

It doesn't matter anyway, you've already lost on this issue. The USSC is going to reverse the last 17 states holding out this summer. You can go pout about it with the anti-miscegenation crowd.


It does blow my mind something fierce that "but but it might be you next time" is a serious argument in this. I'm not bigoted, I default to inclusion. Unless we have a serious uprising of the regressive right, I have nothing to fear. And I have much more to fear if they come to power than "Ed said nice things about gay people."


Like I said, I'm not trying to escalate this into a debate on gay marriage, so I'm going to ignore that you hand-waved away the whole point with an answer equivalent to "nuh uh". Wholesale refusal to discuss internally rational lines of thought is the result of dogma, not rationality, which would calmly approach and deconstruct the topic. Unlike many others, whether I ultimately agree or not, I'm not willing to discard a point of view just because an activist attempts to proclaim it thoughtcrime by slapping a label on the speaker like "bigot". What are you afraid to address? As PG's essay says, if the thought is actually outlandish, no one really cares -- hostility like this only emerges if there is concern that the line of thought will become widespread, which is only a concern when the line of thought is internally rational.

I guess your argument is "the APA says they're wrong", and that therefore, they should not be tolerated? No one could ever rationally doubt the APA? I don't know if you're familiar with the history on it, but the removal of homosexuality as a disorder from the DSM was based purely on politics; there was no paper that triggered scientific reconciliation, there was no new data. Since the APA has insisted on calling into question the licensing of persons who may dare to contradict it on this matter, you can't honestly believe that the issue has been thoroughly explored or reviewed, just as we don't believe that the 99.9% election results in favor of third-world despots actually reflect the will of the people. Regardless of your personal feelings, a person can't look at this process, decide they disagree with the APA's conclusion, and continue to have the right to work?

Personally, agreement with all APA policies is not one of the fundamental requirements I look for in my job candidates that have nothing whatsoever to do with the field of psychology, but to each his own, I guess. Remember, you're not just saying these people "are wrong" or "have lost", but that their beliefs are so troublesome that they shouldn't be protected in their freedom to work.

American principles of tolerance and civil discourse are greatly imperiled by the rising prominence of such hostile positions, and democracy itself is threatened by this behavior.

PG stops at murder because it's one of the only moral standards that is practically constant. You stop at "lesser human beings" because it's convenient for the line of propaganda you've swallowed. Should we allow the mentally disabled or decrepit full freedom lest they be considered "lesser human beings"? Should all parents of Downs Syndrome or other profoundly retarded children be deprived of their supervisory and guardianship privileges over adult children lest these be classified "lesser human beings"? Why is it OK for them to be lesser but not others? There are very few answers you can provide here that are consistent with the moral box you've crafted for yourself.

Consider where your assertion that most antebellum Southerners were frankly evil leads. Where did it lead? People in both the North and the South got worked up about this and stirred to believe things like you just claimed about the opposite side. What's the logical result if you honestly believe "a majority" of persons that adhere to an opposing ideology are frankly evil?

Aren't you automatically classifying people as "lesser human beings" by stating that their opinions are not worthy of basic respect, and wouldn't that make you a hypocrite? Should anyone who holds these opinions be executed?

If we acknowledge that almost all significant world religions espouse very different perspectives than you've expressed, would you support doing something about that? Perhaps we should outlaw these religious groups. What should we do with the people who refuse to recant their religious traditions? Should they be incarcerated? Perhaps a labor camp of some type would be useful for this. What do you say? How much value is the work of frankly evil people, like those who express a belief in Abrahamic tradition, anyway? Wouldn't you always be afraid they were going to do some sneaky, evil thing? The uses for this class are rapidly dwindling. What next?

This sort of hate always leads in the same direction. Do not make the mistake of believing that while everyone who has done similar things throughout history was bad, YOUR beliefs are objectively righteous, and that makes it OK for you. It really doesn't matter what the beliefs are or whether they are objectively right or not once they infect someone with the actual hatred you've expressed (not the "hatred" that your camp claims motivates anyone who dissents for any reason), the results are never pretty. I hope you awaken to this before it's too late.


This is something that we need to take a strong stand against, actually. It's totally wrong that such things happen - that you can be fired from your job over something irrelevant that was both legal and OK back then, just because Internet fashions change.

EDIT: Also, how Brendan Eich is an argument for on-line anonymity again? All the actions that led to him getting fired were tied to his off-line identity.


except that only works if everyone plays by the same rules. they dont so it doesnt apply.

If you get into an argument with someone, they can read through your history to determine eho you are, where you work, what your family life is like etc and then use this against you regardless of whether what you did was wrong or not. So whilst I agree in principle in reality it is unworkable.


It's not about what we should do in an ideal world. It's about the realities of the world we live in, where employers will fire you at the drop of a hat, regardless of whether you are in the right or wrong.

Using your real name doesn't win you any points. I could easily lie and say my real name was John Thomas. It sounds real enough. I could lie in real life with a fake name, too. Conversely, I have 18+ years of history using my pseudonym. It may not be a name chosen for me when I was born, but it has a very real reputation attached to it.

The lack of empathy you speak of is a consequence of hiding behind text over great distances, not of hiding behind fake names. People act more respectable when there's even the slimmest of chances the other person could physically harm them for their words; and/or when they can actually see the harm their words cause to another.

If you really have a pressing need to let your interviewer or employer know of your online achievements, speak to them in person about it with no audit trail.

The people who use anonymity to say horrible things are going to do so anyway. Go and search Google for "byuu 4chan". Now replace byuu with my real name. Why would I want my employer to be able to find those things?


Personally I think the real solution is to fix these problems if possible. Still, there are many things that can be and often are posted using real names even now, this incident is about a specific topic.


I have to agree. Tying yourself to your on-line identity shows that you're willing to take responsibility for your actions. There are places where you might not want to be recognized for some reason, just as there are such places in real-life (I would feel as uncomfortable browsing Silk Road for nootropics as I would feel visiting a sex shop in the shadier parts of te city) - but in general, I try to stand by what I do, including mistakes, as any responsible adult should.

But really this isn't even relevant in this case. They guy got fired because he was on the photo, and the girl was a developer evangelist, which by the very job description requires you to tie your face to your on-line presence and company. If either of them was otherwise anonymous on-line, it wouldn't help them anyway.


I think there's one clear distinction where this is relevant here: Hank's real name isn't known publicly, and he's employed again. His current employer might not even know about this incident. Adria is still unemployed, and sadly will never be able to escape this.

But yes, it's really scary that this guy's employer found out about what he said over a photo on Twitter, and still fired him for it.


same. i use my identity almost everywhere i go (and i use in 100% of all social networks i use). why?

1. it makes me remember that behind all comments there's a real person just like me

2. i cant behave like a shithead. everything i say i say with my name attached to it, so whatever i say i have to own it -- just like 'in real life'.


My naive wish would be for companies to hold employees accountable when they are acting officially or on the job. But if you're off the job and not acting officially that people could be their ugly or nice selves without repercussions at the job. I wish there could be this hard separation of private and public life, but it seems impossible.

I would like to think that if I ever become an employer I could allow the Adrias and trolls of the world keep on doing what they do in the off hours, so long as they don't implicate the company. And when people want to complain and boycott I could have the courage to tell them to fuck off because I have no input an an employees private life and I only care how well they do things at work.

I know this cannot work in practice, but I'd like it to be that way. People are complicated, they are not monolithic personalities, they are conflicted, I think we need to understand that. We also need to understand that people who are perfect are only so because their indiscretions have not be on public.


The chances of this sort of thing happening to any given person are astronomically small. The Internet has a fairly finite capacity for outrage. There's only so many memes that can grab attention at any one time. And the amount of that attention that has to be focused in order to achieve something like removing you from your job is just immense. And even then, you can rebuild. Eventually.

There's no rebuilding from the kinds of public shaming that went on through history or even right now in the rest of the world. Imagine being a pariah in the only small village you've ever known in a world where every other village won't accept you at all. Even what Adria went through was tame compared to that.


Right, the whole "don't make jokes like that" thing was eyebrow raising. The article hints, but the interviewer never explored the fact that her Twitter feed had regular sexual and innuendo-laden jokes about (among other things) suggesting someone stuff a rolled up sock into their underwear for a trip through airport security. I recall at the time she spent quite a lot of words mealy-mouthy defending how "different" that was, because it was a conversation between friends (as opposed to the conversation between friends at the conference), etc.


"if I had kids, I wouldn't tell jokes" is clearly taken out of context, so to your 'Seriously?' comment: Seriously? nice way to read it to support your own bias.

Hank's life wasn't ruined. Adria's life has been most damaged, no employment for a long time, death threats, and this article will probably cause her a lot more grief. How many people in this thread have taken it upon themselves to send more abuse her way?

Why is this article even on hacker news? To support the down-trodden software developers?


My issue is I understand why Adria is upset with the system, but she chose a completely wrong joke to get upset over. Those comments were fairly inane and innocent. I can see how they could be construed as hate speech, but it's a stretch.


I was really surprised by that complete lack of empathy. But well when you get to read about her childhool everything makes sense I guess. Still, she went a bit too far...


If there's anyone worse than Adria in this story, it's both Hank's and Adria's former employers.

Agree on Hank. Adria's case is more complicated. With regard to Hank, I know this is going to be unpopular but if the threats of physical violence (and, even, the actual fact) were directed at those who turned their backs on Hank, I'd support it, because morality demands enforcement sometimes, and abandoning someone in his time of need is unacceptable.

Adria fucked up, but she was the wrong target. She did something bad, and stupid, and wrong, in hot blood. The people who decided to abandon Hank in cold blood are the ones who deserve to be brutalized and terrorized into future decency (or oblivion).

Adria's case is more complicated because firing her was the right decision (she was in a PR role, and a fuckup that ruins another person's reputation is unacceptable when PR is your job) but I bet it was a sleazy tech-company firing where there's no severance or contractual positive reference, and where the person is often singled out and humiliated. They also picked the wrong time to do it. They should have eased her out with a 6-month "you don't work here, but we'll support you in landing on your feet" period, and unless there's something unusual that I don't know about, they didn't. So they're almost certainly dirty as hell and I almost hope she reads this, gets treatment for her issues (described below) and also sues the hell out of them, not for firing her (they had to remove her from a PR role) but for firing her, a person with disability (I'll get to that) in a damaging way at a damaging time.

Her lack of empathy is absolutely staggering. And, "if I had kids, I wouldn't tell jokes"? Seriously?

I'm going to say this non-judgmentally. I have cyclothymia (mild bipolar) and panic disorder and... I know it when I see it. She's mentally ill, and the most dangerous kind of it, because she doesn't know that she's ill. Instead, she justifies her horrible, mistaken actions by pretending she's some kind of SJW rather than someone who panicked in a crowd and fucked up.

I didn't join the Adria-hate bandwagon, originally, because I saw her as someone who fucked up rather than someone to hate. And I found the hatred rising as I read this interview. Then I got to the part about the abuse, and stopped hating her, because it made sense: she has PTSD, doesn't know that she's ill, and has a lack of empathy because severe mental illness makes you selfish, not out of a character flaw, but by necessity. So, I found myself not hating her at the end (although she should still get the courage to apologize for fucking up).

She, almost certainly, has PTSD because she was abused. That's nothing to be ashamed of. That's how normal people react to awful experiences. She had what sounds like a (mild-to-moderate, because she was still able to type) panic attack. For evidence, this quote:

“Have you ever had an altercation at school and you could feel the hairs rise up on your back?” she asked me.

“You felt fear?” I asked.

“Danger,” she said. “Clearly my body was telling me, ‘You are unsafe.’”

(Trigger warning: this paragraph.) She was in a crowd. The people around her were annoying her. (When you have an anxiety disorder, lots of small things annoy you.) At some point, her nerves blew out. Again, nothing to be ashamed of. It happens. I've had hundreds of the fucking things. And panic can make you an asshole, like when you're in line for water (to stop the dry-throat-feels-like-it's-closing-up feeling) and you're screaming at the people in front to "stop taking so fucking long". (I screamed at someone, mid-panic, for using what I thought was a credit card for a $3 purchase and "holding up the line". EBT, or "food stamps". Huge dick move on my part; thought she was a yuppie who couldn't be bothered to carry cash, I was wrong. Had to apologize profusely after that one.) So I am generally sympathetic to people who fuck up because of mental illness, even though posting a Tweet about the guys behind me wouldn't be my strategy for dealing with a panic attack. I fail to see how it would resolve the episode.

What galls me about her is that she refuses to admit that she fucked up. I've seen enough not to demand empathy from the severely ill, but human decency is non-negotiable, and her self-righteousness is off-the-charts. Then she has to fall back on "he's a white male. I'm a black Jewish female." No, Adria, it's not about that; he was never a danger to you, and you are someone with an intensely painful, but fortunately treatable, medical condition. You freaked out and ruined someone's life in addition to your own, and that makes you hazardous. I have a lot of sympathy for people who suffer from mental illness, but not if they refuse to recognize and take responsibility for the problem.


I think most of your post is entirely right. You're wrong about her not realizing her condition though. The following are quotes are from her old blog via archieve.org (https://web.archive.org/web/20130316040640/http://butyoureag...)

"Just because I didn’t live at home didn’t mean I had escaped the past. I carried it with me. I realized I had to change this. It took years of work through therapy, reading, journaling and prayer. My big breakthrough year was 2006. That was the year I woke up. The year I snapped out of the fog I had been living in. I was diagnosed with ADHD and PTSD."

And this,

"Because of my experiences growing up, I have triggers. This means that I’m always scanning for danger; for situations that seem like something from the past that could hurt me. When I recognize something that matches, I can overreact and feel intense fear, anger or anxiety. This is something I’ve worked on a lot. It’s much better now than 10 years ago but there are some things that send me over the edge."

She has had a difficult life. Given her history I think her reaction understandable if not "appropriate". After all the attacks, and all she has gone through, I don't think she can step back from the situation and look at it how most outsiders would. I'm not sure it's fair to ask her too. It's a sad situation and I hope she can find a more felicitous path in the future.

What I find less understandable are commentators who choose to make Ms. Richards a symbol for woman in technology. It doesn't do Adria any good and it certainly doesn't do woman in STEM any good.


I remember this episode well.

Adria is more immature than the jokes that she supposedly got offended by.

Let's ennumerate:

- She overheard a conversation that wasn't directed at her. In the middle of a conference she was hopefully not coerced at attending and should be paying attention to the speaker - She took a picture of two people, without asking for permission - She twitted said picture with negative comments - She followed up(!) the tweet with a blog post - She called one of the guy's employers (!!!)

And that interview, my god. I really have nothing good to say about it.

The reactions afterwards from supporters of both sides aren't an example of maturity either. But that's what you get when you invoke an angry mob to do a job that could be handled in a civil manner.


> She overheard a conversation that wasn't directed at her. In the middle of a conference she was hopefully not coerced at attending and should be paying attention to the speaker

I don't think you're supposed to ignore what's going on around you just because it wasn't directed at you and you're at a conference. The other reasons are valid, but this one doesn't strike me as such.


On the flip side, you're not supposed to get involved in everything that's going on around you just because it's going on. It's pretty easy to mistakenly thunder in on a half-heard conversation without any context.


Definitely, there's a balance there. That does mean that the GP post of "wasn't supposed to do it" isn't always right.


Uhm actually listening to a clearly private conversation is a breach of manners, if nothing else.


> She took a picture of two people, without asking for permission - She twitted said picture with negative comments

That's the main thing imo. One may not expose normal persons in such a public way without asking for consent. If I attend a conference I have the right to stay anonymous.


> If I attend a conference I have the right to stay anonymous.

Sadly, legally you have no such right. You are in a public space, and anyone can take your picture freely and do pretty much what they want with it. Our society doesn't even have coherent social norms about reasonable rights to privacy in public spaces, much less law.

I agree that it would be reasonable to expect some level of anonymity, though. Hopefully some day it will be.


I do not in any way condone what happened to her (It's sad I even have to say that), that said, I feel equal sympathy for her and she does for Hank which appears to be none. I'm not going to rehash all the reasons that what she did was wrong, I'm just going to call it like I see it: she fucked over Hank and didn't care the price he paid but then felt it was unfair when she was made to pay the same price.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: You have the right to free speech and your employer, peers, friends, etc have the right to react to your use of "free speech" it is not some suit of armor you can protect yourself in. I think (In terms of her losing her job NOT the backlash, death threats, etc) she got exactly what she deserved and her statement "if I had kids, I wouldn't tell jokes" (Really.... WTF) only confirms and cements my opinion. No remorse at all for her actions and "poor old me" routine stinks of BS.

None of this is meant to remove guilt from the company that fired Hank, that was a BS move on their part and they should have stood behind him or at least spent some time looking into it instead of firing him on the spot. That said, SendGrid was well within their rights, and I'd argue morally obligated, to kick her ass to curb. You can't fuck over developers (and don't think that the greater development community didn't see this as a near-personal attack on them as a whole) and expect to keep your job as developer evangelist. I know I'd never want to work with her or watch her speak at a conference.


““Maybe it was [Hank] who started all of this,” Adria told me in the cafe at San Francisco Airport. “No one would have known he got fired until he complained. Maybe he’s to blame for complaining that he got fired. Maybe he secretly seeded the hate groups. Right?”

This paragraph really gave me chills... A lot of insight about her thought process, and a bit terrifying in my opinion.


It goes on:

> “Danger,” she said. “Clearly my body was telling me, ‘You are unsafe.’”

> “Have you ever heard that thing, men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them?” she said.

Remind me when someone was last killed at a tech conference like she says? Very rarely, if ever.

Did she feel bad about him being fired? Nope.

> “He’s a white male. I’m a black Jewish female. He was saying things that could be inferred as offensive to me

Read that last sentence again. In poker terms, that's a "tell". She doesn't say "I was offended".

I've known people like this in real life. They are to be avoided. The "tells" above are:

* claiming people do nefarious things to get ahead (he seeded the hate groups)

* claiming they're always the victim

* lack of empathy for people who get hurt

* claimed desperate fear in every day situations

She's saying she's in fear of her life. That the guy making the joke is evil and powerful. That she's small and helpless. And thus she thinks that anything she does to protect herself is by definition OK.

Very, very, scary.

And yes, before the downvoters come in, the torrent of abuse she got was wrong. Very wrong. Those people should be punished. But make no mistake here, Adria Richards is not Hanks victim.


The irony is, such delusional behaviour does nothing but foster more doubt and double standards. If I were Hank, I would react exactly as he wrote:

> I asked Hank if he found himself behaving differently since the incident. Had it altered how he lived his life?

> “I distance myself from female developers a little bit now,” he replied. “I’m not as friendly. There’s humour, but it’s very mundane. You just don’t know. I can’t afford another Donglegate.”


Then enough people get cautious like that, and eventually we have people complaining about discrimination because groups of guys will suddenly get quiet when a woman enters earshot, and they act somewhat uncomfortable. "Why can't they just treat us like equals?"

I'm starting to believe that you can't really please everybody's sense of what is fair and equality in cases like this.


Such abuses do not foster equality, they validate discrimination. When you make a lot of people afraid of your group, they won't suddenly start being nice to you. They will start to hate you.

It was visible in case of the wave of antisemitism in Europe. People weren't hating Jews because the Jews went around demanding equality and talking about "misoabrachamism". They were hating Jews because overarching narrative was that they're the cause of evil, they're out there to get you economically, to take over the world, etc. etd. Being afrad breeds hate.


> Remind me when someone was last killed at a tech conference like she says? Very rarely, if ever.

I don't know of any killings, but there have been a number of (high profile) sexual assaults at tech conferences - see http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_incidents

My friends say it's a regular (and sometimes terrifying) occurrence at some conferences. And I believe them.


Then she should be afraid of sexual assaults, not killings.

And reading that page, I see most of the items are of this severity:

> An offensive tweet was made against the PyLadies group

Really? That's inappropriate, but it's not sexual assault.

In fact, there are 14 instances of the word "assault". Which by my count is no more than 10% of the items.

Over-exaggerating the problem is fear-mongering.

  This looks a lot like flailing around, trying to find reasons for being upset.
"I'm afraid of being killed"

It doesn't happen.

"Crap, I'm afraid of sexually assaulted, it happens a lot, here's proof!"

That actually disproves your assertion.

<crickets>


Honestly this list could use some trimming, you can't really have a "list of sexist incident" contain a change in the way blocking works on Twitter (http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Twitter_Blockgate)! At least, you can't if you want people to take the list seriously...


>Rosetta shirtgate

The fact the list contains that says everything I need to know about the list.


You think that's terrifying, you should see college campuses!


She sounds a bit sociopathic, really. Maybe she can be helped, but in the meantime I, at least, would stay very far away from her.

Eh, why can't people be nice....


No matter how sad the thing is, she cannot be really helped that much. I mean, a decent psychoanalyst might deconstruct her to pieces and put back together (same goes for psychedelics but probably with bad results), but very few people go that way, and even fewer are actually helped. People like these are all around us, that's the really scary part for me. Some are quite obvious, some nto so much. Behaviour is same - playing victim, overreactions, their own twisted version of reality where they are right and everybody else isn't, some sort of attention whoring might be present too (some sad personal experiences here).

Have no doubt - I feel sorry for her. This shows how important is to have this happy careless childhood - investment that cashes back for the rest of our lives (I humbly think I am one of those, for which I am eternally thankful to my parents). Just as everybody else suggests - keep your distance from such people, or it might bite back.


I think asking for the removal of the line in his apology about him losing his job because of her actions is also a significant tell about her motivations. It's one thing to pull genuinely bad behavior (this was not) into the light and expose it, but it's quite another to want to control your opponents responses to your accusations.


She reminds me of those idiots on Tumblr who constantly utter the phrase trigger warnings.


This needs to be the top comment. Can you imagine a person who claims their fight-or-flight response gets triggered by sexual jokes (jokes that were actually more homosexual in content than degrading towards women), but then actually has no empathy for people outside of themselves whatsoever?

People like this deserve no platforms of power whatsoever.


> “Somebody getting fired is pretty bad,” I said. “I know you didn’t call for him to be fired. But you must have felt pretty bad.”

> “Not too bad,” she said. She thought more and shook her head decisively. “He’s a white male. I’m a black Jewish female. He was saying things that could be inferred as offensive to me, sitting in front of him. I do have empathy for him but it only goes so far. If he had Down’s Syndrome and he accidently pushed someone off a subway that would be different... I’ve seen things where people are like, ‘Adria didn’t know what she was doing by tweeting it.’ Yes, I did.”

A past of abuses does not justify Adria's reactions and lack of empathy. Moreover, the article describes her blaming Hank for the threats, despite the fact that he didn't engage in any vengeful behaviour.


What makes me laugh is where she says she's not to blame for what happened to Hank yet she then blames HIM for what happened to her.

If she didn't send the tweet, he wouldn't have got fired. If he didn't get fired, he wouldn't have posted on HN about being fired. If he didn't post on HN then none of this would've happened.

Basically it all stems from her original tweet..

I'm not condoning any of the behaviour but it could've quite easily been handled more maturely. If, instead of turning round, taking a photo and tweeting she'd approached him like an adult (maybe with the conference organisers if she was scared) and said "That's not cool" to him so he could actually apologised to her and none of this would've happened.


Totally agree with your first 3 sentences, can't agree with the last. Finding the courage to stand up and directly address someone who is making you feel uncomfortable - especially if you're a minority in a certain environment - takes a lot of courage and absolute certainty that you're not going to get a mouthful of abuse back.

(I think talking directly to the conf organisers/staff would have been the preferred route, personally.)


> Finding the courage to stand up and directly address someone who is making you feel uncomfortable [...]

She didn't. Instead of directly addressing them and giving them a chance to explain and apologize, she instead proceeded to put them in a public pillory. That's the opposite of courageous, it's malicious, sneaky, and underhanded.


I know what she did. I didn't say I agreed with her approach (quite the opposite, in fact).


Handling it personally makes a lot of sense. I have children, I don't teach them to immediately run to authority the minute they are offended. You should be able to confront/request somebody behave appropriately without them "giving back a mouthful of abuse". And therein lies the key, if they give you back a mouthful of abuse, then take it higher up. There are absolutely situations where going directly to conf organizers and staff is appropriate, but this doesn't seem like one to me.


I also have children, and I'm not sure how it's relevant.

Of course you SHOULD be able to tell someone you're offended without the risk of backlash, but it's always a risk. Clearly Adria decided to handle that risk in a different way than you or I would have.


It's relevant because talking directly to people and not tattle-telling is part of growing up, and it's unfortunate this wasn't done.

It doesn't mean she isn't grown up though as this is just one non-representative tiny slice of two people's entire lives. Honestly, I didn't get a chance to update my message, but another question (seen here and elsewhere) is probably more important: "Why isn't the story about her life being threatened over this?" That's the more ridiculous part of this story.


If all she had done was go the organizers, we wouldn't be talking about it.


But if she was scared, why would she tweet using her real account.


That is in fact what happened. PyCon posted a statement afterwards (http://pycon.blogspot.ca/2013/03/pycon-response-to-inappropr...) that said "Both parties were met with, in private. The comments that were made were in poor taste, and individuals involved agreed, apologized and no further actions were taken by the staff of PyCon 2013. No individuals were removed from the conference, no sanctions were levied."

The problem is that things didn't stop there.


That is exactly why tweetshaming is so bad. Because you're basically throwing chum in the ocean and disclaiming that you're responsible for the shark frenzy.



What wasn't cool? Making a joke about a human body part to a friend that was accidentally overheard? Didn't she make a similar joke on a far more public forum than Hank did?


I personally don't see what Adria was originally offended by but I'm male so unless there's something in what Hank said that I won't see as offensive unless I'm female then I don't have a clue.

Yeah, she did: https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/312265091791847425


so he could actually apologised to her and none of this would've happened

"I'm sorry you're irrationally afraid of overheard immature jokes"?


If it was me I'd have said something like "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it to offend you, I didn't mean it to".

But yeah, your one works too ;)


Say what you like, but Hank didn't do anything wrong here. In fact, he only expressed everything that had happened to him, and it just so happened that many people decided to stand up for him in what seems to be a situation of very, very poor judgement.

On the other hand, great and naturally flowing writing by the author, really enjoyed swimming through the story!


The problem was that many people went a lot further than standing up for Hank.

(I thought her reaction was wrong, pretty much from the first step, but it wasn't something uninvolved people needed to pay much attention to either.)


4chan behavior is well documented and not surprising in this case. Easily condemned, but I don't think it helps this discussion to be emotionally swayed by the reaction of such a group.


But that was not Hank's fault or Hank's problem in all fairness.


I don't see how I've even suggested otherwise.


> Say what you like, but Hank didn't do anything wrong here.

I think he did: there seems to be no discussion that he violated the conference's code of conduct. If we want to reduce the sexism in tech, I think reporting these instances is perfectly fine, and even commendable.

However.

She could have asked them politely to stop. If she didn't feel safe doing that, she could have talked in private to the conference's organizers. An e-mail would do. But she took it to Twitter instead, so everyone can point at them. I think she was in the wrong in doing that, and they both ended up suffering from it.

If there were a lesson to get from here, I'd say it would be "have you considered talking?". Or perhaps "do you really want to bring the Internet into our discussion?".


Reporting instances of sexism is perfectly fine. Reporting a joke that is sexual and claiming it's sexism is not fine.

Their joke didn't involve women, reference women, reference men being better than women, reference superiority or inferiority of anyone, or as far as I can tell even imply any other jokes that would do those things.


Do you really think that conferences' code of conduct should regulate what two friends are saying to each other privately?


If Hank had been making overtly racist comments in earshot of other people is it your opinion that those would be private things the other attendees should have ignored? Of course not. If someone a row in front of you can hear the joke while the speaker is on stage then what you are saying is public, not private, so it definitely falls under the code of conduct. The content of what's being said is irrelevant, be it a joke about big dongles or a racist remark.


Whether they should? I don't know. Maybe. Sexism in tech is a weird and hard problem, and if regulating private conversations helps solving it, then I'm cautiously willing to give it a try.

Whether they do? Yes. From the CoC[1]:

> Be careful in the words that you choose. Remember that sexist, racist, and other exclusionary jokes can be offensive to those around you. Excessive swearing and offensive jokes are not appropriate for PyCon.

> If a participant engages in behavior that violates this code of conduct, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund.

Presumably everyone was there under their own free will, so if they agreed to the CoC and then failed to respect it, well, that's not good.

[1] https://us.pycon.org/2013/about/code-of-conduct/


Define offensive. if I think cat photos are offensive would I be in my rights to kick someone out of a conference? I'm not sure what the "offense" was. If someone says "damn," that might be offensive to my dad, but to my coworkers that might be completely fine.

In this case, there was nothing anti-women or racist that any reasonable person would infer. So where's the line? Perhaps we could create some new Orwellian language for conferences and have everyone in a tape delay so the offensive-content censors would have time to bleep it out. Reminds me of the swearing fines in that movie Demolition Man.


> In this case, there was nothing anti-women or racist that any reasonable person would infer.

No, that's wrong. There are plenty of legal cases where sexual jokes were found to be creating a hostile work environment.

This conference had rules about conduct because of the problem of men making sexual comments to women.

The comment "Hank" made was not appropriate. Just because the reaction and consequences were clearly awful it doesn't mean he was fine to make those kind of comments.

> So where's the line?

Don't make "jokes" about dongles in a voice that can be overheard by anyone but the intended audience, and make sure you know those people well.


Conferences are likely to involve many people from social groups outside your own, with different views on what is acceptable and what is not. That's life...


> what two friends are saying to each other privately

By "privately", you mean, "in a room with 800 other people", right?


>there seems to be no discussion that he violated the conference's code of conduct

Did he? It sounds like there was a report he did violate it, they investigated, but upon explanation they weren't reprimanded. I took this to be that someone falsely accused them, and under investigation it was determined that the incident was actually harmless.


Making jokes about dongles is not even sexism. Having a penis is not sexism either.

Unless the code of conduct is "don't offend anybody", which of course would be impossible to adhere to.


I remember when this story happened and after reading it all again, I still think that what makes it so terrible is the fact both sides were fired. One of them because he was behaving immaturely at a conference and another because her employer was getting ddosed.

Is it just me or are those both terrible overreactions from the companies' sides? The whole sexism discussion is perfectly valid and very important, we need to talk about what is wrong, but those layoffs were nothing but selfish pragmatic decisions. Hank's company didn't want the bad PR and Adria's didn't want the security trouble...


At the risk of sounding insensitive, in what freezing hell is a remark about forking a guy's repo or something sexist?

Rather unprofessional, yeah, maybe -- which is why it wasn't spoken aloud on stage, but whispered between two colleagues. But sexist? Can someone draw me a diagram about how that conveys any form of discrimination, prejudice, violence, dislike or oppression of women?

This sounds like completely selfish bullshit to me. It's a bloody overheard remark. And better yet, it was handled in a very childish way: there are laws against discrimination. If someone feels they were subjected to any kind of -ism, there are courts of law that decide that, you just have to go to the police. But sure, why not settle it the cutthroat way, involving employers and family on the way.


Your post makes me severely question your grasp of the legal system in the United States. Racism and sexism are not illegal, though they are bullshit and wrong. Discrimination and undue preference are illegal in housing and employment contexts. They are not illegal in social contexts, and is regularly wielded against women and minorities to their (and, by extension, society's) detriment.

Sexualized jokes like this--and mind you, this isn't defending or excusing Richards's actions, which I find unconscionable--do enforce stereotypes around who's allowed to participate. "Overwhelmingly masculine culture," for lack of a better phrase, encapsulates that sort of behavior, and it's historically and to this day exclusive of women. You are asking for diagrams, you are asking for logic, about something that's got hundreds, if not thousands, of years of baggage. This isn't something you can feed into your Turing machine. When people say you're hurting them, you need to accept that rather than trying to reason yourself into "well, I'm really not." That's just part of being a decent human.

None of that is to say this should have been a huge thing--of course Hank shouldn't have been fired, and had his employers acted like adults I don't think this would have spiraled as it did. But Hank's still wrong. That doesn't make him a bad person, and I think, from reading this and some other stuff, that he understands his error in this thing. I'm wrong all the fucking time about this stuff. But I suck it up, I make good on my mistakes, and I do better next time.


> Your post makes me severely question your grasp of the legal system in the United States.

Question away, I don't live in the US and I have no intention to. I was under the impression that this could, indeed, be handled by a court of law or the police; today I learned, I guess :) but even so, I don't think it takes away my point.

Racism and sexism are very legal around here as well, because they are personal opinions. Wrong as as hell, but the state is (fortunately!) not in the business of righting wrong opinions. What is illegal (or considered as an aggravating circumstance) is making someone the victim of those opinions: firing someone because he's black or implying that someone can't be promoted because she's a woman and women are only good for sex and cooking.

> When people say you're hurting them, you need to accept that rather than trying to reason yourself into "well, I'm really not." That's just part of being a decent human.

I obviously do not disagree with this. I also believe, however::

* That this is not what happened in Hank's case. This was a private conversation that was overheard. Have you honestly never cracked a sexist joke with a friend in a bar? A racist joke? You sure you never laughed a bit too hard at that picture about Irish yoga? Alcoholism is no joke!

* ...and if empathy is indeed the solution, why would it not go both ways? When people say you're hurting them, why does it flow only in terms of "I'm sorry I hurt you, I am going to stop" and not also in terms of "He seems like an allright guy though; perhaps he didn't want to hurt me?"

I'm not talking out of my ass here: I have a very obvious defect in my left eye (crippling enough that I cannot e.g. hold a driver's license, and sometimes embarrassing enough that I drop or hit objects because my depth perception sucks), and I was the target of many mean jokes, both as a child and as an adult. I also understand, however, that there is such a thing as a harmless joke, and I am firmly convinced that not understanding that wouldn't mean "I'm accepting and acknowledging my condition". It would just mean I'm a bitter asshole. And, if I were to react with anger or disappointment when I hear someone behind me saying that the guy on stage should put his glasses on because the color scheme of his presentation is ridiculous, everyone around me would really be right to treat me like an asshole.

Upon hearing something along the lines of "In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king", the correct, normal reaction of someone who is socially responsible is not to instantly go into a fleeting rage of hurr durr this is offensive. I'm emotionally mature enough to tell when someone wants to offend me -- and if I weren't, I honestly don't think society should indulge me. We don't indulge many other symptoms of emotional immaturity. This shouldn't get special treatment.


> That this is not what happened in Hank's case. This was a private conversation that was overheard. Have you honestly never cracked a sexist joke with a friend in a bar? A racist joke? You sure you never laughed a bit too hard at that picture about Irish yoga? Alcoholism is no joke!

Sexist and racist jokes? No, I don't, and I don't associate with people who use them. Now, and this is important: I didn't call Hank's joke "sexist", I called it "sexualized", because I think intent does matter. I don't think Hank's intent was sexist. But Hank needs to understand that a joke like this with a sexual context, in the absence of mitigating factors, does contribute to that just-us-guys, implicitly-othering culture that doesn't need to outright say "no girls allowed" to make it feel that way. That culture is not only kind of deleterious in general, but just wholly inappropriate in professional a setting. It's a crap joke, and one that I can easily understand being hurtful and exclusionary. In a managerial position, I wouldn't fire Hank for it, but I'd probably have given him a ration of shit for poor judgment.

It's important for me to stress that this is not to say that you cannot joke about sex or race. But it's not funny when you punch downward. Louis CK is a wonderful example of this. His jokes reference women and minorities all the time--but the jokes aren't about them, they're about him and his reactions to them based on his own personal context. He's asking us to laugh at him, not to laugh at the person who is, by and large, probably getting a way worse deal in life than he is. Lots of his fans don't get that, and this is also why Dave Chappelle walked away from Chappelle's Show: it's hard to do that kind of comedy when your audience doesn't get the joke.

> We don't indulge many other symptoms of emotional immaturity. This shouldn't get special treatment.

When it's the result of four hundred years (and more, really, but let's just be geographic here) of concerted activity on the part of society to constrain and hurt the people we consider less privileged today, I think it's not unreasonable to expect understanding and respect on the part of the people who've profited from it. Even setting aside the personal context described in the article, there is a metric shit-ton of cultural context in both tech and in America as a whole that means that somebody like me is starting at third base when somebody else isn't even getting out of the batter's box and it's neither just nor fair for me to use that against them when they react accordingly.

I am a straight, white male. I have it really good in the United States. I recognize that others do not. It is not my obligation to cape for other people, but it is my obligation, and Hank's, to not be an asshole. And that's a really low bar to hurdle.


> Sexist and racist jokes? No, I don't, and I don't associate with people who use them.

I'm sorry, but I find that very hard to believe. Of course, I'm sure that you don't associate with people who routinely crack sexist or racist jokes (neither do I, and I think we have the same reasons), but "never laughed at a racist joke" is unlikely to be true, even if you so much as watched Tom and Jerry when you were a kid.

I'm sure you never laughed in good humour at something you perceived to be racist, but are you so certain that there is no one who holds the bar as low as you do? For everyone? Remember that scandal with the Super Bowl commercial, where they sang America the Beautiful in nine languages, and every ultra-conservative man was offended? Were they wrong?

> Now, and this is important: I didn't call Hank's joke "sexist"

You didn't, but I'm pretty sure the accusations brought to him were of "sexism", not "sexualization".

> But Hank needs to understand that a joke like this with a sexual context, in the absence of mitigating factors, does contribute to that just-us-guys, implicitly-othering culture that doesn't need to outright say "no girls allowed" to make it feel that way.

"Was a private conversation" is a pretty mitigating factor in my book. Even in a professional setting.

> It's important for me to stress that this is not to say that you cannot joke about sex or race. But it's not funny when you punch downward. Louis CK is a wonderful example of this. His jokes reference women and minorities all the time--but the jokes aren't about them, they're about him and his reactions to them based on his own personal context.

I'm preeeetty sure Hank's point was also not offensive towards women, either. He literally made a joke about cocks. Should I also be offended, because he was kind of implying that, as a man, I'd probably stick it everywhere? Come on...

> When it's the result of four hundred years (and more, really, but let's just be geographic here) of concerted activity on the part of society to constrain and hurt the people we consider less privileged today, I think it's not unreasonable to expect understanding and respect on the part of the people who've profited from it.

I don't think you are wrong, I just think that woman's interpretation of this was extremely hypocritical. I cannot sympathize with that washed out a reaction. Throughout her life, and that of her mother, and that of her grandmother, women have had pretty much equal rights. Everyone she can remember has literally had more rights in her own country than my grandfather had in his (for political and historical reasons). If she claims to be offended by this kind of stuff, she is the one who's being an asshole, exactly like that kid in school who was butthurt by everything that didn't fit his temper was an asshole.


Let me tell you what sexism means nowadays: saying or doing anything that makes a woman that is concerned with gender equality feel uncomfortable at all, even if it has nothing to do with sexism, discrimination, or even your own gender. It's maddening.


It can feel maddening, I know.

What's important to realise is that we live in a society that is inherently sexist (that much is clear simply from the statistics), without really having many 'sexists' in it as you would normally define them. Nobody walks around saying (or even thinking, I suspect) that they hate women. The only sensible conclusion is that the bias is a product of our inherent subconscious prejudices, and unfortunately that's really hard to combat because it means we have to inspect every part of our behaviour to try to make sure we're not doing something that puts minorities at any more of a disadvantage.

I'm not defending the really extreme feminists who can definitely go way overboard, but I can understand where they're coming from -- how else do you fight this institutionalised bias that puts you at a significant disadvantage for your entire life? I don't think anyone has a great answer right now, and that has to be so frustrating. As a white male who's never faced much discrimination, it took me a very long time to empathise with that, but I think it's important.


That's the whole basis so the alleged "War on Women."


> Is it just me or are those both terrible overreactions from the companies' sides?

No it's not just you, the responses from the companies were, as far as I'm concerned, illegal; the guy was fired for something he said (freedom of speech?), and she was fired through 4chan blackmailing her employer (as far as I could tell).

Of course, I don't know what kind of employee protection people have; IIRC the IT business isn't unionised yet, so there's little to fall back on. Well, besides the internets, which is what caused kind of a giant backlash.


Freedom of speech only apply to the state. The state cannot restrict your freedom of speech. Your employer can.


And by making more and more communication channels "corporate" the government can wash their hands...


But there are laws against unlawful termination. What his company did could be considered unlawful termination.


I thought that here in the US only applied to a specific list of disallowed reasons (race/gender/etc). Which don't include "being targeted by the Internet Lynch Mob".


It depends on your contract. If it guarantees employment and you're not an at-will employee, the contract will state reasons for why your employment can be terminated. It's possible that the contract might include "being targeted by the Internet Lynch Mob" as one of the reasons, but I doubt it.


People actually use those (employment contracts) here?


I so far worked as an at-will employee, but some of the positions I'm interviewing for are explicitly 6 month or 12 month contracts.


Maybe so. I think this could be made more confusing if he was at the conference while on the company dime.


> Of course, I don't know what kind of employee protection people have

It's the US, and it's tech. So "none whatsoever" is about right.


It often happens in US to fire executives because of bad PR, undepending on their work. It doesn't have to be - How do they do on other continents? And this kind of be-perfect-or-be-banned rule doesn't have to extend to LTEs or even contractors.


One important point here is that Adria's role was that of developer evangelist - a role that requires good community engagement. It's then not such a stretch to imagine that her ability to do this job well might be compromised in the aftermath of such an event.

It's thus not totally unreasonable for her to be let go for this, even if it's not her fault.

Having said that, I find both sides really depressing. The brogrammer/franerdity approach does alienate women, which is why it should as much as possible be suppressed (although it's a culture which itself is frequently hated on, so it'd be really easily to just end up with high school again). Meanwhile public shaming is also not desirable, especially when the act can easily be argued to be the product of a culture, not of an individual.

Both were at fault, but the guy involved shouldn't have lost his job over it, and Adria probably shouldn't have lost her job over it.

One thing that people don't mention is that the employers of both might have wanted to get rid of them for other reasons.


"Both were at fault" is such a cop out. Hank did nothing wrong. According to his account in this article, he laughed at the phrase "large dongle" and said "I would fork that guy's repo" about a male presenter. If those are sins then hell is going to be a very crowded place.

There were a lot of things he could have said that would have been offensive, aggressive and sexist. But he didn't say any of those things. He made two very benign jokes. If that constitutes brogramming and is alienating to women, then there isn't anything to be done about it. There's nothing inherently wrong with having a juvenile sense of humor and giggling with your friends about funny words. He shouldn't have been made to apologize in the first place.

What's wrong is taking someone's picture and posting it along with vague details about an overheard conversation. I don't think that any of us would like that to be socially acceptable behavior. I don't care if two guys make stupid jokes, but I would be upset if people thought it was ok to take anything I said out of context and post it online along with my picture. Apportioning fault equally between those two behaviors isn't helping.


"The brogrammer/franerdity approach does alienate women, which is why it should as much as possible be suppressed"

No, fuck that. Fuck suppressing people. Who are you to say what should and should not be suppressed? What is wrong with innuendos, one of the oldest if not the oldest kind of joke about one of the most fundamental aspects of humanity? Someone is offended by a joke (and with that I mean any joke)? They should gtfo, seriously, hacker culture is not a no-fun zone. No need to suppress innocuous jokes to accomodate for femnazi princesses, prude people and generally the easily offended. There are plenty of women who fit into this culture and have no problem with being easy-going because they know that this behaviour has nothing to do with discrimination or low opinion of women, it's simply nerdy silliness.


The reason why jock/macho type cultures should be suppressed in software engineering is because they end up being fairly exclusive cultures which engender and reward levels of masculinity.

Many companies (possibly correctly) hire and fire based on perceived culture fit, and if your is less accepting of anyone who doesn't fit your slightly macho mold, then women will find it harder to get a job.

This means that such working environments should be thought of as unacceptable, yes.

Obviously there are different levels, but yes, a culture where it's acceptable to make crude sex jokes on the job would deter many of the women I know.

It's just a joke doesn't cut it - especially when you extend that to 'any joke'.

I am not saying that this specific case is such an example


You start your comment saying "fuck suppressing people", which says to me that you're against censorship, and then you talk about the "easily offended". Those two aren't compatible, you either don't suppress people, running the risk of offending anyone, or you only suppress everything but things that would offend the "prude people".

I'm sure you'll agree that constantly making jokes about the fat kid at school, even if they're innocuous, isn't something that should be socially acceptable.


After reading this I don't like Adria Richards very much. She seems very self involved with a persecution context. However, she is still very much a victim of sexist online culture. Bad people can be victims too.

A man makes a mildly sexist unfunny joke and the result is a woman is unemployed for six months and fears for her safety. That is 'not cool', and ironically only reinforces her and other women's belief that there is a patriarchy out to get them.


Was the joke even sexist at all or was it just sexual in nature? Inappropriate sure, but that's a pretty big difference in my book.


I'm not seeing any overt or implicit sexism either. Not even when she provides context, really:

> She explained the background – how she was a “developer evangelist at a successful start-up” and that while the men had been giggling about big dongles the presenter on stage was talking about initiatives to bring more women into the industry. In fact, he’d just projected onto the screen a photograph of a little girl at a tech workshop.

> “…I stood up slowly, turned around and took three, clear photos. There is something about crushing a little kid’s dream that gets me really angry. It takes three words to make a difference: “That’s not cool.” Yesterday the future of programming was on the line and I made myself heard.”

So "Hank" made a couple of suggestive jokes unrelated to the topic at hand, and just because the talk was about women in tech he's sexist and crushing a little kid's dream? Would that have made him a climate change denier had it been on global warming?

Maybe I'm missing something, because Adria's actions and reactions make very little sense to me.


One thing that confuses me is that series of events: 1)There was a speaker on the stage talking about women in the industry. 2)He happened to bring up an image of a girl in a tech shop. 3)Hank and his friend had several exchanges with the sexual jokes.

The timeframe doesn't seem right. For one, they were talking and giggling while someone was presenting? Is this a common thing? Another is that they were speaking louder than a whisper. Really? Making sexual jokes while someone is presenting in a louder than whisper volume? I don't know. It doesn't add up. Maybe they were really being that immature or your first quote is dramatized.


Sexual != sexist. I feel like this concept needs more attention. Anecdotally, I hear just as many sexual jokes from females as I do males - the concept that "they feel comfortable" and happen to be surrounded by similar people (while/male) does not make it sexist, or even threatening.


Involuntary sexualization is sexist though.

What if the picture on screen was a woman saying 'I want to be judged on my merits not my gender' and the guys were saying 'Nice tits' out loud and laughing? Would that be sexism?

I'd unequivocally say yes and, while inarguably less offensive, the dongle joke was still similarly sexist.


What if the picture on the screen was a male, and they cracked a joke about his "package" - who should be offended then? The presumably straight women listening in the next row? Any gay men within earshot? Everyone?

The game of what is considered sexually "offensive" or sexist gets very complex when you start considering sexuality outside the "norms". Suddenly, traditional "sexism" and the assumption that everyone is a straight male and straight female seems laughably archaic in a discussion of modern ethics.


As a bisexual gender dysphoric man and I can tell you that this strawman of alternative sexuality doesn't hold up at all.

What people who don't fall within the norm are mainly concerned with is ridicule, condemnation, threats, abuse and violence from those considered 'normal.' Whatever part of your identity is non normative doesn't significantly change that.

The main thing that changes is that the degree of disdain/disgust/superiority towards your group tends to determine how severe the abuse is; leading to statistics such as that 1 out of every 8 black transgender men end up being murdered.

Tragically enough nerds are also definitely on that spectrum yet somehow the abuse they suffer often doesn't translate into empathy for those even further down the food chain.


> ... the dongle joke was still similarly sexist.

How so? As I understand it the joke wasn't directed at the picture on the screen or anybody in particular.


If I understood correctly it was directed at a talk about diversity in tech and getting more women involved in technology.


Where in the article were they directing it at the talk? I didn't catch that happening anywhere? It seemed like the two guys giggling amongst themselves to me.


I can buy that the joke was just inappropriate, and no doubt that she massively overreacted.

However, she was the one who ended up with the death threats. It's hard to reassure women that they're safe at tech events if the result of them making a social faux-pas are threats to their safety.

Have any white men on this site ever been on the receiving end of a campaign of intimidation and fear? I sure haven't. We then complain that women have an irrational fear of violence and intimidation? Sounds like a lack of empathy on our part.


> Have any white men on this site ever been on the receiving end of a campaign of intimidation and fear?

Yes. I find our macho, heteronormative culture very intimidating at times. Just asking someone out comes with the risk of assault (or worse). It's not a campaign, exactly, but it is something a lot of guys go through because of how they were born.

Intersectionality is a valuable concept because it handily avoids pointless discussions over who has it worse. We all find ourselves in situations where whatever privileges we have because of how we were born are meaningless.


"a social faux-pas"

..

"Have any white men on this site ever been on the receiving end of a campaign of intimidation and fear?"

Did you hear what happened to this "Hank" guy when he made a joke once, a "social faux-pas"? I heard there was an article about him on HN recently.


Andrea was sent pictures of her head superimposed on porn actors. She was sent rape and death threats. Was Hank sent death threats?

To be clear, my definition of 'a campaign of intimidation and fear' are threats to your personal safety and your life.


I think what happens in life is this.

You get fucked over constantly. This eventually builds up. When you lose your livelihood through no fault of your own but have no power to react.

Then you see it happen to someone else, over of all fucking things a dongle joke.

You unleash that fury onto someone that is deserving of ridicule, but not the extent to which some people take it.

My philosophy has become avoid everyone always and forever, it never works out in your favor. I'm great at establishing a rapport and being friendly with people, you just have to always keep it superficial except with your close friends and family.


> A man makes a mildly sexist unfunny joke and the result is a woman is unemployed for six months and fears for her safety.

No, the reason for her unemployment and harassment was not the private joke between two friends, but her handling of the situation (i.e., the public shaming via Twitter).


[deleted]


It's very hard to sympathize with anyone when you're reading someone perform a character assassination on them.


I've deleted what I wrote because of the scary number of upvotes it was gaining. I don't feel like spending the rest of the night trying to defend something about something that is so devisive even if I am on the "popular" side in this particular forum. I didn't write anything profound and it began to feel like cheap point scoring.


that's very sad, but I understand why you are doing it.


What character assassination?


i agree, seems like the author has quoted her truthfully and she assasinates her own character.

give someone enough rope...


JR is a journalist with no agenda whatsoever. If you knew anything about him you would know he is probably the most passive voice left in modern media


I initially had a similar reaction but then forced myself to take a step back. I think I can sympathise with Adria regarding her initial reaction.

She's a minority surrounded by men who are happy to make these sorts of jokes within earshot. It sounds harmless to us, but I can't even imagine what it's like to have been at PyCon as a black Jewish woman.

It must be very difficult to attend such a conference and then hear a joke like that — made with all the ease and comfort of someone who has no trouble fitting in. It could push you to do something rash like tweet a photo stating how upset it makes you.

Hank did something stupid and insensitive. His actions made a woman feel excluded, even during a talk about being more inclusive to women. But Hank also seems like a good guy who made a mistake that anyone could make.

The overreactions here seem to be on the part of their employers. It fuelled the fire that hurt them both and made the public angry.


I don't really understand how you can be "pushed" to tweet a picture and then make a blog post about it, without feeling to be in a vengeful holy war.

Reporting a bad behavior to the conference organizer is ok. But, I don't see how -in the reality we live in- making a blog post about it will make the world a better place.


> but I can't even imagine what it's like to have been at PyCon as a black Jewish woman.

Is this a joke?


I can't even imagine what it's like to have been at PyCon as a black Jewish woman

Okay, being a female involved in what seems to be a male-dominated event might be a bit uncomfortable but how does being a black jewish relate?

More precisely what does being Jewish have to do with anything?!


She's justifying her lack of empathy by that. He's of a different religion (I suppose he is Christian), so not in-group, but out-group. We have less empathy for out-group people.


> as a black Jewish woman

Feeling out of place as a black woman I can understand, but how does her religion segregate her from the rest of the audience? Is this difference visible from outside?


Read a little bit on intersectionality [1] and keep in mind that Judaism is a ethnoreligious group that has a history of being oppressed.

My personal take on the matter is that Jews also benefit from quite a bit of privilege, at least in the U.S. but it's understandable why someone with a fusion of minority backgrounds would be aware of how these work against them.

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


My point was that in the context of the conference, her religion didn't visibly distinguish her from the rest of the audience, so there's no reason to write

"[...] I can't even imagine what it's like to have been at PyCon as a black Jewish woman"

just like there wouldn't be a reason to say

"[...] I can't even imagine what it's like to have been at PyCon as a black vegetarian woman"

or

"[...] I can't even imagine what it's like to have been at PyCon as a black stamp-collecting woman"

Note: I'm aware that the "black Jewish woman" argument was her own statement.


Being raised a black Jewish woman is different from being raised a black woman. That's the entire idea behind intersectionality. Therefore, her black Jewish identity and any oppression she may have suffered as a result is part and parcel in this discussion.


That's right...

Because she identifies with Jew, then she's being repressed. Because she identifies with Black, then she's being repressed. Because she identifies with Woman, then she's being repressed.

In other words, you're going to repress her, whether you like it or not! So stay away from her, or you'll end up in his place.


Jewish describes an ethnic group as well as a religious one, so potentially, yes.


One interesting aspect that seems to be completely left out of that discussion is the issue of labour protection laws.

Firing someone in Europe for some minor issue like that would probably be a major legal issue here.


Or if they were a union employee in the US.


With enough money in the fired party's bank account, it would be. I think the only difference between Europe and the US in this regard is the amount of money required to get justice.


> With enough money in the fired party's bank account, it would be.

Most of the US is at-will, employees can be fired for no reason or any reason as long as there's no breach of relevant federal statutes (Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disability Act, …) — the latter being why employees are generally fired with absolutely no reason provided just to avoid any possibility of status breach.

That means for most firings there is no legal recourse, because there is no legal labour protection.

Most of Europe is very different on that point, you can't fire somebody just because you feel like it, and there are a number of labour-focused courts which tend to have a very bad view of companies trying to break or skirt labour laws.

It's not a question of money, it's a question of laws, or the lack thereof.


In US to get rid of an employee, you have 2 choices: fire or lay off.

You can fire an employee for his performances or for a fault, and he's not entitled to any compensation.

You can lay off an employee whenever you want, but you usually have to give him a severance package and maybe other benefits.

The difference between US and Europe is that a layoff is easy in US, while in Europe you need a good reason (for example the company is losing money) and you have accountability in the way to pick who has to go. Also the severance package is bigger, and there is a several month notice to give.

Back to US, a fired employee can sue if if believe the firing was not appropriate. In this case, I don't know if Hank or Adria were actually fired or laid off. In the former they could have sued, in the latter there's nothing they could have done.


I'm sure proceedings have been successfully made in such states, at great financial expense, to prove that even though no reason was given "federal statutes" were breached. Your argument that that has never happened and can never happen is much harder to make convincingly.


> Your argument that that has never happened and can never happen is much harder to make convincingly.

No, my argument is that the vast majority of firings in the US are not covered by any labour protection laws or agreements. It's not a question of money when there's no law or contract to build your case on.


Having worked in Europe and seen the process at work, lawyers are cheap. Employees sue and succeed in their suits for surprisingly simple things.

Europeans take employee protection very seriously.


I think what throwawayaway was saying was that if a company wants to lay you off in a way that contravenes some employee protection laws they'll first offer you a sum of money on condition that it doesn't go to court (more than the amount they legally have to).


so we agree, it's cheaper in europe to get justice, but not free.


I'm not sure about other EU countries, but mine grants a small amount of free lawyer hours to every resident. Those free lawyers are not AAA-grade for sure, but they take care of the formalities. Some people (low income, unions etc) are eligible for more hours and/or better free lawyers.

So in case of a simple case, it might end up being free.


Why do people consistently say "my country" when it's just as easy to say "Denmark" or "Croatia" or what have you.


As @throwawayaway mentioned, some people may be worried about privacy. Many European countries are truly that small.

I myself have my location in my profile, so obviously this is not the case :) By saying that it's my country, I don't have to add if I just heard about it from my colleague, friend, read on a blog or have first-hands experience. I could say "my country (name-of-the-country)" to make it more clear though. But in this case the exact country doesn't matter much. Thus I put in the necessary information only.


You'd be surprised how small the tech industry is once you get down to national level in Europe.


If you're a member of some sort of union (and many more people are) then they'll often provide you with a legal team for free if they believe your case is 'worthy'.


I don't think tech workers in the EU would find it prohibitively expensive to take an employer to court, though. Plus, legal insurance is pretty affordable at this income bracket.


I pay 22 pounds(~$28)/month for my home insurance and it also provides up to half a million pounds for legal costs in case I wanted to sue my employer on the grounds of unfair dismissal. In general, I wouldn't think twice about going to court about anything, most things you can do without a lawyer or with a court-appointed one.


sounds like a major difference, if a labour law only protects rich people, it is not really in the spirit of an actual "labour law"

https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u...


my point is rather badly explained, i mean to say that you need quite a lot of money on either continent to fight these type of battles.


no you dont, in Europe there is a lot of legal aid and support available to bring these to employment tribunals. you dont have to be rich to get justice over here (but as with everywhere it does help).


well free legal aid is worth what you pay for it in mine and other's experience. hopefully you won't have to rely on it someday. being rich certainly does help.


i disagree, free legal aid is very good, it just depends on your experience. i assume you are in the US and free legal aid there is the public defender where they are underfunded, overworked and probably not motivated by the system. In the UK where legal aid has been a part of the system for so long there is little difference between the quality of advice and representation. Some of the top firms for employment rights do both private and legal aid funded work and the same people work on both. Yes there are corporate law employment lawyers who dont do legal aid but I would bet dollars to donuts that most of them cut their teeth doing legal aid funed work and it is that work that gave them the experience and knowledge to move onto private paying work.


I'm in the EU. My experience has been with juniors or people who may be older in years but very new to the profession and they used the cover of free legal aid to fish for paying customers for their firms.


It might be lousy in the US but the limited amount of free legal care in the UK for non-criminal justice is very very good.

There are continuing restrictions on the availability of that legal aid though.


Not at all, in Europe this kind of justice is accessible to most people (and most likely you will win the costs as well). OK, I am speaking for Spain but I guess it is the same thing in all of the EU.


I remember when this incident happened. I can't remember what my reaction was at the time (probably a combination of "let's not alienate women in tech further" and "sexual jokes are OK in the right context, and a conf is propably not it") but reading this excerpt - particularly reading about Adria's continued anger(?) at Hank - really shocked me.


The issue was that the sexual joke - a subtle and not particularly harmful one - was part of a private conversation between the two men. Richards inserted herself into that situation and made a big deal out of it. OK, you could say, she felt upset at their language, so maybe reporting it to the conference organizers was fine. But sic'ing her twitter mob on the men essentially invited the backlash that followed.


Is private the right word? I don't think they were trying to share their conversation with the rest of the room, but they also didn't go very far in trying to keep it from the rest of the room.

In a legal sense, private more or less goes out the window when you share something with a third party, a court would be unlikely to step in and protect the privacy of a conversation held in a shared space.

The internet conversation certainly doesn't have to use the legal definition, but "private" does sort of invoke the idea that the communication is intentionally being held close, and if you are talking in a room with other people, you aren't working very hard at that.


Well, "private" in the sense that it was two people speaking one-on-one in a personal conversation, and not attempting to gain the attention of others in the area.

Obviously not "private" in the sense that they were attempting to keep their communications confidential.


I remember this too. When sendgrid was ddosed, as a company that entirely depended on sendgrid to send mails (I had joined recently), we were affected too. Since then, we run postfix and use multiple email providers behind it, but ironic how a tweet affected so many people.


She lost her job and faced the usual (sadly) torrent of internet abuse. I really dare you to be cool then … I mean, the gall of some people. That’s so fucking weird.

In my view no one should have been fired here and that’s that.

We are facing a huge problem. Abuse and harassment run rampant and I bet that’s one of the reasons why some women are very, very sensitive to some things. That’s the problem to solve here.


When I was ~17, I was cast out of an online community that I had been working in/with for around 3-4 years. Overnight I lost my hobby, my so-called friends, and my entire personal life was examined in detail and revealed to the public for mocking/the enjoyment of the perpetrators.

Anyway, the scope of the backlash was not the same as it would be these days (because of the availability of Internet access for one) but my entire life was turned upside down for several years. I had to go into virtual hiding for a while. I'm 29 and I still feel shame thinking about it, even though I'm not entirely sure what it was I did "wrong".

So, I think that I have a tiny smidgen of an idea of what it's like (maybe?) and I still don't get Adria's anger.

I totally agree with you otherwise.


There's only one way to reach peace: By not attacking the other party and by giving up past debts, altogether at a country level.

Example: The current way we deal with respect for women in IT is to raise those problems, get people fired, give women the promotion preference, and shame reluctant minds. If those actions leave scars in the sentiments of males, we won't be any closer to peace, confidence and safety between the two genders.

After WWII, the German people started to learn French and the French people started to learn German, among a lot of similar things. We need to find what will lead us to work together and acknowledge each other's qualities, more than attacking each other on legal grounds.


Bear in mind that Adria's _still_ getting harassed over this. For Hank it's over.


I get that, and I empathise for Adria, but Hank isn't the perpetrator of the abuse. It's the direction of Adria's anger that shocked me, not that she's angry.


So she overhears a private conversation between friends [none of the talk was directed to or being about anybody in particular], tweets a "summary" without context, adds a photo of the people involved, all in order to publicly shame them, while they did nothing wrong.

No sympathy for her.


Also, her own words are showing signs of insecurity in her side which leads to near destruction of two peoples lives. (her own included).

Also, both companies' responses to these events are overreactions.


I don't think Adria's company really over-reacted; she achieved the opposite of what her job of 'developer evangelist' was all about.


Well, yes you are right about that. I did not know/missed her position at the company. If you are an evangelist you are a frontend of your company, an institution's face where ever publicly speaking.


> No sympathy for her.

She's gone through hell. Why wouldn't you feel sympathy for her, even if you don't like what she did?


I'll talk openly now. After reading what she said in the interview, my visceral reaction was "What a self-righteous bitch, she got what she deserved." Death and rape threaths were over the top though.

Others in this thread have also commented on her interview, and not in a positive light. Her line of thought is indicative of a twisted, insidious person that you want to keep out of your life.

Had she not lived through hell this time, she might have done it (runining another person's life) again.

Also, she's done a disservice to women in tech.

So, no sympathy for her.

Also, if I were Hank, I'd consult with an attorney to see whether she overstepped some privacy laws and pressed charges if tha lawsuit were viable.


> “I distance myself from female developers a little bit now,” he replied. “I’m not as friendly. There’s humour, but it’s very mundane. You just don’t know. I can’t afford another Donglegate.”

I'm guessing he's not the only one. If she wanted to make tech more welcoming for women, it looks like her plan backfired.


One of the saddest stories in tech in the past few years.

Everyone lost. Nothing was gained.

As a white male I was implicitly guilty, but wasn't sure how to stop being so.

The sock / penis joke (broadcast to 9000+ people) was hard to get past, given the 1/9000th sized unintentional audience of the repo / dongle joke. Neither was especially funny, and it's hard to remember a time in my distant past that I may have found either particularly droll. Maybe the low bar for contemporary comedy is what I find most disappointing.


> As a white male I was implicitly guilty, but wasn't sure how to stop being so.

Is this a joke?


No, I didn't intend it to be. The sentiment expressed by Adria came up at the time, and was a big part of this interview (not sure how much faith we can put in the quotes attributed, but for the moment I'll assume they are accurate).

Specifically the bit several other people have been drawn to and quoted in other threads here.

When asked how she felt about the impact on the guys involved:

  "Not too bad, he's a white male. I'm a black Jewish female."
I find this kind of attitude / rationalisation uncomfortable because it turns out that I am, through no fault of my own, part of the demographic identified as inherently worthy of less empathy.

I suspect it's meant to be more nuanced than this, however I conclude that either her thinking is fuddled, or she can't properly express the sentiment - neither is ideal if the goal is to have a sensible conversation.


Another interesting article about online shaming:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tw...

The things is that we often forget that there are actual human beings behind the tweets - sometimes with poor judgment skills, but often more misguided than malevolent.


Same guy, same story, same book he's promoting.


that doesnt mean it is not an interesting read on a similar situation.


I think the feeling of entitlement to be never offended isn't a right (mainly because anything can offend some people). Adria is seriously comparing the situation caused by people making silly jokes to feeling as if she's going to be murdered? Er?

I feel very bad for Hank in this and also don't think that she should be hounded by 4chan et al. I will also avoid using SendGrid - her company in my life. Who is Hank's previous employer? I intend to boycott that completely spineless company too (name and shame!).

Also I really fucking dislike the pop psychology about her Dad in the article. No. I believe your past is not your future and you are responsible for your choices.

Finally, it's ironic that Adria implies she thinks hank deserves what he got. If Adria were being judged by her own standards about public discourse...


Wow, sounds like the good old days of Thought Police. See someone who don't respect the ideology en vogue, report them, and bam, they will be taken care of. Nice job Adria. Setting the good example for the kids.


I feel some real cognitive dissonance when I read about how this situation unfolded.

Allegedly Adria felt threatened, fearful for her life. Her reaction to this fear was to turn around, take a photo, post it on the internet and presumably stay where she was. Hank expressed confusion over how the organisers found out about it - if she'd left her seat that confusion wouldn't exist.

So we have a woman fearing for her life, sitting in a seat mere centimetres away from the threat, tapping out an accusatory tweet on her smartphone.

It might just be me, but in that circumstance with an obvious breach of conference protocol my first reaction would be to leave the immediate vicinity of the threat and find a conference organiser to raise the issue with.

Posting it online does nothing to defend against the immediate perceived threat - it just doesn't add up.

I'm not saying that Adria shouldn't have felt threatened, but her behaviour does not fit the profile of someone in that mental state. Beyond that, public naming and shaming is not the way to deal with this kind of a problem. Talk to an organiser, get the breach of conference policy dealt with in private and if you feel it's warranted, post about the experience and how it negatively affected you in a constructive way that doesn't cause a witch hunt.

All that this stunt has achieved is further marginalisation of female developers; the risk of having an offhand joke resulting in being publicly drawn and quartered just isn't worth socialising around them. If this case were handled properly - by talking to the conference organisers and dealing with the breach of policy - this wouldn't have become such a huge issue.

I don't understand why it had to be dealt with in public like this.


I really have nothing nice to say about Adria Richards. Following my mother's advice, that is my only comment.


What astounds me is that all this fuss was made over a silly dongle joke.

If the guy had been overheard quietly telling his friend a joke like, say, The Aristocrats, then I could understand someone getting seriously offended. You don't tell a joke like that where there is even a small chance unintended people will here it.

But a lame joke based on "dongle" sounding like a dirty word? That's a joke that could be told on a children't show on TV and not even draw complaints from parents in the Bible Belt.

This kind of humor is acceptable for a general family audience on prime time television. For instance, in The Simpsons episode "Bart, the Mother", Bart raises a pair of lizards that are an illegal invasive species, and Skinner is explaining why they must be killed.

Skinnner: It's already wiped out the Dodo, the Cuckoo, and the Ne-Ne, and it has nasty plans for the Booby, the Titmouse, the Woodcock, and the Titpecker.

Similarly, in the episode "You Kent Always Say What You Want", where Kent Brockman says a very nasty swear word on live TV, and apparently has gotten away with it.

Grampa Simpson: I can't believe Kent Brockman got away with it. Back in my day TV stars couldn't say boobie, tushie, burp, fanny burp, water closet, underpants, dingle dangle, Boston marriage, LBJ, Titicaca, hot dog or front lumps!

Heck, I could easily see a "big dongle" joke being told on NPR on a Saturday morning by Garrison Keillor during the annual "Prairie Home Companion" joke show (which is hilarious, BTW).

If your reaction to overhearing such a joke is anything more than rolling your eyes at the childish humor, your offensiveness sensor needs recalibration. I've heard that getting a pet can bring calmness and help you recalibrate. A bird could be a good low maintenance pet for this. I recommend a Titpecker.


> If the guy had been overheard quietly telling his friend a joke like, say, The Aristocrats, then I could understand someone getting seriously offended.

Why on earth would someone get offended over an animated kids film about cats?


It is utterly mind-boggling that someone can feel threatened by a comment about big dongles or forking someone's repo. I'm sorry, but at this point, you need to seek professional help, and you are trivializing the threats that many women feel every single day by creating threats and persecution where there is none.


> Another word for software is “repository”

Tech reporting in a sentence.


I wasn't bothered by this inaccuracy. It's close enough to the truth so that the joke makes sense. (Well, as much as the joke can be considered to make sense.)


A lot of time is spent talking about Hank and Adria, but most of the damage in these sorts of cases are caused by bystanders: all of us. It feels pretty safe to be part of the crowd pillorying someone else, but I'm sure we've all said or done something thoughtless in the past that we would be embarrassed about if it were broadcast publicly. And while there is a valid discussion to be had about the environment for women in tech, I don't believe this incident has moved that discussion forward. It has put a lot of people on the defensive and made them dig into extreme positions. If there is a moral here, perhaps it is that we should try to be a little less self righteous and see things in a more nuanced way.


I love Jon Ronson's work. He manages to make people appear human. Here, though, Adria comes across really poorly. She blames "Hank" for the (totally unacceptable) abuse she receives, even when she's told that he was not in anyway responsible for it.

If you get the chance to see his documentaries or listen to his radio shows you should - they're good.


A good writeup with some more background information here:

    https://amandablumwords.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/3/
I found it interesting that apparently, Adria has done similar things in the past.


That blog post was as sensible a commentary as I've ever read on these kinds of issues, thanks for sharing.


I didn't think my opinion of Adria Richards could actually decrease further, but somehow it just did (assuming the article accurately represented her statements).

I want to be charitable to her but these statements are just bad.


Read her twitter. It doesn't get much better.


There's a real reason why society stopped doing public shaming as punishment. It brings out the worst in everyone.


Let's be clear here, Jon Ronson spent a fair bit of time lying to Adria Richards to put together his book, his portrayal of the timeline is inaccurate and even if this wasn't the case it'd be a phenomenal amount of false equivalence:

http://www.shakesville.com/2015/02/the-falsest-of-false-equi...

TL;DR; Yeah he got fired, but he didn't get fired because of an internet backlash.


can you provide any supporting facts that Jon Ronson lied? I mean you say he lied about hsi reasons for interviewing her, i.e. said it was about sexism. However he has not lied about what she said or what actually happened. You do not deny that he has quoted her faithfully.

To me it seems that she was expecting that her minority status would protect her, she goes to lengths to point out she is black, female and jewish. who cares? And then the article has a huge backstory on why her life was so tough. you know what so were many peoples, the only reason to make an issue of how hard you had it as a kid is to try and engineer some sympathy. either what she did was right or it was wrong but her upbringing has nothing to do with that.


In my opinion, her upbringing and life have everything to do with this. If it were not for how she was brought up and how she was treated during her life, she may or may not have done what she did. The only reason is not to try to engineer some sympathy, but there are other possible reasons as well.

If her backstory was a backstory full of mental illness, would you respond differently to what had happened?

Now, I'm not trying to say that racism or stereotypes are good, because they aren't. However, people's past are what shape people and can help others understand people's viewpoints.

Even because of her backstory, however, I find that pretty much everybody (except the reporter, who didn't participate too much) overreacted. In general, though, I find that many of Adria's thought processes were flawed, but that's not relevant to this reply (at least, I don't think so).


but if her background applies then surely so does his, did he struggle in his upbringing? is there anything in his early life that made him into the person he is today? sure there are but we dont get that side because the sympathy that the writer is trying to evoke is with one side. If they made both sides appear human then they cant have an evil doer and a clear cut good guy.

And i agree our past shapes us, shaped both people in this debate, but we only hear her side because that is who the writer wants you to sympathise with. Hank is just a namelss white male with no life before this incident.


True, however, in defense of the writer perhaps the writer was trying to balance out the story, because throughout most of the story above her backstory was pretty much "it's her fault". To balance it out a bit, in the middle the writer inserted a "hey, maybe she did really have a reason for her reaction" before returning to "nope, not really-ish".

At least, that's how I felt when I read the article.

But you do make a valid point, his background isn't really brought forth, although slightly it is but not much at all. However, I feel that saying something along the lines of "Hank grew up in Sometown, Somestate, Someplace, and had a loving mother and father, etc etc etc..." would feel out of place in such an article... I'm only guessing Hank's backstory and do not claim to actually know it.

tl;dr & in conclusion: Perhaps it's the writer trying to balance things out? :/


To be honest his stories are about sexism, but not in the way some activists like to frame it, but still.

I agree, it's all about her minority status and backstory, I'd argue that because of that she wasn't able to handle the matter in a smarter way. It was dangerous to make a public example out of this guy and escalate things, which thanks to the internet is way easier than ever. If she'd felt stronger, had more middle class problem solving skills, she might have taken a smarter approach, one where she didn't expose herself to attacks.

There is one thing I learned, just because someone is poor, had it hard, doesn't mean she's right or a nice person and is equipped to handle situations appropriately.


You're asking for supporting evidence for something I didn't say? Wow, exactly how weak do you think your case is?


Except nothing in that page gives any facts about why he was fired. The author claims:

> A man was fired for violating the conduct rules in a professional space.

Which is naked supposition on her part.


This article is the worst kind of inflammatory journalism. I would never attempt to deny that there is a systemic patriarchy in place, or that white privilege exists, but tying every perceived injustice in the world to these braoder issues undermines the real issues that affect millions of people on a daily basis. As has been pointed out here by many other commentors, the behaviour of Hank and his friend was clearly outside conference guidelines and their being reprimanded for it is absolutely correct. Attempting to tie that to some sense of white (no race element to this story at all), male enitlement is absurd and frankly does a disservice to both the civil rights and feminist movements. When humour is made at the expense of a person in a position of relative weakness it is wrong. When she overheard someone else's (admittedly unfunny but by no means directly offensive to any race/gender/sexual orientation)joke and took offense then that was her personal reaction. Making her displeasure known to conference organisers was absolutely within her remit but turning herself into some sort of 'crusader' for a vague idea of 'rights and justice' in a public forum is problematic for me. Your article has done exactly that, by 'casually' mentioning the use of smart phones in the Ferguson case you are obviously attempting to equate what was, let's be honest, a minor case of a clash of senses of humour to the killing of a young man by the police. That is despicable. You then go on to mention the race of Lindsey Stone, despite the fact that it has no relevance to the case which she became known for. This sort of linking of every case of offensive public behaviour with what are real, and long running, issues of race and gender equality serve only to perpetuate a mentality of 'us and them' and undermine real cases of racism and sexism that still occur around the world on a regular basis.


> I would never attempt to deny that there is a systemic patriarchy in place

I would.

There are a couple of counter-arguments. One, claiming that there is a "patriarchy" sounds a whole lot like a conspiracy theory. Replace "patriarchy" with "zionism" in typical statements to see what I mean. This makes me very wary of any hand-waving claims of "patriarchy".

The second is this:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15491274

Women have in-group preference. Men don't. The assumption that there's a "patriarchal" preference by white men for other white men is projection. What do I mean by this?

Most people believe that other people think like them. "I'm a reasonable person. So if I did X, it would be for reason Y. Therefore if other people are doing X, it's for reason Y."

i.e. Rich white men prefer to support other rich white men.

That just isn't true. There is no evidence for "in-group" preference of men. There is plenty of evidence that no such preference exists.

There is evidence for preference of power. If you can make Bill Gates money, he'll help you so long as it's in his favor. The second you can't help him, he'll cut your throat (metaphorically speaking), and leave you for dead.

The men who have such behavior tend to get ahead of people who aren't that ruthless. This isn't "in-group men" preference. It's cut-throat back-stabbing competition.

> Making her displeasure known to conference organisers was absolutely within her remit but turning herself into some sort of 'crusader' for a vague idea of 'rights and justice' in a public forum is problematic for me.

I agree. That's the crux of the matter. I suspect if she had only complained to the conference organizers, none of the rest would have happened. But she was clearly operating outside of the bounds of the conference herself.

And from the other links posted here, that wasn't the first time she did something like this.


I hear what you are saying and I agree that the term patriarchy is a very loaded one. However what I am referring to is, as other commenters have pointed out, a systemic patriarchy. I am by no means implying some sort of conscious system of oppression but rather a centuries-old systemic dominance of men over women that has undeniably resulted in women feeling that they exist in a position of relative social weakness to men. I share your suspicion when people mention systems of 'control' while implying some sort of conspiracy. My use of the term patriarchy is closer connected to Antonio Gramsci's theory of hegemony, within a gender framework http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hegemony. Granted this is changing but it is by no means over. I merely stated my position on women's rights and the patriarchy as a way to pre-empt any unfounded backlash to my comments along the lines that I somehow support the patriarchy. As you have pointed out the main point of my article was that her actions were justified to a point, and that the actions that went beyond that point were the catalyst for the unfortunate repercussions that ensued for both parties. Thank you though for highlighting this as it is an important distinction to be made.


> claiming that there is a "patriarchy" sounds a whole lot like a conspiracy theory. Replace "patriarchy" with "zionism" in typical statements to see what I mean.

That's a false analogy. Zionism and similar conspiracy theories are predicated upon the notion that there organizations and people consciously manipulating things behind the scenes.

When most people discuss the patriarchy, they're not referring to conscious, willful agents. They're talking about systemic sexism.


> When most people discuss the patriarchy, they're not referring to conscious, willful agents. They're talking about systemic sexism.

In my experience, that's the minority view.

I've had a number of people tell me out-right that they're "opposed to the patriarchy, which is a system where grey-haired white men rule the world".

Great. Are they "opposed to zionism, which is a system where jews rule the world"?

They label the second statement as bat-shit insane. So do I.

They label the first statement as reasonable and above board. I don't.


I will agree with you that if that's the position they're taking then it's pretty far from reasonable.


This is why the incident and all reports of it is so hard to navigate, there don't seem to be enough facts - just the differing perspectives of three people, which we have to judge on the merits of their plausibility.

In the linked article, I got curious about this paragraph:

"Everything was seemingly resolved, and there was no public reaction on Twitter. It was only once the man "posted about losing his job on Hacker News" that the pushback started, and then escalated exponentially, with even ostensible allies abetting the abuse by tone and choice policing."

If I recall, and I might well be wrong, the discussion was already underway when that guy posted. I'm also having trouble with identifying anything in the content of his post that would put him at fault for what happened afterwards (which was deplorable).

Can anyone with a better recollection than me weigh in on this? The article doesn't sound particularly unbiased, and neither does it have to be, but are the facts right here or not?


You are probably referring to this paragraph:

> I did not get the guy fired; his own behaviour, which his employer considered another strike on his already written-up employee file, caused his employer to make the decision to fire him.

I'd like to quote Wikipedia when I say "citation needed". Even though it's an interesting post and raises good questions, I don't think it backs your TL;DR.


That's anything but clear. Could you clarify what lies Ronson told and also point out the inaccuracies in the timeline.

There's plenty of inaccuracies in your link, for example: I'm not sure how forking a guys repo is sexist, that seems to be (an understandable) context based misunderstanding rather than a fact.


What angers me most about that conference incident is the indiscriminate public shaming of two people, one of whom was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Imagine being all over the internet because your company sent you to a conference with the wrong guy.


I thought about that, too. The article helps to explain the behavior of everyone involved. I can see myself in everyones actions and later regretting to have done them.

Nevertheless if got into something like that, I would have sued her.


> He noticed ruefully that a few days earlier the woman – her name was Adria Richards – had herself tweeted a stupid penis joke. She’d suggested to a friend that he put socks down his pants to bewilder TSA agents at the airport.

Lot of hypocrisy here! Neither person deserved to lose their job, the whole situation seems to have gotten completely out of hand. Funny how even the smallest hint of acknowledgement or response can keep the snowball rolling.


This guy is doing a great job promoting his book. I guess the discussion here won't be real different than this recent one:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9085680

It will certainly be interesting to watch the mechanics of internet mobs evolve as people get a better idea of the potential consequences of them.


People who have been through the wringer on these subjects fight pretty hard in "nymwars". I personally try very hard to keep my real name off the internet.

I don't think there's an easy solution to the downsides of viral publishing.

About Jon Ronson's writing, I pretty much detested "Them" because of how he ridicules the conspiracy theorists at the start of the book. He goes on to spy on the Bilderburg group and the Bohemian Grove and comes away with a "so what" conclusion. At the start of the book his attitude was ridicule, that no such meetings take place.

Maybe I'm just mentally unflexible, but maybe if he stayed around for a bit longer for meat and bones discussion instead of engaging in idle chit chat he'd have a different opinion.

Also similar to "so what" attitude in Four Lions the film, he badly underestimates the Finsbury Park mosque crowd.


Ronson did an interview with Alex Jones where they both talked about what they saw when they infiltrated Bohemian Grove. It was fascinating to see a complete conspiracy denialist debate with a complete conspiracy true-believer. It was a serious Rashomon moment.



One was a professional context, one wasn't.


i would wager that most people feel a private conversation at a convention is less a professional context than getting on the twitter megaphone, i certainly do.


So is her twitter not used ever in a professional context? Or does she get to pick and choose which statements are and aren't in said context?


sigh This situation is filled to the brim with stupid and (aparently) harmless actions that lead to stupid reactions.

- Hank makes a crude joke. This is a stupid, immature action. But harmless. And, imo, he has all the right to make the jokes he wants.

- Adria feels offended. I thinks it's stupid, but she has all the right to feel that way.

- Adria takes picture and publicly shames A in the internet. This is a stupid and dickish action. But, imo, she has all the right to do so.

- Adria calls Hank's job about the joke. Stupid and dickish action, but she's free to do so.

- Hank is fired because of joke. Stupid and dickish action.

- etc...

There is one principle I follow that could've prevented all this:

STOP TAKING SERIOUSLY WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY!

I mean it. Simply ignore it. Unless someone acts upon you, nothing happens. In the long run words mean nothing.

This would make Hank's employer ignore the phonecall, the internet ignore the public shaming, and Adria ignore the stupid joke. And ignore the harassment.

For people in IT, used to work with logic and reason, we should show more maturity and stop believing and caring about these "he-said/she-said" internet dramas.


The worst and most ironic part of this story is how 4chans vigilante 'justice' likely ended up reaffirming Adrias fears surrounding men in the field.

For better or worse, 4chan is a supernode in Internet culture, and there's certainly some association between it and many other tech and hacker communities. Just look at how many conference presentations these days contain memes that originate on 4chan.

The end of the article talks about how Hank no longer trusts himself to talk to women in the workplace, but what about Adria? Regardless of whether her fears were founded, she must now feel totally vindicated and more fearful than ever before.


Taking sides in this is the wrong thing to do.

The guys should perhaps have been more aware that they could cause offence. She should have perhaps been more aware that photographing and publicly shaming those individuals would have public repercussions she could not anticipate.

However it's the people taking sides that caused the problem here. It's the employers, the haters, the people sending death threats and photoshopping pictures and DDoS'ing sites and all of that.

There's no need. Somebody breached a conference code of conduct. Somebody else was offended by that. It should have been an issue between the person who made the joke, the person who complained and the conference organiser.

The fact it spilled out into the public domain could be handled if people were not going to take sides and just realised that this was absolutely 100% none of their business, and to reflect that keeping within codes of conduct is a good thing for everybody.

But the Real World isn't like that. The juvenile idiots on 4chan are more than happy to take a side based on prejudice, cognitive bias and the protection of pseudonymity and behave in an absolutely disgusting way.

If you're about to do something publicly, be prepared to explain yourself to everybody you know, including your mother.

If you're about to do something in a semi-public space, same thing applies, and semi-public means using a pseudonym.

Everybody involved in this story got it wrong, but the very worst people around this were the people who decided to take it a level of hatred it did not deserve.


Related: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tw...

Also related: http://www.torontosun.com/2015/03/03/phaneuf-lupul-hire-law-...

Basically, someone tweeted a joke about one well-known NHL player banging the wife of his team mate. It appeared on the Twitter ticker on the bottom of a TSN broadcast, whose filters didn't catch it. Of course, someone else took a pic of it, posted it online and from there, even more people saw it. Now both the NHL players are suing TSN AND they want to go after the original tweeter. Who definitely had no clue his/her tweet would end up on national TV.

In both cases, a media outlet shared the original tweet to their massive audiences. Where these tweets would have faded into obscurity, instead they were exposed to the sensibilities of a much larger audience.


I'm pretty conflicted about this whole thing, and was back then, too.

I try to be supportive of anybody, and generally go out of my way to be inclusive. I also make really stupid, juvenile jokes, although I am audience-aware.

In this case, his audience was the guy he was sitting next to, and there was nothing overtly threatening in the joke. In fact, if anything, it'd indicate he was gay and not at all interested in the woman in front of him who overheard him.

Ultimately, and this will likely get me in trouble, but I think she handled this in the absolute wrongest way possible.

(Reading the old https://amandablumwords.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/3/ response post largely sums up why I think it was wrong, but I wasn't aware of the other times she didn't bother trying to resolve things in a way that might actually produce positive results.)

The threats made toward her are obviously reprehensible; I don't understand that reaction either.


Thank you for posting this article, I was trying to track it down for the thread. This encounter was so widely reported that it's almost difficult to discuss it honestly and openly and without taking sides. I feel like that, in and of itself, is the tragedy for the community.


I definitely have a side.

I think she handled it wrong, in the same way she's apparently handled similar situations wrong. Lashing out is almost never the best response, a simple "wtf" would almost certainly have ended there on the spot, and a constructive public discussion could have ensued.

Meh. It's awful. He shouldn't have been fired and vilified. She shouldn't have received rape and death threats (wth?!). Two lives in (at least temporary) upheaval when simple communication could have sufficed.


I completely agree.


This feels like a thread in which expressing ANY opinion (except, perhaps, this one) is a potential liability. That realization saddens me.


Your lack of support of the correct side in this argument is unsettling /s


People must be responsible for their actions. Without that society breaks down. Today the Internet is an amplifier of consequences, good or bad. A professional working in the industry isn't a professional if they are not in tune with this effect to guide their decision making.

It used to be:

"Don't write anything you would not want the world to see."

For many years this has expanded to:

"Don't write, say or do anything you would not want the world to see."

The side of the argument is inconsequential. Both parties chose to ignore the potential consequences of the Internet as an amplifier. We are not talking about grandma and grandpa here. We are talking about two Internet pro's.

Were the consequences fair?

Who knows? That is the nature of a positive feedback amplifier: It might not stop until something is destroyed. Ignoring it's existence could have one suffer disproportionate consequences. Don't ignore it.


I really have trouble with this story. Nearly every aspect was overblown. However maybe I'm a curmudgeon but I don't have a social media profile for the very reason I don't want my business out there. I don't want to be Internet famous or even real life famous. Secondly how were they able to find someones Twitter profile without knowing her name? Search for #donglejokesarebadmmkay ? None of this makes much sense to me. The firings on both sides are crazy to me. I don't know that I have even heard anyone in my company even talk about Twitter much less check up on some scuttlebutt about a conference. It's the makings of reality tv drama. Asinine.


I'd never heard of Adria Richards before, or I'd forgotten it as an absurd non-newsworthy event. On reading about the incident, I thought "What a humorless, vindictive [Beelzebub]" I was kinda glad that she got fired.

But then I read on, and I found myself having a lot of empathy for her, and for Hank (although what happened to him, as bad as it was was way less intense and scary than what happened to her). I thought they both made (forgivable) mistakes. Their respective employers meted out not very compassionate punishments, those companies come off badly in the article. The public statements by one of the CEO's sounds particularly lame and insincere. More human error. The cascade of errors continues into an avalanche. "The Mob"(i.e. the public) really comes off bad in this story.

I don't think human error leading to more human errors and bad outcomes itself is groundbreaking news. It's more the runaway (not so) positive feedback loop that amplifies errors of (bad) judgement and gut level emotions. We evolved in a context where we only had to contend with unintentionally pissing off maybe a few dozens or hundreds of people with our mistakes. Now millions of people can be infuriated/whipped up into a cyber lynch mob overnight, and even then it's still only a tiny fraction of humanity's collective attention.

Maybe sites like Twitter and Facebook should think about whether or not they have a responsibility to the victims of Mob crucifixion. Even (especially?) the unsympathetic ones, who arguably may have made their own bed and set fire to it. Some kind of circuit breaker when burning crosses start popping up. Cyber public defenders. "Chill out" buttons.

The story made me really feel for Adria. It didn't hide the fact that she saw things in a very harsh, b&w way. Her letter to her father may have been a blatant attempt to emotionally manipulate the writer and the audience. But it works, even if so. What kind of hurt would make it necessary to resort to that? I feel her humanity. She deserves a shot of redemption.

Great article. The other stories are terrific as well, but maybe this one is more of a Puzzlebox.


So there is this internet hate machine and it's terrible. The cyber bullying crimes (ok, that's probably free speech in the US) and insults are way off, totally disproportionate.

But the way she acted, taking a photo and publicly tweeting it? That's an attack, I'm not judging, maybe it was right to take direct action. I'm just saying if you escalate things you got to be ready for the retaliation. Especially if you are not in a position of power. And let's be honest, against culture, against public opinion and the internet hate machine, most of us lose.


Anyone who is interested in discussing this growing phenomenon may like to check out http://www.reddit.com/r/outrageculture


This article really cemented my opinion that Adria Richards deserved to get fired and should never have a podium from which to shame someone ever again.

She's clearly a hateful person without any kind of empathy stretching beyond that of her womens' struggle in tech. There should be no place in tech for people who just can't relent. I don't know if the comments in this article are cherry picked wildly, but even so, even suggesting that this Hank guy is to blame for her getting fired, when clearly it was her own behaviour.


This debacle was a helpful reminder that we all do things that, out of context, can look really awful, and should be mindful of this when calling people out publicly. Neither of them deserved to be fired or harassed over this.

Personally, I have trouble seeing how a lewd joke about one man forking another man's repo (and following up with dongle jokes) involves or threatens women in any way, but I wasn't there.

I almost had sympathy for her, but she blamed the guy for the harassment he faced. That's bordering on unforgivable.


But... but... you're blaming her for the harassment she's facing.

(Actually, "Hank" didn't face any harassment. We don't even know his name.)


Seems like their mistake was admitting anything. They should have then just sued her for defamation.

This is really nothing more than bullying, self-righteous bullying. Just because you overheard something give you no fucking right to shame someone in public.

Maybe their jokes were immature. Maybe humanity should cease thinking about sex. Either way she's the one guilty of bullying and should be shamed for the horrible person that she is. Fucking move if you don't like what a couple guys are inappropriately joking about.


It seems like the take-away is that mob justice is increasingly worrying in the Internet age.

The two people that were affected barely knew each other and seemingly had no way of absolving themelves.


Original Hacker News thread, including response from Mr Hank:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5391667


The actual title should be how stupidity can ruin your life. I do not want to live in the world where adults cannot make jokes, even sexual one. He clearly did not direct that to the woman who made a huge scene out of it. Actually, If the guy writes a mail and sends it to his buddy, and the woman reads the mail that is a felony. Why can she make this sort of things when the conversation obviously was not directed to her? This story is just so wrong on so many levels.


Similar case is happening to the two tormentors of Curt Schilling (a former baseball player)'s daughter.

He tweeted congrats to his daughter for going to college. Predictably some of the replies were nasty.

He went after two and doxxed them. Now these two will bear the result of what went down.

https://38pitches.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/is-it-twitters-fa...

I suspect this will happen more and more.


"Nasty" seems like an understatement, and it wasn't like they were hiding behind anonymity. So I have little sympathy in that case. You say terrible things on a twitter account in your name, directed at someone else, it might come back to bite you.


The summary of the article says his book is about "fake indignation." Who gets to decide what indignation is "fake" and what is "real?"


I'm going to be a cynic and say that Adria took a gamble to raise her profile and it backfired big time.

This wasn't the first incident of questionable behaviour in conferences. There had been sexist comments, talks and general lude behaviour prior to this.

I think she saw the opportunity and forced the situation to fit the narrative (it wasn't even a sexist comment) but it quickly got out of hand and resulted in them both suffering severely.


FWIW I sympathise with Adria - she seems like the perfect geek (takes no bullcrap, sticks to her guns, overly logical analysis of social situations to the detriment of all); describes me some of the time, and the constant state of some of the people in the teams I have managed over the years; and yet I never once thought of firing any one of them,

Shame PyCon and the respective weren't able to deal with this in a better way.


> overly logical analysis of social situations to the detriment of all

Where do you see that in any of this? It seems to me to be a classic example of what happens when you don't think things through.


Isn't that the same sort of thing? She interpreted a social situation in her own way and then seemed to think it through based on her own POV and biases to it's logical conclusion. According to the OP she doesn't feel anything but justified. Of course we might feel differently, but doesn't mean she didn't think it through in her own way.

IMHO geeks (including me) are terrible at dealing with social situations and even worse at accepting when we are wrong when the only thing pointing to our "wrongness" is what other people think.

Of course you could also be 100% spot-on and I'm being overly sympathetic to someone who doesn't deserve it. I hope I'm not.


I don't think most people follow that very flexible definition of "thinking it through". With it being so relativistic, it loses any practical use.


Previous discussion on Hacker News of a similar article by the same author:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9039274

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tw...


Everyone can be offended by anything. If your response involve real harmful ramifications for the other person, you're the one being a dick.


As someone who genuinely doesn't always know what to say out loud and what not, this story never fails to make me emotional and on a personal level – beyond any gender/political correctness/professionalism debate – I don't like people like Adria [as portrayed] very much. I'm happy people around me are a lot more reasonable.


When someone asks you if you have made sexual comments about "forking someone’s repo" you say "No"!


I'm really trying, but I am having trouble feeling empathy towards her. Once I realized he was fired because of what she did and how proud of herself she was (this is the bad part), I just couldn't feel any empathy for her anymore.


IMHO the discussion should not about these 3 people involved in this particular incident.

It should be about everybody just brain farting directly to the internet without realizing there's no delete button...


Seriously, what ever happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt?

Some people just don't feel fulfilled unless they can log at least 5 micro-agressions against them a day (whatever the fuck they are).


Threads like this are why I will discourage my daughter from working in the tech industry.

It's an incredibly toxic blend of misogyny, racism, and entitlement, and doesn't even have the self-awareness to understand that about itself.

Congratulations to user interpol_p who is valiantly trying to educate people, but it's far too much of an uphill battle.

If any of you ever decide to do something about it, you have a leading example to follow in the sci-fi/fantasy fandom world, which has had the exact same problems as the tech industry and for the same reasons, but which in recent years has made great strides (not without some reactionary pushback). If you ever want to grow up, just check out what the fantasy geeks have done and are doing.


If there is a moral to the story at all, it is this: Using the Internet as a weapon is like swinging nunchucks studded with loosely-attached, razor-sharp blades. Everyone near you gets hurt, but especially you.

There is an entire subculture on the Internet entirely devoted to disproving, with a vengeance, the phrase "sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me". They are trolls, pursuing the idea that a carefully selected assemblage of words can reduce a person to a quivering wreck of human jelly.

Then there are the dirt-diggers and the doxers, who will scrutinize your life more carefully than a political party looking for a presidential candidate, and circle with a highlighter every embarrassing thing you have ever done.

There are the holy warriors, who will tolerate no heresies against their chosen cause, especially those done unwittingly, in apparent ignorance that a controversy even exists--for the holy warriors on the other side have, of course, already chosen their path to damnation.

And there are the cruel pranksters, who will summon a SWAT team to your house, looking for your cash, heroin, and slaves. They'll DDoS your employer until you are fired. They'll crack your passwords and post dick pics using your account.

But there's a delicate sort of detente with all these groups. They have, however twisted, a sense of justice. The very worst of them will leave the truly innocent untouched, as though it were all a game, the only legitimate targets are the other players, and cheaters must be punished. The trolls attack pompous, self-righteous windbags. The doxers expose those who abuse their anonymity (such as the trolls and the other doxers). The holy warriors mock those with unfounded or irrational beliefs. And the cruel pranksters follow Machiavelli's blueprint to make the Internet respected, through terrorism.

These are people who have probably never felt any sort of power before, in any other aspect of their lives. Doing one of those things may be the only time they have ever felt like they ever made a difference in the world, even if it was a difference with dubious worth. Before the Internet, those types of personalities would have to be board members for homeowners' associations or local government officials or on the council for their churches or civic groups in order to feel more powerful. That limited the scope of the damage they could potentially do.

All of this misbehavior that we see on the Internet is a symptom. The cause is (in part) the systematic disenfranchisement of the poor and middle class, around the world. And we turn upon each other, as though to prove that we still matter, somehow.

The lede that was buried in the article is this: BOTH OF THE PEOPLE CENTRAL TO THE STORY WERE FIRED FOR BEING VICTIMS.

That makes the spineless, sleazy companies that took the easy way out the real bad guys. They were the only ones in the entire situation with any real power, and they opted to stab their own employees in the back and leave them in the gutter for the rats. They opted to eject someone from a presentation over a single complaint from someone who was likely also violating the conference code of conduct.

There was no due process. There was no respect for the rights of those affected. There was only corporate expedience, and a complete lack of regard for those negatively affected by it. And they are getting away with it, because we continue to blame the victims.


She asked his employer to take down his hacker news post? Did she think they would have his account's password?


She asked his employer to ask him.


and that's why she's not a tech anymore.


And to think all she had to do was to turn round, frown and go "Guys, there's a time and a place ...".

The golden rule is that, if you disagree with someone, speak to them face-to-face, privately first, then in front of others if that doesn't work.

Public tweeting is the absolute last recourse. She's as susceptible to individuation (behind her keyboard) as he was.


Please excuse my ignorance, but could someone explain to me how the joke about a big dongle was threatening or sexist?

A lot of people seem to just be accepting that at face value and I'm having issues understanding why that joke in particular would make her feel unsafe or uncomfortable. It just doesn't strike me as anything that could come across as such.


Some people believe everyone should have the right to not be exposed to sexuality of any sort at any time unless they choose to be. This is a more sensitive topic for women because they are subjected to sexual harassment their entire lives. It is threatening because she is a woman, who is sensitive to the topic, and works in an industry filled with people who don't understand this issue very well. It doesn't help being in a room of 800 people when almost all of them also don't understand this issue.

When the large majority of your experiences with sexual topics in life are related to people sexually harassing you, you might become sensitive to any topics of sexuality that you aren't personally consenting to be a part of.


This gives feminism a bad image.


And "Hitler was an atheist!"

This has little to do with feminism and much to do with one person who could easily score a narcissistic personality disorder diagnosis. The inability to separate this individual with feminism is the fault of the interpreter.

Regardless, I think that you are unfortunately correct that this event reinforced preexisting, incorrect notions of feminism in the aforementioned interpreter.


Judging from my personal viewpoints and experiences (aka the usual YMMV), from those few feminists I know, most fall +- into this category. Much less narcisstic/sociopatic, but same breed. What I mean by this - looking very hard for any case of man/woman disparity in our society, ignoring that some professions are just better for men (and some for women, and others are +-equal). What is interesting is their lack of objectiveness - they will discuss and shame for long time situation in their current/previous work, how horrible is the situation in their western country, yet they are almost oblivious to horrible treatment of women that happens region-wide half around the globe (ie "yeah it's horrible how women can't drive in saudi arabia, BUT! that last job i had, one guy told me I women are happier when they bring up kids back home and not doing career! How horrible is that! How did he dare!" - roughly real conversations I had :)) Or - all is bad because of men. But rather don't look at the mess in their lives.

I wish I finally meet some easy-to-communicate feminist girl, who is actually trying to change things in this world for women for better. I really wish so... but right now they are just a joke, to me & to my girlfriend.

Maybe best feminist women are those who don't run around shouting how much feminist they are, but instead they let results of their efforts speak for themselves. Did I tell you I really wish to meet such a person?


> ignoring that some professions are just better for men

I'm not ignoring your sexism.

> ...yet they are almost oblivious to horrible treatment of women that happens region-wide half around the globe...

Is homelessness in the United States also not a problem because of impoverishment in African countries? Is the conversation of the drought in California dismissible because of the lack of clean water in India? You're expressing dire cultural insensitivity.


I think it's important to repeat that Adria herself does not identify as feminist.


She failed to anticipate the huge backlash of her actions. Ironically, the goal of her actions was to make sure that his actions would lead to a huge unforeseeable backlash for him.


Hank, It Gets Better. Trust me on this. :)


No one wins an argument.


> “Have you ever heard that thing, men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them?”

Men are afraid that a woman will change/ruin their whole lives with just their words.

Well, at least that is how "Hank" feels now.


That phrase made me realize she's really traumatized. When I read about her childhoold I confirmed it. Pretty sad for her I guess, but still she should grow up and see a doctor or something if she wants to work again... I'm surprised she got there in the first place.


And of course some men are also afraid to be killed or physically hurted by some women. Because, well... this happen, also.

I personally remember for example the case of a woman stabbing the belly of her partner (a men) with scissors. A very small and deep cut. You don't really need to be much strong to be able to kill another human.

In a country when everybody can carry a firearm with them legally, why women should be specially concerned by assaulting men, or more afraid to be killed by men than to be killed by another women?. In a lot of cases when a men kills someone the victim is another men.


“I think that nobody deserves what she went through,” he replied.

VS.

“Not too bad,” she said. She thought more and shook her head decisively. “He’s a white male. I’m a black Jewish female."

...

At what point will we stop tip-toeing around the fact that "social justice" is a curable and preventable mental disorder masking itself as valid criticism?


Terrifying. Glib Twitter scolds are the brownshirts of our era.


Clearly not the kind of women we need more in tech... well, we don't need fanatics anywhere really.


I'm curious as to whether Ronson or Esquire's fact-checkers verified the horrific details of Adria's upbringing.


I think the reaction against Adria was healthy. Perhaps these sanctimonious SJWs will think twice before they go all upworthy on random people.


Personally, I condemn anyone who is a vocal activist in the "gender debate" in tech who does not speak up on topics such as this. If you are female and want to genuinely be treated as an equal in tech, you don't freak out over minor jokes, and when "one of your own" does, I believe you are obligated to voice your disagreement with the behavior, assuming you even think it is wrong, which might be an incorrect assumption. If you don't think it's wrong, I never want to work with someone like you. And if this mentality is at all common (I have no idea), purely from a risk management perspective, I would only hire females when they are massively more qualified than any male counterparts.

I don't like feeling like this, but with what little I know of the public female sentiment on these types of issues, fear and avoidance is the wisest stance.

Hopefully situations like this are vast statistical anomalies.


Fear and avoidance of half of humanity. I've never before heard that described as "the wisest stance". :D I'll have to think about it... ;)


You'd have to be living under a rock if you think different genders have identical risk profiles in all settings.


When you see a white man standing in the room, take a moment to think about all the unjustified accusations of racism and sexism he's had to endure in his journey to get there

https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/530109180460675074




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