I hate getting my picture taken. Most photos really never look…well, right. No big deal. It's just a long-standing nerdy discomfort with a lens pointed in my direction seeming to demand chic and stylish as opposed to (proud) geek and (distinctively) unstylish.
Two code developers – captured in a photo tied to a controversial tweet made a couple months ago that launched a multilayered controversy spanning the tech industry – look like quite the nerds themselves. After all, the shot was taken at PyCon, an annual conference dedicated to the open-source Python programming language that is traditionally overrun by predominantly male attendees – surprise, surprise. Of course, the IT space in general is largely male-dominated. SC Magazine research conducted over the years has revealed this fact time and again, along with the plodding growth of diversity in the space year to year.
Most of you know the details of this particular story and the questionable actions on all fronts that propelled it to its now crazily inflated state. Adria Richards, the former software developer evangelist at SendGrid, a cloud-based email service provider, heard the two men in the aforementioned photo making arguably sexist jokes about “big dongles” and “forking repos” (fork, as you likely know, is a programming term, and repos, assumingly, refers to software repositories). She subsequently decided to take their photograph, post it to her Twitter feed that has close to 15,000 followers, and make a request that conference officials talk to “these guys.” The fellows in question were ejected from the conference and, later, as Richards opined in her blog, rightly so.
Drama quickly ensued. One of the two men was fired from his job as a result of his behavior at a professional conference where he was representing his company. Richards was doxed and disgustingly threatened with violence by any number of trolls who disagreed with how she handled the situation. Accounts of everything from death to rape threats reportedly poured into Twitter officials from folks on Richards' behalf. Then, within maybe a couple of days, Richards herself was fired by SendMail execs because they did “not support how she reported the incident,” calling it “public shaming.” (Check out the company blog for more.)
If ever an example of how social media use can go rapidly to hell in one damned messy hand basket, with questionable decision-building upon plain nastiness that turns into something like mob madness, this is it. Just think about it: Had this situation gone down with no social media outlet, quite a bit of the ensuing craziness could have been skipped; the option of posting a photo snapped of two people from whom permission was not attained to use publicly would have been absent.
Had Richards not skipped what I believe to be the first and really obvious option to directly confront these probable sexists herself, instead of going directly to conference staff to report them, some of the news we've seen on this drama never would have occurred. All the gross trolling, the misogynist threats directed at Richards, and still other unexpected results would never have come into play.