By now, anybody interested in web development is likely to have heard what happened at Pycon. Posts on the topic have consistently been at the top of Hacker News for the last 48 hours however 2 posts that appeared overnight have really crystallised my thoughts on the matter. Before going into that, I’m going to repeat what I said in one of the discussions over on HN:
This story is an embarrassment for everyone involved except perhaps the 2 guys who started the whole thing.
* Adria Richards had a number of options starting with explaining to them that the jokes made her feel uncomfortable to reporting them to staff. Instead she went for the nuclear option of public shaming.
* Sendgrid will only appear to have done this in response to their site being subject to DDOS.
* Playhaven have overreacted in dismissing one of the guys (although their blog post suggests there might have been more behind it).
The guys involved apologised at the time and have done so publicly. I can’t help but feel that if Adria had apologised for her course of conduct at the first opportunity, this thing would have blown over.
Instead you have another story about misogyny in the industry that has run for over 24 hours with nobody looking good at the end of it and everybody suffering.
I should have added that the Pycon organisers came out of this without embarrassment too. They had an anti-harassment policy and enforced it properly.
Taking the second post first. Amanda expresses in a much more eloquent fashion what it is that I tried to say on HN. In terms of possible reactions to the jokes, there is a scale of say 1-10. 1: sit there and do nothing, 4: confront them directly, 6: report them to the organisers etc. Instead of taking any of these options, Adria went straight for 10. It’s clear from Amanda’s post that this is not the first time Adria has done something like this. Rather than confront issues in what I would consider to be a mature, adult manner, she tends to make it a “thing” and in doing so, makes it about her. As I said in my comment, the community as a whole suffers because of things like this.
Which brings me to the first post. Adria’s actions have made Pycon about her and in doing so distracted from the brilliant work put into organising Pycon and the actual substantive events that took place. For this, I have great sympathy for the organisers whose work has been greatly overshadowed.
I can’t help but feel that given the very genuine apology made by one of the individuals involved, direct confrontation at the time (level 4 on my scale above) would have knocked the issue on the head. Instead, we’re left with 2 people being fired; Sendgrid being subject to a DDOS attack; Adria being subjected to vitriol on Twitter and a community left reflecting not on the good it does but on another drama.