Hey, folks. You all might be seeing the giant mess that is coming out of the firing of several people over two jokes at PyCon 2013 this year. I’m Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack, and I and my colleague Liz Dahlstrom were there. We had a great time this year, and will certainly be at Montreal next year. (Some of you may know that I and Liz are co-founders of LadyCoders; we’re not wearing that hat right now and we’re not writing on that site. We’re just two devs who have some thoughts on this topic)
I’ll try to relate the facts as dryly as possible: Adria Richards, a developer evangelist at SendGrid with more than 10,000 Twitter followers, overheard two PlayHaven devs speaking behind her at a large speaking panel at PyCon in Santa Clara
last weekend, and took offense to their language, which by their later admission was in violation of the PyCon code of conduct. Adria turned around and took pictures of the two men and posted them on Twitter, with a comment about the sexual nature of their conversation. The men (Alex Reid and supposedly Hacker News handle mr-hank) were publicly outed. mr-hank, who says he is a father of three, lost his job. Richards wrote a post explaining her side, and so did the man who lost his job. There’s an excellent post up at Ars Technica that also tells the tale.
As the Internet does upon occasion, it lost its $#1%. Richards was just fired from SendGrid; arguably she can no longer function in her role in developer relations, and
her site has been DDOSed. mr-hank has been fired from his job at PlayHaven, and a petition is now up asking for his reinstatement.
Liz and I were also at Defcon last year, and will be this year. In fact, we’re writing up our speaker proposals now. How many of you remember these?
Liz and I have been talking about the situation. We’re wondering–how can we give people who become uncomfortable at PyCon more options? How much of this problem could have been fixed if Richards had had some way to tell these guys that what they were doing was making her feel uncomfortable without having to confront them? I can tell you now that at Defcon, when I saw a woman pull out a red card and show it to someone,
every single person’s attention instantly fixed on that situation. A quiet apology was issued, the (now) gentleman exited the room, chastened, and having learned not to talk about his manparts loudly and drunkenly, and in front of someone who didn’t want to hear it. 99.9% of the time, we are just socially clueless nerds. I have been known to tell some truly appallingly clueless jokes, and I actually got yellow carded last year at Defcon. I’m serious. If we had a way to make our wishes known while taking most of the confrontation out of the situation, I think that the convention would be a much happier and more comfortable place for everyone.
We don’t want to see PyCon ruined for everyone. It is one of the most overall open and friendly environments in tech that either of us has attended, and we’d like it to stay that way. We don’t want silence to begin as soon as a woman enters the room because everyone there is afraid of public shaming and losing their job. We also don’t want women to be
afraid to speak up because of the nastiness that has ensued over the last few days.
So, Liz and I are going to carry on the work of KC from Defcon. Read more about this amazing woman: The Red/Yellow Card Project.
See these three cards? We just mocked them up. We want to put them in the swag bags next year at PyCon 2014 Montreal. All please note that we will ask for Diana’s ok (Diana is next year’s PyCon chair) on the wording. We think it’s ok, but we’ll check to make sure that it doesn’t give anyone legal hiccups before we send them to the printers.
We want to make this convention better, and without a tool to help us communicate with tact and clarity, we think the confusion will continue. If you’d like to help us out with printing costs, you can donate to the paypal account below. We’d like to put these cards in swag bags for everyone.
Look, we were playing Cards Against Humanity in that exact same game that Adria was playing in. We had a great time. This was in the
hotel, away from the con, and nowhere near where the Code of Conduct applied, but even there we would have respected anyone’s wishes to be quieter, kinder, or chill out if someone had been unhappy. There’s no joy in making other people uncomfortable or unhappy. All most nerds need is to know that what they’re doing is inappropriate, and they’ll stop.
We’re all really inappropriate people. Let’s make an easy way to tell each other when it happens.