Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Twitter Activism: Busybody Backfire

Adria Richards

By now you probably already know the name Adria Richards.  Well at least if you follow the technology press that is.  She's the polarizing tweeter who outed a couple of boys behaving badly

The cliff notes version of the story is that a group of men were sitting behind Richards at the PyCon conference (A conference for Python developers) making dirty jokes laced with sexual innuendo.  
Richards was specifically offended by remarks they made in response to a speaker such as "big dongle" and "forking repos" which apparently spurred her into action.

She snapped a photo of the two men with her phone and tweeted it with the following: " Not cool. Jokes about forking repo's in a sexual way and "big" dongles.Right behind me #pycon"

Mind you, they weren't talking to her or at her, in fact they probably didn't even notice she was there.  That was until everyone got fired.

The twitterverse went nuts over this.  Most of the response was negative as most responses on the Internet are.  What doesn't seem to fit is that anyone got fired over this or that it became such a big deal.

There's a part of me that likes to see a busybody get a taste of their own medicine and make no mistake, Richards is a busybody.  That she was so determined to ruin someone for behaving like an ass using twitter activism proves that.

People in the tech industry live on the Internet and feel no hesitation in laying open the entirety of their existence for the world to see.  That exposes them to a level of vulnerability that old men like me think twice about. 

So it should be no surprise that your actions in the virtual world have consequences in the real one.  All the parties involved knew that but Richard's decided to be a passive-aggressive activist.  She would likely have had a better outcome if she had just turned around and asked them to shut up.  Nothing muzzles a man faster than a woman calling him on the carpet.   

Should women have to be subjected to lewd and lascivious ramblings? Of course not but it's within your rights to be moron and nobody was talking to or even about Richards. 

It seems we're back to the age old problem of how men are different from women.  Generally,  most men would rather their world was like a weekend trip to Vegas while women would likely prefer something akin to the Lilith Fair. 

Unless Homo Sapiens suddenly become hermaphroditic  that won't change no matter how much you may
The Accused at Pycon
want it to.  It's not an excuse, it's biology.

Richard's job was described as a "Developer Evangelist"  I suppose that in this case she took the title in the biblical sense.  To that end her tweets ran against her job description of being " to build and strengthen our Developer Community across the globe."  A global community isn't always politically correct.  Besides, her followers were looking for information about a Python conference not a blow by blow of a couple of idiots.

It's not that she didn't have a right to be offended or to call these bozos out.  However, the way she did it was unprofessional and ultimately got her fired for the hate mail that resulted. 

Did she deserve it? To some extent yes but I'd draw the line at death and rape threats.  Unfortunately, the Internet can be a very violent place populated with uber egos and social retardation.  It's not right but it comes with the territory and we all know it.

Was firing the answer? I don't think so.   Surely there were other positions she could have been moved into. 
Did the knuckle dragging chauvinists (at least they were on that day) deserve to be fired? Probably not but they definitely needed some sensitivity training and maybe some potty training as well since they were obviously immature.  I've met plenty of people of both sexes who could use a refresher course in how to conduct themselves in public.

Still, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", says the bible.  Richard's may have been justified in being offended but wrong in her actions especially considering her chosen vocation.  If you're getting paid to "evangelize" to a bunch of programmers you'd better understand that your audience may not be as progressive as you are.

It's no different than being a conservative politician who comes out in favor of a liberal agenda.  It's a pretty good bet that you're not going to be on team Red much longer.

If you're a guy, chances are you've been those two morons at some point in your life and may have even offended a few people.  If you're a woman you've probably witnessed it and wished looks could kill. 

Thing is, nobody ever tried to ruin your life over it.  People who run around the world seeking to remake it in their own utopian image are called idealists.  If they get enough power they're called fascists which is the secret dream of every busybody even if they think their intentions are pure.