Dear Fellow Geeks: WTF?

I'm going to assume you've already gotten all the background on what went down at Pycon (but if not, read up, and then come on back over).

We, the tech community, should be taking a hard look at our response to the aforementioned events. Aren’t we better than this? I’m not talking about the trolls. There will always be frenzied agitators who are just mashing away on their keyboard, trying to outrage people. I'm talking about how many (otherwise reasonable-seeming) people I saw who were comfortable and self-righteous in calling a woman a bitch/cunt/etc from their Twitter, Hacker News, or, yes, reddit account.


These amazing open platforms for speech work because an internet connection is all we need to share an idea with the connected world. What makes this freedom so awesome is not simply that we have it, but how we exercise it. Your tweets, your comments, and your upvotes matter. The comments (and support for them) I’ve seen over the past few days have really disappointed me and I really hope this is a chance for us to reflect on how we use these tools to foster the tech community. This isn't "political correctness," this is you having the courage to use your words to create an environment that promotes an open exchange of ideas -- not alienate people and certainly not terrorize them.

Growing up, we typically weren't picked first for sports, but were first on the Quake II server. Few people really understood our peculiar hobbies or how amazing it was to see "Hello, world" for the first time. Plenty of us got used to being ignored. Many of us were bullied. But what did we learn from it -- empathy or hate?

We need to know the answer, because suddenly we are the cool kids. They're making movies about us. We're "rock stars." Holy shit, the rest of the world is finally realizing how awesome we are. The geek has inherited the earth. And now that we’re the powerful ones, we need to remember: with great power comes great responsibility. It's irresponsible to continue to act as though we are victims.

Our community has largely been defined by not-poor straight white men over the years[1], but it's growing more diverse every day as kids get excited about technology and adults realize our industry is fast-growing and valuable. Diversity does not end at gender or sexuality or race; people with a wide variety of life experiences and opinions have joined the community. This is a wonderful thing, but it also means that there will be a wider range of reactions and more potential for miscommunication. In other words, we have many more opportunities to decide whether we 1) belittle and ostracize people for being different from us or 2) react with empathy, patience, and kindness.

Kurt knew: "There's only one rule that I know of -- god damn it, you've got to be kind."

[1] As a not-poor straight white guy, believe me, this setup has worked out pretty well for me, but I know I've been playing with cheat codes and the internet won't live up to its full potential without getting the best out of everyone.

16 responses
Being fired from work for this is excesive use of (virtual) force. Both ways. This is a lose-lose situation.
I'm a fan now. reading your blog for more goodness. I don't agree with the ladies reaction and I have been marginalised by women's equality = right to bully men but we all need to do our part in slowing down the decay of society aka 'stop the slippage'! ps see Stephen King's Gunslinger/Dark Tower series for understanding about slippage pss thanks for bringing us (reddit) Tom Hanks for AWA .if you didn't you at least helped with countdown, T Hanks said so
That woman deserved to lose her job. Just like women who make false rape claims deserve to be jailed. However, attacking her the way they did was not on.
You can't be bothered to condemn Adria Richards's crazy harassment, but you turn it into a "teaching moment" for the people she victimized? Maybe you need to sit back and think about things a little more.
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