A risk manager’s quick observation of the Adria Richards hubbub

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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252 Responses

  1. zic says:

    I have some concern about the version of the story that she tweeted it to her ‘followers,’ rather, she tweeted it to the convention organizers, reminding them of their convention harassment policies.Report

  2. Will H. says:

    hanging out at someone else’s cubicle telling off-color jokes is somehow a Natural Right endowed by the Creator and solidified by our countries Founders.

    I was under the impression that this was the main reason the Articles of Confederation were scrapped in favor of the Constitution.

    No, really, I don’t do such things. It makes me feel uncomfortable when others do it, and I’ve been known to get up and leave. I’m just sorta like that.

    I get what you’re saying.

    But for me, always being able to tell the company to stuff it is a necessity.
    I have to have that sort of independence to function; else I couldn’t do my job.
    What I’m saying is that falsification of inspection documents is what happens when guys lose that sort of independence. And really, it is rampant. There will always be a strong financial incentive to do so. And there will always be a handful willing to sell out their integrity to solidify their position in a company which they should never hope to continue working for.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Will H. says:

      If it’s part of your job, then it’s fine to tell the corporation to stuff it. You were hired for a REASON. They didn’t hire a robot (or an AI) because they wanted a human.

      All parties were stupid, here, as the whole incident was unnecessary.

      Also, my quick twit would have been, “Are these guys 12?”Report

  3. trumwill mobile says:

    I don’t think she should have been fired (a reprimand likely in order) but I stop well shortof saying her cfiring constituted an infringement of liberty.Report

    • RTod in reply to trumwill mobile says:

      My usual first response to stories like this is to say that the employer is working with far more data points than I am.

      But with the facts at hand, I count this as a “I wouldn’t have but get why they did.”Report

      • Bob2 in reply to RTod says:

        I take every news story with a giant grain of salt. News stories now are designed to outrage to get eyeballs. I don’t need to have an opinion about everything, nor should casual readers who know very little about it until they’ve delved into the details.

        In this particular case, I actually know someone who used to work at Playhaven and asked him about it, and he said pretty much every article he’s read on it so far has some details wrong.

        One of my college groups way back was at the center of a story once that briefly went national/international for a weekend and not a single paper or blogger got the details right.Report

  4. Maribou says:

    I don’t think it’s a travesty of justice, but I would be embarrassed to work for either of those two companies, and would possibly start looking for work elsewhere. I think part of the reason hostile environments are as persistent as they are is that the repercussions are so unpredictable and binary – sometimes no one even cares, sometimes you get fired – that wrongdoers see it as an unjust lottery rather than an actual deterrent (let alone learning that they are wrong). When it comes to hostile speech, people should be able to call each other out, and be called out, and learn from those callings out, without anyone getting fired.Report

    • trumwill mobile in reply to Maribou says:

      Great comment. Absolutely right. In a more ideal world, at least.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Maribou says:

      In my personal experience? Big companies — at least on the professional end (aerospace, engineering, etc) tend to jump on harassment with both feet, at least once they’ve noticed.

      Constant training, a fully dedicated HR department, and absolutely NO WISH for bad press, lawsuits, or the headaches. And frankly knowing they’ll be able to fill someone’s shoes quickly if they need to.

      Smaller companies…tend to be more insular. Weirder. No way to report your manager without going to his manager, who is often friends with your manager. Or doesn’t want the headache. HR is, if you’re lucky, two or three people that have too much on their plate and no tools to work with.

      Several of my friends worked for small engineering and chemical firms — 50 employees or less. The stories they told are, frankly, shocking. Large-scale embezelement because one person just took over payroll and gave herself (in this case) a giant raise. It didn’t get noticed for years, until she went on vacation and didn’t reset her paycheck to ‘normal’. The person who handled it while she was gone was technically in charge of accounts, and realized she was making more than him.

      Harassment that’d get you fired instantly anyplace I’ve worked since college. Total lack of professionalism. A great deal of drinking among social cliques (sometimes at lunch, often after work). Idiotic behavior at conferences or trade shows. Drama on the reality TV level.

      It just boggles my mind that any owner — or partnership or whatever — would tolerate that. Your lead engineer won’t promote anyone who won’t go drinking with him? Your payroll is handled by an administrative assistant for years, with no oversight? Half your management disappears after 2:00 PM at least twice a week, and it isn’t for meetings?

      Admittedly, that particular company was something of a nadir for the two people I know who worked their, but even in the (middle sized — 200 or so employees, although they work in different companies now) places they work now, there’s still an awful lot of “I’d get fired for that, and that. I’d get seriously raked over the coals for that.”…Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    As someone in IT, I don’t know that I have ever (as in *EVER*) had a conversation in which dongles were mentioned that didn’t degenerate temporarily.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      “Fork” is a funny word that comes up all the time in computer science in its sense of “branch” as in “fork in the road”. In one of the first vedor-run classes I ever took, the instructor was talking about RSX11M (it’s an obsolete real-time operating system) internals, and explained that the kernel organized the objects it manipulated in queues: “the task queue, the partition queue, the free pool queue, and the fork list.” Do we really have to refrain from that joke because it might offend someone?Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        “Do we really have to refrain from that joke because it might offend someone?”

        Just as much as we have to refrain from saying “thank Christ” because *that* might offend someone.Report

  6. Whenever I do harassment trainings to large groups, there are always those that voice their opinion that hanging out at someone else’s cubicle telling off-color jokes is somehow a Natural Right endowed by the Creator and solidified by our countries Founders. It isn’t; get over it.

    Of course it’s your natural right to tell off-color jokes. It’s also your employer’s natural right to fire you.

    See how that works?Report

  7. Nob Akimoto says:

    I think the thing that makes firing Richards so egregious in some views is the sheer amount of abuse she received for simply standing up and the way the employer basically folded over it. The fact that she received what amounted to death and rape threats over a tweet is vile and it should be those folks packing their belongings into boxes, not her.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      To clarify:
      Tod you make it look like the travesty is that she got fired for tweeting and pissing off some people. That’s probably somewhat accurate, but not really capturing the “divide” that her boss gave as a reason for her termination.

      The backlash against her after the news of the sacking of one of the men got public was vile and frankly over the top vicious. If people send one of your employees anonymous death threats, threats of rape, etc. would you response honestly be “Oh, it’s dividing the customer base, she needs to go”? Or would it be “Wow, these people are demented, maybe we should call the cops?”.

      The fact that her employer basically said the former is what makes her firing problematic. Especially given that what she was trying to do was simply alert the event organizers on something that was not kosher (by the organizer’s own standards who even gave the parties a talking to) not going out of her way to just publicly humiliate people for the sake of it.Report

      • Chris in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        I’m pretty sure public humiliation was part of her intention. She knows how Twitter works. That doesn’t excuse the way she was treated afterwards, though. That was genuinely ugly.

        Seems like I hear a new story every week or two about men being vile, even violent, in reaction to something a woman did online. If there were people in doubt about how extreme and widespread misogyny is in this country, the internet has served to provide them with countless examples.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Chris says:

          If someone wanted to actually make an interesting case about this, they would study her twitter feed.

          I imagine there are lots and lots of people making public tweets about her that might find their own employment at an end, if someone actually followed up.Report

          • Chris in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Even a cursory look at Twitter, not just with this case but generally, would result in a serious reduction in the country’s payrolls.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Yes, but we know that won’t happen, because a good number of the people who actually make the personnel decisions are also Brogrammers.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Let’s say that I had a blog somewhere. I can think of a lot of reasons that I don’t think it’d be appropriate for my workplace to police it.

              To what extent do you tailor your posts to what your school expects of you?Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

                Not at all. Except in so far as not posting anything that might make people wonder what the hell I learned there.

                Like say, if I went on an unhinged rant about Jays and Birds and how they were secret alien spies planted with the help of the Marxist Obama intent on turning all of us in gay, Ellen watching Libertardians etc.etc.

                …but that’s a barrier wherein it just happens to coincide with my own personal sense of integrity and ethics. But given that my school thinks bringing Newt Gingrich to have a talk is somehow an accomplishment (note: to any LBJ faculty or staff who might be reading this: The fact that you invited Newt Gingrich to give a talk is more embarrassing than the “pubic affairs” typo. One was accidental, the other is an intentional association with a sleazy, race-baiting asshole) I don’t necessarily know if even tailoring my posts would actually make a difference.

                I’m perfectly fine with people making misogynistic threats of rape and death against people, so long as they’re forced to live with the consequences of having done so.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Should your school do a better job of policing your blog and/or your comments? Or is it only after you cross a particular line that you feel your school should be made aware of something you’ve said?

                (There’s another dynamic, I suppose, where you might be hired by your school to run a blog, or post regularly to one, or comment to one… would you expect a higher level of scrutiny on the part of your school if that were the case?)Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

                If at some point it appears I’m representing my school in the course of my writing, I suppose my writing then becomes something of interest to them. If I’m actually PAID by them to do something, then yes, by all means I should expect a higher level of scrutiny on what I write.

                And of course, if I’m making death threats or rape threats to people, I’d imagine it would in fact, be their responsibility to look at what I’m saying and react appropriately.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Fair enough. I worry that getting employers to be a lot more interested in their employees’ online habits would have a lot more downside than upside…

                But maybe doing that would also get rid of behavior like how Richards was treated and we could seriously discuss how that would be worth it.Report

              • I think actually the recent case of the FDNY EMS Lieutenant who got suspended over his horribly racist and misogynistic tweets is a more interesting case of how and whether employers should take an interest on online activity.

                In that case, there’s actual reason to believe someone who holds those opinions might prove harmful to people he’s supposed to serving, for example.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Jaybird says:

                Rape threats and death threats would demand intervention, I think. Below that, it’s context-dependant for misogynistic comments.Report

              • So if we found that a particular person was really, really vile on their personal twitter account, it’d be okay to get them fired? Or just “bring this to the attention of their employer’s HR”?Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Jaybird says:

                Nobody can get anybody fired but the employer.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

                1. It depends on the job.
                2. Being a really vile person might have other consequences for your workplace. At the very least it’s probably something HR should be aware of.
                3. No one can “get them fired”. It’d be the decision of the employer on what was grounds for termination.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                The whole issue at hand is whether employers will (or, maybe, *can*) make rational and reasonable decisions about what constitutes grounds for termination.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                That’s an easy one. Based on decades of experience working in the software industry, I’d say ‘no’.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                In IT, you’re hired for your ability. You’re fired for your personality. That is all.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            I think the problem is no one is doing much follow up and it tends to only happen if it causes a scene, like this one….

            And even then the first response is usually to punish the people who brought attention to it.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Her twitter feed is public. Nothing’s stopping anybody from following up.

              The fact that in these circumstances nobody ever does tells me something. I don’t know what it is, but it’s something.Report

              • Editorially speaking:
                What if we did a “wall of shame” post here at the league, where we publicly out everyone who sent a threatening tweet to Ms. Richards?

                Would you help? Would you think it’s a bad idea? I don’t know… maybe it does smack a bit of League “alum” Barrett Brown’s tactics.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                There are people who do stuff like this.

                I’m sufficiently aware of what level of asshole nice people can be sometimes that I’m leery of doing this as a tactic. There are plenty (and I do mean plenty) of people out there, particularly those under the age of 30, who are probably barred from getting a midlevel job for, like, ever, on account of stuff they’ve said on their twitter feed.

                Some of them deserve it, undoubtedly. Some of them are probably going to spend a chunk of their life living a lot of that stuff down, and might make an attempt at amends. I don’t know that ten years from now that second group of folk should have a harder time doing that because although they’ve deleted their twitter account, it lives on other places.

                It’s a sticky widget.Report

              • Right, so what does it all mean?

                Are we all a bit complicit in this too?

                I’m not sure.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Just my opinion:

                Lead by exampleReport

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Are well all complicit in what, exactly?

                I have to be honest, I’m not really sure who did what, here. All I can say is it sounds to me like the two parties that deserve the real opprobrium here are the two sets of employers, both of them for over-reacting.

                Everybody else has already received more than enough penalty for whatever social crime they’ve committed, and they ultimately brought on their employer’s reaction.

                As to the Internet mob of hoodlums offering threats to anyone involved, I’m not sure what can be done about this, at a societal level. And since the real problem is aggregate activity, I’m not sure what we could do, or should do, to any individual perpetrator anyway.

                I’m open to suggestions.Report

              • I’m mostly referring to your statement:

                Her twitter feed is public. Nothing’s stopping anybody from following up.

                The fact that in these circumstances nobody ever does tells me something. I don’t know what it is, but it’s something.

                Would a widespread attempt to name and shame hoodlums like that with the threat of permanently being tarred a person who’d resort to rape threats or death threats anonymously be a deterrent?

                Given that people use facebook feeds where their real names are often used to make similar statements, I’m not entirely convinced, either.

                But when I’m not actively going after at least some of the people making threats, I do wonder if implicitly I’m condoning that behavior by letting them get away with it without consequences. It troubles me.

                And as I’m not Catholic, I channel that guilt into liberalness rather than religion.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                For one thing, end Twitter. Seriously. It’s an attractive nuisance for expressing spur-of-the-moment stupidity, hatred, or, at its very best, useless ephemera, with the same likelihood of containing anything of real value as an overheard cell phone conversation.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                A problem with that strategy, it seems to me, is that it seems entirely dependent upon the assumption that people like like don’t want confrontation. I’m not entirely sure that’s the case.

                Like, when we get a nutjob driving by here, I’ve noticed that it’s usually a one-and-done. It seems like the only time they stick around is when people here loudly condemn them.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Second, end the Internet.Report

              • People may not necessarily dislike conflict, Tod, but I’m pretty sure most do not take kindly to the social stigmas associated with say, having your name attached to oh white nationalists, or making rape threats to a woman, or anything of that sort.

                Sure there are a handful that do so proudly (say Derbyshire or Sailer) but those are a minority and I suppose if those vile sorts want to go make a living catering to the whims of the deranged, they can damn well do so. But at least they’ll be branded as the discpicable human being they actually are.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Ok, let’s compromise, Instead of all eight billion of us, the only people who should be able to post to Twitter are the ones whose random thoughts, expressible in 140 characters or less, provide some sort of value. Both of them.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                It would certainly feel good.

                But don’t.Report

              • Her twitter feed is public.

                Her job is (was) something like “Social Media Liaison”. Her twittering was part of why she was hired.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Chris says:

          I still think that a lot of people want the Internet to be their own little boy’s only treehouse.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Nob, two questions:

        First, let’s say a company sent an employee to speak at a panel at a trade conference. When he got up to the mike, that employee used several racial slurs. Can I assume you’d be OK with his employer deciding to terminate him for doing so?

        Second, let’s say that in between the time that employee made those public comments and his employer sat down with him to investigate people tweeted offensive jokes about that employee and even made threats. Would you believe the employer then had a duty to retain that employee?Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          1. I think it’d be perfectly justified to terminate the employee.

          2. I don’t think the employer would have a duty to retain the employee.

          3. I don’t really see the relevance of this example, because it presupposes that what Adria did was equivalent to going on a panel discussion and using racial slurs.

          That assumption in it of itself is pretty damned offensive.Report

          • Nob, out of curiosity, even though it appears that there were other issues involved, absent that how do you think the first company should have responded to the one(s) making the jokes?Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            Nob, I’m not trying to equate making racial slurs with what Richards did. As I said in the OP, I actually empathize with her.

            Let me un-chest my cards:

            What I’m trying to do here is mine what your objection is. My first mental reaction after I read a few of your comments was to read you as saying, “This person’s POV is the same as mine and that person’s POV is the opposite, so I’m going to reverse engineer HR policy to make sure that this person is rewarded and that person is punished.” But before I go there, I’m trying to see if that’s actually the case or if I’m missing something.

            You appear to have been arguing earlier in this thread that the problem with her being fired is that she was fired after people were inexcusably nasty and offensive to her. I’m trying to find something that you might find an egregiously fireable offense, so that I can ask you if would feel the need to retain the employee if they received the same type of public treatment Richards received. Feel free to replace “making a racial slur” with any public comment an employee might make that you feel makes it acceptable for the employer to fire them.

            The reason for all of this is you actually need (and I mean “need” in a legal sense, not a “Tod likes it when” sense) an HR policy that is consistent, regardless of where you stand politically with what is said in public by your rep.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Let me use a more politically opposed statement, yeah?

              Let’s say Employee X goes to CPAC and gives speech about opposing marriage equality. Employee X is a PR person for Software Firm A which doesn’t do anything particularly political.

              In response to this, let’s say Hacktivist Anonymous Brown decides to round up an internet lynch mob and go after Firm A and Employee X. They go so far as to do a DDOS attack on the company’s servers and publicly threaten to tar and feather him on the streets, etc.

              Under those circumstances I would say that:
              1. Firm A is under no obligation to fire him for his statements. (As it’s not Firm A’s explicit corporate policy to support marriage equality)

              And that…

              2. Buckling to the threats or using the threats and attacks as a reason to terminate him would be immoral and poor HR policy on the part of Firm A.

              This despite the fact that I would probably be part of the pitchfork brigade criticizing Employee X’s speech and possibly asking Firm A to take a firm stance on marriage equality.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Is Employee X being paid by his or her employer to attend CPAC and represent them?

                If not, than it isn’t what we’re talking about here.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                How about…

                Employee X goes to a SXSW interactive Panel Discussion about High Skilled Immigration reform, and in the panel discussion he makes an off-hand comment about how undocumented immigrants should probably be rounded up and mass deported. (As he’s in the process of representing Firm A trying to push for high skilled immigration reform).

                Now, Firm A is in a market with a sizeable latino community and therefore his comments might be considered controversial. Let’s say at the same time, lynch mob goes and attacks him and makes death threats, etc.

                Again, I don’t think the employer should fire them. They should probably give them a stern warning and a “don’t do this again” type talk, along with the company making a vague statement about not supporting mass deportation, but it’s not something they should lose their job over.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                “Should fire?” Well, that’s a whole different can of worms. I don’t know if they “should” fire the guy, anymore than I know if either of the companies involved in the OP story “should” have fired their employees. If they retain the guy, do they have to to bear the expense of driving out to all of their latino clients and apologizing? Are they looking at losing 2% of their revenue? Will they lose 60% of their contracts and be forced to fold? Way too many missing data points for me to weigh in what what they should do.

                But getting past the should… Yeah, in the theoretical example you give, it is absolutely a fireable offense.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I was under the impression you were asking me under what circumstances I’d flip my position. So I tried to give you examples where the political attitudes were opposite of what I personally believe on behalf of the offending employee.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                So just for clarification in all my hypos, while I would discipline the employee for the actions in some way, it probably wouldn’t be firing, and I sure wouldn’t react in a way that made it look like I was bowing to what is essentially cyber terrorism in doing so.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                That’s where I’d probably be as well.Report

  8. BlaiseP says:

    An open mouth gathers no feet. I first saw a termination for cause at Bell Labs, some guy made an off-colour remark, which wasn’t really all that bad — and was packing his boxes in an hour. That was over 20 years ago.

    Nobody’s going to stand for that sort of thing any more. Nobody at work is your friend. You’re being paid to pull the oar, not shoot the shit. Be supportive and friendly, have a kind word for someone, attempt to shield your subordinates from offensive treatment.

    But the Catberts in HR are always watching. Got MS Exchange? Count on your email being read by your immediate superiors. All of it. Your boss is not your good buddy and his boss is not his good buddy. Warren Buffett said a reputation which took decades to build can be destroyed in five minutes.

    You are always five minutes from being terminated. And people wonder why I’m a consultant…..Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I’ve had long discussions about reading employee’s emails. I have yet to have someone walk away with the ability to read someone’s emails.

      I have to be honest, I really don’t understand how we’ve gotten this far with email. It is the worst thing ever, from a governance standpoint.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Well good on you, Patrick. If you’ve told those snoops to take a hike, my already-high opinion of you just went up greatly. I cannot adequately express my contempt for admins who give in to that sort of thing.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

          I put it this way.

          “Look, we all know that people around here use their work email addresses for person communications. While it’s certainly the case that people’s work email addresses are the property of the company – no argument there – it’s also the case that we don’t have a policy forbidding people to use their work email address for personal purposes.

          Thus, people use their work email addresses for personal purposes.

          Now, given that this is the case, if I give such-and-so access to your departing admin’s email account (or, start forwarding your admin’s email account to your new, incoming admin), it can happen that someone has, or might, send something Very Personal Indeed to that address. By giving your departing admin’s email store, or address, to another person, you’ve effectively given them access to their personal data.

          If your new admin then blabs about something that they read in that email store, you are likely to find yourself standing out on the streetcorner holding a box with all of your personal effects in it, and your last paycheck in your pocket.

          I can assure you that I will not be joining you.

          This is not just a bad idea. It’s the worst idea. If you want me to do this, get Doug in Legal to okay it, and get my boss to sign off on it. In writing.

          In the meantime, if you want, I’ll set up an autoresponder on their email address that says that they’ve left the company, and that (this) is their personal address, and that the person replacing them can be found at (this) email address.”Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            It boggles my mind when people use their work email as their personal email. Just too many things can go wrong, as I see it. I work hard to keep those accounts (as well as other things) separate… I have GMail for personal and a school email for professional; I use FaceBook for personal things, LinkedIn for professional things; etc. I realize none of this is perfect but it helps me draw clear lines. I am friends with some colleagues on FaceBook, but these are people whom I have a personal relationship with, who I am confident will not go blabbing to the boss every picture or update I post; I’ve had a number of colleagues try to friend me but who do not meet both these criteria so I just ignore them. It can just get too messy too fast.

            I’ll send personal/humorous emails using my work email to work friends, but I’m still careful with the content, with the recipients, and mindful that despite the fact that no one is actually watching, someone could be. Have I sent emails that theoretically could have crossed a line? Possibly… our responsible use policy not only constantly changes but is rather nebulous. But I do my best not to.

            If I’m planning a personal event, e.g., a party, I use my GMail. Sometimes this requires sending emails to colleagues on their work address because *they* use them for personal purposes, which means I either am a bit more careful or simply construct a separate email list for them than for the regular Joes, who’ll get the usual repertoire of sophomoric fart jokes.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

              I will almost guarantee you that if you gave me a tarball of your Maildir, I could find out all sorts of things about you that you didn’t realize were in there.

              Some of them are things that you share with your employer, like, say, home address phone number, social security number (by the way, don’t ever email anybody your SSN), credit card number (remember that one time your emailed your accounting department with a copy of a receipt because you’re looking for reimbursement, or you had your airline send you your confirmation to your work address because you needed it just that second?), etc.

              Sharing those with your employer is not quite the same thing as sharing them with *everyone* (or *anyone*) who works at your job. I don’t tell my direct boss my medical problems. Someone in HR might know it because they process my medical account reimbursement; it’s not my boss’s business and they’d get in serious trouble for passing that info around in the office.

              It’s impossible to keep your work and private existence separate that way. While I agree that one must be careful to not send things *using* your work email address that your employer might frown upon because they don’t want to be seen as endorsing it, it’s impossible to truly keep your work and private life disjoined when it comes to your email.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Well, sure. But I don’t see reason to needlessly mix the two. *NONE* of my friends have my work email. Nor does my family. Zazzy does but I don’t remember her ever using it (they don’t block GMail at work). They could figure it out based on how our school assigns email addresses, but I don’t give it to them because I don’t even want to chance getting an all-nude Harlem Shake video sent there… because those things do flood my inbox.

                Now… tarball? Maildir?

                I should also note that at my school, and at schools in general, policing email is so absurdly low on the list of priorities that the practical risk is nil. It’s just not worth their time and effort, frankly. They retain the right to do so in the event that they need to exercise it but they just can’t waste time combing through everyone’s stupid emails about how Charlie is doing is math.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

                I think you’re taking the right default course, don’t get me wrong.

                My point is more along the lines that even though employees really ought to keep their emails separate, employers can’t treat mail addresses as if they were in fact separate.

                Because, as I said above, someone might email their SSN to someone in HR. HR might need to know that.

                Their replacement, in the event that they leave the company, not only doesn’t need to know that, you don’t want to be responsible, as an employer, for inadvertently leaking that data.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m confused. What harm could come from HR having an email from my work address with my SS# in it?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

                If you leave, and someone gave your account over to the next employee, they could read your stored, old, email. Including the ones you’ve sent.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh… but if my email is constructed as FirstInitial.LastName@school.org, the likelihood of anyone getting my account is slim to none… especially with my last name… no?

                In a nutshell, I suppose I’m asking if there is anything I’m likely doing with my professional email now that I shouldn’t be… given that the only things I do with it are either work related or the rare personal email sent to a professional colleague.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                gleepers. that’s a good point.
                HIPAA regs mean that if anyone ever figures it out, you could have REAL problems. “We looked at your e-mail, and discovered you were being treated by a psychiatrist” … oh, boy.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to BlaiseP says:

      You are always five minutes from being terminated. And people wonder why I’m a consultant…..

      So that your contract can be terminated in two minutes with less paperwork? 🙂Report

  9. George Turner says:

    Well, I agree that she should be fired for violating the first rule of conventions which guarantees an attendees right to bang a bunch of prostitutes and bury at least one of them in the desert without repercussions. It’s written down somewhere, I swear. Read the fine print on the convention flyers.

    The tech employees should be fired for not realizing that dongle jokes were only funny for two conventions, at most. Trade shows are all about new stuff, including new jokes, so they might as well have been three goobers trying to push PDA’s, pagers, or Zip drives as the next hot gadget. Fire them.Report

  10. bweazel says:

    Wait, huh? Since when is Boulder, CO part of Silicon Valley?Report

  11. zic says:

    She didn’t get fired until the angry intermob launched an denial-of-service attack on her employer’s servers.

    So they (the employer) did the opposite of the touch football team’s community.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to zic says:

      If that’s true, that makes things even worse.

      I mean maybe angry, vile twitter comments can be filed away as private non-work stuff, but attacking her workplace and them folding to it…if I were a client I wouldn’t feel particularly safe trusting them with anything.Report

    • trumwill mobile in reply to zic says:

      Her employer’s actions are definitely looking worse.Report

      • Honestly, I’m just tribal and stubborn enough that this would probably lead me to defending her (if I were a member of a decision-making board) and opposing any significant punishment (other than a soft “next time, do this other thing instead.”) The same is true of the vile threats.

        This might make me a bad businessperson.Report

      • I have to say, I disagree with everyone in this thread.

        Believe it or not, most companies do not wish to be thrown into the middle of controversies that make 50% of their customers decide that they rock and 50 % of their customers decide to never hire them again; they REALLY don’t like to be put in a position where there’re going to get that regardless of how they do or do not react – which is exactly where they are right now.

        The actions of some reprehensible people on the internet and the decisions the employer make are separate issues. You shouldn’t condemn the company for deciding they don’t want to employ a person that puts them in this position just because some people on twitter are bing dicks, anymore than you should have forgiven the people that made death threats if the company issued a press releases standing behind her. Two totally separate things.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Like I said, my response probably makes me a bad businessperson. But there is a downside to doing what they did. Which is to say, if I worked for them, I’d start considering other options. Of course, that might be the case for some or other of their employees no matter what they do. [ed note: added the part in italics]Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          If they’re going to be in a position where they’re going to get a terrible reaction regardless of how they react, then it seems to me the thing they should do is the one that human decency demands.

          At least then you can salvage a modicum of PR victory.

          And the actions of the reprehensible people on the internet and the decisions the employer make are not separate issues if the actions of the reprehensible people are directly cited as a reason to take the actions they’re taking.Report

          • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            No, they are separate – and if the HR department does not want to get its butt sued off, it will remain separate. The events themselves may be connected, but the HR decision should not be.

            If she was terminated for this, she was terminated for putting the company in No-Win Position X.

            She put her company in No-Win Position X regardless of what classy or classless way the twitervrese reacted.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              I’m not familiar with how risk management treats this, but it seems like it’d take a substantial leap of logical faith to suggest that these things are separate, particularly since they involved an actual attack upon company property (DDOS attack on company servers) that led to her termination.

              That is to say, there’s probably at least sufficient evidence to get a wrongful termination suit going, and given how the internet likes to rally behind underdogs, Adria Richards probably won’t have much difficulty in raising the funds needed to retain an attorney for said suit.Report

              • That is to say, wouldn’t the twitterverse reactions have to have been used as the logical process that determined the company was in No-Win Position X? A simple subpoena of correspondence within HR and/or the CEO and personnel officer would likely show something along the lines of: “Holy shit! Look at how pissed off all these guys on twitter are…we need to get rid of her ASAP!”

                …at which point whatever legal fiction HR claims won’t really hold water, would it?Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                I don’t think “We need to get rid of her ASAP” would constitute wrongful termination. Legally speaking. EAW.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Again, you’re conflating the two things.

                Look, I know this is over-simplifying but….

                Let’s say you invent a product that you think is space awesome. In the whole world, there are about 1,000 companies that might want to buy it from you. In order to market it, you hire several people and have them go to trade conferences to network.

                At that conference, one of the person says something that Makes The News. Never mind what he said, all you know is that it was so disruptive that now you are in a position where if you publicly discipline or terminate him, 300 of those 1000 potential customers will never want to buy your invention; and if you refuse to publicly discipline or terminate them, a different set of 300 potential costumers will never want to buy our invention.

                That right there is the fireable offense.

                Now, does that mean you should fire that person? Absolutely not. There are a number of possible forks (sorry Mike) that you might take, including making that person your poster child. Unless you have a zero tolerance policy about speaking off script you don’t have to fire someone for committing a fireable offense – but even if you choose not to, it oesn’t make it any less a fireable offense.

                That people brew up a s**t storm later doesn’t make it any less of a fireable offense. That people brew up a really, really big s**t storm might make you decide that it’s better to keep that employee than terminate them, but that’s still a a no-win situation that your employee put you in by going off script.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Absent a few carved out exceptions, isn’t a fireball offense anythingthe employer wants iit to be?Report

              • Not really, no.

                Generally speaking, fireable offenses either need to be ones that cause damage to a company, it’s employees, clients or vendors, or it needs to be spelled out at the point of hire. (e.g.: smoking pot)Report

              • That strikes me as the distinction between “fired with cause” and “fired without cause” rather than “can fire” or “can’t fire” for a particular act.Report

              • “That strikes me as the distinction between “fired with cause” and “fired without cause” rather than “can fire” or “can’t fire” for a particular act.”

                I don’t know much about risk management, but it seems to me that the risk management answer is, it’s a question of risk and not right. If you’re going fire someone, it’s better to do it for cause, wherein cause is defined consistently.Report

              • Back home, “termination without cause” is generally the norm (at least compared to “terminated with cause”, obviously there’s “quit” and “laid off” as other checkboxes). Even when there was a definite reason for the termination.Report

              • I guess what I meant was that an employer would prefer to be able to say the worker was fired because the worker deserved it and not simply because it was the employer’s prerogative. I believed this on the supposition that an employee with an intent to do so could claim firing for illegal cause (race, ethnicity, etc.) absent a cause.

                But on second thought and per the example you gave, I imagine there are risks in claiming a for-cause firing when such can’t be proven, and in such cases maybe it’s better to be honest and say not for cause. (Also, the questions of unemployment insurance and whether the employer will have to pay more probably enter the mix.)

                On third thought, I do imagine that larger companies, even though they might insist that they can fire their at-will employees at any time, follow a procedure (oral warnings, one or two write ups) just to show, if not cause, at least proper process.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                “Absent a few carved out exceptions, isn’t a fireball offense anythingthe employer wants iit to be?”

                Only if he’s Ryu.

                Or, maybe, Ken.Report

              • Dude, sexist.

                Chun-li and Sakura also can throw fireballs.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I think the question is whether or not the vocal reaction was actually an accurate barometer of whether or not 300 people would not buy the product if she wasn’t fired.

                I don’t mean to nitpick here, but it’s quite clear from the CEO’s statement that the twitterverse firestorm + DDOS attacks were responsible for his making the judgment that she had “divided the community she was meant to unite”. That’s to say his reaction to believing it was a fireable offense was based on the shitstorm.

                Moreover, when you as a service provider of IT services buckle to what are essentially malicious attacks and blackmail, the number of customers you lose is likely to be substantially more than the n you lose by not firing the offending person.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                What if it was something more mundane? Like if a speaker from Holland arrived and the first thing this Social Media Liaison asked was “Don’t they still do blackface there?”Report

              • Take a quick gander at stuff related to Zwarte Piet.

                The point was that certain types of tolerance or social acceptance of what might otherwise be considered politically incorrect behavior is more tolerated on a cultural level in Holland. It was offhand and probably a bit too pithy, but ffs.Report

              • Fnord in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                That’s to say his reaction to believing it was a fireable offense was based on the shitstorm.

                Yes, she was fired based on the magnitude of the shitstorm. But she wasn’t fired because (or at least, not solely because) she was the target of an internet shitstorm. She was fired because she provoked an internet shitstorm. Which, to the extent that “developer evangelist” is a public relations position, is the opposite of doing her job well. And, yes, the bigger the shitstorm your public relations set off, the worse it reflects on the public relations employee who set it off.

                Imagine if a “developer evangelist” had provoked DDoS attacks and so forth aimed at getting somebody else at the company fired. If the company had integrity, they wouldn’t fire the target of the campaign. But they’d sure as hell fire that developer evangelist.Report

              • You know, I didn’t even know “developer evangelist” was even a real thing until I met a whole bunch of them at the Ginger Man during SXSWi…

                It’s such…a pretentious name for saying “PR person”.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                There are a number of possible forks (sorry Mike)

                Huh? I wasn’t going to interrupt.

                (That was hilarious. Trust me.)Report

              • zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Let’s say the Wicked Witch of the West is flying overhead, writing “Surrender Dorothy,” with her broom in the sky.

                So you do; you send Dorothy out on a stealth mission to get that same broom.

                Then you shouldn’t be surprised later when it’s revealed you’re not great and powerful, but a little man behind a curtain.

                Seriously, don’t they teach you risk managers the importance of story an myth?Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

                So space awesome…Report

          • zic in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            I’d expect a wrongful firing law suit, to be honest.Report

            • trumwill mobile in reply to zic says:

              On what grounds?Report

              • zic in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                They didn’t fire here until the attack on their servers. So it’s not that she was fired for her actions at the conference, but for criminal reaction by others, and she had absolutely no control over that action, anymore then you have control over my comment response to you.

                If they’d fired her over the initial tweet, maybe. But they fired her to stop the attack, an attack that was part and parcel of criminal threats made against her.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

                I don’t think “it inspired criminal acts against her/us” actually qualifies as wrongful termination if she’s at-will.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                “She’s supposed to represent us to the developer community, and she did such a hell of a job that now they’re trying to put us out of business.”Report

              • zic in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Actually, you’re conflating the ‘developer community’ with a small, vile, and repulsive subset within that community.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I don’t think she did her employer any favors.Report

              • zic in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I don’t think her employer did themselves any favors by giving in to the attack, either.

                So next time they do anything the crackers involved don’t like, what happen?

                What about the potential customer, concerned about security?

                The ‘they’re trying to put us out of business’ and community of developers are not necessarily the same group, either; given that I have a family full of folk who could have potentially attended that conference, and who spend a great deal of time concerned about how to code around these types of system attacks, conflating one with the other concerns me. There may be some overlap.

                I don’t know, Mike. She may have made a mistake with the tweet; but blaming her for the shit storm, the firing, etc. is like blaming your kid for standing up to the school bully at recess and then getting beat to a pulp by the bully’s gang on the way home from school.Report

              • DRS in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                It’s mindboggling to me that so much high tech industry HR headaches are based on the inability of young males under 30 to not be douches in public. What part of “Hey Frat Boy, most of us grew out of that kind of ‘funny’ when we were 12.” is so hard to grasp?Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I don’t know that she’s standing up to the school bully here.

                Maybe she is.

                From the way she describes it on her blog post, it doesn’t come across that way to me. I honestly don’t know how it comes across to me. Really judgmental. Really self-righteous. Both of those things may be justified.

                But I admit part of me doesn’t buy it, because – in my experience – when you’re legitimately outraged at something, you talk more about what it was, exactly, that outraged you and why you feel the way that you do, and you talk a lot less about how your actions are justified.

                That isn’t to say that my reading of this is correct. I don’t really have any way to tell with reasonable certainty.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                It’s really not clear that these guys were douches in public, either, DRS.Report

              • DRS in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Patrick: and it’s not clear that they weren’t, either.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                No, it’s totally not.

                And to be clear, you can be immature and make stupid jokes that are somewhat unprofessional and still be classless and a jerk whether or not you’re being sexist. A professional conference is not the same thing as a business meeting and some degree of professionalism is expected but some goofing around is, too.

                About the only thing I agree with in the whole story, wholeheartedly, is that if I hire someone as a social media specialist and send them to a conference with the intention of doing developer outreach and they publicly shame some developers using social media, they really aren’t good at their actual job.

                They might be righteous, in this instance.

                They are unlikely to continue in my employ as a social media specialist in the immediate future. Maybe after six months of the doghouse. But you would have to talk really, really persuasively to keep your job, and there is no way you’re the public face of my company for a while.Report

              • Whether or not the developers who were pictured were douchebags seems to me, rather immaterial within this discussion. It’s certainly not THEM who started the string of outrages and overreacts and outright criminal behavior.

                In fact I’d probably wager a fair chunk of money that the ven diagram between: Sociopathic Douchebags Responsible for Hounding SendGrid and Potential Clients Offended By Her Overreaction, doesn’t have a lot of overlap. Indeed I’d even go as far as betting there’s zero overlap between Sociopathic Douchebags Responsible for Hounding SendGrid and Guys Who Were in Picture on Twitter.

                zic’s analogy might be imprecise. It’s probably closer to say that she stood up (self-righteously maybe) to one of the jocks being a jock, and then she got beat up by some bullies who didn’t like what she did on the way home from the playground. Then once that happened, her company threw up their hands and fired her because they were afraid the bullies would come and target them next.

                That’s not the sort of behavior you want from a company that would potentially be handling cloud storage for I dunno your entire corporate email system.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Nob, I’m pretty sure that everybody who isn’t batshit crazy agrees that the crazy rape murder threat people could all take a flying leap.

                The fact that the crazy rape murder threat people come out of the woodwork in response to a perceived threat from women regarding sexism (especially when the perceived threat has perceived consequences) is itself a giant freakin’ problem.

                You’re right, it’s probably the bigger problem.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                “Nob, I’m pretty sure that everybody who isn’t batshit crazy agrees that the crazy rape murder threat people could all take a flying leap.”

                Given how many people bombarded Ms. Richards or Ms. Maxwell will “crazy rape murder threats”, just how many batshit crazy people are out there?

                Given that the overwhelming majority of these batshit crazy people are white males, when can we start saying that white males are disproportionately batshit crazy when it comes to “crazy rape murder threats”?

                Given that white males are disproportionately batshit crazy when it comes to “crazy rape murder threats”, when can we say that white males are a problem that needs swift and firm responses?

                There is no shortage of people who make a living by talking about the supposed disproportionate criminality of black men and exactly what should be done about it. Maybe we should start listening to the people talking about the supposed disproportionate batshit crazy of white men. Ya know, people like Ms. Maxwell and Ms. Richards.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Kazzy, there are 306 million people in the U.S.

                Of those… maybe a third are adult persons who maybe might have something to say about this story.

                Of those… it really takes a very small percentage of them to be crazy murder rape threat people for there to be an awful lot of crazy murder rape threat people (note: most of these people are not actual crazy murder rape people, they just need serious filters on their freakin’ pie holes).

                You’ve seen what happens on Doc’s autism posts, right? That’s nothing, dude. You should see what sort of crazy murder rape threats people who work in animal research get.

                And it’s scary shit, lemme tell you.

                This is really freaky for the people who are subjected to it. But really, the crazy murder rape threat people are out there and their real problem is that they have access to the Internet and we’re so interconnected nowadays that they can contact us with zero effort.

                Because otherwise they’d be in the backyard, chugging a beer or complaining to their husbands or some other thing.

                Look at the people who freak out about religion, you see the same thing.

                Now, I’m not a woman, and I haven’t had to internalize the effects the patriarchy has on me, but I’m not entirely certain that focusing on white males is going to be helpful.

                Because there are nice little old ladies who will make the most foul threats if you talk smack about Jesus.

                And while white males may make up even a staggering majority of the crazy murder rape threat people, you have to remember that the number of crazy murder rape threat people is still actually *really small* in comparison to the general population.

                So the staggering majority of white males aren’t crazy murder rape people.

                A couple hundred antivaxers, a thousand gun nuts, a thousand sexually immature insecure programmers, a thousand bald-ass racists… that’s a loud bunch of voices.

                A thousand people isn’t a lot, as a percentage of the population.

                Drawing conclusions about what we ought to do by comparing the things that make them like the rest of the population is going to give you a very skewed strategy. You need to figure out what makes them alike. Not what they share with everybody else.

                It’s an awful lot like the serial killer phenomenon, except there are more of them and they are way less dangerous.

                But there are still not enough of them to be anything other than an outlier, when you look at our overall society.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:


                Then why do we give voice and audience to folls who want to talk about criminality and black culture? Doesn’t that phenomenon suffer from the same numbers issue?

                Back to the point at hand, even a few thousand crazy murdery rapey people is alarming and we should be looking at the systemic issues that breed them, not just writing them off as a few lone kooks.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                But that’s the point, Kaz, there probably aren’t systemic reasons why these people act this way. Well, except for human biological procreation reasons, really.

                Unlike black people and crime (where the numbers actually reflect a substantial portion of the overall populace, and the disparity between the minority and the overall population *does* indicate that there’s systemic problems), this is a case of “X% of the human population is the sort who will vent their spleen in completely inappropriate ways when their sacred cows are slain.” We can be happy that only 1/Zth of those people (for a pretty big Z) are the types who might actually do something about it.

                I don’t think that this is inherently a white thing, or a male thing (although younger males are probably more likely to participate, I think this is due to a correlation between impulse control and age). Impulse control is somewhat sex-linked, but the problem isn’t the Y chromosome, it’s impulse control.

                There really isn’t much you can do to prevent people from saying stupid shit when the barrier between them and their audience is a keyboard and 10 seconds of typing. There’s no opportunity cost to deter them long enough for impulse controls to kick in.

                The only way (I can think of) to try and attack this problem systemically would be to systemically raise the opportunity cost of the Internet. That would deter a WHOLE LOT more positive human interactions than negative ones.

                People like you, teaching in your classes, making the next generation aware of things like privilege and the limitations of their perception? That helps, because people will have fewer sacred cows to flip out over. But there probably will never be enough educators like you to actually force this change.

                If it happens, it probably won’t be by design.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to zic says:

              She was hired as a “Social Media Liaison” or similar. Someone whose job it was to act as outreach for the company.

              I don’t know how much that would result in coloring the lawsuit.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

              She’s an at-will employee whose action portrayed her employer in a negative light. That would, in principle, make it a hard case to win. Of course, a nice settlement (terms undisclosed) to avoid yet more bad publicity might well be their best course.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I imagine that if she looks for a new job as social media liaison, she will be looking for a while.

                There may be a few companies out there who might be willing to hire her to that position, of course, but I doubt that they’re “Silicon Valley Social Media Liaison” level.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                It being at a conference (and the instigators being non-coworkers, but employees of another company) really weaken the claim.

                However, you have to bear in mind: Requiring your employee to tolerate sexual harassment in order to market a product is, you know, illegal. Firing them for refusing to do so is illegal.

                Not directly applicable here, due to the way she reacted, but still an important point.Report

              • Michelle in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Of course, a nice settlement (terms undisclosed) to avoid yet more bad publicity might well be their best course.

                Mike, that’s what I was thinking and, if I were still practicing employment law, I’d probably take the case betting on the likelihood the company would prefer to settle quietly rather than have the whole shebang get even more public exposure. There’s probably enough there for some kind of legitimate claim.

                That said, I think the company was well within it’s rights to can her. If it’s your job to generate PR for your company and you generate a whole bunch of negative publicity, then you’re not doing your job.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Michelle says:

                I agree so completely with this analysis that one of us is unnecessary. Probably me.Report

              • Michelle in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Don’t be so modest Mike. When I see this kind of stuff, my gut reaction is to think “lawsuit.” Law school ruined me for normal life.Report

  12. Mike Schilling says:

    Even though you may not realize it, they aren’t dishing out the thousands of dollars they spend on airfare, hotel accommodations, and lost productivity at home so that you can be on vacation.

    These guys work(ed) in Silicon Valley and the show was in Santa Clara; they probably drove there from their homes. There’s also no guarantee any of their deadlines were adjusted to reflect the fact that they spent a day at PyCon. Furthermore, if this was a public session, they didn’t have to pay their way in to see it. That’s all somewhat irrelevant to your main point, but let’s go too heavy on the great privilege of fitting some possibly relevant talks into an already busy schedule.Report

  13. krm says:

    Hello guys,

    I am from The Netherlands, Amsterdam.
    I’ve read this news story this week and i got some questions cause maybe i dont see things the way Americans do.

    So two guys are talking to each others, making a joke that i could tell my 15 year old niece bassicaly. One woman overhears these 2 guys talkings, feels offendend and then tweets there picture with a small captions about what they said, and then the guy got fired ?.

    Now here in the Netherlands, we follow a rule that is called MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
    I read all these articles about the woman Adria Richards.. but to me the REAL victim is the poor sob who got fired over NOTHING ??!?!?! ( AM I ALONE IN THIS ???? )

    Please enlighten me what do i see wrong ?? Why cant my mind grasp the fact that she was right in any way ? I feel the internet reprecusion she is getting is HARSH.. but its also some sort of karma.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to krm says:

      I wouldn’t have fired the guy for the comment, I don’t think. But according to some, he wasn’t actually fired over that. But if he was, I think that was overboard. BUT, as soon as the stakes were raised and she and the company were threatened… the important part of the story changes, I think.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to krm says:

      1. It’s a public venue and telling off-color jokes within earshot of others is well, enough to be offensive. It becomes someone else’s business the moment it’s spoken loudly enough in public.

      2. It’s not clear the man was fired over the actual incident. The extent of the actual damage appears to have been that the organizers of the event gave them a talking to. The terminated man evidently had substantial employment problems that led to his termination, not his actions at PyCon.

      3. Are you male? I think the extent to which someone like Adria (who is both female and a person of color) has to deal with a lot of the old boys clubism (the brogrammerism) of the tech community is probably somewhat understated and hard to understand for someone who hasn’t been a minority somewhere.

      4. Whatever the case, there’s no fucking “karma” attached to people A. threatening her, and B. doing illegal activities against her employer for a tweet she made about a couple of men acting unprofessionally.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to krm says:

      “Mind your own business” is an excellent rule for when you are thinking about prying into someone’s private affairs.

      I don’t think two guys cracking jokes at a convention qualifies as private affairs. It’s kind of hard to say, “Why don’t you mind your own business?” to someone when you are pretty much by definition including them in your business.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        She overheard a private conversation, apparently misunderstood some of it (there’s nothing dirty about “forking a repository”, except that “forking” always sounds dirty), and reported them to the organization running the convention. At which point they apologized. Then she tweeted their picture (which they had posed for, happily, since she didn’t tell them why she was taking it) to the world.

        Sorry, not a good idea, especially for someone whose job is to act as an ambassador to the sort of people she’d just publicly embarrassed. I’m with Will — if I were her employer, after the shitstorm, I’d have defended her to the death. But privately, I’d have had a talk with her about appropriate behavior.Report

        • FTR, that most likely would have been my reaction as well.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Not knowing the details, I’m not interested in passing judgement.

          I absolutely agree that tweeting to the world is something that you ought to do eyes wide open.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            You passed judgment pretty well back at 5:28.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Eh? How so? Passing judgment means I’ve got a sentence.

              I got no sentence, Mike. I don’t know the full context of what they did (or didn’t d0), or what exactly they said. I get that forking a repository is standard terminology, but there’s forking a repository and there’s forking a repository and a transcript isn’t going to tell you how they said what they said, which is what matters. Insert dongle joke here.

              So I have no grounds on which to say what they said or didn’t say was or wasn’t appropriate. Even if she says they said something and they agree they said it, that doesn’t mean that they implied what she may have inferred.

              On the other hand, if you’re at a convention as an employee and you say something that someone overhears, complaining that it was private is… an odd complaint.

              Saying that it was public and misconstrued, fine. Saying that it was public and really shouldn’t be regarded as offensive, that’s fine too.

              Saying that she should be minding her own business because what we’re saying wasn’t meant for her ears is… well, that part seems stupid. You don’t want to be tagged with your commentary, keep it quiet enough that people around you don’t hear you? How do you have expectation of privacy while you’re sitting in the middle of a goddamn auditorium?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I honestly don’t get this. In an auditorium, while you’re waiting for the main event to start, everyone there is having a conversation with the people sitting next to them. It’s not an invitation for the people in the next row to listen in so they can disapprove.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Are you sure that’s what was happening here? ‘Cause I’m not. Maybe that’s what happened here.

                Let me put it to you this way, I’ve been sitting in an auditorium waiting for an event to start and somebody sitting near me has said something that – whether or not there was or wasn’t an invitation issued – there’s no goddamn way I’m not going to hear what they said. Along with everyone else within 10 rows.

                So, yeah. Let’s say that I don’t know that the expectation of privacy in a public forum isn’t something that I’m willing to codify into an “always yes” or “always no” affair, and I certainly don’t have reason to believe that this is a case of her butting her nose in someone else’s business.

                Granted, I don’t have reason to believe that it isn’t, either. Perhaps my original comment implied otherwise.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              BTW: you seem pretty sure of a particular characterization of events, here, Mike.

              Is there something you’ve read, in particular, that leads you to believe a particular representation of the affair?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                It’s from reading a number of reports on the incident, including Richards’s own (in which she describes sitting in the row in front of the two guys.)Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                From her page (which doesn’t, in my opinion, cover her with glory):

                The guy behind me to the far left was saying he didn’t find much value from the logging session that day. I agreed with him so I turned around and said so. He then went onto say that an earlier session he’d been to where the speaker was talking about images and visualization with Python was really good, even if it seemed to him the speaker wasn’t really an expert on images. He said he would be interested in forking the repo and continuing development.

                That would have been fine until the guy next to him… began making sexual forking jokes”

                Now, uh, I don’t know how you can claim that she’s just overreacting to something she overheard when it sounds like she and the guy “on the left” were actually engaged in a conversation when the “guy next to him” started making jokes.

                I’m sorry, Mike, I don’t see an invasion of privacy here.

                I have no idea what these jokes were. I have no idea if they were offensive or not, really. She doesn’t say what the guy said. Given the context of her story, here, it sounds like she knows what forking is, so “she just misunderstood something she overheard” doesn’t sound accurate to me. Given some of the other context, here, it also sounds like she took it upon herself to make a public (as in, outside of the auditorium) spectacle of the guy, which like I said up here I think is a bad tactic (and poor judgement on her part, given her role with her employer).Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                One of the guys whose picture she tweeted explained that he and his buddies used “I’d fork his repo!” as a compliment. It is one, for obvious reasons, since it means “His code is worth using as a basis for new development”. Also, it sounds funny. So he said this in front of (not necessarily to; it’s hard to tell) Richards and she decided it was sexual, because she didn’t understand it and it included the word “fork”.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Uh, I can say, “I’d fork his repo” in a way that any neutral observer would think I was making a sexual joke.

                I don’t know how this is sexist (I could see someone coming to that conclusion if he was joking, “I’d fork her repo”). But then, we don’t know the entire conversation. I could imagine all sorts of sexist or homophobic comments that could come after the initial joke.Report

              • 1. That was his explanation. Which may or may not be true.

                2. “I’d fork his repo” comes across to be as a sexual joke (double entendre). Not necessarily so, but if she thought it was a joke, there would be a good chance he said it in a way that conveyed that.

                2b. Given where she works, I’d think that she knew what a “fork” is and that wouldn’t be the sole cause of the offense.

                3. And yet… self-depricating gay jokes are not all that uncommon and it does take a little mental work to make it sexist. Maybe homophobic? But my initial thought before hearing this is something that would objectify women and that’s why she was offended.

                4. Which, if that’s what he said and all he said (see #1 and #5), means that this might have been a product of a misunderstanding? Which doesn’t make her look good, though (it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway) does not justify rape threats and death threats.

                5. If that was what was said. That may be what he thinks it is, and he may have forgotten about that other thing he said.

                6. No matter how wrong she might have been in interpreting what was said (and I’m not saying she was – I would feel very self-conscious assuming it, fear I was subconsciously thinking “Oh, she’s a girl, so of course she didn’t understand” sort of way), she didn’t get anybody fired. She caused, at most, temporary embarrassment. Possibly embarrassment that lead to his firing, but that (in my opinion) is on his employers and not her.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Was it said that way? I have no idea, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Let’s say that I’d say it’s statistically more likely than not, domain-wide, that the sort of guys who watch South Park are going to make sex and fart jokes.

                Let’s also say that I’ve known plenty of both male and female nerds who really can’t pass up a good dongle joke.

                So yeah, I can’t say for sure. But it would surprise me slightly less than not at all.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Well, if we’re going to render a verdict by assuming facts not in evidence, then this trial is going to go really quickly.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I’m not making this into a trial, Mike. I think I’ve been pretty clear that I don’t think you can say much of anything definitive about anything with what we know, and that everybody’s story sounds weird.

                You seem a lot more pissed at her than I am at anybody involved, except the horde of crazy rape murder people. You also seem to be throwing all your weight behind the comments that at least present the appearance that you believe that her story is all bunk.

                Maybe I’m reading you wrong.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I’m not pissed at her at all. She’s suffered far worse than anything she deserves. I’m kind of pissed with the people trying to turn her poor choice into an act of heroism.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Oh, okay. Then we’re just circling in low orbit. Maybe you thought I was saying something different from what I am?

                Lest I be misunderstood, I also think she make a very poor choice of expression.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I also think it might be likely that she hadn’t meant to do much more than “look at these dorks, acting like dorks” *eyeroll*.

                Certainly not a call for public shunning.Report

        • She did not just report them.

          She publicly posted a picture of them to her twitter feed so that the con owners AND her thousands of followers would know. There is a huge difference.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to krm says:

      The reason why what the jokers did got them in trouble is described in Tod’s original post:

      When your employer sends you to a trade show, you are acting as and seen as a representative of your company. … The degree to which you embrace being an ambassador of your organization may vary, but at the very least the baseline you should shoot for is Not Forcing Your Organization to Pick Up the Phone and Apologize to Anyone.

      Tod offers the theory, and I don’t think there’s a lot of controversy about it, that termination for telling an off-color joke in this context appears to be excessive.

      Now, there is a cultural difference between Holland and the USA. I’m not very familiar with Dutch culture, but I can’t imagine it’s that much different from German or French cultures with which I’m more comfortable. Your typical American is more prudish about matters concerning sex than your typical European. The baseline for how sexually explicit workplace-acceptable humor is will vary from culture to culture. And where that line might reasonably be drawn is a matter of considerable uncertainty, debate, and disagreement here.

      Which is to say: yeah, you may be right. Bear in mind that it’s a subjective analysis of what joke is acceptable in what situation, though. The joke was a bit more lowbrow than “Why does six hate seven? Because seven eight nine!”Report

  14. Robert says:

    Of the three men featured in the photo, do you know who was fired? Who said that statement? Who had nothing to do with it.

    Regardless of any merits to Ms. Richards’ claim, she had NO RIGHT to implicate uninvolved people. Her “calling out” should have at least been specific.

    For that alone she should be fired. And never work again.Report

  15. NewDealer says:

    I must say that what always strikes me in these situations is that people really do not understand the concept of At-Will Employment.

    It really does mean that an employer can fire an employee for any reason: good, bad, or non-existent.

    Now it might be very bad business practice and publicity for an employer to terminate someone for a bad or stupid reason but it is there right unless a contract or some other circumstance says otherwise.

    This is modified of course by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discriminatory reasons are generally banned but some are easier to prove than others.Report

    • You’re right, especially when it comes to the fired worker weighing whether he or she has cause to sue.

      But when it comes to the employer trying to prevent a lawsuit, even if the termination will ultimately be proven not wrongful, then the employer might have to follow a higher standard, just for their own benefit.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:

      *Their right. Sigh…..Report

    • Matty in reply to NewDealer says:

      It really does mean that an employer can fire an employee for any reason: good, bad, or non-existent.

      That is scary. Sorry to go away from the main topic but how can you run a society where everyone has to go in terror they might be moving into a cardboard box next week if the boss doesn’t like the colour of their coat or had a bad time last night and thinks ‘hey I’ll work off my frustration by firing the first schmuck through the door’?Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Matty says:

        I am personally highly opposed to at-will employment but it is the law of the land in every state except Montana.

        There have been many of the more libertarian leaning people here who support it because it is more pro-Market. The other side of the equation is that employees can quit at anytime as well. I have anecdotal evidence of people taking advantage of this. Not just giving two-weeks notice but quitting the same day.

        The arguments for at-will are that it makes employers more likely to take risks because they get to terminate rather painlessly. I am not sure if this is true or not but many Americans seem to think that Europe’s high-employment rate (pre-meltdown, I have been hearing this since the 90s) is because of how hard it is to terminate someone in Europe.*

        It would be interesting to see how many people are terminated for bad and/or no reason. I imagine most HR departments think this is very bad PR and have procedures to stop it from happening but I could be wrong.Report

  16. krm says:

    Thanks for awnsering my questions.

    -Bear in mind, in Holland dressing up in blackface for Christmas is still (somewhat) culturally acceptable to the majority, so…. –

    You mean Sinterklaas (?) thats on 5th december. I am a male ( black ) who’s parents are born in Surinam. I dont know if you have ever been in the Netherlands but all black people i know celebrate Sinterklaas since its focused strictly on giving presents to kids nothing else racial about this at all..

    Now about this case, i have been reading up more on this, and the guy got fired of this twitter incident ( this is what Playhaven gave as reason not mess up gender equality relations ).

    Now ask you to please “keep it real”. Would all this be avoided if the girl just said “guys can you please shut up/be quiet”. But because SHE made a big deal out of it.. everyone got in trouble for it. Please enlighten me why am i wrong ?Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to krm says:

      I do love the Netherlands, Amsterdam and Rotterdam are on my list of places I’d like to retire to, but I have to admit that Zwarte Piet dress-ups for December tend to be a bit shocking to me still. I suppose it might be less offensive if you grew up in that milieu, but what do your parents think about that tradition?

      As for the “shut up and be quiet” thing, from what I understand it was done because she was fed up with that not working and she wanted something a bit more public.Report

  17. Nob Akimoto says:

    On the level of whether or not it makes sense for the company by the way, it’s worth checking what SendGrid actually does.

    They’re supposedly a cloud-based email delivery service (I took a brief gander at their website) which suggests to me some level of well stubborn “fuck you, we defend our own”ness might actually be an asset…I mean would you really trust sensitive stuff like your company’s emails to a company that gives in to a DDOS attack? What other sort of attacks/blackmail might they fall victim to?

    It all seems a bit…well poorly thought out.Report

  18. A Teacher says:

    I see something very different.

    First: It is considered incredibly rude to publicly post a picture of ANYone to the internet without their express permission. It’s one thing to snap pictures of Cosplayers at a con and share (that’s what Cosplay is about), it’s something else to accidently catch bystanders in a photo you share, and it’s a very different beast to actually set out to post the picture of someone who has no idea you’re going to.

    She knew what she was doing was against the grain but she was so incenced by their humor that she just threw all caution to the wind and ACTED. If you read her blog posts on it, that is the theme she keeps going back to:

    I had to do something. I had to act. I could not be silent!

    Second: She did not respond to the men in question at all. She did not ask them to be quiet, she did not tell them she could hear them, she did not say “hey guys, that’s not cool”. She did not get someone from the convention to talk to them.

    She screamed to the entirety of the internet that she did not care for their brand of off color humor. She took out the Internet equivalent of a bull horn and she screamed “Look at these mysogist pigs!”

    Her tweet was public. It went to her followers as well as the PyCon staff. She wanted to shame these guys and she succeeded.

    I personally would not want to work with her after this. I respect, and I understand, her need to “do something.” But she effectively attempted to kill a fly with a howitzer. That kind of thinking when the need to act hits is dangerous.Report

    • DRS in reply to A Teacher says:

      She did not get someone from the convention to talk to them.

      You sure about this? Because in the accounts I read, she did.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to DRS says:

        These things all happened:

        A. She reported them to the convention staff.
        B. They were spoken to by convention staff and they apologized.
        C. She took their picture.
        D. She tweeted their picture.

        The order isn’t clear, at least to me. Obviously A precedes B and C precedes D. I’d guess that C precedes B, because they’d be less eager to have their picture taken afterward, also because it looks like they’re all still sitting in the auditorium at the time. I don’t know how B relates to D.Report

        • As I understand the accounts I have read the events were:

          Took picture.
          Tweeted it.
          Talked to Staff when they appeared to talk to her.
          Spoke to the convention staff.

          I also do not understand how if she had spoken to the convention staff, she would even ~need~ to tweet their picture with the comments. In fact I think that it makes it look even WORSE that she got up, got con staff, got them to talk to the men and ~THEN~ went further to attempt to engage in a Twitter Shame-fest.

          Lemme look….


          It all started on Sunday at the PyCon event in Santa Clara, California, when Adria Richards, a female conference-goer and a technology consultant, overheard a conversation with a guy seated behind her at a panel. Richards claims their otherwise unremarkable techie chat turned sour when a neighboring guy joined in with a couple of jokes. … Richards snapped a picture of the guys making the jokes, and posted it to Twitter. …

          Richards also tweeted her seat location, a plea for someone to come by and talk to the guys in question, and a link to the PyCon Code of Conduct page, which defines unacceptable behavior at the conference (more on this later). Minutes later, a PyCon staffer came by and Richards spoke with him and a few other staffers in private. There are conflicting accounts of what happened next.

          That is the account I’ve seen many other times before.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to A Teacher says:

            Uh, did you actually read what you’re posting here?

            It’s the tweeting that got the PyCon staff’s attention to handle the incident.Report

            • A Teacher in reply to Nob Akimoto says:


              Her way of getting the PyCon staff’s attention was to stand up and shout to the ~world~ that she was upset about the behavior of the men behind her. She did not talk to anyone directly, but instead used her bullhorn of Twitter to make a public and loud cry for help.

              She had ~many~ other options for getting the attention of the PyCon staff, from a DM on Twitter (which is private to parties involved) to actually physically getting someone from the staff, to privately emailing the staff all of which would have gotten the job done just as well. It would also have been, I think, considerably more professional on her part.

              Screaming to the world is not always the best option….Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to A Teacher says:

                Yes, and for that she deserved death and rape threats, ddos attacks and threats of additional attacks on her employer and basically blackmail to get them to fire her. World’s greatest villain, this Adria Richards.Report

              • A Teacher in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                ~looks back up~

                I don’t recall endorsing what happened to her. I don’t see it either. I don’t even see where I suggested she should have been fired over it. I do appreciate you putting words in my mouth, but I’ve had a full dinner and normally can feed myself quite well, thank you.

                However, I don’t see her as the hero in this story either. I believe that of all the parties she made the most mistakes because she was too anxious to not just “do something” but to “do something that will get noticed by millions of people”. She’s not the greatest villain by any stretch, but her name is becoming known in very very wide circles. She’s getting fame out of this, along side her infamy.

                And honesty I wouldn’t want to work with someone who went to the Internet as their first line of defense in a dispute. Given the tools she had available to her, she could have done many things short of telling 10,000 people about the three people behind her in the auditorium, but instead she bee-lined for the nuclear option.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to A Teacher says:

                If you haven’t already read the Death by a Thousand Papercuts post zic linked to earlier, now’s probably a good time to do so:

                While it doesn’t excuse how Richards reacted, it does add some context of why she might have gone with the “nuclear option” using twitter to get PyCon staff attention.Report

              • Morzer in reply to Nob Akimoto says:


                “Hold on. Wait, what? Did this even really need to happen?

                Mix a single tasteless joke with the wrath of the Internet, and this is what you get.

                It’s incredibly out of control. None of this had to happen. I can’t speculate about the firings, because they’re often complex decisions that factor in more than a single joke or a blog post.

                But it’s important to be conscientious about off-color jokes in public or in a workplace.

                Secondly, don’t publicly shame people before discussing it with them in a more direct way — whether that has to be facilitated by a third-party like PyCon or not. This is not to undermine the very real concern that the tech industry hasn’t always been that comfortable for women.”Report

              • To me, right now the issue isn’t the original joke, or even the two people who were fired (the dev and Richards) as prime movers. It’s the reaction of a vile and quite substantial it seems population who seem to have latched onto this incident as a reason to continue their MRA activities into the demented and insane.Report

              • A Teacher in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                On that front Nob, there is no excusing the level of escalation.

                I would be lying if I said I did not understand why it happened. Given that she has said she had to “do something” I can quite see many immature hactivists saying “okay, we’ll we’re going to ‘do something’ too, sister.”

                But understanding does not condone or support. There was a LOT of collateral damage here and that never is good in my mind.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to A Teacher says:

                I apologize for implying you approved of her treatment.Report

              • A Teacher in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                All good. 🙂

                Passion makes for good discourse.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to A Teacher says:

                “Screaming to the world is not always the best option….”


                But when this happens… over and over and over and over again… eventually the victims of it are going to get tired of being told to handle it politely and go about their business, especially when they know “going about their business” means likely enduring it again… and again and again and again.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

                Allow me to step into it…

                One unfortunate drawback of this happening over and over and over again is that some of the victims of it will start seeing it everywhere.

                This is *NOT* victim blaming… this is pretty normal basic psychology. Humans pattern match, that’s what we do.

                We do not have anywhere near enough reliable unbiased evidence to know what happened here. The accounts given by the offended party are themselves so couched in indeterminate language that it’s totally not clear what was said. Enough about all of this is fraught with charged emotion that it’s unlikely that we’ll get a useful or fair conclusion to the situation.

                That sucks.

                More power to those people who take a stand when they feel oppressed. Good on them. I do not want to say that they should not do so. I think the sheer volume of conflicting reports here, as well as the secondary and tertiary incidents that were kicked off, indicates that this was not perhaps the most constructive approach.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Oh, sure. I’m speaking more broadly.

                But we shouldn’t ignore that maybe Ms. Richards was silent the first 99 times she faced real oppression or offense and this 100th time, when maybe the slight was more imagined then real, she snapped and set off the alarm bell. That is why I think we can’t really pretend there isn’t a broader context for these events. Yes, maybe she overreacted… but maybe she was justified in doing so. If that makes any sense.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

                Maybe she overreacted. Let’s assume for a second that she did, and those guys aren’t douchebags.

                So you’re an unassuming guy at a conference having what you think is a polite conversation with somebody and suddenly your face is all over the Internet as Douche of the Year and what’s better, Anonymous is making you look like Douche of the Decade. And you’re fired.

                And if you can get another job, it’s probably because the hiring manager thinks you got screwed by a feminazi, which is probably exactly the sort of guy everybody wants to work for.

                I think, at this point, regardless of how charitable a dude you might be, you’re probably not going to find the word “justified” to be an appropriate term to apply to the person that got you into this event that’s probably going to follow you for the rest of your professional career.

                To the extent that she wants to blame the patriarchy, I don’t have any bad feelings about this. I like the Feminist Frequency videos even when I think she reads too much into things and I’m glad she’s out there doing her thing. It keeps everybody honest.

                To the extent that the reaction is a good example of how fucked up America is, it makes me want to start punching people. So I get where Nob is coming from, and I don’t blame him for that reaction or for the people that want this to be about that.

                Once you point your finger at somebody on the world stage, with repercussions that are going to follow that person for a long time, it’s not about the patriarchy any more. It’s about that guy. You did that, you made it about him.

                You better be righteous in your accusation.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Kazzy says:

                Here’s the thing, if the dude posting as “Mr. Hank” in the hacker forums is real, then this guy is a very decent guy, who apologized for his joke and even had the grace to praise Adria Richards’ activism. (Though he did mention the sexual context was placed by her)

                He seems to be rather forgiving. I stress again, if it’s real. Certainly he doesn’t deserve to have Anonymous tying their bullshit antics to his name or cause.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Kazzy says:

                In fact so far as I can tell, the only two people party to this entire fucking incident who seem to be handling it with any grace are Adria Richards and the Fired Guy.

                …the companies sure haven’t covered themselves with glory and the bystanders? Jesus…Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                As Tod has pointed out, it is very unlikely this guy was fired solely on the basis of her accusation. And if he was, and her accusation was bullshit, he’d be set up for a nice lawsuit.

                Which is still a shitty route to have to take. But if the alternative is to tell women to only speak up when they know 100% that the person in question is a card-carrying misogynist? That’s bullshit, too.

                Right now, the status quo places a substantial and unfair burden on women. That’s wrong. Some women, like Ms. Richards, are trying to change that. And I applaud them for it. Ideally, they and others (including men) will help us get to a point where no one has to shoulder the weight of misogyny. But, if the meantime, if their efforts to shift sometimes put an unfair burden on men, I can’t get too worked up about it. I can get worked up for the individual man who gets screwed and if this particular man was screwed I would support him taking reasonable action to see it corrected, but I’m not going to more broadly criticize women for speaking up and speaking out.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to Kazzy says:

                ” it is very unlikely this guy was fired solely on the basis of her accusation.”

                Classic bully-enabling. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” “It takes two to tango.”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


                All I’m saying is that the company would be foolish to fire this guy based solely on this woman’s tweet. As evidenced by a different course of disciplinary action for his colleague, it seems quite clear that there was more to it. That doesn’t absolve her of her role but we should try to deal with facts, even when they are inconvenient.

                And it is really, really fished up to accuse her of bullying for calling out an offensive joke.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to Kazzy says:

                ” the company would be foolish to fire this guy based solely on this woman’s tweet.”


                “As evidenced by a different course of disciplinary action for his colleague, it seems quite clear that there was more to it. That doesn’t absolve her of her role but we should try to deal with facts, even when they are inconvenient.”

                So the fact that there are no facts only goes to prove that there must be some facts we don’t know about because otherwise this whole thing is stupid?


            • Mike Schilling in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              I missed that; I thought she’d mad a separate complaint to them. So while they were thinking they’d made a new friend (“She took our picture!”), she was actually shaming them to the world. Very classy indeed.Report

              • A Teacher in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                You know, when I re-read one of her accounts it sounds like she might have turned to engage them before she went for the nuclear launch codes. While that would temper some of my concerns about how she went to DefCon 4, she still had a lot of weapons in the “do something” arsenal.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to DRS says:

        I replied to Mike too but I’ll say this here just to be quick:

        She did get someone to talk to them, but she did so BY posting the picture to Twitter, with comments and adding the hashtag #PyCon so the staff were likely to see it. Note that the tweet you see does not have a direct Twitter name on it so it was not actually sent ~to~ any of the PyCon staff. They were just supposed to pick up on it due to the hashtag. Though I have not read all the Tweets so perhaps the tweet with her seat number was to them directly.Report

  19. Morzer says:

    Having observed the Adria Richards saga for almost a week now, I am forced to the conclusion that, as a wise person once almost said:

    Shit is forked up and bullshit.

    I think Adria Richards went much too far in publicly shaming two people for, admittedly, inane jokes. (I also suspect that her knowledge of Python might not be too good, because forking is a pretty standard issue piece of terminology which doesn’t have any inherently sexual connotations. For what it’s worth, the man in question said that the forking joke had no sexual reference, and was basically a clumsy geek expression of admiration for the speaker’s technical achievements. Dongle jokes have been around probably since the first dongles emerged from the Ark, and I would be amazed to find someone who took them personally without very good reason – which was clearly lacking here.) If these somewhat silly jokes had been deliberately directed at her (which was, by her account, not the case) I could see some reason for her to make a big deal out of it, but I don’t see how, in any reasonable, livable universe you can start patrolling other people’s casual conversations in the way she tried to do, especially when the “offending material” is so utterly banal and trivial.
    Were the men wrong to make jokes like this at a professional conference? Probably, but if you executed everyone who has ever said something silly to a buddy at a boring conference or a boring presentation,I think it’s fair to say that the professional conferences (and especially grad school conferences!) would be empty.
    Obviously, the public vitriol and threats directed at Adria Richards were and are despicable. Whatever her alleged faults and hypocrisies (and some people have noted that she was perfectly willing to be somewhat bawdy on Twitter herself), nothing justifies the abuse she received.
    Do I think either side in the dispute should have been fired? No, absolutely not. By firing people for telling (and over-reacting) to inane jokes, you effectively trivialize the very serious issue of how an industry which is still heavily dominated by men treats women in that industry. Radical sanctions need to be reserved for serious misconduct, and it’s surely not the case that either side in the dispute reached that level of inappropriate behavior.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Morzer says:

      +1 on all of this.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Morzer says:

      “Were the men wrong to make jokes like this at a professional conference? Probably, but if you executed everyone who has ever said something silly to a buddy at a boring conference or a boring presentation,I think it’s fair to say that the professional conferences (and especially grad school conferences!) would be empty.”

      But they weren’t executed. That is really, really important to remember.Report

      • A Teacher in reply to Kazzy says:

        Having your face plastered on the Internet attached to “Douche of the Week” is pretty dang bad, especially if it interferes, in whole or part, with your ability to have a job.

        I’m not going to say that any of the fallout was deserved but it’s not exactly the kind of thing you can go “yeah, my bad” and move on from either. Plus, in Richard’s case, it’s quite unlikely she’s going to find a job like she had (which involved a great deal of PR and People skills) soon.Report

  20. Angela says:

    I’ve been following and thinking about this episode much more than I would normally, and I think I’ve finally figured out why it bothers me so much.

    By taking what should be a normal conversation full of “tech speak” and turning it into lots of sexual innuendo, if forces the speaker to either (a) not use simple, accepted terminology or (b) open herself up to gross come-ons at any point.
    (a) has the added “bonus” of making the woman seem to be not as technically proficient, or “in the know”

    This silences her in a very strong and damaging way.
    Since PyCon made a point of saying that sexual connotations were not welcome, the “joke” was even more offensive.

    Ms. Richards spoke up and took action.
    How many others were offended but had decided to put up with the garbage because that’s the price of working in the industry?
    Her title was “Developer Evangelist” Maybe she saw part of her role was to support and protect the *productive* conversations of *all* attendees.

    I’ve been coding for 40+ years. I really enjoy it, but there’s certainly been a price paid.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Angela says:

      This is a fantastic point, Angela. Thank you for sharing.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Angela says:

      This is a very important point, and I kinda think it would make a great guest post if fleshed out a little more.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Angela says:

      I’ll pile on and agree that this is a really good point.

      I don’t have an answer for it.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Angela says:

      I’ll add that I attended a workshop on white privilege once. Two of the presenters, both female, one black, one white, stood up and introduced themselves. The white woman identified herself as a teacher and mother and spoke about other personal aspects, such as her hobbies and the like; she said very little about her professional resume. The black woman stood up and started listing off her degrees and experience and what not.

      The two then shared a story about a conversation they had in preparation for their presentation, specifically about their intros. The white woman had said, “Why are you sharing all your accolades? It seems unnecessary and possibly pretentious.” The black woman replied, “Because I need to. People will take you seriously because you are white. I need to prove myself each and every time I get on stage.”

      I share this because your point here reminded me of it and the often impossible situation we put people from traditionally marginalized groups into. The black woman I spoke off had to choose between risking being pretentious and risking being taken lightly. Women at a tech conference have to choose between risking seeming unknowledgeable and risking being bombarded with sexual jokes.

      It’s fucked up is what it is.Report

      • Pierre Corneille in reply to Kazzy says:

        I like that anecdote about the degrees and white privilege. It helps keep in check my habit to get persnickety about people who call themselves “Doctor” when all they have is, say, a PHD in History. I realize, but sometimes need to be reminded, that as a white male, people take me seriously almost by default about somethings whereas a woman or person of color who has the same education as I do, are not taken as seriously, or at least not by default. (For the record, I don’t have a PHD yet.)Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

          I’m pretty title averse, myself. When I was in grad school I became quite good friends with one of the tenured professors who wasn’t so averse. In private, I’d call him by his first name. In public tho, I was always awkwardly trying to confer on him the Respect that the Institution Demands. One time I was in his office with some undergrads and called him “Professor [last name]”. He stopped short. “You don’t have to call me Professor”, he said. “What would you prefer?” His eyes started to twinkle a bit. “Oh, Doctor [last name] is fine.” We both chuckled.Report

          • I personally prefer to call most professors “Mr.” or “Ms.” But I do suspect the “Ms.” can be interpreted as, and perhaps is, condescending, so then I use “professor.”

            And then, there’s there quasi/faux democratic (small-d) posture among most of the professors who insist on going by their first name. Some of them are hard to think of calling by their first name, while others I can more easily call “Mr.” or “Ms.” (but the department is largely male-dominated).

            Finally, there’s the very small number of professors who insist–or make it seem like that they insist and you daren’t try otherwise–on being called “Dr.” or “Professor.”


    • Morzer in reply to Angela says:

      By your standards, Angela, it seems that any activity at which someone might get offended deserves an extreme reaction. What will you do if a commentator on here says that he or she has been having a bad month/year/life, takes offense at your comment and strips away your privacy in order to publicly shame you?
      I bet you’d tell the world how unfair it was and how threatened you felt.

      “By taking what should be a normal conversation full of “tech speak” and turning it into lots of sexual innuendo…”

      For which we have precious little evidence. We have, so far, one dongle joke and Adria Richards – hardly unbiased! – claiming that mention of forking is offensive in this context. Which, frankly, is nonsense.

      I’ll add for the record that I’ve known women in tech to tell dongle jokes. And no, not all of those women were speaking in a private space. Some of them (O the skies fall!) were actually sitting at their computers at work! What say you, shall we dox the lot of them? Shame them for sexual harassment? Inappropriate conduct? Aren’t we obliged to do so, given that someone somewhere might have been having a hard time and might (O horror!) get offended?

      Oh no, the woman at the next desk is even talking about forking! Please, somebody save me!

      Yes, admittedly she’s my dear wife, but still, principles must be maintained! Right? Right?Report

      • Angela in reply to Morzer says:

        I was trying to be a little more “big picture” rather than focus on the specific conversation and the specific response. Taking normal technical vocabulary and turning it into sexual innuendo potentially silences people who don’t want to get a come-on.

        Context matters.
        In the office, during a panel at a technical conference: totally out of bounds.
        At an after-work social/sport event: those wonderful grey areas of life!
        To the wonderful spousal unit: practically foreplay.

        Age and experience matters (which is unfair and “privileged” but still true).
        Things that made me feel threatened and scared at 23 totally roll off now.
        Part of my introspection of this issue is the tired realization that this is all still going on, because the field is constantly getting new developers who are immature and socially insecure. I know I certainly was when I started.
        Perhaps by creating more safe spaces where technical conversations can happen open, the field can improve. I see this whole conversation, and PyCon’s code of conduct, steps in a better direction.

        To answer your specific questions: I’m not anonymous here. It’s my real name with a pretty strong gender indicator. I’ve lived a pretty privileged life and would count on people who actually know me to still love and respect me. Public shaming would still be unfair and uncalled for.
        I’ve make dongle jokes. As mentioned up-thread, it’s hard to get past it. (and there are so so many other terms equally fertile!)
        I think I would go with “inappropriate conduct” with raised eyebrows and no smile. And I’m sure they would think I’m just an old geezer with no sense of humor. I can live with that.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Angela says:

          I’ve make dongle jokes. As mentioned up-thread, it’s hard to get past it. (and there are so so many other terms equally fertile!)

          “Dongle” does contain the seeds for a lot of bad jokes.Report

  21. Damon says:

    I enjoyed this recent internet dust up. Assholes get called about by another asshole and firings ensue. Epic.

    I also read Adria’s blog post about this. 100% justification for her actions after the fact with no thinking about whether or not this was the best action she could have taken. She had the cojones to take a pic and tweet a comment, but not to call these guys out when she was right next to them? That’s standing up for what you believe!Report

  22. Jim Heffman says:

    Incidentally, here’s some relevant background.

    Short (and biased) summary: Richards has acted like this before.


  23. Pyre says:

    What Adria of Arc forgot is that letting the voices in your head guide you towards getting burned at the stake is a poor career choice.


    Think Before Tweeting.Report