Miriam Ruiz
random thoughts on technology and life

{April 02, 2013}   Adria Richards, Donglegate or however you want to call it. Same shit, different name.

A woman has spoken up against misogyny in Free Software. And, as always, a bunch of bullies have mercilessly jumped onto her to destroy her and let us all know who is in charge. There’s not a single woman I know in the Free Software world that has dared to complain about something sexist and hasn’t experienced this, me included. This is often enough to make us shut down, essentially because we don’t want to add more problems to our lifes, and also because we don’t want to be excluded from our development teams. If we decide to still keep complaining even after the initial backslash, then harassment keeps increasing until we just can’t cope with it and we decide to retreat, or until they destroy us completely. It usually doesn’t get to that point, because we decide to retreat from the fight after receiving all the damage we are willing to accept, and generally without having been able to get anything good in exchange. That usually burns us out and makes us retreat from the first line of fight, at least for a while.

That woman happens to be also from a different race than the privileged one, and that has definitely added fuel to the attacks. Double discrimination. When I first read about what happened, I never took into consideration that race could have played a relevant role in all this events. But, after reconsidering it for a while, I thought that of course I wouldn’t think that it was important, because privileges work that way. It is enough to see the public comments of the bullies about her to see how not being a white person played an important part in the harassment.

There is really not much to say about the incident in PyCon 2013 that hasn’t been already said. It is simply another official confirmation of what we all know, and an exemplary punishment against those of us who dare to speak up in those situations. Of course, a lot of things have been said, and will be said, about this incident. And, as it happens in every case of bullying or harassment, Adria Richards will be blamed for everything. Because there’s nothing that she could really have done, except being a good girl and keeping quiet, that wouldn’t have blackslashed. And the blackslash is always proportional to how high the complains have gone.

So there go some links, for those who might not know what I’m talking about:


plaidfarmer says:

Your’e completely misrepresenting the situation. The uproar took place because Ms Richards overhead two comments in a private conversation in a technical conference which she thought was sexist. One of the comments “forking his repo” is in no way sexist. It is a technical term and the fact that Ms Richards did not recognize this speaks to her professionalism as a “developer evangelist”. The other comment was a thinly veiled phallic reference when using the word “Dongle”. Also a technical term but them men is question were using it to make sophomoric jokes.

Keep in mind that this was a private conversation and the comments were in no way directed at or to anyone in particular. Given that I would have characterized the comments as sexual but not sexist. Ms Richards did find the comments offense and decided to notify the conference organizers. I would characterize this as overkill but she was within her rights to do so. The problem is that she didn’t just notify the nearest conference organizer but instead snapped a picture of the offenders and put it on her twitter account so that in addition to the pycon conference at least 9000 other people were now informed of the offense.

The pycon conference responded to the complaint and talked to the men in question. They asked the men to leave that particular talk but were not asked to leave the conference all together. Still in my mind an overreaction but still within the bounds of at least common sense.

What happened next is where things get off of the beaten track. One of the 9000 twitter followers recognized one of the men in the photo and decided to inform the mans company. The company “Playhaven” wishing to avoid any
internet backlash decided to fire the developer.

At this point if Ms Richards had posted something to the effect that this was uncalled for and an overreaction to her complaint the debacle would have stopped there. Instead she wrote a blog post about how she felt that she was a Joan of Arc character and that the future of programming was on the line when she took her “stand”.

This overreaction to the comment and the clear comeuppance that Richards was showing was too much for a number of people. The group Anonymous got involved and stated that they would shut down the network of the company that Ms Richards worked for until she was summarily fired for creating a storm in a tea cup that resulted in getting a man fired. Anonymous followed through on their threat and number of customers started withdrawing their accounts once news of the story spread. Given that Ms Richards job as to create good will in the development community and instead had created a situation that not only drew the ire of the developer community but also was costing them current customers the company then fired Ms Richards.

As has been said numerous times none of this should have happened. The easiest solution would be for Ms Richards to either ignore the comments (you can find more off color jokes in her own twitter feed), talk to the offending members herself, find a representative of the conference and ask them to speak to the offenders or least of all still send the tweet but do not include the picture. All of those things would have been easier and would not have lead to this fiasco.

The bottom line is that this is not about sexism or racism. It’s about an internet bully who thought she would be able to use crowds of the internet to her own narrow minded means and then was surprised when that same internet crowd turned on her and gave her a dose of her own medicine.

Miry says:

It wasn’t a private conversation from the moment it took place in loud voice in the middle of a conference. But, honestly, that’s the least important thing here. The most relevant thing, in my opinion, is the hard backslash that always happens whenever one of us complain about it publicly. I’ve experienced it first hand, and most of my female friends in the Free Software world have experienced it too, so you won’t be able to convince me that it doesn’t exist, sadly.

In my opinion what happened with 4chan and those anonymous harassers (the group Anonymous does not exist at such, it’s not homogeneous, it’s not even a group) is simpy cyberterrorism (defined as “the systematic use of terror, often violent, especially as a means of coercion”).

The rest of your points are answered in all those links I took some effort to recollect, so I don’t think it makes any sense to repeate all of them here too, and in fact I honestly don’t feel like it either.

Miry says:

I’m copying here the message deployed by those anonymous harassers in pastebin, so that can all see clearly what I’m talking about when I’m saying cyberterrorism:

As you may have known, the outrage over the petty and malicious conduct of your employee, Adria Richards, is about to erupt in an explosion of lulz and collateral damage over anyone and anything that had the misfortune of being in contact with this individual. Here is what's going to happen:

Anonymous has reviewed the situation and rendered judgment using their collective wisdom and experience. Adria Richards engaged in malicious conduct to destroy the another individual's professional career due to what she perceived as an affront to her own extremist views from a comment that was not directed at her, not meant for her to hear, and certainly not for her to provide unwarranted input on. As such, she should have her professional career destroyed just like her victim in order for justice to be rendered and balance restored to the universe. The hivemind's judgement is final and there is no appeal. No forgiveness, no forgetting remember?

Many petitions have been signed calling for her firing from Sendgrid in retaliation for her reprehensible conduct at PyCon. These will be seen as meaningless to Sendgrid's management and will be ignored. Please note that I'm not telling you to ignore them. I'm acknowledging that you WILL ignore them because 99% of internet petitions are utter bullcrap. This is mostly a non-issue for you. However, this is primarily used to generate online social feedback about the situation, mobilizing each side through tweets and retweets, cached webpages, and building the big picture. And from the big picture I can already see, Adria Richards is being presented as a horrible, hypocritical, and vulgar individual who deserves retribution for what she has done.

You client list has also been obtained by Anonymous. They have already begun harassing your customers. These include obnoxious phone calls, emails, denial of service attacks, online vandalism and defamation, and even real-life harassment (we'll get to this later). From a purely logical standpoint, your customers should realize and understand that this is not Sendgrid's fault and continue doing business with you. However, in real life, the human condition remains dominant, with all the pesky emotions and instincts which defy logic at times. Some of your customers may just cut all business ties because they don't have the time or desire to deal with this nonsense. Anonymous has analyzed your business model, and based on your clientele and competitors, you are very vulnerable. They are very focused on this.

Your financial backers have also been targeted for the same harassment. Normally, when a venture capitalist puts money into your organization, a bond is forged through your idea or product gaining the confidence of your financial backer for future returns. This is a strong bond that is not easily broken through petty harassment. However, if any of your backers have something embarrassing or illegal to hide (sexual misconduct, tax fraud, etc), Anonymous WILL find it (they are good at doing this) and make it public. I guarantee, given the reputation of Anonymous, this is a factor that they will be considering when deciding how to continue their dealings with Sendgrid.

Real life harassment is an escalation that comes into play based on how long this situation is allowed to play out. It is not affected by the effectiveness of the previous forms of harassment. Even if your customers and financial backers are dropping like flies (or the opposite, entirely unaffected), this will still happen if Anonymous still maintains an interest in this situation. Doxing is a term used to define the discovery and dissemination of all personal information, including but not limited to home address, phone numbers, credit card numbers, your medical records, what brand of toothpaste you buy, etc. If some of the more talented members of Anonymous take an interest into this, every employee of Sendgrid becomes a target, starting at the top. For your reference, this is already happening to Ms. Richards as per standard protocol. There are also some interesting information about her dentist that was dug up in the process.

Collateral damage to your infrastructure is a process which may have already started. Whatever information systems which your company relies on is likely being targeted for intrusion and retrieval of sensitive data. This info will be passed along to your competitors, forwarded to legal and regulatory authorities if malicious and illegal activities are indicated(may even be intentionally modified and forwarded anyways to cause trouble), or just posted online for everyone.

So, in closing, I hope this information helps you make an informed choice on how to deal with the situation. I do not represent, speak for, nor am associated with Anonymous, but I have seen some of their tactics. I present this information NOT as any gesture of threat, but merely to inform. This information is being provided free of charge and I make no guarantees on the accuracy of the material. However, you do have a choice to make at this point: Do nothing, or Publicly announce that Ms. Richards will be fired. The opportunity to stop this growing mob in its tracks before it tries to tear Sendgrid apart is as simple as publicly announcing Ms. Richards' firing. Now, you also have the opportunity to be sneaky about it and just publicly announcing the firing but not actually do it. But if Anonymous ever finds out, they will bring the full fury on you and your company. To put it in perspective, not even secure government websites are safe. If you believe you can tough it out, by all means, do nothing. This attack will last no more than a month at most. Anonymous' one weakness is a short attention span. If something even more outrageous happens over the next few days, resources will be diverted elsewhere and you get off scott free. I wish you the best of luck.

fabi says:

I reached here folowing links, and i’m not very surprised to hear again from you Miry! Good news you keep rocking :)

Since i have 17 or 18, i see the same shit over the white-men-domination-world. I’m glad you put the third link:

Uncle Bob: There are Ladies Present

You know me, so you know my opinion is aligned with Uncle Bob’s. I’ve been unconsidered for my whole life, so i’m more or less biased and protected because of that.

Considering these days we’re living in, i see very negative that the guy at the PyCon was fired. For the sake of humanity, Adria should have make some comment to prevent/ammend that horrible situation, at least i’d do that: over all things we have to try to be good human beings, not dark ones. A good human being is not the one that never make a foolish joke or comment. As my mother says, a good person is that person who never wants the hurt of others. I have no job now, and it does not feel good at all. That said, maybe the guy will reconsider his behaviour for the next time, but i have doubts about it, probably he will get more angry. I don’t know how to explain it, but his behaviour and Adria’s are on the same inhuman line. Even i completely understand Adria’s reaction, because i feel her, i don’t know why everything is more and more to fight or to die.

During the years i’ve seen the world got darker, in one of my previois jobs i saw even women acting like mad-men, wanting the same shit, making the same jokes, swallowing the same inhumanity, being the same intolerant. Human beings love/need to be within a group, and “apartheid” is seen like a bad thing. That’s the reason i’m apart now, like Vasudeva: maybe i’ll reach to know a little bit better of myself, maybe i don’t need to speak just to be heard/considered/understood. I just need to be, no matter if alone, because we’re never alone. Maybe i’ll turn myself into a bad person in the end, who knows. The world is choking with fan-boys without criticism to anything, not to realize of theirselves.

This crap i wrote is just to tell you about a song i used to sing at highschool (the lyrics made me go mad with some female friends those days, dancing and funny gambling, ending in a huge singalong):


Holy crap, english is not the language to express my feelings :)

A big hug to you, to Adria and to the guy fired. Let’s do something about ourselves: let the hearts shine.

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