I’ve taken my time in writing about this. I had some debates (for better or worse) on Twitter, and some rather thoughtful meatspace conversations with friends and coworkers. I have strong feelings about what happened at PyCon (re: the donglegate scenario), and many of them are conflicting. So I’ve waited to write about it until now.


Okay, for one thing, I really think the #donglegate hashtag/label is stupid, but that’s not up to me, so whatever. I would like to address the way in which things were handled at PyCon, so here goes.

First off, I have no personal investment in what happens at PyCon. I don’t really code in Python, I don’t particularly like Python, whatever. But when people are publicly humiliated, fired, whatever, over things that are basically stupid, it chafes.

So, if you’re unfamiliar (fat chance), you can get the original interpretation of events from the horse’s mouth, at Adria Richards’ blog Hopefully that link works for you, I got yet another error trying to load it… maybe someone should tell her about static pages for blogs. Anyhow, here’s the short version: a ‘developer relations rep’ from SendGrid was offended by some off-color comments made by some guys sitting behind her that apparently referenced “big dongles.” She also alleged some sexual references to “forking,” which has since been called into question. Instead of saying to the individuals in question, “Stop being jerks and shutup so I can listen to the speech,” she tweeted pics of the guys who were making dongle jokes, and got the PyCon organizers involved.

I’m not judging at this point.

Anyhow, once the PyCon organizers got involved, the folks she accused were removed from the session. Apparently, at least one lost his job.

Of course, it blew up on the Intertweets, with 4chan getting involved at some point and anons starting a Change.org petition to have her fired.

Adria Richards tweeted that SendGrid supported her:

Apparently, she was mistaken, because she was fired shortly thereafter.

Constructive Intervention

I’m still replaying this in my head. Some dudes were making immature, inappropriate comments at a conference. Ms. Richards responded in a way that was also immature and inappropriate.

I’m not going to go into the distasteful, violent, or threatening responses that occurred on Twitter or 4chan (although, regarding hte latter, it’s 4chan. What do you expact?).

I would like to point out that the women from LadyCoders proposed a system for dealing with this sort of occurence that is constructive. Expanding upon the Red/Yellow Card Project from Defcon, they’ve developed PyCon CoC warning cards for next year’s PyCon. I think it’s a great constructive way to give people a way to address behaviour which they find offensive without resorting to the Twitter equivalent of tar-and-feathering, as Richards took as a first resort.

And So…

If anything, there was more logical reason for Richards to lose her job than the developer from PlayHaven. He was a developer; developers have never been known for tact or maturity. Richards’ title was “developer evangelist”; I’d like to know how she expected to carry out that role after alienating so many developers with her actions.

But whatever. PyCon has amended its CoC to condemn “public shaming” as a mode of dealing with inappropriate conduct. For my part, I see the whole PyCon / #donglegate debacle as an example of public stupidity on multiple parts, not a call to action. Let’s just all try to be smarter in future, mmkay?