A short statement on the Adria Richards / Pycon incident

A few weeks ago I watched in depressed fascination at the internet explosion about Adria Richards and her reaction to offensive comments made in the audience of the Pycon conference. (If you would like more information on this incident I would suggest starting with the Guardian article. ) Although I did contemplate writing something about it, I felt that I didn’t have anything new or constructive to say. I don’t really have anything terribly enlightening to say now, but I do feel the need to state my opinions.

For me, the supreme issue here is the appalling internet attacks on Ms Richards, which included a barrage of viciousness that included rape threats, death threats, publishing her private information, and a DDOS attack on her employer. In the discussion over these events, many people have spent energy discussing such things as whether the jokes that triggered all this were truly offensive, and whether Ms Richards’s reaction was appropriate. Even if we were to accept that her action, a tweet including a photograph of the jokers, was an overreaction which violated reasonable etiquette - any wrong that she had done is insignificant compared to the wrong heaped upon her by those attacks.

I have long despaired of the net nastiness that hangs over our profession and how its alienating atmosphere contributes to our diversity imbalance. This incident sadly makes clear the misogynistic streak in the tech world and further deters women from speaking out against it. I have no solutions to offer, but will continue to listen to historically disadvantaged groups and hope to be able to support those trying to correct these problems. I know that many of my colleagues at ThoughtWorks are also eager to see this disease eradicated and for our profession to actually approach being the meritocracy it likes to think it is.

I would also like to state a loud “+1” to Alexis Ohanian for eloquently expressing much of my feelings.

Martin Fowler: 15 Apr 2013