A blog about software – researching it, developing it, and contemplating its future.

Archive for July 2009

Sex and the Clueless Coders

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I am very late to the “party” here, but I can’t help chiming in on the recent spate of programming conference presenters dropping bits of porn into their presentations. First it was the Golden Gate Ruby Conference in April, where a presentation on CouchDB (hmm, now I know what couch they meant!) included some racy pictures of mostly nekkid women. What’s more astonishing yet is that David Hennemeier Hanson, the Big Dog of the Ruby community, apparently thought this was all quite appropriate. I guess he wants the Ruby community to be all anti-corporate and rock-star. Or something.

And now as I was doing my remedial surfing to catch up on the story from April, I find that something similar went down (ahem) at a Minneapolis Flash conference, where the presenter did a big ol’ animation of all kinds of X-rated activities.

It’s funny, in a sad way, to see so many clueless male geeks sticking up for the L33t Rebels Busting Out The Pr0n. I mean, my God, guys, the entire Internet is filled with images of hotties of all genders, ages, species, and descriptions. Why do you feel the need to shove it in peoples’ faces at a geek conference?

I work for Microsoft now, which I suppose is an arch-corpocracy by the definitions of these running-wild-and-free, swinging-low coder cowboys (operative word being boys). Here at Microsoft we have this little thing called an HR policy. What it means is that if I wallpapered my desktop or office with pictures like the ones these zany idiots are slathering all over the place, I WOULD GET FIRED. And deservedly so. Because while sex is great, mixing it with work is guaranteed trouble for everyone.

It’s especially appalling how absolutely butt-ignorant many of these testosterone-poisoned hackers seem to be. I lived in San Francisco for a good twenty years, and I got to know a raft of feminist sex workers and general sex-positive people. And the one abiding principle that everyone thrived on was respect. Listening to what other people want and how other people feel — what a concept!!! And that’s exactly what all these indignant self-important immature coderboys are apparently utterly unable to do, when confronted with the thoroughly understandable discomfort of the women and the more enlightened men who were present at these code talks that turned into bad peep shows.

I love programming. I love computer science. The world of software has unlimited potential. And the lack of women in this field is beyond tragic. This summer I’m actually managing a female intern in our group; she is rocking the code in a serious way and I’m honored to get to be her manager. Looking at this unbelievable travesty of civilized behavior at these conferences, I’m just really, really glad we’re not on any Ruby or Flash projects, and I’m also glad we’re in a Big Boring Corporation, because not only are we working on things that are astonishingly cool despite our corporate overlords, we are protected from the kind of juvenile bullshit that seems to have infected the Ruby world.

We want MORE women in this field, not less — but if the numbskull, sexist Rubyists and their ilk have their way, all we’ll have is stupid guys with more balls than brains. And that’s bad for everyone. KEEP IT IN YOUR DAMN PANTS, IDIOTS! And do your pr0n surfing in private!

Edit: Here’s the big thread on the Ruby debacle, with the presenter in question chiming in. Now you know which side I’m on….

More editing: Here’s Martin Fowler’s excellent summary of the debacle. And here’s DHH himself — scroll down to April 27. Kind of funny how he seems to think that enjoying the movie Pulp Fiction and putting porn into a technical conference are somehow related. Dude, don’t be so proud of being R-rated — I’m sometimes very X-rated myself, but you won’t find out about it here, because I know better than to get my boundaries mixed up! Good fences make good neighbors.


Written by robjellinghaus

2009/07/07 at 07:24

Posted in Uncategorized