A Joke About Dongles Led To Two People Losing Their Jobs And A Huge Mess For The Tech World
Earlier this week at the PyCon conference (the largest annual gathering for developers using the open-source Python programming language), a woman named Adria Richards overheard a joke between two men sitting behind her during a crowded presentation.
Richards was offended and took a picture of the two men who were making jokes. She tweeted, "Not cool. Jokes about forking repo's in a sexual way and "big" dongles. Right behind me #pycon." She also attached a photo of the two people making the jokes.
Richards worked for SendGrid, an email delivery company, as a developer evangelist. She had 10,000 Twitter followers.
Because there are so few women in tech, accusations of sexist jokes can be damaging. Her tweet led to one of the people in the photo losing his job.
Internet communities Hacker News, Reddit, and even Anonymous all became involved in the situation, which resulted in an online discussion addressing the tension between the "freewheeling boys-will-be-boys atmosphere" that has traditionally existed in technology and a modern politically correct atmosphere.
For those of you who have never heard these terms, a dongle is a small piece of hardware that attaches to a computer, TV, or other electronic device and enables additional functions such as copy protection, audio, video, games, data, or other services that are only available when it is attached.
Forking as it relates to software is defined when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software.
With all the attention, SendGrid found itself under attack, and it ended up firing Richards.
In a statement, SendGrid said, "Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards. While we generally are sensitive and confidential with respect to employee matters, the situation has taken on a public nature. We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers. As we continue to process the vast amount of information, we will post something more comprehensive."
We reached out to Richards for comment but have not heard back yet. She explained herself on her blog. Basically, she felt fed up after hearing their jokes and decided to do something about it.
A person who says he's the guy who was fired left a comment on Hacker News on the situation, saying:
As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have 3 kids and I really liked that job.
She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate. Let this serve as a message to everyone, our actions and words, big or small, can have a serious impact.
The tech community has erupted in discussion with the majority siding with the fired PlayHaven employee. Richards has been threatened on Twitter and other Internet forums but has not tweeted from her account since March 20.
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