After what some people may call a wrongful termination, where others feel it was fully justified, Adria Richards finally broke her silence this week. Last week all hell broke loose when Richards tweeted a photo of two developers making crude jokes while attending a tech conference. One of the developers involved was subsequently fired from his job. Richards’ employeer, SendGrid, received a rash of threats as well as DDOS attacks on their website, thus causing them to lose money. Eventually SendGrid decided to terminate Richards because of her “public shaming”.
The situation turned nasty and repulsive.
Richards was on the receiving end of death and rape threats, because people are crazy.
In response to the situation, Richards had this to say:
Those who know me well in the the developer and tech community recognize that I have always tried to conduct myself in a way that builds bridges for everyone. My central aim is to do everything I can to help create new, inclusive inroads for all, no matter who they are, where they come from or what they believe. Development is about innovation, creativity, and in a grand sense, the betterment of human society through technology. So, it stands to reason that everyone should have a seat at the table, and everyone involved in this vital community should feel welcome, safe and respected. In essence, the worldwide community of developers can and should function as a reflection of what our wider society strives to be.
I cannot comment at this time on the specifics of what occurred at PyCon on March 17, and the subsequent events of the following days, but I can offer some general thoughts. I don’t think anyone who was part of what happened at PyCon that day could possibly have imagined how this issue would have exploded into the public consciousness the way it has. I certainly did not, and now that the severest of consequences have manifested, all I wish to do is find the good in what has been one of the most challenging weeks of my life.
And I do believe there is good to be found in this situation. Debate and recrimination can and must give way to dialog that explores the root causes of these issues in the tech industry. As developers and members of the startup community, we can welcome newcomers, women and people of color who, as of now, are under-represented in our ranks. And, all of us can learn a great deal from those who are well-established in the field. We can solidify the values of our workplaces (yes, conference spaces are workplaces!), and set new, positive and inclusive examples for other professional disciplines.
What happened at PyCon has cast a spotlight on a range of deep issues and problems in the developer world. As ugly as this situation has become, all of these issues have reasonable, and, I think, easily reached solutions that will help us cast conflict aside and construct a more cohesive and welcoming professional environment based on respect, trust and open communication. I do not, at this time, wish to concentrate on the fallout of the last several days. Instead, I want to be an integral part of a diverse, core group of individuals that comes together in a spirit of healing and openness to devise answers to the many questions that have arisen in the last week. Together, we can work to make the tech world a better place to work for everyone, and in doing so, we make the wider world a better place for all.
I hope eventually Richards will enter the “and this too shall pass” phase of this “controversy”. I also hope those people who have made death and threats of rape are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.