I just sent a letter to Jim Franklin, CEO of SendGrid, as invited to on his blog. I figured it would be worth also sharing online, just so others can better understand why his actions were categorically wrong.
I was saddened to hear of your recent actions following the PyCon events on Sunday, principally you terminating Adria Richards. Quite simply, the two stated causes for termination—dividing the community and “public shaming”—are flimsy reasons at best, and totally ignore the real experience of women in the tech industry.
As a male, I won’t pretend any special knowledge about the harassment and pressure those women face on a daily basis. I imagine you’re getting a fusillade of anecdotes, statistics, and other damning information in your inbox as I write. However, I think I can speak to the online behaviors I’ve seen, both in this case and in previous ones.
Simply put, what you call “public shaming” is an important community role in recognizing troubling behavior and talking through its consequences. I’ll take those attendees’ behavior on good faith, that they didn’t mean anything exclusionary to women by their behavior. But that is a large part of the problem, that we engage in these kinds of behaviors without recognizing their consequences.
Public dialogues are how we talk through these issues, and educate others about why we find them disturbing. Twitter particularly is important because there are several strong, supportive feminist communities. It’s why I’m sharing this letter online with others right after I send it, in fact.
But why call them out specifically? Because, quite frankly, all too often these kinds of things are swept under the rug. The picture didn’t personally identify the culprits and didn’t ask that they be terminated for their actions, only showing that misogynists look just like everyone else. And if the community did go to far in getting them terminated, that is in no way a reflection on Adria herself.
As for dividing the community, I’m amazed that you would even try to make this argument. Take a look at some of the online dialogue criticizing Adria’s reaction—are you seriously concerned about losing the business of virulent misogynists? The same people who are DDOSing your service and trying to get her fired are the ones that you don’t want as your banner customers.
More importantly, you’re sending a chilling message to all your current employees as well as other women working in the tech industry: speak up about wrongful actions, and you’ll lose your livelihood. Again, you don’t want to be a part of that shameful tradition of intimidating women in male-dominated workplaces.
Even if you still disagreed with her actions after considering all that, you could have pointed out to her detractors that the tweet came from her personal account, and didn’t relate to her professional role at SendGrid. (I think that argument’s pretty dubious given her interest in ensuring a welcoming developer community, but let’s play this out.) At that point, it was not necessarily a SendGrid issue.
But now that you’ve terminated her, now that you’ve lashed SendGrid to one side in a fight that you’ve admitted divides the community, now there’s no question that your company’s involved—and on the wrong side. You can still reinstate Adria Richards, and admit that it was an overreaction from DDOS and other pressure. Or, you can cast your lot with the misogynists and hope that your morals net enough proceeds as you sell them in front of millions. The choice is still yours to make.
In 2012—as in 2011—I aimed to read 52 books in a year. I got closer than I did in 2011, reading 37 books overall, but was eventually undone by a summer busy with wedding and honeymoon and moving, followed by a football in the fall, which cuts my reading opportunities roughly in half. Still, though, a really impressive pace.
Even though my reading spanned a wider variety than ever before, I’ll probably end up remembering this year as one revolving around two big accomplishments: reading two volumes of Caro’s LBJ biography, and finally reading Infinite Jest. Both had been on my list of reading landmarks for years, and it was nice to sit down and actually plow through them during the pockets of calm I could find. And more importantly, both were so great that I didn’t even care about the length.
And beyond those big two, there were some author voices I discovered I enjoyed—Elif Batuman in The Possessed, Walter Benjamin in Illuminations, bell hooks in Feminism is for Everybody, Gretel Ehrlich in The Solace of Open Spaces. I found some fun works that pushed the bounds of genre in Warlock by Oakley Hall, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarré, and Inverted World by Christopher Priest.
Sure, there were some disappointments too:Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan failed to live up to its outsized praise, Pale Fire by Nabokov was too calculated and clever, and Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon was such a fucking mess. But by and large, I really enjoyed most of what I read for the first time in 2012, and returned to a few favorites of the past like Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware, Let’s Talk About Love by Carl Wilson, River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit, and The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason—a book that’s quietly becoming one of my favorites ever.
Thanks to my parents and wife colluding on presents, I was able to close off 2012 by reading Building Stories by Chris Ware, a truly remarkable collection of graphic fiction that loves its characters like Infinite Jest but encompasses them like The Known World. I’ll have to revisit it later to be sure, but it feels as sure to be a masterpiece as Caro or DFW’s best. More than a giddy delight to read, it’s a nice reminder that in 2012 the art of fiction remains as alive and evolving as ever, and that true surprise is still possible out there. See you in 2013.
Trying to explain why you think a video game is good or bad? Try answering these seven items to clarify what you mean, and why you mean it!
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list or a constraint for all criticism—merely a tool to make sure you’re thinking down all the avenues out there. And if you don’t like the assumptions carried in the questions, feel free to write about why you think they’re wrong too!
Clay Blaisedell, in Oakley Hall’s Warlock (p. 257)
What does Clay mean when he says that, in the wake of yet another showdown?
One’s first estimate is that he was too quick to judge, gunning down another man based off facts that he now believes to be untrue. And true, that had happened before, with Blaisedell’s sponsors banning a man wrongly accused… who then re-entered town to show his toughness. It was a killing he later grew to regret, turning himself in and leaving the role of marshal. For a man who sets himself as a vigilante force for good—paid by the capital-holders of a city, but not recognized as its formal law—he must always be right, because even a single wrong step would destroy any claim to legitimate authority, and especially when that wrong step takes a life.
But this first reading may be wrong. At this point in the novel, even our occasional-narrator will admit that these showdowns have become public executions. Clay is simply faster, more accurate, better than any of his opponents. He is seemingly indestructible, freed from the fears of other men. It is this quality that sets him apart and makes him ideal for his role as marshal—but it is also this quality that shelters him from the entropy of frontier life.
What if he isn’t speaking metaphorically, and he is too good at what he does? What if the chance to die in a showdown is the West’s only real justice, its way of stamping down any man who would set himself against too many other men? Is that what justice looks like in this place, where guilt and responsibility are clouded beyond recognition? And what kind of man would set himself apart from that justice, but an evil one?
Thanks Huffington Post. Thuffington Post.
Books and Beer Episode 6
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
We’re back! After a long break, we discuss Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Does it hold up ten years later?
We’ve moved across the country—from Chicago to Raleigh—and an happy side-effect is that the podcast should now sound a lot better. Our lives finally slowed down enough that we could coordinate our reading again, and will start producing episodes again at a decent clip.