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SendGrid Fires Employee After Firestorm Over Inappropriate Jokes 1145

tsamsoniw writes "Hoping to strike a blow against sexism in the tech industry , developer and tech evangelist Adria Richards took to Twitter to complain about two male developers swapping purportedly offensive jokes at PyCon. The decision has set into motion a chain of events that illustrate the impact a tweet or two can make in this age of social networking: One the developers and Richards have since lost their jobs, and even the chair of PyCon has been harassed for his minor role in the incident."
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SendGrid Fires Employee After Firestorm Over Inappropriate Jokes

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  • More facetime (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @06:57PM (#43240549) Homepage

    I think we nerds need to get more facetime access to the rest of the world. All these "stranger danger" kids are now stranger danger adults.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:01PM (#43240575)

      I think we nerds need to get more facetime access to the rest of the world. All these "stranger danger" kids are now stranger danger adults.

      I'd say that apart from the PyCon organizers, who made the best out of a bad situation, everyone else in the story - Adria, her employers, Mr-Hank, and his employer - all made dick moves, but ... hang on, my boss wants to talk to me.

      • Re:More facetime (Score:4, Insightful)

        by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:04PM (#43240609) Homepage Journal
        Mod parent up: Insightful, ironic and funny all at once.
        • True, but.. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Friday March 22, 2013 @04:37AM (#43244231)

          There was a much more informative post that got skipped :

          A few details you might wish to know about the incident :

          0. SendGrid is an email spammer. Yes, they only send legal spam, stuff the direct marketers want you to call bacn, but really most of the emails they send you do not want. Anything bad that happens to SendGrid is a good thing.

          1. Apparently mr-hank only made one sexual crack, the dongles one. He apologized for that one quickly. Richards miss-interpreted his "forking" comment as sexual, actually homosexual. If you really believed she took offense to what he actually said, then you'd eventually conclude that she was a homophobe. That isn't correct. She simply miss-heard him.

          2. Richards has pissed people off by pulling similar publicity stunts several times before :

          3. Ms Richards defense of her actions was completely fucking bonkers. Some girl "would never have the chance to learn and love programming because the ass clowns behind me would make it impossible for her to do so." Really? Joan of Arc? Really? Pfff. She's simply grandstanding to her twitter followers.

          4. Richards made a much worse joke about some guys balls much more publicly on twitter earlier in the day.

          5. PlayHaven isn't such a nice company either. In game micro-transactions sounds like your business is built upon ripping off poor people. It doesn't bother me as much as spam since I don't play any games like that, but worth mentioning.

          Anyways I hope Mr-Hank and Richards find new jobs quickly and that SendGrid continues to lose business.

          • Re:True, but.. (Score:5, Informative)

            by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday March 22, 2013 @12:17PM (#43247513)

            "0. SendGrid is an email spammer. Yes, they only send legal spam, stuff the direct marketers want you to call bacn, but really most of the emails they send you do not want. Anything bad that happens to SendGrid is a good thing."

            If by spam your view is that all mass mail, including that which is specifically opt-in is spam then sure, but that's a definition of spam pretty much no one else recognises.

            There are many legitimate uses of SendGrid and they explicitly try and ensure their servers are viewed as trustworthy by spam filters by explicitly actively dealing with people who send unsolicited mail.

            Companies use them for everything from opt-in newsletters, to sales/invoice confirmation dispatch for e-commerce companies, to couriers dispatching delivery updates, to internal corporate newsletters, and many other things.

            Your understanding of what SendGrid is is completely wrong. There is a legitimate need for high volume e-mail dispatch services, and someone has to provide that. As providers go SendGrid does a good job of keeping spammers off the network and as someone who has worked on a completely non-spam high volume mail system for a client I can assure you they put a lot of effort into vetting you before you can even use them - i.e. they want evidence of domain ownership, description and samples of e-mails you intend to send (and diverging from the types of e-mails is grounds for termination). They seem to have effective policies for individuals wanting to complain about unsolicited mail sent from their servers too.

            It's like saying Slashdot is a child porn site because some troll once probably linked kiddie porn here or whatever.

      • Re:More facetime (Score:5, Interesting)

        by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:07PM (#43240647)
        re: everyone else in the story - Adria, her employers, Mr-Hank, and his employer - all made dick moves,
        You are correct. Despite her gender, Adria was being a dick. I should have thought of that line for my comment below: Twitter-shaming. [slashdot.org]
    • Re:More facetime (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hardhead_7 ( 987030 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:07PM (#43240645)
      Does anyone even know what the jokes were? A "dongle" joke could be anything from a lame hammy pun you might catch on a sitcom to outrageously misogynistic rape-humor. It's kind of hard to form a valid opinion of the whole thing without that bit of info.
      • Re:More facetime (Score:4, Interesting)

        by djl4570 ( 801529 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:17PM (#43240761) Journal
        Anyone remember the tech advertisement "Lost the Dongle" that ran in just about every IT rag published back in the nineties. It featured a picture of a famous nude statue that was missing its "dongle".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 21, 2013 @06:57PM (#43240551)

    I am pretty sure being a developer evangelist doesn't involve you alienating more than half of developers with your tweeting.

  • Twitter-shaming. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:03PM (#43240595)
    Well, I can't read her blog unless I enable javascript so I'm going to have to skip reading her point of view. But the calmly reasoned and stated response from one of the audience members behind Adria (a Mr Hank) whom Adria "twitter-shamed" (rather than speaking to directly) said (in quotes below) :
    He was less forgiving of her reporting him and his associate in the manner that she did -- that is, taking her complaint to Twitter, complete with their photo, rather than confronting them face to face. He pointed out that she is well known for her work and social activism and has an extensive Web audience. "With that great power and reach comes responsibility. As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have three kids and I really liked that job," he wrote. -- from http://www.infoworld.com/t/technology-business/twitter-shaming-can-cost-you-your-job-214956 [infoworld.com]

    I think that he's right. In the time that it took to turn around and take that picture, she could just as easily have said "Hey, cut it out! Those kinds of comments are inappropriate, and I'm offended, okay?" This is a point where saying "don't make a federal case out of it" may be apropos. Does she want them to walk around wearing big "L" for losers on their foreheads, or "D" for "dicks" for what offensive things they said? Maybe she needs to reread that Scarlet Letter book.

    • by ildon ( 413912 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:18PM (#43240791)

      Whatever happened to just turning around and glaring angrily at people who say stupid shit in public? Or possibly telling them to "grow up" to their face?

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:05PM (#43240625)
    *Joke about dongle*


    *Rocks fall, everyone gets fired*
  • How many people... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CyberSnyder ( 8122 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:08PM (#43240657)

    ...considered posting a comment in this, then stopped and deleted it just in case *your* employer takes offense?

  • Homophobia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ddq ( 2421932 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:11PM (#43240691)
    Since the jokes were in reference to "big dongles" and forking a man's repo and made no references to women or female anatomy, it seems like Richards is actually being homophobic.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:11PM (#43240693) Homepage

    If sexism were to be defeated, it would mean hearts and minds would change and it would become a non-issue.

    This is something very different. This is a chilling effect and a one-way weapon against males. The same would never happen if the roles were opposite. This is no different than the mentality we generally maintain that it's funny for women to hurt men but tragic and horrific for men to hurt women.

    This doesn't "fight" sexism, it defines it. The worst thing is all of this harm is done without the benefit of a trial, a warning or any sense of fairness.

    • by atriusofbricia ( 686672 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:20PM (#43240811) Journal

      If sexism were to be defeated, it would mean hearts and minds would change and it would become a non-issue.

      This is something very different. This is a chilling effect and a one-way weapon against males. The same would never happen if the roles were opposite. This is no different than the mentality we generally maintain that it's funny for women to hurt men but tragic and horrific for men to hurt women.

      This doesn't "fight" sexism, it defines it. The worst thing is all of this harm is done without the benefit of a trial, a warning or any sense of fairness.


      The reaction was completely out of proportion and entirely based on her claim. I'm not saying she's lying. I'm saying there was no evidence and I doubt anyone even bothered to listen to the guy's side of it.

    • by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:24PM (#43240853)

      Yeah, the comment wasn't even sexist. It was sexual and it was inappropriate but that does not make it sexist. Doing shit like this only has the effect of alienating people who otherwise agree with the fact that there are large scale issues of genuine sexist and creepy stalker behavior that is directed towards women at conventions and in the greater tech community at large.

  • Hurrah (Score:5, Funny)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:17PM (#43240767) Homepage

    Good for her. She stood up for herself when she was threatened (triggered). What was the trigger? She saw a photo on main stage of a little girl who had been in the Young Coders workshop. She realized immediately that she had to do something or that little girl would never have the chance to learn and love programming because the ass clowns behind her would make it impossible for the little girl to do so. What did these ass clowns do? They began making sexual forking jokes. What happened after the forking joke? A dongle joke. Incredible. Just like Popeye, she "couldn't stands it no more" and took action.

    What did she do? She did what any hero would have done in her situation. She took a photo of the offending hipster males and posted it for the whole world to see. This was an outstanding, very brave effort for a woman who had just been triggered. She was applauded by the feminist blogosphere, and in the end was fired by a man in a position of power. The fucking patriarchy. Fuck them. Don't believe me, read the entire blog entry she wrote. It is all totally supported by the ideology that rules our campuses today. [butyoureagirl.com] To quote her:

    "Yesterday the future of programming was on the line and I made myself heard."

    Classic. Who can read that without a tear? Can anyone provide a place that I can donate to her legal defense fund?

    • Re:Hurrah (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:28PM (#43240925) Homepage Journal

      I like how you just take her word and immediately assume she is right. The way you applaud her ability to destroy people lives just on her word.

      ""Yesterday the future of programming was on the line and I made myself heard.""
      I read it and about barfed. How big does ones ego need to be to think that?

    • Re:Hurrah (Score:5, Interesting)

      by waerloga01 ( 308176 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:29PM (#43240949)

      Hardly. I think this blog post sums it up best. http://amandablumwords.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/3/ [wordpress.com]. She didn't try and work with anyone, she wasn't out to correct anything. She was out use her bully pulpit to 1: make herself more important 2: hurt those that had the audacity to offend her. That said it doesn't excuse by ANY means the attitudes show both for and against her position that went well beyond the pale. What's more sad is at the VERY SAME conference she was offended at she made this jewel: https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/312265091791847425 [twitter.com]. Reeks of hypocrisy.

    • Re:Hurrah (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:43PM (#43241157)
      You are a misandrist. She did not feel that sexual jokes were offensive. The evidence is sitting on her own twitter page where she posted her own sexual jokes from the same event. She was offended by men. By their existence and unwillingness to bow down before her perceived superior gender. This is an ongoing problem, and I know that I am tired of hearing how my son should not have the same rights or future opportunities because someone he has never met treated someone else that he has never met badly. If she wants to be a hero, the fist step is not behaving exactly like the villains.
  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:26PM (#43240875)
    Two people at a conference telling jokes you find offensive? Ok, say something to them. Her taking it to Twitter is no different than the faceless drones threatening her via twitter - too coward to confront someone face to face - instead attacking someone via the Internet.

    She is a self described activist, who is too afraid to confront two nerds?

    A bit of human decency, on both parties (aka: talking to another human being) would have mitigated this entire situation and two people would still have their jobs.
  • Only in America? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NaughtyNimitz ( 763264 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:26PM (#43240889)

    Come on you puritan sods! Grow a pair of balls.
    Now if the developers made a sexual joke about that Adria woman , than I would consider this sexual harassment. But some wordplay? On Forking? And big dongles? What's next; "Oh no's, he said that we should go 'finger' the cullprit who broke into our unix account. Let's put tar and feathers on him and carry him around on a metal bar!"
    I am goddamn happy I live on the ole' Continent where you can swear profanely on the workfloor when you break your skull underneath your desk while searching for that loose USB cable or make funny comebacks to loose the tension like that female developer who shouted "that's what he said" after the frantic cry of the assistant server-admin "i can't get it up!".

    You are creating a generation of scared, stressed, puritan bastards. One visit to a Scottish , Flemish or Basque pub and they probably faint upon hearing the "feck this pissbeer" or "my, those are big jugs. No offense lady!"

  • by duckgod ( 2664193 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:29PM (#43240945)
    As a owner of a tech company I can say with all honesty that I don't discriminate at all when I hire. All I see when I am hiring is how much money you can make me. That is it. My employees are nothing more then an investment. That being said it is bullshit like this that makes me think twice about hiring women. When I hire a women I have to take into account the risk of a sexual harassment charge that does not really exist if I hire a male.
  • by SplashMyBandit ( 1543257 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @07:37PM (#43241053)

    There is *no* right not to be offended. US case law (and the First Amendment) is clear on this.

    If the guys are being inappropriate, that is one thing, but no-one ought to claim they have a right to not be offended. What was offensive to Richards was clearly not offensive to many other people. Personally I find hyper-sensitivity to be somewhat offensive, yet I don't feel the need to wage jihad against her. I've seen this behavior before from women (including getting guys chucked out of university for chuckling at inappropriate jokes). If *she* was offended then it is up to *her* to point this out to the culprits - without doing so in an offensive way herself. That's what a mature person would do. She can't claim they were threatening in any way, because their apologetic posture shows they were probably approachable for a mature person to make their point to.

    Furthermore, there are a number of troubling aspects to Richards' claim (and those that support her narrow-minded point-of-view):
    Who gets to decide what is offensive or not?
    Should government, the legal profession, or business decide what is an appropriate joke or not?
    There is only one solution, Free Speech. Free Speech is not about stuff you agree with - it is a principle that protected stuff you don't agree with (provided it is not out-and-out hate speech; eg. such as the racist and anti-Semitic core doctrines of the political ideology called Islam).

    The solution is for companies to say, "We did not mean to offend you. However, we stand up for Free Speech for all out employees and don't believe we have the right to dictate what they can think or say, provided it is legal.". Too bad the World is full of beta personalities who cower at the thought of causing offense, rather than alpha personalities who may be brusque, but at least they stand up for moral principals (even if this is unpopular).

    So grow some 'nads by fellow Slashdotters. You are either for Free Speech, and would not fire these guys (even if you would take them aside in private to tell them to cool it off a bit), or you believe in Political Correctness where someone else may dictate what you can say, hear and think. The real problem with PC is not that it dictates and denies what people can say, it denies that multitude of other people the right to hear (what can often be unpleasant but truthful).

  • by Swampash ( 1131503 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:10PM (#43241465)

    Relational aggression:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relational_aggression [wikipedia.org]

    Richards didn't confront the people who allegedly offended her. She did nothing in person to convey that she found the comments made inappropriate. What she did was and use her influence to damage the commenters' social status. Basically, this is how females fight. Guys are fucking useless at this shit and don't understand it.

  • Offended by Offense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snazzykazzy ( 2872503 ) on Thursday March 21, 2013 @08:18PM (#43241541)
    As a woman, "self-proclaimed nerd", I am highly offended by the actions of Adria Richards. Her offense offends me. Did anyone commit any wrongs towards her? Absolutely not. These men weren't talking to her, or even about her. Now, if one of them had pointed at her and said something like, "I'd like to use my big dongle on her" or something, then perhaps it would make sense to be offended. Even if that were so, who cares? If she wants to label herself with stereotypes, "nerds" are generally classified as socially-awkward and sexually frustrated. Why was she so surprised by their conversation? They weren't even being sexually explicit, they were cracking puns. I wish that I had been at the conference with her and seen her tweet. I would have found her, sat next to her, and whispered to her asking her if she's seen any big dongles recently. It's honestly women like this that make people not want to hire women. I would have been angry with her even if she had tried to settle this woman-to-man, so to say. There was nothing to settle, nothing to fix. No one did anything wrong. Her passive-aggressive attitude led to the firing to people who didn't deserve it.
  • by John Pfeiffer ( 454131 ) on Friday March 22, 2013 @12:10AM (#43243269) Homepage

    You know, I try to avoid making comments on things I know are going to be controversial because I'm always going to piss off xx% of people, and I really don't set out to piss off anyone. (Except when I do...) But sometimes, something so heinously, irredeemably, goddamn stupid happens, and I have to vent or I'll simply explode. So here goes all my friggin' karma... PLEASE NOTE: My opinions are simply based on events as they have been described.

    While I wish I could be all diplomatic and say that everyone involved shares the blame for this incident, that wouldn't be honest. He's a nerd, making nerd jokes, to another nerd, at a nerd convention. The stuff he supposedly said is just silly. Sure, there's SORT OF innuendo there, but it's like middle school stuff. There was nothing overtly-sexual or graphic about it, and he was having what he thought was an at least semi-private conversation. It was those two computer nerds in WarGames. It wasn't a truck stop on the Jersey turnpike.

    I get that she found it offensive, and that's her right. But the fact that she was (supposedly) smiling as she took the damning TwitPic just seems... I don't know. Malicious? What was that supposed to be? "Heh, I'll fix YOU! I'm going to tell the INTERNET!" The whole thing just seems so damned petty.

    Replace her phone with a gun, and now we're closer to what happened; *Bang!* There goes your job.

    Let's take that analogy and run with it, as one might with a pair of scissors! (Well, as I might, anyway.) If I overhear someone making dumb comments behind me, I'm probably going to just roll my eyes. The most I might do, is tell them to shut up. I'm not going to turn around and SHOOT them. (Probably.)

    She defends her actions, saying that in order to make the IT industry safe for women, she HAD to shoot him.

    I really don't want to sound biased just because I'm a guy, because on its most fundamental level this has nothing to do with gender. Look at the situation; You have two people carrying on a private conversation, albeit a dumb and juvenile one. A third person overhears them, and instead of asking them to kindly shut the hell up snaps a photograph of them, grabs the internet bullhorn (With which they are apparently quite skilled), and says "Internet, you wouldn't BELIEVE what these two bozos just said!". Then one of those 'bozos' loses his job. Twitter shaming; No less asinine and juvenile than the dongle jokes.

    I want to see more women in the tech industries, I want to see more female makers and tinkerers. Why? It's not just because I think we need more beauty to balance out the neckbeards. It's because I think technology and making things are TOTALLY FUCKIN' AWESOME and everyone deserves a turn!

    This is not how that happens. This is how the gap gets bigger. Please stop. Sexual harassment is a completely reprehensible thing, and it happens way too often. In the tech industry, in every industry, in society in-general. But every time an incident like this gets ink, it only makes things harder on those experiencing legitimate harassment.

    Okay, putting all that aside, so far, this has just been my reaction to what actually happened at PyCon. That was admittedly a very small slice of the pi--incident. (I couldn't go through with it, sorry.) Let's talk about the aftermath.

    So, 'Mr-Hank' loses his job... That's really unfortunate... I think his employer overreacted, but the reality is, with the way everything goes viral these days, dropping him like he's radioactive and ON FIRE probably seemed like the best course of action from a PR standpoint, since it was like he was very publicly being accused of sexual harassment, and you don't play around with that. I even feel bad about his apology, because while it was ultimately the right thing to do, it just felt like too much for what he did, like it was just more shaming...

    Ms. Richards loses her job, which is also unfortunate, but I can't say that I hold her blameless. Her employer had no choice but to fire her; they're a media company, and she was the focus of an internet shitstorm with her employer as collateral damage, and you don't shit where you eat. However, the aftermath on her Twitter account... That was, frankly, disgusting. Death threats are bad enough, but rape threats? Can we please have a civilization here, people?! Ugh.

    While it doesn't help Mr-Hank feed his family, I hope Ms. Richards learned something from this experience, and I hope they both find employment again soon...but things being what they are, I wouldn't hold my breath.

    Basically, everyone got totally hosed, and the internet got its jollies for the day as it always does. I suppose someone's gotta feed the beast, and while I'm always thankful when it's not ME, yeesh! This one was ugly!

    Moral time!
    Guys, if you're going to say stupid juvenile shit, keep your voices down. I know better than to say "Don't." so I'm being realistic here.

    Ladies, when a guy hears someone say something, the first step in processing that information is "Are those fightin' words?!" maybe you could ask yourselves "Is this worth an unimaginable shitstorm with untold social and PR repercussions for all involved?" because while sexual harassment should always be reported, this was teenage shenanigans. Try to keep things in perspective.

    *Clicks 'Submit' and hears all his Karma being flushed down the toilet...*

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva