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While attending the 2013 Python programming language convention PyCon on March 17th, 2013, developer evangelist Adria Richards tweeted a photo of a group of developers seated behind her during a plenary session, stating that they had been making crude jokes about “forking” and “‘big’ dongles.” She also sent a follow up tweet, citing PyCon’s Code of Conduct which states that “all communication should be appropriate for a professional audience” and “harassment and sexist, racist or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate.”
Following her tweet, PyCon staff members contacted her via Twitter asserting that they had dealt with the situation. The following day, Richards presented her account of the entire situation on her blog, explaining that she initially chose not to say anything to the men out of fear of “being heckled or [having my] experience denied,” but later tweeted her complaints out of concern for future women developers.
March 20th: PyCon Responds
On March 20th, PyCon issued an official statement about the situation on their blog, stating that both parties were addressed in private where they agreed and apologized. Contrary to initial reports, neither party was removed from the conference. The organizers also noted that they valued their attendee’s privacy and later updated their Attendee Procedure for Incident Handling to add that they do not condone public shaming in these incidents.
March 21st: Terminations
In the early morning on March 21st, CEO of Playhaven Andy Yang posted a statement about the incident to the company blog, announcing that the offending person had been fired from the company. By noon on the same day, SendGrid announced Richards’ termination on Twitter and Facebook, despite an early tweet from Richards (shown below) claiming that SendGrid supported her.
As news about the incident spread across Twitter, #Donglegate emerged as the hashtag for related discussions, which was used more than 1000 times on March 20th. On Reddit, nearly 100 unique threads about the incident were submitted to different subreddits including /r/MensRights, /r/TumblrInAction, /r/geek and /r/news. There were also two popular posts in /r/Technology that were removed by the moderators. On March 21st, a Redditor on /r/Geek pointed out a tweet Richards made on March 14th (shown below) making a joke about a friend stuffing socks into his crotch region in response to him getting a pat-down by TSA agents, intending to point out her hypocrisy. The post accrued more than 2100 upvotes, 1300 points overall and nearly 750 comments within 13 hours.
skwashd you should put something in your pants next time…like a bunch of socks inside one…large…sock.TSA agent faint— Adria Richards (adriarichards) March 14, 2013
News Media Coverage
The Daily Dot was the first site to cover the incident on March 20th, followed by coverage on Techcrunch. BetaBeat, New York Magazine, Businessweek, Mashable, Buzzfeed, VentureBeat, The Atlantic and Ars Technica the next day. It was also reported that SendGrid suffered from DDoS attacks following the online backlash.
At 6:30 PM on March 21st, SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin issued a longer statement about Richards’ termination via a blog post wherein he explained that while the company supported her right to report the incident, they did not support the means by which she did it or the extreme responses that came from it. He also claimed her actions “strongly divided the same community she was supposed to unite” making her unable to effectively do her job, resulting in her termination.
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Adria Richards – Forking and Dongle Jokes Don’t Belong At Tech Conferences
New York Magazine – All of Silicon Valley Is Scandalized Over a Stupid Dongle Joke