A minor skirmish has erupted in Geekland today, with accusations of sexism and overreaction on the parts of several minor Silicon Valley characters after an imbroglio involving an insensitive joke about a dongle.
Adria Richards, a female “developer evangelist” at an e-mail delivery company called SendGrid, apparently got fired today. Her sin? Outing two male developers who said dumb things while sitting behind her at a conference.
Earlier this week, Richards overheard two developers making sophomoric “big dongle” and “forking repo’s” jokes while sitting behind her at a developer conference called Pycon. (A dongle is a little attachment for a computer; I have no idea what a forking repo is.)
The jokes might seem relatively benign, but given that much of Silicon Valley is generally a terrible, misanthropic mess, they rubbed Richards the wrong way. As she explained on her blog:
I saw a photo on main stage of a little girl who had been in the Young Coders workshop.
I realized I had to do something or she 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.
So she called them out.
Shortly after Richards posted about the incident, one of the male developers, who works for a company called Playhaven, was fired. It took only minutes for people to start harassing her on Twitter, sending her “rape and death threats,” according to VentureBeat, despite the fact that Richards herself had never called for the guy to be let go. A thread on Hacker News (which is where angry nerds go to vent) decried Richards’s claims of sexism as a “false positive,” and, Silicon Valley being Silicon Valley, at least one commenter used the episode to imply that tech companies shouldn’t hire women. Then Anonymous and 4chan jumped in, and Richards’s company was sent a creepy note threatening to harass its clients if she wasn’t fired.
The other shoe dropped today, when Richards was given the boot by SendGrid, which announced it was firing her for unspecified reasons in a Facebook post. (Click that link and scroll through the comments if you want to see some real-life sexism in action.) Now the other half of the Internet is demanding that Richards be reinstated. Wrongful-termination lawsuits are almost a given.
In summary: Two people have lost their jobs, a sexist hell-storm has been unleashed on an undeserving target, and thousands of man-hours in Silicon Valley have been spent taking sides on an Internet skirmish instead of building burrito-finder apps and self-driving cars. And all over an unfunny dongle joke.