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August 23, 2013 9:59 AM   Subscribe

On Monday, web technology mogul Dave Winer shared his theory about the gender imbalance in software engineering. This kicked off a hashtag on Twitter as well as this response from Rebecca Greenfield and this correction from Andy Baio. Yesterday Winer posted a follow-up, declaring "I don't care why there are so few women programmers." It was later revealed that some comments on this post were deleted, including the personal testimony of a 54 year-old female veteran of software engineering.
There were loads of women programming back in the 80’s and into the 90s, despite our lack of academic backgrounds. There were long hours, loads of responsibility yet the pay, bonuses and promotions were less than those of the men in the room. How many times did I get an appraisal telling me what a great job I was doing, I can go anywhere in this company how about moving to support or training? The ’soft skills’ trope that management bought into. They did that to all women, didn’t matter if you were the best coder in the room. Women didn’t get offered the team lead or architect roles. How often was my desk by the door where I could sign for parcels and take messages? How often was my phone number listed as the receptionist? How often was I addressed by my first name while male colleagues introduced with their surname and job title?
posted by annekate (104 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ok, so, pro forma acknowledgment that Dave Winer has done some important things, but pretty much every time I've become aware of his opinions in the last 13 years, I've decided he's kind of an asshat. The weird thing is I mostly don't even remember what those opinions were; just that I read them and thought "awwwww, fuck off." This is pretty much par for the course.
posted by brennen at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


Every year or so Dave Winer sticks his head up and posts some stupid, thoughtless, yet apparently sincere thing. And everyone's reminded again that he has nothing useful to say, and so we go on. He's not exactly a troll in that his stupidity is not deliberate. But he's definitely a waste of time. I'm delighted to see more discussion of gender and software engineering. But starting from some clueless man saying "[programming is] a lot like sitting in a blind waiting for a rabbit to show up so you can grab it and bring it home for dinner" (and therefore girls are bad at it) is a poor beginning for a conversation.
posted by Nelson at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2013 [61 favorites]


Nelson's got it.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 10:04 AM on August 23, 2013


Yeah, this doesn't really come as a surprise, but is still incredibly obnoxious. It's true Winer is more of a troll than anything else, but the thing is that his trolling here is done sincerily and that far too many people share his beliefs that women just aren't suited to programming, while disappearing any evidence to the contrary.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:05 AM on August 23, 2013


I feel like this could be boiled down to "Dave Winer is an asshole", which is not news.
posted by selfnoise at 10:05 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apologies, I should have previewed.
posted by selfnoise at 10:05 AM on August 23, 2013


As always, the cover to Joanna Russ' How to Suppress Women's Writing is educational.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:06 AM on August 23, 2013 [24 favorites]


I think it's important to note that there was a time when literally every computer programmer in the world was a woman.
posted by Jairus at 10:09 AM on August 23, 2013 [41 favorites]


Winer's not a troll nor an asshole. He's just a sincere idiot. I don't know why anyone cares what he thinks about women in software. If I had a popular blog and then started posting about why Muslims are all violent because they don't eat enough bacon would that make me an expert on Middle-East relations?
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


How often was my desk by the door where I could sign for parcels and take messages? How often was my phone number listed as the receptionist? How often was I addressed by my first name while male colleagues introduced with their surname and job title?

Damn straight.
posted by tilde at 10:13 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


You don't sit in a blind waiting for rabbit.

You set a bunch of snares and go away and come back when you feel like it and hope the wolves and coyotes haven't beaten you to them.

Catching rabbits isn't about patience at all.
posted by srboisvert at 10:17 AM on August 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


And be very patient. I imagine it's a lot like sitting in a blind waiting for a rabbit to show up so you can grab it and bring it home for dinner.

On the plus side, I'm now imagining him as Elmer Fudd and reading this like "Wascally Wabbit!" is making it a tiny bit better. A very tiny bit.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:18 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Snares?! That sounds suspiciously like woman talk!
posted by basicchannel at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, so his follow-up was basically "I'm not a sexist and you all should feel bad because you were mean?"
posted by capricorn at 10:21 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or sometimes you put nets over all the exits to a rabbit warren but one, and then drop in a ferret.

Quick, effective, practical.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:21 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


That seems to be predicated on catching a ferret first.
posted by GuyZero at 10:22 AM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Winer's not a troll nor an asshole. He's just a sincere idiot.

Guess I missed the memo where it was stated and/or proven that sincerity excuses assholism.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:23 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah - this seems to be about what I would expect from Winer. Ugh...
posted by symbioid at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2013


If I had a popular blog and then started posting about why Muslims are all violent because they don't eat enough bacon would that make me an expert on Middle-East relations?

If it's Fox News asking the question: yes.
posted by yoink at 10:26 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I find discouraging is that the ratio is getting worse- The female share of bachelor's degrees in computer sciences dropped between 1985 and 2004 from 37 to 25 percent.
posted by bhnyc at 10:29 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand what sincerity has to do with this unless we're saying he's sincerely sexist.
posted by not_the_water at 10:29 AM on August 23, 2013


The programming and technology sphere is vast - I've been a programmer for 15 years and I have never heard of this guy! Then I read his Wikipedia article and I was like, nope, none of this sounds familiar at all. Is he really a "mogul"?

The 24 Hours of Democracy thing is cool - I guess all humans are flawed.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2013


Anecdotally I've only encountered one actual gender-based difference: of all the programmers I've known and worked with, the many female programmers have nearly all fallen into either the top twenty percent or bottom twenty percent in terms of skill level. Out of over a hundred female programmers I can only think of one I'd describe as a bog-standard line-level professional programmer.

I can't tell if this is a problem on my end with judging women in very black and white terms when it comes to technical proficiency, or if the nature of the challenges women face in the field tends to sort them pretty viciously, or possibly a little of both.
posted by Ryvar at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The worst thing is that his "evolutionary" example isn't even just insulting. It's wrong on the most fundamental level. Men and women are equal, in intelligence and in general abilities. We have clearly evolved to be the same. This is a reasonable evolutionary mechanism: because we are the same, a mother can carry the baby while the man hunts, and then a man can carry the baby while the woman hunts; a man can build a fire while the woman sets up the shelter, or a woman can build a fire while the man sets up the shelter. We are not ants. If we were ants, women would be ten times the size of men and filled with thousands of eggs. It's pretty clear that we generally have equal abilities, and that this equality and similarity is an evolutionarily determined trait.
posted by koeselitz at 10:36 AM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


Dave Winer's a lot like athlete's foot. Just when you think he's gone, he comes back again as irritating as ever.
posted by tommasz at 10:39 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I first heard about this a day or two ago and figured it was someone reposting (and misquoting the title of) the excellent 1991 paper by Ellen Spertus, Why are There so Few Female Computer Scientists?

Then I read the actual essay and was grumpy.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:41 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Comment removed, doesn't really make sense to ask direct questions of other users who haven't actually shown up in the thread.]
posted by cortex at 10:42 AM on August 23, 2013


I think we need some sort of thing that highlights the accomplishments of high-profile female programmers. Yesterday, developer Sarah Sharp landed a huge patch in the Linux kernel that solved a hugely-elusive bug that had long since been a source of USB problems in Linux. Apparently, Sarah is also responsible for most of the USB3 module in the kernel too, which is a pretty impressive feat all on its own. Unsurprisingly, she's also a huge advocate for women in tech.

If there's not already some sort of "ladies being awesome at tech dot tumblr dot com," somebody should seize the opportunity and create it!

Because, oh my god, the tech world needs a better gender balance. I work in an industry that's traditionally been extremely male-dominated (broadcast TV), but thankfully work in an office that has a ~40/60 split. Even as a guy, I look at some of our peers/competitors at conferences, and thank the heavens that I don't work in those offices.
posted by schmod at 10:42 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've seen a pattern where an otherwise perhaps well-meaning individual (I see Winer and his supporters in this conversation as probably well-meaning, just clueless) decides they want to get involved in these types of conversations, but the first place they go to is gender essentialization because the privileged eye is generally blind to social problems.

These folks then enter the conversation in clueless, offensive ways, get smacked down hard, and then circle the wagons instead of thinking about what they could have done or said better. And you get a bunch of people rubbing sore butts grumping about how "clearly we can't have a rational discussion about this." It's an ugly cycle that doesn't end up being all that productive, and I'm not really sure how to break it.
posted by annekate at 10:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [21 favorites]


The thing that always strikes me about the "why are you getting mad at me, I'm just asking a question" non-apologies that inevitably pop up after something like this is the utter presumptuousness and arrogance involved in the idea that you, uniquely, of everybody in the field who has ever thought about this issue, are the only person to have thought of this question.

How arrogant would you have to be to waltz into a conversation that has been taking place for decades and loudly yell "but have you thought about the fact that maybe women just suck at this?" It doesn't taken long to give yourself a rudimentary rundown on the current prevailing thoughts in the field. It should take no time at all to realize what a load of twaddle popular evo-psych is. And yet Winer, mogul extraordinaire who loves women and just wants them to succeed thinks that he can meaningfully contribute to this complex intersectional conversation without literally having listened to a single voice that came before him, because his unique snowflake insights do not require the benefit of context or history or dialogue.

And if you get mad at him, well, clearly you're just trying to oppress his underrepresented voice.
posted by Be cool, sodapop at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [27 favorites]


It's pretty obvious to me that there's no genetic basis for all-dude programmer shops. Otherwise CS grad students shouldn't have any significant difference in composition.

The reason all-dude shops exist is because they recruit from CS programs, and Computer Science has a branding problem with the high school girl demographic. Schools like CMU like to pretend it's an admissions problem, but the truth is, there's plenty of open admission CS programs run by less prestigious, public flagship schools that get 1-2 female applicants for every 50 male. With numbers that lopsided, the problem isn't something admissions criteria can fix.

And surveys of high school students aren't very favorable. Strong influences against choosing CS as a major include: not sitting in front of a computer all day, wanting a people oriented job, and having a different major picked out (kind of a cop-out answer). Strong influences for picking CS as a major include: video games, and experience using computers (presumably to play video games). Both of which are male dominated, according to the survey.

Perhaps the best thing for CS would be to invent a Video Games degree, just to remove the surplus dude factor from the classroom.
posted by pwnguin at 10:46 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


I wouldn't want to be him in the afterlife when he'll have to answer to Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:47 AM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


https://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/369656549695700992
> Dave Winer ☮ ‏@davewiner 19 Aug: @quinnnorton -- you've had some good visibility this year, I had never heard of you before. i read a lot of your writing earlier.
> Quinn Norton ‏@quinnnorton: @davewiner We've shared a table and chatted at various conferences, including etech.
posted by ardgedee at 10:51 AM on August 23, 2013 [63 favorites]


It would be nice if there were more women in my line of work. I like women. Very much. I can provide references, if necessary.

MORBO LIKE SOFT HUMAN FEMALE
HUMAN FEMALE WORK WITH MORBO
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:52 AM on August 23, 2013 [24 favorites]


I've been working as a programmer for almost 15 years now and CS does not particularly appeal to me as a discipline. I'm conversant in its principles and can apply the ideas when necessary, but it's not why I like the job. I'm male, so I can't directly apply this to why there aren't more women in the field, but on a personal basis, the appeal of programming is aesthetic. It can be a very creative undertaking. The standard CS emphasis on math can be a real put-off to someone who might otherwise find their imaginations running wild in code if they were just given the opportunity to find out what kind of canvas it represented. I think we are still in the infancy of a field which will ultimately have multiple specialties, some which are hard sciences and some of which are multi-disciplinary, with the theoretical and scientific foundations of computing as only a part of the whole.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Foci for Analysis: It would be nice if there were more women in my line of work. I like women. Very much. I can provide references, if necessary.

I bet he's got binders full of them.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:55 AM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


And if you get mad at him, well, clearly you're just trying to oppress his underrepresented voice.

No, it's like getting mad at an old dog who just shat his dog bed. No amount of anger will change the fact that Winer is simply incapable of having an intelligent discussion on this or any number of topics.
posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now, I'm sure there is sexism, probably a lot of sexism.

BUT . . . .

Programming is a very modal activity. To be any good at it you have to focus. And be very patient.

Yeah, buddy? And women don't have focus or patience?

I like women. Very much. I can provide references, if necessary.

We get it. You like to have sex. This doesn't mean you like women.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:57 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


So... after posting my previous comment, I started reading through Sarah Sharp's blog, and found this epic takedown that she posted to the Linux Kernel Mailing List a few weeks ago.

Ars Technica did a writeup with some background on the incident, and what happened afterward...

I usually appreciate Linus's rather direct conversational style, but yeech... it's hasn't been working well for him lately.
posted by schmod at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


And women don't have focus or patience?

Obviously you haven't heard of typically masculine activities such as sewing, embroidery, weaving, knitting, or working on a 19th century textile mill.
posted by sukeban at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2013 [20 favorites]


I'll grant that he could be sincere in wondering about this. Maybe he really is interested in having a genuine discussion about this.

But then why is his next decision "I'll blog about it to the whole world!" rather than "I'll Google it!" or "I'll look up the big-name women programmers and email them!" ?

Blogging about it isn't the move of someone who genuinely wants to ask and learn. It's the move of someone who just wants to bloviate about junk that crossed his mind while in the shower.
posted by cadge at 11:02 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's the move of someone who just wants to bloviate about junk that crossed his mind while in the shower.

That's Winer's blog in a nutshell.
posted by GuyZero at 11:03 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


In all fairness, that's kinda what blogs are for, isn't it?
posted by maryr at 11:12 AM on August 23, 2013


(Oops, I see that's what cadge had just said. Doh. Ummm, well put, cadge!)
posted by maryr at 11:13 AM on August 23, 2013


web technology mogul

ROFLLMAO! He wishes.

Winer's not a troll nor an asshole. He's just a sincere idiot.

No, the prevailing opinion is he's an asshole. That's why there was a googlebombing campaign a while ago with the phrase "that asshole Dave Winer". You know there used to be active websites that tracked Winer's offensive remarks. And there's a reason for that, to record things before he edited them.

In case anyone still doesn't know how Winer operates, here's the basic scheme. First he says something wildly offensive. This provokes an angry response on his blog. Winer trolls the commenters some more, until they are totally enraged. Then he goes back and edits his original story and his comments, so that his comments look more reasonable, and the enraged commenters seem like a disproportionate response, even deranged.

At one point it got so bad that someone decided to scrape his blog every 5 minutes, track the changes, and post the different versions to a website. He got busted on multiple occasions with blatant manipulations of the response to his comments, he even got busted for editing other people's comments. Of course Winer had a fit and started blocking the web scrapers. The web community came forth with widespread support for the scrapers, and set up dozens of mirrors with rotating IP addresses so he couldn't block them.

Since that time, everyone has pretty much learned you don't debate Winer on his own turf. That puts you at risk of his editing the conversation to make himself look good. This is less of a problem today, since everyone knows to take screen caps or archive the originals. And they can now more easily respond via forums that he does not control.

And to get back to the specific topic of the OP, yes, Winer has spouted off about women like this, for years, over and over. He's a dinosaur and it is not worth engaging his comments seriously. He's trolling, and it is deliberate. He believes all publicity is good publicity.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:13 AM on August 23, 2013 [48 favorites]


Here I am, sitting in at my little desk, whipping out some C++. Oh, what's that sound? Is someone here to see me? Oh, no! It's a bunch of gentlemen gathered around behind my desk, discussing whether I'm a good programmer or not, whether I truly enjoy programming, and why I chose to enter the field! Some of them are frowning and sneering, many are smiling politely and nodding! Please, please, for the love of Mike, LEAVE ME ALONE
posted by ariel_caliban at 11:13 AM on August 23, 2013 [36 favorites]


Since that time, everyone has pretty much learned you don't debate Winer on his own turf. That puts you at risk of his editing the conversation to make himself look good. This is less of a problem today, since everyone knows to take screen caps or archive the originals. And they can now more easily respond via forums that he does not control.

I did not know that.

Why do people even respond to him? I don't even understand why people get worked up.
posted by GuyZero at 11:17 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "If we were ants, women would be ten times the size of men and filled with thousands of eggs. "

Women are born with around 2m eggs and the number drops to around 400k by puberty.

But ten times the size of men might be interesting.
posted by chavenet at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sometimes a similar argument is advanced for why most teachers are female ("they're just more inclined because evolution or babies or something!") or why most teachers only have less than five years teaching experience, and my theory is that it's really something like 1) for centuries women were not allowed to work in whole segments of the economy (women were given the vote in the US only 93 years ago, but not fully integrated into the political process until about 40 years ago) so they are still suffering from generations of misconceptions and bad social science which means 2) women have more options career-wise now and are more likely to change jobs than they once were and are less likely to seek out careers that have historically excluded (or have been hostile toward) women.
posted by mattbucher at 11:21 AM on August 23, 2013


With the caveat that I myself am an abrasive, divisive, loudmouth persona, Dave Winer makes your day worse and your life poorer for interacting with him, online and off.

It's the surest sign of the Internet's continued explosive growth and adaptation that every time he drops one of his mental shit-bombs on the world, a whole new audience of people are sucked into wasting time determining that in fact he is a miserable personage who speaks from his spinal cord and has the emotional overreaction of a child beauty pageant contestant.

Seriously. Close the window - there's so, so, so many other wonderful voices out there, even ones with opinions similar to Winer's but who put them out with maturity and thoughtfulness.

You can do better.

We can all do better.
posted by jscott at 11:22 AM on August 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


Oh yeah, Dave Winer! Didn't he have a blog back when everybody didn't have a blog?
posted by edheil at 11:23 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hah that bit about "I like women!" has the loudest implied "... to fuuuuuuuck!!"

G'rrroooooosss.
posted by basicchannel at 11:28 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


From Winer's response:

4. The term mansplaining is sexist.

5. Fact: Women do their share of mansplaining.


He forgot to add:

6. Having just used the sexist term mansplaining, I must be sexist myself.
posted by ogooglebar at 11:31 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


5. Fact: Women do their share of mansplaining.

I...

That...

Why, isn't that Special, in the sense Shepherd Book used the term.
posted by seyirci at 11:32 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


So there is a story that boys get into video games, which leads them to an interest in how such things are made, and thus a career in software development. This is probably true for some people (seems to be true for me, personally).

Interesting, then to look at the demographics for some of the large "casual" social network games. While I doubt that this alone will fix the problem, I hope that these games, and also the success of social networks like Pinterest (some of which are also disproportionately popular with women) might have some long term impact on the gender imbalance in the tech sector.

Also I think it needs to be clear that the important thing is not like, Fixing the Gender Problem in Tech So We Don't All Look Bad. It's not really about luring women into tech so that we can all stop talking about the sexism in the industry because look! we have some women around here and if we don't it's because they don't want to be here anyway! But more like, the tech sector is probably going to have a difficult time serving everyone fairly if diverse views are not represented in the people who are designing and building everything.
posted by rustcrumb at 11:40 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did not know the history of his trollishness and take back my earlier assumption that he is well-meaning.
posted by annekate at 11:40 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I played video games, learned how to write them, learned how to code and map out software and the like. I had my own computer and had pretty good access to school computers at some parts of elementary school. When I got to Grade 8, the computer room was in the shop wing, which was already not particularly girl friendly. I tried using the computers at lunch, only to be met by sexist boys who would say really intimidating, threatening, misogynistic, sexually-loaded things. When I took a computer class, those same boys dominated the class. When I tried complaining to the teachers that I was being sexually harassed and that they were putting in content that was misogynistic, they shrugged. I quit using computers. Throughout high school, those boys continued to be the same. I kept working in the software field, but gave up on programming because of how I was treated, and found that the guys I had to deal with tended to often have this behaviour. Later, I dated many programmers and found that several of them continued with this sort of behaviour and often had friends who amplified these attitudes - making rape jokes, demeaning women and so on. This is not true of all the guys who program or who game or what-have-you. But I did find a number of guys like this, whereas it seemed different when I worked in other fields or hung out with guys from other areas - the guys who harboured those attitudes must have been more likely to keep their mouths shut. But, in tech, I kept finding guys who were really up front about this, and I can only imagine it is because they have been allowed to be like this since boyhood, because they were prima donnas or something. And yet it was still jolting to read Winer's post.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


Winer is well named. I followed him on Twitter briefly and he kept complaining about how his latest project (which doesn't seem particularly groundbreaking) wasn't getting enough press coverage.

5. Fact: Women do their share of mansplaining.

This is consistent with my theory that most claims that begin or end with "Fact!" are bullshit.
posted by brundlefly at 12:11 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only thing surprising about this latest Winerversy is that anyone even bothers to notice there is a latest Winerversy... Which part of "Don't feed the trolls" did you not understand, intarwebs?!
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 12:36 PM on August 23, 2013


Winers gonna whine.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that this attitude seems so prevalent drives me nuts because it overshadows the fact that there are a lot of developers/CS/data/tech guys who are FANTASTIC to work with out there. I wish I could show young women that it isn't all CEOs who keep assuming their UX Lead is the receptionist in between not remembering her name and wondering why she's talking in the meeting or a just graduated idiot telling a DB lead with 15+ years experience how to "properly" set up a table and treating everything her male assistant (2 years experience in DB) says as golden rays of unimpeachable wisdom. Sure, I've seen both of those things (and a lot more), but I've also seen senior developers help new female developers find their feet in an organization, have their backs in meetings, and make sure they don't always get stuck unfairly with the dreck work. I've seen a development team organize a schedule to make sure one developer's deadlines to make sure she can leave early on Thursdays to take her daughter to the orthodontist (without being asked!).

I've seen a senior developer doing a code review of a junior female developer say "I really like how you [structured the notes for each variable] here. We're going to make this a standard format." and another say "We should make the whole way this is [annotated] standard." 6 months later she got a raise and a special commendation for those changes and her positive impact on efficiency was called out to the entire organization. I've seen CTOs give really hard and critical problems to solve to women as a matter of course, and I've seen new male developers ask senior female developers to mentor them because they like the way they approach programmatic problems and want to learn how to do it too.

Although many of my crappy experiences in tech of the sexist variety are infuriating and frustrating and sometimes super dramatic and still get in my craw, I still encourage young women who are interested to go for it, because I also had some awesome experiences building stuff that made people's lives easier or better or to just say "cool!" with people who didn't look at me and assume I was there to sign for packages and make birthday cakes for everyone and to write everyone's documentation.
posted by julen at 12:51 PM on August 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


My first programming teacher in high school was a woman of great integrity.

This Winer dude... looks like he's closer to retirement than my programming teacher.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 12:58 PM on August 23, 2013


I've had my run ins with Dave from the early days of web-based syndication, and all I can say is... well, what plenty of others have said before.

I will share this memory I previously wrote about Aaron Schwarz' run-in with Dave. As you might suspect, Dave plays a mediocre Solieri to Schwarz' Mozart.

(Sigh. Miss you, Aaron.)
posted by markkraft at 1:12 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I guess I was lucky. When I first got into the business, I learned my chops from brilliant, capable programmers and analysts, and never really paid any mind that some of them just happened to be women. Most of the teams I worked on were led by women. Apparently, I worked in an uncharacteristically egalitarian workplace for the '90s.

True Programmers are indeed few and far between, and Winer's been around long enough he should know that. All that matters is that one's kung fu is strong. That comes from hands and minds, not what's in people's pants. Anyone who thinks that gender plays any role at all in programming ability is obviously second-string. And as second-stringers, they should make themselves useful by getting me a cup of coffee. I take it black.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my little section of a fairly large web development division, about a third to half of the team are women, including my manager, my manager's manager, and the developers' next two steps in the organization as well. The suggestion that any one of them was incapable or subpar would be grounds for laughing that idiot out the room, egging their desk, and firing them, not necessarily in that order. I'm aware that that isn't how a lot of places work, which is why I like working at this place, and I am gratified that safe, professional workplaces do in fact exist.
posted by Errant at 1:16 PM on August 23, 2013


One of the reasons I don't work for a tech company anymore (CS 94 Georgia Tech, with work in linguistics, writing, and psychology) is that all anyone seems to be making are:

1) "Cool" stuff that doesn't solve any real problems, with no broader sense of what it could lead to in the long run;
2) Idealistic world-saving projects that either sound good but aren't really, or that could be good, but need a social system in place before they can make a real difference;
3) Money, on top of the dreams of the other two.

In other words, I think there are more important things to be doing than making gadgets and apps with no broader vision.

I bet I'm not alone.

Back when I first graduated college, I worked at somebody's dream job. I started when I was still a student (needed the cash), found them by basically walking around the tech company incubator on campus leaving my resume with people. The company had 20ish employees and wanted to be the next IDEO. There were programmers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, designers, and an on-site prototyping shop. Our products were described as sexy, and the other big boss there (we were a company of ~30 engineers, with two owners) used to talk all the time about "exploiting" various things. Someone described us as a Gen X brain trust.

A couple of years passed, and the company grew. I remember when one girl -- Amy, a good programmer -- left to work on a nascent Internet project, when the Internet was still full of the promise of making a real difference in the world through the freer dissemination of information, ideas, and help.

The owner of the product development company was disappointed and puzzled that Amy left. He couldn't understand why she'd leave when we did cool things like a proto-smartphone, a project to help a big medical technology company, a banking kiosk for a large bank you've all heard of, and other "cool" projects. We worked almost exclusively for huge companies that everyone had heard of. It was like the job had been designed to impress people.

But some people really really don't care about being impressive. I bet a lot of them are women.

Anyway, when Amy left, our boss said to me, "She'll be back". I said "No, she won't." He couldn't understand why doing something that (back then) had the potential to really make the world better would be so compelling.

As for me? I'd learned how to exude what I called "geek machismo", and 2 minutes into any conversation I usually had people wanting to hire me. Eventually I realized that I didn't want to work for people who were impressed by that. I'm currently trying to figure out how to find people that I do want to work with. I'm considering making a web site about it.
posted by amtho at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think it's the default group behaviour of men that is the biggest issue. If you get a bunch of buddies together working on a car, insults go flying, but it's all meant to be gentle prodding, and more for the truth part of the humor, and less about insulting. It's hard to get used to, but I suspect most boys got through it much earlier in life than I had to.

Being thrown into that type of established work culture as a woman has got to me a nightmare. Especially when you've got the above mentioned meritocracy myth, and the invisibility of privilege problem. (I'm learning all about it firsthand in one of the organizations I'm a member of... had no clue, quite shocked actually as to the facts on the ground.)

As for the nature of programming, imagine you have to balance a skunk on top of a turtle on top of a porcupine, and avoid the snake under that rock over there.... ;-)
posted by MikeWarot at 1:18 PM on August 23, 2013


This is anecdata, but a much larger percentage of the female engineers I've worked with have been from outside the US than the male engineers. Which to me reinforces the (somewhat obvious) idea that there is a strong cultural component here.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:24 PM on August 23, 2013



I'm a female programmer, and as a bonus I am also Hispanic.

Some days I don't get why there aren't more female programmers. The work environment I have is extremely family friendly. I have a flexible work schedule. I can leave at a good time to pick up my daughter at preschool and then log on later after she is asleep to finish any tasks for the day. I can take vacation days without scheduling them far in advance, or work from home if my kid is sick. My daughter came to work with me and slept under my desk for the first six months of her life while I built Drupal modules. Maybe every workplace doesn't have these perks, but software companies commonly have features like maternity leave and working from home arrangements that are rare and sought after in other fields.

But you really have to slog through a lot of manure to find that kind of happy working environment.

I think some of it starts in college. There is a perception that computer science courses are easy to fail, and that they are graded on a curve. So, if you're new to programming and never messed around with it much there is a perception that you're already far behind and likely to end up on the 'D'/'F' part of the curve. This prevents lots of people from trying a class, let alone taking a major, especially if you are risk-averse or sensitive to criticism or afraid of failure. Based on my own self-experience as well as having known lots of women, I would think that women are socialized to avoid risk, setbacks, bad grades and opportunities to get in over your head.

I went ahead and majored in Computer Science despite my terror because I thought college would be my last chance to learn things that I couldn't learn on my own, namely programming and foreign languages. I was especially nervous about the math requirements because I always found math class to be tedious and unexciting. But there is something about discrete math and programming logic that just work with my brain. The essence of computer science isn't understanding integrals (although that's handy on very rare occasions), it's more about understanding the scope of a problem and methodically breaking it down to its essential elements. That logical breakdown is something that I think is not out of reach of most women, and something that many of my hyper-organized female friends would excel at if they were interested in a career change someday.

Still, it's tough being a minority of any kind. I screwed up a few months ago and while fixing the problem just kept thinking over and over again that the fix had to be perfect because I was going to make all female programmers look bad otherwise. That's a pretty crappy place to be mentally. It makes me think about sitting in class and being afraid to ask a question because not only would it make me look stupid, but since I was the only female in my class I would reinforce the "girls can't program" stereotype.

I gave a talk at PyOhio about geographic data projection last month. (It was awesome.) I counted the number of women also giving talks. Including me there was three total. I have a policy of not giving talks about being a woman programmer or a programmer who is a mother because it's so easy to end up being the "lady programmer" who talks about "lady" issues in the field instead of being an expert in x.

I took over recruiting and screening applicants from the CTO. I did this partially because he was overworked and I knew I would be good at it. But I also did it partially because I really wanted to preserve the programming culture in my company and I knew that I would pick up on things that my male coworkers would miss. I focus really hard on finding qualified, smart people, but I also get to weed out people who talk down to me, people who don't listen, people with overinflated self-images, and people who I know would not respect me as a senior coworker.

I totally understand women giving up and moving on from this industry because it takes so much extra energy just to exist and progress in a career, especially in a working environment where you get no control over who you work with and how they treat you. I am very lucky that I have the workplace clout that I've managed to acquire.

In summary, things that I think affect the number of women programmers:
- Perception of high barriers to entry
- The pressure from not just representing yourself, but all of womenkind
- General loneliness & pigeonholing
- Dealing with people who treat you as less than male programmers
posted by Alison at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2013 [39 favorites]


It actually makes sense that Winer doesn't know of any women in programming. There's plenty of them out there, they're just avoiding him.
posted by happyroach at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


We are not ants.
posted by koeselitz


Says you.

As a woman and a former programmer, I'm saddened to know that things have not apparently gotten better since I left the field in 2001. I still dink around with tech now and then and I've thought about going back to the coding world but I just can't imaging ever actually doing it.
posted by workerant at 1:44 PM on August 23, 2013


Oh, and I feel particularly lucky to mention my mother. She worked for Control Data on their big mainframes, first as a programmer, and then, in the '70s and on, as their first female programming manager.

She succeeded based on intelligence and hard work, but she also cared very much for her team. One of the hardest times in her entire life was having to gradually fire all her department, as the company started to fail.

She introduced me to computers at her work... playing Lunar Lander from a dot matrix terminal attached to the mainframe... and then bringing home one of the first "portable" computers, attached to the internet with a slow acoustic modem.

Really formidable woman. I miss her.
posted by markkraft at 1:45 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I read a really interesting blog post a few weeks ago about how women also get pressure from the other direction - the women in computer science are often expected to be "have-it-all" types, the elite held up as examples. The author asked you to imagine a man in technology, and let you come up with your natural kind of average coder dude image. She then asked you to think of a woman in technology, and asserted that you were more likely to think of someone like Marissa Miller than a female counterpart to your male image. She exhorted more women not to be scared off by this, ending with a cheeky call like "we need more average-to-middling women in technology!"

I wish I could find it to share.
posted by Corinth at 2:09 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Corinth - I think you mean I need terrible female engineers
posted by jacalata at 2:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


That's it! Thank you!
posted by Corinth at 2:28 PM on August 23, 2013


I've thought for a while that the gender-imbalance in programming was largely an American, or perhaps English-speaking cultural problem. This is purely anecdotal, but it seems there's a good gender balance for CS graduates coming out of India, for example. I recently worked for a Taiwanese company, and I'd say the gender split was almost 50/50 for the part of the engineering team in Taipei (and was completely male in the US office).

Anyone know if there are statistics or data somewhere to back this up?
posted by heathkit at 2:36 PM on August 23, 2013


It's worth pointing out that the "Tech Industry" isn't the only place where computer programming happens. In the environment I work in, in terms of people who program as part of their job, it's pretty damn close to 50/50 male/female split.

I don't think the question is "why can't women program?", but more "why don't women work in the commercial tech industry?".

And a great answer to that question is the existence of overrated dumbasses like Dave Winer.
posted by Jimbob at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I don't get why people jump to poorly thought out evolutionary technobabble to explain issues like this. Why do people try to find some kind of weird, unscientific biological explanation for the gender imbalance in tech, when a much more simple and rational explanation would be the various cultural forces at play. It just seems like a blatant disregard of Occam's razor.
posted by heathkit at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


There have definitely been studies on gender differences in math majors internationally-- surprise, surprise...
"We tested some recently proposed hypotheses that try to explain a supposed gender gap in math performance and found they were not supported by the data," says Janet Mertz, senior author of the study and a professor of oncology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
There's an interesting work in process paper here, Failure Is Not an Option:
International Women in Computer Science
, which has more of a bibliography but it's not clear when the interviews are from as nothing in the bib is later than 1997. I'd be interested to see any other studies on this.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm glad to see pushback like this, even though Winer doesn't have a following as such any more, because hopefully it will make the other grand old men of programming who like to prognosticate to their legions of 20-year-old followers think twice before spouting similar bullshit.

nothing will stop them talking about painters, but
posted by bonaldi at 4:32 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Professor of Oncology?

Anyway, the recommendations are a little lame, to say nothing of circular: "Mertz and Kane recommend increasing the number of math-certified teachers in middle and high schools, decreasing the number of children living in poverty and ensuring gender equality."
posted by IndigoJones at 4:34 PM on August 23, 2013


Also, I don't get why people jump to poorly thought out evolutionary technobabble to explain issues like this. Why do people try to find some kind of weird, unscientific biological explanation for the gender imbalance in tech, when a much more simple and rational explanation would be the various cultural forces at play. It just seems like a blatant disregard of Occam's razor.
posted by heathkit at 2:46 PM on August 23 [+] [!]



Simply because it absolves them of responsibility. If they can find some bullshit evo-psych or pop-biology excuse for their own complicity in maintaining the very cultural forces that they are superficially addressing they don't have to feel bad about being total jackasses.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:59 PM on August 23, 2013


Here's what I have to say about coders...

Boy coders - Yay!
Girl coders - Yay!
Trans coders - Yay!

I envy you all. Now, can you fix that thing where the cache stops working...
posted by Samizdata at 5:20 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


(BTW, I stink on ice at coding other than little quick and dirty hacks.)
posted by Samizdata at 5:20 PM on August 23, 2013


People like Winer--people who are sexists but think they aren't--are a big part of the problem. Denial of the reality prevents meaningful discussions about how to improve the climate for women.

I see people fitting a similar mold holding up every major movement today. Racists who think or say they aren't racists, transphobic or homophobic people who think or say they aren't, people who say they oppose the war but do nothing to change the status quo, people who say they oppose government spying or police militarization or any number of other things but do nothing to change the status quo. In my own life, I recently watched how when my 25 year old girlfriend came out as a lesbian to her Harvard-educated dyed-in-the-blue pro-gay pro-choice liberal parents they freaked out big time.

Whatever people believe about themselves, it's their actions that show you where they really stand.
posted by jlh at 5:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


jlh: I think some of the reason for that is that "being a racist/sexist/*ist" is something that has some social stigma attached to it, so people want to believe they're not. But I think we also have a false sense of what it means to be racist/sexist/*ist, where we assume that you have to be consciously trying in order to ever do anything wrong.

That is, people don't consciously think that "women are inferior to men", and therefore believe it's impossible for them to commit sexist acts.
posted by thegears at 7:31 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the plus side, I'm now imagining him as Elmer Fudd and reading this like "Wascally Wabbit!" is making it a tiny bit better. A very tiny bit.

Be vewwy vewwy quiet... I'm manspwaining here...
posted by jonp72 at 9:11 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Still kinda proud of getting yelled at by Dave Winer at a blog conference because Jessamyn and I (yes, our Jessamyn) were talking in the hallway. He is such an idiot: to be on his good side re: anything would be dishonorable.

Also: when I was still working in software, some of our best programmers were women, but they were still vastly outnumbered. At least at that company the ones who were there and were good were put into leadership positions. This was ca. 1996-1999, I can't imagine how it's changed since.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh hey, Snow Crash is relevant here too!
posted by casarkos at 11:22 PM on August 23, 2013


Peering into my own sexist assumptions, I realize that I would be somewhat surprised to hear a woman programmer say, for example, that she's going to spend the weekend reading up on randomized algorithms, or that she's tired today because she was up late reinstalling Debian.

Probably the reason I would be surprised is that antisocial nerdiness is gendered as male. (And that I'm influenced by my limited anecdotal experience.)

Of course, outside coder circles there's a stigma against spending the weekends by yourself doing nerdy stuff, and I think this is even stronger for women, who culturally are supposed to be very social, with a certain leeway given to Emily Dickinson.

Not that programmers have to spend their spare time like this, but I think many of today's male programmers were forged in an individual period of antisocial nerdiness. The Jargon File, a dictionary of hacker slang (coming out of a heavily male-gendered subculture, and perhaps more idiosyncratic than authoritative, but still interesting), says this about the larval phase:
Describes a period of monomaniacal concentration on coding apparently passed through by all fledgling hackers. Common symptoms include the perpetration of more than one 36-hour hacking run in a given week; neglect of all other activities including usual basics like food, sleep, and personal hygiene; and a chronic case of advanced bleary-eye. Can last from 6 months to 2 years, the apparent median being around 18 months. A few so afflicted never resume a more `normal' life, but the ordeal seems to be necessary to produce really wizardly (as opposed to merely competent) programmers. See also wannabee. A less protracted and intense version of larval stage (typically lasting about a month) may recur when one is learning a new OS or programming language.
The heavily gendered metaphor of the wizard is interesting. The Jargon File and related writings also have lots of references to monasticism, gurus, Zen masters, and so on. The author has a piece called Dancing With The Gods, which from a gender perspective is kind of complex. For example:
[My new Wiccan friends] showed me that I was a natural witch, albeit of a kind uncommon in this century. Most spontaneous Wiccan theophanies happen to women. For a man to spontaneously channel the Goat-foot God before training is unusual, though not unheard-of.
I'm afraid this comment has gone off the deep end, and I have no idea what my point is anymore, so I'm off to spend this Saturday reading the new O'Reilly book about parallell programming in Haskell...
posted by mbrock at 11:48 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


...a woman programmer say, for example, that she's going to spend the weekend reading up on randomized algorithms, or that she's tired today because she was up late reinstalling Debian.

Ha, that's me in a nutshell. I just spent Friday night getting to the bottom of a bug I couldn't get out of my head. And I'll probably read a few chunks of various programming books before the weekend is up. Maybe try out a software package I've been meaning to look into.

Thinking back to grade school, all of my teachers had the same thing to say on my report cards: She's a good student, but she's too introverted. Needs to be more social, needs to talk more. I came to dread report cards, not because of my grades, but because of those comments. It probably didn't help that there were all of 5 girls in my class, none on my wavelength, and I got shy around boys at some point.

Come to find, years later, that I make a pretty great programmer. But not before my self-confidence took a major hit. I bet the little boy programmers-to-be didn't get comments like that on their report cards. But even if they did, I think our society has a major prejudice against introversion, and it is making a lot of little (and big) kids feel terrible about themselves.
posted by mantecol at 12:06 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


After corresponding with Winer whilst doing some RSS and Radio Userland testing, I just resigned myself to classing him as a "somewhat useful idiot."
posted by Samizdata at 12:35 AM on August 24, 2013


Dave Winer on why he can't say 'nigger...'

God damn, but that guy is an annoying and disappointing fuck.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:40 AM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


mantecol, yeah, that gets right to what I mean.

As a guy growing up with introverted traits, there's a lot of negativity about it, but there are also cultural niches, and computer nerdhood is one. I discovered that programming was really interesting to me, then I went to college to study CS, and it led to a natural career, but it all feels rather accidental. Like the major reason why I'm into computers is that they were the most fun hobby for introverted boys in the 1990s.

Another reason I started programming is that I started using Linux and none of my games worked and there were no Tumblrs and Facebooks to get lost in. Linux was pretty difficult to get running and use comfortably, you actually had to use your brain, read guides, and tinker a lot. Nowadays we call that "poor usability," but I'm really thankful for it. Which is why I think it's weird that "IT in schools" means giving kids iPads. Those things are designed not to require any learning or thinking at all!

I digress... But let's just talk about anything other than Dave Winer, right?
posted by mbrock at 2:51 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


mantecol, why were there so few girls in your class in grade school?
posted by maryr at 1:19 PM on August 24, 2013


I was thinking about this (women in tech/nerdery and social structures around it) and I realized that a lot of the group interactions - more in social rather than professional contexts - that are majority-men that I've been in end up with a gender dynamic that's sort of 'wendy and the lost boys'. Some kind of default-caretaker role for women that seems similar to the push for women to move into more 'soft skill' areas like support and training and such.

Because even when I'm one of the boys, I'm still not one of the boys.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:56 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


mantecol, why were there so few girls in your class in grade school?

Freak year? We started out with more, but some moved away. There were probably only 15-20 boys in my class. It was a relatively small school.
posted by mantecol at 6:08 PM on August 24, 2013


Oh for fuck's sake.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:06 PM on August 25, 2013


Oh Dave.

The other day I saw someone on Twitter asking around for a copy of the unedited version of a Scripting News post. It took me right back to 2003. Now I guess a whole new generation's going to learn how exhausting and pointless it is arguing with that guy.
posted by moss at 5:52 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


mbrock: I realize that I would be somewhat surprised to hear a woman programmer say, for example, that she's going to spend the weekend reading up on randomized algorithms, or that she's tired today because she was up late reinstalling Debian.
*lightbulb goes on* I thought 'they' just thought reading was a weird way to pass the time, not what I was reading. Dur!

Second generation programmer/coder though it's light stuff (I've mostly learned enough modern stuff to document it). Raising a third gen ...
posted by tilde at 6:16 PM on August 26, 2013


I did not know the history of his trollishness and take back my earlier assumption that he is well-meaning.
posted by annekate
influence

I disagree with those calling Dave Winer a troll. He certainly craves and often demands attention, but i have no doubt these are his sincere beliefs. I think it's almost impossible to understand what happened here without understanding Winer and his past.

Dave Winer is a well known bully. He has a long history of trying to push people around, of attacking others and then deleting the offending text the next day (hence Mark Pilgrim keeping track of the changes for a while). Of course, Winer doesn't see himself that way. He sees himself as a loving, friendly guy. So you can either believe Winer, or you can take into consideration the numerous accounts of his being a very angry guy, in this thread, and elsewhere (look up "Winer Number").

But that's just one part of the deal. Dave Winer is also overly sensitive and incredibly thin skinned. He constantly accuses others of attacking him, of being rude. He'll block you on twitter or ban you from commenting on his blog in a heart beat, and if any blog post that gets push back at all, or receives criticism, he'll immediately turn the comments off and claim he's being attacked and abused.

The yen and yang of a guy that has a history of exhibiting bullying behavior yet constantly feels he's being attacked isn't something I can even begin to explain, but that in a nutshell is Dave Winer.

So what happened here was easily predictable:

1. Dave Winer writes a bunch of offensive nonsense.
2. The post gets a lot of criticism.
3. He claims people are taking it too seriously and none of this really matters.
4. People continue to attack the article, which causes Winer to claim everyone is attacking HIM, abusing him, so he shuts down comments and starts attacking back.
5. Eventually, it all comes back to Dave Winer, with him complaining about all the ways Men have it bad and how feminism needs to be cleaned up.

Here's a sample of his tweets since the incident:

1. @YuleHeibel -- all true, and remember there's a person inside there. It made such an impression the way people attacked me for having an opinion of one thing my gender might be better at. It's such a sin to think men might be good. Really is tragic.

2. @matthewburton @corbett3000 -- we are white males and responsible for everything wrong with everything.

3. If a man explains something in a forest and no woman is there is he still a dick?

4. @MsEntropy -- so much of what I've heard in the last week is STFU you have no right to speak because of what's between your legs.

Winer even comically started referring to the 1st Amendment on twitter, as if critics were claiming he didn't have a right to speak, rather than simply claiming his views were ignorant.

In the end, Dave Winer would see himself as the victim. Winer always sees himself as a victim. There was no way the discussion would end up any other way.

So these comments hit the nail on the head:

No, it's like getting mad at an old dog who just shat his dog bed. No amount of anger will change the fact that Winer is simply incapable of having an intelligent discussion on this or any number of topics.
posted by GuyZero


These folks then enter the conversation in clueless, offensive ways, get smacked down hard, and then circle the wagons instead of thinking about what they could have done or said better. And you get a bunch of people rubbing sore butts grumping about how "clearly we can't have a rational discussion about this." It's an ugly cycle that doesn't end up being all that productive, and I'm not really sure how to break it.
posted by annekate


Any discussion where Dave Winer receives any criticism is a waste of time. He's simply not capable of being involved in any debate that doesn't treat his views as correct. Anyone that tries to get through to him is wasting his or her time.

However, i'm happy to see, despite the fact that Dave Winer's influence is relegated to the sidelines and mostly ignored today, that his ignorant views were attacked and ridiculed. They should be. It wasn't that long ago when NFL coaches didn't believe a black man had the intelligence to play quarterback. Today, anyone that claimed that would be laughed out of the league. That is, in fact, the correct response.

Dave Winer will claim his blatant sexism (and his ignorance of history), is simply noticing the differences between men and women. That's nonsense. His views are dangerous and alarmingly ignorant, and it's a gift to know that they're still out there alive and well in 2013, no matter what strides we've made in this area.

My brother recently had a baby girl. When she's around 18 and choosing a major (if college is where life takes her) Dave Winer will be in his 70s. So I'm not worried about Dave Winer. But I'm worried that such sexism will still be around, and that's a view and problem that needs to be attacked and destroyed, even if there's a few bruised egos along the way.
posted by justgary at 6:21 PM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


He has a long history of trying to push people around, of attacking others and then deleting the offending text the next day (hence Mark Pilgrim keeping track of the changes for a while).

It is worth noting how Mark Pilgrim's Winer Watch website ended. Here is a good link.

tl;dr: Dave did not like being held accountable for his actions. He demanded that the Winer Watcher site stop showing his changes. If it did not, he would stop writing. Period. If everyone would not play by HIS rules, he would take his bat and ball and go home. My response, and that of many others, was fuck YES. But Pilgrim said he could not be responsible in even the smallest part, for silencing someone, even someone who badly needed to be silenced.

It is amazing how Winer could frame himself as being bullied, when he was bullying his way out of being called out for being a bully. Here is the exact message where he called for people to harass Mark Pilgrim by email to get him to stop.

Dave said he could not continue to write if the entire internet would pick apart his writing. Right Dave, you mean, like everybody else on the internet that has to take responsibility for what they write? I remember the olden days of Usenet, when you wrote a post, you would hit the POST button, and you'd get a message, "Your message is about to be sent to thousands of servers worldwide, can be read by millions of people, and cannot be deleted. Do you REALLY WANT TO DO THIS? (Yes/No). But Dave never learned that lesson. This is what makes Dave a troll. He acts as if he can insult people and degrade them with impunity, with no consideration of how people will respond. And if they do respond, they are wrong and it only increases his fervor, and his certainty he is right.

My brother recently had a baby girl. When she's around 18 and choosing a major (if college is where life takes her) Dave Winer will be in his 70s. So I'm not worried about Dave Winer. But I'm worried that such sexism will still be around, and that's a view and problem that needs to be attacked and destroyed, even if there's a few bruised egos along the way.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

In order to understand Winer, you must understand that he only ever had one thought in his life: outliners. Every software project he does is a hierarchical outliner of some sort. Winer lives to establish hierarchies of authority, and of course he is the King, since he wrote the hierarchy. This is why Winer has worked so hard to establish his hierarchies via internet standards. His evil will live long after him, if it is an official IETF standard. I know a woman (with far more credentials than Winer and more years in the industry) who resigned from a key role on an IETF committee because it required dealing with Winer, who bullied everyone and acted like he was the committee. His behavior is well known, and now Winer complains that he never gets invited to important committees. You reap what you sow, Dave.

But alas, many others will be forced to reap what Dave has sowed, for many years to come. He insists on structuring his authoritarianism into network systems and software that will live on for decades. And of course only a hierarchy of computer wizards (which are, unsurprisingly, all old white men like him) are fit to maintain it, since they understand hierarchies, it is the Male nature to act in hierarchies. Women are genetically unfit, their gender is incapable of understanding a hierarchy in which all authority comes from the Sun King, Dave Winer. It is the natural order for men to control the world, and the internet.

And those attitudes will go on indefinitely, as long as Winer exists. One thing I have found out about internet trolls, is that there are two types. All trolls live off attention, they only want one thing: to provoke you and get you to react. One type of troll is easily dismissed, if you don't feed the troll, he starves, and is gone. But there is another type, a truly demented type of troll that just will never stop. Their insanity fuels an intensity of activity that no sane person could sustain. Even if people could fight back with that level of intensity for a moment, that only makes the troll stronger. And that troll will sustain that insane intensity, day after day, month after month, year after year for decades. It keeps them alive, it is their purpose for existence.

At this point, there is nothing that can be done about Winer. You can ignore him, and he will just explore new sectors of the internet to antagonize, people that don't know how he operates. This sort of activity will give him new life, he will be doing this until he is 115 years old. And in those years, perhaps he will again manage to dupe an institution like Harvard into lending their authority to his insanity.

Ah, but there is one decent response. Some have figured it out. They are doing the one thing that Dave finds intolerable, and cannot fight against: rewrite him out of history. In the larger picture, Winer is an insignificant person, he is only internet-famous amongst other internet-famous idiots like Scoble. They are a self-contained circle jerk of self-importance. The internet has moved on. Let us erase those chapters where they existed and somehow convinced others they were important. Even Harvard has erased every trace of his existence at their institution.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:21 AM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


His behavior is well known, and now Winer complains that he never gets invited to important committees. You reap what you sow, Dave.

And that tech sites won't cover his newest endeavor, or that no one will work with him, or that he's not invited to speak at some conference. And he never, ever, considers it could be because of his past actions. I've said it before, Winer has zero self-awareness, and that prevents any possibility of changing.

But there is another type, a truly demented type of troll that just will never stop. Their insanity fuels an intensity of activity that no sane person could sustain. Even if people could fight back with that level of intensity for a moment, that only makes the troll stronger. And that troll will sustain that insane intensity, day after day, month after month, year after year for decades. It keeps them alive, it is their purpose for existence.

And he's out living much of the criticism from his past already. I've noticed that many blog post that covered Winer's troubled past, many first hand accounts of dealing with Winer, have vanished. Either the posts were deleted, or the blog is gone. I know of one prolific writer (Writes for Macworld) that deleted every mention of Winer in his blog and won't use his name on twitter because he simply doesn't want to deal with him any longer.

I once wrote a blog post about Winer being upset that he was called 'caustic' by a magazine. The article was largely complimentary, but Winer was still upset. I wrote a simple post about accepting our actions both good and bad, that you can't deny the bad and only accept the good. My blog was read by a few people and my mother. Seriously, a couple of hits a day. I received an email the next day from Winer telling me that I seemed like a very angry person, despite nothing angry in my post.

At this point, there is nothing that can be done about Winer. You can ignore him, and he will just explore new sectors of the internet to antagonize, people that don't know how he operates.

Very true, and it's obvious that the new people that listen to Winer either don't know of his past, or ignore it because they believe he's this brilliant guy. Troubling, but I'm still happy that many choose to ignore him after years of his nonsense. It's a start, I guess.

Ah, but there is one decent response. Some have figured it out. They are doing the one thing that Dave finds intolerable, and cannot fight against: rewrite him out of history. In the larger picture, Winer is an insignificant person, he is only internet-famous amongst other internet-famous idiots like Scoble. They are a self-contained circle jerk of self-importance.

I've honestly never seen anyone as concerned with their legacy as Winer. Almost weekly I'll read an article claiming Winer invented RSS, which he didn't. But sometimes the loudest voice gets the attention. If history is written by Winer and his apologists, that history will be worthless.
posted by justgary at 7:16 PM on September 22, 2013


I know of one prolific writer (Writes for Macworld) that deleted every mention of Winer in his blog..

I did that.

I've honestly never seen anyone as concerned with their legacy as Winer.

Fortunately, bits of WinerLog and most of Eye on Winer is stored in the Internet Wayback Machine. His legacy will be preserved. Just not the legacy he wanted. For those who want his true legacy to come forward, I recommend this archived page "People Dave has treated like shit."

I have just sent an email to Mr EOW to see if I can entice him to come out of retirement. Someone has to do the onerous job of keeping an eye on Winer's abuses, and collecting them for a permanent record, and most importantly, trivialize his "legacy" and expunge him from history.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:37 PM on September 22, 2013


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