Join 3,368 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Is pr0n an appropriate metaphor for databases?
April 30, 2009 5:29 AM   Subscribe

This presentation was given at the golden gate ruby conference. The author of the talk has posted an apology of sorts, but some people still aren't happy.
posted by handee (148 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is, without exaggerating, the single least-important controversy that has ever occured in the history of humanity.

I have heard people in front of me in line have debates with themselves about which value meal to choose that are more consequential than this.
posted by Damn That Television at 5:43 AM on April 30, 2009 [29 favorites]


(Which is not to say that I don't like the post, handee -- the post is fine.)
posted by Damn That Television at 5:44 AM on April 30, 2009


He should be ashamed of himself. Those 4 geeks on slide 13 are obvious stereotypes.
posted by Muddler at 5:44 AM on April 30, 2009


Don't take your love to town.
posted by pracowity at 5:56 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


By far the most compelling outcome of all this is why_'s A Selection Of Thoughts From Actual Women which would be fantastic absent any context.
posted by Skorgu at 5:57 AM on April 30, 2009 [18 favorites]


much love for the {couchdb, vacous} colocation.
posted by neustile at 5:59 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is, without exaggerating, the single least-important controversy that has ever occured in the history of humanity.

That is, without any exaggeration or hyperbole at all, the stupidest comment I have ever read.
posted by splice at 6:01 AM on April 30, 2009 [27 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about the presentation itself, but I give a giant PFFFFFT to that non-apology.

In the case of my talk, people knew what to expect, they *picked* the talk, and were warned by the organizers before I started that I would be using imagery potentially offensive to some. The topic of my talk was obvious, and I would have hoped that people who were likely to be offended would have simply chosen not to attend my talk or read my slides on the internet.

A talk that's presumably full of important information that you need to develop your skills or you wouldn't be attending this conference in the first place is full of pornographic imagery, but if your pretty little head is going to be offended by that, why, you should just stay away and miss out on the information. It's like doing business deals at a strip club and telling the female Vice President that she doesn't need to be in on the negotiations if she doesn't like staring at other women's jiggling tits.

Why not just write Boyz only! Girlz keep out! right on the door and get it over with?
posted by jacquilynne at 6:02 AM on April 30, 2009 [44 favorites]


I will say that the "apology" is garden-variety weasel-words: "I'm sorry if you were offended."
posted by DWRoelands at 6:04 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


From his apology:

People may be driven by personal choice or cultural background to take offense at any number of things, of course, but I think there is always a clear difference between trying to offend people vs people choosing to take offense.


And then:

In the case of my talk, people knew what to expect, they *picked* the talk, and were warned by the organizers before I started that I would be using imagery potentially offensive to some.


So, which is it? Knowing that the talk was offensive (and gratuitously so) and failing to change it counts as 'trying to offend' in my book.
posted by Sova at 6:09 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ.

Is it really so much to ask that people not "enliven" dry ppt lectures with porny images of women? I guess so.

The apology was so bad it made me laugh. That's something, at least.

On preview, what jacquilynne said.
posted by rtha at 6:09 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about the presentation itself

I don't. This is for a business conference, be a bit fucking professional.

Also, he doesn't tie it all back together with another porn star at the end
posted by graventy at 6:11 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, just supposing he/they (those who don't have a problem with the presentation) are right and everybody who gets weird about naked bodies is all just so loser-like, can they not see at all that nudish guys are presented as performers and women as receiving vessels, that there is a far greater quantity of naked women then naked men? C'mon, where's the hot musclebound beefcake to distract me from this presentation, and let's have both gay guys and straight guys while we're at it. No? Why not?

When that question is answered honestly, they'll understand why I believe in one less apology than they do.
posted by b33j at 6:19 AM on April 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about the presentation itself

Apparently, the actual presentation had more slides that were removed from the version you see now:
If he had left it at a few introductory jokes, I would be writing a very different post. Instead the porn references continued with images of scantily-clad women gratuitously splashed across technical diagrams and intro slides. As he got into code snippets, he inserted interstitial images every few slides (removed from the slides below).
The Ruby community's big problem is that its BDFL is too much of a nice guy, which left a gigantic asshole vacuum.

See also: DHH, "What's wrong with being sexy?", acts_as_douche.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 6:21 AM on April 30, 2009


"...we have very few minorities in the Ruby community, especially women. Minorities do need to be more represented!"

Way to make them feel really, really welcome. What a nimrod.
posted by hermitosis at 6:22 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, that non-apology rather transparently played lip service to the concerns brought up about the presentation without actually addressing any of the real issues. For example:

People may be driven by personal choice or cultural background to take offense at any number of things, of course, but I think there is always a clear difference between trying to offend people vs people choosing to take offense.

Intention doesn't really matter in these sorts of situations. Something can be offensive to a group of people regardless of what motives were involved in creating it. It's unreasonable to expect people to choose not to be offended by something, and having an attitude that people should should just lighten up and ignore things they are offended by never really helps matters.

It's fine to purposely offend people if you're a comedian, or an artist, or /b/tard on 4chan, but in the business world you're going to get hit with this kind of backlash if your offensive joke doesn't go over well. That's the kind of thing people get fired over. A lot of people still don't get it for some reason, so maybe a few episodes of The Office should be required viewing for anyone who wants to try out their hilarious and edgy comedy material in business presentations.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:27 AM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Not offensive to me, though I agree with the charge of unprofessional behavior. Sexism is a bit more of a stretch, but I can sorta see it if it makes the whole thing into a boy's club. But the devil's advocate in me wonders why handee only posted the views of Matt's detractors, with no arguments made in his defense (besides his own pseudo-apology).
posted by Edgewise at 6:29 AM on April 30, 2009


DTV: It's not just a bunch of self-important bloggers shouting at each other.

This is about a couple of things that are very important, even critical, to the professional lives of software engineers.

The first is the changing nature of software development and its impact on professionalism. Ten years ago, when I started programming professionally, it was still a largely solitary activity, supported perhaps by your organization and a few good books and websites published by the authors of whatever platform you use. A year ago I came to RoR from J2EE, and was immediately blown away. Not just by the platform itself, but by the fact that it was so directly reliant (for documentation, for features, for support) on its user community. Any given Rails application has literally dozens of authors -- not just the core platform, but the dozens of plugins and bits of code copied and pasted from recipe books and blogs. You have the source to every single piece, and so you often wind up tweaking things here and there and submitting patches to the original author. My productivity literally tripled when I switched.

To use Rails is to participate in that community, one way or another. And this means that you're dependent on a bunch of random freaks to do your job. Now, Rails is a fantastic platform, and I'm pretty weird myself, so I mostly get along with said random freaks. But this incident is a reminder that the community can be an amazingly oblivious and Aspergian stereotype sometimes. That makes professional programmers from traditional and conservative organizations (like me) nervous about the future of this fantastic resource we've found.

The second is the still-problematic gender issue in software engineering. It's unlikely we'll ever hit a 50/50 ratio in our field. But there are plenty of smart, talented female programmers out there who are thoroughly alienated by horseshit like this. I've read blog posts about women who go around recruiting male colleagues to come with them to Ruby conferences -- not just to get their coworkers excited about Ruby, but so they have a friend with them to help stave off the creepy dorks that start closing in on them as soon as they show up. It's sad, and it disgusts and embarrasses me. I'm going to have a daughter soon, and while I'd be overjoyed if one day she became a great programmer, I'd also be heartbroken if she was still having to put up with leering child-men staring at her tits and talking down to her about code twenty-five years from now.
posted by xthlc at 6:35 AM on April 30, 2009 [34 favorites]


A talk that's presumably full of important information that you need to develop your skills or you wouldn't be attending this conference in the first place is full of pornographic imagery

Oh please. There's nothing on that slides you couldn't learn in 10 minutes reading some documentation. I was going to say in 5 minutes on Wikipedia, but the CouchDB entry is kind of sparse.

I thought the real point of these conferences was to network, or hear about new ideas. If you actually want to learn how to use something, documentation usually works better.

And furthermore, you could even argue that if the point of the talk was to get people thinking about CouchDB, this probably worked pretty well. I mean we're all talking about it, we're all looking at the slides. Lots of people are going to learn about CouchDB and read through the 'controversial' slides, and the next time they think "Hey, I could really use a highly scalable, distributed key-value/document storage system" they're going to already know about CouchDB.

Anyway, the point is, whether you think the slides were appropriate or not, this was about marketing not 'teaching'. And the fact that the slides were controversial probably increased the efficacy. On the other hand, it may be a problem for this particular guy, who many people now consider to be a douche bag.
posted by delmoi at 6:38 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can use somewhat controversial stuff like this in inappropriate situations and still get everyone on side if you are sharp, wry, witty, really make something incisive and relevant.

Now I've no idea what the talk that accompanied these slides consisted of, but this looks like hurhur lol Sting and a picture of an ass. It's a few porn pictures crowbarred inappropriately into the start of a presentation, then it kind of tails off. I was waiting for some sort of punchline or a withering conclusion of some sort at the end, but no.

This was a bad idea primarily because he couldn't pull it off, not necessarily because of the content alone. He must have a real lack of self awareness or a huge pair of balls to stand up and present this half-assed, eBaumsworld humour to a room of people (including, I presume, real, no-foolin' females.)
posted by fire&wings at 6:41 AM on April 30, 2009


I loved how the rubyrailways.com response (the 'people' link), as part of it's enlightened view of the situation, refers to the images involved as "nude chicks".
posted by rocket88 at 6:46 AM on April 30, 2009


A year ago I came to RoR from J2EE, and was immediately blown away. Not just by the platform itself, but by the fact that it was so directly reliant (for documentation, for features, for support) on its user community. ... You have the source to every single piece, and so you often wind up tweaking things here and there and submitting patches to the original author. My productivity literally tripled when I switched.

Zed Shaw's rant about Ruby (which he seems to have taken down!) definitely caused me to put ruby in the "Stuff I don't care about" metaphorical bin. In other words, it went from something I was interested in trying to something I wasn't too excited about. As far as rails goes, well, who wants to sit around and do web apps 24/7 anyway?

This presentation was at a ruby conference, but CouchDB was actually written in erlang, and twitter is written in Scala now. I actually think Ruby is, or was, actually a bit of a fad that's peaked. I don't think it will go away, or anything like that, but it doesn't strike me as all that exciting.

But then again, I'm more interested in the ideas being implemented then the language used. As long as it's not something butt ugly like VB I'm happy.
posted by delmoi at 6:50 AM on April 30, 2009


And furthermore, you could even argue that if the point of the talk was to get people thinking about CouchDB, this probably worked pretty well.

Damien Katz:
Yes, I saw the slide of the presentation CouchDB: Perform like a Pr0n Star. It's sparked a raging debate all over the internet that's taken a life of it's own. I'm getting some testy emails. So I think I should say something, lest some people interpret my silence as approval.
Not all publicity is good publicity.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 6:51 AM on April 30, 2009


Urgh. I can really only second xthlc's sentiments, and add that I find it phenominally depressing that the "computer nerd" world I was in as a teen, socially awkward and maladapted though much of it was, is so much less than what I run into as an adult, where crappy homophobia, sexism, and bullshit arguments about how it's all those damn bitches & faggots not having a sense of humour that's the real problem.

And furthermore, you could even argue that if the point of the talk was to get people thinking about CouchDB, this probably worked pretty well. I mean we're all talking about it, we're all looking at the slides. Lots of people are going to learn about CouchDB and read through the 'controversial' slides, and the next time they think "Hey, I could really use a highly scalable, distributed key-value/document storage system" they're going to already know about CouchDB.

Hey, perhaps he can up the ante next time by having a big-lipped black fella reclining under a tree with some sweet, sweet watermelon when he hits the bit on the RESTful nature of the code.
posted by rodgerd at 7:03 AM on April 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


How to make a good presentation out of irrelevant slides and colorful language and make people want to pay attention and learn rather than stop at "Oh holy shit, PORN!" (Cal Henderson, "Why I hate Django" at Djangocon 2008)
posted by ardgedee at 7:04 AM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


I actually think Ruby is, or was, actually a bit of a fad that's peaked. I don't think it will go away, or anything like that, but it doesn't strike me as all that exciting.

Possibly, which would make me sad, because Ruby's really nice for me; it just clicks for me in the way Perl did, and, to a large degree, feels like "OO Perl done right", a description that will doubtless annoy people in the Ruby and Perl worlds. It fits my mental map and it's nice to work with.

In fact, I suspect a lot of the uptake of Ruby is actually the non-existence (in any meaningful sense) of Perl 6; those of us who find Python too much of a bad B&D experience and got sick of waiting for something to happen in the Perloverse are probably a big chunk of the Ruby audience...
posted by rodgerd at 7:07 AM on April 30, 2009


This presentation was at a ruby conference, but CouchDB was actually written in erlang, and twitter is written in Scala now. I actually think Ruby is, or was, actually a bit of a fad that's peaked.

The thing is, I think more-or-less ALL software platforms are going to go the way of Ruby and Rails now. Massively distributed development, reliant on an active blog and forum community for documentation and technical support, deep integration of the platform and its extensions with distributed package management and revision control, etc. The language or application doesn't matter so much as the fact that no developer is an island anymore.
posted by xthlc at 7:09 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyway, the point is, whether you think the slides were appropriate or not, this was about marketing not 'teaching'. And the fact that the slides were controversial probably increased the efficacy.

From the perspective of someone who does development at an ad agency, this is not at all effective marketing. It mostly brands CouchDB as something used by dumb people who lack creativity and so rely on "edgy" cliches. It might make an okay beer ad, but technology tends to be a very different market. It's very much not true that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

This is like trying to market a hybrid with typical SUV imagery. And that's exactly why it's bad, because if you do that long enough, people otherwise interested in hybrids will start taking the bus instead, as you've created an impression that hybrids are just like SUVs. Or, to pull the analogy back, fewer and fewer of the type of people uninterested in this kind of presentation (e.g. a lot of women), will even consider entering the tech industry, because we've created the impression that dumb people do technology. As xthlc pointed out, this is exactly what has happened to the tech industry, and the dearth of talent perpetuated by this kind of bad branding hurts all of us trying to do anything more interesting than porn sites.
posted by scottreynen at 7:11 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh please. There's nothing on that slides you couldn't learn in 10 minutes reading some documentation. ... I thought the real point of these conferences was to network, or hear about new ideas.

Okay, then:

A talk that's presumably full of important informationpeople and ideas that you need to develop your skillscareer or you wouldn't be attending this conference in the first place is full of pornographic imagery, but if your pretty little head is going to be offended by that, why, you should just stay away and miss out on the informationvalue of having attended this event.

This changes my point, how?

Either the conference and its workshops are valuable things that people should pay money to attend and deliberately offending a portion of your audience just because you think you're hilarious is fucked up this presentation shouldn't have happened, or the conference and its workshops are a giant waste of time in the first place, and this presentation should never have happened. Either way.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:14 AM on April 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


Boy, that comment thread from the "apology" link (and I use scare quotes with full intent) is depressing. "The presentation was technically great and the analogy was solid, which brought even more fun. I don’t understand why some people were offended..." Some people will get offended at anything! Black folks at being depicted as grinning, watermelon-eating chuckleheads, women at being shown as bimbos in porn poses, what are you going to do? It's impossible to please all these weirdos, so just let it all hang out and have fun fun fun! AMIRITE??
posted by languagehat at 7:29 AM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Heh heh. He said "reaction under load." Heh heh.
posted by fungible at 7:34 AM on April 30, 2009


can they not see at all that nudish guys are presented as performers and women as receiving vessels

You watch some very, very boring porn. My sympathies.

This needs the "Now-that-I-have-your-attention" and "never-outgrew-junior-high" tags.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:43 AM on April 30, 2009


Uch. What annoys me so much about this kind of controversy - and it is a controversy people should be upset about - is just how ... troll-ish it is.

You have a stimulus that is at once crude, vacuous, and pretentious. It's intended to offend, but the response, when it comes, is met with the two reactions that typify the troll: faux naivete and self-righteous indignation. Also, blaming the victim. "It's their fault for being offended! They knew what they were getting into. It's too bad they can't take a joke/didn't understand my argument/don't really know me."

From the NYT piece on trolling:

“That’s a very interesting reaction,” Fortuny said. “Why didn’t you get so defensive when I said you had green hair?” If I were certain that I wasn’t a terrible reporter, he explained, I would have laughed the suggestion off just as easily. The willingness of trolling “victims” to be hurt by words, he argued, makes them complicit, and trolling will end as soon as we all get over it.

posted by awenner at 7:45 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


namely that we have very few minorities in the Ruby community, especially women. Minorities do need to be more represented!

Well, you see, there's your problem right there. If you already think of half of humanity as a "minority", you need to have a serious worldview shake up.

I looked through the presentation. It was unprofessional and juvenile. If I'd been there as a developer, I would have been upset, too.
posted by jokeefe at 7:49 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm puzzled by the degree to which the computer stuff is being considered in this discussion. Would the inclusion of HOT NAKED CHICKS in the presentation been any more/less justifiable if it has been about, say, a furniture manufacturer's new product line?

I can sympathize with guy's desire to enliven dull-ish material for an audience sitting on uncomfortable chairs. But that wouldn't excuse him for using ethnic jokes for that purpose - and it doesn't excuse him for this garbage either.

The "apology" shows that he doesn't get it yet. We can hope he will someday.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:50 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Please read the comments aggregated at Skorgu's link. There are some seriously smart women in the Ruby community and in the coding community as a whole.
posted by muddgirl at 7:51 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Paying lots of money to guys who who can't touch women is a really bad idea.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:54 AM on April 30, 2009


I misread it as "Golden Gate Rugby Conference," so after a few frames, I understood why all the rugby people were up in arms (they were probably expecting 1000 frames-per-second of rugby cheerleaders flipping their hair, but instead they got sexed up, y'know, computery stuff).
posted by whatgorilla at 7:59 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The discussion of this topic is impressive in that there seems to be universal agreement, at least here, that this is overboard. I had actually considered posting this presentation myself yesterday on the heels of the fashion model/chess player thread, but I snoozed, so I lost.

But I hope this illustrate how the now-adult nerd community, taken as a whole, needs to own up to the fact that it is has a very disturbing conception of women and sexuality. This is the latest in a pattern of behavior:

The internet frenzy over Alison Stokke (high school pole vaulter) - previously discussed here.
The Open Source Boob Project, previously discussed here
The Jade Raymond comic, discussed here
The Chess Player referenced above, discussed yesterday
This thread

Those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head as having been discussed here. I'm sure there are more. I'm not even bothering to mention how much the "computer nerd" community overlaps so heavily with the completely insane anime/hentai subculture.

This presentation is indefensible. I mean that literally. At this point in time, there is no arrangement of words that could be assembled into a reasonable argument in its defense. It isn't funny or self-deprecating, it isn't shocking to make a point, it isn't art, etc. It's dumb.

If this presentation was given in any U.S. corporation in the last ten years, the people involved in that presentation would have been immediately fired, and the company would have been sued. This is about work. This is people's jobs. Even if they didn't go there to learn, they went there to network, which is still an aspect of their job. In major chain automotive service stations, workers are prohibited from putting up pin-up girl calendars even in private areas? Those calendars used to be a staple of car mechanics to the point that tire companies put out their own pin-up girl calendars. Car mechanics have integrated the post-feminist world into their professional lives better than these computer programmers.

Think about what it means that the author was comfortable enough to make his whole presenation about programming relate to porn. It means the author believes the audience is so familiar and comfortable with its tropes and idioms that they won't be appalled by it, but will think its funny. It's "pr0n", get it? In other words, the author assumes correctly that most of men in the audience have precisely the same attitude towards women that he does, and that those that don't won't make a fuss about it right then.

This blatant harassment of women doesn't not occur at math, physics, engineering, or other tech-heavy conferences. But it keeps showing up in computer and software related fields. (I'm not naive enough to think that there is no harassment of women in those places, but it isn't this overt, to my knowledge).

I'm convinced it's something about the solitary, escapist nature of it (at least 10-15 years ago when people would have been first exposed to it) attracts people who for other reasons aren't able to interact socially with the opposite sex in a functional way. What starts as awkwardness turns to loneliness then bitterness when older, and that find its outlet in passive-aggressive expressions of hostility against women. The irony is that the more conventionally pretty the girl is, i.e. and athlete or a model, the greater the hostility. That these same people don't recognize that their expression are hostile is of course part of the problem. This is just my own theory though.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:01 AM on April 30, 2009 [47 favorites]


Wow. That apology is worse than the presentation.
posted by bjrn at 8:07 AM on April 30, 2009


You have a stimulus that is at once crude, vacuous, and pretentious. It's intended to offend, but the response, when it comes, is met with the two reactions that typify the troll: faux naivete and self-righteous indignation. Also, blaming the victim. "It's their fault for being offended! They knew what they were getting into. It's too bad they can't take a joke/didn't understand my argument/don't really know me."

I will add my annoyance at the assumption that, as a man, I will welcome (and, indeed, my attention can only be engaged by) naked women being plastered over entirely unrelated topics. I know there's a strain of thought (one can find it here on MeFi often enough) that endorses the idea, and I find it misandric and offensive.

I am not, in fact, a socially and intellectually retarded lunkwit who can only appreciate something with tits and arse applied. I find it tedious and fucking annoying that all manner of things I'm interested in, from tech to stereos to fantasy novels to cars, are regularly plastered with chicks (nearly) getting their tits out upon the assumption that it is inconcievable that I am too stupid and callow to be engaged otherwise, and that boobies are a slam-dunk of the inherently feeble male mind. I can find porn on my own just fine when I want to look at images of naked women. Kindly stop shitting up other stuff with it because you think I'm a moron because I have a penis.
posted by rodgerd at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


Heh heh. He said "reaction under load." Heh heh

give him sensitivity points for not illustrating that point, at least
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2009


Great comment from reddit which nails the problem:

"It's a question of whether you as a speaker want to remind women, explicitly, that you see them as sex objects first and as professional colleagues second."

There you have it.

xthic: The second is the still-problematic gender issue in software engineering. It's unlikely we'll ever hit a 50/50 ratio in our field.

I think it's entirely possible that you'll one day have a 50/50 split in the field; there are lots of women studying computer science at the doctoral level where I work, for example. Around half of med students are women, half of law students too.
posted by jokeefe at 8:12 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Take out the "pr0n", and nobody on Metafilter, or anywhere else, ever hears about this presentation outside of the people in the presentation room itself, none of whom would have remembered it ten minutes after walking out the door.
posted by Xoebe at 8:18 AM on April 30, 2009


I think an important point from the Rails is still a ghetto post is that the people who are part of the core Rails team support this guy. DHH, King of Rails, is of the opinion that porn is "absolutely" a fine idea in a presentation like this. Some guy makes a dumb presentation, sure, he's an idiot. But when you see it actively endorsed by the foundations of the community in a programming world that is based on community interaction, it's startling illustrative of an institutionalized sexism that everyone should take issue with. It's situations like these where Rails' anti-professional stance turns it into a frat party.
posted by soma lkzx at 8:18 AM on April 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


I wrote this a while back about RubyFringe, which was organized by a woman, but still couldn't manage to get more than a handful of women out:
The common response to the lack of women at events like this is pretty libertarian in nature: women just don’t want to come out, and it’s not our place to change that. Obviously this conference, and others like it, aren’t going out of their way to actively discourage women from coming. The problem is of course that while a woman may have some interest in attending a conference like RubyFringe, she may have no interest in being one of a handful of women at a conference — creepy and annoying come into play here as well. RubyFringe was organized by a woman & went out of its way to be different, but still couldn’t manage to get women out. This is clearly a tricky problem. Not tackling it results in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is actually a bigger issue than it may sound like, because a lot of networking happens at events like this. I think it is much easier to find work within the industry if you go to events like these. If women feel shut out of these sorts of events, you are effectively shutting them out of working at cool little startups and the like.
In this case, these guys aren't even trying. I mean, it's hilarious no one thought a bunch of naked ladies on slides would be offensive. What sort of environment have they set up where you can make a presentation with a bunch of pr0no in it and not feel squeamish.
posted by chunking express at 8:18 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm fairly surprised that a conference organizer would accept something where the title included "perform like a pR0n star."
posted by adipocere at 8:19 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


jokeefe, the number of women who I went to University with GREATLY out number the number of women I see at tech events. I'd say maybe 1/3 of my class might have been ladies. You'll be hard pressed to find a tech conference where a 1/3 of the attendants are women.
posted by chunking express at 8:21 AM on April 30, 2009


Think about what it means that the author was comfortable enough to make his whole presenation about programming relate to porn...

It reminds me of the ad in some dead-tree journal before the dot-com bust, showing some model's face in front of a rack of servers. The headline was "our servers won't go down on you either".

Back in my days as a computer tech, there was the the pinup girl calendar among other things.

My favorite was the picture of a penis with eyes with the caption: "Not everyone is an asshole".

No shit.
posted by lysdexic at 8:23 AM on April 30, 2009


Socially awkward people do socially inappropriate things.

Yep.
posted by LordSludge at 8:23 AM on April 30, 2009


My view is that offending someone is walking up to them and saying: “You suck, your code sucks and your partner’s code sucks!”.

That's from the apology linked in the post. I can't believe I missed that line when I read this yesterday.

That isn't offensive, that's an insult, primarily directed at their work. I can say someone's argument is stupid, but that is a far cry for saying that they are stupid. But in either case, you are on equal footing, and you give them the opportunity to insult you back.

This is different because there is a power relationship established between speaker and audience. It isn't that it is offensive that's the problem, it's that given the power relationship, it is hostile or threatening. It makes it okay to overtly objectify women that these drone bees who bumble around trying to fertilize the queen before they die were objectifying privately while at least maintaining the veneer of professionalism.

What is truly amazing is that based on his apology post, the conference actually reviewed the presentation ahead of time and decided to let him proceed with it. That is beyond retarded and well into negligent. Attendees could (should) demand their conference fee back, and now that this controversy is getting more attention in the community, other companies who sent employees there should do the same.

And subsequent conferences if they know what's good for them, should not let the guy present, or if they have to, should keep him on a short leash.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:23 AM on April 30, 2009


Take out the "pr0n", and nobody on Metafilter, or anywhere else, ever hears about this presentation outside of the people in the presentation room itself, none of whom would have remembered it ten minutes after walking out the door.

What's your point? Being a "smart marketing" move doesn't make it any less of a dickish, childish move.

and I find it misandric and offensive.

Yep, systems of patriarchy hurt men, too. Welcome to the club where no one wants to be a member and somehow no one gets the choice.
posted by muddgirl at 8:24 AM on April 30, 2009


What is truly amazing is that based on his apology post, the conference actually reviewed the presentation ahead of time and decided to let him proceed with it. That is beyond retarded and well into negligent.

In the "What women think" link, someone explains that they were on the conference committee and thought, "Well, he won't actually put pornographic pictures in his talk, it'll just be an amusing metaphor."

Still, your point is entirely valid.
posted by muddgirl at 8:26 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Swine Flu
posted by Senator at 8:27 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Possibly, which would make me sad, because Ruby's really nice for me; it just clicks for me in the way Perl did, and, to a large degree, feels like "OO Perl done right", a description that will doubtless annoy people in the Ruby and Perl worlds. It fits my mental map and it's nice to work with.

Same here, rodgerd.

As to this stupidity: The whole point of a presentation is to convey information in an accessible way. A presentation which polarizes the intended audience is a total failure. Full stop.

If the author wanted to be "edgy", he should have gone for the extremes -- ie, given the presentation in the nude, or while jumping off a building. Or both.

What a piker.
posted by Kikkoman at 8:28 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see it from three angles: sexism, marketing, and professionalism
For the sexism angle, they could have put men and women, and maybe some women on women, men on men action into the slides and kept with the theme. But they didn't. Any way you look at it, it is sexist and demeaning.

From the marketing angle:
From the perspective of someone who does development at an ad agency, this is not at all effective marketing.
--cottreynen

I disagree. How many people who never heard of CouchDB now know all about them? From the point of view of publicity, it is very effective.

From the professionalism angle:
This is where the marketing, while effective, backfires. If it was an independent ad agency who did this, (and took out the sexism) you could say "We're sorry, they got out of hand" and get the publicity and counter the backlash. But, especially given the 'apology', it looks like it was their idea. So instead people thinking of overly creative marketers, people think of "who the heck are they and why would I bring their product into my company?"

If they actually have a good product and people know this, and they make a real apology for the sexism, then maybe they could survive the non-professional nature of the presentation the marketing angle takes over and they get the win. But I think they blew it with the apology. The whole 'if people knew me' argument sounds like Don Imus's apology. At times like this the apology has to be unconditional. "It was a bad idea, we blew it, we're sorry." No explanations, no excuses.
posted by eye of newt at 8:28 AM on April 30, 2009


Some subfields of CS definitely have more women than men; in my masters program there were 2 men and 12 women and the field was definitely majority female. Where I got my PhD it was about half. The field I'm in now has 2 women that are active repeating publishers and about 50 men i can think of.

In systems or databases (and I'm so lax to call couch either, it appears to be a poorly implemented version of solr-- you know, Apache's original document oriented data store-- the one that actually scales and is in use by actual large datasets-- with a shinier admin interface, but who I am to judge, I've only tried to stress test it using our realworld 1bn documents and watched beam.smp core out after 100K instead of giving a talk about how scalable it is for your doomed-to-failure retweeting feed aggregator iphone app that will never break 5000 docs because that's the total amount of unique people that actually care about that shit, with naked ladies) it's usually almost all men. Not trying to make any judgments or analyze this, it's just the observation. Would be great to balance it out, and shit like this just doesn't help.
posted by neustile at 8:30 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


to add to the links: post by the technical director of the conference
posted by soma lkzx at 8:30 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


DHH's post on this topic.
posted by chunking express at 8:33 AM on April 30, 2009


The "apology" link is not an apology, as I define it. (As I wrote at that link, "I'm sorry you're such a crybaby" is not an apology.)

That is not what I did in my talk. In the case of my talk, people knew what to expect, they *picked* the talk, and were warned by the organizers before I started that I would be using imagery potentially offensive to some.

It is sometimes necessary to make a point that is offensive to some. I cannot think of any case where it would be necessary to use imagery which is offensive to some to make a point that is not, in and of itself, offensive.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:36 AM on April 30, 2009


I'm convinced it's something about the solitary, escapist nature of it (at least 10-15 years ago when people would have been first exposed to it) attracts people who for other reasons aren't able to interact socially with the opposite sex in a functional way.

I agree that these kinds of sexist incidents in the "computer nerd" culture are troubling, and that people who understand complex computer systems should be able to understand relatively simple social norms about interacting with people. But I'm not convinced that something inherent to programming or computer culture is at the base of it, other than that relatively few females are part of it.

Women can just as easily go to a rock concert and end up getting groped, or go to a sporting event wearing the other team's colors and end up becoming the focus of sexually-charged verbal abuse. In my anecdotal experience, the most misogynistic men with the worst attitudes towards women that I know have been more of the jock stereotype rather than the nerd stereotype. Really though, I think the problem has a lot more to do with the gender inequalities that are built into our overall society than anything related to a given subculture.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:38 AM on April 30, 2009


David Hansson completely misses the point, am I right? His blog post would be considered trolling on nearly any feminist or female-centered forum I visit.
posted by muddgirl at 8:43 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


My initial reaction to all this was simple:

Expecting a bunch of coders, and especially Ruby coders, to have the social and political savvy to engage each other with a thoughtful regard to mutual respect and communal openness would be like expecting my team of laser-wielding assassin-monkeys to sit down with a cup of coffee at the local shop and share a quiet moment with me whilst perusing a book of sonnets: not only is it really against their nature to do such things, but their training really means that they probably won't even understand why a person would want to waste her or his time on such a project. (It'd also be tough to get them to sit still in the coffee shop without waving their lasers around and scaring people, but that's one of the less obvious similarities.) In short, I would've thought: coders aren't social people, and so it makes no sense to expect them to manage being social. I gave up a while ago on engaging this 'community' as an actual community of human beings, and if that seems unfair, well, I was in it for the code, and I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of them have the same outlook.

But that was clearly a prejudice that doesn't bear itself out; most importantly, everybody is a social person, whether they're good at it or not. I agree with some of the eye-rolling that comes from what I might, using my metaphor from above, call the assassin-monkey wing of the coding community—the people who are here to talk about code, and who are frustrated that people would want to waste time talking about such boring topics as getting along together as a community—after all, we all can agree that the whole point of the presentation isn't really lost, and, well, yes, couchDB is pretty damned cool in and of itself. However, it's surprising how fertile this ground became for discussion almost immediately.

I guess this is all just a very roundabout way for someone who intentionally tries to stay on the periphery of the coding community to say that I found _why's aggregation of 'A Selection Of Thoughts From Actual Women' to be one of the most interesting things I've read in a while on sex, gender, inclusiveness, and how we nerds deal with these things. It's kind of scary to realize that the perspective of female writers of computer code is such a novelty; but it's also incredibly awesome to see that there are strong, thoughtful women who nevertheless engage this realm and are part of it. It kinda gives me hope, not only that sexism can be (at least in certain settings) rendered powerless, but also that those of us who write software can be socially mature enough to make an honest attempt to be inclusive. Not to be gushing or put unfair pressure on females, but if this is what it's like to have women in the coding community, if this is the effect they have, for god's sake, let's have more women in the coding community.
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Car mechanics have integrated the post-feminist world into their professional lives better than these computer programmers.
Quoted for goddamned truth. "Geeks" and "nerds", as the stereotypes go, haven't existed since I was a kid in the 80's.

Hey, kids! It's time for Ranty! (TM)

Maybe those stereotypes were true at some point, but they sure as hell aren't any more. From where I'm sitting, the stratification appears to be between "socially integrated" and "borderline personalities". It seems like an awful lot of shitheels are hiding behind the "oh, I'm just a maladjusted nerd" stereotype when the problem isn't that they're a nerd. The problem is that they're assholes.

Yeah, okay, a "jock" bullied you physically at some point. What, exactly, should we call it when you use your phenomenal Internet powers to destroy someone's life and make them, essentially, suicidal? I've been on the end of both physical and emotional bullying, and lemme tell you, they're equally poisonous at the end of the day. The emotional shit may even be worse, because that sticks with you: bruises heal, but if someone gets inside your head and turns you in on yourself, welcome to 20 years of therapy.

Clue phone: it was "geeks" and "nerds" who assfucked our economy. "Geeks" and "nerds" run at least two of the largest, most powerful companies on the planet. It's the rest of us, who don't get to play fucking stupid when we're called on our shit, who are paying. I mean, for fuck's sake, it's inconceivable to me to think of doing something like this, and if I did, I'd be fired and my reputation would be, with any justice, destroyed.

But this fuckwit has defenders. A lot of them. And the double standard is choking. I'd bet you dollars to donuts that half of the people involved would get apoplectic if someone described them using the hackneyed old canard of the socially maladjusted basement-dwelling troglodyte. But, when an asshole gets called out for being an asshole, all of a sudden he's just misunderstood.

I understood you fine, you bigoted, sexist dick.
posted by scrump at 8:47 AM on April 30, 2009 [26 favorites]


Some subfields of CS definitely have more women than men; in my masters program there were 2 men and 12 women and the field was definitely majority female. Where I got my PhD it was about half. The field I'm in now has 2 women that are active repeating publishers and about 50 men i can think of.

I get the impression that academic CS has a different gender balance, and better visibility for women, than the rest of the industry.

I could name a fair number of women with professorships in CS. All the non-academic programmers I could name are men. Even within my fairly geeky, intensely feminist circle of friends, the women who program are all profs and grad students, while the men who do it are all over the map.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:52 AM on April 30, 2009


koeselitz: "Expecting a bunch of coders, and especially Ruby coders, to have the social and political savvy..."

OK, can anyone explain in dummy terms what it is about Ruby that leads to that "especially"?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:53 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


From DHH's post:

"I think that the world of programming could be much more interesting if more women were part of it. I wish I knew how to make that happen. If I find out, I'll be the first to champion it."

For a guy who merely a week ago tweeted :# "Do you think porn is an appropriate metaphor to be used in business presentations?" -- Absolutely. Especially in jest. http://is.gd/tPrb9:16 AM Apr 22nd from twhirl his plea for more inclusiveness rings hollow.

This is a man who clearly has harbored a misogynistic resentment his whole life, and now that he has some actual power in a tiny part of the world, he's going to dig in his heels and let everyone have it.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:53 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


misogynistic_twits.each do |twit|
  twit.reprimand "Please respect women, and, you know, humans in" 
  + " general.  It'll make me way more comfortable with the fact that"
  + " a large portion of my professional output is based on your code."
end

posted by Alterscape at 8:59 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please let's seperate Ruby and Rails programmers. I code in Ruby and Rails for a living having discovered Ruby in 2001 a good few years before Rails made it's appearance, and I'm glad it did because otherwise I'd still be sitting at my desk at one of South Africa's largest corporations willing myself to not take my own life as Microsoft Biztalk destroys my sanity.

The Ruby community (especially on the Ruby Talk mailing list) is comprised of thoughtful programmers more than willing to lend a hand and help out anyone with a problem. There are a host of non-Rails Ruby based projects that are awesome, some even written by women (the totally awesome Sequel DB library, which blows ActiveRecord out the water, was written by a woman).

The Rails community tends to be full of people looking for the next shiny thing to show off and is full of these self proclaimed 'rockstars', unfortunately lead from the front by DHH.
posted by PenDevil at 9:01 AM on April 30, 2009


The 'apology' smacks of disingenuousness. If you're going to put stuff in your presentation to get attention and raise eyebrows, then you need to own the decision and make yourself accountable. If you don't believe it was offensive, and you gave your audience fair warning of the content, then there's nothing to be gained by engaging in passive-aggressive hairsplitting with your detractors - you just shrug and move on.

I say this as someone who has graphically simulated anal sex in front of a roomful of eleven year olds, during a lecture on French experimental literature. Egad... that was a day for eyelids.
posted by RokkitNite at 9:02 AM on April 30, 2009


Am I the only one who looked through the whole presentation hoping it would crash and burn even more? I was so bummed that slide 69 was so boring. If you are going to go for a metaphor - you have to really go for it. But maybe people were expecting something like this article about Ron Jeremy.
posted by squashotheclown at 9:03 AM on April 30, 2009


Also, it's worth pointing out that that presentation is pretty damn awful. He starts with a tasteless metaphor, dumb, but fine. Then he abandons it for the rest of the powerpoint? The only references we get to the overall idea are a couple of 'hot chicks' in the background of his boring ass slides? No conclusion wrapping it all up?

I would've been offended by the presentation, even without the "pr0n". Also, does anyone find pr0n funny? At all?
posted by graventy at 9:03 AM on April 30, 2009


So, to sum up, the Ruby world to date has been defined by three things:

- Failure to scale Twitter
- "Rails is a Ghetto"
- This

Way to go, guys. You may have a perfectly fine programming language and all, but I will never, ever take you seriously until you do yourselves.
posted by mkultra at 9:04 AM on April 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


So, to sum up, the Ruby world to date has been defined by three things:

THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY.
posted by xmutex at 9:05 AM on April 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


So, to sum up, the Ruby world to date has been defined by three things:

Well, to be fair, this is really all about Rails, which seems to attract men that still think it's cool to act like they did when they were 14.
posted by chunking express at 9:06 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alpha-geek acts like clueless, sexist asshole. Film at 11.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:06 AM on April 30, 2009


THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY.

Well, CouchDB has nothing to do with either one. It's written in Erlang. But yeah, ruby is kind of getting a bad rap due to rails idiocy. Even in "rails is a ghetto" zed made the point that it was rails, not ruby as a language that sucked (IIRC, the essay was taken down)
posted by delmoi at 9:08 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I think what's ultimately frustrating about stuff like this is that the dudes in question are never going to get a clue. They sincerely think they aren't being exclusionary. There is basically no moving forward.
posted by chunking express at 9:10 AM on April 30, 2009


People may be driven by personal choice or cultural background to take offense at any number of things, of course, but I think there is always a clear difference between trying to offend people vs people choosing to take offense.

So, what's worse here, trying to offend people? Or those who are offended speaking up? The blame is being shifted completely to those underlings who didn't like his presentation. This has emperor's new clothes written all over it. Too bad people weren't cool enough to appreciate his genius.

At a corporate event, the presentation would have been shut down immediately, after just that first slide.
posted by fyrebelley at 9:10 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I get the impression that academic CS has a different gender balance, and better visibility for women, than the rest of the industry. I could name a fair number of women with professorships in CS.

In the hardware/software design world that I inhabit, I see roughly equal numbers of men and women on the software side (the hardware and mechanical design group is mostly, though not entirely, men, but it's always a much smaller group).
posted by eye of newt at 9:12 AM on April 30, 2009


Good luck with that Ruby-Rails distinction, all you "IT workers."
posted by cribcage at 9:14 AM on April 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


xmutex: THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY THAT'S RAILS NOT RUBY.

Yeah, but last I checked, Rails is a framework for Ruby, and it's the part of the Ruby ecosystem that has gotten the most attention. As I said, my beef isn't with Ruby, it's with your PR.
posted by mkultra at 9:16 AM on April 30, 2009


They sincerely think they aren't being exclusionary.

It's worse, they think they are being a strong, enlightened individuals unencumbered by the silly concerns of a shrill, small-brained society. They are total frat boys.
posted by xmutex at 9:16 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


graphically simulated anal sex in front of a roomful of eleven year olds, during a lecture on French experimental literature.

I don't whether to favorite this or flag it...where's ZOMG button?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:24 AM on April 30, 2009


Now, IT managers can no longer send employees either to future GoGaRuCo's or to any conference where this bozo is a presenter. If they do, they risk being sued for harassment.

'Cuz, that's what this is. The sexualization of the workplace is not allowed, and for some very good and legally defined reasons, apart and aside from the whole "insensitive idiot" angle. If I were to give a presentation like this at a conference, I would be fired so fast, my ID card would spontaneously combust on its lanyard in mid-presentation. If I were running a start-up, my VC's would yank their funding or force me out.

This crap isn't funny, and is probably going to toss a gigantic monkey-wrench into the careers of programmers and project managers who weren't even in the same state. That sound? It's the sound of management typing up a memo letting their teams know they're switching to Java or Python, because they can't trust the vendor... which is the Ruby and RoR community... to respect the HR policies and general dignity of their clients.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:30 AM on April 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


I'm convinced it's something about the solitary, escapist nature of it (at least 10-15 years ago when people would have been first exposed to it) attracts people who for other reasons aren't able to interact socially with the opposite sex in a functional way. What starts as awkwardness turns to loneliness then bitterness when older, and that find its outlet in passive-aggressive expressions of hostility against women. The irony is that the more conventionally pretty the girl is, i.e. and athlete or a model, the greater the hostility. That these same people don't recognize that their expression are hostile is of course part of the problem. This is just my own theory though.


I think this describes a lot of guys, and a lot of 'nerdy' guys, and frankly those guys irritate the hell out of me. But, I think you are getting your causality wrong here. I don't think that these nerds get into programming because they don't want to deal with other people, but rather there is a third variable that causes interest in computers and social awkwardness.
posted by delmoi at 9:30 AM on April 30, 2009


This presentation leaves me scratching my head. Why on earth would anyone be dumb enough to present that.

Still, the saying about any publicity being good publicity? I now know what couchdb is.
posted by SirOmega at 9:34 AM on April 30, 2009


Also keep in mind that the guy doing this presentation isn't related to couchDB as far as I know, he was just some fan. The main CouchDB guy has said he thought the presentation was inappropriate.
posted by delmoi at 9:37 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing is, this asshole's premise is completely wrong.

Women's performance in pr0n is usually faked- pretend orgasms and moaning. Faking your results is really wrong. They have to do some acrobatics, but really, they just have to show up.

Male performance in pr0n is much harder- those guys need to keep going for hours at a time, in adverse conditions, with a huge audience and high stress. If the male performer can't get things going, and keep them going, the shoot stops dead and everybody blames them. That's the metaphor for high performance under pressure.

To be intellectually consistent, this presentation should have been filled with tons of shots of guys with huge wangs.

But that probably would have been offensive to the guys in the room.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:39 AM on April 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Xoebe: Take out the "pr0n", and nobody on Metafilter, or anywhere else, ever hears about this presentation outside of the people in the presentation room itself, none of whom would have remembered it ten minutes after walking out the door.

Yeah, that's not such a great insight there. How many of these people who would never have heard of the presentation otherwise do you think actually appreciated the presentation and are thinking about implementing CouchDB? I sure as hell want to keep away from Ruby and Rails if such stupid, childish and mysoginistic crap goes on there.

Take out the "pr0n" and the presentation would have been much better. For one, the author of CouchDB wouldn't be getting a ton of angry mails. For two, I highly doubt this type of presentation will make any serious, professional outfits consider CouchDB in a good light.

eye of newt: I disagree. How many people who never heard of CouchDB now know all about them? From the point of view of publicity, it is very effective.

Completely disagree. I am a programmer by training, and not only did the format of the presentation completely turn me off from learning anything about CouchDB, if I actually had learned anything about it I'd be hella ashamed to ever bring up that product in any professional setting because of the fear of having someone recall that childish presentation. No way any department I have ever worked for would want to be associated with a vulgar and juvenile image like that, regardless of the merits of the code.
posted by splice at 9:40 AM on April 30, 2009


"Rails <> Ruby" fails to a large degree because Rails is the flagship product for Ruby, the poster child for "look at how useful Ruby is in the real world." When your poster boy shits on the rug, it might not be your fault, but it's definitely in your interest to clean it up.

Besides, I thought there was a lot of overlap between the Ruby leadership and the Rails leadership. Another reason that the distinction between the two is artificial and, in this case, self-serving at best.
posted by fatbird at 9:47 AM on April 30, 2009


You shouldn't have to be particularly sensitive or progressive to see why this is a bad idea. Making a presentation like this is just plain unprofessional. And it's worse than that -- it's incredibly stupid. How is it that, of all the people who saw and worked on this presentation, not a single one of them thought it was a bad idea? Who *are* these people?

I mean, this is more than tone deaf. This is "do I really trust these people to make my software" stupid.

FAIL.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:50 AM on April 30, 2009


Completely disagree. I am a programmer by training, and not only did the format of the presentation completely turn me off from learning anything about CouchDB, if I actually had learned anything about it I'd be hella ashamed to ever bring up that product in any professional setting because of the fear of having someone recall that childish presentation

Well, I've know about CouchDB for a while and it's a pretty innovative project. It's definitely something I would consider if I was doing a web based, document centric app. I don't know a lot about it in detail, and I don't know if it's something I would use in the end.

I don't really see a rational reason for disregarding the product because of the presentation. The presentation wasn't done by the people responsible for the database itself, but rather some dumbass who happened to be a fan. I don't think it reflects on the actual authors, who have actually disavowed the presentation.
posted by delmoi at 9:52 AM on April 30, 2009


This shit doesn't go down at JavaOne. back to procedural programming everyone. The whole "functional" thing isn't working out.
posted by GuyZero at 9:54 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree that the presentation is indefensible, but on behalf of coders everywhere, please realize that we are not all socially maladjusted fuckwits. Some of the posts in this thread seem to hinge on that argument to explain this fellows actions, and it's also an offensive generalization.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:55 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I thought there was a lot of overlap between the Ruby leadership and the Rails leadership

I'm pretty sure this isn't the case at all actually. Maybe someone more familiar can confirm, but Ruby is all Matz and people who have been around way before Rails I think. Though yeah, i'm not sure this really matters. There are lots of Rails developers who aren't jerk-asses. I know a bunch. This is really about assholes at the end of the day.
posted by chunking express at 9:56 AM on April 30, 2009


To be intellectually consistent, this presentation should have been filled with tons of shots of guys with huge wangs.

And the conference was in San Francisco - in the Castro, yet! - a place not unfamiliar with the concept of naked guys with huge wangs are a foreign concept. Hell, he could have used some shots from Falcon or Colt studios, both of which are headquartered right here.
posted by rtha at 9:56 AM on April 30, 2009


where the hell's that edit button? "A place not unfamiliar with the concept of naked guys with huge wangs are a foreign concept." is what I meant.
posted by rtha at 9:58 AM on April 30, 2009


For what it's worth, the cover of the presentation is stolen from Aubade, a French lingerie designer well known locally for its very recognizable street posters that probably caused a few traffic accidents over the years. The whole series is called "Lessons on seduction" and this particular image is (appropriately?) called "Lesson N°85: To hasten his fall".
posted by elgilito at 10:01 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


This presentation leaves me scratching my head. Why on earth would anyone be dumb enough to present that.

"Point of view is worth 80 IQ points." -- Alan Kay, talk at Creative Think seminar, 20 July 1982
posted by mrt at 10:04 AM on April 30, 2009


Tempest in a C cup.
posted by dersins at 10:17 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a programmer who's worked almost exclusively at ad agencies for 12 years, I can see that there might have been a way to play the "pr0n/libido" metaphor without offending.

What I might have done:
#1 - no 'gratuitious' male/female pr0n photos or images. The opening ass shot was gratuitous, for example.
- sly references. eg the Viagra pill shot was wry and didn't cross a line (IMHO). A picture of a well-worn little black book would have been another. School tie on a doorknob. etc
- Monty-Python-esque doctored vintage photo's and illustrations. Most everyone laughs, few are offended. Eg colourized wood-cut of a roman orgy
- Item headlines that are puns on well-recognized pr0n film titles
- cropped heads of well-known pr0nstars - Ron Jeremy, Marilyn Chambers, etc

and so forth. Many would laugh, many would go meh, the worst reaction might be an eye-roll ("...immature twerps").

Humour and wit have their place in marketing; exploitative imagery, even if not intended as such, does not. A line was definitely crossed in that presentation.I believe the big offense was the use of gratuitous pictures of women which WERE in and of themselves porn. That definitely took the concept into uncomfortable and offensive territory. If it hurts or offends, it's bad marketing.

Disclaimer: Rails is clever but I'm in the "meh" camp about it. I work in Java, C# and PHP; after several years at it I'm pretty fast, my dance card is full, and I don't need to switch to a hawt new framework every 18 months.
posted by Artful Codger at 10:41 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


For all that the Open Source Boob Project was an epic fail, the guy behind it shows how you apologize for something like this. He started with the same "I didn't intend to offend anyone" that Aimonetti did, but went on to demonstrate that he understood why people were offended, why the project was an epic fail, and to generally learn something from his mistake. He didn't volunteer for crucifixion, he just showed that he didn't get it before but he gets it now. That's all that's really needed, and everything that would have kept a regrettable presentation from turning into a PR disaster for the Rails community.
posted by fatbird at 10:44 AM on April 30, 2009


Maybe the speaker had recently read this paper.
posted by needled at 10:56 AM on April 30, 2009


Wow, that was an incredibly successful presentation.
posted by mullingitover at 11:02 AM on April 30, 2009


So what have we learned?

1. Some programmers are unprofessional
2. Some programmers are immature
3. People are willing to judge all users of a technology by the actions of some users of the technology

Damn that Television had it right with the first post -- there's no real controversy here. We have a technology presentation given in extremely poor taste by people who don't appear to know any better, and other technologists are raining down guilt-by-association. "Rails is a Ghetto?" Please. These guys certainly can't claim or be claimed to represent the interests of the "Rails community" in any useful sense of the word.

Regarding (3) above, I'm not referring to MeFites, but some of the angry blog noise. Is this guilt-by-association thing an artifact of corporate culture? People are so used to regarding corporations as animate entities that when one of a corporation's (hired) representatives does something really egregious, they attribute it to the "attitude" held by the corporation as a whole. But Rails is not a corporation, but a technology some people use to make websites. I'm even doubtful that it can be called a "community." I have programmed with Ruby and Rails, along with many other languages and frameworks, but there's no sense in which I regard any other Rails coders as having anything to do with me or my opinions.
posted by Maximian at 11:13 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Besides, I thought there was a lot of overlap between the Ruby leadership and the Rails leadership.
They couldn't be more different. Matz, the "benevolent dictator" leader of Ruby, is a devout Japanese Mormon who likes to schedule major Ruby releases on Christmas.
posted by PenDevil at 11:16 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the male performer can't get things going, and keep them going, the shoot stops dead and everybody blames them. That's the metaphor for high performance under pressure.

Then the presentation should have pictured a pasty naked unattractive guy with one hand covering his junk standing next to a table with a wilted flower, with the message "Perform under pressure." That would have the advantages of being (a) actually funny because it is self0-deprecating, (b) being disarming and (c) having nothing to do with objectifying women. But even this probably crosses the line for a business presentation.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:18 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mac: But python's shenanigans are cheeky and fun!
Thorny: Ruby's shenanigans are cruel and tragic...
posted by Mach5 at 11:45 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rails != It's Core Team.
posted by chunking express at 11:52 AM on April 30, 2009


> Damn that Television had it right with the first post -- there's no real controversy here. We have a technology presentation given in extremely poor taste by people who don't appear to know any better, and other technologists are raining down guilt-by-association. "Rails is a Ghetto?" Please. These guys certainly can't claim or be claimed to represent the interests of the "Rails community" in any useful sense of the word.

Ah, the "few bad apples" defense rears it's ugly head.

The presentation itself was a small to middling bit of cluelessness. The defense thereof was what turned it into a storm of cluelessness, and demonstrated quite clearly that it's not the presentation, it's the pervasive culture among the leadership of the community. Of course every single Rails programmer isn't a hurf-durf pr0n g00d troglodyte. The problem is that a mild backlash against a single juvenile twit turned into a general defense of the "boys will be boys" atmosphere of Rails specifically and technology in general. "Rails is a ghetto" is simply another side of what's being more widely perceived as a problematic atmosphere in the community. It's not just Aimonetti, either: Mike Gunderloy's resignation from the Rails activists group makes pretty clear that the cluelessness on this topic is so thick at the top that he sees no hope of reforming it from within.
posted by fatbird at 12:04 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Artful: Humour and wit have their place in marketing; exploitative imagery, even if not intended as such, does not.

elgilito: For what it's worth, the cover of the presentation is stolen from Aubade, a French lingerie designer well known locally for its very recognizable street posters

Reconcile these ends. This cavepainting-by-powerpoint, with as little forebrain as forethought, is as stale as our recoil (and faux culture-shock) to the same. We are a predictable machine, we internet: equal parts porn and outrage. How tired we should be of us.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:09 PM on April 30, 2009


And (for what it's worth) Why's work alone, which in no universe will ever receive 200+ comments on the Blue, is sufficient to save Ruby from all the blognoise and oversexed cheapness.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:14 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reconcile these ends.

Sure: 1) the cover of the presentation was not the entirety of the problem, or even a large part of it--it was the pornographic content throughout the presentation. 2) Street advertising is a very different context from a (supposedly) professional conference, and what's acceptable in the former is not automatically so in the latter. 3) Most of the images in the presentation wouldn't be acceptable as street advertising either.

However, you should get points for your world-weary meta-sigh. It must be hard being you.
posted by fatbird at 12:18 PM on April 30, 2009


me: Expecting a bunch of coders, and especially Ruby coders, to have the social and political savvy...

Joe Beese: OK, can anyone explain in dummy terms what it is about Ruby that leads to that "especially"?

RoR coders, at least those that I've known, are most notably two things: (a) they're rock stars who can do almost anything and make the code beautiful while they're doing it, and (b) they damn well know it and aren't afraid to say it. It's part of the culture, I think, although the larger culture of programming probably shares some aspects of this. See also this bit from the awesome presentation by Cal Henderson which ardgedee linked up above. [Apparently you can't deep-link to a HQ vid on Youtube, so just skip to 6:28 if it doesn't do that for you.]
posted by koeselitz at 12:26 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


it was the pornographic content throughout the presentation. [...] Most of the images in the presentation wouldn't be acceptable as street advertising either.

Really? Take another look. Which ones are actually culled from pornography? Which ones wouldn't be street legal?
posted by kid ichorous at 12:38 PM on April 30, 2009


kid ichorous: Which ones are actually culled from pornography? Which ones wouldn't be street legal?

The ones which were removed from the slideshow before it was posted online, one presumes, at least according to the people that were there.
posted by koeselitz at 12:40 PM on April 30, 2009


Which ones are actually culled from pornography?

How big a difference does this actually make? If it was nothing but lingerie ads this would be less obnoxious how exactly?

Martin Fowler's take on things: SmutOnRalis.
posted by chunking express at 12:40 PM on April 30, 2009


Oh, from that article: "These kinds of sexualized images have long been associated with men's clubs. Condoning a presentation like this can imply that the powerful (the community leadership) wants this atmosphere, to create a context that excludes women. I don't think the rails leadership actually wants to do this, but if someone did want to do create such a group, this would be a good way to go about it."
posted by chunking express at 12:42 PM on April 30, 2009


My wife's been dealing with this shit in the computer realm for twenty-odd years -- direct and indirect misogyny and sexism compounded by the refusal of the perpetrators to admit that it is a problem. Only in the past year or so has she, now in a position of management, been able to get people around her to start changing their behaviour even just a tiny bit. And it's by constantly beating people over the head (kindly and politely) that their behaviour is wrongheaded and unacceptable in the workplace. And it won't ever stop until everyone starts reacting negatively in the same way to this kind of teenage displays.

Don't put up with it. Just don't. And don't wait for a private moment to correct the behaviour. Do it as it happens, publicly. Shame is the only answer, because nothing else sinks in to their egotistical little socially maladaptive brains.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:52 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: RoR coders, at least those that I've known, are most notably two things: (a) they're rock stars who can do almost anything and make the code beautiful while they're doing it, and (b) they damn well know it and aren't afraid to say it.

You know, this is the problem. I keep wanting to like Ruby, but then I read stuff like this quote, and this asinine "I am an R-rated individual" declaration from DHH who is, for better or worse, the poster child for the community.

I've got news for you, RoR "rock stars". You're probably no more rock stars than good coders in any other language are, and saying you are over and over like some kind of mantra from The Secret won't make it so. I don't have to accept you on "your terms" because of your l33t skillz.

You are replaceable.

Just ask Twitter.
posted by mkultra at 12:54 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hanssen is starting to sound a lot like that other successful creep: Don Charney. You remember, the mogul who asked a reporter to give him a blow job? Who was and is being sued for "whipping it out" in front of his employees, among other things?
posted by muddgirl at 1:16 PM on April 30, 2009


There is lots of stupidness over at 37signals. I still remember their post on the Paris Riots. (If you have forgotten, most of the rioters were born and raised in France, so Ryan gets off to a poor start, and the commenters do the rest of the work.)
posted by chunking express at 1:28 PM on April 30, 2009


mkultra: I've got news for you, RoR "rock stars". You're probably no more rock stars than good coders in any other language are, and saying you are over and over like some kind of mantra from The Secret won't make it so. I don't have to accept you on "your terms" because of your l33t skillz.

You are replaceable.

Just ask Twitter.


One of the things that made me cackle with glee (one of the many things—that talk is really a riot) in the Cal Henderson talk I keep mentioning that ardgedee linked is the bit where he's going through the reasons why he hates Django ("Python isn't a serious, adult language like PHP and Java." "The codebase is small, and I don't trust small codebases." "I am suspicious of low version numbers, and Django has only gone to 1.0. Wouldn't it inspire more trust, for example, if they'd released 'Django 10,000'? Or perhaps 'Django Vista'?") and he gets to this one: "Django developers should be smug, but they aren't, and this makes me suspicious. Which leads to the question: why aren't they smug? Well, it turns out all the smugness on the internet has already been used up." [Slide of RAILS logo]
posted by koeselitz at 1:42 PM on April 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ah, the "few bad apples" defense rears it's ugly head.

It is not a defense, it is an attack. The perpetrators of this tasteless publicity stunt have been widely condemned. Censure from the conference director would seem to be censure indeed. As another poster above mentioned, if an employee of a company like Sun or Google had made a presentation like this, he surely would have been fired.

Deriding the entire "Rails community" because of this fiasco is still an association fallacy.
posted by Maximian at 1:47 PM on April 30, 2009


Deriding the entire "Rails community" because of this fiasco is still an association fallacy.

Is it really, when the de-facto leader of the community is publicly saying that it was okay?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:51 PM on April 30, 2009


Really, the thing I keep thinking about is the astonishing and somewhat frightening fact that the attendance of GoGaRuCo was 200 men to 6 women. That disparity is amazing, alarming, and indicative of a real imbalance. I understand the argument that there is bound to be some variance in the stats when we're talking about, say, affirmative action situations where there might be 40% black people at a particular school while there are 45% in the population at large, and therefore it might be arguable that this is accidental rather than indicative of something endemic to the institution. But when women make up 3% of a segment where in the population at large they are more or less 50%, you know something's wrong.

And, to be honest, I know anecdotally and microcosmically that when I find myself in situations (classrooms, bars, public meetings, parties) where women are that pointedly and dramatically underrepresented, I get a bit nervous even though I'm a male. I mean, I don't mind being around a bunch of guys who are my friends if we're just hoping to hang out with each other or other guys, but when women are glaringly absent in a presumably open and egalitarian situation where women are supposed to be welcome, it should be clear to all involved that there is some factor that is acting toward the actual exclusion of women; and my experience is that, when women (or people in general) are that deliberate about staying away from a situation, odds are there's going to be something that makes that same situation somewhat unhappy for me, too, at some point.
posted by koeselitz at 1:56 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Deriding the entire "Rails community" because of this fiasco is still an association fallacy.

Categorically claiming that every Rails coder is like this is an association fallacy. Observing that the presentation was defended by most of the leadership and a wide variety of community members (based on comments responding to the non-apology) is not. It's not 100%, and it's not just a few bad apples. Saying that a particular attitude is common amongst a group is not ascribing that attitude to every single member.
posted by fatbird at 2:01 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Intense stereotyping follows)

This is part of what kills me about the programming community -- a lot of the new, fun, coming up from the outskirts technologies are used and developed by those with young (or "young") attitudes and energy levels. So you get a lot of around-the-clock coding, high use of caffeine, in-jokes, references to how you're in tune with the "hacker culture" and every other damn cliche. Your conferences are small and community-like and cool. Breakout sessions have close to 100% participation, and happen in cool places. However, in the midst of the coolness, it's kind of a boys club. There are women, but they're either gritting their teeth, actively struggling against the tide, or adhering to their own set of geek-girl stereotypes.

On the other side of the fence, you have the establishment. This is where the rest of the world lives, and it will never be cool. Your work may include words like "enterprise" and you work with technologies that are supported by billion dollar companies and Fortune 500 mainstays. There are still fewer women due to the good old boy nature some parts of business have, and the fact that they might have had to struggle through the new "cool" stuff to begin with, whether it was in school or at a smaller company they started at.

I'd love the best of both of these realms, but in the meantime, upcoming technologies and communities are busy kneecapping their growth by having conference talks like this. Yes, keeping things youthful and "fun" might keep your technology in the right hands, but at the same time, it's keeping some of the right people out of your club. And that's what sucks.
posted by mikeh at 2:12 PM on April 30, 2009


Really, the thing I keep thinking about is the astonishing and somewhat frightening fact that the attendance of GoGaRuCo was 200 men to 6 women.

koeselitz... c'mon dude. It was a conference. In SF. On Ruby. I'm only guessing but I'd bet there were less than 10 people over 40 there, either, and 7 of them were working for the caterer.

In 10+ years, I've NEVER been sent by my employer to a code convention, and in case you hadn't noticed most businesses are doing even less of that now. So that group is nowhere near representative of the IT or programmer community.

For the record, of the programmers and developers I've worked with in the last 3 years, around 25 to 30% are women.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:21 PM on April 30, 2009


For the record, of the programmers and developers I've worked with in the last 3 years, around 25 to 30% are women.
Really? I mean, you've counted?

Because I used to say things like this until I started, you know, counting the number of people I've worked with who were male and then counting the number I'd worked with who were female.

Turned out that the proportions were closer to 5-10% than the 30% I thought. In my experience, if you work closely with women professionally, you tend to vastly overestimate the total number of women in your field. And, particularly in the Internet industry, we fetishize our tolerance to such an extent that it's very, very easy to not really understand just how BoyZone our industry is. Not can be: is.
posted by scrump at 2:29 PM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think attendees should have been worried by "GoGaRuCo"...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:31 PM on April 30, 2009


Which ones are actually culled from pornography? Which ones wouldn't be street legal?

This misses two points: 1) "street legal" is not synonymous with "ok", as thirty years of feminists have pointed out in analyzing media depictions of women; 2) "street legal" operates in a different context from "conference legal". Sexist imagery on a billboard that you see from your car has a different effect than sexist imagery on the screen of a presentation when you're one of six women at a 200 person conference.
posted by fatbird at 2:33 PM on April 30, 2009


Artful Codger: koeselitz... c'mon dude. It was a conference. In SF. On Ruby. I'm only guessing but I'd bet there were less than 10 people over 40 there, either, and 7 of them were working for the caterer. In 10+ years, I've NEVER been sent by my employer to a code convention, and in case you hadn't noticed most businesses are doing even less of that now. So that group is nowhere near representative of the IT or programmer community. For the record, of the programmers and developers I've worked with in the last 3 years, around 25 to 30% are women.

Yeah, it was a conference. On a very popular programming language. In a town that is chock-full of computer people and computer jobs. Yes, I know nobody's clamoring to spend crazy amounts of money to send coders to conferences. Maybe this is because I'm self-employed and it's easier for me to do this kind of thing, but if they had a Python conf in Denver, I would be there, just because I'd like to.

And, yes, I know it doesn't indicate the proportion of women in computing. I've seen enough too to know that isn't the case. But I don't know enough about the Ruby community to know if women are somehow this disproportionate in that subset. What's more, even if Ruby proportions are about the same as every other segment of computing, I still feel like it says something that only 3% of the people who were willing to show up in public to talk and learn about Ruby in SF were women. Maybe I'm off here, but it seems like all those women can't just have been busy or have better things to do. Or is it just a lot easier for young men to get time off? Or are all these guys just unemployed losers?
posted by koeselitz at 2:44 PM on April 30, 2009


chunking: These kinds of sexualized images have long been associated with men's clubs.

Yes, most of them. But they're also the sort of images I'd associate with Cosmopolitan magazine, reality television, or any one of our numerous fonts of cheap, lurid, and fantasy-saturated communication that pervade our cultural main - oh, ironically, and outside of work, silly! - whilst we flay some stupid creature online for transgressing our spiderweb mores.

chunking: If it was nothing but lingerie ads this would be less obnoxious how exactly?

Oh, it's very obnoxious - as much as a lame club rap drumming on my ears through the window, as much as the predator shape of some model hung in front of the sky, or having Fox News follow me into the store again. and. again. What I don't understand is why this is elevated to such an example of the genus male Ruby dev, the same way these alert-the-internet events are used build frail generalities of male comic artist and male game designer. Every Ruby/Rails developer I know is a mathematician or scientist by training, temperamentally closer to scholar than rock star.

But alert the internet all the same. Comics are 'boyzone' because Frank Cho draws like Frank Cho, games because John Romero is a dick, et cetera. In fact, I'd assert I've found these fields freer of the moorings in caveman/amazon culture than, say, television and marketing, but that's not really an alarming idea. The conversation that cuts shallow and draws quick blood is the one that we most want to have. I notice that Why, in spite of provably more relevance to the internet than this fratboy specimen, didn't precede this thread with a real FPP of his own. I suppose that's my own fault as much as anyone else's, but would anyone really care? Or would he have to say something really, really bad first?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:47 PM on April 30, 2009


For the record, of the programmers and developers I've worked with in the last 3 years, around 25 to 30% are women.

Really? I mean, you've counted?

It was an estimate, but thinking back and jotting some names on the back of an envelope... still close. Web development and big ad agencies seem to be more appealing or accessible to women. So, yeah.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:46 PM on April 30, 2009


Mike Gunderloy's resignation from the Rails activists group

Wow, that's the same Mike Gunderloy who ran Factsheet 5 back in the 80s. Good for him.
posted by mediareport at 4:32 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous, there have been threads about Why's projects here before, Hackity Hack recently, and His Guide To Ruby was posted here back in 2004. And he didn't even have to act like a jerk for it to happen. I'm not sure what you're point is?

I'm not trying to make the point that everyone programming with Rails is a jerk or sexist or anything like that. I hang out with lots of Rails developers. The guy who runs Unspace here in Toronto is really nice. Obviously Rails dev's aren't a homogenous group of people. That said, all the "women should suck it" comments being thrown around are fucking stupid.

WORD.
posted by chunking express at 4:46 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why not just write Boyz only! Girlz keep out! right on the door and get it over with?

I don't think it's as simple as that. There are definitely men who would be uncomfortable with this, and there are women who would not be. Not disagreeing that the set of people who were OK with it probably included a lot more men, but I know plenty of women who love porn and are not offended by this sort of thing (of course, I wouldn't describe most of the people I know as average or representative of the general population).

I generally am quite fond of porn, but even I would feel uncomfortable with this sort of thing in a professional context, so I'm not arguing it was a good idea or anything. People like this guy are on my DO NOT HIRE list, as there's no way he wouldn't be an asshole to work with.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:48 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


mikeh, I'm with you. I work in IT professionally, not so much on the fun/casual side of things, and sometimes it makes me really uncomfortable to run into the casual attitude when I'm trying to maintain professionalism.

I could never point my boss to this presentation, no matter how good a resource I thought it was. I'd be ashamed even just to show him the list of presentation titles for this convention. He's a good-natured guy with a sense of humor, but he also maintains a sense of professionalism, and porn is just NOT workplace material.

I'm not even addressing the sexism issues here - I just get frustrated with overly laid-back/edgy/casual developer culture. It's hard to point my colleagues to useful online resources when they're peppered with swears, ironic sexism, and other "I'm trying really hard to be a chill dude here" clutter.
posted by cadge at 5:12 PM on April 30, 2009


In 10+ years, I've NEVER been sent by my employer to a code convention...

It's been mandatory for me. Two weeks of training, mandatory, and there are only so many certs my boss wants me to have. It's expected I attend at least one tech conference as part of that mandatory two weeks.

If my area of expertise was RoR using CouchDB, and I was suckered into attending that fiasco... I. Would. Be. Pissed. Off.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:17 PM on April 30, 2009


Late, as usual. Chunking, thanks, and I take your point. I'd never caught those on Metafilter.

As to my point, I'll try and tack on what should have been a preamble: when I first picked up Ruby, Why's guide and blog were decisive at getting me lost in exactly the right way: by fictional detour and cartoon roundabout, inline style and chaos in the margin, and all illuminated by hand but more so by whirring inventions of language, human and machine. And technical writing is seldom twee.

In what time I've invested in languages (dead, living, synthetic as christmas trees) I've found one successful tactic for starting fresh: in a completely new language, go immediately for the poetry. Any poetry. Or crosswords. And with machines, come out hacking and writing games. "Hello, world" can wait, as can "where is the library?" There will be a world tomorrow, and libraries in it. But there has to be something charming or playful now, something that feeds the angelic or the impish, or the imagination won't be seduced. I think this is why Asterix and Obelix works so damn well for kids, and why Internalize Python in 7 Days does not, true though it may be to the serpentine feeding cycle. Hardwired differences aside, kids play and adults cram.

So my feeling now is exactly the one I get when someone first waylaid into comics by Todd McFarlane (whose David comes grime-caked and sealed in mylar) or into games by America's Army asks "what do you see in games/comics?" Mkultra said it: if this were my first glimpse of Ruby, I'd have smelled the body-spray and said pass. I've been cornered by this type of guy and his website before. But this presentation tries to play - it just knows only the same roughhouse foreplay that late-night tv cranks out and follows like pheromone trails. Once it was situationally edgy. Now it's Carlos Mencia, yesterday's reheated wit. It's not hacking, because hacking is subversive or sublime. A grenade in the lunchbox, or magic beans.

So if someone finds this whole fiasco, and not Why's guide, then that's upsetting.

That said, I do sympathize with a presentation that tried so wretchedly to sex-up relational database models. He threw fuzzy dice and T-bird fins on an old frigidaire, thinking it would make you all limerent. Pity him inasmuch as he had that to work with.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:18 PM on April 30, 2009


That said, I do sympathize with a presentation that tried so wretchedly to sex-up relational database models.

Relational database model? First of all it was about a database, not a database model. Second, CouchDB is not even a relational database engine.
posted by delmoi at 11:52 PM on April 30, 2009


Tim Brey on this:

I’m a technology generalist who attends every flavor of gathering. It’s impossible to avoid noticing that, even by the lopsided standard of high-tech culture, the Ruby and Rails communities are dramatically, painfully short of female members.

So it's probably the case that Rails is an outlier in terms of lack of women. Ironic that these "rockstars" have actually managed to make themselves even less likely to get laid then other programmers.
posted by delmoi at 1:16 AM on May 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can I just repeat the best line in this thread from Pastabagel one more time?

Car mechanics have integrated the post-feminist world into their professional lives better than these computer programmers.

This is true. I used to deliver automobile parts before moving on to computers in 1990. And I saw lots of inappropriate things on calendars. But by 1990 the auto mechanics had moved beyond that. Congratulations, Rails community, you've reached the maturity level of the auto repair industry in the 1980s.

Deriding the entire "Rails community" because of this fiasco is still an association fallacy.

No, it's a COLOSSAL PUBLIC RELATIONS FAILURE. As far as the general public of the blogosphere knows, Rails is some kind of teenage porn-trading club that has something to do with Twitter.
posted by mmoncur at 5:00 AM on May 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Relational database model? First of all it was about a database, not a database model.

As in model-view-controller. As I understand this, he's comparing CouchDB to ActiveRecord, which is the basic model resource in Rails.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:06 AM on May 1, 2009


That said, I do sympathize with a presentation that tried so wretchedly to sex-up relational database models. He threw fuzzy dice and T-bird fins on an old frigidaire, thinking it would make you all limerent. Pity him inasmuch as he had that to work with.
As a software developer who spends a lot of time educating, training, and presenting about the technology I work with, I find this absurd. Figuring out how to make a dry topic engaging without the flashy bits eclipsing the important information is a task just as challenging as optimizing database replication times. Matt failed, and he failed spectacularly.

Last week I presented at an expo about business models and their compatibility with different open source licenses. In brainstorming with a friend, the obvious "Well, consulting is like prostitution..." joke came up. And along with it, "And hosted services are like running a cheap motel!" At that point, there was a decision to be made. Run with a metaphor that would be memorable, but probably offensive to a percentage of the audience? Or put more work into it? I put more work into it, and the results were memorable and well-received.

I spend a good solid week on any major presentation trying to iron out key ideas and effective metaphors before I ever put together slides. It's frustrating to see statements like, "Oh, well, of course he put strippers into his presentation -- databases are boring!"
posted by verb at 9:41 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh sweet Isodore of Seville, patron saint of the Internet. I really should know better than to interrupt a Metafilter hate parade once in motion.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:16 AM on May 4, 2009


« Older The Tarantino Mixtape...  |  Babbo's recipe archive. [via]... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments