Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Really Didn't Want To Be Writing About This Again

mdz posted on the backlash to my blog posting (he had to close comments, inhibit the Nameless and turn on moderation as well), and dissected a lot of examples, but there's a new and (I think) rather pernicious one: the thesis is basically as follows:

"In spite of his repeated denials that he has a strong opinion one way of the other on Mono, Lefty is really a secret Mono advocate, and is leading a witch hunt against Stallman over a harmless little joke that he's told for the past decade, but it's really all about Mono."

First, let's get the harmless little joke stuff out of the way. Chani (who is a woman and who was present, so let's get that out of the way, too) posted an extremely eloquent comment on her blog:
talking about relieving women of their virginity casts women in a submissive role, with men in a dominant role, and brings up thoughts of oppression and (indirectly) rape. (yes, thinking about a roomful of guys thinking about taking womens’ virginity does eventually lead me to wondering how many of them would take it by force.) it becomes less about the non-sexual meaning of “virgin” and more about all the crazy ideas societies have had about virgin women. and thinking about that stuff would make any woman uncomfortable.
Yes. This.

Does anyone not get that? If so, speak up: I want to know who you are because I find you very frightening.

Now, as to the thesis detailed above. I've been clear about my opinions on Mono. If I had a serious gripe with Stallman's position, and I cared enough to do something about it, I'd post a blog entry like Dave Neary did. The fact is my feelings just aren't that strong.

By way of full disclosure, I know a lot of people on the Mono team, including Miguel de Icaza, and I like them. They are not demons, and they are not "Microsoft shills". Treating them as though they were and calling them names will not score you points in the community.

I know a lot of people working on Mono projects, and they're doing what I believe to be excellent work.

Now, I believe that anyone who's serious about "getting Mono out of the default Ubuntu install" should run for a seat on the UTB, and nominations are open until the end of the month. I guess we'll see if Roy Schestowitz puts his hat in the ring. If you want to change things, you get involved and put yourself in a position to change them.

What you don't do is defame people over the issue, or interfere with their lives. That's my gripe with Roy and his miserable excuse for a "journalistic" web site, not Mono.

Does anyone not get that?

Now, when you say "it's really got to be about Mono", you're effectively saying, "It's not actually possible that people could really get upset over something like sexism in the community. There has to be a better reason."

I came across a study which showed that, among incoming first-year college students, around half of the men favored the possibility of programming computers as a career and something like 20% of the women did. Men associated computer science with making a bunch of money, women associated it with typing and boredom. (Men were generally more interested in money, and women were generally more interested in job satisfaction.)

Assuming that half of that one out of five women, i.e. 10% actually end up studying computer science, only one out of five of them actually end up working in the FLOSS community. It seems to me that there's something wrong there. I say that a bunch of what's wrong is a climate where we tolerate (and laugh at, and dismiss concerns about, and divert discussion of) presentations like the ones given at GoGaRuCo and Flashbelt, and "harmless little jokes" like Stallman's.

Consider that.

Consider what Chani's said.

Now, tell me "It's really all about Mono."


Some other postings which relate to this.

Matthew Garrett, RMS and Virgins
Dave Neary, Gran Canaria Wrap-up Day 1
Kirrily Robert, Richard Stallman, Feminist Ally
Geek Feminism Wiki, EMACS Virgin Joke

38 comments:

Eric said...

This is what I don't understand. Lets play into what some people are saying for a second which is let say for a minute the joke really wasn't sexist. Regardless, it still offended many people. Now what has the larger community and RMS done about that?
For starters, RMS has done nothing remedy that. Now if your goal is to create a better, stronger free software movement how hard is it to say something like, "it has come to my attention that my speech may have offended some people. My intent and parallels/parody was x,y and z. My intent was not to create a sexist joke, but for those that were offended I am sorry and I will take a closer look at my speech in the future, etc."
On the other hand, by reading many blogs I've noticed that a significant number of people in the community have chosen to attack the few that spoke out against sexism. I've read people that have seen RMS for the first time and now their ashamed to call them a free software advocate and instead associate with open source. I mean if I'm disappointed at someone it's at the larger community for not doing much about it. It baffles my mind noticing too many people brushing this thing off as if it's not serious. It will usually go something like this, "I think [insert why they think it wasn't sexist here] therefore [insert reasoning to forget about it and move on]. You guys are missing the point! There were a significant amount of people that were offended and the community needs to do a better job in correcting that issue regardless of what was said. There is plenty of room here to make everyone happy.

Jef Spaleta said...

I think you are connecting too many dots.

Is it unexpected that 1 in 5 CS women end up in the FLOSS community? What's the breakdown for men? Do 3 in 5 CS men go into FLOSS? You don't actually say and without that breakdown we don't have the context in which to know if women are disproportionately going to non-FLOSS.

The lack of interest more generally from women in CS as a career is something entirely different I suspect. I think the truth of the matter is, that it really is a boredom factor in the college years relative to other career options available to them in college.

Physics research as a career choice suffers similar problems, if not more severe ones. There is a significant dropoff between high school and college for women enrolled in physics. And then again in the post-graduate studies.

And I've yet to run across any communicated discomfort about sexist commentary in a conference setting associated with a notable physics conference.

There are deeper issues with making computer science(and programming more generally) attractive to college aged women I think. I don't think you can lay this at the feet of overt sexism and be done with it. And its a very big problem...because software programming...FlOSS software programming..is becoming a bigger and bigger part of how science is getting done across a number of fields...even the humanities now. Traditional CS is the tip of the iceberg really. If women don't enjoying programming, its going to really distort the ability of FLOSS to impact the quality of research in fields where women present in significant numbers or dominate.

It's not just about stopping the use of language that is appealing to men specifically. I'm not just talking about the virgin comment or the prior pornstar conference image and all that crap. That stuff is just a poor attempt at humor.

I'm talking about communicating what's actually interesting about working with software. The why's and reasons that we like doing what we do.

Someone is going to have to go further and figure out how to communicate the same information and exciting in a language that is appealing to women. That someone, is more than likely going to have to be a woman. Who would you hold up as woman who you would choose to give a keynote talk at an open source developers conference or to give a set of talks across the University landscape to build interest in computer science ? Or FLOSS development models?

-jef

tm_lv said...

Could you please stop abusing your ability to post stuff on planet gnome?
In your last 3 or so posts you just keep repeating yourself. Do you really think you are so important?

Simon Howard said...

"Secret Mono advocate"? Jesus Christ, talk about paranoid.

Tom said...

OMG Will your christian crusade against non conformists never stop? How much time you must have spend on these posts and reading/answering comments just amazes me.

I still don't see what the fuss is about, Stallman talked about Emacs virgins not women. I may not be a native speaker but to me that is totally gender neutral.

This so reminds me of these Mohammed caricatures. Only because lots of people get offended about shit doesn't mean it is right.

I just don't like all this american political correctness dog poo and no amout of posts and comments will convince me otherwise. I will not limit free speech to stupid rules that totally make no sense to me. To make such a fuss just because someone used the word virgin or used a girl in a bikini is totally ridiculous!

Lefty said...

In your last 3 or so posts you just keep repeating yourself.

I don't think that's accurate.

Do you really think you are so important?

I think the issue is that important.

Lefty said...

...talk about paranoid.

Indeed. There's a lot of wackiness out there.

Lefty said...

Will your christian crusade against non conformists never stop?

Are you sure you're in the right blog...? I'm a Buddhist. And, if you knew me, I think you'd understand just how hilarious the notion of me leading a crusade against non-conformists is.

Stallman talked about Emacs virgins not women.

You're mistaken. He said "EMACS virgins are women who have never used EMACS." I heard it. Chani heard it. Everyone who was there heard it.

Since I gather you were not there, exactly how do you manage to dispute the evidence of the senses of those who were? I'm honestly curious.

Only because lots of people get offended about shit doesn't mean it is right.

There's no problem with people being offended at a caricature of Mohammed. It's not right for the artists who made the cartoon to be threatened with bodily harm, and that's a separate issue. Nobody's threatened Stallman's life.

I will not limit free speech to stupid rules that totally make no sense to me. To make such a fuss just because someone used the word virgin or used a girl in a bikini is totally ridiculous!

No one's trying to limit "free speech". Stallman can make all the sexist jokes he likes, in the hallway, on the sidewalk, or wherever. He shouldn't be doing it as part of a keynote at a technical conference.

Hm. "Using a girl in a bikini".

Sigh. I doubt there's even a point here. Look, you've made up your mind, apparently, so if you want to "contribute" more of the same in the future, do it on your own (so far unused) blog, not here.

Pinheiro said...

Hey I was at the conference, I find much of the RMS "folklore" non funny, but I did get the joke I', from a Latin country the "Virgin Mary" thing is a very crystallized concept that conveys allot of social issues of a matriarchal society such as the Spanish, Portuguese and south American society. virginity i something way more metaphorical than what you understood.
In fact its sexist, but in a clear attack to the sexist matriarchal society we live in, in say Portugal, the entire "Virgin Mary" thing is way more complex than what you understood. And I guess I understood the joke because I have used it many times, never as a sexist remark but as a critic to my matriarchal society were men live in their parents house till they are 30, and get married to a women that "will never be a good as mama".
The "Virgin Marry" embodies the untouched perfection of your mother. (witch in my humble opinions is really mater of joke because not all mothers can be that perfect right ;) )


P.S. I get the joke but I don't find it all that funny. Only because I found it way to obvious, and unpolished.
If there is a cultural thing here that is provoking a miss understanding I'm not sure R.M.S. should apologizing for that, but I might be wrong..

makomk said...

Simon Howard: I'm sure it's my paranoia causing me to imagine all those comments pushing the pro-Mono side over at Boycott Novell. (In one particularly impressive post discussion I saw, over half the comments seemed to be from Lefty. He may actually have written more than the original post and the other commenters put together.)

Now, last I heard, Lefty's justification was that he didn't actually care about Mono, but it was just so entertaining. This does not reassure me.

Lefty said...

I'm sure it's my paranoia causing me to imagine all those comments pushing the pro-Mono side over at Boycott Novell.

Yes, that's exactly right.

If you go and actually look at those comments over on Roy's scab of a web site--and I tell you that if Roy were to show up at an event like GCDS, he would not be treated kindly by the majority of the participants--none of 'em are about Mono.

They're about documenting when Roy is telling lies. I think the entry you're referring to is one in which Roy actively defamed me to an extent where I felt obligated to make it clear to him that I was seriously considering bringing suit against him in the UK for libel, and which point he backed down, posted a retraction and apologized. He went back on that apology and started posting more pointless and silly nonsense (e.g. I'm not "a Linux guy" because I posted comments from my Mac) before the day is out, just another example of his inability to tell the truth or keep his word.

So don't use my dribbling Roy around his worthless cesspool of a "journalism" site to make the case that I'm really a "secret Mono advocate".

That is paranoid. It's also stupid.

You've been pushing this line, without giving a sign that you've given what others have posted--what I've posted in this very entry--even the slightest consideration. I frankly don't even think you bothered to read it.

If you did, and you lack the empathy to even consider that there's more going on that your and Roy's silly little demands around Mono--even though I explicitly told you exactly what to do about it--then you're most definitely someone I have no interested in being associated with or seeing as part of the community, quite frankly.

Lefty said...

This does not reassure me.

I'm not here to reassure you.

By the way, I know you've been pushing this same line in Matthew Garrett's blog, and elsewhere. Matthew's lost patience with you, as have I. You've had your say, and you're saying nothing new; you want to say more, you have a blog of your own, go use it. You're done here.

Skud said...

@Jef I think you're on a good track wrt "communicating what's actually interesting about working with software." This was one of the big findings in "Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing": that the women they surveyed were interested in seeing what computing was actually being used for, not just the dry mathematical/algorithmic side of it.

There are a number of women speaking about women in open source. Angela Byron keynoted at Open Web Vancouver recently on that topic, and I'm doing one at OSCON next year. There are women going and giving talks at high schools, running workshops for women interested in learning about open source, etc.

@Tom, Stallman specifically mentioned women. Several people present have confirmed this, and a Youtube video of the same talk -- a schtick that he's repeated with little or no variation for many years -- shows it very clearly. Please stop spreading this misinformation.

bobthevirus said...

I think the problem here is that RMS probably thinks he was making a funny parody of certain religions while it appeared to the viewer to be a serious indication of how people should think.

He could easily stop the controversy by apologizing for any offense he has caused and explaining that he entirely unserious about the whole St gnu thing. It would also be sensible if he insists on continuing with the performance to make it more obviously a parody and to change the gender specific references to gender neutral (surely guys need to be introduced into the Church of Emacs also?)

I really don't understand why he has that part of his speech, he is much better at deep thinking on the philosophy of freedom than being funny and much more valuable to the community that way also.

Seanbot said...

You know, I'm getting really tired of everyone talking about Stallman. While I agree with you on all points, Lefty, I'm more upset by the fact that many of your commentators are here representing parts of the FOSS community, and they act like children. "OH! OH! HE SUPPORTS MONO! IT'S A WITCH HUNT AGAINST OUR GOD, RMS!"

BN is really a rag. I recall at some point that they used to write worthwhile articles, but that's fairly a moot point by now. The zealotry that overrides logical thought in the community anymore is a huge problem.

bobert said...

I've known quite a few women with programming talent and technical chops who have been driven out of the profession by sexism and discrimination, both hidden and overt. I'm talking qualified female C++ programmers with years of professional experience who are hired and then stuck in QA, and female university students who were refused assistance by male TAs and told they shouldn't be programming. A really great example was a programmer who was harassed online by a guy who, as soon as he found out she was a woman, suggested she come over so he could defrost some of the containers of his semen that he kept in the freezer and then rub it all over her.

It's not funny. It's offensive, it's disgusting, it's abusive, and it's rampant. And it's not just the blatant stuff that drives women out of the business, it's the constant little digs and jabs and jokes and exclusions.

RMS is notorious for this kind of stuff - it was openly discussed in a session at last summer's Ottawa Linux Symposium. Most women are not socialized to do what a**holes like RMS deserve, which is to kick them repeatedly in the gonads. No, they just quietly go away from where they're clearly not welcome, and leave the field.

My wife is a very qualified software developer with over twenty years' professional experience. She has an incisively quick intellect, and finds gatherings like Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference quite dull. I was trying to convince her to go with me to the Gran Canaria conference, telling her that it was technically challenging and - get this - not sexist.

We wound up not going for other reasons - and now I'm glad. If she had been at Stallman's talk, it would have become much harder to convince her to go with me to another conference in the future.

Zanko said...

I'm becoming sick of this pointless debate. Stallman is not sexist, it seems he has even taken position against sexism in the past (I have not verified).

The thing you need to get is that Stallman's joke is a parody of religion (which is often sexist). But it seems that you are not able to get what "irony" and "parody" means. That's not because you make a parody of something that you agree with it... In fact it is often the contrary.

klattimer said...

Dude... Does this shit ever stop?

Obviously, and I mean OBVIOUSLY it's all about mono, and NOTHING to do with have an upstanding moral view of how people should treat each other.

Regardless of the gender neutral word "virgin", the implication is obvious to english speakers... and "abusing your right to post on planet gnome" LMFAO! how exactly is it abuse of a platform which is intended to communicate the personal lives of hackers!

Lefty said...

I'm becoming sick of this pointless debate.

You might want to go back to bed and keep the covers over your head for six months or so. I don't think it's going away.

Stallman is not sexist, it seems he has even taken position against sexism in the past (I have not verified).

You're pretty quick with assertions that you haven't verified.

The fact is that even if you write nice little essays against sexism, when you stand on a stage at a technical conference in front of 1,000 people and tell a blatantly sexist joke, your having written the essays does not constitute a "Get To Tell a Divisive and Offensive Joke For Free!" card.

Lefty said...

...NOTHING to do with have an upstanding moral view of how people should treat each other.

Well, obviously. I mean, anyone who says that they care about something like that simply has to be lying. There's obviously an ulterior motive.

and "abusing your right to post on planet gnome" LMFAO! how exactly is it abuse of a platform which is intended to communicate the personal lives of hackers!

Apparently, we're not supposed to post anything on planet that anyone might find themselves challenged by.

I expect to see a completely empty page next time I go there.

Lefty said...

I really don't understand why he has that part of his speech...

Nobody does. I suspect that they keep giving him half-hour speaking slots, and he only has fifteen minutes worth of actual material.

I keep seeing this St IGNUcious thing being referred to as "beloved", but I didn't sense a lot of love for it at GCDS. The general consensus is that it's tedious, and a bit embarrassing for a lot of people to watch.

Given some of the backlash about this, particularly the "YOU ARENT FIT TO PRONOUNCE STALLMAN'S NAME!!!11!!" stuff, I have to wonder whether its just a bunch of sycophants surrounding Stallman, assuring him, "Oh, people love that!" while in fact the audience sits there, fidgeting uncomfortably, looking at their watches the entire time.

I suspect that if "no one's complained" so far, it's perhaps not because they didn't want to...

Lefty said...

@Jef

Is it unexpected that 1 in 5 CS women end up in the FLOSS community? What's the breakdown for men? Do 3 in 5 CS men go into FLOSS? You don't actually say and without that breakdown we don't have the context in which to know if women are disproportionately going to non-FLOSS.

I don't know whether it is or isn't unexpected, but I can try to reason through it.

Let's start out with an equally-divided population of men and women first year students. As I said, perhaps 50% of the men and 20% of the women express an interest in CS.

Out of those, let's assume for the sake of the argument, that half of those actually wind up in CS. That makes 250 men and 100 women, so you've got a representation of women at around 1/3 or the population.

It seems that men and women would--in the absence of other information--make the decision to work in FLOSS at equal numbers. (I could argue that women might be more likely, since the study showed that women place a higher value on "job satisfaction" while men place more value on "high salary".)

So, let's say 1 out of 10 of those students, overall, decide to go into FLOSS. That's still 10 women to 25 men. The fact is that, in a group of 35 randomly-chosen FLOSS developers (according to the statistics in the FLOSSPOLS report) that you might have one women in that group of 35, not ten.

Why the drop-off? What is the factor that causes women to be under-represented?

No matter at which point in the chain of events it happens, you have to ask yourself why women, in larger proportion than men, are dropping out.

According to some of the Nameless Horde, the explanation is that "women really don't know anything about technology", a view which Stallman's "harmless little joke" unquestionably fosters. That could certainly be a dissuading factor.

And maybe, just maybe, it's a climate that supports the singling out of women for denigration, in sexually-loaded terms. Again, I don't see how "harmless little jokes" like Stallman's can possibly help the situation. I mean, if it's okay for Stallman to joke about his "holy duty" to "relieve" women "virgins" of their "virginity", it's gotta be okay for me, right?

I mean, he's Richard Stallman, "leader of the Free Software movement".

Right?

I don't know the answer. But I feel it needs to be considered very seriously, and the folks who try to "explain it away" aren't really doing the community, or its people, any service.

Ian Hurst said...

Lefty, just chiming in now, I guess, to say thanks for speaking up. I commented a few times on your first post about RMS, but very quickly it exhausted me. Not sure how you manage to respond to every horrible comment without losing it, but it's appreciated.

Lefty said...

Not sure how you manage to respond to every horrible comment without losing it, but it's appreciated.

Thanks. That's about thirty years worth of Zen meditation, I suppose. It's really all about the equanimity...

=D

makomk said...

Lefty: yeah, the software development world has a scarily big sexism problem, as do a lot of online communities. (The xkcd IRC channel, from what I've seen, has to go to a lot of effort to keep the "no girls on the internet" and "pics please" remarks out. I don't think most even bother.)

Part of the reason I wasn't sure about the wisdom of this initially is that RMS seems like an easy big scalp to claim - he's important, grudgingly respected, but not popular or liked. I was concerned that the feeling of doing something important about sexism was entirely out of proportion to the actual benefit. (Then I smelt something odd, and that went out the window.)

Of course, if you want to fight against sexism, feel free - just be warned that Richard Stallman and the other high-profile cases are probably not even the tip of the iceberg.

Lefty said...

Lefty: yeah, the software development world has a scarily big sexism problem, as do a lot of online communities.

So, I guess you're retracting the claims you've been throwing all over Livejournal and elsewhere that it's really because I don't like Stallman's position on Mono...? It'd be nice to say it explicitly, since you've been spreading that nonsense far and wide up until now.

Part of the reason I wasn't sure about the wisdom of this initially is that RMS seems like an easy big scalp to claim - he's important, grudgingly respected, but not popular or liked.

You continue not to get it. It's not as though I was waiting around for Stallman to say something like this so I could jump on him. If any of the keynote presenters, Robert Lefkowitz or Walter Bender or Quim Gil, had told that joke, I'd be complaining about them.

But it was Stallman who said it. So, should I wait around for a "smaller, harder target"...? I don't understand what you're saying, unless it's a variation on "Stallman is, by definition, untouchable", a position to which I do not happen to subscribe.

Of course, if you want to fight against sexism, feel free - just be warned that Richard Stallman and the other high-profile cases are probably not even the tip of the iceberg.

I still am not following you. Are you saying that since there's a lot of sexism, and since Stallman is "high-profile", I should have sat on my hands and waited for someone else to do something sexist so I could complain about it.

You seem terribly confused to me, honestly. Stallman said what he said. I didn't like it; lots of people didn't.

What's the course of action you'd have recommended in this situation? Remove Mono from the default Ubuntu install....?

Lefty said...

Now, last I heard, Lefty's justification was that he didn't actually care about Mono, but it was just so entertaining.

I don't know where you heard this, but it wasn't from me (and you didn't ask, did you?)

The fact is that the "journalist", Roy Schestowitz has libeled me repeatedly on his site. He has admitted libeling me, as he posted a retraction of, and an apology for, that libel.

He also agreed not to make such irresponsible statements again in the future. He broke that agreement, repeating exactly the same libels, only at second-hand, by pointing to an article on another site which contained them.

So, my gripe with Roy is that he's lying about me, see?

You, in fact, are another one, who seems to be spending an awful lot of time telling people that I'm some sort of "crypto pro-Mono advocate", when there's no evidence at all to support that. Even Roy, who is a pathological liar, admitted this.

Tell me something, I'm sincerely curious: why is it that you anti-Mono zealots have to make your "case" by spreading lies? You folks are completely out of hand. Someone associated with Roy tried to make trouble for me by contacting my work; another of Roy's trollettes helpfully posted all the contact information for my employer on Roy's cesspool of a web site.

(Not that I'm worried, so don't get your hopes up. However, as I've pointed out, it has a very chilling effect on other people, and that is a big destroyer of community--just like sexism, see?)

Freedom is a double-edged sword. Your freedom entails my freedom to do, and to say, things you don't like.

However, you folks seem to be more operating along the lines of "Freedom the Way We Tell You".

The Mad Hatter said...

Why not? It's a good subject. Actually it's several good subjects.

1) We need more women in IT. I personally suspect that one reason we don't have more is that women are less susceptible to Asperger's syndrome than men. But yeah, there's quite a few sexist pigs in the IT field, and no woman would want to work near these jerks. Thank God many of these dinosaurs will be retiring in the next 10 years, and the generation coming up is no where near as secist.

2) The legal status of Mono is an important issue. The only legal opinion that has been given so far is from the Software Freedom Law Center, and they say that Mono is legally dangerous.

3) No one has said that Miguel isn't smart. What has been said is that he has an unhealthy interest in Microsoft technologies. Many of us switched to Gnu/Linux to get away from Microsoft, and I for one and damned if I will have a Microsoft imitation on my computer. Other people feel the same.

4) Of course then there's the question of what happens when Miguel gets bored and decides to extend Mono in a new and neat way. Microsoft will freak.

5) I've heard several people claim that Mono applications are exciting. I've used F-Spot and Tomboy, and if you think that these are exciting, well, you need to get a live.

6) OK, so Stallman suffered from foot in mouth disease. Are you trying to claim that you've never said something that you later wish you hadn't? In this case it was a joke aimed at the target audience that went flat. Since I'm of Italian background, I can appreciate it too. But it's not in great taste.

7) As to Roy, his news is more accurate than not. And while his grammar is atrocious at times, I'm willing to put up with it for accuracy. Which of his articles isn't accurate in your view?

Lefty said...

With all due respect I'm beginning to get a little bored with the Mono-maniacally obsessed here. Everything's about Mono. Stub your toe? Mono. Burn the muffins? Mono. Sheesh.

We need more women in IT.

Uh huh...

The legal status of Mono is an important issue. The only legal opinion that has been given so far is from the Software Freedom Law Center, and they say that Mono is legally dangerous.

That's inaccurate: we have the opinion of Canonical's legal team as given to the Ubuntu technical board, and they feel differently. Which seems to really bother you folks.

OK, so Stallman suffered from foot in mouth disease.

Evidently you failed to read my comments about the "harmless little joke". Go try again, see if you can manage to summon up a glimmer of empathy.

This completely flies in the face of your "we need more women in IT". Since we need more women in IT, we try to refer to a joke as offensive as Stallman's as "foot in mouth disease"...? Is that the way to get more women in IT...? Seems counter-intuitive to me.

Are you trying to claim that you've never said something that you later wish you hadn't?

I think I can accurately claim that I've never told a sexually-loaded "joke" aimed squarely at the (few) women in the audience while giving a presentation at a major technical conference, yes.

In this case it was a joke aimed at the target audience that went flat.

Er, what do you imagine that "target audience" to be?

As to Roy, his news is more accurate than not.

That is absolutely untrue. Roy is a pathological liar, and his "news" is filled with falsehoods and libels. Roy has already been obliged to retract statements he made about me and offer a full apology. He went right back to libeling me within a day.

Not to mention his documented complicity in an effort to cause trouble for me at my job.

Roy is a snake, and his site is a cesspool. The day it gets shut down, I'm throwing a party.

Vindicare said...

David,

Please give this a look and let me know if it's correct re: your recollection.

And also, "Mad Hatter" is another one of the BoycottBoys, in case you didn't know about him :)

Lefty said...

This is excellent, thanks for making the effort. There is at least one inaccuracy which needs to be corrected:

June 11: Roy asks whether I would like him to contact Mr. Fink. I specifically say that I don't care whether he does or doesn't, that Mr. Fink is "[his] problem and not mine". Roy apparently decides to go ahead an contact Fink on his own.

This is what the comments show, and Roy has shown confusion about this in the past, telling others that I had "told" him to contact Fink. That was never the case.

We could debate the "falling for the 'good cop/bad cop'" thing, but it's a quibble.

Other than the specific correction I point out, I believe (at first reading) that this is a pretty good representation of the sequence of events.

Lefty said...

Oh, one other worthwhile event to note from Feb. 2008 is Fink's debut performance on the ubnutu-devel mailing list, as documented here, in a thread titled "Tomboy Replacement".

In this, Mr. Fink, explains that he has decided to write a non-Mono replacement for Tomboy, in spite of having no programming experience whatsoever, "because Tomboy is poisoning GNOME distributions like Red Hat and Ubuntu with it's Microsoft patented MONO dependency crap as you can read about on [Boycott Novell]".

This resulted in a fair amount of bewilderment and amusement, not to mention annoyance, on the part of onlookers, some of whom--despite this, and that is very much to their credit--offer him a little help in the form of pointers to some "Programming for Dummies"-type sites). The general reaction is that he should come back in a year or two when he's got something to show for himself.

Lefty said...

My error: that was the "desktop-devel" list.

Lefty said...

re June 12: this is not independently verifiable, but between the time that Roy published his namby-pamby "Manners" posting and his more directed "'Mark Fink' Has Nothing to Do WIth Us" posting, I had confronted Roy, in private email, with the digitally-signed message from Roy to Mark Fink that Fink--apparently becoming quite frightened at the backlash he was receiving from numerous people on ubuntu-devel over the attempt to harass me by contacting my manager--had forwarded to me.

That email, and my deep dissatisfaction with the tortuous "explanations" I received from Roy about it ("I'm being framed!"), are the genesis of the "When Zeal Becomes Zealotry" posting.

Vindicare said...

David,

Revisions completed.

wagner.stefan said...

My impression is too, that woman are rare in the community. I cannot compare it to a windows or Mac-Community, since I don't participate in one of these.

I can't explain what keeps them out, but would be interested in a serious study. Here I see a lot of guessing, but no woman presenting her view from first perspective.

Most users never ever get in contact with RMS, so he can't be the central problem. I know, that's not your claim. Is he just a typical member? Maybe not for all, but for a too large and dominant number of users?

So we schouldn't work on the great RMS-excuse, but face a much harder job of daily work?

On the other hand: Why don't fight women for their rights? Janis Joplin sang "You can't petition the lord with prayer". And similar, you can't carry women to freedom.

I'm in the german ubuntuusers.de team, and I would like to know what women are missing or what they are disgusted by. I would like to be more sure about that, and I don't believe the rest of the society is so much better than a linux forum. Is it?

I don't think attacking RMS might buy us much, but it's perhaps a good starting point.

Man said...

Let's have a thought experiment, shall we? I ask you to read to the end (of the subsequent post; there are two) before formulating a response, as all is not as it appears. It does not matter if the joke was funny. It does not matter if we get it or not. It does not matter if it's harmless. It doesn't even matter if women as a group are interested in technology or not. And it is merely academic as to whether it was well-intended. Set aside all of the unimportant and reason with me for a moment, if you would.

What matters is that what was said had no business being said there. RMS was not hired as an entertainer. The audience is not expected to fall asleep unless he clowns around. They are the skilled and accomplished, and are accustomed to (and expect to be) exercising their mental faculties. He is not a trained monkey, rewarded for his trademark song and dance with your squeals of laughter. Let me make it clear: a parody targeting (!) various groups has little reason to be performed year after year, ad nauseam, in place of enriching the lives of those who paid money to be there to, among other things, hear what he has to say. Don't ask it from him and don't expect it from him.

My words are pointed, but I think you will find that you agree with the underlying idea, which is that RMS is an Important Man. I don't know how he came around to thinking that this routine was a good idea. Perhaps he thought it up in a weekend and performed it in front of some friends who howled with laughter. And in such a setting it's just fine. It must have been refined over the years to the point at which it stands now. But the man is too damn important to be rattling it off every time we see him. There is so much that could be contributed instead. There are millions of worthy stories and hundreds of worthy ideas that have yet to be shared. He has years of experience to draw upon. And it's a disservice to both him and me to see him to be hired as a babysitter and have him read to me from the same storybook. Every. Single. Time.

He played a significant role in the history of computing. Furthermore, he is not senile. I am frankly appalled that expectations of the man are so low. I can see that he feels hurt that people didn't like it; he's invested a lot of effort into it, and it's become a sort of perpetual inside joke. But many people were at the pointed end of his parody, whereas before his audience members were all on the safe side of the stick. And I don't think he understands that feelings get hurt even when you didn't mean to do it. More people are joining the free software movement, and they have a significantly different environment and background. The days where everyone who programmed shared a common base of circumstance and knowledge are long gone. Evolution would suggest that this diversity is a good thing, but we must prepare for it by becoming less divisive. We cannot afford to think in us vs. them terms any more.

(continued in next post)

Man said...

(continued from previous post)

Richard, I beg you to reconsider. I don't like your churches and cults, but you probably don't think all of my jokes are funny, either. We are very different people. But you are not the church of emacs, and I am not a collection of silly puns and Chuck Norris jokes. Let's put all the jokes aside; you don't need an icebreaker. I already know who you are. I bought a plane ticket, a fresh notepad, and I came fully prepared to listen. I want to learn from you, and I want you to learn from me. I'd throw some "we" in there, but this sort of growth tends to happen two people at a time.

For my part, I will apologize for any words that I have said that may have hurt you. You may not have encountered them, and they certainly weren't intended to vilify you, but the fact exists that such things cannot be unsaid. I recognize that my words above may seem harsh, but I wished to prove a point that people were doing you no good deed by insisting that you restrict yourself to the this content. And you are doing them no favor by continuing it. There will always be people who will misunderstand you, but the most dangerous ones are the ones who extrapolate and then agree. These people will take the things that you say as a joke, twist them, and then use them as an excuse to do things which you do not support. And they will do it in your name, believing that you support every single step.

You are famous now. You have a lot of influence. And with that "comes great responsibility". If you wish to prevent people from twisting your words, you must measure them carefully before sharing them. If people misunderstand what you say, you must explicitly clarify your meaning. Vague specifications are subject to feature creep and distortion. We've seen that before. Let us do our best to be clear, so that none may doubt what we think. And yet we will still unknowingly hurt others. That is the price of individuality, after all. But let us be empathetic and offer a warm smile and a warmer apology. Let us not apologize that they misunderstood, but that we failed to communicate properly. The fault may not be ours, but the pleasure of healing another will.

I would humbly ask you to tender an apology, not for being "sexist", but for not adequately conveying the thoughts of your soul. The tongue is an unwieldy beast after all, inadequate for the most delicate of purposes. And these words are a small price to pay for the way it will bring people together.

Do this, and I shall henceforth refer to you as "Real Man Stallman". For you will have taken the most difficult road of all- that of a leader.