So angry

13 Oct 2014

I just learned of Brianna Wu having been driven from her home. During lunch today I did a poor job of explaining gamergate to my colleagues, and because of thinking about this I have been in a bad mood all afternoon.

Before I became a software developer I was a mathematician. Also not the most diverse occupation to be in. Having been in that “industry” and sideways involved with hiring, and directly involved with accepting (or not) of graduate students, positive discrimination, and just the general difficulty of actually having to judge people for making the cut or not. I have tried to form real opinions on how to deal with minorities in math, or minorities in development (with minority used here in its meaning of not the majority, i.e. not the group of white males).

To a large extend I have tried and failed. In some ways the issues are simple; everyone is to be treated equally. In other ways the issues are incredibly hard; how do you deal with years and years of discrimination? Just treating equally doesn’t quite seem to cut it, but not treating equally also is clearly wrong (it is unfortunate, but there are several cases of positive discrimination gone wrong that I am aware of).

So I have failed. I have not yet come up with a coherent and satisfying set of ideas to deal with this situation. Nothing new there, I fail at stuff all the time. One might say, looking at my track record, that failing at stuff is one of my most practiced skill. But failing, and trying again, is the only way to at some point not fail. Hence I keep at it.

John Siracusa gave a “recipe” for understanding the issue better in a recent episode of ATP. I have been following part of this recipe, and in particular have been listening to isometric. The immediate consequence of this is that now I have some sort of connection to the person this has happened to (I listen to her talk on my ipod with some regularity).

Not being able to form a complete opinion on diversity, or how to improve it, does not leave me without reasonably considered parts of opinions. Clearly diversity is a good thing. Clearly diversity is desirable. Clearly treating eachother pleasantly is a good thing. Clearly making threaths is a bad thing. Clearly if you are part of treating someone in such a way they reasonably fear for their lives and have to leave their houses is a terrible thing. Clearly anyone who participated in this needs to go to prison for some time.

I can only hope that Brianna will get through this well. She is in my thoughts. I wish, and will look out for, more constructive things to do. For now I am just really very angry that the technologies I enjoy and love get abused for such twisted purposes.