It's a Marvelous Day on the Internet

17 Mar 2014

Today is a great day. The sun is out (some of the time anyway) in Portland, flowers are blooming, and of course we have a bit of misogyny to start the day off right.

This past Thursday I’d received a somewhat innocuous tweet from someone interested in buying one of my domains:

The Tweet

However, I was busy giving a talk at the Esri DevSummit on the Geotrigger Service that my team in the Esri Portland R&D Center have been building, so I ignored it. Also I really like that domain and have been trying to figure out what to do with it.

Today, I received a second tweet replying to this first tweet. For one second I thought it was just tweet spam, but taking a look at the link I realized that no, this was something different.

The Reply

What do we have here?

Warning Misogyny Ahead

The Logs Part 1 The Logs Part 2

For those of you who want to follow along at home, the links to the relevant IRC logs are: here and here.

In a nutshell, Isaac Wagner wants something that I own, and believes that stalking the internet for personal information about me and threatening that he knows where I live is an effective and appropriate way to get what he wants.

Also, thanks to Sorella and ogd (HI MAX) to pointing out that this is inappropriate.

Victim Blaming

In a continuing perfect example of why some people just don’t get that their behavior is inappropriate, Isaac now tries to turn the fault back on to @nexxylove.

Victim Blaming Part 1 Victim Blaming Part 2 Victim Blaming Part 3

Isaac even tries to say that what he said in IRC was just a ‘joke’. A ‘joke’, that if we allow to continue to be a joke will continue to harass and drive away women from the Node.js and programming community at large. I’m not cool with that, I hope you aren’t either.

For more information on the risks of speaking up, please read Ashe Dryden’s The Risk In Speaking Up.

I know that I’m comfortable with what I’m posting and the responses I’m likely to get. Am I concerned that @nexxylove will get a bunch of negative feedback? Yes. And I want her to know that I’m incredibly thankful that she was willing to inform me, a complete stranger, of what was happening on the #node.js IRC channel. Anyone trying to blame anything on her is simply attempting to shield the status quo.

Note that I asked and received @nexxylove’s approval before publicly highlighting her in this way.


Now, some of you may question what the big deal is. It is entirely true that all of this information is publicly accessible on the internet. The problem is that Isaac believes it is ok to publicly and in a manner that is logged for all to see threaten a woman’s physical safety on the internet. Not only that, but that this behavior is an acceptable way to get what he wants.

I do not use the word woman in that sentence flippantly. The reason that Isaac believes that this tactic might work is because he already has a power over me – his physical strength as a man. Would the same tactic be nearly as effective on a random guy? No.

If you are a man and are thinking ‘What’s the big deal’, let me tell you what the big deal is. The big deal is that no matter how fit or strong I am, even the scrawniest basement-dwelling tech dude can easily overpower me if and when he wants to. This is biological fact.

In many cases, this sort of threat might even be somewhat effective. However, luckily for me I am not alone socially in the tech scene, and I have the privilege that many women do not have of knowing that I have a sizable number of people in the Ruby and Node.js scene that support me and to whom I can turn. This is a privilege that I have after spending 6+ years here. It is easy to forget that the women and minorities that are just entering tech do not have this support system. These are people who are the most vulnerable, and while we may not like to be compared to the animal kingdom, it is true that the small percentage of people who are thoughtless jerks are going to be focusing their attentions on the weakest among us. Like lions after the limping wildebeest.

The question then becomes, is there a way that we can reduce or eliminate the ‘limping wildebeest’ phase of minorities attempting to enter the tech community?

What Do?

Well, obviously there is no way in hell that Isaac will be getting from me.

The question is, what should I do with it? I think that something good should come out of this, and I want to do something to provide other women and minorities within tech the same feelings of safety and security that I have today. If you have any ideas, or would like to help, please reach out to me on twitter @davystevenson.