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Ask Slashdot: How Should Tech Conferences Embrace Diversity? 343

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-least-one-romulan-for-every-human dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Register is reporting on how debate over diversity has managed to get a Ruby conference in the UK cancelled, as the speakers were 100% white male. The person running the conference, Chuck Hardy, said he 'was not prepared to put [himself] in the position of legal liability and cost ramifications if a sponsor were to pull out under social media strain.' He added, 'The ramifications of comments such as race and gender can have financial and legal consequences for the conference organizer. Raise these issues but allow the conference organizers the chance to highlight and act on these industry level issues. Accusation and slander is not a solution.' Should conferences embrace diversity from the start, or should they go forward even if the speakers are all of the same denomination? How far do we have to go to ensure we are diverse?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Should Tech Conferences Embrace Diversity?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @06:55PM (#42048189)
    I think the United States experience has proven that adequately.
  • One idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jailbrekr (73837) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @06:55PM (#42048199) Homepage

    Have all the presenters in blackface, and then have them announce that they are embracing diversity.

    How stupid of an idea is this? Just treat everyone fairly, how hard is that?

  • The Best Way! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @06:55PM (#42048201)

    The best way for a tech conference to handle this is to focus on the tech.

    Racial and sexual diversity have precisely zero to do with a tech conference. Unless you're running a KKK rally, don;t look at diversity. Look at the tech!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @06:57PM (#42048231)

    Shouldn't a conference be about the technology, not the people speaking about the technology?

    My opinion is that I don't care if the information is presented by a black homosexual woman or a white middle-aged heterosexual man, I just want the knowledge.

  • None whatsoever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @06:58PM (#42048247) Journal

    You should exert absolutely no effort to be diverse, and you should exert absolutely no effort to not be diverse. What matters is the merit of the speakers, not their diversity.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:02PM (#42048301)

    Instead of complaining that a conference is all white, run your own conference and make it as diverse as you want. My experience concludes that most of the time, those who complain don't do anything themselves. They work as peons somewhere, and have never made any decisions on their own.

    Start your own business, it's never been difficult. And show that you're better than others. What a great competitive advantage you'll have.

    Quit complaining when someone else does what they want. I don't imagine that in this case the organizer turned away non-white speakers. You wanted it to be random, and sometimes random is uniform. So sorry, that's how math works.

    Again, be responsible for something of your own, and you'll find that you won't care what others do on their own.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:04PM (#42048317)

    There were only 15 speakers, not nearly enough for any assumption of bias. Britain is a predominantly white country and programming is a male-dominated profession. If they have selected 15 British Ruby programmers at random they would also get 15 white males with a high chance.

  • Merit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mr dirtbag (1094243) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:04PM (#42048325)
    I know, silly suggestion. But lets try getting the most qualified speakers we can, and ignore what color they are.
  • by cosm (1072588) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .3msoceht.> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:06PM (#42048345)

    How far do we have to go to ensure we are diverse?"

    Instead of having race quotas to treat the symptom, explore the cause by investigating various demographic breakdowns of those in STEM fields. Note I said explore the cause, not impose an ad-hoc solution to treat the symptoms. If certain socio-economic groups are not present (note I said not-present, and that I did not say excluded) in what society deems as positions that should be diversified, then look at the upward mobility of those demographics and the barriers to entry into a particular career vertical. Which is things like place of birth, education, parenting, finances, etc. Forcing quotas solves nothing and only creates more social stigmas relegating certain classes of people as being special or protected. The sooner we stop treating the symptoms of lack of diversity, the sooner focusing on the causes can be examined (which we already know generally what they are). But most folks don't want to look at and try solving the hard part.

    A gang-banging thug from Detroit could be white/black/purple. Said gang-banging thug will probably not go into STEM not because he is anything but white, but instead because he is a gang-banging thug. Solve the gang-banging thug problem and BAM, you've got another person who may rise to the top of a given field other than slanging blow.

    And if all your gang-banging thugs are of one color, fixing the numbers at the top as far as who gets to participate in what event based on color breakdown will not solve your gang banging thug problem. Now instead you have quotas at the top but still no solution for the bottom.

    Why can't people understand this? Or am I by default a racists for not giving special treatment to non-white classes of people (a distinction sooner forgotten and ignored the better). People are freaking people.

  • Re:None whatsoever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:07PM (#42048361) Homepage Journal

    You should exert absolutely no effort to be diverse, and you should exert absolutely no effort to not be diverse. What matters is the merit of the speakers, not their diversity.

    PLUS ONE on the above.

    Diversity (in and of itself) has literally zero merit.

    This is political correctness gone COMPLETELY INSANE.

    Repeat after me: Enforced Diversity is NOT the opposite of Discrimination.

    Do you REALLY want a Ruby (or anything else, for that matter) conference with One White Guy expert and PURELY FOR THE SAKE OF DIVERSITY one homeless female immigrant from Uzbeckistan who has never handled an electronic device in her life and can barely speak any english?

    NO, you DON'T want that? BUT BUT BUT the speakers are diverse! By Definition that must be a good thing, right?

  • by twistedcubic (577194) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:10PM (#42048401)
    I can sympathize. Once I wanted to ask this woman out on a date, but I did not because I *might* be liable for sexual harrassment. Therefore, I can never ask a woman on a date. I have 30 cats at home instead.
  • Re:One idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:12PM (#42048423)

    Just treat everyone fairly, how hard is that?

    . . . but you have to treat some more fairly than others . . .

  • by solidraven (1633185) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:13PM (#42048435)
    Exactly, all the mandatory diversity rules actually qualify as racism in my opinion. Simply get the best speakers you can get if you're organizing a conference.
    I honestly don't care how they look, what their believes are, etc... As long as they have something interesting to say!
  • Re:One idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:19PM (#42048509) Journal
    If you have to try that hard it kind of seems pointless. Yeah I'm not racist I have lots of black friends. Whatever. The best way to show it doesn't matter is to just not give a shit. Once everyone is to the point where we all don't give a shit what the next guy is, then we'll be there. So stop fucking caring so much, it is counter productive.
  • Re:None whatsoever (Score:1, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:29PM (#42048671)

    Diversity (in and of itself) has literally zero merit.

    Actually, it has a great deal of merit.

    Diversity means different viewpoints, different perspectives, different approaches. Diverse speakers will appeal to and engage a more diverse audience. Diversity is more interesting.

    Do you REALLY want a Ruby (or anything else, for that matter) conference with One White Guy expert and PURELY FOR THE SAKE OF DIVERSITY one homeless female immigrant from Uzbeckistan who has never handled an electronic device in her life and can barely speak any english?

    Nice strawman argument you got there. Was anyone really proposing a homeless woman with no tech experience, and no english from Uzbeckistan?

    Diversity is a good thing, and it should be deliberately incorporated. That doesn't mean we should have a black homeless woman 'quota', and it doesn't mean that there should be a law enforcing such a quota. But if I'm planning an event, and I notice I've got a lineup of consisting of nothing but 'white guys' then yeah, I'll step back and re-evaluate whether that's the most interesting line up I could have, and whether incorporating speakers with different backgrounds would be more interesting -- because it probably would.

  • Re:None whatsoever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by readin (838620) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:47PM (#42048929)

    Diversity is a good thing, and it should be deliberately incorporated. That doesn't mean we should have a black homeless woman 'quota', and it doesn't mean that there should be a law enforcing such a quota. But if I'm planning an event, and I notice I've got a lineup of consisting of nothing but 'white guys' then yeah, I'll step back and re-evaluate whether that's the most interesting line up I could have, and whether incorporating speakers with different backgrounds would be more interesting -- because it probably would.

    So if the conference has one white male with a background of using Ruby on Windows for web applications, another white male with a background of using Ruby on Unix to develop FPS games, another white male with a background of writing Ruby libraries for managing BPEL, and another white male with a background of implementing statistical packages in Ruby - that would not be diversity.

    But if get a white guy, an black guy, and a white woman and an oriental guy who all use Ruby for developing web apps on Unix, that would be diversity. Is that correct?

    Being a white males is not a "background", it is a skin color and gender. If you want diverse backgrounds you should be looking at what the people have done, what they have studied, and what they have said. Focusing on their race and gender just makes you racist and sexist.

  • Re:One idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:52PM (#42048997)

    Hrmm... sounds like you want a tech conference where people are judged by the content of their presentations instead of the color of their skin.

    I hope it's not being put on at a state university or your failure to promote one politically-correct group at the expense of others could be deemed unconstitutional: http://www.freep.com/article/20121115/NEWS06/121115041/The-U-S-6th-Circuit-Court-of-Appeals?odyssey=nav|head

  • by hessian (467078) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:52PM (#42049001) Homepage Journal

    If you want to have a real conference, you should be trying to develop a discussion which requires different perspectives.

    Why do you assume that only people of other races can have different perspectives?

    What exactly are these perspectives they bring to the picture?

    This sounds like people who want "diversity" so they can have different ethnic foods to get at the drive-thru.

  • by hessian (467078) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:58PM (#42049061) Homepage Journal

    Enforced Diversity is NOT the opposite of Discrimination.

    More accurately, it's a type of discrimination.

    Being biased in favor of a mixed-racial group is racism against all who aren't mixed-racial.

  • by hessian (467078) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:00PM (#42049083) Homepage Journal

    Diversity means different viewpoints, different perspectives, different approaches. Diverse speakers will appeal to and engage a more diverse audience. Diversity is more interesting.

    You can have that diversity within a single ethnic group.

    Just go find people with different approaches to life.

    Your approach seems to be racist, in that it assumes members of racial groups are all identical.

    We're not. We are diverse as individuals. Quit trying to turn us into the Cosby Show or The Brady Bunch.

  • Just wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by keepper (24317) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:03PM (#42049139) Homepage

    The blatant crypto racism is exhibited in most of these posts... Guess what, your reaction is what proves the racism, not your quasi logical statements explaining your reaction...

    No one bother to read the opposing views, or the reason why this was brought it.. just an immediate.. " Those women and brownies always want to be included... reverse racism"

    To quote a SPEAKER that realized this after the fact

    So I started asking around. I thought of all the prominent non-white-dude Ruby conference speakers I could in the space of a couple minutes. Just people who came easily to mind, nobody too obscure. I wanted to know if they had been invited to be part of that initial group of 15, and had said no.

    Sandi Metz. Bryan Liles. Reg Braithwaite. Angela Harms. Sarah Mei. Katrina Owen (Norway). Keavy McMinn (Scotland). None of these people were invited to be part of the initial line-up. In fact, I couldn’t find a single woman or minority Rubyist who had been invited to be part of that 15.

    Oh.. that changes the picture... doesn't it?

    This whole "the world isnt racist anymore so just get over it" is a bunch of BULLSHIT. It's been barely a generation in most areas.. heck, we have people in the south holding to grudges and behaviors 6-9 generations deep. But someone, racist behaviour is supposed to be completely expunged in one generation, and well, any mention of it just shows reverse racism... bleh.. most of the above posters disgust me.

  • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:07PM (#42049173) Homepage

    are we to believe that no women or any non-whites sent in good presentations?

    You think it's more likely that they really are all racist misogynists, and would rather cancel their own event than let a woman speak?

    It sounds like the problem was they were working on it until this Susser guy implied on Twitter that they're racist misogynists. From there it turned into a typical Twitter shitstorm, and the organizer realized that anyone making the panel at that point would be seen as the token speaker, and no sponsor would want to be associated with something that became high profile for bad reasons.

    Assuming the article is accurate, people should really just mind their damn business until there's something concrete and legitimately wrong to make accusations over.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:13PM (#42049239)

    "I think the United States experience has proven that adequately."

    That's because when people like this say "embracing diversity", what they really mean is forcing it on everybody.

    You cannot eliminate discrimination by legislating discrimination. Which is exactly what "affirmative action" has always been... legislated discrimination.

  • Re:One idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squiddie (1942230) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:13PM (#42049247)
    Why is diversity even an issue? Isn't this about the content of what they are saying? Why should we care what race they are as long as the information is useful and interesting?
  • Re:One idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Infernal Device (865066) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:13PM (#42049249)

    > Just treat everyone fairly, how hard is that?

    Being fair isn't hugely difficult, but it's easier to raise an accusation of being unfair than it is to combat it. There are people who wait and watch and see intentional discrimination even where none exists.

    There's no easy solution. Sometimes there is no spoon.

  • by epine (68316) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:28PM (#42049389)

    The whole skin colour / gender thing is a red herring. The difference between living in America and Africa is not. If fifteen elite athletes from North America and Europe cross the finish line in a clump on their titantium carbon-fiber wonderbikes and then some Congolese kid crosses the line a few seconds later on a second-hand paper bike how do you score the merit function? The African boy has nothing but guts and determination. No world-class coaching, no decent bike. Useless.

    One has to step back from merit to at least look at what a person a accomplished on the foundation of what they've been given.

    I count an Ethiopian Ruby developer who writes a small Ruby application to manage the coffee trade as worthwhile diversity, even if far less competent as a Ruby specialist than other available speakers. I really don't give a damn if he or she is black or any other pigment.

    The main difference between men and women has nothing to do with aptitude. It has to do with the higher willingness of men to immerse themselves in their expertise at the expense of everything else in their lives. He who sacrifices accomplishes more. And this derives directly from reproductive variance. Low status males face the worst reproductive odds. It's just not possible for a woman to squeeze other women out of the gene pool the way Ghengis Khan squeezed out a quarter of the men in all of Eurasia.

    Merit-based promotion doesn't encourage balanced lifestyles. It tends to mainly reward fanatics. Women complain about this, and well they should, but it's no trivial matter to decide which man who sacrificed more should be excluded to the benefit of a women who sacrificed less, but did so within a rich and balanced lifestyle (raising children, being active in the community, etc.)

    I also think that if you don't invite people from around the fringes to participate, the fringes tend to stagnate.

    There are other risks run by the whip-snappers of inclusion. Statistically, small conferences run more risk than large conferences of getting busted by the diversity police.

    Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success [wired.com]

    So they did something seemingly very logical â" they looked at which schools have the highest test scores. They found that the schools with the highest scores were small, which makes some intuitive sense because of smaller class sizes, etc. But this falls into a sampling trap. The next question to ask is: which schools have the lowest test scores? The answer: small schools. This is exactly what you would expect from a statistical viewpoint since small samples have large variances. ... This is more than a case for a statistics class. Education reformers proceeded to spend billions of dollars reducing the sizes of schools.

    If the book is anywhere near as good as his interview, everyone rush out to buy a copy. (I'm no shill. Try to find an imperatively worded endorsement in my previous 1000 posts here. There might be one, but I can't think of such an occassion.)

    Far too often social thinking is bad thinking.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:33PM (#42049435)

    Instead of complaining that a conference is all white, run your own conference and make it as diverse as you want.

    You do know that John Susser -- the author of the tweet pointing out the all-white-male lineup at the sold-as-diverse BritRuby -- is a GoGaRuCo organizer [gogaruco.com] (and has been for every GoGaRuCo since 2009), right?

    Quit complaining when someone else does what they want. I don't imagine that in this case the organizer turned away non-white speakers.

    Since the 15 speakers in the all-white-male lineup were the invited speakers (5 slots were held open for proposals), it isn't an issue of "turning away", but "actively building an all-white-male lineup" and then selling the conference as "diverse".

    Again, be responsible for something of your own, and you'll find that you won't care what others do on their own.

    This is demonstrably false, as the facts in this case show.

  • by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:54PM (#42049625)
    Considering that the native population of Europe is almost all white, I'd say it's about as disgraceful to have all white speakers at a European conference as it is to have all East Asian speakers at a Chinese conference. Jeez. I can't take this nonsense seriously, no matter how hard I try to force myself.
  • Re:One idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:56PM (#42049637) Journal

    Non-falsifiable accusations are the best kind, because the accuser always wins, especially in the case of race or gender in which it's somehow socially accepted that asking for objective evidence is abusive and evidence of guilt.

  • by Local ID10T (790134) <ID10T.L.USER@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:01PM (#42049687) Homepage

    Let's do some introductory probability theory:

    "Problem: Chuck is holding a conference with 15 speakers. Women comprise between 25-40% of the IT workforce/CS graduates that are, other things being equal, represented approximately in proportion in the pool of candidates. Calculate the probability of Chuck inviting 15 male speakers, assuming an unbiased selection."

    "Answer: a chance between .75^15=1.3% and .6^15=0.047%."

    And the failure was not in your math, but in your presuppositions:

    You assume that the flaw is in the "other things being equal" (selection criteria) portion as opposed to the "represented approximately in proportion in the pool of candidates" (applicants) portion.

    Without proof, that assumption is unjustified.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:05PM (#42049733)

    Which is exactly what "affirmative action" has always been... legislated discrimination.

    In the beginning affirmative action actually made sense. It was designed to compensate for past discrimination. But there were two big problems with it:

    1. Entitlement capture by elites. People with power will always twist entitlement programs to their benefit. This has happened with social security, where the poor (with low life expectancy and high birth rates) pay in disproportionately to their benefits, while the rich rake in the benefits while paying a far lower proportion of their income as SS taxes. Same with AA: it works great at getting elite blacks in Harvard, and helps millionaire hispanic women business owners get juicy government contracts, but it no longer does much to help the truly disadvantaged.

    2. It has distracted us from creating equality of opportunity. The most glaring example of this is the stark difference in the quality of public schools for the poor and the well off. But we ignore that problem by pretending to patch it up with affirmative action and tokenism.

  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:11PM (#42049799) Homepage Journal

    I'm a member of a racial minority that works in technology.

    The idea of some kind of minority outreach or affirmative action, if you will, is offensive to me. It belittles and draws into question, my accomplishments. I worked hard to get where I am. Let it be about merit, not political correctness.

    LK

  • Re:Just wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesupraman (179040) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:16PM (#42049853)

    a) you have absolutely no understanding of statistics, do you? the sample sizes here are representative of exactly nothing, primarily due to the
    extreme bias within the selectable community, or are you suggesting people be selected BECAUSE they are minorities?

    b) how many of the 'minorities' applied for the 5 remaining positions and were unfairly excluded?

    c) you have made NO reference to relative merit of the people you seem to think should have been included - the fact that they exist means what exactly?

    YOU are part of the problem, YOU are trying to be exclusive, YOU are labeling people above, and looking down on them.
    YOU are a racist.

    You sicked me with your holier than thou attitude. BTW, the south of ENGLAND holds grudges? oh, you didnt notice this is about a different COUNTRY, hmmm.

  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:16PM (#42049857)
    I am omitting any reference to my gender in my college applications. Should it matter whether I am male or female for college admissions? Should I be given a different cutoff for acceptance for being female rather than being male? Should I be given a different cutoff in ACT/SAT/AP scores based upon my gender or what people call race? Aren't all of those "re-biasing to unbias" options the same as discrimination?
    .
    I would rather be judged on my merits and abilities than on my name, my gender, my background, my parents' background. I don't want to be told or hear that I'm an affirmative action acceptance to MIT or GaTech or CalTech: but I bet that's what I'd hear anyway even if I get accepted on my merits. So the easiest way to get rid of that doubt ( that little click of suspicion that I was admitted for my gender or that the bar was set lower for me because of my gender ) is to abolish looking at gender or any sort of discriminatory sorting techniques.
    .
    I've never presented at a conference or meeting. I've barely presented more than the four or five teams a year I have to get up at school to present an essay. But my feeling is that for a conferecne, the same concepts should apply. A presentation or presenter should be selected based upon its content, its merit, its interestingness, its possible validity or intrigue, and its appropriateness to the conference goals. A presenter/presentation ought not be selected based upon their gender, their ethnicity, their national origin, their age, their corporate sponsorship (haha, I almost forgot about that, buying your way into a talk, eh?), or their deep-pockets, or their relatives, or their looks, or their "coolness factor", or to correct for any past biases/insensitivites/prejudices/blockages.
  • A dose of reality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Livius (318358) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:32PM (#42049967)

    The reality which (apparently) no-one can face is that society is *in transition*.

    Have racism and other forms of discrimination gone away? Of course not. Are reverse discrimination and other well-meaning attempts to rectify systemic injustices excessive? Probably they are.

    Deliberate, malicious racism has mostly vanished, and that is significant progress that really does deserve more recognition than it gets. Some people are actually unhappy that there's been so much progress because they are deeply invested in fighting racism, and they go looking for it where it has ceased to be found, creating new injustices and hurting the credibility of everyone else on their side. The unconscious and/or systemic racism is rapidly diminishing but certainly has not completed disappeared, and some people are not completely sure what the right strategy is. That's a good thing - it means we're halfway to the goal and perhaps it means some mental effort because it's time to consider new tactics.

    In this case, however, a little statistical thought should tell us that if "the speakers were 100% white male", then we can be highly confident that there is something wrong. And therefore how to respond to the statistical anomaly is a perfectly valid question.

  • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:33PM (#42049975)

    Considering that the native population of Europe is almost all white, I'd say it's about as disgraceful to have all white speakers at a European conference as it is to have all East Asian speakers at a Chinese conference.

    It's always interesting to ask people who mumble about diversity why this does not apply to China or Africa.

  • by pieterh (196118) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:12PM (#42050259) Homepage

    To map "diversity" to skin color is superficial and reflects the bias of the viewer more than anything. As a white male programmer I've more in common with other male programmers, no matter what their color, than with male football players, male drug dealers, male prostitutes, male athletes. Skin color has literally nothing to do with it. It's cosmetics.

    Gender arguably is more relevant but seriously... there is no bias against women participating in free software projects. It's literally a sport open to anyone, with as few barriers as you can imagine. Age, gender, skin color, origin, perhaps the only filter that reduces diversity is the need for reasonably fluent English.

    And still, the number of women in our communities is extremely low. That means the detailed technical world of software appeals to fewer women than it does to men. That's not a problem, it's just a fact, and easily observable. It would be offensive to choose women speakers just for their gender. Tokenism is a nasty form of discrimination. At the same time it would be offensive to refuse people on any basis except their work. I don't think that was the accusation here.

    Diversity simply means, different points of view, perspectives, and opinions within the group. It does not mean creating a Star Trek experience.

    Then again speaking as a white male it's quite likely that my perception of this is totally biased.

  • by pieterh (196118) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:19PM (#42050319) Homepage

    Actually it's a shame he cancelled because (a) any publicity can be good and (b) this now sets up the stage for hysterical attacks on the tech scene in general and (c) this is worse, not better, for 'diverse' speakers. What does it mean now to be a non-white or female speaker at a conference? That you're there because the organizers wanted some token diversity? Insurance?

    "Hi, I'm the diversity insurance speaker. Name's Token. Here's my card."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:59PM (#42050609)

    Ultimately the argument for diversity breaks down to instituting quota's based upon race; how else does one quantify diversity?

    Despite what the authors attempt to convince themselves, you and the public of, this is by definition bigoted racism.

    Certain people in certain demographics can't find good jobs due to educational or societal issues. Historically those demographics died off due to what can only be described as fuckery or failure to keep pace with technology. The way you attack that problem is you offer those people programs to give them useful skills from which they can get jobs or start businesses and begin interacting with and learn from a functional segment of society; that interaction in time breeds appreciation for differences but requires determination, time and repetition to establish.

    You can supplement that with laws that stop unfounded discrimination. Not hiring someone because they're black is wrong, not hiring someone because their demeanor indicates the candidate won't stick with a problem until it is resolved is a different story. The people promoting diversity would have you believe they are the same and you should put up with that; this is a fantastic way to destroy organizations.

    Shutting down a conference because there is no token black, asian, spanish, african, etc speaker is a fantastic way to make yourself look like a complete ass to everyone, and at least for this individual, I've had enough diversity for one lifetime.

  • Re:One idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:01PM (#42050631)

    Because this is Ruby, which is associated with Ruby on Rails, which has a history of bad behavior (http://martinfowler.com/bliki/SmutOnRails.html). Thus all eyes are on the conferecnce wondering if it'll be another bad boy festival. No doubt most of the women interested in speaking about Ruby tend to think twice about doing this, it certainly can't be easy going to speak to a room full of fratboys who like to call themselves rockstars.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:12PM (#42050707)
    You have not negated the point I made.

    But I do disagree with one of yours:

    "In the beginning affirmative action actually made sense."

    No, it didn't. Saying "Well, your father punched my father in the nose, so now I'm going to punch YOU in the nose" is not justice. Nothing is made better that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:29PM (#42050853)

    Sorry for the AC post... As a female programmer 1: My vagina doesn't seem to help or hinder my abilities and 2: PLEASE stop caring so much about it. I don't care if you sneer because of my gender or cower in fear because of it, both are ridiculous.

    If I'm the best person for the job then give it to me. If I'm not then please consider taking a moment to toss me some constructive criticism as you give me the bad news.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:48PM (#42051019)

    ...MIT is sexist. The students are 50% male and 50% female. This translates into a wonderful 26% acceptance rate for females and a 9%(average) acceptance rate for males. Welcome to "diversity," everyone. (Data taken from 2006-2009, the data available when I applied.)

    This is just another example of why mandatory diversity of arbitrary attributes like skin color or gender is a terrible, terrible idea. For this conference, it would mean that the non-white and/or female presenters would likely be *worse* than the white presenters, white male presenters would be discriminated against, and the perceived abilities of non-white and/or female participants would be lesser precisely because their standards for making the cut are lower. For MIT, it means that the average female student is literally less qualified to be at that school. I'm sure that does wonders for discrimination, a la "You're a girl, therefore you are statistically likely to be dumber than the guys in your class. I'm not taking you in my research project."

    Now, if your approach to diversity for a Ruby conference is seeking out presenters who have minority(but valid) opinions on the implementation of an algorithm or an interface, *that* is productive. Diversity is good, just make sure it's diversity in an area that's actually relevant to the situation. Ethnic and gender diversity in a biological study can be great. Diversity in the coding practices of the participants in a biological study... probably not so important.

    Tl;dr -- Mandatory diversity breeds legitimate discrimination.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @01:52AM (#42051695)

    No, it didn't. Saying "Well, your father punched my father in the nose, so now I'm going to punch YOU in the nose" is not justice.

    Nose punches are not passed from one generation to the next. Economic disadvantages are.

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