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Ask Slashdot: How Should Tech Conferences Embrace Diversity? 343

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 Dave Emami ( 237460 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:04PM (#42049155) Homepage

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

    Precisely. Why, exactly, would there be a black vs. white or male vs. female perspective when it comes to a programming language? Do men prefer having function parameters passed by reference and women prefer having them passed by value, or something?

  • Re:Just wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:02PM (#42050167)

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

    That doesn't really. Even in niche technology circles, we sometimes belong to different clusters of people we know. A better question would be to ask the organizer who he invited? And how many of those were women? And where he publicized his calls for speakers?

    Organizing a conference of good speakers is incredibly difficult. Speakers cancel all the time. The organizer should have never cancelled that event. That's disrespectful to both the speakers who already committed to the event and to the audience who RSVP'd (some of them women).

    If the organizer feels there was really a problem, he should just have pledged to make more an effort to include more women the next time around. Usually, that involves partnering with a Womans' technology-related/ruby-related organization at least six months in advance, if not a full year in advance, to publicize the call for speakers and to coaxe more of its women members to apply.

  • Re:None whatsoever (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BemoanAndMoan ( 1008829 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:13PM (#42050717)

    Being a white males is not a "background", it is a skin color and gender.

    Cheers to this. One of my best friends is Indian. We code the same way, solve problems in similar ways, and often borrow code from each other because our methods and approaches are interchangeable even though we've only known each other for a couple of years. When it comes to code we share zero fucking diversity, even though I'm a middle-aged white guy and he's a Sikh styling in his dastar. Conversely I spend hours every week arguing with a stubborn white-male colleague who's methodologies and coding style are completely different than mine. Diversity galore.

    Diversity cheerleaders are simply shallow thinkers. They base their opinions on all the bigoted ideas that the rest of us either see beyond or don't even factor into our decisions. I won't go as far as accusing Josh Susser of being a reverse and/or closet bigot, but by fostering the concept of carefully orchestrated tokenism and posting passive-aggressive tweets he fails to understand that a) he is the divisive one and b) he hinders, rather than furthers the cause of true blind equality we'd all like to see in the world.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.