On Engendering Strong Reactions

To start with, I would like to make it clear to everyone that I do sincerely care about the larger gender issues that my presentation touched off.  I have also replied and otherwise corresponded with everyone who has contacted me about my presentation, just as I have tried to reply to all of the blog posts that have been brought to my attention.  At this point, however, it is clear that this issue has grown too large to be resolved through one-on-one contact, hence this public statement.

I have made a specific point of exchanging emails with most of the bloggers who addressed the gender issue, and I did so because I care about minority involvement in our community.  I cared about this issue well before GoGaRuCo or this particular presentation, despite what anyone might think to the contrary, running the presentation past my wife/business partner and other colleagues well before I gave my talk.  They, at least, understood the goals of my presentation, which were to leaven an otherwise dry topic with humor.  It genuinely was not my intention to cause offense.  People may be driven by personal choice or cultural background to take offense at any number of things, of course, but I think there is always a clear difference between trying to offend people vs people choosing to take offense.

My view is that offending someone is walking up to them and saying: “You suck, your code sucks and your partner’s code sucks!”.
That is not what I did in my talk.  In the case of my talk, people knew what to expect, they *picked* the talk, and were warned by the organizers before I started that I would be using imagery potentially offensive to some.  The topic of my talk was obvious, and I would have hoped that people who were likely to be offended would have simply chosen not to attend my talk or read my slides on the internet.  It’s like complaining that television has too much material unsuitable for children, yet not taking steps to limit their viewing of it.  You can’t have it both ways.

Now that I have explained my view point as clearly as I can, I would also like to express my sincere regret that this situation has brought bad publicity to Rails and the loss of one of the Activism team members.  I understand how people who are concerned about gender equality could have taken my presentation badly and misjudge my intentions, if they did not know me.

In the same way, people have been rather quick to judge the entire Ruby/Rails community based on my presentation and the comments of a few people. I have noticed, for example, a lot of comments making sweeping generalizations about Americans, Republicans, women, Ruby, Rails, men etc.. leading to an exchange of insults, things getting personal, and everybody feeling the need to fuel the flames by sharing their own opinion in public.  While there is nothing wrong with sharing your approval or disapproval, I think it has also contributed to blowing this entire thing completely out of proportion.  I would like to ask people to step back and reflect upon whether we are contributing anything useful to the discussion.

We can argue forever about morals, professionalism, ethics, respect, etc., though this is all a distraction from the real problem that was raised by Sarah, namely that we have very few minorities in the Ruby community, especially women.  Minorities do need to be more represented!

So, instead of continuing an increasingly pointless debate about my slides, I would like to encourage the community to look further and see how we can change things.
Education, outreach, and self-censorship are certainly some of the options available.   Please read Aaron’s blog post and see how you might make a difference.

For those who still want to talk with me, I will be at the RailsConf devchix’s discussion panel and more importantly, if you care about Rails Activism and you want to see things evolve, be sure to come to our Birds of Feather discussion of Rails Activism.

Update: Some people thought I wasn’t clear enough about my position and I therefore tweeted the following: “I obviously made a mistake. I didn’t mean to offend anyone but since I did, I failed.”

Update 2: Kirrily Robert wrote a very insightful article. Borrowing her words, I’d like to reiterate that “It genuinely was not my intention to marginalize or exclude anyone from my talk or from the Ruby community, nor to make them feel uncomfortable.”

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  1. #1 by PK - April 28th, 2009 at 17:37

    Seriously, it was an original presentation. Don’t sweat it. People choose to be offended. I call them pessimists.

  2. #2 by Boris - April 28th, 2009 at 17:46

    This is truly making a mountain out of a molehill, and the ridiculous overreaction from some Rails community members is an order of magnitude more embarrassing for the community than anything Matt put on screen during the presentation.

  3. #3 by Luigi Montanez - April 28th, 2009 at 17:53

    You certainly have found yourself in the middle of what can only be described as a Twitter-blog-mob (much like the mob that attacked Amazon a few weekends ago over the GLBT issue).

    Its fortuitous that RailsConf is so close. Maybe those who have a beef with you can express their concerns face-to-face, as the offline world is much less harsh than the online one.

  4. #4 by Ankh - April 28th, 2009 at 18:01

    I posted this on hacker news, but I’ll share it here as well.

    Whether classified as porn or merely risque, the only result of your use of these images was to cloud a technological discussion on the state non-relational distributed key/value databases and their comparison to RDBMs systems, and in doing so unnecessarily offended a significant subset of the audience.

    For example, compare slides 15 (RDBMs):


    and 52 (CouchDB):


    The message you’ve presented is clear, but it’s also antithetical to rational technical discussion. Ignoring the issues of professionalism and propriety (of which you’ve certainly heard an earful), presenting this sort of imagery is demonstrative of a total disregard for the value of reasoned, technical consideration of complex topics.

  5. #5 by joe - April 28th, 2009 at 18:06

    Matt, the main issue with your presentation was that you objectified women during the entire talk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_objectification) and the whole thing had a strong macho male-centric feel to it (the viagra analogy, the group scene etc.). It’s called sexism (and not just in the US). The fact that you did this during a tech talk made things even worse.

    It’s crystal clear however that you and other Rails leaders do not see this issue at all, that’s the reason why you keep apologizing without real regret and saying stuff like “trying to offend people vs people choosing to take offense”.

    Sexism offends people whether it was your intention or not. Until you and other Rails leaders recognize that and say “it was sexist and cheap, I am sorry. Period” your public statement won’t mean a thing.

    (for the record I am neither woman nor conservative)

  6. #6 by David Mathers - April 28th, 2009 at 18:19

    ‘My view is that offending someone is walking up to them and saying: “You suck, your code sucks and your partner’s code sucks!”. That is not what I did in my talk.’

    Fail. Fail. Fail. You really need to read this, in case you missed it: http://www.ultrasaurus.com/sarahblog/2009/04/gender-and-sex-at-gogaruco/#comment-555

    95% of the comments people have made about this whole thing are beside the point. That’s what it’s all about.

  7. #7 by Denise - April 28th, 2009 at 18:25

    To be fair you are making an effort and I commend you for trying, this was probably not easy to do. The only problem is that you are still trying to tell of us you are a nice guy, and you know what, you probably are, but you are naive to think that this will be your redemption.

    For as long as your slides remain posted with all the nasty rhetoric in the comments, this will not go away, it will be forever be remembered as the links move over the internet and the comments continue to pill up.

    This is truly a friendly suggestion and it has nothing to do with censorship, everyone that knows me know that I am no prude, but if you truly mean what you said about asking everyone to take a step back, than you must be the first to take that step back and close the page on this. Take your slides out with all the comments and let them fade away, start over again, and show us all that you have good character as I believe you do deep down.

    I am not asking you to do it, nor am I even trying to pressure you, this is entirely in your hands, it is truly your call to stop this or to let it spin, you are fully in charge of the rest of this story.

  8. #8 by Linda - April 28th, 2009 at 18:36

    I was not at GoGaRuCo, but I’ve “been there” many times.

    The issue is not about images. It’s the underlying message that “they” (women) are not “us” (the men who are the real insiders here at this conference).

    Unless you’ve walked into a professional meeting and had conversation stop while everyone looked at you like “what you *you* doing here?” it’s probably hard to imagine the impact.

  9. #9 by Anig Browl - April 28th, 2009 at 18:41

    How about this: you suck, your presentation sucks, and your code probably sucks too. I’m sure you didn’t set out to offend anyone, but the fact is you did, and it turns out your communication skills are nowhere near as good as your believed them to be.

    An unintended side effect is that you now come across as someone desperately anxious to create an impression of getting laid on a regular basis, but who almost certainly doesn’t.

    I like porn and all. This just isn’t working out for you. Bite the bullet and apologize already, or be forever known as ‘that sleazy guy’.

  10. #10 by Laurent Sansonetti - April 28th, 2009 at 19:06

    The presentation was technically great and the analogy was solid, which brought even more fun. I don’t understand why some people were offended, but if they were Matt apologized many times, he clearly did not intent to harm anybody. It seems to me from what I saw that the vast majority, at both the conference and on the Internet, enjoyed the presentation, though.

    You may admit that you didn’t like the slides, sure. You may say that this presentation was not politically correct (for US standards maybe?), sure. But keep in mind that this presentation was given at an Open Source conference, where generally hobbyists present things they hack during their free time. Politically-correctness and corporate-style presentations should generally not be expected at these conferences. If you expect that, go to a corporate conference.

    For me, the presentation was technically solid and its content was as professional as I expected. I later showed the presentation to several people including my wife and they did not find anything wrong in it.

    This is starting to be as ridiculous as annoying. You guys are crying wolf, there is nothing wrong here and you’re scaring people. If you care about the real issue Matt raised, why not proving meaningful feedback?

  11. #11 by adnan. - April 28th, 2009 at 19:09

    I wasn’t at the presentation, but did look through the slides.

    But simply on the basis of reaction to the presentation, it seems that you did miss the goal of what you were trying to do.

    How many people blogged about CouchDB after your presentation? Precisely.

  12. #12 by knowtheory - April 28th, 2009 at 19:15

    lol @Anig

    Wayyyy to troll w/o understanding what’s going on.

    Matt is also happily married to an intelligent, nice girl who (i hope he won’t mind me mentioning) is quite fetching :) So, i wouldn’t worry about him coming off as creepy or sleazy in that regard.

    Also, i would point out that Merb (which the merbist contributes to, unsurprisingly) is still faster than Rails :P


    Linda, i think you are absolutely correct. I had a long discussion with my wife on this subject. I’m a Ruby programmer, she’s a Dietetics student (what Dietitians do, not what Tom Cruise does). Both our fields have the same problem, and same behavior, however the gender ratios are reversed.

    The tech community needs to address the gender inequality, just the same way the Dietetics community does. The difference is that the Dietetics community realizes and understands that this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

    We need to make sure that girls are not “others” when they are present. The issue i have here, is that a lot of the criticism that Matt has received has not been on that legitimate issue. Taken on balance, i would say that Matt’s contribution to the Ruby community has not been a pattern of abuse or alienating towards women or others.

    Matt is an ethnic minority in his native country, and in our country, just as i am. I can assure you in the conversations i’ve had with him, and the conduct with which he carries himself is not a discriminatory one. I think he made some bad decisions in the way he executed his idea, but i do not think they were indicative of malice, intentional negligence or a sexist bias.

    Finally, while i genuinely and sincerely hope that the issue of gender equality will be addressed in the Ruby community and the Tech community at large, I find the furor that has surrounded that this entire debacle to have been remarkably unconstructive. :(

    More flavors of witch-hunt than movement for equality. (Not an aspersion towards your comment. I think what you have mentioned is an insightful and useful subject to discuss)

  13. #13 by Sho - April 28th, 2009 at 19:19

    Just so you know, the silent supermajority has absolutely no problem with you or your presentation. I personally thought it was creative and well-made.

    There is probably no point trying to engage the outraged mob in rational discussion, however. I would just state “I regret any offense my presentation caused; I have learned valuable lessons from the experience and would like to now move on”. The shrill guardians of public morality will find some other ludicrous “cause” to overreact to soon enough.

  14. #14 by Jonathan Rockway - April 28th, 2009 at 19:25

    Good post. I agree that things got blown way out of proportion. Your talk was interesting for two reasons — one for the actual content, and one for the “controversy” it created. I think the Ruby/Rails community can learn a lot about itself from the reactions that your talk caused. (The act of someone resigning from their advocacy “position” is especially interesting. One talk has that much power to influence?)

    I know some people didn’t like the images you picked, but if you did, that’s your prerogative, and I’m glad you took the risk in public. “All progress is due to the unreasonable man.”

  15. #15 by Boris - April 28th, 2009 at 19:38

    The core complaint from some people seems to be “if Matt was using a porn analogy, that must mean he believes in the objectification of women.”

    That is complete bullshit. That is a deductive leap you are making in your own brain. It is possible to use a porn metaphor in a light hearted way that does not instantly imply all women are objects, and that is what Matt did here.

    And let’s not forget the porn industry objectifies men as much as it does women. However, I don’t see anyone crying foul there, because porn teaches us all men have huge penises, muscled torsos and small brains. Strange double standard! Apparently it’s just the womenfolk who should be offended by porn analogies.

    It’s also complete bullshit to assume you are owed an apology simply because someone offended you. How do you people with tissue paper strength egos survive on the Internet? The talk was clearly titled to indicate it was using a porn metaphor and the conference organizers approved it. It is *you* people who need to close the book and move on, instead of berating someone incessantly just because you found the subject matter offensive.

    It’s also complete bullshit that you’re projecting your own idea of “professionalism” on a conference, when you are not the conference organizer or a speaker. If you don’t like how “professional” the conference was, then you have a smorgasbord of other Rails conferences you can attend. You are not being forced to attend this conference.

    I’ll be sure to demand an apology from the next Rails presenter who makes a Bible analogy the centerpiece of his talk, or an analogy about cheese (I hate cheese), or an analogy about baseball (it’s a goddamned boring sport). Because, you know, my standards are the standards that everyone should have.

  16. #16 by zero - April 28th, 2009 at 19:43

    The reaction to this presentation is a textbook example of a tempest in a teapot.

    Remember Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction?

  17. #17 by Ben - April 28th, 2009 at 19:56

    the goals of my presentation, which were to leaven an otherwise dry topic with humor

    Of all the things you said, this is the most absurd. Who is your audience? CouchDB is not a dry topic to Rubyists.

    I think you’re in over your head here. Please get advice from someone other than DHH.

  18. #18 by Chris - April 28th, 2009 at 20:09

    > We can argue forever about morals, professionalism, ethics, respect, etc., though this is all a distraction from the real problem that was raised by Sarah, namely that we have very few minorities in the Ruby community,

    They’re only a distraction if you believe that unprofessionalism and disrespect are unrelated to why those people don’t want to be a part of our communities! Believing this after having been *told* by such people that they found your behavior to be disrespectful would seem like a pretty bad faith attempt at addressing that problem.

    (Frankly, it seems like undeserved luck that there are any women still left to tell us when we do things that are gigantic turn-offs to their participation in the community, under the circumstances. If I were the single man in the room full of women acting disrespectfully and claiming it was the funniest thing in the world if only you had a working sense of humor, I suspect I would have gone home and given up in disgust by now.)

    > namely that we have very few minorities in the Ruby community, especially women. Minorities do need to be more represented!

    Just so we’re on the same page here: Women are not actually a minority.

  19. #19 by Giles Bowkett - April 28th, 2009 at 20:09

    I agree that the drama is a little ridiculous, but it’s all in the way you handled it. I showed women pictures of Jessica Alba butt naked, without even making any effort at all to connect it to the topic at hand, and they thanked me for an awesome presentation. Like the sitcom cliché, it’s not what you said but how you said it. You’re saying it all wrong. You have to just back down or you’ll never hear the end of it. Or, if you’re not going to back down, you need to stand by your guns. I’m not even condemning you OR supporting you, I’m just telling you how these things work because I feel sorry for you.

    For instance, the bit where you tell people who criticize you to instead calmly ask whether they’re helping the discussion? Fail. It comes off as condescending. You need to either make them laugh or just come out with it and call them time-wasting [anuses] projecting their personal emotional issues on you and tell them that if they’re going to waste any more of your time they have to pay you by the hour. OR tell them that you’re sorry you didn’t consider how they would feel.

    I mean I give you credit for the porn slides, that was some epic trolling, but you don’t know how to have fun with it OR how to get mad about it. For instance, you could have re-published the presentation with all the pornographic imagery replaced with near-identical images from gay porn, and then acted surprised and confused when people said that wasn’t what they were asking you to do. That would have been hilarious. Or you could have agreed with all the horrible misogynistic comments from the worst of your defenders, the ones who were saying women deserved to be hassled at tech conferences because (and I quote) “you made adolescence hell for us.” If you had endorsed your own supporters, you could have made everybody furious. It would have been epic. This middle path you’re taking, there’s no gusto in it.

    There’s no logic either. You’re saying we need to stop criticizing you for doing something which alienated a woman from our community, and instead focus on how to attract women to our community. But if this woman’s argument had any validity at all, then your strategy is counter-productive. There’s not much benefit to increasing our efforts to attract women to the community if you’re not going to decrease your efforts which alienate them. We’d be lucky to break even. The issue of whether or not the alienation was deliberate doesn’t make any difference at all from the perspective of a cost/benefit analysis. Either way, it’s a waste of effort. You can’t seriously expect us to work harder to make women feel welcome so that you don’t have to stop pissing them off.

    I give you credit for having the balls to suggest that, but your logic is so convoluted that it takes a lot of effort to figure out how monumental those cojones are, and there’s no win to huevos so big they generate their own gravitational fields if you’re not going to show them off a little. You really need to rewrite this whole thing. Snappier dialogue, a clearer point of view, and you need to choose one way or the other if your main character is going to be a hero or a villain. Right now the story is just all over the place.

  20. #20 by Jose - April 28th, 2009 at 20:13

    Did being in Las Vegas inspire this?

    Bring the Rails conferences back to a healthier environment.

  21. #21 by Laurent Sansonetti - April 28th, 2009 at 20:22

    Thank you Giles Bowkett for these super ultra interesting advices! It is now clear that you master the trolling technique. Maybe you should consider making this the subject of your next presentation.

    Apart from your pointless comments, Matt did not troll and there was no pornography in his presentation.

  22. #22 by rick - April 28th, 2009 at 20:26

    Jose: Vegas is next week. It should be interesting :)

  23. #23 by Giles Bowkett - April 28th, 2009 at 20:34

    Honestly, Laurent, that’s a good idea. The presentation suggestion, I mean. I would have thought this stuff was too obvious to explain, but I can see counter-arguments now. I think that would be a fun presentation.

  24. #24 by Ken - April 28th, 2009 at 21:09

    “we have very few minorities in the Ruby community, especially women”

    Last I checked, women were in the majority on this planet. :-)

  25. #25 by Jim - April 28th, 2009 at 21:13

    The idea that presentations like the one Matt gave are to blame for the lack of women in the Ruby community is laughable. I’m not sure how many of you have degrees in Computer Science, but I can tell you from experience that my CompSci college classes had a male/female ratio of about 20/1. And there was no porn in the lectures. But, take a Psych class and the ratio somehow magical switches overwhelming in favor of women. And there was no women oriented porn in the lectures.

    Men and women are attracted to different subjects. Programming is dominated by men. I’m sure we could come up with 1000 reasons why, all false. But to say it’s because of presentations like this is just plain absurd.

  26. #26 by Rich Kilmer - April 28th, 2009 at 21:24

    When I hear someone say something that could offend me, I try and look at it again through the most gracious eyes I can. That approach to life has enabled me to remain sane on this Internet of ours.

    Matt used an analogy that did actually FIT what he was presenting. I could have listened presentation and presume all kinds of negative intentions on his part. I chose not to. I chose to presume good intentions on his part and after talking with Matt they ended up being the very intentions he had! I think too many folks are ranting about presumed bad intentions, presumed bad effects, and then go off on some impossible irrational deduction that *this* is why there are few women in the programming industry. Matt’s to blame for this imbalance? There is no foundation for such a leap.

    There are many people offering you ‘advice’ on what to do in this situation that I would NEVER take advice from, so be wary. Matt, I know you meant no harm in your talk. I know you tried to come up with a clever and funny way to present a fairly dry topic. I know it was not your intent to offend anyone with it. I see that and saw that during the actual talk. I know you feel bad about this response to your trying to explain your intentions to people that don’t care about your intentions. I wish people would be more gracious.

    I am sorry that people will not offer you the very apology for their harsh words that they are demanding from your well-meaning but badly interpreted presentation. You are a fantastic contributor to this community and although we might not agree on many things, we do agree that communities of diversity are much stronger communities in the long run. I do hope this community grows in diversity. I look forward to working with you more on Ruby and Rails and MacRuby and all the other stuff we will work on together in the future.

    • #27 by Aaron Farr - April 29th, 2009 at 10:14

      Rich, I agree with you that communities of diversity are extremely important. So important that one should take fewer risks to push away would be contributors. Intentionally using offensive material, be it by Matt or David or others, and then, more importantly, disregarding those offended does not create an inviting environment.

      I’m less concerned with Matt’s mistake than I am with the pattern of this behavior and disregard by the Rails Core and Activist teams. More than anything, this will continue to incite and divide the very community you, Matt and David claim to want to grow.

  27. #28 by Nick Sieger - April 28th, 2009 at 21:40

    I’ll add my support for Denise’s suggestion. I’d suggest going further and actually admitting you made a mistake. Hinting to the people you put off that they are the ones at fault for taking offense to your material and they shouldn’t have listened or read the slides smacks of condescension and hollow, insincere excuses.

    I’m glad you recognize that we need to be more welcoming to women in the Ruby community, but honestly I don’t understand how you (and others) seem to miss how your presentation has had precisely the opposite effect. Retracting it, apologizing and owning up that fact must be the first step you take in rectifying the situation.

  28. #29 by Anig Browl - April 28th, 2009 at 21:51

    You know, I don’t think really Matt is a bad person, or even particularly sleazy. I see what the goal was, and I understand there’s confusion over the fact that it’s been blown out of proportion.

    But…there’s a successful way to do this, and this isn’t it. Regardless of how accomplished Matt is, how witty the porn analogy is and so on, the takeaway to 90% of casual observers is ‘geek thinks databases are like porn movies, lol’. There is no ‘what’s really going on’ issue, because ultimately the presentation is whimsical and not fundamental.

    Let me offer a counter example. Suppose I am on a campaign against bad code practices – use of the GOTO statement, say. Well, I could come up with witty presentation titled ‘say no to shitty code’. And most people will probably get the point and the humor therein. But if I illustrate every other slide with a picture of a giant turd, it’s going to really piss off some people because I’ve gone across the line from referring to something in a tongue-in-cheek way to pushing it in their faces.

    At that point, the audience loses focus on what you’re trying to say, and shifts it to the way that you say it…and the takeaway from this particular presentation for the casual reader is pornstars, not CouchDB. I know it was meant as a joke. I’m not deeply offended by it. But it’s made of fail, and fail sticks for reasons of its own which aren’t always logical or fair.

    I’ve been in similar situations. It’s easier to just face up to the fact that what people got out of it isn’t always what you meant, and and own the responsibility for how it came across than trying to offload it on someone else.

  29. #30 by Giles Bowkett - April 28th, 2009 at 21:54

    Rich Kilmer said:

    Rich Kilmer :
    There are many people offering you ‘advice’ on what to do in this situation that I would NEVER take advice from, so be wary.

    This is a good point. Some of the advice in these comments is good, and some of it is bad. For instance:

    Luigi Montanez :
    You certainly have found yourself in the middle of what can only be described as a Twitter-blog-mob (much like the mob that attacked Amazon a few weekends ago over the GLBT issue).
    Its fortuitous that RailsConf is so close. Maybe those who have a beef with you can express their concerns face-to-face, as the offline world is much less harsh than the online one.

    This is an excellent point. When RailsConf comes around, no matter how good or bad Yehuda’s epic refactoring turns out to be, you will be the star of the show. Well played, sir. Not only that, when it comes time for the DevChix panel discussion, which would have resulted in more women joining DevChix, you will again be the star of the show. Well played again! Some of the women DevChix would have recruited will skip the discussion entirely. All the rest of them will ignore the DevChix women because their attention will be focused on you, and the question of whether or not you are an evil piece of shit. I mean I can pull off a threadjack, but I’ve never done anything like that. That is [incredibly] epic. All I can do is salute you.

    So I agree with this Luigi guy, and of course with Rich’s point about the relative value of different sources of advice. But let’s check out some terrible advice next.

    Ben :
    I think you’re in over your head here. Please get advice from someone other than DHH.

    This is awful advice. DHH is a god. He’s not just another programmer, whose code we should analyze, learn from, or improve. He is our leader. If DHH likes REST, we all like REST. If DHH refuses to apologize for anything ever, we all refuse to apologize for anything ever. This is the Rails Way and we must honor it. In fact, I would go to say that if we see DHH refusing to apologize for being rude when he’s right, we should go a step further and refuse to apologize for being a [phallus] when we’re wrong.

    After all, if you criticize somebody important in the Rails world, you don’t get an apology from them. You get banned from conferences. You should know who’s important, and you should kiss their [derriere], no matter what kind of scum they might be. If you think things should be different, then you should [leave] and go write Python like Zed Shaw.

  30. #31 by Laurent Sansonetti - April 28th, 2009 at 22:04

    Nick Sieger: I’m not sure what you mean here. Matt apologized numerous times in various places for having shocked some people and said it wasn’t his intention. What do you need more? We can probably ask his wife to take a picture of him on his knees and put it on flickr.

    • #32 by Jack Dempsey - April 28th, 2009 at 22:41

      You’re missing the reality behind the statements, and plenty of people have brought this up. Saying “My view is that offending someone is walking up to them and saying…” is completely missing the point. It doesn’t matter what Matt’s view of offending someone is…he obviously did, and rather than saying “you know, I’m sorry for offending you, I didn’t have that intention at all”, or as Giles mentions one possibility, taking the opposite route and saying “deal with it, and f u” etc, he didn’t do either and “couched” apologies in a sort of “sorry you didn’t like this, not sure i agree with that” statement.

      As Nick said: “Hinting to the people you put off that they are the ones at fault for taking offense to your material and they shouldn’t have listened or read the slides smacks of condescension and hollow, insincere excuses.”

      So, when you say that sort of thing numerous times, no, people aren’t going to feel like a genuine apology was made. Whether Matt doesn’t see this, or chooses not too, I certainly don’t know, but I can understand those making comments about the current stance.

      • #33 by Matt Aimonetti - April 28th, 2009 at 22:49

        Just to be clear, and to reiterate what I have already said:

        “GoGaRuCo attendees who were offended, I’m sorry for offending you, I didn’t have that intention at all”

        - Matt

  31. #34 by Lar Van Der Jagt - April 28th, 2009 at 22:35

    [this space intentionally left blank]

    That felt good. I wish more people would have considered, and chosen that option over the last few days. Both “sides” of this have output some truly ridiculous rhetoric, and there have been very few level headed voices of reason. It saddens me that this is the type of stuff that google may be returning in searches for Ruby, Rails, CouchDB or whatever.

    You know what they say about arguing on the internet….?

    If not, I’ll leave it up to you to find out. Wouldn’t want to offend anyone now…

  32. #35 by Giles Bowkett - April 28th, 2009 at 23:55

    Here’s what’s really sad about the Rails community. DHH told everybody to take time to pursue your passions and have a life outside of your work. People didn’t really seem to listen. DHH told everybody to disregard venture capital and form solid businesses backed with real business models, and people didn’t seem to listen either. But DHH put a slide in his presentation which said “Fuck You,” and a lot of people really took that to heart.

    That’s really sad. It takes some epic selective listening. I bet these people, they look at this gigantic flamewar, and all they notice is that women want to be down with Rails programmers. I bet they’re like, hey, see Rails is sexy. All the women are complaining that they can’t hang out with us. You know what that means!

  33. #36 by Elizabeth Keogh - April 29th, 2009 at 02:49

    Hi Matt,

    I’m not offended by your slideshow. I don’t think offense is useful. I also appreciate the clarification you’ve made here.

    I’ve posted a fairly long and I hope thoughtful response, outlining some of the psychological stuff that goes on in people’s brains, how it can affect us and ways of avoiding those associations. I’d welcome your feedback.



  34. #37 by Alan Bell - April 29th, 2009 at 04:17

    I am an all round geek and a bit of a couchDB fan, I read the slides, the only part that I found uncomfortable was the drugs reference when talking about ACID compliance. I had no problem with the rest of it and I am amazed nobody else seems to worry about the drugs bit. I probably would not have gone for such a bold theme myself, but if I were reviewing presentations for a corporate event I would only have cut one slide from that.

  35. #38 by Mark Caudill - April 29th, 2009 at 06:19

    Rather than bicker, argue, and contend one’s personal disgrace at the supposed objectification by Matt perhaps the effort would be better suited helping women CS students with scholarships. If even half of the people complaining about this issue donated to a similar cause, they’d help this problem more than the bickering I’m hearing.

    And to those who are making personal attacks against Matt (as well as attacks against the community), stop generalizing based on ONLY those parts of a whole that you choose to see. You’re finding one flaw to stab to death.

  36. #39 by planetmcd - April 29th, 2009 at 06:34

    Mr. Aimonetti,
    I think you made a mistake. From reading what your correspondence, I believe you regret the talk you gave, and would not probably use a similar approach in the future, and probably take it back if you could. I do get the sense you really wanted to convey how cool couchDB is, not cause a stir. By checking with some people, it does indicate you didn’t want to offend. I get that, and I applaud it. The problem was that your test sample knows you, they can separate the content of your presentation, from you. They have a framework against which to judge you. People at the conference and people who saw the slides, lack that context. So you are just a guy who put risque/soft porn pictures in a presentation.

    Perhaps this episode will make you a bit more conscientious. And that is at least a good thing. It seems like you want to make things right, to get back to talking about code instead of social issues.

    While I agree with others that you apology does not come across as completely contrite, with its caveats and whatnot, I understand that as an individual you don’t believe that you embody the notion of misogyny in IT being laid against you.

    I agree, you made a mistake, and its not fair that henceforth you may be judged by 1 incident, 1 mistake. So I hope you understand that others dislike or resent the notion that they may be judged or pigeonholed by forces out side of their control, such as minority status.

    The problem nerve, that women in technology face challenges being treated as peers, that your talk exposed is not of your creation, but that doesn’t mean the larger concerns aren’t real and when you dismiss them and more importantly when large swaths of the community dismiss them, the problem remains.

  37. #40 by teleolurian - April 29th, 2009 at 06:56

    Pft. This is an awesome slide show, and certainly leaves an impact on the viewer related to the functionality of the software presented. You get tired of car analogies over and over. Just consider you presentation to be pure win.

  38. #41 by Aaron Farr - April 29th, 2009 at 09:59

    Matt, you still don’t get it. You’re still defending yourself. You haven’t apologized. At most, you regret the bad publicity to Rails, not that you offended fellow developers.

    What you’re missing is that this has gone beyond the presentation and even beyond the gender and minority issues to be largely about the response by you and the Rails Core team. It’s your response that is causing the real uproar and until you understand that, you’re going to keep digging yourself into a deeper hole. You’ve lost the battle on justifying your presentation. Now it’s about these larger issues and you’re losing that war as well.

    This may sound harsh, but as one who is also in a position of influence in a large open source community, my suggestion to you and the entire Rails Core team needs to reconsider your narcissistic approach to community management. More thoughts on that here: http://cubiclemuses.com/cm/articles/2009/04/28/a-community-of-rockstars

  39. #42 by Laurent Sansonetti - April 29th, 2009 at 10:57

    Aaron Farr: Matt surely defends his point of view but apologized numerous times for having shocked _some_ people. I copy/pasted a few portions below (there are many more, you can use Google). If you don’t consider this as an apology, what do you need more? Please elaborate.

    “This topic was meant as a joke and I’m sorry if it goes against your personal values.”

    “GoGaRuCo attendees who were offended, I’m sorry for offending you, I didn’t have that intention at all”

    “I do sincerely care about the larger gender issues that my presentation touched off.”

    “It genuinely was not my intention to cause offense.”

  40. #43 by Matt Aimonetti - April 29th, 2009 at 11:34

    Alright, I think the comments aren’t bringing much to the discussion anymore. Therefore I decided to close them to avoid further drama. If you want to keep on discussing the matter, please read Liz’s post: http://lizkeogh.com/2009/04/29/i-am-not-a-pr0n-star-avoiding-unavoidable-associations/ if you have a problem with me personally, come and chat with me at RailsConf.

    - Matt

  41. #44 by Matt Aimonetti - April 29th, 2009 at 15:09

    Here is a comment Denise form comment #7 sent me by email and said she wanted to post before I closed the comments.

    Hi Matt,

    First, I think we both had a great conversation and I am glad that we were able to have it. We do differ on one point, but both of us were respectful of each other without altering our own personal views and values.

    I want to say to everyone else that I disagree with both extremes on this subject and the rhetoric that took place, or any subjects for that matter. War of words accomplishes absolutely nothing for anyone, and this has turned into a public war of words

    One side being arrogant, the other is being vengeful. Reminds me of the war between Israelis and Palestinians, seems so simple to solve, but until both sides make a compromise, it’s impossible to achieve. I admit that it did upset me to see some of the comments and I was angry at the whole situation. Then you take a deep breath and get hold of the situation.

    Unfortunately, I fear my words will be lost in the accumulated anger, but I will say it, we need to close this public display of mutually assured destruction and time to tone down the rhetoric, on both sides. For all of you, here’s a quote that Matt and I seem to agree on:

    “Your freedom ends where mine starts”

    And Matt, try to get some sleep tonight, I know I will and so should everyone else.


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