Tweet by eavesdropper at tech event gets two fired, including eavesdropper

Lesson of the day: Think before you tweet.

Last week, social media developer/coder Adria Richards snapped a photo of two strangers whom she accused of inappropriate, sexist conduct. Except she didn’t confront the men themselves. She just tweeted it publicly. To the rest of the world.

Not cool.Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and “big” dongles.Right behind me #pycon…

— Adria Richards (@adriarichards) March 17, 2013

She also complained to the other attendees and organizers of #pycon, the tech conference that she and the men were attending.

Can someone talk to these guys about their conduct?I’m in lightning talks, top right near stage, 10 rows back #pycon

— Adria Richards (@adriarichards) March 17, 2013

Thanks! RT @pycon: Thank you @adriarichards for bringing the inappropriate comments to our attention. We’ve dealt with the situation. #pycon

— Adria Richards (@adriarichards) March 17, 2013

She was  proud of herself for calling out the purported sexists, as were some of her Twitter fans.

.Kudos to Ms. Richards for creating a safe space! #inclusion #diversity @adriarichards @pycon see relevant article

— Alberto Roca (@MinorityPostdoc) March 18, 2013

@adriarichards you’re so gangsta. #pycon

— Jose Vilson (@TheJLV) March 17, 2013

As an advocate for digital equality, my actions today at #pycon made me feel like Joan of Arc, minus the visions

— Adria Richards (@adriarichards) March 18, 2013

Well, that’s a bit much. Especially since not everyone thought the overheard remarks represented as clear-cut a case of barbaric sexism as she made it out to be. A reporter for Forbes Tech writes:

Richards wrote a blog post about the encounter, in which it’s not entirely clear that the comments were sexist (in my reading). Meanwhile, one of the male developers revealed that he had been let go from his job as a result of the public shaming, and said while he had been making a joke about the male anatomy by referring to “big dongles” (a piece of tech hardware), “forking” is a term he and his colleague used to denote “the highest form of flattery.”

According to PlayHaven, the former employer of the “dongle” joker, there may have been several reasons he was axed this week:

Playhaven fired dongle joker for multiple reasons, not because of Adria Richards…

— Ann Somerville (@ann_somerville) March 24, 2013

But from the CEO’s statement, it’s clear what the main catalyst was:

PlayHaven had an employee who was identified as making inappropriate comments at PyCon, and as a company that is dedicated to gender equality and values honorable behavior, we conducted a thorough investigation. The result of this investigation led to the unfortunate outcome of having to let this employee go. We value and protect the privacy of our employees, both past and present, and we will not comment on all the factors that contributed to our parting ways.

This employee was not Alex Reid, who is still with the company and a valued employee.

We believe in the importance of discussing sensitive topics such as gender and conduct and we hope to move forward with a civil dialogue based on the facts.

After inciting an Internet storm and backlash of comments across several platforms, guess who else was fired? Adria Richards, the self-styled whistleblower. Her employer, SendGrid, suffered a distributed denial of service attack from vengeful supporters of the fired male developer.

SendGrid supports the right to report inappropriate behavior, whenever and wherever it occurs,” writes CEO Jim Franklin. “What we do not support was how she reported the conduct. Her decision to tweet the comments and photographs of the people who made the comments crossed the line. Publicly shaming the offenders – and bystanders – was not the appropriate way to handle the situation.”

There are no winners in this social media soap opera.

For real, though — no one should have lost their job. Not Richards, not the developer she called out. @sendgrid & @playhaven both cowardly.

— Matt Strong (@mfstrong) March 23, 2013

If @playhaven hadn’t caved to the extreme left and if @sendgrid hadn’t caved to the extreme right, all would have jobs. No politics at work!

— CommonDongleSense (@ForkMyDongle) March 23, 2013

Jokes about big dongles shouldn’t get u fired.Not every joke about ballz is sexist.I’m annoyed w/ both @sendgrid and @playhaven .

— Will Merydith (@wmerydith) March 23, 2013

Dear @sendgrid & @playhaven1. Get both parties in a room to discuss & educate on issues2. Rehire both Adria & the male dev#setItRight

— Aral Balkan (@aral) March 21, 2013

@playhaven @sendgrid Firing was wrong.Apologies from everyone would have deflated the situation entirely.Only anger now. #donglegate

— Rebel Words (@rebelwords) March 22, 2013

if you’re up for some sunday tech world drama the whole #donglegate story is pretty amusing in a facepalming way…

— Henrik Falck (@henrikfalck) March 24, 2013

I don’t think I could work for a company like PlayHaven or SendGrid, do you? Could you do it? (You’re on twitter so probably no.)

— Courtney Stanton (@q0rt) March 24, 2013

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