RailsConf notes so far

I’d read complaints before about the meanness of commenters on the irc backchannel at conferences, but this is the first time I’ve really experienced it for myself. Right now the mob is tearing into Cyndi Mitchell’s keynote on Enterprise Ruby. They’re making cracks about her being the Rachel Ray of code. I’m wondering, if they think it sucks so much, why is everyone still in there? Yesterday it certainly sounded like there was at least one mass exodus from a presentation that was putting the crowd to sleep.

I think O’Reilly should really look at options for moderating the backchannel. Aren’t they supposed to be interested in healthy communities?

Last night, Desi coordinated a Thoughtworks-sponsored party at Rock Bottom Brewery. She’s been a huge help in going around and introducing the female attendees to each other. I had a great time wandering around and talking to people. Tonight the same thing will be happening again, this time sponsored by Pivotal Labs. There’s also a Hackety Hack & User Groups BoF tonight that will be open to the public, and RejectConf at FreeGeek (though now that I’m reading about the “Gong Show” format, I’m actually not that interested in seeing this).

I have a lot of concerns about elitism and cliquishness in the Ruby and Rails communities. But talking to people last night, I felt reassured that there are a lot of people who really only care about what they’re able to do with this technology, and aren’t part of some kind of social game. That was good.

On the other hand, #railsconf makes me think the worst again:

[09:23am] lectrick: if we wanted women we would have become nurses [actual name: Peter Marreck]
[09:23am] deadprogrammer: mars need women [Ron Evans]
[09:23am] NetNeutrality: lack of women is not rails specific, all software eng is like that [unknown]

Someone set up a RubyChicks site. I’m not really sure what to make of this. But hey, photographic evidence that we exist. I’m in picture #16 [edit: the site owner seems to be taking pictures down as they’re added. Not sure why that and not disabling uploads as well].

7 responses to “RailsConf notes so far

  1. Nice blog…

    RailsConf rocks!!

  2. James Justin Harrell

    >>> I think O’Reilly should really look at options for moderating the backchannel. Aren’t they supposed to be interested in healthy communities?

    I don’t think censorship by a small group of elites is the best way of producing a community. It’s better to spread power whenever possible and make things more democratic.

    Let people vote down the rude commenters, so that messages from people with low scores appears in a smaller font, a subdued color, or doesn’t show up at all. Even ancient IRC could easily handle a system like that by letting people message a bot.

  3. Disclaimer: That was supposed to be humor. I know how dangerous it is to attempt this on a chat channel. I know that this is a sore topic for many guy coders, I was alluding to that, and perhaps I misfired.

    In any event, I also apologized for any offense a few chats later, which was not quoted by you. I’m actually a nice guy, I have a girlfriend I can play WoW with, and nobody who knows me would call me misogynist.

    I am blessed by being able to work in a design group with women well-represented. Their input is needed.

    The correct way to moderate a backchannel is not to moderate it but to let the community police it.

  4. Peter, thanks for the response. I wasn’t watching the channel the whole time, so I missed your later apology.

    If we can moderate backchannel discussions through community policing, that would be the best solution. But some situations really benefit from having a dedicated person in charge of reminding everyone what the standards for civil discourse are. There are some great examples of this in other forums. One of the best I’ve seen is Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s moderation of the comment threads on Making Light, which often covers touchy political subjects.

    I don’t know what’s most appropriate for this particular case, but I hope we’ll all continue to talk about it, and have some direction to move in for future conferences.

  5. Daniel Berger

    You may be interested in Utu: http://savingtheinternetwithhate.com/

    The Rubychicks site appears to now be defunct, btw.


  6. Pingback: The Third Bit » Blog Archive » RailsConf: Plus Ca Change…

  7. Hi, It was great meeting you and I want to get you added to the list but I seem to have lost your card can you send me your contact info?