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Another day, another boneheaded sexist misstep igniting a blamestorm in the tech world. The latest incident played out at the annual Python developer conference, which ended yesterday with multiple people getting fired, a woman of color enduring hundreds of violent and racist threats, apparent DDoS attacks knee-capping at least one website, and tech community outrage that’s attracted national attention.
It all started on Sunday at the PyCon event in Santa Clara, California, when Adria Richards, a female conference-goer and a technology consultant, overheard a conversation with a guy seated behind her at a panel. Richards claims their otherwise unremarkable techie chat turned sour when a neighboring guy joined in with a couple of jokes. They had to do with “forking” (copying someone else’s code) and “dongles” (little pieces of hardware), but in a way Richards found suggestive and inappropriate. Richards snapped a picture of the guys making the jokes, and posted it to Twitter. PlayHaven, a mobile-gaming site, confirmed to Mother Jones that both of the men photographed by Richards were PlayHaven employees at the time.
Richards also tweeted her seat location, a plea for someone to come by and talk to the guys in question, and a link to the PyCon Code of Conduct page, which defines unacceptable behavior at the conference (more on this later). Minutes later, a PyCon staffer came by and Richards spoke with him and a few other staffers in private. There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. In a blog post Richards posted the next day, she writes that staffers “wanted to pull the people in question from the main ballroom” and that they were escorted out. She doesn’t mention seeing them again. It was later widely reported across Twitter and tech forums that the two guys Richards pointed out to staffers were kicked out of the conference. Not so, lead conference organizer Jesse Noller told us in an email: “They were pulled aside, spoken with, and then returned to their seats to the knowledge of the staff and myself.” Noller says no one was removed from the conference due to this incident; someone was kicked for using drugs in public, indoors, but that was two weeks ago, and no one’s been removed since.â€‹