George Mauer is on the Net

The GoGaRuConf Pr0n Affair Rhinos vs Rabbits and A Challenge

Well I don’t have many (any?) readers so I’m not going to go into depth linking and summarizing something that is

Gotta have at least one picture of a Rhino

Gotta have at least one picture of a Rhino

 handled in a million different places probably best on Martin Fowler’s blog (is the terminology blog correct here? Bible? Holy Testament?).


Super short version: Ruby on Rails prides itself on being an edgy community; at a conference, a slide deck contained a prolonged analogy between a technology and porn; people got offended.  There, that hits all the high notes.  I posted my thoughts as a comment on the hanselblog but then thought hey, I really haven’t updated my own blog in a while and I actually have (what I think is) an original insight on this so here we go.

For the record, I am mostly with Martin Fowler and others who urge professionalism and think the presntation was in poor taste to begin with (as in a cheap use of a lame analogy) but I think that I have something else to add to the discussion.

Let me start with this, I am notoriously thick skinned.  Really.  Like a Rhino (see sidebar for gratuitous picture of a Rhino).  You would have to know me quite well to understand how deep it goes but suffice to say that it is a product of my life philosophy and I do not remember the last time I was truly offended.  That being said, I am hopefully not a jerk and do not expect others to hold to the same standard.  However, because I cannot use myself as a guage I have had immense difficulty walking the line between offensiveness and expressiveness.  This is something that I have been actively working on for years, and I would like to think with results (I somehow swindled a lovely girl into an engagement even).  Hence my keen interest in this current discussion of appropriateness.

All conversation of gender roles, stereotypes, and feelings aside I think the argument of really boils down to this:  

  1.  The more edgy/expressive/offensive you get the more thin-skinned people you will exclude.  
  2. If a community allows offensive behavior repeatedly then the offended parties will be excluded from that community.  
  3. Why in the world would a tech movement want to exclude people – many brilliant people even – solely on these grounds?

Logically, this argument is a check-mate.  You want your ideas to be inclusive?  Then you must work to be inclusive as well.

But there is a caveat.  Many things are offensive; why would thin-skinned people want to spend their lives in an offended state?  Seriously, a lot of this stuff is actually pretty funny, we’d for love you to join in.   

So here’s the proposal, how about we BOTH work on this?  Yes that means you rabbits as well as us rhinos.  I will continue learning about sensitivity, about people’s feelings, about why I shouldn’t use the N-word even though I think its constant use would strip it of its power, and all the other social norms.  I won’t compromise my expressiveness, but I will try to consciously and responsibly make an decision of who I will offend.  You in the meantime should watch George Carlin and Bill Hicks, try to see what’s funny about Family Guy, and maybe even occasionally read SomethingAwful all with an open mind.  You must try to see humor on its own terms and to distinguish an bad person from a crass one.  You should do this seriously and with commitment.

The thing is that many people will probably take even this suggestion as offensive in itself, that I am suggesting people with “refined social standards” need to change as well as us juvenile bozos.  Here your own argument for sensitivity stands against you.   You must realize that for many people being sensitive to your feelings is f*ing difficult.  Like really really really hard.  I know that checking my speech almost always leaves a bad taste in my mouth that I have to then obsess over for hours afterwards. And if you still don’t care then F you.

I don’t have a crescendo of an ending planned so let me just state that I did indeed learn some things from this whole affair and am quite happy at the ideas that it has brought to the forefront.  I doubt that someone will seriously take me up on my challenge and I will continue down my own path of social learning regardless but if you’re really going to be intellectually honest you can hopefully admit that I have a point.  And then tag, you’re it.

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Other, Programming | 8 Comments