Adria Richards Donglegate: Trolls – Tech & Tweets

If you knew that a Tweet would kick up a storm of controversy, and affect your professional career, you might think twice before you sent out that 140-character message, photo, or link.

Adria Richards, a female technology evangelist is living in the aftermath of a Tweet that got her fired, “divided the tech community,” and has brought out critics, feminists, supporters, and ugly trolls.

What did she do? She was at a conference and Tweeted a picture and message. That’s it.

For the record, I consider Adria to be a good friend. We met several years ago at a WordCamp Atlanta conference and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. I saw her most recently in San Francisco about a year ago.

During the visit (I’m from East Palo Alto), I interviewed her about her YouTube success for my video production tutorial site.

I caught wind about the controversy through my YouTube channel.

On Wednesday, several rude and obnoxious comments were posted to my YouTube interview with Adria. They were very offensive and some were racially charged to say the least. I deleted the comments and went about my business, only to find another barrage on Thursday.

I wasn’t aware of the larger story, so I emailed Adria that something about her video was attracting hate.

I then shared what was going on with a work colleague. By this time, one of the commenters alluded to something she did that led to another person losing their job. The YouTube commenter troll then apologized to me after realizing that I wasn’t Adria (I then deleted another round of comments and disabled comments on the video).

Around the same time my co-worker said, “Your friend got someone fired, and she got fired too.”

That’s when it all came together.

No need to go into the specifics. It’s all over VentureBeat, Forbes, Mashable, BusinessInsider, and HuffPost to mention a few.

Rachel Sklar says Richards’ former employer SendGrid made a kneejerk mistake to pacify the trolls. Dani Alexis understands the struggles and challenges that go along with being a woman in the male dominated tech industry. John Petersen suggests that there is a measure of immaturity in the tech industry, but says the Richards actions fueled the fire when she Tweeted her complaint.

This situation has caused a firestorm in the tech world. Stories about sexism in tech have been getting more attention of late. This case seems to have taken the conversation to new heights or lows depending on your perspective.

Adria wrote about the incident in great detail, but that was before her employer decided to fire her publicly on Twitter.

For those who are waiting for her to speak publicly, she is probably going to talk about it eventually. When it happens, I’m sure it be all over the internet and in the media. This has turned into a national if not an international story.

One little tweet has raised a number of social and legal issues.

Her former employer is having to deal with the consequences of firing her. Richards is going to have to answer some tough questions at some point, and the man who she targeted in the Tweet has some decisions to make as well.

The tech industry will most certainly have to take a deeper look at how it will push this conversation forward. Those who like to speculate will do so, and the trolls will be hateful, evil, ugly trolls.

Did Adria expect to become the poster child of sexism in Silicon Valley? Probably not. Did she expect to be on the radar of just about every major online and traditional media outlet? I doubt it. Did she want to shed light on an issue or problem that deserves more attention? Probably.

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and this issue will in one way or another elevate our collective consciousness regarding an industry that has a very short yet homogenous history.

Sure, the Internet may have been started by men, but those men came from women and there is no reason why the industry can’t become more inclusive or diverse.

If you look back, the news business was dominated by white men not so long ago. Women have now taken over for all intents and purposes. From the anchor desk to sports locker rooms, they can’t can’t be denied.

I just hope that those who are interested in a conversation about women’s place in technology are open to an intelligent discussion.

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  • Hank Chinaski

    Hello Amani, I appreciate the she is your friend. Did you read the anonymous statement on the matter? Would love to hear your response.

    As a general rule, I say praise in public, but criticise in private. With social media now pervasive, everything you post can be used against you. This is particularly damning if you happen to have lot of childhood issues, are an attention whore, and possess no social maturity.

    • Amani Channel

      I agree that you praise in public and criticize in private, and that is what I would have done. I wouldn’t want anyone with anonymous coming after me or my employer. Also, there are legal issues that she’ll probably have to deal with. No winners in this one.

    • Michelle

      So if you are supposed to criticise in private, what’s anonymous doing? What are you doing cutting and pasting it along with your own slander? The fact is those people were in breach of the conference policies, putting it into context and while that might tweet might not have been the best method to your mind, it got it addressed and quite amicably at the conference. A blog post followed. What I’ve seen of the other people involved, they admit their fault.Interestingly the men involved with the exception of the one that didn’t lose their job being mentioned a few times have pretty much maintained their anonymity. In contrast, Adria’s name has been put everywhere.

      What happened next could not have been envisaged and there is nothing there to indicate that any one person involved influenced subsequent events. While no one gave that company grief, they indicate that there was more than this single thing that lead to the firing.

      So nothing of this sort happened here. There is no “engaged in malicious conduct to destroy the another individual’s professional career”. That’s just made up, there was a photograph with no identification and the comment “not cool” tweeted to the conference. And that’s about it until everyone lost their rag and proved the claims that tech is full of sexism. She’s had it all dumped on her, and that is actually what she meant when she said in the blog post that she pretty thought that well, if she didn’t do something, that sort of thing would continue and contribute to a hostile environment.

      It’s well and truly hostile now.