FYI: Your Tweets Can Get People Fired, So Tweet Responsibly

It’s a well-known fact that sometimes it sucks to be a woman in tech, but a lesser-known fact is this: It’s scary as hell sometimes to be a man in tech.

And this story illustrates why.

Tech guys (and gals) take note: You have to be REALLY careful when it comes to sexual jokes. You’re better off not saying them at all actually – and that’s really too bad for those of us possessing an off-color sense of humor. The line between “harmless joke” and sexual harassment is not only blurred, it doesn’t seem to exist. If you say it, you could potentially fry for it – end of story.

But if you witness a truly horrendous instance of sexism, what should you do? Is public shaming ever okay? It seems the line there is irrevocably blurred as well. And if you’re wrong, you’ve destroyed someone – and should face consequences of your own.

The past few days provide a pretty graphic case in point. TechCrunch breaks down the events:

1) A developer at a Python programming conference allegedly made a joke about “big” dongles and “forking someone’s repo.”

2) Adria Richards was sitting in front of them, snapped a pic and sent out this tweet:

And this tweet:

3.) The tech conference escorted the “donglers” out . . . and everything began to slowly snowball from there.

4.) Adria posts a blog that (arguably) makes the whole thing into much more than it ever needed to be (a couple of excerpts speaking to this are below):

I saw a photo on main stage of a little girl who had been in the Young Coders workshop.

I realized I had to do something or she would never have the chance to learn and love programming because the ass clowns behind me would make it impossible for her to do so.

It very much reminded me of Lord Of the Flies.  I decided to put out the fire at the base.

5.) One of the “donglers” is fired (read more here).

6.) Said fired person writes an apology and provides a bit more context from his perspective:

While I did make a big dongle joke about a fictional piece hardware that identified as male, no sexual jokes were made about forking. My friends and I had decided forking someone’s repo is a new form of flattery (the highest form being implementation) and we were excited about one of the presenters projects; a friend said “I would fork that guys repo” The sexual context was applied by Adria, and not us.

. . . Adria has an audience and is a successful person of the media. Just check out her web page linked in her twitter account, her hard work and social activism speaks for itself. With that great power and reach comes responsibility. As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have 3 kids and I really liked that job.

She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate. Let this serve as a message to everyone, our actions and words, big or small, can have a serious impact.

7.) Adria’s “employment is terminated” next:

Throughout the whole thing, the Internet has been going bonkers with both sides very aggressively speaking out.

What should have happened here? Again, from Adria’s  blog post:

What has to change is that everyone must take personal accountability and speak up when they hear something that isn’t ok.  It takes three words to make a difference:

“That’s not cool.”

But she didn’t do that. Instead, she appears to have chosen poorly and allowed her social media status to get the best of her. Why else would someone who can jokingly tweet about “nuts” create such a ruckus about “dongle?”


It’s a sad and unnecessary story all around. Do you agree?

(image from Shutterstock)


@MaryCLong Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.