Why cancellation of @BritRuby made me a #sadpanda

Something truly sad happened this weekend. Brit Ruby was cancelled:

http://2013.britruby.com/

The Ruby community has been battling with issues of race and gender equality. We at Brit Ruby were well aware of this fundamental and important issue. This was one of the reasons why we encouraged everyone to submit a speaker proposal. Sadly, Brit Ruby was used as the arena to air these issues on Twitter and this has fundamentally destroyed any chance we had of addressing these issues. Instead the community should have worked together and allowed us to bring these issues to light at the conference. How can the community address these issues if every time someone tries they are shot down and accused of such awful things?

This makes me very sad.

The guys running this event were doing so in their spare time, because they wanted to make something happen.

I’m blogging about this, because I’m an event organiser too. I’ve been doing it for about 5 years now. The reason I’m still going, and making bigger and better events happen? Because I’m selfish; I organise these events for me.

If I didn’t, then they wouldn’t happen, and the community would be a poorer place.

They wouldn’t happen because I’d have no reason to put them on. They wouldn’t be something I wanted to put on, attend or give up my precious time for. I wouldn’t have the passion and the drive if I tried to make an event for others.

The thing to remember about running any event is that people will complain. There’ll always be something that someone doesn’t like. They’ll get vocal. They’ll kick off. There will most definitely be a heated debate on TEH INTERNETS, it is after all the home of trolls.

The Brit Ruby organisers said they wanted speakers who were awesome. They were purely focused on the sessions. They wanted the event to have the best content and delivery. Those guys didn’t care WHO delivered the talks.

What’s wrong with that? I’d rather I was chosen to do something because of my skills, not my gender.Positive discrimination is still discrimination.

Absolutely nothing. Unfortunately TEH INTERNETS looked at the photos of the invited speakers (there were still 5 places which they were going to award to the best submissions) and decided “they’re all white men!” and went all shouty and opinionated  as the internet is wont to do.

Unfortunately because of this Brit Ruby got cancelled, which ruined it for everyone.

So essentially, people decided they didn’t like how an event was run, they bitched and moaned. I’ve been on the receiving end of this (perhaps not to the same extent) and what I’ve had to do is harden my skin.

If you don’t like the event I’m running, then don’t come! Or event better, why don’t you organise an event yourself, the way YOU want.

You can’t make everybody happy, but you can make yourself happy. Spend your time on things that you enjoy, you want to do and you’re passionate about. Taking on constructive criticism, comments, ideas and help is a great thing to do. What you can NEVER do is to dilute your vision, your agenda and your selfish reasons for doing this. Otherwise you aren’t going to be able to give this thing the love, time and attention it needs in order to become awesome. Passion draws the sponsors. Passion brings the attendees. Passion is what will make sacrificing hobbies, friends and sleep that bit easier.

10 thoughts on “Why cancellation of @BritRuby made me a #sadpanda

  1. They brought a controversial issue to light, got people talking about it, and as a result had to cancel. A shame, indeed, since it appears that they had achieved at least some of their aim.

  2. I work with the Brit Ruby team. They have put their heart & soul into the organisation with absolutely no hidden agenda. They’ve dedicated hours of their own time in attempt to put on THE best Ruby conference they could. It’s a shame that others have punched the passion out of them and as a result the whole Ruby community will have lost a great opportunity to meet and make things happen. I look forward to those who ruined Brit Ruby organising the next conference. I know the Brit Ruby team will be feeling sore and we’ll support them over the coming days – we’re a ‘family’ team and look after our own. So I fully support your post.
    Paul

  3. Would you clarify who the first preposition refer to in “”They brought a controversial issue to light, got people talking about it, and as a result had to cancel.”? The sentence construction suggests one entity.

    To be clear: it was others who brought the issue to light and got people (full disclosure: including me) talking about it. BritRuby had never publicly expressed awareness of the problems nor expressed interest in diversity outreach, either on Twitter or their blog. As someone who had submitted a proposal a month+ ago, I got no indication that they were asking privately either. Maybe yes, maybe no. But it was never brought up, nor did they request referrals to other candidates. Conferences aren’t required to do such things. But it’s disingenuous for them to cast themselves as champions of diversity, when there’s no evidence of having sought diversity– much less “fighting the good fight” for it. <<-quoted is from their Tweet yesterday.

  4. But it’s disingenuous for them to cast themselves as champions of diversity, when there’s no evidence of having sought diversity– much less “fighting the good fight” for it. <<-quoted is from their Tweet yesterday.

    that’s interesting. I got the impression these guys (who I’ve met and work in my city!) were focused on running a great conference and focused on the sessions over the individuals. Surely they ARE “fighting the good fight” by ignoring gender and race and focusing on the abilities of an individual to contribute to THEIR conference?

    Be interested to hear your thoughts.

  5. Yes it does, finding high quality humans means ignoring race, gender, sexuality, as is the law in this county!

  6. I honestly cannot believe that of all the possible speakers in the world for their conference, the best ones just happened to be white males. And I say that as a white male. Instead, I imagine that they did what most people did: they tried to find the best speakers among their network, which tends to match one’s demographic. It’s a perfectly natural thing, but the problem is that it tends to perpetuate existing imbalances.

    So what to do? I haven’t seen anybody suggest positive discrimination as a solution to this problem, so I think that’s a straw man. The way it’s typically solved is through outreach and support. As Luigi mentioned, other Ruby conferences have done it.

    If the BritRuby folks had recognized the lack of diversity as a problem, they could have asked for assistance. They could have done that when they were called out on it, just by a polite reply on Twitter. They could even do it now. As you say, it depends on whether they’re passionate about it. I hope they are!

  7. On the back of this I thought I’d salvage something good. Let’s put on a conference ourselves! Really appreciate all your comments and opinions AND would like you to be involved in it. Let’s make this a truly awesome event TOGETHER!

    http://goo.gl/fVkUi

  8. “that’s interesting. I got the impression these guys (who I’ve met and work in my city!) were focused on running a great conference and focused on the sessions over the individuals. Surely they ARE “fighting the good fight” by ignoring gender and race and focusing on the abilities of an individual to contribute to THEIR conference?”

    The problem is you can’t ignore race/gender, we all have subconscious bias. I detest racism yet I have a “slight preference” to light skinned people according to the “Harvard Skin Tone Bias Test”. To protect yourself the speakers need to be selected blind. Disclaimer: I realised this in hindsight due to the surrounding discussion and so would have the same mistake. I sympathise with the organisers, it must be heartbreaking and is a great loss to the wider Ruby community, especially in the UK.

  9. In the UK we already have strong laws against discrimination, and choosing the speakers based on content IS the right way to proceed. There will always be folk throwing criticism, and for the organisers who were probably already stressed, it probably felt like a campaign was launched against them, so I don’t blame them in their decision.

    Sadly, any discrimination is discrimination, whether well-intentioned or not. Positive discrimination means that you have chosen to discriminate against one person based on a physical attribute (gender, skin colour, etc.) for another person. I would not want to attend any conference where I knew people had been shoved to the side because they did not meet a tick-box list of physical attributes.

    Overall, this just leaves a bad impression of companies thinking of using Ruby in their technology stack – they see the Ruby Dramas, and decide to instead use a technology with a more mature “community”.

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