Second thoughts...

Posted by Piers Cawley on Oct 10, 2006

I just pulled the the entry entitled It’s not just open source that has a problem with sexism. Here’s why:

My intention was to point up the kind of unthinking, ingrained sexism that is all too common in our field. My friends’ email exchanges with a conference organizer were textbook examples of the sort of thing I mean, so I used them and posted them pretty much verbatim without a thought. I was aware that it might cause offence, but my aim was to make the organizer stop and think about the message his conference website was sending out. So, basking in the knowledge that I Was Right, I pressed publish and was damned.

Then I watched as the organizer’s reaction grew increasingly more aggressive, opening with a demand to remove the material, followed up by a ranting phone call and a couple of “I know where you live!” messages. His weblog entry on the affair mutated over time too. He ended up accusing me and my ‘cohorts’ of an orchestrated campaign of hacking, abuse and fraudulent spam signups.

Since I had orchestrated no such campaign, I took the view that I would not dignify such ludicrous allegations with a denial.

This morning, I learned from someone I trust that the organizer has indeed been subject to sustained attacks on his webserver. That both he and his 8 months pregnant wife have been signed up to porn mailing lists and have seen massively increased levels of spam.


What kind of infantile idiots do stuff like that? Seriously? How on earth is this kind of victimization of one side of a debate supposed to help anyone? For heaven’s sake, I don’t think the organizer set out to offend, that much is apparent from his reaction to my post.

If you, reading this, are responsible for the attacks and you believe yourself to be doing it at my behest, then please stop it and, if you have it in you, apologise. Your actions are despicable and I hope that, should you persist, you are caught and punished to the full extent of the law.

Why pull the entry?

I still stand by what I intended to say in my earlier message, but after more reflection and a bad night’s sleep, I also realise that what I wrote was hurtful. It’s all too easy to forget that the people we debate with are flesh and blood too. Frankly, being right isn’t a good enough reason to cause as much pain as I appear to have done, and for that I apologise.