On Crime And Punishment

This is in direct response to Open Letter to European Perl Conference, and indirectly to many tweets and Facebook posts that I will not link to directly.

I want to reply to some of the points made in the blog post:

To the organizers of the European Perl Conference in Riga.

There are no organizers of the European Perl Conference in Riga. There is only one person, Andrew Shitov, who is organizing this all by himself. With all of the financial risks involved (disclosure: I am a sponsor, but then again I have been a sponsor of most Perl events in the past 10 years).

Why do you ask, are there no organizers? Because the Perl community has been reduced to such a state that there are no local Perl Monger groups anymore willing or able to organize such an event (this is true for both the European as well as the American Perl conferences). Having been in the organizing team of 2 European Perl conferences, and having been financially responsible for both of those two, I think I can say that I know what it is about.

Asking for a boycot of a conference is a sure way to make sure that no Perl conference will ever be organized after this. So, be careful what you wish for.

I have been involved in the perl community for 22 years.

Make that 27 years for me.

to provide some level of proof that people in the community care enforcing codes of conduct.

People in the Perl community are not afraid to enforce codes of conduct. Only recently someone was asked to leave the Perl Toolchain Summit after an SoC violation, and last year at the Perl Conference in Glasgow, a video of a presentation was also removed because of an SoC violation.

a person violated the Standards of Conduct (Code of Conduct) at the last Perl Conference in Pittsburgh and is slated to be a keynote speaker for the Perl Conference in Riga.

If you insist on treating violations of the SoC in complete anonymity, this statement does not make any sense at all. How would you know that this “anonymous person” is actually a keynote speaker? To me, the whole handling of the report of the SoC violation by TPF, is like a trial where there are no lawyers, with an accuser, and where the judge is also the jury, and it’s a strict “no strikes and you’re out policy”.

I am appalled by something you have done

Andrew Shitov DID NOT DO ANYTHING. He scheduled a keynote presentation on 5 March, WAY before the Perl Conference in Pittsburgh.

The SoC violating keynote speaker cannot be a keynote speaker.

Since you are asking for the removal of this presentation, I think it is only fair to get all of the facts out:

  1. On 17 June, Will Braswell gives a presentation about the history of Perl. This presentation is recorded and uploaded to YouTube the next day, I believe, if not a few days later. This is a slightly adapted presentation he had done at FOSDEM.

  2. During this presentation, he tried to be funny about the pronunciation of Haskell, being the language that Pugs was developed in. Something in the vein of “Haskèll or Háskell, depending on who you ask”, and he repeated that with Audrey Tang’s old name, and with Audrey’s gender. Too bad the video is not online anymore, but if you could see it, you’d see that there was an ill attempt at humour there. This is the same sequence at the FOSDEM version. Audrey Tang, who came out as transgender during the course of the Pugs project. So looking back on that project, you will see both names.

    I doubt there will be many transgenders in that same situation: being the leader of a prestigious software project and to come out during that project. So I think it can be defended that both names were used. Which does not mean that he should have used both names. I think the FOSDEM version of the presentation did it right.

  3. I don’t like deadnaming. I’m in the lucky circumstance that I came out as transgender before there was an Internet to speak of. I know it hurts from experience, especially from people close to you: you should realize that even though people love you and care about you, it can be hard to start using the new name, simply because they don’t think about it, it’s a reflex.

    I found out that telling them, that each time they misgender or deadname me, it will cost them a euro. Like a fine if you will. I’ve found that notion is quite effective in making people think before doing, and generally people will adapt.

    It hurts even more from people you don’t know: but generally, at least in Europe, they’re just showing their ignorance. And you can’t make them stop, if they don’t want to. Assholes will be assholes. I realize that may be different in the United States, where you, as a transgender, can be shot for wanting to use the right bathroom.

  4. Three weeks or so later, on 8 July, there is suddenly the message that there was an SoC violation. In the version that is online now, there is no mention of a name. In the version that was initially posted, the name Will Braswell was mentioned. The current version, in which there is no mention of a previous version, does not. In any case, it doesn’t take much effort to find out which video was removed, and to find out the name of the person to have done the violation.

  5. This causes some people to start tweeting and sending messages to the SOLE organizer of PerlCon in Riga, more or less accusing him of harbouring a known criminal in a keynote presentation. Again, this presentation was confirmed WAY BEFORE the Perl Conference in Pittsburgh. At a time when Will Braswell was not known yet to be a “known criminal”.

    He feels overwhelmed, and starts defending himself. He posts a reply, stating that “PerlCon” also got deadnamed, referring to the fact that everybody in the Perl community still calls it “YAPC::Europe”. Which is a name that means something inside of the Perl community, but not outside of it. Which he is trying to change, to get more fresh blood into Perl events. Because he loves Perl and hates to see what is happening to it. A case of someone trying to use humour to defuse a situation, badly.

    He changes the reply and does not want to acknowledge there was another version. FWIW, I wish both he and TPF would acknowledge that there were other versions. But that is up to them, and I can live with little white lies.

So, here we are now. Someone got accused, judged and sentenced to the “crime” of an SoC violation. Officially, nobody knows what it is about, but meanwhile everybody knows it is Will Braswell. To me, this feels as a reckoning for real or perceived dislike of Will Braswell because of his RPerl and Perl 11 activities and his boyscout persona. If you don’t like him, or think he’s doing things wrong, tell him so. Then, IF he persists in doing things wrong, THEN decide to do something about it.

Stepping back a bit: what was the SoC all about? About feeling safe? I can only say that the handling of this SoC violation, will only make people feel more unsafe, and be a reason for not attending any Perl conference. Why?

  1. Although the type of the violation could be derived from the report, it isn’t very clear how bad the violation was. When then people are tweeting that he committed a crime, and other people read that without reading the original post, the perceived severity is upped several orders of magnitude. “Did he rant? Was he repeatedly doing this? Why didn’t anybody stop him? If the organizers don’t want to tell what went down, it surely MUST be pretty bad!”. No, nothing of that. He tried to make a stupid joke, in a failed attempt to make an otherwise rather dull presentation more interesting. And a large part of the vocal Perl community decided to stop him dead in his tracks.

  2. If anything you say, can be used against you in such a way that everybody in the community will know that it was you, and that you have no way of defending you against such an accuser, judge and jury setup, I will think twice about visiting such a conference, let alone be a speaker.

Forward again to now, on how to move forward.

  1. Having just an SoC is NOT enough. It needs to be clear to everybody that reports of violations will be heard and judged by a KNOWN group of people, a judge of peers if you will. Not an anonymous group that can not be held accountable.

  2. I would like to see PerlCon in Riga to have an SoC similar to the one used in Glasgow. I would also like to see prominent members of the Perl community to make themselves known as the SoC committee members of PerlCon in Riga to handle any reports of violations. I’m available for that role.

  3. If a report of a violation results in an action towards the accused, then everything about the accused, the accusation, and any proofs, should be made public. So people can make an informed opinion about the events that led to the accusation.

Only then can we make people feel safe at a conference: knowing that we got your back, and not just some lettering on a webpage. And knowing that if you are accused and sentenced for a violation, that at least all the facts will be known so that people can decide for themselves whether you are a criminal or not.

P.S.

During the writing of this post, it became clear that the keynote presentation would not be done by Will Braswell. I have been asked to do an alternate presentation in that slot, and I have accepted that invitation. I have no idea what that keynote will be about yet.

P.P.S.

While this post was almost done, a response by The Perl Foundation was posted, in which it is confirmed that there was a previous version of the report. Which is a good thing.

P.P.P.S.

It turns out Andrew Shitov doesn’t do the organization of PerlCon all by himself, but that he has help from Grigorii Filomafitskii. Thank you Grigorii for all the work that you’ve done and will do. Which of course also goes for Andrew.

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