Not for the first time, a picture posted on Twitter has resulted in people losing their jobs. But the case of Adria Richards, Alex Reid and their respective employers Playhaven and SendGrid is a little different. Their story casts a light on the disproportionate power of hackers, sexism in the tech community and the limits employer responsibility.
Here's what happened (in brief):
- On Sunday afternoon Adria Richards, an employee of email firm SendGrid overheard a pair of attendees telling juvenile tech-based sexual jokes about "forking a repo" and large dongles. (Richards explains the situation at the conference in more detail on her blog here).
- Adria Richards tweeted a picture of the pair and made a complaint to the conference organisers in line with the PyCon Code of Conduct.
- The pair were then escorted out of the session by PyCon staff.
- One of the two was fired a few days later by his employer PlayHaven.
- Following the firing PlayHaven and Richards were both criticised on various online forums. A post on Pastebin said the only way to resolve the situation would be for Richards to get fired also
- The online criticism culminated in a hacking attack on the site of Richards' employer SendGrid, which brought the site down.
- A few hours later SendGrid announced they had fired Richards. In a post on Facebook, the company offered this explanation: "We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid." The site came back on line a few hours later.
Clearly this is a situation that quickly got out of control, but where do you think the fault and responsibility lies?