Vita Rara: A Life Uncommon

Just Say You're Sorry Already


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As many know Matt, known as the Merbist, presented a risque set of slides at GoGaRuCo comparing software developers to porn stars. I'll leave as an act to the interested finding the slides.

The presentation somewhat, but the reaction of Matt and some other Rails leaders, DHH in particular, to the reactions of those who were offended by the presentation has engendered an uproar of significant proportions. On April 28th Matt posted his public response to the controversy, and later followed up with the following on twitter: "I obviously made a mistake. I didn't mean to offend anyone but since I did, I failed." Which he also posted to his blog as a followup to his previous public statement.

Unfortunately Matt you haven't apologized yet. Please just say you're sorry already. You've acknowledged you made a mistake. You say you didn't mean to offend. You also admit you failed. But you still haven't said you're sorry for it.

So, here's the script. It's under 140 characters: I'm sorry for my actions at GoGaRuCo and my subsequent reactions and justifications to those who were offended.

Short. Simple. And if you say it with meaning it will probably end this thing, and allow the healing to start.

Followup: Matt DM'ed me on Twitter to point me at: http://bit.ly/fp19C which I have missed in the maelstrom of posts on the topic. I don't know when he posted it, but this really transcends the attendees at GoGaRuCo now.

Followup: I have removed Matt's full name from the title and the body at his request. For those who are part of the Ruby and Rails communities the subject is well known and the post served its purpose. As Matt said it's time to move on. I have not removed the post completely because it is a reminder that our words, and especially the words of those who are looked up to as leaders in our communities, matter.

Forced Apologies Are Of No Value

Just saying "I'm sorry" won't solve anything. The root of the problem is that people had legitimate desires that Matt originally did not acknowledge. Women programmers, like any programmer, have a desire to belong to a community, have their contributions acknowledged in that community, and feel safe in that community. Matt's presentation made some women feel like they weren't completely accepted in the community and it made some of them feel unsafe.

The real problem was ego. Neither Matt (nor DHH) initially acknowledged (or even realized) that these legitimate needs of women programmers were violated.

So what's really needed is for Matt and DHH to acknowledge and make room for the desires of others, not some hollow apology. DHH made it especially clear in his "I'm an R-rated Individual" blog post that he expects others to adjust to him and not the other way around.