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Technology and becoming your enemy

I'm continuing to be struck by something that came up in the discussion of the BritRuby diversity fail (which I summarize as: call yourself the most diverse Ruby conference in Europe, have the vast majority of invited speakers be white males, have your diversity questioned by people who've dealt with the issue in their own conference, take your ball and go home^H^H^H^H^H^Hcancel your conference saying you were hijacked by PC).

That sexism/racism/blindness to the sexism or racism in tech is a refusal by those who have privilege in this space to admit that they have privilege because they're used to being the ostracised underdog. That if they can deal with being teased or bullied or ignored, then so can everyone else. That no-one can have had a harder time than them and if they can make it on their merits so can anyone else (my bootstraps were good enough for me), and that if they don't then affirmative action or even questioning the situation is unfair and uncalled for. That if you didn't have privilege once, then you never have it and you never have the responsibility of it.

And I wonder if it goes a step further as well sometimes, into the victim becoming the abuser/offender, into becoming the thing you hate. (It wasn't easy for them/why should they make it easy for anyone else?) I see this with companies like Google, who made Microsoft so much the enemy that it took on the very worst characteristics of the worst era of Microsoft and is reaping the reward in FTC judgements. I wonder if Microsoft, having made Apple the enemy, is picking up the problems of too much secrecy along with the excellent notion that shipping is a feature (cutting is shipping as Windows dev Larry Osterman puts it - incidentally, this and the description of the ideal Windows organisation in Hard Code continue to be good ways to understand how the feature crew approach Sinofsky brought to Windows is supposed to work).

Maybe it's all just Pogo (we have seen the enemy and he is us), because it's one of those really destructive patterns...

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Mary Branscombe
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