On Crockford-gate

If you follow the news in the JavaScript community, all your feeds have probably  been dominated by this week’s drama: The removal of Douglas Crockford from the list of speakers of a conference called Nodevember after Kas Perch, another speaker on the conf, complained about him and said that there were people that wouldn’t be comfortable with him around.

The community has exploded. Any thread you visit on the subject is full of people with pitchforks and torches, demanding the head of anyone who ever talked about diversity and pretty much bashing “Social Justice Warriors” and asking to return to their “white-male-bro-safe” status-quo. There are some truly awful opinions being voiced around. Things that usually won’t be said just because self-containment are being openly discussed. There are even people who are linking this to Brendan Eich removal as the head of Mozilla foundation after it was found that he used to use his money to try to restrict the rights of a group of people, claiming that both events were wrong and that they are a signal of everything going wrong within the tech community these days. I’m flabbergasted by the reaction of the community. I always thought about js community like a pretty open and progressive one, at least compared with other development communities around. But the vicious reaction to this event has been an eye-opener.

The thing is nothing about all this mess has anything to do with what happened. A speaker being removed from a small-sized conference is hardly news at all. What makes this pitchfork-worthy is not what have happened, but those who has been involved with it.

Let’s say that it were me. Not who have been uninvited from a conf, but the one who complained about Crockford and the one who cause to him being uninvited. Me, a white cisgender hetero man, a nerd, a plaid-shirts wearer… the kind of person who you usually identify as a cliché developer. Let’s say that they invited me to speak at their conference, and after I found out that Crockford were speaking there too, I tell the organizers that I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be in the same conference than him.

And why would I? Douglas Crockford has been an online asshole for years. I’m sure that he’s a wonderful person face to face, but you only need to take a look at his online persona to find multiples instances of him being a jerk, using his privileged position to mock other people or  just being an ass to beginners who approach him with not-so-correct approaches to problems. He is a notorious troll who only gets tolerated because his past contributions to the shared knowledge and tools pool. If someone has a couple of successful projects on their shoulders, does that mean they should have a free card for being a massive asshole to everyone whenever they feel like it? I don’t think so. Without his past successes, someone who behaves online like Crockford does would just be called a troll and he would be shunned.

So again, let’s say that it were me who complained about Crock. It would hardly be any news at all. Maybe some people would talk about it as a curiosity (“Who is this guy who thinks that he can make the almighty Crockford removed from a conference?”). But the level of uproar would have been minimal. It would be a matter of gossip, at best, not a matter of boycotts and head-cutting-demanding emails.

What happened here is the person that have started everything is a  woman. Not only a woman but also one that usually talks about inclusivity and diversity. An “SJW”, as they say. And she’s ‘attacking’ one of the silverbacks, bearded, plaid-wearer old-time developer. You can almost feel the community murmuring “One of us”, while they fetch the pitchforks. This is just some hundred (maybe thousands) white cis-hetero men feeling attacked by-proxy by ‘an outsider’. One of those who were not supposed to be part of our community. A woman! (gasp!) No less! One of those persons who are making their small world menaced. That small world that makes them feel safe, where they could tell jokes about women and just get chuckles from their teammates, who basically could have been their high-school friends.

This is just a matter of a “we vs them” mentality. A way to label someone that’s just not like you as an outsider, as someone not worthy of being ‘inside’, as a kind of mental immigrant. “Who is this woman that have just arrived at our world and thinks that can change our ways? She should adapt to our customs or go back to her country!”. And to be honest, I feel deeply disturbed about who the ‘we’ are here.

Fuck off, people. Stop being childish. Stop behaving like if development community were some kind of urban tribe. It’s quite simple: Being an asshole is not ok, ever. Behaving like a prototypical jock to a prototypical nerd is not ok, ever. If someone is menacing your right to be insensitive to other people, good for them! If you feel menaced by someone who is talking about inclusivity, you probably need to stop right there and think why this is happening. Yeah, everyone’s first reaction is to just adopt the defensive stance and counter attack… but just be a rational being and examine your motivations. Do you really feel your world menaced by someone telling you that you should be sensitive in the way you interact with other people around you?

Do you really think that it’s so bad that someone has finally said: “hey, this guy is a jerk, and that’s not ok and must not be ignored just because he invented JSON” ? Because I think it was about time.




4 thoughts on “On Crockford-gate

  1. My only problem with Crockford-gate is that Nodevember said they were uninviting him because he makes people uncomfortable. Which is kind of vague, and if you have a wild imagination like I do, can imply that he’s done something pretty rancid, which by my research, he has not. Nodevember could have said something like “We are uninviting Crockford because we want to have a more diverse line-up”.

    1. I know, the way nodevember has handled this is far from good … My point is that Crockford is a VERY confrontational person. In his online interactions, he’s usually dismissive and use to mock people who are trying to contribute to his projects / trying to learn / trying to help. He ridiculize people who not agree with him even in the more trivial matters

      He doesn’t look like an easy person to share anything with, and has this “alpha male” kind of attitude that, to be honest, doesn’t make him someone who I would invite to a conference. I totally see why someone, specially those who are far away from the brogrammer, confrontational, stereotype, can feel not too comfortable sharingg a conf with him.

      So depending the kind of conference you want to organize, it may not be the best idea to have him in the list of speakers.

      That being said … yeah, the way all this have been handled / announced / justified has been pretty bad.

  2. Now that I think more about it, Nodevember did the best they could to handle a difficult situation. This is not simply a matter of being more diverse, but a matter of managing the character flaws and behavior of a fellow community member, and that is never an easy thing to do, and there isn’t really a clear protocol for it. In any case, thanks for sharing Javi.

  3. “And why would I? Douglas Crockford has been an online asshole for years. I’m sure that he’s a wonderful person face to face, but you only need to take a look at his online persona to find multiples instances of him being a jerk, using his privileged position to mock other people or just being an ass to beginners who approach him with not-so-correct approaches to problems. ”

    Could you give an example of this? Honestly, while I do feel the “I could be next” or “us vs them” syndrome is behind some of the overreactions against the people who got him removed, I personally was just shocked by the fact. As a self taught programmer, I have an enormous sense of gratitude towards Crockford, and it pained me to see him ousted from a conference by what I could only perceive as hearsay and some few people’s opinion. Some of my twitter arguments about it ended with people telling me he was an asshole (and calling me a misogynist for not just believing women who said so), but no evidence was provided. I googled a bit, found a few GitHub comments saying “this way of doing things is stupid”, and that’s about it.

    I think what is missing from the conversation is a comprehensive case against him, or at least against some of his specific behavior, that can be argued about.

    It is unfortunate that people overreacted with threats and insults, in some cases. But the original incident is to me an overreaction. Some say the only reason people are upset about this is because it signifies some loss of power for the “old white men” establishment. I believe most people just like him, personally, not as a proxy for some ideal type of person, and were just upset that him, personally, was removed for unclear motives.

Leave a Reply