Robert Scoble and Me
Quinn Norton
21K76

I remember that night. As one of the organizers of Foo Camp, I was shocked, horrified, and sad when Quinn told me what happened. And naïve — I had a hard time letting in the fact that a man was sexually assaulting women at Foo Camp. I hadn’t expected nor planned for such a thing, and didn’t know quite what to do next. I was enormously grateful to Quinn and the other Foo Camper who saw what was happening and intervened. I figured the incident was over, and the perpetrator “put away” until he got sober, so we’d keep a close eye on him, ride it out, and not invite him again. I was wrong, of course (except about the not inviting back part). While no more sexual assaults took place at that Foo Camp, “riding it out” was not enough.

I didn’t do or say anything more at that Foo Camp, but we have made changes in the event because of what happened that night, and I believe they’ve made a big difference. I’m not aware of any other instances of sexual assault. We’ve encountered a few unacceptable incidents, and because of these changes, we knew how to respond and we did. Here’s what we did differently:

- Create a Code of Conduct (based on the existing CoC for O’Reilly conferences). Announce it during the intro session, and reinforce that we take it very seriously and don’t tolerate violations. Post it on the event website, and on signs around the event (with my and a colleague’s mobile # so people can report issues).

- Explicitly say “Don’t get too drunk.” While we serve beer and wine with dinner, we don’t offer an endless supply of free booze. We’ve tried to create a social norm that “too drunk is stupid,” by telling people that it’s a waste to drink their Foo Camp away (which is entirely true).

- Charge O’Reilly staff with watching for and responding to any CoC violations.

- Invite more women. We started tracking the % of women invitees and consciously looking for great women to invite, and that % has increased from 24% to 31%. We continue to work on getting to 50%.

As women’s response to the #metoo meme has made abundantly clear, sexual harassment is still pervasive, painful, and damaging. O’Reilly hasn’t fixed it, but we’re working on doing our part, both at Foo Camp and at O’Reilly Conferences, where we’ve instituted similar measures to make our events safe and welcoming to all. And we know that along the way, it’s important and useful to tell the stories of what’s happened and share our vision what ought to be and how we can get there. So thanks, Quinn, for taking action back in 2010, and for bearing witness, then and now.

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