A Hacking Hiatus
I’m stepping back from hackathons for a little while
For me, hackathons were the brightest part of an otherwise bland college experience. Much of the praise that I’ve had for hackathons still holds.
I’ve put energy into making college hackathons better, too. I’ve stayed up all night, over and over, interviewing hackers. I spoke at HackCon about running inclusive events, and I spoke at Battle of the Hacks about staying passionate. I mentored young women at MIT Blueprint, and I told them that, yes, computer science is amazing, and yes, you should be a hacker, too.
But I can’t encourage young women to attend hackathons at this point.
I’ve seen the hackathon community shift recently. The community has ballooned—perhaps because of a ceaseless “bigger is better” attitude—and it hasn’t grown gracefully. I’ve felt increasingly uncomfortable and often downright disrespected within a community that I helped build. The most common, and perhaps most benign, manifestation of this is when I’m at an event, speaking to a man, and another man comes up and starts talking to him as if I’m not even there.
If this were a once-in-a-while thing, I would deal with it, because there is so much wonderfulness in the hacker community, and I don’t want to let one inconsiderate individual ruin it for me. But it’s not a once-in-a-while thing.
Things came to a head this weekend, when I saw this in “Hackathon Hackers,” the biggest general hackathon Facebook group:
It’s a screenshot of a Secret post. The Secret post in itself is nasty. The comments on Secret are worse. The most-hearted names in the comments are mine, and someone’s seventeen year-old little sister. Gross.
But honestly, the worst part was the discussion on Facebook. 53 comments, debating whether this was appropriate or not. Are you fucking kidding me? How is this even a question? Belittling and objectifying the women in your community is never okay.
So, I’m out, at least for Fall 2014. I’ve been to the past six PennAppses, and it will be a shame to miss my seventh. But I can’t deal with this anymore.
I’m making this decision very publicly for a few reasons. The first is that I almost have no choice. I get a lot of requests for help or advice with hackathon-things, so I’m trying to be transparent about what’s going on when I say “no.”
The other is that I want to make it very clear that I have no tolerance for this kind of behavior.
There are still so many good, empathetic, positive people in the community, and I know that they will carry it forward gracefully and effectively. There are seriously too many good people to name, but, as a starting point—Katie Siegel, at HackMIT; Brynn Claypoole, at PennApps; Taylor Barnett, at HackTX; Jon Gottfried and Mike Swift, at Major League Hacking—you all have my respect and love for what you’ve put into this community, and I know you will continue to make it better.
Anyways, thank you, hackers, for what you’ve done for me over the past three years. I’ll be back, I hope.
P.S. Yep, if you like this story, you should Recommend it. ↓