Why Brit Ruby 2013 was cancelled and why this is not ok
This is my post-mortem of why the conference was cancelled - it isn't an official statement
- It was pointed out on Twitter that the lineup so far is white males.
- This became frenzied and shared with allegations of racism/sexism.
- This put the sponsors in an awkward position regarding commitment to the conference.
- This meant the venue contract couldn't be signed because of a potential lack of financial security.
- Since the team can't be personally liable for the costs, there was a hard decision to be made.
- That decision was: cancel.
Now. This position is a bad one to be in. But given that running a conference like this costs thousands of pounds, you'd have all done the same thing when faced with the question "Do you want to be personally financially liable?"
And this is where we find ourselves.
The Brit Ruby team has put in over a year of relationship building and hard work to get to this point. Everyone involved has a day job and a life and makes no money out of organising it.
The Manchester tech community was very excited about Brit Ruby - it's a symbol of the technological power that the city (and the UK) is working hard to grow. And it's something we're very proud of. We love this city and we want to bring as many high profile speakers here to meet the local devs. It's about making friends and relationship building.
And here it is, brought down by careless words.
Yes, gender equality and racial equality are important. But the team's motives were to get the best speakers who were able to make it to Manchester. Turns out, a lot of the prominent Rubyists are white guys and all of the ones who said they'd like to come were, indeed, white guys.
Making an issue out of that is, frankly, misguided. Adding a token minority speaker is offensive to that speaker, it says "You're here because you tick a box - not because you're skilled." It doesn't matter who speaks at a conference, as long as they're capable, interesting and relevant. That's what matters: content, not style.
But kicking up a shitstorm on Twitter these days is easy. And, after a lot of high profile cases in the last few years, I don't blame companies being nervous about racial and gender issues. Nobody wants to be involved with an event if it's going to reflect badly on them regarding these issues. And some people with enough clout said a combination of words at the exact worst time to make the guarantee of financial backing shaky.
I'm sad about this. It's not right and it's not ok.
Please: think before you speak. Investigate before you judge. And look beneath the surface before you retweet.