It's Really Not That Difficult.

I thought the topic of offensive presentations at professional tech conferences was beat to death before, but apparently there are still some out there who don't get it. Recently, the GoGaRuCo incident stirred up controversy, and now this monstrosity has occurred.

In a nutshell, the keynote speaker at Flashbelt, Hoss Gifford, gave a presentation that included actions and images that would make even Howard Stern do a double-take. The highlights of the talk, according to Courtney Remes, as recounted here, are:

  • He opens his keynote with one of those "Ignite"-esque presentations — where you have 5-minutes and 20 slides to tell a story — and the first and last are a close-up of a woman's lower half, her legs spread (wearing stilettos, of course) and her shaved vagina visible through some see-thru panties that say "drink me," with Hoss's Photoshopped, upward-looking face placed below it.
  • He later demos a drawing tool he has created (admittedly with someone else's code) and invites a woman to come up to try it. After she sits back down, he points out that in her doodles she's drawn a "cock."
  • Then he decides he wants to give a try at using the tool to draw a "cock" (he loves this word) — and draws a face, then a giant dick (he redraws it three times) that ultimately cums all over the face.
  • A multitude of references to penises and lots of swearing — and also "If you are easily offended, fuck you!"
  • And then, to top it off, a self-made flash movie of an animated woman's face, positioned as if she's having sex with you, who gradually orgasms based on the speed of your mouse movement on the page.
Yeah, seriously. WTF, indeed.

Funny, the synopsis of his talk doesn't indicate anything beyond cursing that could be offensive:
Hoss exploits this shared narrative in his work to great effect, and will use his inaugural Flashbelt presentation to analyze a series of projects that build on each other's successes and failures to deliver increasingly rich experiences. And he'll say ` F**k ' a lot.

His idea of "increasingly rich experiences" differs from mine, apparently.

Interestingly enough, it was his response and the response of his supporters that reveals the deeper issues. There are still so many out there who think that they are entitled to act like douchebags because they *can,* and that everybody else should let it go. Get over yourselves, I say. You're nowhere near as cool as you'd like to think you are. And you shrugging it off and alienating a good portion of your audience (men and women alike) is like me building a website that requires IE8 only.

I applaud the collaborative efforts and professionalism of the well thought out response by the conference organizers and the geek girls -- they are truly making progress, I think. In a way, though, it really saddens me. It saddens me that this conversation and effort even has to take place.

I think that idiots like Mr. Gifford do not represent a good portion of male techies in the world, and certainly he represents none of the men I know in the PHP world. So basically, I know I'm preaching to the choir on this one, but for those gentlemen out there that don't get it, IT'S REALLY NOT THAT DIFFICULT.

In case you're not sure where the "appropriate" line for your professional presentation is, here are a few pointers to help you decide.

1- Witty, pertinent content: GOOD. Pictures of naked women, or really anything sexually charged: BAD.
2- If you would feel uncomfortable giving the presentation to your little sister or Aunt Linda, CHANGE IT.
3- The audience and the conference organizers are your CLIENTS. They're paying you good money to educate and share your knowledge. Offending and embarrassing them and yourself is a BAD IDEA.
4- EDGY does not mean PORN.
5- You obviously have intelligence and something interesting to say. DON'T HIDE BEHIND BULLSHIT.
6- It's called EMPATHY. LOOK IT UP.

If you *still* don't get it, and you're not sure if your presentation is questionable, approach some women in tech with your presentation and get their opinion. We are out there, trust me. No, we won't chastise you for being ignorant. We will appreciate the fact that you cared enough to ask.

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