A note about LambdaConf

Yesterday morning John De Goes published a blog post explaining why he and the other LambdaConf organizers decided not to uninvite an outspoken defender of slavery and lots of other vile stuff from their conference.

If you think that keeping Yarvin on the program was the right choice, then this post isn’t for you. I think you’re wrong, and it’s pretty likely I also think your reasons are bad, predictable, and boring. John’s blog post is at least not predictable or boring, even though there are plenty of problems with the process he describes, and even though it’s really hard to read his anxiety about the power of “social media”, etc. as anything but more Moldbuggian fretting over lost privilege.

What this post is about is how good last year’s LambdaConf was. It’s the only LambdaConf I’ve been to, and will probably be the only one I’ll ever go to, now, but it was also possibly the best tech conference I’ve ever been to. They seemed to get so many things right and to have thought carefully about so many things: the balance of the program, the clarity about the code of conduct, the on-site child care, the emphasis on not organizing every extracurricular event around alcohol, and so on. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another conference note the availability of all-gender restrooms on their website. At least from my perspective, none of these efforts felt perfunctory—I got the impression that the organizers really cared deeply about creating a welcoming environment.

This was especially important to me at last year’s conference because in May 2015 the Scala community was even more of a disaster than usual. Scalaz had recently withdrawn from Typelevel, the Scalaz leadership had been rearranged, and I’d been in some fairly unpleasant arguments with a couple of the LambdaConf speakers and more than a couple of the other attendees. I was nervous about what this would mean for the tone of the conference, but somehow it was a non-issue—I personally saw nothing but civility and a lot more good will than I expected, and I believe the LambdaConf organizers deserve at least part of the credit for that.

This is why I find yesterday’s decision so frustrating—I know people do shitty, inconsistent, exclusionary things all the time, especially in the tech industry, but this is like watching a friend do something particularly shitty, inconsistent, and exclusionary.