I got an email back from the creator of the preso below, explaining himself, but not understanding my point of view at all. I won't publish his email, because I respect his privacy, but I will post my response:
Thank you for your response. You are right about the aggressiveness of my last email; I apologize for the strong words. I wrote while I was angry, and frankly, I didn’t expect a response. Since you took the time to reply, I will attempt to explain myself in kind. In fact, I feel I must, since you do not seem to understand my position.
Let me be clear: I am not offended at any particular image or even the theme of your presentation as such. I am shocked at its use in the conference. Let me explain by analogy. It is common to wear a bikini on the beach; nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong even in going topless (in my opinion), or even nude in some circumstances. However, if one were to attempt go directly from the beach into a restaurant and sit at a table with a tablecloth and wine glasses, one would be summarily removed from the restaurant. This is not because bikinis are morally reprehensible, but because they do not belong in the restaurant.
In the same vein, I would not be surprised to see a porn-themed presentation at a John Waters festival, for example. I could imagine several places where one would not bat an eyelash. The conference at which you presented, however, was sponsored by IT businesses and was meant for the professional software developer. If this presentation were given at one of these businesses, the employee who presented it would be FIRED, or at least severely reprimanded. Companies prevent these kinds of presentations for a reason. They can be sued, or they can build a bad reputation. I would expect that a conference geared toward professionals would adhere to professional standards; if not the strict standards of the workplace, then slightly “edgier” standards with a little leeway. This presentation went way beyond a little leeway. You considered a porn-themed presentation that would get one fired in a professional environment appropriate for a corporate-sponsored conference.
I don’t accept your defense that pornography is everywhere that the internet exists and is therefore acceptable. By this logic, since we have to relieve ourselves each day, I should be able to relieve my bowels on the sidewalk. (Is the importance of context becoming clear?) Nor do I accept your defense that this must be a cultural issue. I live in a country where the standards of what is acceptable on television and advertising is far more liberal than what is accepted in the United States, and yet, I would not expect to find these things presented to me in a professional context. There is a divide made where I live, between what is acceptable in private life and what is appropriate with work colleagues. It is not any more difficult to understand that divide than it is to understand where to wear one’s bathing suit or where to go to the bathroom.
It is not solely the sexual nature of the presentation that makes it in appropriate. There are several other topics that would be out of line. I would have sent you a similar email had you used Christianity as a metaphor for Couch DB development, or the situation in the Middle East. These would be inappropriate as well, and perhaps provoked angry responses from others.
The fact that this presentation was voted on to be included does not forgive its content. If anything, it makes it even more mortifying. How is it that the values of a community of developers can be so far removed from the values of professionals at large? When did being a software developer require shocking people into listening instead of inspiring? When did proving how cool *you* are become more important than how cool the technology is? My father was an assembly-language programmer who helped to build the industry upon which you base your livelihood. He would be deeply saddened if he saw the shift from technical culture to pop culture that the industry is undergoing.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing of all is not the selection of material for your presentation, or even that it was voted to be used by colleagues, but that you fail to understand WHY I am upset. That you can only imagine I am an uptight American puritan shows a shocking lack of imagination and proves a limited experience of others. You misunderstood my comment about the Ruby community being mostly young and male. I am not blaming you for that. What am saying is that it provides a positive feedback loop that reinforces certain behaviors that work to provide an atmosphere that is unwelcoming to outsiders. Your presentation simply reinforces that. It wasn’t done intentionally, of course, but that is the point. We often do the most damage when passing on memes by not being aware of them.
I hope this helps you to understand my reaction to your presentation. I didn’t mean to insult you; but when one feels insulted, it is easier to strike back than to explain. At the very least, I hope I have given you food for thought.
I just saw the slide deck of the presentation you created for the Golden Gate Ruby conference, entitled “Perform like a Pr0n Star.” I saw that your name and the title was on the schedule for the conference, and so I can only assume that it was given.
I wanted to express my extreme displeasure at the fact that 1) this presentation was approved for the conference, and 2) that you thought it appropriate.
In what world is pornography an appropriate metaphor for a public professional presentation? Are you out of your mind? Are you completely oblivious to the context in which you work and live? Did you come into the workforce straight from the fraternity house?
I have nothing against pornography. I actually like pornography, in my PERSONAL life. I don’t assume other people like it, however, and I wouldn’t put a poster of a woman’s ass on my front door, or read Penthouse on the subway. I doubt you would either. But somehow, you thought it acceptable to give a presentation with allusions to porn, group sex, acid-taking, pole-dancing, etc. in a public conference. This astounds me on so many levels.
You obviously thought it would go over well, because your audience was probably a bunch of privileged, infantile male programmers who don’t have teenaged daughters that want to enter the world of science and engineering. And thanks to scumbags like you, they won’t WANT to go into science and engineering, because they are forced to deal with overly macho reptilian-brained imbeciles who think it’s appropriate to mix porn and their professional life.
Please grow up. Please think about the larger context of what you do, and how it affects the world. If you think software a respectable profession, then treat it like one.
(Here is the preso: http://www.slideshare.net/mattetti/couchdb-perform-like-a-pr0n-star)
You can email hi yourself if you want. His email is in the preso.