Bad behavior isn’t the right response to bad behavior

tl;dr:

And now on with the show…

Earlier this week Nutanix put out a video campaign against VCE. Many people found it inappropriate or unacceptable. Many people didn’t find it inappropriate or unacceptable. But it offended a very visible contingent of the Internet tech community.

And a bunch of people on Twitter decided to fight inappropriate and unacceptable with the same. For example:

delpo

I was told on Twitter last night that “as a father” made this comment acceptable and respectable. Reminded me of the Jenny McCarthy “as a mother” fiasco a few years ago.

There was another tweet telling Nutanix execs that they’d better plan to work in fast food soon… but it looks like that was deleted since last night. If that’s the case, kudos to the poster for thinking better of it. And kudos to Howard Ting, Nutanix’s marketing SVP, for his creative response to that particular tweet.

I was also informed last night on Twitter that being disappointed with this sort of discourse meant I was “white-knighting,” and that an offensive ad campaign was perfect justification for immaturity in return.

The “white knight” term seems to be a popular way of dismissing any disagreement these days, although I hope that ceases to be the case someday. The fellow who made that accusation also accused me of not having a leg to stand on in my position because I stopped arguing with him. Sometimes you just can’t win.

So what’s your point?

Is it really too much to ask, that we keep the level of discourse a bit above what we’re allegedly (i.e. when it’s convenient or attractive or beneficial to us) trying to discourage in others? I don’t think so. As a father, as a technologist, as a human, I don’t think so. And if I’m in the Internet Minority on this, I’m disappointed but okay with it on my side.

I was impressed with a couple of the responses that came from people who missed the memo that they were expected (or even required) to be offended.

The blog post linked in that second tweet is a worthwhile read, although I expect it will be attacked promptly by Nutanix’s competitors and various other people who thrive on feeling outraged.

Nutanix could have done a milder campaign, and I understand they’ve done so already. Should they have started with that? Maybe. Would it have had the same impact? Probably not.

Would it have inconvenienced people looking for something to be outraged about, if they’d started with the new version? Not for long; this is the Internet as you know. Are there hidden (or not-so-hidden) agendas at work in the outrage? I’ll let you decide on that. Will anyone remember this in two months? Other than the folks who are now setting a calendar reminder to stir the pot in two months… probably not.excellent

But those of us with genuine concern about the impressions and realities of sexism, racism, and anythingelse-ism in tech need to take the high road whenever possible. Having a proven history of fertility and/or adoption does not exempt us from being civil. Nor does having a certification, a job, or a social media account. It may not be easy at all times, but change is rarely easy.

Didn’t you have a booth babe thought to share too?

Yes, thanks for reminding me while I still have my asbestos Speedo(tm) on. For that image, you’re welcome.

The blog linked above suggests that people should express outrage about promotional models or “booth babes.”

While I agree with that concern, and I don’t stop at booths that are overwhelmingly ‘babed, there’s a right way and a wrong way to address this issue as well.

I was disappointed to hear some folks at a recent professional trade expo cheerfully and proudly insulting the models themselves, some even claiming knowledge of the models’ alleged (unlikely) alternate professions and sexual proclivities. One or two people I overheard were even thrilled to insult a technologically aware person in a booth who simply made the mistake of being an attractive woman in tech.

The white-knight-decrying fellow can pipe up here if he likes, but insulting or attacking the models themselves–or anyone at a trade show for that matter–will not help your cause or do anyone else any good. Complain politely and professionally to the vendor in question if you want change to happen. Calling the model something you wouldn’t call a person in your family (or that you wouldn’t want someone in your family called) just puts you farther in the wrong than the vendor you’re trying to be outraged at.

Disclosure: I have some people I consider friends over at Nutanix, and I have been a guest at their office for Tech Field Day and just as a friend of the company. However, I don’t have any pigs in the fire on this market at the moment, and nobody has asked or enticed me to write this or given any consideration for this post. And I do have a relative who is a part-time promotional model, albeit in the fashion/club/media world, not the tech world.

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One thought on “Bad behavior isn’t the right response to bad behavior

  1. Pingback: Resource sharing, time sharing, six years on | rsts11 – Robert Novak on system administration

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