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19 November 2012, 10:29

BritRuby Conference cancelled due to "lack of diversity" criticism

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BritRuby logo The organisers of the British Ruby Conference 2013 have announced the cancellation of the event because of criticism of the conference's lack of speaker diversity. The organisers are refunding tickets already purchased for the conference.

The BritRuby speaker selection was criticised on Twitter over the weekend by John Susser, a US Ruby conference organiser, and James A Rosen, a Ruby developer, for a lack of gender and race diversity. The conference, which was scheduled to take place on 15-16 March 2013, had "been battling with issues of race and gender equality" according to its organisers. They said they had been selecting on the basis of proposed talk content.

This had, though, apparently resulted in them having an all white male speaker roster for the event, which led to criticism that they had not taken steps to avoid the issue. As an example of schemes to avoid the problem, the conference that Susser organises, the Golden Gate Ruby Conference (GoGaRuCo), uses a blind scoring system with a non-blind final selection system. GoGaRuCo was itself the centre of accusations of sexism in 2009 after one of the talks, "CouchDB + Ruby: Perform Like a Pr0n Star", attracted criticism for its inappropriate content.

It is unclear as to how the criticism on Twitter led to the cancellation. An unofficial postmortem suggests that the sponsors became unhappy with committing to the conference with the criticism hanging over the event, which in turn led to the inability of the organisers to sign a venue contract. Officially, the conference organisers say they had hoped to address the issues at the conference and ask "How can the community address these issues if every time someone tries they are shot down and accused of such awful things?".


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