January 27, 2014

Ooh! Hate mail!

Well, that's new. I just got my first piece of hate mail attacking me for daring to take a stand against the old boys' club.

A couple days ago, someone posted to Hacker News about a new command line tool for looking up and curating examples of how to run different programs---a useful-sounding idea---which they decided to call "bro". The software is described at and available from bropages.org.

The term "bro" is, to say the least, one that comes with a lot of baggage. I saw the HN post fairly early, and in the first hour or two there were a couple comments critical of this naming choice and a lot of comments raging defensively against these criticisms. I made a post that tried to articulate just why the name was problematic; if you read the HN post about this my post is right at the top, having been heavily upvoted by many members of the HN community.

It also got a lot of responses.

If you have the time, you can read them; if you're familiar with this kind of argument there's really not a whole lot of new ground there. But that brings us to today.

Two days after the shitstorm in that comment thread, someone tracked me down (not hard, since I put my email in my Hacker News profile, although he used a different email address than the one I posted there) and emailed me the following helpful advice:

You are a huge white knight on HN. Do you really think that shielding women from the horrors of products with the word 'bro' in the name will get you laid? Pathetic. Most women need less 'protecting' than a dork like you.

I'd never heard of him before, but casual internet stalking (i.e. typing his name in a search engine) seems to indicate that he's in sales at a UK telco company; not clear if he would self-identify as a "bro" but it doesn't seem out of the question. By the standards of hate mail this is pretty mild, of course---when it comes right down to it, more amusing than threatening---but it's a bit puzzling what would be the goal of an email like this, other than to try to intimidate someone into silence.

Well, you can see how well that worked.

"I work on the assumption that Facebook is working by default to make me look like an asshole to everyone who's connected to me, because I've seen it do it to others." --John Scalzi

Posted by blahedo at 2:45pm on 27 Jan 2014
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