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I also pointed out, having had to complain once at a conference myself, that it appeared that it was not only the complaint that mattered; who was doing the complaining seemed to matter more.


"I can't comment on a specific situation in which I have no particular insight," Aurora responded. "Having a written policy makes it more obvious when one person is being treated differently than another unfairly.

"For example, more famous or well-known speakers have occasionally made it clear they don't think the rules apply to them, only less important people. Conference organisers so far have responded by applying their rules equally, as far as I've seen."

She said there had been specific cases of harassment where advice had been sought from the Ada Initiative.

"We've been called in to give advice on specific cases of harassment - so far there hasn't been any doubt in the minds of the organisers about what constitutes harassment. We point them at documentation of past incidents, like the Geek Feminism Timeline of Sexist Incidents in Geek Communities, and share our knowledge about how people have reacted in the past to various responses.

"For example, a faux apology never works, but a genuine and honest apology usually ends the story quickly and positively. Occasionally they ask us to help write a policy for future events, but usually they write their own, based on one of the dozens currently in use.

She said organisers could find themselves in a very difficult position if they were involuntarily associated with opinions with which they disagreed.

"In our experience, they handle it with grace and a great deal of serious internal discussion. Linux Australia, for example, has been working with all deliberate speed for nearly a year now on its policies.
O'Reilly Media is also taking the subject very seriously and working hard on its policies."

 

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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