Even people who desperately want to be considered tolerant, equalitarian, progressive, inclusive, and diverse simply can’t take the constant barrage of pressure to converge more completely anymore.
What we have had to deal with on the back-end the past few years is more than just running a conference and sharing with friends. The conference scene in general changed drastically and small pocket groups focus on outrage and disruption where there is no right answer (regardless of how you respond, it’s wrong), instead of coming together, or making the industry better. There is a small, yet vocal group of people creating negativity, polarization, and disruption, with the primary intent of self-promotion to advance a career, for personal gain, or for more social media followers. Individuals that would have us be judge, jury, and executioner for people they have had issues with outside of the conference that has nothing to do with the conference itself.
Instead of working hard in research, being a positive force in the industry, or sharing their own unique experiences (which makes us better as a whole), they tear others down in order to promote themselves. This isn’t just about DerbyCon, it is present at other conferences as well and it’s getting worse each year. We’ve spoken with a number of conference organizers, and each year it becomes substantially more difficult to host a conference where people can come together in large group settings. It’s not just conferences either. This behavior is happening all over the place on social media, in our industry, targeting people trying to do good. As a community, we add fuel to fire, attack others, and give them a platform in one massive toxic environment. We do this all in fear of repercussions from upsetting others. Until this pattern changes, it will continue to get worse.
This shouldn’t detract from real issues, and believe us, there are _real_ issues that happen. Issues that need to be dealt with when people get in large group settings. As a whole, DerbyCon has far fewer incidents than other conferences that post their statistics, and where conference safety is paramount and the #1 priority. We do listen, we do respond, and we always look to improve and get better.
This year, we had to handle issues that honestly, as an adult, we would never expect to have to handle from other adults. Conferences in general have shifted focus to not upsetting individuals and having to police people’s beliefs, politics, and feelings. Instead of coming to a conference to learn and share, it’s about how loud of a message a person can make about a specific topic, regardless of who they tear down or attempt to destroy. To put it in perspective, we had to deal with an individual that was verbally and mentally abusive to a number of our volunteer staff and security to the point where they were in tears.
This is not what we signed up for.
Admittedly, we had no idea how to handle this person, and in fear of repercussion of removing this person, allowed them to stay at the conference in order to “not upset the masses”. The best we could do was just apologize, for other apologies, and apologize more for another’s actions. This is just one example of many we have had to deal with over the past few years, and each year it becomes increasingly harder for us to handle. We do everything as a conference to ensure the safety, security, and go above and beyond that of others. Maybe that puts us on a different level where something that would normally not be an issue explodes into a catastrophic situation on social media.
Who knows? What we do know is each year it gets harder and harder.
2019 will be our last year of DerbyCon. Please know that this decision was not done in haste, and it was one of the most difficult decisions we have ever had to make in our lives. We looked at hiring third-party crisis management companies to deal with people directly, we looked at having entire companies run the conference where we would become more of the direction and vision, but at the end of the day, that is not why we started DerbyCon. It’s taken a personal toll on our lives, our businesses, and our friends, and it has gotten to the point where we don’t want to manage it anymore.
This is how we win. We are the only ones willing to actually take action against the SJWs. Everyone else is going to simply submit or quit. All these people needed to do was announce a strong anti-SJW policy, throw out the Code of Conduct and the updated Code of Conduct, and carry on with their business. But, they didn’t want to take what they knew would be the inevitable heat.
And now there is a hole in the market for anyone in that particular market to exploit. It’s not my area in any sense of the word, so I’m not interested, but if it’s in your metaphorical neck of the woods, you might want to look into it.