500 Words, Day Seven / by dan turner

Yesterday I got into a fight on Twitter with TechCrunch. Or about TechCrunch. It's hard to tell who works there and who's just a fervent defender.

The subject was the horrid, stupid, TitStare. I'm not going to boost its search ranking; you can look it up.

At the big TechCrunch "disrupt" conference, some brogrammers presented their app for dudes who like to stare at tits. It involved staring at tits. The app also included an affordance that looked like jacking off. Yes, it was that classy. We should note that it got cheers and applause.

What got me going wasn't just the sexism and bro culture the presentation embodied. I think we're all on the same page (aside from the someone who set up a twitter bot to spam perhaps the ultimate bro comment of "#TitStare is awesome. Stop hating you feminazis (or whiteknights) and take a joke [all sic]". What got me going was TechCrunch's non-apology apology:

"We apologize for two inappropriate hackathon presentations earlier today. We will more carefully screen from now on."

No responsibility taken. But "more carefully screen" – so there was a process that saw these assholes and decided, "Yeah, TechCrunch should promote these guys, and totally give them our aegis and branding"?

My response was to call bullshit and that this says a lot about the value of TechCrunch's paid conference – remember that the selling point is whom you'll meet and who is shown off. This got up someone's nose. @kennethn, who turns out to be a partner at Google Ventures (another place I never expect to work), tweeted that hey, TechCrunch also presented an awesome 9-year-old girl, too.

Which is great. She's great. But besides the point. And I said so, and @kennethn claimed I was putting words in his mouth.

That TechCrunch gave its stage to her that has zero relevance to, and does not mitigate, TitStare's showcasing. Giving money to the homeless does not balance out murdering one of them. A hyperbolic example, of course, but logically equivalent, and it shows the same problem in the "we also did a good thing" as in Mill's utilitarianism. It's not algebra, with balancing bad and good; there are bad things that you should not let pass. TitStare was one of them, and that they were allowed to pass highlights a systemic issue; casual sexism in the tech world is still, to some degree, condoned. (And I wonder if a 39-year-old woman would be given the same showcasing as the 9-year-old; but that's another issue.)

I've long had my philosophical, cultural, and professional differences with TC. This is no secret (and I'm sure they couldn't care less about me, as I have as much control over money going to them or their friends as my non-existent cat does). Usually it's about their near-"greed is good" level of worship of capital at the expense of the public good. But this is worse.

And that is 500 words.