Thursday, October 24, 2013

City of Titans Interview: Project Lead Chris Hare and Lead of Composition William Strickland

MMO Anthropology interviews Chris Hare and William Strickland from City of Titans.

Many-a-City-of-Heroes-fan has been mourning the loss of our favorite game and it’s been quite a ride since NCSoft shut it down. Now, City of Titans promises to resurrect a spiritual successor worthy of that community.

Do not miss the Kickstarter (10 days left!) it has a lot of nice rewards for early participants and you’ll be part of something awesome-to-come.

And if you’re interested in a write-up of what was learned from the interview check out SiliconANGLE and GameOgre.

Friday, August 23, 2013

MMO Anthropology Livestream After Action Report, 2013 August 17-18

This week saw the MMORPG 2D brawler Elsword Online some attention—even though co-host Arienne Keith was waylaid with illness—although the players didn’t find the game very satisfactory. Then Minecraft brought the usual team back including Fyrewal from Star Trek Online.

Elsword, Friday 2013 August 17th After Action Report

Amerist, Nelson, and Rockandroll went in to experience the game Elsword Online—a 2D brawler (dubbed 2.5D due to a slight depth to some of the environments). Arienne Keith sat out of this session due to illness.

Everyone played new-ish characters with Amerist playing an Eve (an android who uses drones to fight), Nelson used Chung (as Nelson described, a “gender confused” cannon weilder; really a very bishōnen [美少年] boy with a big gun) and Rockandroll played Rena (an elvish archer/ranger character wielding a bow.)

The game is fairly straightforward in giving members quests from NPCs who hang out in towns—which act as social centers where players gather. In fact, the towns were quite crowded but the troop didn’t stay there for long. Amerist immediately drew the team into a dungeon to fight through a side-scrolling brawl.

The entire night went this way with dungeons being the mainstay of the game. These instances were selected from a “map” of the area and when moved into those the team of three often got a fourth member. While the new members were often competent—and fairly good at the game—none of them actually interacted or communicated beyond brawling. Although very little was done to attempt to engage them.

As is common to many games, it’s common for players to solo the world without communicating. Often this researcher would attempt to interact with them by speaking in chat—but with games such as Elsword the game itself works against this sort of interaction. The reason is that when in a dungeon instance people can be thrust into attention-grabbing combat immediately and have their hands full with brawling, which uses the keyboard, and as a result may not notice the message or may not be able to reply until there’s a pause.

The stream went on for 3 hours, consisted of almost 8 dungeons and three different areas of the game, two cities (gathering places.) The crew also examined a daily dungeon that involved an ever-increasing difficulty of fighting boss monsters room-to-room that seemed to be a way for players to receive higher tier gear and rank themselves up outside of the main storyline.

Minecraft, Friday 2013 August 18th After Action Report

The crew once again joined together at the chasm location now known as “The Devil’s Crack.”

Amid the joiners were William McCormick (ComputerPimp), Amerist, Nelson Williams, Arienne Keith, HV4C, TJ. (Others to be determined, a smaller number of other joiners came with but their names are currently not in the notes.)

Long-time viewer Fyrewall finally broke down and bought Minecraft to come and experience the world. As a result, the team took him along to see some of the sights including Arienne Keith’s “Funkytown” playing room that uses redstone to play music. Fyrewal ran into an issue with the game where when struck cats return to their owner when attempting to feed Arienne’s cats watermelon (which they do not eat.)

Fyrewal was given a bit of a grand tour of the world as the team knows it, including the Nether, and further tracks were laid to connect Devil’s Crack to the rest of the world. This included some showing off of structures in and around the spawn point.

The crew ended the night by showing off “The Golden Dong” (a giant phallus-like structure built by Kazz, Arienne Keith, and TJ) that also includes a fireworks launcher in the tip and a giant cat that hovers overhead. It’s often the site of many fireworks displays in the world due to its unique – and humorously vulgar – quality.

The players also introduced Fyrewal to the concept of the”Stripplers,” an inside joke in a cultural context for the small community that involves the evolution of the concept of a “stripping Hitler” that TJ and Kazz slowly built up into its own mythology. This includes “The Golden Strippler,” which is a Minecraft franchise building often built by Kazz and TJ to house a stipper pole. The “Hitler stripper” part is accompanied often by a Minecraft skin that has a Hitler moustache/hair as well as undergarments so that the Strippler can “stripple” or remove bits of armor to reveal the skin underneath.

The community joke is maintained primarily by Kazz and TJ as well as others introduced to the concept as a sort of ongoing meme.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

MMO Anthropology Livestream After Action Report, 2013 August 9-10

This week the team wandered into Guild Wars 2 for events portrayed by that publisher into their virtual world. During the “Queen’s Jubilee,” which seems to have a lot of tiny events coordinated as well as some civil unrest occurring. It seems to be popular enough with many players running about to capture the achievements. Finally, on Saturday, Minecraft led the players with a special rule-based building and creativity session.

Guild Wars 2, Friday 2013 August 9th After Action Report

Guild Wars 2 has been a common mainstay of the group since it came out and since there’s a summer event and a few new elements to show off, it seemed like a good time to jump into the game. Once again  joined by Amerist (playing a human engineer named Helvetica), Nelson (playing a sylvari necromancer named Cherry Skinless), and Arienne Keith (playing an asura necromancer named Euclidia.)

First the game suggested visiting the Queen’s Jubilee which appeared to be taking place in Divinity’s Reach--the human city in the Guild Wars 2 virtual world. As the capital city, it’s a huge wheel-like construction, with battlements shattered during earthquakes and wars, and further overgrown with cheek-and-jowl residential buildings and the odd constructions. However, attention was drawn to a section of the city that used to be known as the “Great Collapse.”

Or better known to Amerist as “the skinkhole.”

That same hole has been replaced with a strange glass-and-iron bird covering the extent of the collapse, its wings spread in a predatory circle--closing up over a region below.

The team couldn’t quite figure out how to get in, except by leaping from the birds head, into the hole below, which interestingly didn’t kill them, but left them in the newly formed entertainment zone. The area beneath the bird (and open to the sky) housed a four-quartered region of different environments containing many different monsters from centaur, destroyers, bandits, and ogres. Achievements had been added to the game to encourage players to attack the various creatures and spawned boss monsters.

A few commanders had appeared to lead zergs around the region--large puddles of players all engaged in fights.

In the outside game, hot air balloons appeared with a few dynamic events tied to them. The trio sallyed forth across the countryside to encounter them, each with a treasure chest atop. However, the balloons themselves only stayed open for a short while and closed for dynamic events such as Aether pirate attacks, missing VIP passengers, and challenges from the Queen’s champions.

Minecraft, Saturday 2013 August 10th After Action Report

A large group gathered this time to take part in a build theme. Ordinarily four hours long, the community has found need to direct the activity that takes place and this time it was set to take over a chasm far away from the previous with one rule: all construction needed to take advantage of the walls, nothing could extend out and mar the countryside surrounding. Participants were asked to build only with the chasm in mind and try not to change the landscape elsewhere.

The game was briefly interrupted when Amerist broke a glass of Coke and the resulting glass shards (and spill) needed to be cleaned up.

However, during the play, numerous participants did an excellent job of clearing out constructions along the sides of the chasm. TheKingOfAllPie built a wooden room near one end, containing a resultant pattern of different types of wood along the floor, and decked walls. Near there Omnicynic (Nelson Williams) carved out a lengthy series of narrow corridors that slowly descended towards bedrock. ArienneKeith built a farm into one side that penetrated into yet-another-chasm (that did not break the surface.) And Rkou1 (TJ) opened up a “Golden Strippler” around a zombie spawner that he named “Frank the Zombie Strippler,” with its own farm in the background.

As the night wore on, more constructions appeared, but for the most part the rule was maintained.

Next week the group is expected to return to the same location and continue to expand.

Monday, August 05, 2013

MMO Anthropology Livestream After Action Report, 2013 August 2-3

These reports are notes from the MMO Anthropology livestream on Friday and Saturday night. Pirates of the Burning Seas is an MMO pirate game by FlyingLabs software and involves swashbuckling and some sailing; and Minecraft is a well-known creative sandbox virtual world.

Pirates of the Burning Seas, 2013 August 2nd After Action Report

I went into Pirates of the Burning Seas with my co-hosts, Nelson Williams and Arienne Keith. As is proper we all rolled pirates on the Antigua server and together, ran through the tutorial. As a game, we altogether moved through the tutorial pretty well learning how to fight on the deck and how to captain ships on the high seas. We’re pirates after all.

Nelson and Arienne decided that we would run with fancy hats so I went with a flared purple tricorn and Arienne wore a tophat. The tutorial was solo so it doesn’t reveal much about team play or how the community of the game might come together, so we moved quickly onto the mainland which was a sort of Pitcairn Island pirate hideaway replete with cheek-and-jowl shanty houses, dirt streets, the (virtual) smell of salty air, and the call of seagulls.

It took us a little while to get into the first quests of the game because we spent so much time exploring the town itself. Not a very large map, but filled with all sorts of interesting details including a thumping, burbling brewery connected to a bar. A seagull standing on a dead man’s chest (maybe he was asleep.) Even a random pirate NPC who appears to be eternally toting around a woman in a fireman’s carry…

We saw a few other players in the town but the population seemed rather minimal, there might have been a bit of phasing, but the game has apparently lost a bit of its popularity recently. Other pirates seemed interesting enough and many had Russian names written in Cyrillic letters—no doubt there’s a bit of a Russian population in the game.

We discovered quickly that during quests dialogue options can be superseded by teammates. The bloodthirsty pirate she is, Arienne interrupted some dialogue we were having while investigating a “mysterious artifact” to choose an option apparently labeled “shoot him in the face.” Since, while I was reading the quest-text, her character up and shot an interloper in the face. Needless to say, this action precipitated some mayhem.

Not a bad start.

We went on to sail the high seas together and used our combined knowledge of sailing to waylay other pirates right outside the port. Arienne and I are poorly trained on piracy simulators, but Nelson is an expert at waylaying unsuspecting boats on open water and he put gunpowder and steel to good work against the pirates. In the end, with teamwork, determination, and no small amount of hilarity we managed to scuttle on the order of nine vessels. Not a bad day’s work.

Although we tried to chat with other pirates, very few responded to us. Sadly the night was to take a dreadful turn.

The next step of the story quest turned out to be a solo mission. Each of us ended up in our own solo instance with an NPC ship, flew our banners high, and were required to use pirate cunning, back steel, and barbed wit to kill three skips all on our own. While I managed to send the scurvy knaves to Davey Jone’s—Arienne and Nelson found themselves obliterated (although it sounds in an unexpected single shot in both cases.)

To keep up with them, and because solo in an MMO is anathema to all that we hold dear, I quit the mission prematurely even after finishing all the objectives to join them.

We ended the night amidst the jaunty tunes of the pirate port, talked about our experience, and the interesting mixture of gameplay elements. PoTBS has both the swordplay fighting and the seamanship to its name. It’s a fitting pirate game although it may do better if players were able to keep their parties together throughout.

Minecraft Saturday, 2013 August 6th After Action Report

Due to recent dental surgery, and my talking too much during the previous stream, I spent less time speaking and more time listening. The group rezzed into the Minecraft world where we left off with the lodge at the top of a narrow chasm, and we began to look at the world from there. With us came rkou1 (TJ), Kazz5000000001 (Kazz), ArienneKeith, Omnicynic (Nelson Williams), JChristFollower (Jay), TheKingOfAllPie, bm1_ (HV4C), as well as Cynicman,

During the call a few new people joined us including 241s (241)—who spoke with a confabulated accent for most of the call and traded wit with Nelson—and one of his friends who had a Chewbacca avatar.

Instead of building much, I went around checking on other people to see what they were working on. During the stream HV4C showed off his underground workings that incorporated some of the chasm itself that included a room designed to be a forest, containing a cow, sheep, and pig. As well as a waterfall.

TJ and Kazz went out into the desert prominence right next to the island and made a deep hole in the ground (quite wide, its dimensions are unknown to me but a diameter of at least 20 blocks.) Originally named the “Strippler Hole” due to who made it, and it eventually came to receive a glass ceiling so that people would not fall into it.

As the night wore on, the participants spoke about their week and what games they’d played as well as interests in general. Nelson also had begun building a tower with extending platforms cropping up starting at the higher floors that extended like wings and contained grass-covered dirt. It became a target for flaming arrow barrages by playful Creative mode players (to no deleterious effect as flaming arrows cannot hurt buildings or players.)

Near the end of the night TheKingOfAllPie revealed some of his megastructure work. Work that he’d been able to do on the server without the assistance of Creative mode. The first megastructure was an extremely large, finely built, wheel at around 100 blocks up and perhaps 100 blocks wide. While the center of the flat disk was empty, five blocks of the edge were filled as well as four spokes at 90 degrees (following the compass directions.)

He also took members of the server into The End—the space of the Minecraft server where the Ender Dragon was fought and defeated—to show off a megastructure best called a “contraption” that was designed to farm Endermen (an NPC foe that spawns in The End.) The structure was built off the primary land mass of The End so that Endermen would be forced to spawn in it. To reach the megastructure, we had to walk down a long corridor overflowing with water and only 2 blocks high—this design prevented Endermen from entering (as they’re 3 blocks high) and since they’re damaged by water, they would be forced to teleport away.

The megastructure itself was an ever-rising series of stone rectangles with a hollow center (which will be explained below) that went almost to the full block height of The End. The upper tiers were 3 blocks apart to allow Endermen to spawn on them, but also covered with water causing them to teleport elsewhere. Teleporting therefore would cause them to teleport onto pressure plates that would trigger a piston and shove the Enderman into the center, causing them to fall. One section of the rectangles contained vines along the sides so that the falling Endermen would slow and resume falling at a very particular height, this height would cause them to hit the bottom (or killing chamber) with only ½ heart.

A redstone-powered piston system in the killing chamber could allow the floor to recede just far enough to kill Endermen on impact; or raise the floor enough that they could be slaughtered with a single punch or swing of the sword.

In this way, TheKingOfAllPie constructed what Nelson dubbed “a genocide machine,” that could net TheKingOfAllPie almost infinite experience (used for enchanting items in the Minecraft virtual world) and Ender pearls (an item used for various items).

Monday, July 22, 2013

MMO Anthropology Livestream After Action Report, 2013 July 19-20

As a regular participant and observer of the MMO Anthropology live stream on Friday and Saturdays I figured that I could write up my notes of the events that transpire during them. This weekend, the group played two different MMO games: NEStalgia and Minecraft. The game of NEStalgia is a strange 8-bit MMO that had altogether about 25-30 total online at the same time; and Minecraft is a well-known creative sandbox virtual world.


I played a Cleric, Arienne went with a Ranger, and Nelson played a Wizard. Much fine was had by wall in the region of Balzakia (with a lot of terrible jokes involved.) NEStalgia is a weird little 8-bit MMO and we didn't see many other players, except those invited to watch the stream, but we did manage a few quests together.

It feels a lot like old Dragon Warrior, right down to the 8-bit music and the way that combat works. Arienne's ranger Nirrti would strike with electrical zaps; and Nelson had multi-target spells that swirled around them with gusts of wind; whereas I usually tossed green sparkles at party members to keep them healthy and happy. All low level stuff, but still an interesting experience.

The largest issue is that party size was limited to 3 at a time.

We did manage to get wiped out as a party once or twice -- although I am a support cleric I couldn't manage to keep everyone healed against insurmountable odds. We had a few viewers state that they'd be interested in the game in the future.

GameOgre NEStalgia review,

Minecraft Saturday:

The previous village of Devil's Crossroads has been expanded slightly, and we started to build an actual crossroad. Namely it was situated around one of Arienne Keith's (ArienneKeith) previous "beacon" towers and then roads made out of smooth stone and stone brick were constructed to lead out in four directions. One of those directions went far away from the major colonies on the server so we decided to proceed that way.

Two new users joined the call to talk about their experiences Jay (JChristFollower) and TheKingofAllPie (who joined us in the previous Saturday to do work in Minecraft, an astute and effective builder-of-things.) During the stream he showed off a house he built near the Devil’s Crossroads, a structure that included a chimney with a lit fire (and redstone apparatus to extinguish/light it.)

Nelson Williams (Omnicynic) led a scouting party across a vast ocean and road builders followed—an extremely long bridge, potentially about one thousand (1,000) blocks in length, was formed to cross that ocean. Arienne followed behind the builders and constructed a railway for fast travel across; donkeys and horses were used to deliver supplies across the bridge as well until it was finally (partially) completed to give access to the new continent.

Eventually a new continent was discovered and in the last half of the stream we began to colonize. There are now four/five houses on that beach and now it's slowly being tamed. TJ (rkou1) built a house that descended one level into the ocean with lots of glass involved. William McCormick (ComputerPimp) made a two-story house and although he was very tired stayed with the group for the full four hours.

Cynicman (Cynicman) joined us on the surface in an uncommon appearance above ground and assisted with the delivery of cobblestone and smooth stone for the construction of roads and bridges. Dracul Dragon (Dracul6) assisted with general road construction and spoke with lively gusto on the call.

Rocknroll (rocknroll) was unable to join due to computer problems.

Recent GameOgre Minecraft news,

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

A letter to an embarrassment of a TSA agent: “Back off and shut up.”

This morning, a TSA officer at LAX humiliated and shamed my 15-year-old daughter. She is traveling with a group of high school students on a college tour and we were not with her when he verbally abused her.

Here's what happened, as my daughter described it in text messages to us: she was at the station where the TSA checks IDs. She said the officer was "glaring" at her and mumbling. She said, "Excuse me?" and he said, "You're only 15, COVER YOURSELF!" in a hostile tone. She said she was shaken up by his abusive manner.

To the security guard who got the above written about him on BoingBoing:

Mister, this is where I, and every other rational person, calls you a pervert and means it. And why not? You seem to think that your opinion of what a minor child should wear entitled you to make an authoritarian command to someone else’s child so obviously you accept that everyone else thinks you’re a perverted creep.

You wanted to shame her for doing something that only you are embarrassed by? Shame on you.

There’s a reason why your behavior is being called “creepy” by people who have commented on this situation. It’s not your place to tell someone else’s child how to dress, and it’s certainly not your place to ogle children who pass through your checkpoint to judge and assess their clothing. You are not a judge in a beauty pageant; from what I understand, you’re supposedly a security professional.

What you did, in essence, was a sexist catcall. No better than some asshole whistling at women walking down the street and just as uncalled-for.

Women are targeted with a lot of sexist and controlling language in our culture in ways unheard of by men; and furthermore your decision to target a minor-teen makes what you said even more creepypasta. This wasn’t appropriate on the street and it certainly wasn’t appropriate at your job.

What you did was embarrassing to you, to the security profession, and the TSA, and the American people for whom you work.

Next time, if you cannot restrain yourself from sexist thoughts, at least show enough self-control to keep them to yourself.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Guild Wars 2: The road to a legendary (or two)

I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 for a while now and talking to several guilds about their gaming experience. Aside from the stunningly visual nature of the game and the interesting stories that can be sussed out of NPCs, ambient conversation, or just from general exploration there’s also a great deal of gamification. I mention the stories because many of my guildmates come from Guild Wars and they sometimes to back because of the story.

I would love to delve further into that to see how people from GW tend to view and interact with GW2, especially those who took their guilds out of GW into GW2 and now interact and run the game with members who only know GW2.

One of the things that GW2 does to keep people playing and focus on not just story but also the gamification is the construction of legendary weapons—a truly hardcore experience.

As a result, I’m going to try to get one (or two.)

Part 1: The Gift of Battle

Guild Wars 2 has two particularly annoying elements to it that I strongly dislike: open PvP and jumping puzzle. These two elements are tired directly together with an important component of crafting a legendary called “The Gift of Battle.” This gift requires 500 Badges of Honor—earned only from a jumping puzzle in the open PvP area (aka World vs. World vs. World, or WvWvW, or WvW) or from killing people there. Of course, the drop rate of badges from kills is absurdly low, and it’s possible to receive no badges from a kill.

It will require 500 badges for me to make a Gift of Battle for one legendary weapon.

Now, since WvW fighting can be extremely slow for earning badges and I have no time to do this, I find myself needing to bow my head and do the jumping puzzles through which I can earn 3-6 badges for each run. A run can last between 10-30 minutes each.

The normal solution to this is that people run it with all of their alts, daily, gaining 3-6 badges per alt per day. I have about eight alts (could be nine if I felt like it) but I don’t know that I want to suffer through this nine times a day.

There’s also another, more treacherous, jumping puzzle in the middle of the WvW instances (called the Eternal Battlegrounds) that gives on average 15 badges a day per account.

This is going to be a very slow, frustrating process that will involve something that I don’t like about this game. So far, it has caused me to seriously hate jumping puzzles; and worse, trying to get badges has taken all the joy I had about WvW out of the process entirely.

I already have 100 badges from this week alone.

I’ll update everyone as this continues to unfold.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Google Glass: The strange things we’ll see, and do…

…of course, not all of it will be good. So I wrote a bit over at SiliconANGLE about how Google Glass could go wrong. Expect commentary that runs the gamut from where privacy might go out the window, how “Girls Around Me” could be made worse, and what might happen if someone hacks your Glass and spies on you that way.

Of course, that’s not the end of it. Getting Google Glass hacked may mean getting spied on or have personal information pilfered; but it could also mean malware would have a much more prominent place to throw advertisements. Right out of William Gibson’s Neuromancer where two sentences describe a man who had bionic eyes hijacked by hackers (or malware) that now forever would display a scrolling advertising across the lower 1/3rd of his vision.

via SiliconANGLE

Monday, March 11, 2013

Google Glass, the Free Market and the Future of Privacy with Mark Hopkins

Near the 7:00 minute mark, Mark Hopkins talks about the future impact of ease-of-sharing when it comes to Google Glass. While he already spoke about a potential app that could connect a persons' real life personage with their YouTube comments hovering above (now that would be hilarious) but that would require a lot of sensitivity and a database of facial recognition and possibly even an opt-in by the person in question.

As Mark explains, privacy is always changing and is being modified by our cultural capabilities. Already people have greater amounts of data visualization at our fingertips with just the Internet and smartphones together. Never before have people been able to instantly "win an argument" by pulling out a small interface, looking something up on Wikipedia, and go from there. Add in augmented reality and the "pull out the smartphone" is removed.

With all the speculation flying about how Google Glass will be used (and it's all speculative) we may just get the moral panic portion of the introduction of this technology out of the way even before it reaches mainstream.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tropes vs Women in Video Games part one: Damsels in Distress

Zelda, Princess Peach, the “Damsel in Distress” trope

In writing, lazy tropes abound—I certainly use them time to time—many reasons for this are that tropes are a very easy to communicate an idea to an audience by generating a sort of symbolism. Anita Sarkeesian of FeministFrequency is beginning to release her Kickstarted project “Tropes vs. Women in Videogames” after her astonishingly successful campaign (her ask was $6,000 but she netted almost $160,000.)

In this video she explores the history of the “Damsel in Distress” trope and how it works. It’s suggested that she’ll be going over the more recent incarnations of this trope in a later video—this is a series after all.

I’m happy to see it coming out so soon! As with many video projects, I expected this one to take a bit longer in editing and preparation. However, getting almost 27 times the original ask can certainly help to speed the process a little bit.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Ada Initiative vs. Violet Blue Over a Cancelled Talk at BSides

Recently a hew and cry rose up from the hacker community because a noted feminism in technology group, the Ada Initiative, advised the BSides security conference to cancel a talk by noted sex-educator, hacker, and feminist Violet Blue. There has been a great deal of back and forth on the subject of the cancellation that amounts to a great deal of she-said-she-said and clarifications.

The timeline follows pretty much via the accounts of the participants. First, the Ada Initiative spoke to the cancellation claiming that Violet Blue’s talk was off topic and thus should not have been done. In response, Blue posted her own experience when the BSides organizer cancelled her talk after receiving a complaint from the Ada Initiative. The Ada Initiative quickly developed a clarification of its involvement in the cancellation. Finally, the BSides SF organizer “verbal” published his own experience that led to him choosing to cancel Blue’s talk.

TLDR background; Violet Blue was going to give a talk about sex and drugs at a hacker conference, the Ada Initiative complained to the organizer, after some discussion between Blue and the organizer the talk was cancelled.

The end result of opposed viewpoints and hacker conference culture

The opposition in philosophy between the Ada Initiative and Violet blue can be summed up succinctly, but may be best to compare them side-by-side.

The Ada Initiative’s coda statement is thus (emphasis theirs),

Discussing sex creates a “sexualized environment” which many people take as a signal to treat women as sexual objects rather than as fellow conference attendees, resulting in a higher incidence of harassment and assault of women. Too many women have been raped at technical conferences; we should do everything we can to prevent future rapes.

Sex in many societies is strongly tied to the objectification and humiliation of women. Many people are unable to separate “talking about sex” and “saying derogatory things about women,” and take the introduction of one for permission to do the other. While many pro-woman, sex-positive people and communities exist, most technical conferences are not safe spaces for discussion of sex.

Simply put, even the world’s most pro-woman, sex-positive, pro-consent talk about sex is likely to have negative effects on women at a technical conference.
And Violet Blue’s thesis is thus,
I fear that hacker culture risks becoming disconnected from high-risk or controversial information sharing. I fear that hacker culture risks losing the fight to prove wrong the harmful idea that information equals advocacy. I fear that hacker culture risks harm to itself when people are allowed to label things as wrong or bad but not be held accountable to also explain why.
What appears to be going on is two different methods of applying feminist theory to conference culture. The argument by the Ada Initiative is that any discussion of issues involved with an at-risk group (i.e. women) at technology conferences endangers women further and therefore cultural discussions of this sort should not happen. Violet Blue’s argument conveys that by not discussing a thing not only does it not cause the problem to go away, it obfuscates negative effects and sweeps them out of sight therefore promoting isolation and ignorance instead of attention to the problem.

It is obvious that the Ada Initiative is in the wrong here and walks right into Violet Blue’s rebuttal.

Advocating shutting down discussion of hacker culture at a hacker conference will tend to do exactly what Blue suggests it will: further alienate members from the ability to discuss things that directly affect hackers in relation to taboo subjects.

By calling for Blue’s talk at BSides to be shut down the Ada Initiative demonstrates a misunderstanding of the very culture they’re trying to mingle with. Perhaps this might make sense for tech-only conferences that focus on hardware, technology, and the principals of that technology through the context of corporations and brands; but this sort of suppression doesn’t function for conferences that are frequented by hackers and developers.

In the clarification on the Ada Initiative’s involvement in getting the talk cancelled, the group makes pains to point out that it does not oppose harm reduction talks or talks about sex--instead that off-topic talks involving sexuality are dangerous to women at these conferences. The crux of arguing that the Ada Initiative is doing the opposite of their stated mission is that they are incorrect about the “off topic” nature of the talk itself for the given audience.

Hacker security conferences are about code and people as much as they are about technology.

Code, politics, and social culture mix tightly between hackers as they’re a community who depend heavily on one another for contacts, highly complex interrelations build between hackers that quickly become inseparable from who they know and how they code.

To claim that talking about hacker culture at a hacker conference is off topic is representative of an outsiders misunderstanding of hackers in general and what directly affects them as people. A number of talks at security conferences do involve how people act directly as well as how to speak to the press, how to engage with one another about discovered vulnerabilities, and sometimes how to interact with police and other authorities. It seems that a talk about how hacker conference culture interacts with itself.

It’s time to talk about the necessity of feminist talks at conferences

As a culture, hackers are already an at-risk population and women are a minority. The treatment of women in hacker culture is extremely poor right now, but that fortunately doesn’t chase them away. In fact, there are numerous notable hackers who are women and even historical figures who led to modern computer science (Ada Lovelace, the namesake of the Ada Initiative among them.)

Hackers are people and technology integrates as much with gender, romance, sexuality, and even death as it does with the advancement of careers or the production of new code.

A security conference is exactly the place where the topic of how we remain secure ourselves when seeking sex or love (especially amidst our own culture.) Noting that many hackers are also engage in risky behaviors outside of coding that involve parties, overwork, and drug use alongside all the other usual human needs and necessity.

Suppressing this sort of talk for this audience does that audience a terrible disservice that strips from them the ability to express or define how they should behave as a culture with respect to their very nature as humans. It denies both women and men a chance to speak about their experience with that culture in how they interrelate and keeps these taboo subjects swept under the rug and hidden from view.