Why is someone’s entire adult life relevant to their job application?

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

Over at Captain Awkward’s advice column, there’s a question about how to deal with a recent name change when potential employees may call references that know you by a former name. The advice moves a little into how to deal with “resume gaps” in general:

Prospective employers will ask difficult questions about gaps in employment, changes of field, etc., but often they are doing it because they want to see how you react to the question before they decide if it is an actual issue. They want to make sure that you didn’t lie on your resume. They want to see if you have a coherent reason for whatever it is. And they want to see if you react with grace under pressure, or if you turn into a defensive weirdo… [P]lenty of people take time out of the workforce to care for kids, go to school, look after aging relatives, etc. and then are in the position of trying to get back into the workforce. If an employer is going to hold your years as a caregiver or student against you in making a hiring decision, that is their bad. Do not apologize! Do not talk about how your skills are “rusty”! If they say “I notice it’s been a few years since you’ve been working in this field, what’s up with that?” say “Yes, I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off to care for my mom at the end of her life,” or “Given the cost of day care, it made sense for one of us to stay home with the kids for a while” or “Yes, it was strange to be a grad student-by-day, bartender-by-night, but my customers were great and I learned a lot from having such a public-oriented position” and then ask a question about the position at hand.

It’s possible to disagree for pragmatic reasons with the advice to disclose here (see for example annalee’s comment on that post), but I wanted to move away from the question of what individual jobseekers should do — to be clear: I don’t fault Captain Awkward discussing that, it’s an advice column! — to the general question of why this comes up. Why do resume gaps matter, exactly? Why is a job candidate who has several unexplained years on their resume a worse candidate for a job?

Here’s my hunch about why it matters: because it’s a proxy for discriminating against (former or currently) ill or disabled people and carers, pretty much. And people with a history of institutionalisation, and others. So at an individual level you can disclose on the principle that while it sucks that there are powerful bigoted people out there, it’s better to find out that they’re bigoted against you before you’re working for them. Or you can not disclose on the principle that while it sucks that there are powerful bigoted people out there, you might be able to stay mostly under their radar when you are working for them. Not the most excellent choice in the world!

This seems in some ways hackable to me. This isn’t a new insight, but part of the problem with hiring is the need to choose one person (or N people), and, typically, having more than N applicants. You need some tools to eliminate people, so people come up with petty absolutes about resumes that are in the wrong font, or are one page long, or aren’t one page long, or that cover letters that use “I am writing to apply for” rather than “I am applying for” or whatever you like. And of course it’s easy to fall into bigotry too. The ideal worker bee is young and male and “flexible” and so on. If society has squashed someone down by keeping them out of the workforce, you don’t want your organization to have to pay the price for the squashing, so let’s require an age-21-to-present-time employment history too. Some people have that, after all.

There’s a real problem with resume gaps, which is that they might be actually relevant time that the person doesn’t want to talk about with you (for example, the employer they defrauded), but I think it’s at least worth questioning the idea of pushing down on everyone who has ever been out of the workforce in order to find them, and there’s definitely also a desire to ferret out “flakes” (people who you want to discriminate against) among some employers.

One possibility then is that by consciously letting go of the idea that your hiring skills guarantee getting the single best hire, or the belief that your resume filtering skills and interviewing skills are helping you past a certain point, and choosing randomly from the best M applicants as selected by your hopefully-consciously-avoiding-bigotry hiring process. And by letting go of your belief that you need total control in order to select The One, perhaps you can let go of at least some received wisdom about seeing “red flags” in any sign that someone may have done something with their weekdays other than work, and that they may not want to talk to you about that.

What received truths of hiring do you think are bogus or discriminatory?

Single Sign-On: stretching the definition

Condensed from my twitter earlier today, with reference to using the australia.gov.au single sign-on service to log into Medicare Online Services:

So accessing Medicare through http://australia.gov.au/ single sign-on involves user name, password, 2 (of 5) http://australia.gov.au/ secret questions, 2 (of 5 total) separate Medicare Online secret questions, Medicare card number, Medicare card reference number, suburb and postcode. I don’t call that “single sign on”. Oh, and agreeing to Medicare Online T&Cs even if agreed to in a previous session 15 minutes ago.

On the other hand, if you’d like to impersonate me on the phone to Medicare, all the info you need is on my Medicare card and my driver’s licence.

Mourning the Squeezebox

Logitech has discontinued their Squeezebox line of wireless music players.

Background: the Squeezebox was a device originally by Slim Devices, later acquired by Logitech. The Squeezebox (SB) originally supported playing music which was streamed over your home over a custom protocol, it involved running a server process written in Perl on the machine which contained the music. For several years, there has also been a My Squeezebox service which streams music over the Internet. The server/My Squeezebox can in turn stream podcasts, radio stations and so on.

We bought our first Squeezebox in, I think, 2008, which drives some Yamaha reference monitors I’ve had since 2001 (and then spent 7 years searching for a half decent networked music playing solution in order to use them more than occasionally) and added a Squeezebox Boom, which is about the size of a classic micro hi-fi system and has built-in speakers, a year later. We’ve been using them ever since. Both were already discontinued models in favour of the SB Touch and SB Radio, but were receiving firmware updates and support. All support for the entire ecosystem is now being ended by Logitech, in favour of the Ultimate Ears (UE) brand, which so far contains one wireless music player, the UE Smart Radio.

Possible replacements:

The Logitech UE system. Pros: I believe it’s similar hardware, and the SBs have worked well for us. Cons: the UE line only contains one wireless player right now, the UE Smart Radio, and it does not support use of your own speakers. UE devices do not understand the SB protocol, so unless we junked our SB devices we’d need to run two server processes and would lose things like syncing all our players to play the same thing at the same time. Linux is no longer officially supported for running the server software. In addition, I haven’t got confirmation of this, but it seems it is impossible to use the UE Smart Radio without signing up for an online service, which raises the spectre of not being able to play my music when the ‘net is down, or possibly at some point in the future having the UE suddenly stop working forever, when that service is in turn discontinued.

The Sonos. Pros: I don’t follow the wireless music market closely, but I understand this is the brand that’s associated with quality music engineering. Technically, it can stream music from a SAMBA share as well as from the Internet. Cons: it too has made its deals with the we’re-watching-you devils: It will only play RadioTime’s approved podcasts, obviously there’s a workaround involving downloading to the SAMBA share we would use, but that’s still annoying. We again lose the house-wide syncing if we keep our (not cheap, and still functional) SB devices in the house. The podcast thing suggests that the Sonos may also be vulnerable to “do the players still work if Sonos goes away?” concern, but again, I don’t know.

The Roku Soundbridge. Pros: I believe it understands the SB protocol, which means it would be the best fit for our existing music network. Cons: there only seems to be one model in its lineup too, a speakerless one. I’m not intending to buy separate speakers for every room we want music in. Otherwise this is probably the most seamless replacement for an SB.

Bluetooth speakers. Or I guess a receiver, in the case of my reference monitor. Pros: a bigger market to buy from, way less vendor-dependent (even if documented) custom streaming protocols to deal with. Cons: Bluetooth support, or alleged support, in car stereos has not endeared this solution to me, to me Bluetooth means “does not work-tooth”. I have no idea how to achieve the multiple rooms with the same music effect either. And it then leaves the problem of queueing up the music on the headless server. I spent several years seeing how bad all MPD clients could be, I’m not keen to go back to that. In addition, we have enough trouble getting 802.11 signals to span our house, never mind Bluetooth.

I think at this stage, given that luckily the SBs are not going to stop working unless the hardware fails or the software stops running on later versions of Linux (both are possible, of course), that what we’ll probably do is try and snag a SB Radio or two before they get too hard to get hold of, stick with them and our existing devices until the bitter end, and then hope that Bluetooth or some later protocol and its Linux support are up to what we want to do. Since we aren’t likely to subscribe to streaming services in the very near future, this is viable.

If Logitech eventually puts out firmware support for the UE protocol onto older SB hardware, as Gadget Guy suggests they will (but there’s no sign of it on the Logitech forums), it will be more tempting to move to UE than otherwise, at least if the server is known to work on Linux. Otherwise, an additional strike against Logitech products is that they’ve substantially damaged my faith in their longevity. Quoth Matthew Moskovciak on CNET It may be wise to see how Logitech handles its Squeezebox customers before committing to the new UE ecosystem. There’s probably 12 to 24 months of endgame in that.

Update: Sue Chastain has more info, including an apparent confirmation that the UE Smart Radio will indeed not work in the absence of an Internet connection, even when playing locally stored music.

Update January 2016: we moved to Chromecast Audio. No more hardware ecosystem lock-in for us!

Creative Commons License
Mourning the Squeezebox by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Now Wikivoyaging!

It’s amazing how many people I meet who got en-wikied by Wikitravel, the freely licenced worldwide travel guide founded by Evan Prodromou and Michele Ann Jenkins. I was always a bit sad that it wasn’t a Wikimedia project (once I knew there were Wikimedia projects aside from Wikipedia). I was a heavy editor in 2004 and 2005 and became an administrator in 2006, and still (well, as of yesterday) held that role on the website although I haven’t been very active since 2007.

For entirely separate reasons, I ended up keynoting Wikimania this year, which was great and terrible timing as far as wikis for travel went. Great, because it was at Wikimania that part of the discussion about founding a Wikimedia Foundation travel wiki was going on (Internet Brands owns the Wikitravel trademark and domain name), and I was told about it by one of the people active in it. Terrible, because I was so exhausted and overwhelmed after AdaCamp and my keynote that I didn’t do nearly enough at Wikimania. (The evening of the keynote, I went to my hotel at 4pm and ordered room service dinner. Thank you, room service crème brûlée, for getting me through that night.) I did meet someone who was among those spearheading the proposal to have a WMF travel wiki, but I didn’t attend the travel wiki meetups, nor log in anywhere to express an opinion among the various proposals.

It seems that what was eventually decided was to immediately import content originally written for Wikitravel into an English language version of Wikivoyage, which had already assembled a German and Italian community to create a non-commerical wiki travel guide some years back. The edit history of Wikitravel as of early August has been imported (since August, Internet Brands turned off the API access to Wikitravel changes), with further edits being made by Wikivoyagers including many former Wikitravel (and current, perhaps?) editors. Wikivoyage is in turn being imported into WMF technical infrastructure very very soon (possibly Monday US time), but I finally happened to want to do some editing last night, so I jumped the gun and joined the live version of English Wikivoyage! If you remember me from Wikitravel, say hi.

It’s already possible to use Wikimedia Commons images on Wikivoyage, for which I’m very grateful. I’ve put all the research I’ve done for my upcoming trip to SEE A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE into the Solar eclipses travel article, a perfect use-case for Commons images, which has hundreds of shots of eclipses. I’ll see if I can find a good replacement for the very mediocre image from my 2006 trip to Cairns still used on that article.

Life at 7: discussion thread

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

In February last year, the ABC screened Life at 5, the third edition in Life, an Australian documentary series following children born in 2004/2005 through their childhood. It’s associated with Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.

Almost all of the children we first met at age 1, and then at ages 3 and 5, are returning from tonight in Life at 7, with only Loulou not appearing. This time, the two documentaries are Tackling Temperament (now on iView) and Finding Your Tribe (now on iView), screening a week apart.

People with Australian IP addresses can also catch up on the earlier documentaries for a limited time:

Are you watching Life at 7? Please play along in comments, I enjoyed (and was frustrated by) the previous documentaries, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new series.

Ada Lovelace Day: Marita Cheng, Robogals founder

Today, October 16, is Ada Lovelace Day: write or record a story about a woman in science, technology, mathematics or engineering (STEM) whose achievements you admire.
This is a slightly updated version of a profile that has appeared on Geek Feminism and Hoyden About Town.
Marita Cheng was named as the Young Australian of the Year winner at the beginning of the year. She’s been involved in volunteering since she was a high school student, and in 2008, early in her undergraduate studies (mechatronic engineering and computer science at the University of Melbourne) she founded Robogals, which is an engineering and computing outreach group, in which women university students run robotics workshops for high school age girls.

Marita, while still in the final year of her undergraduate degree, is also an entrepreneur and has been previously awarded for her work as founder of Robogals, including winning the Anita Borg Change Agent award in 2011. In 2012 she travelled to several countries with the aid of the Nancy Fairfax Churchill Fellowship to study “strategies used to most effectively engage female schoolgirls in science, engineering and technology.”

While I have heard of Robogals, I hadn’t heard of Marita specifically before she became Young Australian of the Year. One of the fascinating things about starting the Ada Initiative is slowly discovering all the other amazing women who work in technology career outreach and related endeavours. But it’s a little embarrassing, judging from her bio, to have not heard Marita Cheng’s name before the beginning of the year!

Further reading:

  • Marita Cheng’s website
  • Life is turbocharged for Robogals founder (a profile this past weekend)
  • Creative Commons License
    Ada Lovelace Day: Marita Cheng, Robogals founder by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    Ada Lovelace Day: Else Shepherd, leading Australian electrical engineer

    Today, October 16, is Ada Lovelace Day: write or record a story about a woman in science, technology, mathematics or engineering (STEM) whose achievements you admire.

    Else Shepherd is an Australian electrical engineer specialising in communications equipment. She has co-founded multiple Australian engineering companies, including Mosaic Information Technology, a custom modems company, and Microwave & Materials Designs, developing microwave filters for mobile phones. She was appointed as the chairman of Powerlink, the state government-owned corporation maintaining Queensland’s high voltage electricity grid, in 1994, and has been a board member of the National Electricity Market Management Company (now known as the Australian Energy Market Operator).

    Shepherd won Engineers Australia’s Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal in 2007, their most prestigious award, recognising an engineer with over 20 years of substantial contributions to professional engineering in Australia. As best I can tell, she is the only woman Peter Nicol Russell medallist. She is also a Member of the Order of Australia since 2003, and was the University of Queensland Alumnus of the Year in 2009. She is also a pianist and choral director.

    Shepherd has talked about her experience as a woman in electrical engineering with University of Queensland publications. She and one other woman graduated in 1965, the university’s first women graduates in electrical engineering. She was unable to attend Institution of Engineers meetings in the 1960s, because they were held at the local Men’s Club. She continues to promote workplace flexibility, having used part-time work during parts of her career to care for her two children.

    Further reading:

    Creative Commons License
    Ada Lovelace Day: Else Shepherd, leading Australian electrical engineer by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    Discussion starter: Reddit, Predditor, and outing bad behaviour

    This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

    So there’s Reddit. For the Reddit abstainers like me (I’m also not on Tumblr or Facebook, I’ll move on and set up neo-Luddite Feminism Blog any day now), a quick intro: discussion forum, encouraging the creation of Reddit subforums (subreddits) around any topic you can think of. Hugely popular: the mainstream press tends to cite Barack Obama’s Ask Me Anything thread as proof.

    Reddit is strongly committed to what their users call freedom of speech, but that isn’t a very specific term on the Internet: it can mean anything from “I believe governments should not restrict expression” to “I believe that never deleting comments* from a forum improves the quality of discussion” to “I believe that never deleting comments from a forum is the only ethically correct way to run a forum.” (Or the disingenuous version: “I believe that I personally should be able to say what I want in any forum.”)

    In Reddit’s case, freedom of speech basically amounts to “we believe that any user should be able to create a subreddit and moderate it how they and fellow moderators choose.” They host, for example, hate speech subreddits. They also until recently hosted r/CreepShots, a subreddit for sharing non-consensual photos of girls and women (up-skirting and such).

    Over the last week, there’s been several eruptions around Reddit. Recently, Samantha** set up Predditors, which posts publicly available information about contributors to r/CreepShots, gathered from other sites linked to their Reddit pseudonym. It’s up and down: right now the first entry lists the full name, date of birth, employer, marital status and several photographs of one Eric Gore, Reddit username “ocbaud”, who submitted covert shots of women taken in his workplace. Jezebel posted about Predditors on October 10: How to Shut Down Reddit’s CreepShots Once and for All: Name Names. Predditors was temporarily closed by Tumblr shortly after, although at time of writing it is back with two profiles of Reddit users.

    “Reddit’s defense of [CreepShots] is that it’s ‘technically legal,’ [Samantha**] explained. (The subreddit’s bio mansplains it well: “When you are in public, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. We kindly ask women to respect our right to admire your bodies and stop complaining.” You can also click here for information on how little Reddit’s administrators seem to care about policing the subreddit.) “So I’m doing something that’s technically legal, but will result in consequences for their actions. These fuckers think they can get away with it scot free, which is one of the reasons why sexual violence is so prevalent around the world.”

    In addition, on October 12, Gawker published Adrian Chen’s Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web, identifying Reddit user Violentacrez, a moderator of r/CreepShots and several other subreddits hosting racist, misogynist and/or sexually abusive content, as Michael Brutsch, a computer programmer in Texas. Brutsch apparently moderated most of the subreddits out of a commitment to a “I believe that never deleting forums from Reddit is the only ethically correct way to run Reddit” version of free speech, but was more personally interested in r/CreepShots, regularly contributed content. Chen also describes a reasonably close working relationship between Reddit staff and Brutsch, who was active in training other moderators, and in identifying illegal content so that Reddit could remove it (that they don’t want to host).

    It’s not yet clear how things will go from here: will Predditors survive, will Samantha** survive burnout, will creep shots remnants pop up all over the web like zombies? (The last is already happening***.)

    Some of Geek Feminism’s authors have had a backchannel discussion over the last year or so about various Database of Harassers proposals. The proposal there is for documentation of in-person harassment incidents, for people who would rather not make their harassment accusations public in a blog entry or etc for the usual reasons We’ve taken a pretty skeptical view of the likely success of such a project. What do you think? Does the success of the wiki’s own incidents listing (which relies on third party public reports) or Predditors change your opinion?

    * No one seems to believe this about spam.

    ** The pseudonym that was used in the Jezebel article.

    *** Link is to a Jezebel article, not directly to a creep shots site.

    Sunday spam: porridge and honey

    What is cultural appropriation?

    The problem isn’t that cultures intermingle, it’s the terms on which they do so and the part that plays in the power relations between cultures. The problem isn’t “taking” or “borrowing”, the problem is racism, imperialism, white supremacy, and colonialism. The problem is how elements of culture get taken up in disempowering, unequal ways that deny oppressed people autonomy and dignity. Cultural appropriation only occurs in the context of the domination of one society over another, otherwise known as imperialism. Cultural appropriation is an act of domination, which is distinct from ‘borrowing’, syncretism, hybrid cultures, the cultures of assimilated/integrated populations, and the reappropriation of dominant cultures by oppressed peoples.

    Aircraft Carriers in Space

    An article about naval metaphors in fictional space warfare. Sometimes I suspect that I like science fiction meta way more than I like science fiction.

    “I’m not like the other girls.”

    A quote I saw making the Tumblr rounds, which said, “I’m not like other girls!” It went on to avow wearing Converse instead of heels, preferring computer games to shopping, so on and so forth. When I saw it, about 41,000 girls had said they weren’t like “the others.”

    Is Australia in Danger of Becoming Greece? Austerity and Blackmail Down Under

    It is not enough to respond to this ongoing rhetoric about Australia’s supposed calamitous future by pointing out, as Ms Gillard correctly did, that these comparisons are ridiculous given the state of European periphery countries. Yet the ideological blackmail is strangely telling, precisely because the financial sector in the form of the troika (the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank) has held Greece’s politicians hostage, forcing a slashing of the government in exchange for “bail-out” loans.

    The Start-to-Hate Review System

    The concept is simple: Rate media based on how long it takes to encounter something bigoted. The longer it takes, the better the media.

    An Investigation Into Xinjiang’s Growing Swarm of Great Gerbils

    I am subscribed to two “long form” websites: the picks of Long Reads, which focuses on newer pieces, and the editor’s picks of Longform, which tend to skew a little older. Hence, this, from McSweeny’s in January 2005. I always like a piece that clearly ended up not being about what the original pitch was about. In this case, the writer wanted (or supposedly wanted, I guess) to investigate a gerbil plague, and ended up writing an article about gerbil social structures, text messaging on Chinese phone networks, and, several times, the Black Death. Which is how I ended up reading Wikipedia articles about pandemics the same night I was getting sick with the first illness I’ve had since I got out of hospital.

    Mariana Trench Explosion

    I think of Randall Munroe as a science writer who happens to be funded by merchandise sales from a comic. I don’t regularly look at the comic any more but I follow his blag and his What If? Answering your hypothetical questions with physics, every Tuesday writing more closely. This What If? is one of my favourites to date, although it’s hard to beat the first one. However, this one features an excursion into unpublished work by Freeman Dyson. SO HARD TO CHOOSE.

    Do bicycle helmets reduce head injuries?

    It’s impossible to follow Liam Hogan on Twitter without becoming interested in urban transport issues. At the moment the big conversation is helmet laws in Australia, which are arguably interfering with take-up of bike share schemes (if you’re going to have to get hold of a helmet, you don’t just jump on the bike, hence, scheme falls apart), although see Why is Brisbane CityCycle an unmitigated flop? for several other reasons that scheme may be failing.

    Anyway, this one: A new study reports the rate of hospitalisations for cycling-related head injuries in NSW has fallen markedly and consistently since 1990. The authors say it’s due to helmets and infrastructure.
    The drugs don’t work: a modern medical scandal and Ben Goldacre: ‘It’s appalling … like phone hacking or MPs’ expenses’

    Reboxetine is a drug I have prescribed. Other drugs had done nothing for my patient, so we wanted to try something new. I’d read the trial data before I wrote the prescription, and found only well-designed, fair tests, with overwhelmingly positive results. Reboxetine was better than a placebo, and as good as any other antidepressant in head-to-head comparisons… In October 2010, a group of researchers was finally able to bring together all the data that had ever been collected on reboxetine, both from trials that were published and from those that had never appeared in academic papers. When all this trial data was put together, it produced a shocking picture. Seven trials had been conducted comparing reboxetine against a placebo. Only one, conducted in 254 patients, had a neat, positive result, and that one was published in an academic journal, for doctors and researchers to read. But six more trials were conducted, in almost 10 times as many patients. All of them showed that reboxetine was no better than a dummy sugar pill. None of these trials was published. I had no idea they existed.

    Given that I favourited two separate articles about this, I’m going to buy the book. Now you know.

    Going blind? DRM will dim your world

    [I]t turned out I needed Adobe Digital Editions to ‘manage my content’… It tried, of course, to force me to give Adobe my email and other details for the ‘Adobe ID’ that it assured me I needed to get full functionality. I demurred… and was confronted by a user interface that was tiny white text on a black background. Unreadable. Options to change this? If they exist, I couldn’t find them.

    Getting this far had taken me half an hour fighting my way through a nest of misery and frustration with broken eyes and a sinking heart. Along the way, I’d been bombarded by marketing messages telling me to “enjoy the experience” and “enjoy your book”.

    Reader, I wept. Marketing departments, here’s a top tip: if your customer is reduced to actual, hot, stinging tears, you may wish to fine-tune your messaging.

    5 Plans to Head Off the Apophis Killer Asteroid

    Friday the 13th of April 2029 could be a very unlucky day for planet Earth. At 4:36 am Greenwich Mean Time, a 25-million-ton, 820-ft.-wide asteroid called 99942 Apophis will slice across the orbit of the moon and barrel toward Earth at more than 28,000 mph. The huge pockmarked rock, two-thirds the size of Devils Tower in Wyoming, will pack the energy of 65,000 Hiroshima bombs–enough to wipe out a small country or kick up an 800-ft. tsunami.

    On this day, however, Apophis is not expected to live up to its namesake, the ancient Egyptian god of darkness and destruction. Scientists are 99.7 percent certain it will pass at a distance of 18,800 to 20,800 miles… Scientists calculate that if Apophis passes at a distance of exactly 18,893 miles, it will go through a “gravitational keyhole.” This small region in space–only about a half mile wide, or twice the diameter of the asteroid itself–is where Earth’s gravity would perturb Apophis in just the wrong way, causing it to enter an orbit seven-sixths as long as Earth’s. In other words, the planet will be squarely in the crosshairs for a potentially catastrophic asteroid impact precisely seven years later, on April 13, 2036.

    It turns out that with current technology we might be able to move the asteroid prior to the (potential) 2029 entry into the gravitational keyhole, but if it did so we would be unlikely to perturb the orbit sufficiently after that point to avoid a civilisation-ended impact. So it’s the question of how many resources to spend on a low-probability but enormously catastrophic event.

    Harassment report at your conference: what do you do???

    This article was written by me and originally published on the Ada Initiative’s website. It is republished here according to the terms of its Creative Commons licence.

    The Ada Initiative’s anti-harassment work and other anti-harassment initiatives have resulted in many conferences adopting anti-harassment policies.

    The Ada Initiative are not enforcers of individual conferences’ policies: this is the responsibility of conference staff, and conferences do not usually inform us of reports, nor do we expect them to. Harassment within a community is that community’s responsibility. However, in some cases when Ada Initiative staff have attended a conference, we have been asked to advise conference staff on responses. We’ve learned several useful techniques for making sure that the conference follows through quickly on its commitment to anti-harassment. We’ve drawn our experiences together into a wiki page: Responding to harassment reports.

    Our first tip is, of course, to have a policy. Harassment incidents at geek conferences — including open technology and culture conferences — are widespread. If harassment is reported at your conference and you do not have a policy, it is difficult to reach consensus among conference staff that harassment is not welcome, let alone that you should respond to it, or about how you should respond. The result is that people who are worried about harassment, or who have experienced it at your event or other events, will not feel or be safe at your event. Your policy should be in place before your conference. The Ada Initiative and Geek Feminism volunteers have prepared substantial resources on how to put a policy in place.

    You should also pre-prepare some emergency contacts, for incidents that you can’t handle. Conference volunteers and staff are rarely able to solely respond to and properly help with physical safety threats, illness or people in crisis. We suggest preparing a handout with contacts for emergency services, venue security, local medical and mental health facilities and crisis hotlines for mental illness, sexual assault, and physical violence. Make this info available in your conference materials so that attendees do not have to come to you, but have copies to hand in case they do.

    Having a staff member whose key responsibility is to assist attendees in difficulty (rather than routine conference chores) can assist in a fast response, see the Duty officer wiki page.

    Unfortunately, having a policy does not mean harassment won’t occur at your event. Once an incident is reported, you need to respond rapidly to reports. As the wiki page discusses in more detail you should:

    1. get a written report where possible, or have the staff member who received it write down what they were told
    2. have a staff member collate these reports in case of multiple incidents of harassment by one person, so that you can respond to the pattern rather than one instance
    3. have a staff member discuss the incident with the alleged harasser
    4. convene a meeting as soon as reasonably practical to decide on a response
    5. decide on a response and communicate it to the complainant and the harasser as soon as possible
    6. provide the harasser with an avenue of appeal if one is available but insist that they abide by any sanctions in the meantime
    7. communicate the incident and response briefly to the community, either attending the conference or reading your blog etc, to allow them to see that the policy is enforced
    8. remind the attendees and community where the policy is found and invite them to review it

    We welcome additional improvements to our detailed guide on how to respond to harassment reports. If you would like to discuss the suggestions, please do so on the wiki’s talk page.

    Creative Commons License
    Harassment report at your conference: what do you do???
    by the Ada Initiative is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
    Based on a work at https://adainitiative.org/2012/10/04/harassment-report-at-your-conference-what-do-you-do/.