"Just leave if you don't like it"

A note on the arguments following Mark Pesce’s keynote. There’s one in particular that bugs me: “just leave if you don’t like it.”

The thing is, it isn’t normal at linux.conf.au (unlike at a Bar Camp) to just exit a talk from, say, the front section in the middle of a row. Unless you are at the very edge of the room, it’s considered rude to just leave, to the point where some speakers or session chairs might actually yell at you. (I had university lecturers do that.) And I suspect LCA, for organisational reasons as well as for speaker comfort, would rather not encourage an atmosphere of people just traipsing in and out of talks through the centre of rooms. So… the environment is (somewhat) coercive: if you don’t like the talk, you have to be actively rude to the speaker and the rest of the audience in protecting yourself from the talk.

If an environment could be created where someone could leave a talk from any place in the audience with a minimum of fuss and without risk of social retribution, and if people really did do so for all kinds of reasons, and thus an exit during Pesce’s talk would not have been immediately visible to everyone as “I have a strangulation phobia, if you would like to bother me in future, please mime strangling me”[1], I’d at least take this argument seriously. But in the LCA context it currently equates to: “don’t like the talk? embarrass yourself and be rude to the speaker!”

(Note to LCA people: I have a comment policy, and if your comment annoys me I won’t publish it.)

[1] I do have a strong reaction to strangulation, although probably not technically phobic, and if anyone uses this information to harass me even as a joke[2], they will not be my friend thereafter.

[2] People who have physical triggers, like having sharp objects pointed at their eyes, or disliking their neck being touched without warning, and who admit them, do suddenly find that half their acquaintance immediately does that to find out what happens. Consider yourself warned about what will happen.

3 Replies to “"Just leave if you don't like it"”

  1. “I do have a strong reaction to strangulation, although probably not technically phobic”

    (Found your site through the LCA planet, but I thought this was curious).

    Anecdotally, I’ve discovered that many, *many* people I know who have a very strong sensitivity about their neck (sudden fear if unexpectedly touched there, etc) all also happened to have been born with their umbilical chord wrapped around their neck. Do you happen to know if this is the case for you?

  2. Tom: interesting. I don’t know either way. My husband had a nuchal cord (about 1/3 of babies do) and only has a very mild reaction to having his neck touched compared to me, but you didn’t imply a 1:1 correspondence so that’s not a good data point.

  3. This is a very good point. I have only spoken RL with one LCA attendee who was at the keynote but he did comment to me that he would have walked out but did not want to disturb everybody by having to get out from the middle of the row where he was sitting.

    Not that this is a good argument to make even if it is OK to come and go at a particular conference (ref: “You don’t have to read it” from the Geek Feminism wiki).

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