- A few of my points may be reiterations of The Lobster's, probably because we did discuss this earlier today. And thanks a lot for sharing Emily's question and a thread of responses. It really helped me develop context for the situation. I realize the majority of my previous comment didn't even apply to this situation.
- One thing that did apply is that I still maintain that these people don't care about what Emily had to say at all. They're not mad about concepts of gender equality, and they're not mad at women for being women. Frankly, they're not even mad. These specific people are members of the internet community 4chan. 4chan is a community composed mostly of teenage to young-adult males who enjoy trying to piss off anyone they can over the internet. Neither Emily nor gender equality are treated any differently than just about any subject that ever comes up on their site. They try to piss off everyone equally. The thread you posted was from 4chan's political topics sub-board. I'm including the link to this board as evidence that at any given time, you'll find any number of politically-related topics being given the same treatment as Emily and her question. If the thread you posted made your skin crawl, you'll likely not want to see this, but I'm including it for anyone who feels they can handle the truly anonymous posts of the internet: http://boards.4chan.org/pol/ . Like I said, very few of those people are there to engage in serious discussion, nor do they feel bound to only express their actual opinions. They're merely trying to coax people into angry indiscretion so that they can have a small laugh for the day.
- And, to my disappointment, it seems that Emily has delivered. Here's a tweet of hers in response to criticism she received on the internet site Reddit: https://twitter.com/emilyeifler/status/513890818684624896 . Reddit's a more moderated a toned-down community than 4chan, and lacks complete anonymity (users can pick a username that gives them essential anonymity, but whatever they say will associated with the persona they build with that username). However, Reddit remains committed to promoting free speech, and not removing any content that isn't strictly illegal. It is not illegal to call people names or to make fun of them, so of course Reddit won't censor that behavior. This tweet of Emily's is exactly the thing that an internet troll wants to see. She reacted, publicly and visibly, in anger. It makes her appear unprofessional and foolish. She sarcastically reprimanded a website for not censoring ideas that she wanted censored, and retaliated by declaring her boycott. This was the goal of any troll who had any ridiculous, personal thing to say about her. They weren't trying to push an anti-woman agenda, they were trying to make a clearly passionate person angry, just for laughs. It's for this reason that, although I think these internet trolls are immature and foolish, they aren't comparable to Hitler nor the KKK.
- However, although this community may be dismissed for their non-serious nature and their lack of accountability, I don't think we should dismiss any legitimate criticism for Emily's question at the conference. I watched her question, in the immediate context of the conference, and saw the developers' responses. Tone is subjective, and although I agree with you that she didn't sound angry, I think she did come across as arrogant and smug. This sentiment was repeated, both in the /pol/ posts, and in the YouTube comments of various videos containing her question. You know her better, and so you know how to read her tone better, but it's important that she be aware that a nontrivial portion of her audience got a negative impression, and she should consider her delivery if she wishes to engage more people in discussion. The question itself, when presented in the vacuum of that YouTube video did seem ridiculous. (Hence the visceral response from the 4channers) But even in context, I think the question could have been asked much more clearly. To be blatantly honest, I'm still not sure that I actually get it. Based on the context of the question and the developers' responses, I'm guessing that when Emily said "port [Oculus' gender gap] into VR", she meant that a predominantly male community will result in VR standards and practices that cater to men more than women? (I'm not sure how this is possible, though. How can one design a system that caters to men and not women. It seems to me that every VR consideration is a human one, not a gendered one. I'd like to know more about her concerns.)
- I also felt that you were implying that the fact that no women were invited to speak was a result of sexism in the industry. I don't think that's the case: If 90% of VR developers are men, and only 1% of VR developers get chosen to speak, then the odds of each speaker being a woman are 0.1%. There'd have to be 100 speakers in a room of 1000 for there to even be a tenth of a chance of a single woman speaking. These numbers were invented as an example, but the concept they represent will remain true for any seriously gender-gapped community.
- I'm also curious about what you believe that Palmer can do about the number of male applicants to the Rift project being so much greater than the number of female applicants. From what I've seen of Oculus's campaigns, anyone interested can apply. Surely Palmer can't just create interest in target demographics to make the numbers more equal.
- You also implied that as many girls will want to purchase an Oculus as guys. Isn't this already invalidated by the fact that the predominate demographic of pre-orderers are male? You mentioned that the tone and marketing of the Oculus has drawn more male than female interest. I'm curious what, precisely, you're pointing out. I went to Oculus' website, and it seemed very product-focused. I didn't see any gender-focused elements.
- I agree that Carmack was being very dismissive. I think he had many of the concerns I listed above at the front of his mind, so he dismissed her concern entirely and moved on. I'll join you in saying that he should have been a bit more thoughtful, and at least more polite.
- That was a lot of criticism, and I want to make sure I'm clear that none of it is personal. I don't know Emily, but I'm sure she's a wonderful person. I looked at her research and it's really exciting! She is, of course, clearly intelligent to be working with people like Vi Hart on something so interesting and important. However, I'd like to be able to discuss her ideas with her, and really get an understanding for what she meant to accomplish with her question, because right now it didn't seem very constructive at all.