Why a code of conduct matters

Paul Irwin at Thinking Digital 2018

I was at the excellent thinking digital conference yesterday when Paul Irwin from trylife took to the stage. Ironically he followed a excellent talk from Tatiana Simonian who made a clear call for more diversity and inclusion within the digital sector.

Sat in the 2nd row with my Nikon camera I was enjoying the story of his life and trylife (I was planning on talking to him afterwards) but I was caught in a state of flux. The words (ones which were not swear words) coming out of his mouth and seemed mismatched with his tshirt or choice of tshirt.

From my view it was a young female adult with a breast on show. Ok from my point of view quite tasteless but certainly something I can’t really imagine someone wearing at a professional conference. And I say that haven given talks about dating, love, sex and hookup culture. I was always sure to make my slides acceptable for a general audience. There is no way, even if I owned such clothes would I wear them on stage. This is all before I even looked at the conference code of conduct.

The last few conferences I have spoke at, I had needed to sign or least explicitly agree to the code of conduct in some way. I hadn’t really considered exactly why the speakers would need to do this, as the speakers should be onboard with this anyway? But now I totally get it.

I hasn’t noticed Thayer had already left for reasons I was still juggling in my mind.

Things got really concrete in my mind as Paul started talking about how he was helping young girls in trylife. I kept thinking how are you helping by wearing that tshirt? Did you not look in the mirror and think? Don’t you see the paradox which you have created?

This is when I started looking at the hashtag #tdc18 to see what others thought. This is when I saw Thayer’s tweets then I saw Christian’s one.

I was struck because she was right and I was a fool to sit there wondering about this paradox which was opening up in front of me. Heck I even gave Paul a token finger clap (indicating how I was feeling at the time) while others cheered around me.

Some people will argue that Mr Bingo’s talk was even more sexualised and he did use the words “fuck it” but the context was very different. The actions, words and clothes of Mr Bingo were not mismatched, like Paul.

The message he delivered was truly soiled by his choice of t-shirt. The swearing I could put up with as it wasn’t aggressive (although also against the code of conduct) and but I couldn’t take him serious, and I know thats on me. But his choice of a sexualised t-shirt reflected badly on him and a great conference; and thats not good!

After the break Herb Kim apologized to everyone on stage and later on twitter.

Someone close to me described it something like this…

People actions should equal what they say, especially on a stage.

What happened next is difficult to say as I wasn’t witness to any of it. But I heard clearly aggressive threatening behaviour from one of Paul’s friends at Thayer when she approached him to talk through things. The best thing he could have done was be understanding about things but judging by his twitter this was the last thing on his mind…

Thayer you have my total support and I’m sorry I didn’t join you when you stood up and left.

Updated – 25th May

Herb the founder of Thinking Digital has issued a statement on his medium to what happened at Thinking Digital 2018. It includes a apology from Paul Irwin about what happened on the day.

Updated – 30th May

Great news.