Think before you Tweet: How a Dongle joke got 2 people fired

In one part of the world, a butterfly flaps it's wings. In another, there's a Tsunami. 

That's what happened this week, and two people lost their jobs because of it. 

When I lived in China, I saw plenty of over-the-top internet activism. They have a system there called "Human Flesh Search" or 人肉搜索; or Rénròu Sōusuǒ

This system is one of massive human collaboration where people get together to research, identify, and very often expose people [usually starting from photos]. Whilst the system has been used in China to expose corruption in the government ranks, hit and run drivers, and scientific fraud, like all vigilante approaches, it's imperfect. 

I was on TechCrunch today and read a mind-blowing article about how a storm in a social media teacup happened that led to two people getting fired and I wanted to summarize and share it here - although I do strongly recommend that you read the full article over here

The story goes like this:  

1. Beardy Guy in the 10th row of a programming conference in the US made a remark about a "big dongle*" and "forking someone's repo" which were interpreted by Media Lady, sat in front of him, to be deeply offensive. 

For those of you who don't know, this is a dongle. 

2. Media Lady is profoundly upset, take a picture of the guy who made the joke, and posts to Twitter. This public shaming goes somewhat viral. 

3. Beardy Guy is escorted out of the conference. 

4. Employer of the Beardy Guy, a company called Playhaven, fire him, and make a public announcement about why. 

5. Now unemployed Beardy Guy goes on a community/news website and make a sincere sounding public apology and explanation.

6. Media Lady goes public saying that she never meant for him to be fired. 

7. Media Lady experiences a blast of horrifying abuse on Twitter and Facebook that is too nasty to repeat here. 

8. Conference people who ran the event change their public code of conduct

9. The employer of Media Lady, Sendgrid, is threatened in public by a Hacker activist claiming to be connected with the Group "Anonymous" 

10. Hacker group actually did launch an attack on the company, and Sendgrid admit they suffered a wide-ranging DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service)

11. Hours later, the company announces in public that they have fired Media Lady. They provide an explanation here. 

Beardy Guy is software developer, a father of three children who now has to find a new job in an era of economic malaise. 

Media Lady is a successful journalist and developer evangelist, who has some impressive credentials, and is now jobless and more famous than she ever thought she'd be, also looking for a job in an economy which is hardly booming.  

There are some fascinating perspectives coming out of this, from all kinds of opinion leaders, legal experts and extremists on both side of the argument who want to use this incident to validate their own thinking or provoke conversation. I'm not here to opine, just to share the story if you hadn't heard it yet. 

None of this had to happen. 


Think Before You Tweet: Your public image can be tarnished in a day, forever, from just sending one tweet 

Watch What You Say in the Real World: With the ubiquity of smartphones and social media, you might say something in public that can be instantly published, that you might not like.

The thing here is - it's not about what you MEANT to MEAN but how you were INTERPRETED. And those two things can be quite different. Be careful out there! 

More from TalentMagic at the jump

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