Many years ago, a woman came up to me at a conference and said something to the effect of:
I really appreciate what you do; but, I think you're a terrible person.
At the time, I was amused by this sentiment. I've been writing on this blog for about 15-years now; and, in the early days, I thought it was cool to be "edgy". And so, I created code samples that referenced women's physical characteristics and hot-or-not style rating systems and I included images of very questionable taste in my demos.
I was young; and, I was wildly in love with programming; and, I was just having fun with it all. But, the truth is, I was making shitty choices.
My intent was to get a rise out of people. But, I never sought to offend them. And, when I did see people get offended, I was fascinated by it. In reality, I'm a shy, introverted person who's in bed by 10pm and spends his free time writing poems about ColdFusion and jQuery.
The problem was, I couldn't create separation in my mind between the person I thought I was and the public persona I was creating. So, when people called me out as being gross or sexist or diminishing, I kept thinking, "But, if you only met me, you'd see!"
Really, what I couldn't understand at the time was just how privileged my life had been. Coming from an upper-class suburban family, I'd never had to give a moment's thought to how my race or my gender or my sexuality affected my path through this world. And so, that was the lens though which I saw - or, more appropriately, didn't see - people's reactions.
Over time, being edgy lost its appeal. And, I found that writing about code was sufficiently thrilling on its own merits. And so, my life went on and I didn't think much about the early days on this blog.
Then, last weekend, I decided to convert all of my articles over to Markdown. To do this, I had to wade through a lot of inconsistent formatting and figure out how to normalize everything into a finite set of Markdown artifacts. In this process, I was suddenly brought face-to-face with my old posts.
And, seeing them again after all these years, it made me feel sick to my stomach.
Now, at almost 40, I look back at some of the things I wrote and I feel disgusted. And heart-broken. And ashamed.
And so, this past week, I finally did something that I should have done years ago: I searched through my old articles and tried to find and remove the ones that I thought could be offensive. In the end, I removed about 250 articles from this site.
I am sorry it has taken me this long.
I am sorry to the people that I've offended.
And, I am sorry to people who weren't offended, but who may have seen my writing as re-enforcement that such writing exhibited "acceptable" behavior. As a man who participates in public dialog, I have a responsibility to lead by example; and, in that regard, I have been a failure.
I know that I don't have the right words here. And I'm sure that I've failed to articulate the shame that I feel. But, please know, that as a man, I want to and can be better than I have been. And, I hope that this residue of regret helps guide me on my path forward.
Many years ago, Jack Welde sat me down in a bar and said, "You've had your fun; but, it's time to grow up." I appreciate his guidance. I know it's not an easy thing to call people out on their B.S.; and, I am sure it took me a while to truly take his statement to heart; but, I am thankful for his help in getting me on the right track.
This was the first time I had personally seen anyone do this in the programming community and I found it both humbling and inspirational. His talk made me want to be a better person. Kyle has been a shining example of everything you can do right in a community.