Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kathryn Finney, A Less Entertaining, Black Shanley Kane

I've previously bagged on Internet hysteric Shanley Kane for her raging paranoia and entitlement, her forays into self-parody, and her editorial rejection of the very notion of competence,  but a new customer recently arrived to add to the list of individuals who believe Everything Is Discrimination, to wit, Kathryn Finney. Finney penned her tale of woe at the aptly-named Medium, as in the Ernie Kovacs sense of neither rare nor well done. Normally, I would let such stuff pass, save for the fact that she lays a broadside at a libertarianism she neither understands nor has interest in; it apparently underpins all her failures, though, and so we are left to contend with her flabby self-absorption:
The idea of forced inclusion is one that goes against the very Libertarian foundations of tech. The freedom to run your life/company as you wish without outside interference is a sacred right in this community. There are venture capitalists, who pride themselves on being free range and not monitoring their investments.

The idea that an outside group, and for the most part women, Latinos, Blacks are outsiders in tech, would exert power, even force, technologists to be more inclusive, is an idea that sends tremors down the objectivist spines of the greater tech community.

The concept of Objectivism  — the focus on individual rights, laissez-faire capitalism, and “facts” — is one that is often hard for outsiders to understand. I didn’t fully understand the philosophy and it’s impact on tech, until I read folks like Ayn Rand and David Boaz.
(Duly noted: the whiny rel="nofollow" in the anchor tag to freaking Wikipedia articles about Objectivism and Ayn Rand, as if she couldn't stand having anyone even learn about these icky things because her linking to them might increase their Google ranking. I excised it in the quoted text above, but it was present in the original. SRSLY.)
Tech is being asked to use their resources to help the runner in back get to the starting line. To be honest, most people in tech are ok with helping as long as they’re allowed to choose when/how/who to help. I’m okay with this, as long as you didn’t use public resources (roads, fire departments, or the internet itself) or take money from a VC firm that has a pension fund as a limited partner, to build you [sic] company.
So, let's decode this nonsense.
  • "Tech" = anyone with a company I feel like telling how it should be run, regardless of the fact that I have no investment of any kind whatsoever in it.
  • "Runner" = anyone who claims to have certain skills, regardless of applicability or actual competence.
 She quickly pulls out the old MUH ROADS canard —

which is pretty much a validation of the "you didn't build that" nonsense that got Obama into so much trouble back in the 2012 election cycle (though mainly with people who weren't going to vote for him anyway). The thinking seems to go, if you live in a society with roads and police, I get to tell you how to run your company. This couldn't be funnier, more ironic, or more deeply indicative of how These People Think; after all, she confesses how she was "DONE. WITH. TECH." in March of this year, thus putting to an end her own entrepreneurial efforts. It's not at all clear what her company digitalundivided does. Aside from begging for money from like-minded busybodies, providing value to customers does not appear to be one of those things. It seems a common failing, one which hyperbolic firebrand Nero Yiannanopoulos recently bagged on:
4. There Is No Evidence That ‘Diversity’ Improves Company Performance
Seriously: I am calling for someone to do a large-scale study of the diversity efforts of companies who have fallen for this nonsense so that someone, somewhere can show me citable evidence that this does anything for a company other than provide good PR.

Maybe there are some serious figures out there. I’m sure someone with blue armpit hair is brandishing them as we speak. But until a serious, nationwide study emerges that has gone through the (look away now, feminists) peer review process, this fundamental assumption of the women in tech movement remains questionable at best.

Sorry to be blunt. But a company’s obligations are to its shareholders, not Jezebel bloggers’ feelings. So it’s worth finding out what difference a woman’s presence in the workplace actually makes.
Is there some value in having mascots? That's roughly the argument Finney and her cohorts make. Yet despite the fact that there are encouraging signs regarding getting more women involved in programming and STEM fields more broadly, for many of the hard sciences (physics, math and statistics) women asymptotically approach parity with men yet never quite reach it — which suggests women are not intrinsically drawn to these subjects. Until Finney can come up with some benefit for the companies she harangues, she's yowping into the wind.

Afterword: It's probably worth mentioning that Finney's company appears to be about flogging Social Justice and not actually writing code, i.e. there is no mention of appropriate skill sets, delivered applications or websites, etc. It's all about her ego.

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