Cookie of the week: Jake Boxer and Github

We’ve been critical of Github on this blog before. And the problems we talked about before — specifically, sexual harassment and structurelessness — haven’t necessarily been resolved.

Nonetheless, I want to recognize an individual engineer at Github for our occasional “cookie of the week” feature, Jake Boxer.

Harassers who are part of the ongoing Gamergate coordinated harassment campaign created a repository on Github to coordinate their harassment efforts, and when @nexxylove reported this, Jake responded promptly by removing the repository.

I’m giving a little piece of the cookie to Jake’s employer, as well. Jake did not feel that he had to consult their legal team or wait a week for a response, or start a lengthy internal discussion about whether the repository was appropriate. He did not show any fear that if he removed the repository promptly, he would be criticized for supposedly targeting a group to marginalize their free speech. I can infer from this that Github, whatever its flaws (and there are many), is a company that will support an employee acting to stop the abuse of their resources for a purpose that doesn’t further the interests of the company.

Jake recognized that he would be able to do what he did while facing relatively few consequences, and in light of that, chose to use his privileged position for good:

Have a cookie, Jake!

Edited to add, November 10, 2014: It has come to my attention that Github doesn’t deserve even the qualified praise that I gave them in this article, as per a comment on my blog from Joe Wreschnig, who summarizes the chain of events as “[Github’s] reporting process is an ineffective black hole and they were aware their service was being used to facilitate abuse for a full month before a single employee bothered to do anything.” Jake Boxer gets all the credit for this one.

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About Tim Chevalier

Tim has written Haskell code on the job, worked on the Rust programming language at Mozilla, and been a graduate student in computer science at Portland State University and at UC Berkeley. He is currently a Senior Member of Technical Staff at Heroku, whose opinions his writing does not represent. He likes cats and bikes. His personal blog is at http://tim.dreamwidth.org/