It's hard to single out the worst part of Titstare, a "joke" app presented Sunday at TechCrunch's Disrupt 2013 startup conference hackathon. Everything about it — the name, the concept, the presentation, the context — is just jaw-droppingly "no." And yet, it just happened on a stage, before an audience that, from the video, sounded at least somewhat receptive to it.
Titstare, from Australians Jethro Batts and David Boulton, was the first presentation of the day. As Boulton explains in the presentation, their product, which was meant as a joke, "is an app where you take photos of yourself, staring at tits." Here is that presentation:
It's as if the brogrammers seen here didn't know their audience wasn't all bros like them. There's a lot going on here, not the least of which is the broader context of discussions on the public alienation of women in tech. There's also the exasperating repetition of moments like this at big tech industry conferences. And here, broadly, are some notable parts of the whole debacle, ranked from least worst to worst:
The Least Worst:
- TechCrunch's apology for the presentation (as you'll note, the AOL-owned company had to apologize for two presentations on Sunday. We'll get to that):
We apologize for two inappropriate hackathon presentations earlier today. We will more carefully screen from now on.— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) September 8, 2013
The company later posted a much more thorough apology to its site, after removing the videos in question:
Normally our hackathons are a showcase for developers of all stripes to create and share something cool. But earlier today, the spirit of our event was marred by two misogynistic presentations. Sexism is a major problem in the tech industry, and we’ve worked hard to counteract it in our coverage and in our own hiring.
Today’s issues resulted from a failure to properly screen our hackathons for inappropriate content ahead of time and establish clear guidelines for these submissions. Trust us, that changed as soon as we saw what happened at our show. Every presentation is getting a thorough screening from this hackathon onward. Any type of sexism or other discriminatory and/or derogatory speech will not be allowed.
You expect more from us, and we expect more from ourselves. We are sorry.
- This response:
- The Titstare guys didn't see it coming. Just before their presentation, the duo, who also apparently run something that allows users to send "abusive" post cards in the mail, tweeted out a preview for their "product"
Our TechCrunch Hackathon entry. It's all south from here. pic.twitter.com/eDmpSQrUvS— Hate You Cards (@HateYouCards) September 8, 2013
For which they apologized as Twitter picked up on the presentation:
#titstare guys here, sorry if we offended some of you, very unintentional. Just a fun Aussie hack.— Hate You Cards (@HateYouCards) September 8, 2013
- Their sexist jokes were terrible. Underneath the trivialization of women's consent, the Just For Men approach to an audience that did, in fact, include women and the concept itself, the "Titstare" presentation was full of hacky humor. Their tagline? "It's the breast, most titillating fun you cans have."
- Adria Richards was apparently on stage during the demo.
Richards, in case you've forgotten, tweeted out a photo of two developers at the PyCon conference last March, after she apparently overheard them exchange sexist jokes.
- A legion of spambots is defending the product:
and targeting individual critics:
Achievement Unlocked: revenge-spammed by a network of Twitter bots. http://t.co/zgZSSlsKBu— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) September 9, 2013
There was more than one awful, bro-ish routine.
Via Valleywag, meet "Circle Shake." The app's presenter demonstrated his product by simulating masturbation on stage.
- A nine-year old girl, who presented at the hackathon, saw the whole thing.
And now everyone is going to talk about the "fun Aussie hack" instead of her awesome presentation.