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Hackers & Hookers Party: Sexism in Tech or Piggybacking on It?

Illustration for article titled Hackers  Hookers Party: Sexism in Tech or Piggybacking on It?

"Hacker Hideout," a "member-based community center in San Francisco for thinkers and builders; tech lovers and business moguls; students and teachers alike" running in "stealth mode" that's so stealth that no one seems to have heard of it before, is throwing a Halloween party that they have named "Hackers & Hookers!" The party amenities include diverse entertainment features such as: "Beer. Dance Floor. Shot Bar. Food Truck. Girls." Which food truck? We may never know.

As expected, someone not of their target market saw the event and went "OMFG Sexist much?" Media coverage followed. A non-apology followed that. Then the "group's" Facebook page was taken offline. A site containing photos of the space "expired." But you know what stayed up? The event listing!

There's a lot of drama at the hackerspaces in SF and I suspected that perhaps this event was being thrown by one of the people who was recently a sexual harassment problem at one of the local spaces. I decided to investigate. It turned out to be much different than I expected. There are several articles about the event, with varying research backing them up. They missed something.

This is where things got really suspicious. Buzzfeed did a reverse image search and found an AirBNB listing for the building, which is advertised as an "Awesome Hideout" named "SF Hideout." It's posted by a guy named James. It's a 2-bedroom hackerspace/ coworking facility with no wifi. Exciting! Why "SF Hideout" and not "Hacker Hideout?" Oh, I'll get there. First let's talk about James.

Illustration for article titled Hackers  Hookers Party: Sexism in Tech or Piggybacking on It?

What the Buzzfeed author didn’t realize to do is to run a whois on Hacker Hideout's domain. It is registered to one James Blocho of the organization "Bloc Group." He has an address in Novato but a phone number with a NYC area code. (This is all public information. He didn't bother to obfuscate his contact info, which most computer savvy people would do prior to doing something controversial, but I'm generous so I redacted some. Basically, right now, we can call what looks like his cell number. Great hacker skillz, dudebro.

Things that make me thing that dudebro isn't quite tech savvy? GoDaddy as his registrar and a Hotmail account. Nice.

Now we have two leads: James Blocho of Novato and the Bloc Group. I did a search for James Blocho and found some listings like "Founder of non-existent startup" (paraphrased) on an angel site. Whatever. Apparently, he has a "review" in a court in Marin in November. I hope justice prevails! And I found a LinkedIn profile, which coincidentally has the same profile picture as the AirBNB listing! But resized really badly!

Illustration for article titled Hackers  Hookers Party: Sexism in Tech or Piggybacking on It?

How tech savvy is James? Take a look at the third floor kitchen! (Screenshot from AirBNB listing.) This is the point where I started to wonder if maybe the registration info for Hacker Hideout was recently changed to list James Blocho just to ruin his life but then I looked at the AirBNB reviews, which discussed James and predate this controversy. Sorry, James.

Illustration for article titled Hackers  Hookers Party: Sexism in Tech or Piggybacking on It?

I looked up the Bloc Group and there were several different companies in various parts of the world. One stood out though: The Bloc Group NYC. For one thing, it's in NYC, just like James's phone number. For another thing, it's a nightclub promotion group in multiple cities. Coincidence? I can't tell; I got no google results mentioning both James Blocho and the Bloc Group NYC. It's a weak link. WEAK!

Now let's go back to the problematic non-apology: "We would like to start by saying it was not our intention to offend or upset anyone, but it can be hard to please the whole world and the different cultures, values and beliefs that exists."

Classic non-apology. We can't please every culture, value, and belief, and we decided that the set of women and the set of men who dislike sexism who live in the actual city in which we do business don't really count. Our target audience is brogrammers and brogrammers only.

Official "OMG make the woman do it so we don’t look so terrible" spokeslady Alexandra Hunter says (to HuffPo) "[We] were not trying to be 'brogrammers.'" That would require at least a few technical skills. You're trying to cater to brogrammers. Totally different. I get you, woman. I truly do.

The non-apology continues (bad grammar is not mine, omg):

...It seems that some disgruntled residents who decided to take advantage of the office space provided, and asked to leave, and others posting who failed to disclosed they are competitors with their own work spaces around SF, are hoping to blow the event and its intentions out of proportion.

The posts made and deleted from such people mentioned above or their friends, so no we are no going leave up biased and false statements about our intentions or about our company.

We respect the views and concerns that have been put forth by the community and have taken down the event for review of content as we appreciate constructive feedback from our REAL members.


Regardless of whether the people in question "asked to leave" or "were asked to leave," they basically just included the entire incestuous tech community in SF in their set of people who can't be trusted to not blow this out of proportion.

Now let’s go back to the interview with the token spokeslady: "the company's employees are split fairly evenly male and female, she said."


From what I can tell, we have a "company" that has a work-live space in a bad part of SF that they are running as a combo workspace/boarding house that they call a hackerspace, for which we can track down exactly 3 people involved, including 1 woman. Well, I don't know if William (the guy who lets people in) isn't an employee or if they managed to grab a second woman, maybe as a room monitor or something, but sorry, Token Female, I'm not buying it. Apparently, the event was arranged without their permission by guests or wait, not, because they stand by the event now. People only know about it because super-spy infiltrators from their competitors snuck in and snitched! But we don't really know what their business model is, which is why their competitors could be anywhere.

You know, technically speaking, I do help run a competing workspace— for women so we don’t have to put up with bullshit like this. I'm sure that my actual motivation is to advertise how much better my space is even though it's not open to the public yet and OMFG CAN YOU PEOPLE NOT TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR BEHAVIOR? Ahem.

They say at the end of their non-apology that they were going to reevaluate the event based on the constructive feedback of their "real" members, who have never received any other mention and don't seem to exist, which resulted in a "we don't give a shit if it's sexist" verdict. OK dudebro and dudebro-enablerette.

Overall assessment: we have a guy who owns a building, probably purchased as an investment, who is now trying to get a return on that investment in any way possible. He is offering the building out in every trendy way he can. Now he is throwing a party with a food truck that he doesn't even name, with all you can drink beer and quite possibly paid female entertainment. There may or may not be a link to a "entertainment" company in NYC that looks a bit sketchy as well. Why is AirBNB listed as "SF Hideout" and the party is at "Hacker Hideout" at the same address? Rebranding. He is grasping at straws trying to make this building turn a profit. It's highly questionable if there are any actual companies involved. Alexandra Hunter, I hope you get some paychecks but as a woman in tech in SF, I should warn you, if even one paycheck is delayed, bail and call the Labor Board. James Blocho is "always up to something."

tl:dr: This isn’t sexism in tech because that would require that this be a legitimate tech company, which doesn't not seem to be the case.

Republished from www.petticoatdespot.com.

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