Alleged Diversity Deception Dooms DevTernity 2023 Conference

‘Fake it till you make it’ should not mean creating imaginary guests to give the false impression of a diverse lineup of speakers.

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Editor

November 29, 2023

At a Glance

  • Software development conference allegedly caught faking profiles for event speakers who did not exist.

[UPDATED] As of November 29, the DevTernity website states the 2023 conference will not take place and further information will be provided to attendees.

At the time of recording this podcast on November 28, the website for DevTernity stood blank.

No message. No redirection. Just a blank page, which spoke to the illusory nature of some of the speakers supposedly booked to participate in the Latvian-based software development conference.

Previously slated to run online from December 7 to December 8, this year’s DevTernity conference has been canceled. A war of words is being waged on social media by the conference founder, Eduards Sizovs, who has decried the vitriol he has received for what he claims, “was a mistake, a bug that turned out to be a feature.”

And what was that mistake? Listing profiles of speakers scheduled to be part of the conference -- the problem was some of the speakers did not exist. Compounding the issue is a claim that the alleged charade was done to give a false impression of diversity and inclusivity at the conference.

Sizovs asserted that the fabricated profiles were autogenerated as placeholders for real speakers who had bowed out of the conference. He said he removed the problematic listing after it was called to his attention, but others did not buy such an explanation.

Related:Diversity’s Crucial Role in AI

According to Fortune, fake profiles of women speakers and attendees of the upcoming conference were discovered last week leading to the allegations that the profiles were generated to present the illusion of an inclusive, diverse lineup for the event.

This led to further scrutiny and additional claims that prior editions of DevTernity also included fake profiles, as well as profiles of speakers who canceled on the conference yet remained on the guest list.

In a post on the social media site formerly known as Twitter, Sizovs doubled down in his rebuttal of the accusations aimed at him: “The amount of hate and lynching I keep receiving is as if I would have scammed or killed someone. But I won’t defend myself because I don’t feel guilty. I did nothing terrible that I need to apologize for.”

He asserts DevTernity has been a diverse conference, but his detractors say the fake profiles may have been a way to draw in high-profile speakers, especially from big tech companies that actively seek inclusive events to attend and support.

In this episode of DOS Won’t Hunt, let’s talk about diversity in tech, or lack thereof, and why it is not worth faking efforts to be more inclusive.

About the Author(s)

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth

Senior Editor

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth covers tech policy, including ethics, privacy, legislation, and risk; fintech; code strategy; and cloud & edge computing for InformationWeek. He has been a journalist for more than 25 years, reporting on business and technology first in New Jersey, then covering the New York tech startup community, and later as a freelancer for such outlets as TheStreet, Investopedia, and Street Fight. Follow him on Twitter: @jpruth.

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