John A De Goes bio photo

John A De Goes

Twitter LinkedIn Github

Supporting Martin Odersky & Other Scala OSS Developers

I’m a technologist and a maker. I love to build. I am not interested in corporate politics or virtue signaling.

More than that, I believe most drama in tech is rooted in professional jealousy and personal insecurity.

I have no desire to participate in such drama. I’d rather focus on creating beautiful and amazing technology that changes the world for the better, and empowering others to do the same.

Yet, there comes a point when even pure technologists such as myself need to wade through the muck long enough to support our colleagues and peers.

For me, that time is now.

Travis Brown

An ex-Scala developer by the name of Travis Brown has been obsessed with me since 2016, outraged that LambdaConf did not cave to the demands of his own organization, TypeLevel.

As organizer of LambdaConf, I made a decision to not override the vote of our minority speakers on whether a developer named Curtis Yarvin could speak about Urbit (his open source project), despite Yarvin’s alternate life as a pseudonymous neoreactionary political blogger. His proposal had previously been accepted by the double-blind committee based on merit, without my input.

Now, reasonable people can and do disagree with my decision, and I respect their perspectives, even when I do not always agree with them. I have learned a lot from the ordeal, and these days, with events like Functional Scala, I try to curate invitations to ensure these professional events remain focused solely on technology and not political drama.

That said, what could have been a one-time statement from Travis Brown became a never-ending and escalating dark obsession. With each new talk I gave in the Scala community, with each person I mentored, and with each open source library I contributed to, Travis Brown’s rage grew.

Over the course of nearly half a decade, this blind rage has crossed numerous ethical, professional, and even legal lines, including:

  • Cyberstalking. Travis Brown meticulously tracks all my public posts, likes, and shares across all social media platforms (Github, Twitter, etc.), archives them permanently (without my consent, and against the terms of service of these organizations, and against data protection laws in some countries), and then posts them online with his own grotesque and twisted interpretations.
  • Career Sabotage. Travis Brown attempted to cancel my business partnerships, and tried to bully technology events to stop inviting me to give talks. Travis Brown was unsuccessful in these attempts, except for SkillsMatter, which canceled my joint keynote with Wiem Zine Elabidine, but soon imploded after a torrent of backlash against their decision.
  • Online Harassment. Travis Brown directly and specifically targets me in numerous online posts, usually in an inflammatory, aggressive, and sometimes verbally abusive fashion, which results in his followers attacking me. This behavior is sometimes called “trolling”, but make no mistake, Travis Brown’s “trolling” is a form of online harassment.
  • Defamation. Travis Brown has consistently and repeatedly made false statements about me with the intent to damage my reputation. I am a liberal, with a strong track record of supporting LGBT+ rights, working against prejudice, and donating significant time and money to help disadvantaged individuals break into tech. I have succeeded in creating one of the most diverse open source communities in the Scala community, and I have no tolerance for prejudiced behavior in spaces I managed. Despite this, Travis Brown consistently paints me as an “alt-right supporter”, or worse.

None of this behavior is ever remotely acceptable. In fact, not only is it unacceptable, but it should always be condemned, in the strongest possible terms.

Yet, due to my reluctance to wade into drama, and due to my desire to remain completely focused on technology, I have largely ignored this abusive behavior from Travis Brown.

Indeed, I would have continued to ignore his behavior indefinitely.

As a leader in open source and the CEO of a technology company, I expect to be criticized for decisions that I make, and it is my responsibility to hear that criticism. Given my visibility, I expect not only to be criticized, but to be insulted, harassed, stalked, and even defamed.

However, even I have my limits, and two weeks ago, when Travis Brown started attacking Martin Odersky and personal friends of mine, it crossed a line.

Now is the time for me to speak up. Not in my own defense, but in defense of others.

Martin Odersky

Creator of the Scala programming language, Martin Odersky is a visionary who foresaw the rise of functional programming at a time when many of us were too obsessed with object-oriented programming to care what a ‘lambda’ was.

Odersky sought to create a language that would combine the large-scale modularity of object-oriented programming with the power and elegance of functional programming. With Scala, he has succeeded.

Odersky does not wade into open source wars (for example, which JSON library is better). Nor does he take sides in which style of Scala is better (although he has his own opinions). Rather, he characterizes the Scala community as a “big tent”, with room to hold everyone, even if they don’t always agree or get along with each other.

Odersky directs the evolution of the Scala programming language, and his decisions are sometimes heavily criticized. Yet, like any good leader, Odersky does not take criticism of Scala personally. Instead, he listens to criticism and often uses the feedback to improve the language.

Indeed, even when people have crossed a line on the Scala Contributors forum, and personally attacked Odersky, I have witnessed him be the “bigger person” and not retaliate.

This professional behavior stands in stark contrast to the behavior of Travis Brown.

Travis Brown first personally insulted Odersky when Odersky indicated that the Scala programming language website would freely link to the event Functional Scala 2019, without regard for Travis Brown’s personal vendetta.

Yet, when Odersky commented on TypeLevel’s recent behavior, with a sentiment shared by many in the Scala community, Travis Brown went on a rampage and started viciously attacking Odersky.

The personal attacks did not stop with Odersky.

Scala OSS Developers

Travis Brown expanded his targets to include a Muslim woman of color from Africa and an Orthodox Jew, both of whom contribute to ZIO, and both of whom happen to be my personal friends.

In a familiar pattern of online abuse, Travis Brown recovered deleted tweets from these people, archived them permanently without their consent, and started posting this material publicly, with grotesque and twisted interpretations.

In a separate incident, Travis Brown even went so far as to try to correlate a developer’s pseudonymous identity across different social media platforms and dox them.

All of this behavior is in clear violation of the Scala Code of Conduct, which most events and open source projects in the Scala community have adopted. One developer reported these violations to the TypeLevel moderators, who then deleted the report at the request of Travis Brown.

Travis Brown’s abusive behavior resulted in extreme psychological distress for these individuals. The woman I mentioned was afraid for her own physical safety as she walked the street of Berlin, where Travis Brown lives.

During the worst of these attacks, I feared someone might end up dead because of Travis Brown.

Taking a Stand

I am not responsible for the destructive behavior of Travis Brown. He alone is culpable for both his actions, and the consequences of his actions.

Nonetheless, in the past few days, I have wondered if my reluctance to speak up has contributed to the current environment, in which Travis Brown feels entitled to engage in this reprehensible behavior without fear of criticism or consequences.

Now, after being pushed too far, I believe it is time for me to take a stand.

Let me be as clear as I can possibly be:

  • Travis Brown’s online abuse, including his history of cyberstalking, online harassment, doxing, endorsement of violence, verbal abuse, and defamation, is completely unacceptable, and I condemn this behavior in the strongest possible terms.
  • Travis Brown’s attacks on Martin Odersky and other Scala open source developers are also unacceptable and without merit, and I condemn them unreservedly.
  • Encouraging, supporting, or enabling Travis Brown’s abusive behavior is also completely unacceptable, and I condemn it without hestitation.
  • Being abusive to Travis Brown, or engaging in the same behavior that he engages in, is also completely unacceptable, and I condemn it just as strongly.

I honestly hope that I never have to wade into this muck again.

I don’t enjoy it. I want to go back to creating beautiful and amazing technology that changes the world for the better, and empowering others to do the same.

But make no mistake about it: if anyone goes beyond just attacking me, to attacking the broader community, then I will take a stand, and I will not back down.