Almost No One Sided with #GamerGate: A Research Paper on the Internet’s Reaction to Last Year’s Mob

one-against-many

Abstract

Lately I’ve been troubled by the fact that GamerGate’s supporters and I seem to have completely opposite perceptions about what most people think of their movement. I’ve had GamerGaters tell me that most people don’t equate GamerGate with online harassment and that most people (or at least, most gamers) are actually on GamerGate’s side. How is it that our perceptions of “what most people think” are so different? Could it be that we all live inside some social-media echo chamber that makes us oblivious to other points of view?

So I decided to start a little research project to settle the question: What did most people think about GamerGate?

The results of this project suggest that the vast majority of people do in fact equate GamerGate with online harassment, sexism, and/or misogyny. More people see GamerGate as a toxic mob rather than a legitimate movement worthy of respect.

The following paper goes into great detail about how I conducted this research and why I reached those conclusions. This paper also reads like a historical analysis of the previous year by uncovering patterns in the ways that different people reacted to GamerGate.

There’s a strong TRIGGER WARNING for anyone who was deeply affected by last year’s events and similar forms of harassment. Things get particularly heavy in the section titled Patterns in How People Reacted to GamerGate.

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Methodology
  3. The Data
    1. Link to the Full Data Set
  4. Observations & Analysis
    1. A Look at the Pro-GamerGate Sources
    2. Comparing Estimates of Population Size
    3. Patterns in How Publications Started Covering GamerGate
      1. Intel and its Advertisements
      2. What Exactly is All of this GamerGate Stuff?
      3. Harassment and Death Threats
    4. Patterns in How People Reacted to GamerGate
      1. Revulsion
      2. Fear and Terror
      3. Sadness, Anger, and Outrage
      4. Analyzing and Fighting GamerGate
      5. Mockery
    5. Why Does GamerGate Think Everyone Likes Them?
    6. Patterns in How People Remember GamerGate
  5. Conclusion, and GamerGate’s Legacy

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How to Get Better at Teaching Yourself New Skills

To be honest, I always cringe a little when I hear someone say that they “taught themselves” how to do something. While the phrase has become a shorthand for saying “I learned this outside of the traditional classroom setting,” I can’t but help be bothered by the sense of arrogance that comes with the fact that it also seems like a shorthand for “I learned this without a teacher.”

There is always a teacher involved. Whether you learned that skill by reading books, following online tutorials, watching instructional videos, or reading articles online, someone had to create that content for you to consume.

One of the most amazing things about working in tech is that people tend to spend a lot of time either learning from others or helping others understand complicated skills. Anyone can become a “teacher” just by writing a single article or by giving a talk at a conference, and this promotes a really cool continuous-learning culture within the community.

But it worries me just how little attention we sometimes give to the teachers who create the content that we have become so dependent on for our professional development. Software engineers tend to take the availability and quality of this educational content for granted. Many people in this field describe themselves as “self-taught” rather than attributing their expertise to the individuals who they learned from.

This is a problem, not necessarily because it’s rude or self-centered behavior, but because we’re creating misleading expectations among students and upcoming engineers. We often trivialize how easy it is to learn new technologies by saying “oh yeah just do a Google search!” We act as if just any Google result is good enough to learn from, as if the quality of the educational content has no effect on one’s ability to master the material. We give off the impression that mastery is entirely dependent on our own intelligence, and so when students struggle, rather than questioning the quality of the content that they’re trying to learn from, they instead question their own intelligence and start contemplating whether they should just give up.

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