The conference in question eventually changed their policy. It had required attendees to wear non-removable wristbands at all times during the conference. Including outside the conference grounds and hours.
The attendee makes various points:
I have a number of concerns about this.
Firstly, these requirements were not disclosed before I purchased my ticket and arranged my travel and lodging, and are still not available to anyone who has not purchased a ticket. I call upon the conference organizers to make these requirements public, link to them in the ticket purchase process, and acknowledge and apologize for the poor communication around these unusual requirements.
Thirdly, the prohibition on removing the wristband in between conference days is an intrusion on the bodily autonomy of attendees that is unacceptable in a professional environment. What any of us choose to wear or not wear outside of a conference - and the reasons behind those choices - are none of the conference’s business. By imposing this requirement, people who have sensitive skin, sleep issues, or any other concerns (medical or personal) are now placed in the position of either having to deal with the consequences of wearing a wristband for the duration of the conference, paying additional money to replace the wristband each day, or speaking up about these (private) concerns publicly. A conference that is so focused on inclusivity should not place an additional burden on people with such issues. I call upon the conference organizers to publicly reverse this policy: allow people to take off the wristband, wear it on a lanyard, and develop some inclusive alternative to gatekeep premium areas, such as verifying IDs when scanning loose wristbands.
Fourthly, wearing conference swag outside of a conference makes attendees less safe, as it is “a marker that says ‘TOURIST’ in an unfamiliar city”. Again, while this affects everyone, I suspect that it doesn’t affect everyone equally; those who already feel the need to be more conscious of safety are likely to feel even less safe, and those who tend not to worry about their safety are probably not even going to realize that they are at increased risk. And, again, I call on the conference organizers to reverse the continuous wear policy.
Fifthly, the position of the organizers that I’ve heard most recently (as stated in Slack on August 5th) is to just wear it loose if you’re concerned and that it’ll probably be okay. As with some of the previous concerns, this kind of policy of selective enforcement most impacts the people who should least have to bear it; in this case, people who have historically been excluded from tech. A security guard is more likely to hassle someone who doesn’t “look like they belong”, and less likely to hassle someone who does. Again, I call upon the conference organizers, who I believe want to host a diverse and inclusive conference, to plainly state that conference passes do not have to be worn on the wrist, and that they have instructed security not to intervene based on where the conference pass is on a person’s body - only that they have one.
Finally, if I understand correctly, these wristbands replace conference badges, rather than augment them. That means that attendees won’t be able to see each others’ names, what pronouns they prefer, who is a speaker, who is hiring, who is looking for a job, or any of the other tags people can add to badges. I’ll be wearing a nametag, and I hope others will, as well. I hope the conference organizers will provide stickers and markers.
On a personal note, all of this has taken time and energy that I’d rather not have spent. I attended the first Abstractions in 2016, and it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to: they were able to get a great set of speakers, they were inclusive in a variety of ways, and I’d been looking forward to the next Abstractions ever since. Now, my excitement for the conference has been turned into a sort of low-level dread; I expect I will have to navigate security guards and privacy issues and whatever fallout there might be from talking about this publicly, and I’m not looking forward to any of that.
I’ll be honest, I would be enraged.
Oh, and here’s from the conf’s website:
A Cross-Discipline Software Conference for Everyone
If you want to attend an event where you can learn from a wide variety of perspectives, then our conference is for you. Abstractions is a multi-disciplinary conference that brings together everyone involved in modern software development to teach, learn, and connect. With three full days of amazing content from a huge list of diverse speakers, we hope you’ll join us and designers, developers, DevOps, managers, quality assurance, support, and community leaders from around the world.
Ewwwwww! Think about what the precedent would be had that collection of people been subjected and didn’t fight back?