!!Con (pronounced “bang bang con”) is a radically eclectic, radically affordable conference of ten-minute talks about the joy, excitement, and surprise of computing. I co-founded it with a group of friends in 2014, and we’ve been running it every May since then; in 2019 we started a sister event, !!Con West. We’ll accept proposals for ten-minute talks about any computing topic imaginable, as long as there’s at least one exclamation point in the title of the talk!
Back in December 2019, when we were organizing !!Con West and trying to line up sponsors, I was exchanging a lot of email with people at tech companies who we hoped would sponsor the conference.1 During one of those conversations, the person I was talking to made an offhand comment that struck a chord with me. They said that they were glad they could put lots of exclamation points in emails to us and not feel weird about it. I tweeted about it, then forgot about it for a while. Now, over a year later, we’re soliciting talk proposals (today’s the deadline! get your talk proposals in!) and looking for sponsors for !!Con 2021, and I was reminded of that conversation by a tweet from Amanda Visconti a couple of days ago:
We’ve been doing !!Con for eight years now, but in all that time, I’m not sure if we’ve ever actually explicitly articulated the idea that emphasizing joy, excitement, and exclamation points is feminist — but it is!
There’s this well-known phenomenon of women having to carefully manage how we use exclamation points, for instance, in writing we do in a professional context. I’m sure there’s actual scholarship on this, but all you have to do is search Twitter for something like “men exclamation points email” to find hundreds of anecdotes. Here are just a few:
Men: Try being more friendly in your emails.— Brooklyn Draisey (@BrooklynDraisey) June 2, 2019
Men: Your exclamation points are kind of unprofessional.
The number of exclamation points a woman puts in her emails must be carefully calibrated so she does not come off as an utter bitch to her reader(s). I am writing an email to two white men over the age of 70, so it! is! exclamation! points! every! where!!!!!!!— Sarah Courchesne (@SarahCourchesne) June 7, 2019
There are times I've edited my emails/messages to curb the extreme niceness and eagerness we're conditioned to demonstrate as women, but tbh men's emails are STILL just generally rude in comparison? Get over yourself, Peter, you anti-exclamation-point thief of joy.— Imaan Sheikh (@sheikhimaan) October 23, 2019
when will i stop adding exclamation points to my work emails so as not to be perceived as a nagging harridan by Men— Amanda Michelle (@amandamichl) September 11, 2017
I’ve decided to stop removing exclamation points from my emails. I like being enthusiastic and friendly and I shouldn’t feel the need to tone it down.— Béatrice Copps, MD (@drcopps) February 26, 2021
You’ll see women who are frustrated about having to add exclamation points, and women who are frustrated about having to remove them. The point is, there’s no winning: use exclamation points, and we’ll be seen as unprofessional; don’t use them, and we’ll be seen as cold.
!!Con subverts that. You have to use at least one exclamation point in your talk title at !!Con; it’s required. We take away
I could go on at length about all the reasons why I think !!Con is special, and why I think that should submit talk proposals — but you don’t have to take my word for it! Here’s what a few of last year’s speakers said about their !!Con and/or !!Con West experience:
!!Con (well, @bangbangconwest to be precise) was the first place I ever presented at, and I learned that they’re the best, most thoughtful, brilliant, caring, passionate group of hackers you’ll ever meet.— Tabitha Sable (@TabbySable) March 9, 2021
I recommend you submit to their CFP as highly as I possibly can. https://t.co/X1WWYBdMyZ
OMG WHY ISN'T EVERY CONFERENCE @bangbangcon?!?!?! I'll be attending this every year from now on.— .anthony (@antculver) May 10, 2020
If that sounds like something you want to be part of, please consider submitting a talk proposal to !!Con this year. We can’t wait to hear from you!