Ela Darling is the smartest porn star I know.
Well, actually, she's the only porn star I know personally, but that doesn't mean she isn't really damn smart. I met Ela in college, where we both worked as Resident Advisors. After earning her Masters in Library Science and working as the associate director of a city library for a while, Ela's modeling career opened up opportunites to feature in some pornography, and she's pursued that as her full time career, quite successfully, since then.
It's fun to follow Ela on twitter (Warning: boobs), not only because she's an incredibly kind and clever person, but also because she writes frankly and insightfully about the adult film industry as a profession. She's the Secretary of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, and has appeared in the mainstream press advocating safety and sanity in how pornographic films and produced and regulated. She talks about mundane scheduling mishaps, marketing strategies, and even web design snafus. Follow for her a while and you'll learn that like most careers that seem exotic or romantic or glamorous, porn is, to those who do it, a job.
It's through following Ela on twitter that I got to witness two different communities handle recent pieces of monumentally bad news:
On August 28, 2014 a pornographic actor in Los Angeles tested positive for HIV.
On September 24, 2014, the "Shellshock" vulnerability was discovered in the bash shell that meant many thousands of linux servers were vulnerable to remote code execution over the internet.
Obviously the porn community and the linux community are very different from one another - aside from the nature of the work, there are a lot fewer pronographic actors than there are sysadmins, and porn production is centered in a few major cities instead of being spread out over the globe - but both of these events represent an "Oh Shit" moment for their respective communities, inspiring the same feelings of nervousness, frustration, and dread. It's useful to see how a community very different from ours processes some of the same emotions and handles something that threatens the lives/livelihoods of its members.
The HIV test turned out to be a false positive, but in the days before that was confirmed, every pornographic actor in LA had to reckon with the chance that they had been directly exposed to HIV. They also had to confront what could have been a weeks-long moratorium on porn production, meaning lost wages and all the attendant life stress. I was heartened, however, to see the APAC release a lovely statement of solidarity to urge calm and caring amongst performers.
Seriously, go read that statement. Notice the compelling language urging performers to band together and take care of one another. Notice the clear call to action "asking all performers to refrain from exchanging body fluids during this moratorium". Notice how the last few paragraphs show that the porn industry, often treated as the scuzzy back-alley of society, can be a source of "reason and stability about sexual health". It's great in terms of PR and it's even better in terms of human decency.
Now compare and contrast that with one of the central sources of information about Shellshock, the Debian Security Page. Everything you need to know about this vulnerability is on there, somewhere, but the two incredibly important bash disclosures are presented in a long list of links on the same level as much more mundane security vulnerabilities. The instructions presented work well enough for those running the latest version of Debian, but people running older versions need to apply patches themselves or google around for how to enable special repositories. Nowhere is it presented in clear language how severe this issue potentially is and how important it is that it be patched as soon as possible.
The Debian page and all the other official sources of information are also missing the humanity that is present in the APAC moratorium message. Nobody is going to contract a deadly disease from Shellshock, but identities will be stolen, jobs will be endangered, and thousands of dollars in business value will disappear into thin air. Engineers will spend many stressful hours on nights and weekends assessing whether or not their systems were compromised and mitigating the damage if they were. The technical details are obviously very important for fixing this situation, but I think we could also use some clearly-worded instructions on what to do and a little empathy for each other. I've seen plenty of engineers trying to help each other, but also far more political points scoring and ur doin it wrong than I'd like. It's times like these that we need to watch out for each other and show the best in ourselves.
Devs and Sysadmins, if you're up late over the next few days fixing this thing, then I feel for you. Good luck.