GitHub's scandalized ex-CEO returns with Chatterbug

GitHub's scandalized ex-CEO returns with Chatterbug
From TechCrunch - October 21, 2017

Translation earbuds might eliminate some utilitarian reasons to know a language, but if you want to understand jokes, read poetry, or fall in love in a foreign tongue, youll have to actually learn it. Unfortunately, products like Rosetta Stone leave people feeling burned after claiming the process should be easy while never helping you practice talking with a real native speaker. You know, the skill you actually want. Just memorizing vocabulary doesnt make you fluent.

So after teaching millions of people to code better, a team of former GitHub co-founders and executives this week launched Chatterbug to combine the best of online and face-to-face foreign language learning. Starting with German, Chatterbug uses a homegrown video chat alternative to Skype that lets you simultaneously talk, type, read, and screenshare your way to becoming conversational.

But one of the co-founders past may cast a shadow over Chatterbug. Tom Preston-Werner resigned from his role as CEO and co-founder of GitHub following an investigation into allegations of harassment and intimidation of a female employee by he and his wife Theresa Preston-Werner.

GitHub employee Julie Horvath told TechCrunch that Theresa had bullied her about not writing negatively about the company, said she could read employees private chats and had spies at the startup, and verbally bullied her.

While an independent investigation claimed to have found no evidence of illegal behavior or gender-based harassment on Toms part, it did conclude that the former CEO showed mistakes and errors of judgment and insensitivity to the impact of his spouses presence in the workplace and failure to enforce an agreement that his spouse should not work in the office.

We asked Tom how hes building Chatterbug differently this time around. With some hindsight, the organic management structures at GitHub were a double edged sword. It unleashed a lot of creativity, but was fragile in handling conflict says Preston-Werner. From the very beginning of Chatterbug Ive had serious conversations with the other founders on how to use those experiences to create a more robust channel of communications.

Former GitHub head of comms and Chatterbug co-founder Liz Clinkenbeard tells TechCrunch In retrospect, I think one of the major challenges at GitHub back then was that the companys fairly flat structure sometimes made it difficult to know who to talk to about problems, and how to resolve them before they escalated. With Chatterbug, she says the team has been very open and deliberate about wanting to foster a safe and supportive work environment.

Its possible that Toms inclusion on the team could make it tougher for Chatterbug to hire talent, especially women. Though at least it seems the company is taking office demeanor and harassment issues seriously as it grows.

Ive always tried my best to empower my teammates and create a work environment that every employee will love. I havent been perfect at that endeavor in the past admits Preston-Werner. But Ive learned much from those experiences and intend to use that knowledge to ensure that Chatterbug is a safe, welcoming, and productive place to work for women and other folks traditionally underrepresented in the tech industry.

Cutting Skype Out Of Language Learning

Scott Chacon discovered what was broken about the current crop of language learning tools when he tried to pick up French via Duolingo and Japanese through Skype chats before spending time in the two countries. I realized there was a gap between the digital apps that are super flexible but arent very effective at teaching conversation with real people, and the tutoring systems or in-person schools that were inflexible and super difficult to do Chacon tells TechCrunch.

Turning Anyone Into A Teacher


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