Bryan Cantrill has been accused of verbal abuse by at least seven people

It sounds like Bryan Cantrill is thinking about organizing another computer conference. When he did that in 2016, I wrote a blog post about why I wouldn’t attend, because, based on my experience as Bryan’s former co-worker, I believed that Bryan Cantrill would probably say cruel and humiliating things to people who attended.

I understand that some people still supported Bryan and his conference after they read that post. After all, Bryan is so intelligent and funny and accomplished, and it’s a “he said, she said” situation, and if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen, etc. etc.

What’s changed since then? Well, at least six other people spoke up publicly about their own experiences with Bryan, many of which seem worse than mine. Then #metoo happened and we learned how many people a powerful person can abuse before any of their victims speak up, and why they stay quiet: worry about their careers being destroyed, being bankrupted by a lawsuit, or being called a liar and worse. If you’re still supporting Bryan, I invite you to read this story about Jeffrey Tambor verbally abusing Jessica Walter on the set of Arrested Development, and re-examine why you are supporting someone who has been verbally abusive to so many people.

Here are six short quotes from other people speaking about their experiences with Bryan Cantrill:

Having been a Joyent ‘customer’ and working to porting an application to run on SmartOS was like being a personal punching bag for Bryan.”

I worked at Joyent from 2010 through 2013. Valerie’s experience comports with my own. This warning is brave and wise.”

All that you say is true, and if anything, toned down from reality. Bryan is a truly horrible human being.”

I know for sure Bryan’s behavior prevented or at the very least delayed other developers from reaching their potential in the kernel group. Unfortunately the lack of moral and ethical leadership in Solaris allowed this to go on for far too long.”

Sun was such a toxic environment for so many people and it is very brave of you to share your experience. After six years in this oppressive environment, my confidence was all but destroyed.”

Having known Bryan from the days of being a junior engineer…he has always been a narcissistic f_ck that proudly leaves a wake of destruction rising up on the carcasses of his perceived foes (real and imagined). His brilliance comes at too high of a cost.”

This is what six people are willing to say publicly about how Bryan treated them. If you think that isn’t a lot, please take the time to read more about #metoo and consider how Bryan’s position of power would discourage people from coming forward with their stories of verbal abuse. If you do believe that Bryan has abused these people, consider what message you are sending to others by continuing to follow him on social media or otherwise validating his behavior.

If you have been abused by Bryan, I have a request: please do not contact me to tell me your story privately, unless you want help making your story public in some way. I’m exhausted and it doesn’t do any good to tell me—I’m already convinced he’s awful. Here’s what I can say: There are dozens of you, and you have remarkably similar stories.

I’ll be heavily moderating comments on this post and in particular won’t approve anything criticizing victims of abuse for speaking up. If your comment gets stuck in the spam filter, please email me at and I’ll post it for you.

2 thoughts on “Bryan Cantrill has been accused of verbal abuse by at least seven people

  1. It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that he is verbally abusive, given the rants he likes to make in his talks. Nor that he says cruel and humiliating things about people. At Surge 2013, he talked on stage about the size of his manager’s ass, how he had made a funny nickname about the ass, and even imitated his manager doing dumb things. People laughed, but it was also cruel and humiliating. Just one example, but one that’s on youtube somewhere.

  2. Let’s not forget the time he used his public platform as CTO of Joyent to make attacks on a Dutch developer for the crime of having a gendered pronoun in a comment deep inside C code. Brian went on and on about hot that developer should feel bad for his actions, called for him to be fired, and said that the developer’s actions create an environment where people aren’t comfortable contributing.

    Brian used the official company blog of the company that owns the copyright to node.js attacked a node core developer for not being empathetic enough.

    The irony is rough.


    A: While carefully reading the source code to a C library that provides I/O primitives to node.js, you come across a comment that uses “he” instead of “they”. For someone who’s been constantly hurt by sexism in the tech industry might feel a little sting as this is one of a million cuts.

    B: You’re considering contributing to node.js and see an internet hate mob led by Brian attack a core developer for not sharing radical San Francisco political views. You see vitriol and personal attacks spewed in his direction and see him stop contributing publicly for a few years to have personal safety. For someone who doesn’t share these political views, this is extremely chilling and terrifying.

    Which is more likely to make someone feel uncomfortable?

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