Dear JavaScript,
James Kyle

As a developer who has went from a public facing contributor/maintainer now to an anonymous one, I can say people’s emotions are always a factor, and I was sick of my name being attached to a community that I would not hang out in if it were a real place. I’ve been to the events, the conferences, I’ve mingled, and I’ve spoken. All in all, the in-person version of this community is not much better than the online one. The most important contribution to my slow separation from this community is the fact that maintainers are just as guilty as their critics. For example, consider all the times you’ve written a thorough, thoughtful, and well written critique on things you would like to see some action on, or an opportunity to take some action on them. If you are not living in a fantasy land with rainbows and unicorns, you will know that many of these critiques are tossed aside, with the rest of the angry hurtful trash. Maintainers are fatigued not from the type of criticism, but criticism itself, which basically means I agree with some of this article, but mostly I do not like how you hold OSS maintainers to the like of saints in their own right, and not one of them would deserve anger. I agree a lot of the anger is blind, but a lot of it is not.

Something else about me is that I have a background in visual art and design. This is a field built around receiving, providing, and even asking for criticism. This includes feedback that can be constructive and complimentary, and some that can be course and dismissive. Notice I didn’t say “hurtful”. This is because putting your most intimate thoughts, ideas, and feelings onto a canvas for all those to see, teaches you quickly how to not be hurt in this way.

People in the developer community, with a background in design or something similar, know how to handle themselves. I’ve probably met them, criticized and contributed to their projects. Those who do not have a similar background such as this, are learning the hard way, that criticism can hurt if you let it, and it will always be a part of putting yourself out there. Always.

The most important thing I can teach my fellow computer science major friends and acquaintances, from my design experience, is that all criticism is important, but you have to earn your right to give negative feedback without being apologetic. Status might mean something to you, maybe not, maybe it’s friendship, maybe it’s influence. Regardless, negative feedback is reserved to those who have earned the respect of those receiving it. That’s right, that means there is an accepted forum for this type of feedback that has a tone that is almost trying to be hurtful, but things should only “hurt” in certain contexts. Your best friend telling you that “you suck”, might really hurt, or maybe it’s just your type of relationship. Tens of thousands of strangers ranting on how you suck should not be hurtful, but they do represent something that needs to be addressed. Maintainers need to understand that everyone has a different voice and tone, so it’s important to take that into consideration before letting things get to you. By that I mean, don’t dwell on one stranger’s comment more than another. You should still be able to listen to all of them without being hurt. The context for a large group of ranting people is a mob, nothing more, but also nothing less.

This comment is criticizing this article, and in turn, this article’s author. The author put themselves out there, and this is what happens. To the author, I think you need to decide if you can maintain a popular project with all that comes with it. It’s not about educating everyone how to behave, because you would never do anything else, unless that is your goal. You should be able to hear the negativity, read it, marinate in it even, but it should never be able to hurt you. These aren’t people you are close too.

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