Empathy, diversity, and open source

Drupal Camp Munich 2016

Empathy is hard, you know? Letting go and accepting that people are different is hard. I find “right” and “wrong” are very difficult to make stick outside of my own head. Just because getting angry is easy doesn’t mean it’s the right answer. We’re all human, all flawed. I will never be justified in casting the first stone. If 2016 has shown us anything, for me, it is that name-calling, othering, shouting at people on Twitter, or shutting out those we disagree with doesn’t make the world a better place.

Thank you, Drupal Camp team.

I have empathy for everyone who has been upset about this event in the last 24 hours or so. Everyone. I understand. It’s been a difficult time. We’ve faced honest mistakes, poor judgement, misunderstandings, inter-cultural issues, poor communication … The background of a global outrage-first culture make all this harder for everyone involved.

I sincerely thank the team of volunteers behind Drupal Camp Munich 2016 for all the effort that you have put into the event. This kind of contribution to our community is important. It is hard work. You stepped up and took it upon yourselves to give us a time and place to further the interests of our community and make the world a better place.

I know you did the best that you could and you did it with the best intentions. You also exposed yourselves to the criticism of others if you dared to get things wrong. Mistakes, you know? Raise your hand if you never make mistakes.

Edit 2016.Dec.04: And thank you if you pointed out problems. To put it in developer terms, without bug reports, we might not know what’s broken. With them, we can improve. Iteration #ftw

Drupal, Open Source — Who we are, who we could be

In a time of conflicts, ugly nationalism and post-factual politics, Drupal and open source are a shining example of how to do a lot of things right. We work together, share and collaborate across borders to make a difference. It is a model for the world to follow: international, cross-border cooperation, the enlightened self-interest, sharing, collaboration … we value facts, tests, and data. I find it a nice counterpoint to egocentric, isolationist, xenophobic, hateful, and violent times …

So what do we do as open source technologists? We iterate. We fail fast and fail better next time.

I’ve been to events and companies in India, Bulgaria, and elsewhere where the developers were 50% men and 50% women. Why isn’t this what we see in the US or the UK or Germany? Do we have the speaker list we would have liked? No. Is this room as diverse as we would like? No. But is this a conference problem? No. This is an all-year problem.

If we want to have more diversity — I sincerely do — we need to create, enable, make that diversity happen. Talk with people different than you. Find out what they do, how they do it. Show them what we’re about. How welcoming and inclusive we are.

Make a change, make a difference. Nikki Stevens talked about this in her keynote at Drupal Camp Costa Rica this year: No matter how small the fix you make, you make a difference.

Get off the island?

Remember when Larry Garfield challenged us to get off our island? Now we need to get out of our goddamn echo chamber, our of our bubbles. If you want to see what happens if we don’t, look at Brexit, look at the US presidential election.

Name calling before discussion, assumption of bad will, AND not acting when you could make a difference won’t help.

Let us be the change we want to see.

Let us make this room look different next time.

Make your communities better, make them more diverse: invite new people to your user group, teach in schools, bring someone along. Everyone is an expert in something — everyone who could come to a user group meeting or your house or your school is an expert in something, has experiences you don’t.

Follow, retweet, hire, promote, engage smart people no matter what they look like or where they come from. Recognise them as experts.

Now let’s get on with this!

Now let us go and do what we do best: collaborate, solve hard problems together, and show the world what true global cooperation looks like and what it can do. Let’s make this a great camp … and let’s make the next one even better.

Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire

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Building communities creates value. Speaker, podcaster, media, opinion. Open source, community, technology, business.