The post eventually spurred a dialogue on Twitter:
Kent made an excellent point, which inspired me to change up the image as my playfulness had sent the wrong message that I never intended.
But the responding tweets that followed Kent’s tweet reminded me of just how toxic the dev community can be.
Kent’s tweet has since been removed, but to summarize the words used by others: ‘jealous little girl’, ‘sucks’, ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’, ‘f***ing p** me off’, ‘silly’…alright, you get the point.
The problem with hate mail
I’m the CEO of a company called X-Team, we are a community of developers that help companies scale their dev teams.
We encourage developers to write blog posts to share their knowledge and inspire others, as there’s no greater feeling than making a great impact on even just one person.
But the #1 reason why developers avoid making their voice heard? No, it’s not because “we don’t know how to write.”
That’s right — fear of Twitter/Reddit hate mail.
Developers are so terrified of being belittled by their peers that they have no motivation to share their thoughts or contribute on the global stage.
And as a result, you end up with only 100,000 of the 20 million developers in the world actually participating in the open source community, sharing their thoughts and feeling comfortable contributing.
(And we wonder why women don’t feel welcome in the dev community.)
So what can we do about it?
What I love most about the X-Team community is that it was built on a spirit of generosity and warm-hearted respect.
When people exchange thoughts in our dev community, they do it with so much respect for each other’s beliefs, cultures, backgrounds, etc.
And they do it with an empathetic tone that makes you still feel welcome and respected.
Imagine if every time a developer posted an article, they were met with comments that gave empathetic, respectful and supportive feedback focused on helping them improve their article, rather than tearing them to the ground about their mistakes?
“Really appreciate your post and I learned something new. One thing I’d consider changing…”
“Great job putting this out! I noticed you mentioned ____. I’ve personally found a different result, perhaps we can chat more about it over e-mail and maybe even write another post together.”
I realize empathy on the internet is utopian thinking, but if we ever want to truly realize the true potential of the global dev community if millions of people contribute rather than thousands, it all starts with how we give one another feedback and make them feel welcome.
My challenge to you
The next time you read an article written by a developer and it starts to fill you with rage inside because of your disagreement toward it, try these steps:
- Take a breather: leave the tab open and come back to it later.
- Find something positive about the article. Force yourself if you have to.
- If you simply are too offended, consider just leaving it alone. What good will imposing your anger on someone really achieve?
- Ask yourself whether you can help the author improve it. Put yourself in their shoes and give them the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t trying to make you upset (difficult I know, but try it).
- If so, start a response that starts with mentioning something positive about the article. Then make a suggestion about how you can help them improve it based on your experience, and perhaps even consider how you can collaborate privately to make that improvement (rather than spur on hate dialogue).
I realize not every author will respond kindly to such an idea, but we have to start somewhere.
We have to start with positivity to create a positive, welcoming community.
It’s not a utopian idea because that’s the dev community I wake up to every day at X-Team.
It’s up to us now to change our behaviors and make the global dev community more inviting for others of every background, race, gender and culture to contribute to, and it all starts with believing that positivity can make a difference.