Every day, we contribute to shaping our community


Masak's recent post on use.perl.org, called "How can we scale kindness?", boils down my frustration with anti-helpful behaviors like geek pissing contests, telling newbies "RTFM" and calling people "fuckhead".

Every day, we contribute to shaping our community.

By extension, I think it's fair to say that allowing anti-helpfulness to stand unanswered is part of shaping our community. I might even expand it to say:

Every day, through action and inaction, we contribute to shaping our community.

I understand that every community will have jerks, and the Perl community is no different. However, it's possible to balance the bad signal with good. Answering hostile behavior doesn't have to be, and in fact shouldn't be, a flame war. Instead, bypass the damage of the hostile participants and address the topics as they should be.

If a newbie in IRC asks a "dumb" question, and is beaten down by the regulars in the channel, go ahead and answer the question for him. It's a far better response than ragging on the beaters.

How do you handle the negative in the Perl community?


Personally, I usually just walk away.

Sometimes I find myself getting worked up and saying things I don't mean, but I apologize when I do (and I don't think you'll ever find me being as rude as some).

Sometimes, though, it's tough to know when one is being rude. I can think of more than well-known programmer who is astonishingly rude in their online communications, but appear to be completely unaware of this because online communication lacks the nuances of body language and intonation. That's why I use emoticons so much :) They're a poor substitute, but the given that writing today is so terse and less formal compared to writing of yesteryear (I still remember writing letters by hand), we need different tools to get our point across.

At the end of the day, though, my time is valuable to me. I've don't work on projects where I'm mistreated. It's that simple. I also try not to work with people who mistreat other people. At least one programmer I'm familiar with was not offered a contract because I pointed out his online interactions (and no, I'll never mention the name). Even if they're nice people "in real life", I don't trust the judgment of people who can't contain their temper online.

Somehow, many programmers think it's OK to be mean, direct profanity at others (in anger or disgust) or to belittle other people. When I rule the world, I'll make sure they can only get jobs as waiters :)

I think on freenode#perl, people tend to just route around the grumpy parties and work on the question. On perlmonks, I try to decrement pure RTFM. Mean posts get tons of decrements. My one little decrement doesn't have a huge effect overall, but it lets me take out my frustration (if any).

Clearly the way to change human nature is to blog about how you don't like it. Although, if I were to do that, I'd probably complain about the prison camps in North Korea...

But I digress.

The key is to realize that people on the Internet are going to disagree with you and personally attack you, just because they think they are clearly correct, and you are clearly wrong. This upsets a lot of people, because they are used to dealing with people that don't do this. Fortunately, there is an easy solution -- ignore things that you don't like. If someone insults you, just ignore them. If someone tells you not to release a module, fuck their stupid opinion, do it anyway. These people that are making fun of you have no control over you life or anything else, so you don't need to take their opinions seriously. (Sometimes people have a point, and you should realize this... but realize that you can do whatever you want, for whatever reason you want.)

I know this sounds anti-social, but the "anti-social" line was already crossed when someone called you a fuckhead. (Something I've learned from Michael Moore documentaries is that being anti-social is a great way to get things done.)

Anyway, programming is supposed to be fun. Don't let other people take that away from you. If you don't like something someone said to you or about you, ignore them and do something fun!

My point was not about attacks at you, but at others, about people who make things miserable for the community as a whole. It's not about who said what to me, but how people teach each other as a group.

I'm not willing to pretend that being anti-social is Just The Way Things Are, because they don't need to be.

"Ignore things you don't like" may make sense for you. When dozens or hundreds of people are upset by someone, ignoring doesn't scale.

"Anti-social is a great way to get things done" is the short-term view. When you're talking about building communities that need to continue growing, that's a terrible approach.

When someone is a jerk, whether intentionally or accidentally, it's a problem to be dealt with, not ignored as just the price of playing the game on the Internet.

I don't see a solution, though. Some people are mean. Some people program Perl. Sometimes those two traits overlap. What can you do about it? There is no "club" to kick the person out of, and wanting someone to be nicer doesn't make it happen.

Everyone should be nice... but obviously that is not going to happen. So, while ignoring them doesn't scale, it's the only way. They are not going to go away, and they are not going to change.

The community's leader influences the community's tone as a whole. A lot of the good of Perl's culture probably because Larry is such a nice guy. Pugs with Audrey, Parrot with Allison, Rakudo with Pm, Melbourne.pm with Paul and Jacinta, and Israel.pm with Gabor have been great to be involved with (even casually) and a lot of credit should go to these founder/leaders for their kind, welcoming approach.

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