April 2011 Archives

Stand up for your communities and projects

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In the flurry of commentary about Sunday's blog post, three themes have recurred:

  • Andy has done bad things, too!
  • You didn't give specifics!
  • Welcome to the Internet, that's just how people are.

Yes, I've done anti-social things before. I've been part of the problem. That fact doesn't change the validity of my points. We still need strong, human-based communities as the bedrock of any open source project, and those communities can only thrive when people are respected.

Second, I intentionally did not list specific grievances. I don't need to. It's not necessary to give an example of blatant disrespect for us to recognize it. I don't have to mention a time when someone disregarded the basic humanity of others. We've all seen it.

Third, I understand that anti-social behavior passes for normal on the Net, in open source, and among programmers. That doesn't mean we have to let it go unchallenged, or believe that nothing can be done. I accept that this is often the normal state, but I do not approve of it. We can be better than that.

Today's post from the always-insightful Seth Godin couldn't be more timely.

A bully acts up in a meeting or in an online forum. He gets called on it and chastised for his behavior.

The bully then calls out the person who cited their behavior in the first place. He twists their words, casts blame and becomes an aggrieved victim.

Often, members of the tribe then respond by backing off, by making amends, by giving the bully another chance.

And soon the cycle continues.

Brands do this, bosses do it and so do passers-by. Being a bully is a choice, and falling for this cycle, permitting it to continue, is a mistake.

This fits with something chromatic told me last night. He said, "I want people to know that they have permission to stand up to bad behavior." So here it is.

Every one of us has the permission to stand up to the bullies, to the anti-social behavior in our communities. In fact, we not only have permission; we have the responsibility.

Next time someone, for example, cusses out a newbie for asking a "stupid" question, let the offender know how much he or she is hurting the community. Don't accept the bully's excuses for being cruel and abusive to others. If moderators or persons of authority can't or won't intervene, don't be afraid to walk away.

Bullies are damage and need to be routed around. Start your own community if need be, and make sure the people from the original community know about it. Vote with your feet.

It's time to stop pretending this problem doesn't exist. It's time to stop accepting that it's just the way things are. It's time to stand up for your communities.

Slipping away from the Perl community

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I'm 43 years old now. I've been in open source for about twenty years. I'm too old and burned out for much of what goes on in open source, and specifically Perl.

I'm tired of all the arguing.

I'm tired of the people who enjoy a back-and-forth debate about how communities should run, and want to spread that joy to people not involved in the original discussion.

I'm tired of seeing yet another clueless missive from someone claiming that we don't have to be nice to each other, because hey, we're all adults here. I'm tired of hearing that profanity in written communication doesn't matter because hey, it's just words, man.

I'm tired of those unable or unwilling to see outside their blinkered little world, and to think that others might think differently, and to think that their feelings might matter.

I'm tired of people who confuse being verbally abusive with "not getting along."

I'm tired of people who think that verbal abuse of another human is ever acceptable.

I'm tired of being made to witness verbal abuse as competition, where the abuser places more pride in his cleverness than any consideration of how the listener might hear it.

I'm tired of seeing cool new projects and realizing I will never use them, because I don't want to be associated with key members of the communities surrounding them.

I'm tired of having to delete comments on Perlbuzz because the commenters can't manage to make a point without slinging insults at those with whom they disagree.

I'm tired of having to walk away from sub-communities because of all of the above. The end result is I become more and more isolated from the rest of Perl.

That means less contribution, technical and otherwise, from me, and from the others who have shared the same concerns with me regarding their own contributions.

And it makes me sad that I feel my community slipping away. And it makes me sad that Perl loses because of it.

(Addendum: This is not a "screw you, I'm leaving." I'm certainly not leaving. Just describing what I see and how it affects me and other valuable members of the community who have been driven away. And to anyone asking "Give us specifics", they're besides the point. Discussion of specifics turns into a discussion of nothing but past specifics. The issues here are far larger than he-said-she-said. I also don't expect that individual people will change, but that we as community tolerate bad behavior less.)

Followup: Stand up for your communities and projects

Perlbuzz news roundup for 2011-04-06

These links are collected from the Perlbuzz Twitter feed. If you have suggestions for news bits, please mail me at andy@perlbuzz.com.

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