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.