Yesterday I came across this post, written by a really great programmer, and it immediately struck a chord with me. If you haven’t read it already, I’ll sum it up for you here.
Heather Arthur published some code to her GitHub account, and was saddened to discover some really popular programmers were discussing her project on Twitter, with nothing nice to say about it. If you read her thoughts (http://harthur.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/771/), you’ll get a better understanding.
Shortly after I read her story, I noticed that it ended up getting a lot of attention on Hacker News (a news site for tech folk). One of the most amazing things about Heather’s story is that it appears to have really resonated with a lot of people (not just myself), seeing as how the story currently has over 1224 upvotes, and 742 user comments: enormous numbers for a Hacker News story. (The Hacker News discussion can be found here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5106767.)
While there are certainly a lot of different opinions and feelings floating around Hacker News about the story, it seems to me that an overwhelming number of programmers felt similarly: being mean to other people (whether it’s via Twitter or in person) is not acceptable.
Why did this story garnish so much attention and discussion in the tech community? I believe it’s because we (tech people) have seen so much bullying and negativity that when someone brings up the topic in a raw way, it really gets to us.
It doesn’t matter who you are: everyone has felt the way Heather has at one point or another. Whether you were bullied in school, dealt verbal abuse by friends or partners, or been the target of subtle attacks (online or offline), everyone can associate with the feeling of being bullied–and I believe we can all agree: it doesn’t feel good.
In my line of work (I’m a programmer, writer, and entrepreneur), I’ve seen so many unnecessarily nasty comments made to people, so many mean (and condescending) tweets, and so many harsh words thrown around, that reading about Heather’s experience seems ‘all too common’.
This makes me feel sad.
It makes me feel sad because the tech community is focused around education and intelligence. People write programs, share their creations with others, teach, and generally try to make better technology. Most people in the tech community are constantly trying to learn new things, write better code, and solve problems. With so much emphasis on learning and education in the tech community, the very idea that other people would harshly criticize their peers (in public) seems almost laughable: but it happens.
The reason so many people are upset in the tech community, and the reason opinions and discussion get so heated, is that everyone can associate with Heather–but instead of pointing fingers of blame, we should all take a moment to do some self reflection.
Nobody is perfect. Everyone says and does things that contradict their lifelong purpose: it’s human nature to make mistakes.
Is it natural to get angry? Ya.
Is it natural to say mean things from time to time? Certainly.
The best we can do (as people) is to accept our faults, and work to better ourselves. Whether this means apologizing to the people you’ve hurt, analyzing your thoughts and actions, or making an effort to be more positive and helpful as opposed to negative and hurtful–if everyone makes an effort to consciously improve their behavior, this world will be a kinder, nicer place.
I feel sad today, but tomorrow is a new day. A new chance to get out there, build awesome things, and help others do the same!
Be awesome to each other.