Promoting Community Toxicity

Posted on Tue, 07/18/2017 - 23:36

Something has been bothering me and I haven't been able to put my finger on it. I hesitated writing this. By doing so, I fully understand that some will choose to twist or misinterpret my words to further instill doubt into the community. While this is one's right and often turns into a lengthy Twitter debate, many in the community have shied away from sharing their voice for fear of retribution. 


As a community, we have accomplished great things not because we agree on everything, but because we know how to disagree without being disagreeable. We are capable of debate through issue queues, patches, IRC, Slack, and more. But, at the end of the day, we thank each other for participating. We work with one another, not against. We know we need each other to accomplish big things. And, we celebrate our accomplishments.


Our diversity in thought and opinion is our greatest strength. The loudest voices out there are looking to suppress the broader discourse of voices who dissent from their own personal, extreme opinions. This goes way beyond being critical or simply disagreeing with people. These individuals do so by publicly attacking community members. These are often same people who preach "freedom", yet seem to only operate by intimidating and attacking those for whom they perceive to disagree with. Ironic, right? 


Here are a few takeaways I have.


  1. These attackers are successful because of us

    Yep, you read that right. We enable them. We engage them, we read their tweets, we respond to them in fierce disagreement. But, at the end of the day, we're unintentionally spreading their hostility. We engage them because they are ridiculous and we seek to defend our community or ourselves. They actually want this. They want the community to be perceived as fragmented, even if only a small minority of people promote this deplorable behavior. They consciously distort what people say for their own benefit. It won't stop unless we stop giving them this opportunity. Stop following them, stop responding, stop retweeting. Leave them alone.


  2. They want you to stop sharing your voice

    If they are the loudest and only voice of the community, they control the external perception of who we are. Keep blogging, keep tweeting, share your opinion, and do so confidently. We need the world to hear from everyone to tell the story of what actually represents our community. It's not this kind of hostility. Speak up, support your cause, and, again, don't feed the trolls.


  3. We can still disagree

    Let's level set. Leaders in our community were faced with making some really challenging decisions that were so complex that, basically, no one is completely right. Any decision would be controversial -- any opinion can be debated. Can we please acknowledge this? If we can, I personally believe we can do a better job of listening to others and support one another.

    Even with an acknowledgement that no side is totally "right", I stand by the decisions made by community leaders because I believe those in power made the best decision they could with the information they had in representing the best interest of the entire community. I applaud them for tuning out the loud, critical, attacking voices that have relentlessly tried to belittle, attack, bribe, and bully. I trust the large number of individuals involved but I certainly don't envy their task. I want Larry to be treated as fairly as possible, but I don't share the doubts of some others. With the information I have available to me as a member of the community, combined with the amount of time, deliberation, and consultation our community leaders invested in this situation, it gives me more confidence in standing behind this decision.

    Many disagree with their decision, the communication, how it was handled, and much more. I probably agree with you on some of the points. Some of you will likely disagree with me for supporting the decision. This is totally fine. I completely understand and support our differences in opinion. I certainly won't attack you for doing so. 


In conclusion, let this please serve as a plea for better discourse. I won't pretend to speak for a substantial number of community members or overstate my position in representing the broader community in this post. I will say, with confidence, we should all do our part to not promote this kind of toxicity. It's actually a small world. Many of us have jobs in this field. We do business with each other. I'm paying very close attention to people's actions. I will never hire someone into my team who promotes this community toxicity. I will also actively avoid other businesses that associate themselves with such individuals. I am confident that the community is watching and, quite honestly, I believe we deserve better.

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