loading...

How can we create better discussions in the dev community?

Michael Lee 🍕 on July 16, 2017

I think communities such as dev.to and CodeNewbies create great places to have pretty constructive and positive discussions and experiences. But I'... [Read Full]
markdown guide
 

These are a lot of the core issues driving the direction of dev.to. It's an incredibly difficult problem, perhaps one of the most difficult in the world. Niceness has a hard time scaling and it's easy to let one thing lead to another until the community becomes toxic, but everyone has a different definition of "toxic" and things often end up contemptuous in the ways you've outlined.

The best answer I can say for our efforts, is to put a lot of focus on this and bake these ideas into all of our design ideas, and never stray to far from this guiding light.

But it's hard.

 

Thanks @ben for sharing your thoughts. Aside from the Code of Conduct, are there any other pieces of info that you are referring to as "core issues" driving the direction of dev.to that you've mentioned?

Building a public community of any size isn't an easy task but glad you and @jess have taken up the challenge and fostering this space.

Hope as a community we can help do our part to help in your efforts of being a resource for devs.

 

It's a lot of little things, perhaps once it's a bit more in the rear-view mirror, it will be easier to articulate. Here are some thoughts:

  • It's always easy to de-prioritize these things early on because early on is probably when they are least important. It's easy to only focus on growth and push this stuff, and you need to keep checking yourself.
  • Don't automatically pander to power . Power users, while awesome, are not always the archetype of the member, and the more you appease them, the less inclusive a community gets, inherently. Most power users are awesome, but they are already having an outsized impact, you need to cater to all users. We have some internal metrics about activity and we deliberately measure on logarithmic scales for individual contributions, so that we remember that these folks are not everyone.
  • Work really hard at this stuff. The easiest path is usually not the right one in a lot of cases in this regard. It's easy to grow or to get things done by losing focus on things like this, but you need someone in the room who wants to keep bringing core values up in conversations.

It really sucks when individuals have a bad experience, even when on average we create a pretty good experience. We don't dismiss these things anecdotes. Any opportunity to improve things so that fewer people have unfulfilling experiences is a big win.

For me, whether it's software engineering or community building, it's often a matter of keeping a few key issues in my head at all times to continuously ponder them so that I have a really good mental model worked out when it comes time to tackling a thing. Sometimes one of my teammates brings something up as an issue or potential feature and I'm like "Oh hell yes, I've been working this out in my head for months, let's do it"

Don't automatically pander to power . Power users, while awesome, are not always the archetype of the member, and the more you appease them, the less inclusive a community gets, inherently. Most power users are awesome, but they are already having an outsized impact, you need to cater to all users. We have some internal metrics about activity and we deliberately measure on logarithmic scales for individual contributions, so that we remember that these folks are not everyone.

Wow, really good point here. Never thought about this.

Am glad to hear that ya'll are keeping these things in mind early on and helping these values shape what you're building.

This is something I've thought about often when working for companies. At which point does culture get defined by leadership of an organization? As you pointed out in point one, it is often easy to overlook certain values in defining a culture in order to build and scale. But it is something you can't let go unchecked for too long.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts Ben!

The scaling part is definitely the really hard part. Our community is still pretty small. But in any case, it's the early focus that will define the whole community. I think Stack Overflow cares a lot about being more welcoming, but has a big hill to climb in that sense. Hacker News doesn't seem to have any interest in changing and that's also a reflection of the folks behind it, IMO.

Reddit is a complicated beast. It's kind of up to the individual moderators to define the experience and expectations. The company would have a hard time changing things significantly if it were their biggest concern in the world (and it kind of is). Because Reddit has so many dark corners, relatively tame communities like /r/programming seem not worth worrying about.

 

I deleted my Reddit account. Twice. It gets old dealing with jerks. If stackoverflow wasn't so helpful I'd delete that too.
I don't know why people are so nasty. Sometimes I'll ask them if they're having a bad day. Lol. Spend your time on the positive interactions and to hell with the rest of them. 💪

 

Thanks for the advice Kim. Funny isn't it that we often overlook the obvious. Think I should've deleted some accounts long time ago. I feel like your reply is permission to do so in a way.

I think it's good that you ask if they're having a bad day, but yeah I agree, focus your energy on the positives.

Thanks Kim!

 

<joke>We should have a discussion about how to have better discussions about how we can have better discussions in the dev community.</joke>

Kidding aside, I've looked into this social problem a lot, which spawned my project, A Field Guide to Common Nerds.

 

Thanks for sharing your project Jason. Just read over the brief description of each personality type and found myself nodding my head in the description of all of them. Will need to read the more lengthy posts later. Also thought it was cool that you came up with species names and illustrations next to them :)

 

It's an interesting discussion to have. I guess it's a conversation that we could have about every single area of our lives, not just the dev community.

Personally, whenever I deal with other people, I only focus on myself. If the other person display any kind of negative emotions, I ask myself if this negative emotion is justified. Did I do a poor job at expressing myself? Was I offensive? It's especially important for me as English is not my native language. I always try to find something constructive in criticism, even if it fucking hurts when the other person insults you.

Next, if that person just doesn't seem to have any good reason for being upset or disrespectful , I try to let it go. I just decide not to answer to unprovoked anger or disrespect, especially on the Internet.

I try to remind myself that by trying to participate in a community ( such as dev.to ), we are exposing ourselves to others opinions and judgements. And because a lot of developers come from a self-taught background ( like myself ), it's really easy to feel shattered by rude comments. But I think people like these will always exist, or we can all have a bad day, or we just don't re-read what we just wrote and hit Submit.

In the end, I believe my mindset is the best way to bounce back from those hurtful remarks. I can't control other people's anger, so if I had nothing to do with that anger, let's move on.

 

Damien, really good observation regarding self-evaluation. That instead of going to blame, actually trying to parse if there was something to have caused an alternative outcome.

I agree, coming to letting it go quicker is often the best solution. Thanks for sharing your experience. Your English seems quite good!

code of conduct - report abuse