I wrote my original post 7 years ago, but it’s one of the few things I’ve written that aged surprisingly well, and it’s more relevant today than ever. Since then I spent more thoughts on why we are where we are, and how to actually do something about it, but – spoiler alert – it’s going to be hard.
It’s going to be hard, because creating things is hard. It’s much easier to consume, critique, comment and destroy. It’s so easy, and temping, to read your angry Twitter timeline every day and think you’re improving the world by destroying ideas you don’t agree with.
If you must complain, complain the right way
In my own world, the developer world, there’s an entire group of people who made it their profession to complain for a living – let’s call them Thought Leaders (and yes, the irony and metaness of this blog post is not lost on me). Many of them highlight issues about a product, project and idea on their blog or Twitter instead of actually trying to improve things by engaging with the relevant teams through proper feedback channels or meaningful engagement (such as GitHub). Ingeniously, that allows them to strengthen their brand in the everlasting quest to stay relevant, and also allow them to continue writing about it by ensuring that the issue doesn’t actually get fixed. And gullible developers such as myself keep succumbing to the clickbait, as hearing somebody complain is almost as delicious as complaining itself.
It’s not that I disagree with what’s being complained about: you might have a good reason to complain! But there are often better ways to go about it than to create a destructive blog post targeted at an angry mob.
When you’re the one complaining, ask yourself a bunch of questions before posting:
- Is there a better channel to offer my feedback?
- Is my feedback constructive?
- Did I assume good intent?
And when you’re the one reading a destructive post:
- Is there a good reason the author has posted it here instead of proper feedback channels?
- Does the author have a hidden agenda?
- Does the author represent the actual users of said software?
- Are they just gatekeeping?
To be clear: There are scenarios where you ask all the right questions and a Twitter rage thread is the way to go. Sometimes there’s no way to report bugs, or the process is opaque, etc. in the open source world though, that’s rarely the case.
Replace bad things with good things
The best way to get rid of ideas and things that are broken is to replace them with better ones!
We, the DevRel community, have an equally important role to play here: We have to encourage creative forces, radical inclusivity and constructivism, and understand and see destructive patterns and control for them in our unconscious biases before we accidentally amplify them.
Now create some good stuff!