I’m done with the web community. I have been for the past year or so, but it’s time for me to write my reasons down and move on.
The Identity Crisis
It’s this article that prompted me to pick up the pen because it touches on many subjects I feel uncomfortable with. As I will use quotes from that article as starting points for my own thoughts, it may be a good idea to read it first.
I’m uncomfortable with any culture that encourages you take on an entire identity, rather than to express a facet of your own identity.
This I whole-heartedly agree with despite never thinking about it this way. I had some years of innocence where i could simply define myself as a “coder”. It was plain and simple, that’s what & who I was. But I soon felt out of line with aspects of that simple definition; coders where not supposed to be creative yet I felt I was. Then I started doing design work and when I had to decide what to write on my business card, nothing felt right. What I do and who I am cannot be defined in a single word.
I always had a problem with the word “entrepreneur” and people labeling themselves as such. it doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t know what entrepreneurs do. The word comes from the french “entreprise”, meaning both “undertaking” and “company”. Do you work to undertake things? Do you work to found companies? Those things are simple by-products of actually making something — and it is that something that should define you. You create games, websites, services, whatever. If you’re more interested in the byproducts of that (working hard? getting rich? bossing people around?) than it seems to me you’re in for the wrong reasons.
What you are making is what matters; that’s what could define you.
A Culture of Makers?
I am strongly divided about most of what comes next in the article.
There’s a widespread idea that “People who make things are simply different [read: better] than those who don’t.”
The general idea is that our culture values makers too much, and disregards people who are not making per say. The point is valid, and I’m probably guilty of thinking ab it like that. We should probably change.
But while I feel like I make things and would be considered a “maker”, I’m not valued as much as the article seems to imply. Let’s be clear: I am not after fame or even attention. I am not even after recognition. I don’t feel comfortable having my work praised and i’m an introvert at heart. What I do want is to inspire. It may seem grandiloquent but it’s true; I feel joy and pride when my work is used.
But i feel like those how create things are not the one’s who’s inspire. Exposition in our community is determined by curators; people who seem to spend their days creating lists of useful jquery plugins and free typefaces. And i have no clue how they make up their lists.
Actually I don’t even care; in my wishful community, good work surfaces without the creator having to buy articles or ad-words or write five articles a day on his blog before being allowed to expose his own work. Curators of the Web is a private club and I’m not willing to play by their rules.
Or Maybe It’s You?
I sure sound bitter when saying that — and I am — but I’ll say it again: I’m not after fame or recognition. I am bitter because I was in love with our community (see i even still say “our”) but it simply values the wrong things.
Maybe you did shit work, i hear you say. Maybe the world doesn’t need your contribution. Yes, maybe — but I don’t think so. Some of these days I still promote tools I made years ago, things I could do much better now; and still they receive praise.
Maybe you should talk more about your work then? Well yes, maybe. I thought Github would be a magic bullet for that, but no. Maybe I need to blog a lot, maybe I need to write slew of comments on reddit and hacker news or whatever. But I don’t have the time for that. We value open source contributions and community interaction much more than we value actual work.
This is fucked up and I am not willing to play along any longer. i am still passionate about the web and building products — but I don’t feel I need to play with the rest of you. It’s sickening because lots of you do amazing things that I use and I wish I could give back, but I can’t because unless I sleep 3 hours a night I will not make an impact. Or maybe we start changing what we value.
The last paragraph of the original article isn’t about diversity but it made me think about it, especially because it has become such a prominent issue lately. In fact it is so prominent that I almost hope my own article will remain unseen, as I feel like a single misused word will trigger a feminist backslash.
I feel so intimidated by this issue that I never dared to speak about it. For a long time, I thought of women in tech as I think about everyone else everywhere else: not at all. I don’ t care whether you’re male, female, black, white, muslin or Jewish because most of the time it is not relevant.
But i heard the argument that it may not be enough; that actively encouraging diversity is necessary to overcome the existing bias. A bias that I have never seen or experienced, but apparently we can’t really understand anyway. And I’m willing to go with that because sometimes I read things that are so disgusting I deeply wish they are made up even though they probably aren’t.
But I refuse to act as a strong arm, punching whoever “feminists” dictate are the enemy. And I put feminist in quotes because I’m not even sure I’m allowed to use that word. Of course it’s a complex thing and just as we should not define people as makers, we shouldn’t define otehrs as “feminists”.
This story at GitHub stuck with me for a long time. Of course I wasn’t there, but after idealizing this company for so long the allegations came as a blow and I felt the need to dig into it. I formed my opinion on multiple press releases from all parties and I could find nothing pointing to sexism. To be clear, what happened to Julie Ann Horvath is a disgrace — it just doesn’t seem related to sexism. It seems like two persons being complete assholes towards another person, who happens to be female. And I feel like maybe the sexism accusation just helped raise attention.
Now with GamerGate most cases are very easy calls because GG proponents are just acting like morons. But a culture where anyone being called out for sexism is inevitably bashed without much fact-checking is dangerous. Even worse, I feel like expressing doubts on our actions is potentially a bad move too. I’ve heard people say that exercising critical sense on that matter — as I am doing now — is part of the problem and it’s just as bad as being sexist.
As a result, I am not willing to speak up on this issue any more than I did right now. As much as I’d like to promote diversity in our industry, i feel like we are in a situation where you have to sing exactly like the rest of the movement — and again, I am not willing to play by those rules.
I still love the web and the job I’m doing, but I don’t feel part of the community anymore. I realized that over a year ago when I found another home, void of egos yet filled with humans. i am still watching so i won’t miss you, but I also know you won’t miss me… because we never really knew each other.