On Thursday evening, the tweet stream brought me this:
Another @rubyrogues guest w/ excessive unexamined privilege, another successful save vs. throwing phone into river.— Sam Livingston-Gray (@geeksam) March 12, 2015
Undoubtedly, I have certain expecations when spending a 40-minute commute with the Ruby Rogues. I will learn about someone doing something that probably impacts some other people in some awesome way. I think we can agree upon the common theme, there. However, when it came time to tune in to Episode 198: Expanding the Ruby Community Values to Other Languages, I found my expecations a bit different; I had a context, and it was there to stay.
Let me first say that I have great respect for each of the Rogues—current and former. I thought both Jessica and Coraline (the two Rogues on the episode) did a tremendous job of tempering the discussion when observations became less about fact and more about limited perspective. The aim of this post is not to attack the podcast or its participants, but to offer some thoughts on awareness, perspective, and the importance of synergizing these qualities when trying to affect positive change in community values.
Also, to be clear, I found the episode informative, and there were certainly sentiments with which I agree. The impetus for this post comes from the opening discussion about Ruby Community values.
“Matz is nice, and so we are nice.” I heard this oft-mentioned Ruby maxim for the first time at Steel City Ruby 2014. It sticks with you. It serves as a nice reminder—because we all need reminders from time to time—that we can and do impact the happiness of those working and learning around us. The stickers are pretty cool, too.
MINASWAN—the acronym—was born of Ruby, and having an acronym for describing a cultural ideology can certainly aid in the spreading of said ideology to other communities; but that doesn’t mean that other established or nascent communities fail to embody the associated qualities. The year is 2015; MINASWAN is bigger than Ruby. And this is not to say that Rubyists should purvey relevant ways of thinking less frequently. We should be aware, however, that using the phrase “only community” when speaking about these things is both misinformed and self-alienating.
Awareness of Perspective
Perspective is everything. (You know, “the dress.”) A shift in perspective can change your world. It is important, therefore, to be aware of your perspective as it relates to others’. Operating with an append-only perspective can be a dangerous game, especially when a kind of selection bias plays the part of pushing ideas onto the stack. This leads to unfounded claims, and if your goal is to bring values from one community to another, understanding the dynamics of both communities is a good place to start.
Ultimately, communities aren’t about programming languages; they’re about people. Behind every value dear to the Ruby community stands a collection of individuals who live and work with these values close to heart. Expanding values from one community to the next isn’t about transplanting ideologies; it’s about cross-pollination and perspective exchange. The common thread is people, and we can all learn from one another. The best teacher is also a student.
“Only” is an adjective that one uses to distinguish one thing from the others. It doesn’t do us a lot of good when proliferating values is the goal at hand. It sets us apart in a way that lacks perspective and is—in some cases—untrue. It is, in fact, detrimental to the mission. That’s not what we want.
P.S. Snickering at the prospect of writing PHP for a living (when you’ve had very little to no experience with the language) is just so stupid. I hate that more than most things.