Building Good Communities: here’s what’s wrong with the internet today

Hey there,

Have you ever interacted with an online community and got a horrible reaction that made you feel like crap?

You’re not alone.

In a nutshell, here’s what’s wrong with public communities on the internet:

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If you can’t see the screenshot, here’s what happened:

There’s a motivated fledgling developer (16 years old!) who decides to contribute back to the community by creating a series of Python video tutorials on YouTube.

He or she posts these free tutorials to Reddit…

And what kinds of supportive comments does he or she get?

Well, check it out:

~~~

“You lack CS/development experience to properly teach people. No offense but your videos don’t bring anything new. The topics of your videos have all been covered before by experienced developers. The Flask quickstart tutorial does a pretty good job of this. You will most likely end up teaching beginner’s bad practices because of this.”

~~~

Maybe these tutorials weren’t the greatest tutorials ever made.

But WHAT ON EARTH justifies this incredibly negative, berating smackdown of a response from some jerk hiding behind a pseudonym?

I mean, I get it—we software developers are a critical bunch and sometimes we get a little carried away and maybe don’t realize there’s a real person sitting at the other end.

I generally try to appreciate critical feedback because it can help me grow.

But getting smacked in the face with aggressive reactions out of nowhere feels awful, no matter what—

This kind of exchange HURTS.

And the fact that stuff like that happens on a regular basis on public communities like Reddit, Stack Overflow, GitHub etc. frustrates me to no end.

Actually, it pisses me off.

Not only out of self-pity because I’ve experienced stuff like that myself—

But for the sake of countless developers who are seeking community and want to CONTRIBUTE and then get BULLIED by some prick who had a bad day.

Can you imagine working up the courage to ask a question on a forum like that as a beginner, or sharing your first real blog post or open-source project…and then getting punched in the stomach with such a reaction?

It sucks the joy and motivation right out of you…

Now, I’m not trying to knock sites like Reddit or Stack Overflow. They provide immense value. It’s just that at the scale they operate there’s NO WAY they can keep the jerks at bay.

But even a 10:1 ratio of good vs bad interactions FEELS terrible.

You never know what reaction you’re going to get, and as a result people need to keep their guards up constantly.

It doesn’t create a safe environment for learning and long-term growth. Over time, being a member of a “community” like that becomes a net-negative for your energy and motivation.

Slowly but surely the good people leave and what remains is often a cesspool of personal attacks, unbounded negativity, and one-upmanship.

And it sucks.

Going through a similar experience led me to eventually create PythonistaCafe with a group of likeminded Python developers—

A good way to think of PythonistaCafe is to see it as a club of mutual improvement for Python enthusiasts.

At William Barr Hearings, Mueller Probe in Focus

In response to questions, Mr. Barr said he viewed Mr. Mueller as a fair-minded investigator who would treat the president fairly. “I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said, contradicting Mr. Trump’s favorite description of the special counsel’s investigation.

.. Mr. Barr told Ms. Feinstein his memo was “entirely proper.” He was concerned by news accounts of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, he said, and thought such a theory “would have a chilling effect going forward over time.”

Mr. Barr said he expressed his concerns to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over lunch before putting them in writing. “He did not respond and was sphinx-like in his reaction, but I expounded on my concerns.”

.. The nominee also said he had expressed similar concerns to Justice Department officials regarding the prosecution of Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) on bribery allegations, saying, “I thought the prosecution was based on a fallacious theory.” That case ended in a hung jury.

.. Likely to be of particular concern to Democrats is Mr. Barr’s disclosure Monday night that he had sent the memo to a wider group of Trump lawyers than was previously known, including Jay Sekulow, Marty and Jane Raskin and Pat Cipollone, a former Justice Department colleague who is now White House counsel. Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have said Mr. Trump should withdraw Mr. Barr’s nomination given his views in the letter.

.. “I distributed it broadly so that other lawyers would have the benefit of my views,” he said.

On the Mueller probe more broadly, Mr. Barr said in prepared remarks: “I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.” He will add: “On my watch, Bob [Mueller] will be allowed to complete his work.”

.. If Mr. Barr is confirmed, it would bring together a forceful advocate of executive power with a president who has shown no problem wielding that power in unconventional ways. Mr. Barr previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush… As a high-ranking Justice Department official in the late 1980s, Mr. Barr advised that a president has the authority to use the military without congressional support, a position that helped underpin the invasion of Panama and later the deployment of troops to Somalia. He urged Mr. Bush to pardon six Reagan administration officials involved in the Iran-Contra matter in 1992; Democrats want to grill him on his reasoning at the time and how he would react to potential pardons of Trump aides who have been convicted in the Russia probe.

In his first stint as attorney general, from 1991 to 1993, Mr. Barr pushed tough-on-crime policies and took a hard-line approach to immigration, which could come into sharper focus as senators ask him about Mr. Trump’s push for a wall along the U.S. southern border.

.. Mr. Barr spent more than 25 years in the corporate world since serving as attorney general, developing a reputation as an aggressive lawyer who forcefully represented his clients. He served as the top lawyer for the telecommunications company that became Verizon Communications Inc., and he later worked on behalf of other large companies in private practice.

With Facebook at ‘War,’ Zuckerberg Adopts More Aggressive Style

New approach causes turmoil, driving several key executives from the company and creating tensions with longtime Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg

Mark Zuckerberg gathered about 50 of his top lieutenants earlier this year and told them that Facebook Inc. FB -5.72% was at war and he planned to lead the company accordingly.

During times of peace, executives can move more slowly and ensure that everybody is on board with key decisions, he said during the June meeting, according to people familiar with the remarks. But with Facebook under siege from lawmakers, investors and angry users, he needed to act more decisively, the people said.

.. On Friday, that tension was on display when, during a question-and-answer session with employees at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., he blasted a fresh round of critical news coverage as “bullshit,” according to the people familiar with the remarks.

One employee at the session asked if Facebook could deter leaks by publishing an internal report about how frequently offenders are found and fired. Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook does fire leakers, but the root cause was “bad morale” perpetuated by attacks in the media.

.. He believes this tougher management style is necessary to tackle challenges being raised both internally and externally, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
.. Mr. Zuckerberg’s new posture could trouble those who feel his “move fast, break things” mantra from Facebook’s early days contributed to many of the company’s current problems. It also has led to confrontations with some of his top reports, including Ms. Sandberg, who has long had considerable autonomy over the Facebook teams that control communications and policy.
.. This spring, Mr. Zuckerberg told Ms. Sandberg, 49, that he blamed her and her teams for the public fallout over Cambridge Analytica
Ms. Sandberg later confided in friends that the exchange rattled her, and she wondered if she should be worried about her job.

.. Mr. Zuckerberg also has told Ms. Sandberg she should have been more aggressive in allocating resources to review troublesome content on the site

.. The heads of some other key Facebook units didn’t survive conflicts with Mr. Zuckerberg.

Mr. Zuckerberg clashed with the co-founders of Instagram

.. The co-founders of WhatsApp likewise left after disagreements with Mr. Zuckerberg over how to generate more revenue from the messaging-service

.. More recently, Mr. Zuckerberg forced out Brendan Iribe, co-founder of Oculus VR, in part because of a disagreement about the future of the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset

.. Facebook remains hugely profitable, with net income of more than $5 billion in the third quarter, but its margins are under pressure in part because of its increased spending on security.

.. Mr. Zuckerberg has said Facebook is in the midst of a three-year turnaround ending in 2019 to strengthen its defenses against the risks posed by having an open platform.

.. All told, about a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018. In May, Facebook announced a major reshuffling of top product executives in a way that helped free up Mr. Zuckerberg to oversee a broader portfolio within the company.

.. This turmoil at the top of Facebook has made it difficult for the company to execute on some product decisions and shore up employee morale, which has been sinking over the last year along with the stock price, which has fallen 36% since its peak. Many employees are frustrated by the bad press and constant reorganizations, including of the security team, which can disrupt their work, according to current and former employees.

.. Scrutiny of Facebook has only escalated in the past week after the New York Times reported its use of opposition-research firms tasked with exposing critical information about Facebook’s detractors, including one called Definers Public Affairs. Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg both said the decision to employ the firm was made by Facebook’s communications officials.

Ms. Sandberg’s comments in particular have angered many people on those teams, according to people familiar with the matter, given how closely she tracked and managed Facebook’s media strategy, sometimes getting involved in wording changes. In the internal Q&A Friday, Ms. Sandberg said she took full responsibility for the actions of the communications team.

.. In September 2017, Erskine Bowles, the head of the audit committee and a former Clinton White House official, told Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg that he felt they needed to take the issue of Russian interference on the platform much more seriously.

“This is going to be much bigger than you think,” Mr. Bowles said

.. Later, after the Cambridge Analytica disclosure, the board urged Mr. Zuckerberg to name an executive who would be in charge of corralling Facebook’s response to that matter and resolving other issues before they metastasized, said a person familiar with the matter. After that, he put Ms. Sandberg in charge of that effort.

Mr. Zuckerberg also sought advice from a mentor, former Microsoft Corp. Chairman and CEO Bill Gates. He recommended Microsoft’s model, which relies on Brad Smith to oversee its corporate, external, and legal affairs. Mr. Smith wears the title “president” and reports directly to the CEO.