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:

Image
Image

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.

White House Digs In for Chief of Staff Hunt

Mick Mulvaney says he’s not interested; Trump campaign official David Bossie is in the running

Mr. Trump has told associates he is unhappy with aspects of how the West Wing is running, complaining that staff morale is low, some aides are disloyal and his press coverage is negative.

Both men who have held the position thus far—Reince Priebus and then Mr. Kelly—found it difficult to manage Mr. Trump and create a White House that sticks to a message and pursues goals in disciplined fashion. Rival power centers have emerged, with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Mr. Kushner, and daughter Ivanka Trump wielding enormous influence and chafing at the chief of staff’s direction. Mr. Priebus would ruefully refer to himself as merely “Chief of Stuff.”

Another challenge is the dearth of qualified individuals willing to take the job. Current and former senior staff members describe the Trump administration as a high-stress, unpredictable atmosphere in which they are subjected to unsparing criticism from inside the building and out.

Top officials often leave their posts with bruised reputations. Several high-level members of the administration have left their jobs in humbling circumstances, with Mr. Trump writing derisively on Twitter about them. Mr. Trump has fired a chief of staff, secretary of state and attorney general on the social media platform.

Aides to Mr. Trump have advised him to hire as chief of staff a former or current lawmaker who knows how to work with Congress, according to one adviser. Among those Mr. Trump is considering is Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), a longtime ally, say people familiar with the matter.

Advisers also have urged Mr. Trump to look for a chief with more political experience than Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, one who will work well with the 2020 re-election campaign. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, said in an interview that Mr. Trump needs a chief of staff “able to add more political experience needed for the next two years.”

.. Mr. Trump have repeatedly clashed, as Mr. Kelly sought to curtail access to Mr. Trump and limit the flow of information to him. That often rankled the president, who complains he feels isolated unless he is free to call longtime confidants, friends and advisers, according to current and former White House officials.
.. One of Mr. Kelly’s frustrations was that he couldn’t manage a president who insists on following his own instincts rather than working within a hierarchical process that vets and manages the information and people he sees, people close to the White House said.
.. Advisers to Mr. Trump say he should install a chief who, even privately, will talk more positively about the administration. At meetings, Mr. Kelly often took on a negative tone about Mr. Trump’s tweets and the circumstances the White House faced, to the detriment of staff morale, one person familiar with the matter said.
.. A better approach for the next chief of staff would be to let Mr. Trump be himself and focus instead on managing and motivating a staff whose morale has plummeted
.. The chief of staff job is difficult job to fill in part because Mr. Trump tends to “grow weary” of anyone in his company for an extended period of time, another person familiar with the matter said.
Referring to the next chief of staff, the person said: “I just don’t believe there’s any person who isn’t going to get crushed.”

Basta La Vista, Baby

For Trump defenders, it requires incredible effort to keep yourself convinced that he’s the man you want him to be rather than the man he actually is. Orwell was right when he said, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” But the opposite is often true as well. It is incandescently obvious that Donald Trump is not the world’s best negotiator or an honest person, among other glaring truths. But for people either emotionally or professionally invested in Trump, any admission that the Trumpian eminence front is a put-on is a threat of one kind or another. Maintaining the fiction that the emperor’s new clothes are glorious and resplendent takes a lot of effort, too. (For instance, imagine the energy it takes even to attempt to argue that Trump’s accidental “covfefe” tweet was a “genius move that is a very powerful demonstration of his ability to persuade”).

I’m convinced that one of the things that causes Trump disciples to get so angry at conservative Trump critics is that we make it so much harder to sustain the fiction. Of course, Trump makes it much harder than we do, but Trump gets a pass because he is the object of the adulation, while we’re supposed to be in the pews yelling, “Amen.”

.. George Will, William F. Buckley, and numerous writers at National Review were personally fond of, or close to, Reagan, and usually supported him. But when the situation required it, they could be quite blistering in their criticisms. And yet, no one — or no one serious — claimed that Will and Buckley weren’t conservatives.

What changed? Well, lots of things. But one of them has been the populist takeover of the conservative movement. (I have an essay on this in the latest issue of NR.) Populist movements can vary in ideological content but they all share the same psychological passions. Independent thought, naysaying, and insufficient ardor are seen as a kind of disloyalty. Better and earlier than most, Matt Continetti recognized the crisis of the conservative intellectual this takeover represents.

Is Saudi Arabia Really So Angry at Canada Over a Tweet?

Any Arab leader, particularly a young one who has recently assumed power in a traditional and mostly tribal society, has to carefully maintain his and his country’s stature and prestige, what classical Muslim scholars called hayba. This refers to the awe and respect that a ruler and his state must command in order to maintain order and stability without having to resort to excessive coercion, and without which there is no basis for legitimate rule.

This means that Prince Mohammed cannot allow himself or his country to be publicly lectured by Western leaders — especially in his own language. This was particularly the case since the Canadian embassy in Riyadh posted the tweet in Arabic, ensuring a wide circulation on local social media. Such perceived blatant interference in Saudi Arabia’s domestic affairs could not go unanswered without damaging the prestige of the state in the eyes of its people.

Let’s be clear: This has nothing to do with Prince Mohammed’s status as a reformer. The crown prince’s stated goal is social, economic, and cultural and religious transformation of his kingdom — not political reform. This is a point his Western critics often forget. In fact, to implement the enormous changes he wants, he has felt the need to further limit the margin of free speech in order to control public debate on these reforms and ensure that they do not escalate into civil unrest.

.. Religious conservatives are pushing back. One of the ways they try to undermine Prince Mohammed is by claiming that his reforms are the product of an “American agenda” that aims to Westernize Saudi society and distance it from its Islamic roots. Given the close ties that the kingdom maintains with the West, these false allegations resonate with the masses.

.. Saudi leaders have surely not forgotten what happened to the shah of Iran when he was accused of implementing an America agenda: Clerics used the charge to inflame the people against him and he was deposed in a revolution.

.. For Prince Mohammed, it is imperative that his reforms are not seen to be a result of Western political pressure, but rather in the interests of the country, the people, their faith and their culture. He cannot allow outsiders to try and dictate their views to the kingdom’s leadership or attempt to reach out directly to the Saudi people in such matters without impacting the hayba of the state.

.. Feel-good public posturing may play well with liberals in Canada, but quiet diplomacy is far more effective.