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.

The Self-Talk Struggle Is Real: How To Win At Work With Sports Psychology

If you find this difficult, talking to yourself in the third person can help. LeBron James famously did this when, in an ESPN interview, he announced his decision to join the Miami Heat, saying: “I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy.”

Watching this interesting interview was psychologist Ethan Kross, who decided to explore James’ use of “self-distancing” by conducting seven studies, which found that forgoing the use of first-person language can actually enhance your ability to regulate your thoughts and feelings. And when it’s done in light of a future anxiety-inducing event, it can help you view it as less threatening.

While it may feel unnatural to speak to yourself in the third person, using self-distancing might help you to be kinder.

 

Now, Get to Work! (And Be Kind to Yourself)

Even if you never find yourself under pressure to score the winning goal of a game, you can take a page out of the pro athlete’s playbook and leverage your self-talk to score big wins in your career.

What you think informs what you do; science has shown that time and time again. With that being said, it’s important that you gain an understanding of and control over what you tell yourself. To recap, here are four ways to do that:

  1. Recognize anxiety as a normal response to a stressful situation.
  2. Challenge your negative thoughts. If you need some free tools to do this, check out this automatic thoughts worksheet.
  3. Speak to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend.
  4. Get in the habit of positive self-talk.

If you still find yourself resorting to unhelpful negative self-talk throughout your workday—take heart. The goal isn’t to completely eradicate negative thoughts from your mind, but to have your positive thoughts outweigh them.

The Rules for Beating Donald Trump

Don’t argue with 4.1 percent growth.

.. don’t bet on bad news.

Why? Because it creates a toxic perception that Trump’s critics would rather see things go wrong, for the sake of their own vindication, than right, for the common good. That, in turn, reinforces the view that Trump’s critics are the sort of people whose jobs and bank accounts are sufficiently safe and padded that they can afford lousy economic numbers.

.. If working-class resentment was a factor in handing the White House to Trump, pooh-poohing of good economic news only feeds it.

While they’re at it, they might try to observe Rule No. 2: Stop predicting imminent disaster. The story of the Trump presidency so far isn’t catastrophe. It’s corrosion — of our political institutions, civic morals, global relationships and democratic values.

.. Democrats can make a successful run against the corrosion, just as George W. Bushdid in a prosperous age with his promise to restore “honor and dignity” to the White House after the scandals of the Clinton years.

.. Third rule: Stop obsessing about 2016.

.. The smart play is to defend the integrity of Mueller’s investigation and invest as little political capital as possible in predicting the result. If Mueller discovers a crime, that’s a gift to the president’s opponents. If he discovers nothing, it shouldn’t become a humiliating liability.

.. Tweets are the means by which the president wrests control of the political narrative from the news media (and even his own administration), whether by inspiring his followers, goading his opponents, changing the subject, or merely causing a ruckus.

.. Fifth: Beware the poisoned chalice. We keep hearing that the 2018 midterms are the most important in all of history, or close to it. Why?

Democrats took control of the Senate in the 1986 midterms but George H.W. Bush easily defeated Mike Dukakis two years later. Republicans took Congress in 1994, only to become Bill Clinton’s ideal foil. Republicans took the House again in 2010 amid a wave of discontent with Barack Obama, and you know what happened. Get my drift?

Finally: People want leaders. Not ideologues. Not people whose life experiences have been so narrow that they’ve been able to maintain the purity of their youthful ideals.

.. governors. John Hickenlooper. Deval Patrick. Maggie Hassan. Andrew Cuomo. Want to defeat Trump? Look thataway.

What Is the Democratic Story?

Choosing between a focus on race or class is the wrong choice to begin with.

.. There’s a lot of discussion about how far left the Democratic Party should go these days. Is it destroying its electoral chances when its members call for a single-payer health plan or abolishing ICE?

That’s an important question, but the most important question is what story is the Democratic Party telling?

.. As Alasdair MacIntyre argued many years ago, you can’t know what to do unless you know what story you are a part of. Story is more important than policies.

.. The story Donald Trump tells is that we good-hearted, decent people of Middle America have been betrayed by stupid elites who screw us and been threatened by foreigners who are out to get us.

.. Back in the 1980s, the Democrats told two different stories. One was the compassion story associated with Mario Cuomo and Ted Kennedy: Too many Americans are poor, marginalized and left behind. We must care for our brothers and sisters because we are all one family.

.. The other was the brainpower/meritocracy story associated with Gary Hart and later the New Democrats: Americans are masters at innovation. We must use our best minds to come up with innovative plans to solve our problems and head into a new technological century.

I don’t hear those two stories much anymore. The Democrats are emphasizing fighting grit these days, not compassion or technocratic expertise.

Today’s Democrats tell two other stories.

  1. The first is the traditional socialist story associated with Bernie Sanders: America is rived by the class conflict. The bankers and the oligarchs are exploiting the middles. We need a fighter who will go out and battle concentrated economic power.
  2. The second is the multicultural story: American history has been marked by systems of oppression. Those who have been oppressed — women, African-Americans, Latinos — need to stand together and fight for justice.

.. Racial justice socialism seems to be the story of the contemporary left. This story effectively paints Trump as the villain on all fronts, and Democrats do face the distinct problem of how to run against a bully like Trump. But is it good politics for the entire Democratic Party to embrace it?

.. no national Democrat has ever fully embraced this story successfully. In fact, Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama went to great lengths to assure people they were not embracing this story.

  • .. They did because Americans trust business more than the state, so socialism has never played well.
  • They did it because if you throw race into your economic arguments you end up turning off potential allies in swing states like Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
  • They did it because if you throw economics into your race arguments you end up dividing your coalitions on those issues.

In brief, Democrats have stayed away from this narrative because the long hoped-for alliance between oppressed racial minorities and the oppressed white working class has never materialized, and it looks very far from materializing now.

.. for 100 years, Democrats have tended to win with youthful optimism and not anger and indignation.

.. The Democrats who have won nationally almost all ran on generational change — on tired old America versus the possibilities of new America:

  • F.D.R.’s New Deal,
  • J.F.K.’s New Frontier,
  • Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century and
  • Obama’s hope and change.

If I had to advise on a Democratic narrative I’d start with three premises:

  1. First, by 2020 everybody will be exhausted by the climate of negativism and hostility.
  2. Second, the core long-term fear is American decline; are we losing our mojo?
  3. Third, communities and nations don’t come together when they talk about their problems; they come together when they do something on behalf of their children.

Maybe the right narrative could be rebuilding social mobility for the young: America is failing its future. We need to rally around each other to build the families, communities, schools, training systems and other structures to make sure the next generation surpasses this one. People are doing this at the local level, and we need a series of unifying projects to make national progress.

.. This story pushes people toward reconciliation. It is future-oriented.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Be Peace and Justice

.. we do not “do” acts of peace and justice as much as our lifestyle itself is peace and justice.

.. By “living on the edge of the inside” I mean building on the solid Tradition (“from the inside”) but doing it from a new and creative stance where you cannot be co-opted (“on the edge”) for purposes of security, possessions, or the illusions of power.

.. Evil tends to hide even more in systems and institutions than in individuals.

.. This approach guards against the most common criticism of religion in general and social-justice work in particular, which, frankly, has tended to produce many negative, oppositional, and judgmental people—from reactionary conservatives to limousine liberals.

Republicans Can’t Pass Bills

There are many different flavors of freedom. For example, there is freedom as capacity and freedom as detachment.

Freedom as capacity means supporting people so they have the ability to take advantage of life’s opportunities. You encourage your friend to stick with piano practice so he will have the freedom to really play. You support your child during high school so she will have the liberty to pick her favorite college.

Freedom as detachment is giving people space to do their own thing. It’s based on the belief that people flourish best when they are unimpeded as much as possible. Freedom as detachment is marked by absence — the absence of coercion, interference and obstacles.

.. Back when the Republican Party functioned as a governing party it embraced both styles of freedom, but gave legislative priority to freedom of capacity.

.. Over the past few decades Republicans cast off the freedom-as-capacity tendency. They became, exclusively, the party of freedom as detachment.

.. Despite all the screaming and campaigns, all the government shutdown fiascos, the G.O.P. hasn’t been able to eliminate a single important program or reform a single important entitlement or agency.

.. The freedom-as-detachment philosophy is a negative philosophy. It is about cutting back, not building.

.. A party operating under this philosophy is not going to spawn creative thinkers who come up with positive new ideas for how to help people. It’s not going to nurture policy entrepreneurs. It’s not going to respect ideas, period.

.. If you’re a regular American, the main threats to your freedom are

  1. illness,
  2. family breakdown,
  3. social decay,
  4. technological disruption and
  5. globalization.

.. The Republicans could have come up with a health bill that helps people cope with illness and nurtures their capacities, a bill that offers catastrophic care to the millions of American left out of Obamacare, or health savings accounts to encourage preventive care.

.. And if you think G.O.P. dysfunction is bad now, wait until we get to

  1. the debt ceiling wrangle,
  2. the budget fight and
  3. the tax reform crackup.

.. we’re living at a time when the prospects for the middle class are in sharp decline. And Republicans offer nothing but negativity, detachment, absence and an ax.

About Roger Stone: (his own site)

In 1978, Stone co-founded the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) where he is credited with developing the negative campaign into an art form and pioneering the modern use of negative campaign advertising which Mr. Stone calls “comparative, educational, not negative.”

.. Stone became known for his expertise and strategies for motivating and winning ethnic and Catholic voters.

.. In 2000 Stone is credited with the hard-ball tactics which resulted in closing down the Miami-Dade Presidential recount.

.. The New York Times and Miami Herald reported it was Mr. Stone who first tipped of the FBI to Governor Eliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes.

.. Stone has worked for pro-American political parties in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. He is consulted regularly on communications and corporate and public relations strategy by fortune 500 ECO’s and pro-democracy foreign leaders.

.. “Professional lord of mischief” – Weekly Standard

“Legendary conservative political hit man” – TheHill.com

..

“He [Roger] is one of its fiercest warriors, with the battle scars to prove it.” – The Weekly Standard

“A dragon slayer who helped bring down New York State’s most powerful man” – NY Daily News

“A long history of bare-knuckle politics” – The New York Times

“The GOP’s dapper Pugilist” – The Washington Post

“Seasoned practitioner of hard-edged politics” – The New York Times

“Master Political Strategist and Street fighter” – LeftVoice.com

“The most dangerous person in America today…” – The Village Voice

“Still, Stone gets results” – FirstPost.com, UK

“Skilled in the dark arts of politics” – The Atlantic

.. “Notorious” – Vanity Fair

.. “Master of right-wing political hit jobs… – Politico.com

“Controversial” – The Washington Post

“Infamous” – Gothamist.com

“The dapper don of dirty deeds” – DullardMush.com

“Directly involved in the downfall of Clinton campaign chief strategist Mark Penn” – RADAR

.. “Known for hard-ball politics and a cloak and dagger sensibility” – The New York Times

“At times, Stone’s real party seems to be the vaudevillian rather than the GOP” – New Yorker Magazine

.. “Respected, hated, and always controversial Republican political knife fighter…” – NoQuarterUSA.net

.. “An equal-opportunity trickster” – NY Daily News

“The undisputed master of the black arts of electioneering” – Scotsman.com