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:
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.