How many lines of code did you write during the storming of the Capitol?
I'm sorry but if I don’t write about this, all of my thoughts of anger and helplessness will stay racing in my brain and I may never get a decent night’s sleep this year.
This all goes out to my fellow community professionals who are feeling hopeless this year as we wonder if the work we’re doing to grow and maintain healthy communities while also minimizing harm and not going out of business is possible. First off, hello friends. Unclench your jaw, loosen up your shoulders, look up to the ceiling and fully exhale with a strongly sighed “fuuuuuuuck.” Okay? Let’s roll.
I did not get much work done this week. Fortunately, my CEO understands and told our company to try to take care of ourselves throughout all of this; the spreadsheets, blogs and my PR that went stale over the holidays can wait. I know I am fortunate and am not taking this empathy from leadership for granted, nor do I ever take for granted the fact that while I am a Director of Community for a platform that lets users run and publish arbitrary code and text, our community is friendly and small enough for me to not have to be in the position of de-platforming government officials.
By the way, please don’t tell Betsy DeVos to learn to code – we don’t want her!
It’s very easy for me to say that if I were in the position of Twitter and Facebook, I would have suspended Trump and all these QAnon accounts a very long time ago, and I think it should be very easy! Perhaps the situation is more complex than I can ever imagine, or I’ve just been gaslit by the leaders in my niche space within tech into thinking as such. I’m leaning on the latter! Unless Twitter (and all these other chickenshit companies finally de-platforming hate) publish retrospectives to their communities on how and why we got here, along with what will be done to stop this from happening again, I’m not celebrating their performative, reactive actions. And I refuse to be gaslit anymore.
Twitter and Facebook made a decision to grow at any cost, to be a macrocosm of a flawed, hateful and violent society, with no proper plan in place to moderate it. This is not how you create and maintain a healthy community in good faith, and the storming of the Capitol is not the first time blood was shed because of it. Twitter and Facebook decided they wanted to have it all and now people are dead. Stop thanking Jack.
Years of inaction and then drastic changes only upon MAGA and QAnon reaching the 99% point of their progress bar (being generous here) simply provides illustrations of gross mismanagement and irresponsibility. I am begging to grow as a community leader without a playbook that’s simply “just don’t do what these platforms are doing!” I want to have advice for folks who turn to me asking how they can grow their communities honestly but also at a level that their investors and our capitalist system overall requires – I don’t know lol! I do not know of prior art where such growth has done more good than bad, only examples of where it went wrong. Will investors pay those who point to this week’s news and say “no, we can not in good faith grow at all costs like these platforms decided to do” in both attention and dollars?
I don’t want what is going on with these terribly managed platforms and communities to dissuade us from trying to create some good examples in the future. It’s not hard to start the conversation with yourself and your collaborators and leaders from the start. At Glitch, no one can say that it didn’t help that we always called ourselves “the friendly community” and made it quite clear what we thought about hate speech.
When web developers who are interested in going into community/devrel ask me for advice on how to create a developer community that’s as friendly as ours, I tell them to understand they’re only going to learn what not to do from the big social networks we developers currently use, and also that the basics have to come before the growth – and for this I talk about apples for, like 10 minutes:
If you use a gallon-sized scoop to gather from a gallon-sized bowl of apples, you’re gonna get most of the bad apples. Even with a smaller scoop, a bad apple or two will get in there. If you want only good apples you need to decide what is a good apple and communicate that (policy) and immediately remove the bad apples (moderate). Figure this out before you start working with larger bowls! Also, remember that no matter how big it is, it’s *your* bowl and if someone doesn’t like it, they can go join Parler in a couple of weeks (being generous here).
Drink some water and take care of yourselves.
XOXO Jenn Schiffer