On our team, in the user group, and at conferences, we try to build community. In each conversation, we do this by emphasizing ways we are alike.
- Who doesn’t like beer?
- Monty Python is funny.
- Everyone has done Object Oriented programming.
- We all went to college.
- Each of us can grow a beard.
- Video games are awesome.
- Everyone can see and hear.
- We all grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons.
Each of these shared references draws together most of the developer audience and promotes a feeling of belonging. And each of them further isolates people who don’t fit these assumptions.
I’ve been guilty of this. Writing presentations or posts, I look for domains familiar to my audience, and choose role playing. This emphasizes the programmer == geek stereotype, and the people who don’t know what it means to “level up” feel stupid and out of place.
When a reference appeals to the majority then people who don’t get it feel isolated. No one asks, “What does that mean?” when 80% of the audience reacts with knowing laughter.
Let’s build community on what every one of us shares.
- We want to learn from each other.
- Each of us wants to help build better software.
If you don’t want to learn or build good software then don’t read this blog. From now on, I aim to make only these assumptions about the people on my team, in my user groups, and at each conference.
Dick jokes? Funny, yes. Offensive, no. It isn’t about offensive/not offensive anymore. It’s about welcoming/isolating. When a particular joke applies to 80% of the audience differently than to the other 20%, that joke is isolating. That builds homogeneity. I want everyone to feel welcome, I want diverse ideas and contributions. I’m aiming for inclusion.
These are my action items:
- Consider my target audience as the attendee mix I hope to see someday. Men and women and transgendered, Asian and African and European, 20s and 40s and 60s. People who like sports, and cooking, and quilting.
- Give context to my references. The next time I mention the Prime Directive of Programming, I’ll talk about how Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation follows the Prime Directive of “do no harm.”
- Have hallway and table conversations about a diverse range of topics, that any random person might be able to jump in on. I’ll keep the stuff that freaks some people out for parties and private.
Let’s make each other think. Development communities should be about learning, not warm fuzzies of all being alike, when “all” means “people who resemble me.” I want to be all in, and let all in.