If you took the 2016 WordPress survey, you were asked to define yourself. Blogger, developer, designer, and so on. It’s a profound question, and not just in the metaphysical way.
More Than One
I am many things because I represent many things. When I speak, I speak forever with the weight of who I am. I speak and it reflects on DreamHost, my company. On WordPress, where I volunteer. If I were to say I hated Akismet, for example, it could end up on various sites and Facebook groups that the Plugins Team hates Akismet.
I’ll get back to that in a minute. Last summer I talked about handling bad reviews at WordCamp Europe. I don’t want to repeat that, you can watch it. People leave angry, mean, and outright bad reviews for a lot of reasons, and you can handle them constructively or not, as you like. Obviously I think constructive is better, because those bad reviews, the way you handle them is what’s going to make your reputations.
The Forest for the Trees
The problem is that you, the creator, feels so close to your code and creation, that you have trouble divorcing yourself from the review. I find that the more someone has worked in journalism or writing, the less personally they take the reviews, because they have seen their works ripped apart by a red pen before. Artists have to learn how to handle being edited.
But the other problem is that you forget you’re NOT an artist. If an actor or a musician blows up at people and rants and raves, it may hurt their career, but… people still hire Mel Gibson after his anti-Semitic rant. And Tiny Fey, love her, has been rather transphobic. No one is perfect, not even our idols, and we accept that.
The Goose vs the Gander
People are less accepting of their peers. If you get a bad review and explode on someone, calling them names, you’ve hurt yourself and your brand more than any single one star review ever could. Worse, they may treat you like a celebrity, over analyzing every word you say. That one’s a hoot.
The truth of all this is depressing. You will be hated, intentionally misunderstood, thrown under a bus, leibeled, and slandered. People will assume the worst of you. And because of this, they will assume to worst of your project, your brand, and your company. Forever.
And this too is depressing, because you will never be free of it. I posted on my blog, sometime last year, a post called “What they don’t tell you.” It listed the downsides to the community, and how these days happen and they suck. And you can’t stop them. I walked away from things decades ago, and they follow me. They haunt me.
Is There a Truth?
The obvious question now, the one I am reluctant to answer is HOW do you cope?
I don’t know.
I can tell you how I cope, but I don’t know if my answers will help you. I can tell you that it does all suck sometimes, but not all times, and you should have other outlets. I cannot offer the answer, though, because there isn’t just one.
The one truth I have is that defining myself as someone I can live with being is my answer. For the truth within myself is that as long as I know I am being good and honest and as fair as I can be, I am a good person. And being a good person is what matters most to me.