I get painted as a bad guy a lot. I’ve been called names, everything you can think up. I’ve had my gender, sexuality, appearance, and ability all mocked and derided. And most of this has happened since I took up the role of a volunteer in WordPress.
Creation, Editing, Fitting In
As a writer, which is how I’ve always seen myself first, I’m used to the ruthlessness of the editing process. I’ve seen papers torn apart and painted red with corrections and commentary. Why this? What are you saying here? I understand the reason for ripping apart creativity to find it’s heart and crux and meaning. Art for the sake of art is different than art for the sake of consumption, after all.
But instead of a career in the arts, or journalism, I had a different path. Out of college I went to work for a bank and quickly learned how to fit myself into the cog of a machine. I had a role and a life that did not encourage innovation and uniqueness, but that of interchangeability. And in that work, I began to understand the reason for patterns and the similarity.
I’ve always been fascinated by patterns. I liked to see how the number went from 09 to 18 and 27 and obviously the first number goes up while the second goes down, and isn’t math cool? Seeing the pattern in the work at the bank taught me that while we are all creating and inventing, what we make has to be used in many different ways, and they all need to talk to each other. So we have to make sure all the little cogs and wheels interlock properly.
It’s Still Creation
I like to watch the behind the scenes parts of movies. It’s why I prefer to own physical copies. I have watched all the extras for the Lord of the Rings movies. That’s why I know Tolkien disliked when people were obsessed with his work. Because he was not obsessed. He liked what he did, but it wasn’t the end of the world if people didn’t care for it. He made something neat to tell the story he wanted to tell
Often we as developers fail at this. It’s not entirely our fault. We’re told that what we do is engineering or science, and we forget to stress the creative aspect of inventing that which has never been seen before. We forget progress is forged by dreams. And that’s why, when you see a one star review of your work, it flays you open, leaving you chained to the rocks for the crows to eat your innards. You gave fire to man, and this was your reward?!
Let’s breathe. What Tolkien didn’t seem to understand was that he had created life. He had made a world so amazing and vibrant, people saw it and wanted to be a part of it. Similarly, when we create code, we give life to others.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
I’ve gotten the greatest compliments on my work in the form of someone telling me it helped them achieve their goals. People have started businesses, found success, and made something of themselves, all because of something I did.
But more often, or at least what I remember more, are the names and the anger and the harassment. The people who stalk me down on Slack and Twitter, demanding that I pay attention to them right now and that they are the most important thing… while being angry when I do devote that time, but that my answer is not what they wanted.
Remember Your Self
Originally I titled this post “When you’re evil for doing good.” Really that didn’t touch on the real feeling I have about this. Because at the end of it all, I sit and look at the work I’ve done and I ask myself “What was this for?”
I have a strange life. I have a job that is essentially trying to keep 26% of the internet safe from itself. So my answer for “What was this for?” has become a question of itself. “Is this going to make it better or worse?”
When I come to decisions, like to tell someone we cannot host their code because they have lied and broken the guidelines too many times, it always comes from this place. Will I make things better for the majority or worse? And in that moment, I ignore the other question. “Will this hurt me?” Because the answer to that is “Yes, probably.”
“Honor is what you know about yourself.”
There’s no way I can make hard decisions and not get hurt. There’s no way I can do it and not hurt others. But I sit and I remember my self. My inner self that wants to make things better, safer, and as fair as possible. I remember the me who wants to say “What I do makes the internet better.” And if that comes at a personal cost, well. I will know this.
I have integrity.
I have honesty.
I have empathy.
As long as I have those, and as long as I do my best and keep learning and becoming better, I will be doing the right thing. And I can live with being ‘evil’ when I’m doing good.