We need to talk about stereotypes in tech

I recently came across this excellent post from @sailorhg, titled "Coding Like a Girl". If you didn't read it yet, please, do it. It's a very truthful post talking about some very common stereotypes we face, as women, working in tech.

The question that started to bother me was: why are we so strongly driven by stereotypes, and how dangerous this culture is for the future of tech?

The term stereotype is defined as "a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing". The definition includes things, but we know that it's much more about people. And why? Well, because people are complicated.

Now imagine an ancestral human with limited understanding of the world and limited communication skills. Animals were easy to understand, with predictable behavior and simple emotional patterns. Humans, by the other hand, were much more complicated. Developed brains come with imagination, creativity and one more important thing: the notion of individualism and the desire to express it.

While a lion would look and act just the same as other lions, humans were very different from each other, making it hard to quickly identify and classify people in the same way they could do with animals. It is just natural that stereotypes would start to exist, based on appearance and behavior. I have no scientific basis to say this, but it's just pretty clear that we created stereotypes to help in "reading" and classifying other human beings as part of our need to feel safe.

Stereotypes are rooted deep in our brains, and I don't think there's a way to unwire sociological patterns that were built during a lifetime. Instead, we need to acknowledge that our assumptions can be terribly wrong (and they are, pretty often) and we should never rely on stereotypes to define people - even when you feel sure about something.

It's about being conscious, actively pondering about your interpretations of the world and the people around you, questioning yourself on facts instead of impressions and assumptions. When you are a passive spectator, driven by the faulty impressions caused by stereotyped assumptions from your brain, you will end up offending people without even noticing it. Have you ever heard that expression "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"? Yeah, that's about right.

true story, happened multiple times

Educate yourself on being conscious about your interpretations of the world and the people around you. Don't make assumptions, and more importantly, don't base your communication and behavior towards someone else on stereotyped models.

this is definitely the least useful feedback I ever got for a talk. think twice before basing your communication on stereotypes, this was truly offensive.

song of the software developer

song of the software developer

dear faceless bro of mine
i talk to you silently
through the software
that i write

i strive to reach silently
to you through the
code i write

at times i swim in one small box
a pixel high a pixel wide
and i am lost
semi lost colon lost
dark color coded screens
breaks in code
error screams

i forget

there is a human on that side
my bro my user
he gets lost
from my mind

UI UX they remind
and i rewind

why am i doing this?

to be one
with you faceless bro of mine
to be one
an interwoven world divine
to be one
with my own soul that shines

~ vani murarka

Why some people don't do Open Source

This post has much to do with the one made by Erika Heidi: The Art of Programming.

She states:

Respect the work of others, even if you think there is something with a similar purpose already out there. It's their expression. They are not trying to reinvent the wheel. They are trying to create a better wheel, or a wheel that works better for their purposes.

And I agree with her. For instance, I worked in a company where people weren't much of a fan of PSR-2 or any kind of code styling. Did I agree with that? NOPE, in the end I was able to convince them to standardize some stuff. But they were working perfectly before I even enter the team, and as a teammate I tried to contribute, it was hard to convince them why git was better than svn for our scenario and stuff like that.

But imagine the following, you have an idea, that you think it's awesome, and you think it can help someone else. It will be a pain in the ass to develop the idea, make it work, but you put yourself through that anyway. And let's imagine you did it. Awesome, right? Let's publish it!

And all of the sudden there are 23 PR's of people helping you to improve your code, adding more features, which is awesome! However, theres always those 5% of people who are only there to criticize what you did and diminish your job.

And that kind of criticism isn't helpful at all. I've learned that if you don't have something useful to add, just keep your mouth shut. Because 5% of those horrible people out there, the code-trolls as I use to call them, push away a lot of amazing coders that could be contributing to open source, but choose no to, fearing those reactions.They just go to work, do a side project here and there and go on with their lives. They may even follow you on Twitter.

They probably have done awesome code to their companies, but they can't share because is private, and that is ok, because not everyone is obligated to have a Github account or participate in the community. (I won't enter in the discussion that a Github account should be a person CV).

But because of the code-trolls people are afraid to participate, and become a target. I have been witness to that, and I can state you need to have thick skin to deal with the fire squad. I am not saying that sensible people can't participate. I think we are handling people in the wrong way. People make mistakes and making a big deal of if it only makes the person never want to do Open Source again.

Some may say that Open Source is a great school, which you can learn a lot. I believe that, but only if people are open to accept others into their groups, because I saw some projects around, and they are like The Clubhouse fellers, not because of sexism, but because they will only let in those who are either friends with the project creators or "famous" developers in the open source community. So in other words, the code is open, the community isn't.

To summarize: being a code-troll drive people away and making an Open Source project "V.I.P." doesn't help the community, only helps people's ego. And to me, this is a cause worth fighting for: Let's be the host, not the bouncer, because it takes a lot of courage to make yourself open like that.

I encourage you to read the Contributor Covenant, it is code of conduct for open source projects, but reading isn't enough, we must remind each other to follow it.