My fellow nerds, geeks, hackers, designers, makers, builders, and DIYers, there is something very very wrong with out culture right now.
We're jackasses to one another.
No we're not! Right? Geeks help each other out! Well, sometimes we do, but most of the time, we're the most abrasive, critical, non-cooperative community of people I've ever encountered. How many websites are there like the daily wtf? Or clients from hell? Or photoshop disasters?
How many blog posts have been written about how everybody is doing everything WRONG! Stop using comic sans, GOD DAMNIT! What are you, illiterate? “Grammar nazis” are engrained into our culture, and disregarding something somebody has sed because of of minor misspelling is a common, accepted, and even expected practice.
“Tables? What is this, the 1990s? Ha ha ha!”
“This design looks like myspace gorged itself on friendster and vomited all over geocities!”
“You're using the default hashing algorithm in mysql instead of bcrypt? You should probably give up and see if they're hiring down at the local concrete crushing factory because you, sir, have absolutely no business whatsoever touching, much less programming, a computer.”
“God I hate the arduino. It's not real hacking. Using the arduino is no different than going down to target and just buying whatever it is that you're trying to build. Arduino is for idiots that can't actually program because they're too stupid to figure out how to hook a parallel cable into a bread board. God, kids these days are fucking IDIOTS.”
These are all embellished caricatures of comments I've actually seen.
What the hell, guys? Why is this attitude so common? And it extends beyond just criticizing other designers/hackers/makers. Why does every single nerd I meet just hate “hipsters”? Or “bros”?
Are we all back in high school again?
I want to share the experiences I've had with other communities, specifically sports people. I've shared this before, so if you've already heard it, please excuse me. When I was about 16 years old, I was a huge (literally, I was physically huge) nerd. I'm not sure if it was because of the tiny school that I went to, but somehow, I managed to befriend some skateboarders. After a few times going with them to the local skatepark and helping them film a “sponsor me” video, I decided that I should learn to skateboard myself, so I bought a board.
This was probably hilarious to watch. A big huge nerd who was certainly more comfortable sitting behind a python interpreter than in front of a skate ramp was hopelessly rolling around in circles in the parking lot.
Except nobody told me that I sucked at skateboarding, or that my form was terrible, or that I should give up on it. In fact quite the opposite. One day at the skatepark I was sitting off to the side just watching everybody else and kindof wishing that I wasn't there. One of my best friends, Steve, came up to me to ask what I was doing.
“Oh, man, I suck at this. I'm just going to practice at home or something. I don't want to get into anybody's way.”
“What? Dude, you look like a weird-o just sitting over here, and you're not going to learn anything by just staring at that thing. If I ever catch you sitting on this bench again, you're not invited to the skatepark anymore.” (There were probably quite a few more vulgarities, but this was the gist of it)
I have never seen this attitude in the geek community. It's always been “You're doing it wrong, and you should give up because you suck at it.” or “if you're not using $hip_new_language, then you're a loser.”
Guys, why do we do this? Most of us were nerds when we were younger, and this attitude of “you're not cool enough to be in the $cool_designers or $cool_programmers club” is exactly the type of stuff we had to deal with. It's the high-school lunch room all over again.
So I have a challenge for you: for the next 30 days, be more like my friend Steve. Instead of outlining all of the ways that your peers are terrible at programming because they're not doing manual memory management, or that your customers are illiterate morons and how dare they have the audacity to question your work, give people constructive criticisms. If their design is bad, tell them what they can do to improve it. If there code is bad, offer to help them patch it and make it better. If there spelling or grammar is off, just let it go.
And please, stop it with the irrational hatred of “hipsters”. Most “hipsters” that I know love geek culture and would be elated at the opportunity to have somebody show them around a laser cutter.
(And yes, I realize that this post is super-critical. How meta)