Are we humans or are we coders? (humans, we’re humans)

Following my blog post from last week, I have been thinking a lot of Open Source, community building and how to maintain a nurturing environment. I realized I am not alone in my lack of participation and that many other developers, artists and overall coders feel like they would love to contribute,… but they don’t. For many reasons. And -obviously- we can take many actions to change that.

In the article “The Art of Humanizing Pull Requests”, Ankita Kulkarni hits a lot of high notes. Providing suggestions, including tests, making yourself more familiar with the code,… most of these advices have an essential underlying value: communication.

We cannot forget that before everything, before code, before computers and even before art, we’re humans. We are social beings and we rely on complex systems of communication. Tone of voice, fluctuations of pitch, cadence, and hand of body gestures give us a wide array of information that help us convey and/or better understand other’s ideas. Thus, the simplification of texting is seldom efficient and tends to create problems everywhere. And that’s why using emojis is not only for keeping the conversation more “friendly”. It is a tool for expressing emotion over text. It lets us translate some of that non-verbal information into useful UTF-8 encoded characters.

But some things have to be taken more carefully than we might think. As it says in the article “The Corruption of the Golden Rule”, some common established practices make it worse at the time to be empathic. Particularly, you should not “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This requires assumptions made on the “other”, it asks you to “put yourself into their shoes”. If something is not offensive for you, it might be very much awful for someone else. And there’s a great quote that summarizes the process of the proposed Platinum Rule:

There is a common response to the presentation of the platinum rule: “How do I figure out how other people want to be treated?” I’m always asked in a sassy, know-it-all kind of tone. “Ask them,” I reply, in an equally sassy tone.

The virtuous epidemic of constructive communities

In “Worms, Butterflies and Dandelions. Open source tools for the arts” Taeyoon Choi compares a curious and beautiful plant with the structure of an open source project: multiple interconnected and distributed nodes. With different roles and personal abilities, as it spreads the networks gets stronger and rich.

The open-source plant for Taeyoon Choi (taken from his blog post)

“FLOSS software is an ecology where thousands of projects, large and small, can be combined in different ways to create new software”

This was written by Casey Reas in his essay “Processing and FLOSS”. It also plays with the previous idea and Taeyoon’s analogy with dandelions. We never know where or how our projects might be used, posting them publicly on GitHub is blowing into the online wilderness hoping it will help art bloom somewhere else. And that is what I love about ITP. The nurturing space that has been formed is priceless: unbound collaboration, unselfish promotion and extremely well-intended advice. The friendship and cooperative environment is what I would love any open source project to be. But then again, text-only can only get us that far. We are (just, and before anything else) humans.

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