[PythonistaCafe] Why PythonistaCafe exists

Hey there,

In one of my last emails I talked about how some online communities in the tech space devolve over time and turn into cesspools of negativity.

This relates directly to how and why I started PythonistaCafe:

When I talked about this topic on the dbader.org Python newsletter in early 2017 I received some amazing and supportive reactions—

For example, here's what newsletter member Charles said:

~~~

This was a great email. I've felt this way many many times. Toxicity is one of the reasons it took me so long to get into software development. I felt stupid and I thought maybe I'm not smart enough to be a software developer...

I've gotten more used to it now, but I don't post on those sites very much anymore for this exact reason. I'm looking forward to more discussion on this topic. Keep up all of the good work.

~~~

Matt also dropped me a line:

~~~

The sad truth is, haters gonna hate. Frustratingly, the anonymity that people think they have online makes even 'normal/balanced/insert term to differentiate from psycho' people behave like arse holes.

There is no getting away from it. The answer is in learning how to deal with that kind of person and it takes a certain mindset to be able to blow it off without affecting you too much.

~~~

Also this came up in a conversation I had with Bill:

~~~

I have such an incurable case of impostor syndrome that I have rarely posted on the main forums. There always seems to be some asshole that stands guard and flogs all who enter.

~~~

Vladimir chimed in with the following:

~~~

I know the feeling. I was discouraged to post some questions on StackOverflow when I saw how many guys are treated... very bad.... it's like a competition who will first take you down (of course providing zero useful stuff) with "this is a duplicate of blah, blah..." closing your message when you don't even know what actually happened.

~~~

And Nikola had this to say:

~~~

Those who provide bad comments and negative feedbacks are typically people who never made anything significant or never actually contributed to the community. Those who try to give back to the community are those who thrive!

~~~

(And there was more.)

Seeing all these responses pour in was the "trigger" that led to the launch of PythonistaCafe—

It made me realize WAY MORE folks than expected were fed up with toxic online interactions, especially in tech and academia.

And it was awesome to see Pythonistas from all over the world reply back and share their thoughts.

I'd been thinking about this stuff for months and it felt great to finally turn it into a real conversation.

And many of the people you saw reply eventually became founding members of PythonistaCafe.

Now, let's go back to the original question—

Why do many online communities end up generating that kind of negative and unacceptable behavior?

My hunch is that anonymity ENCOURAGES toxic behavior.

If someone can hide behind the veil of anonymity with a cryptic pseudonym and an abstract avatar picture, it encourages trolling and aggressive behavior.

Trolls can protect their real identity and get to lash out at will, without repercussions. And if they do get downvoted enough or banned eventually—well, big deal.

They'll just create a new account with a new email address or through a VPN and are off to the races again...

As a result, even the majority of "good people" in the community now need to hide their real personalities to shield themselves against personal attacks.

Using a pseudonym can make it easier to ask (seemingly) "stupid" questions, or to help someone muster up the courage to join the community in the first place.

But these things are all crutches—

They don't solve the real underlying problem. The main reason why we need anonymity is so people can defend themselves against bullying and aggression and feel "safe."

But this is the wrong approach for a fix. It creates barriers between people and keeps interactions forever shallow.

So how could this be improved then?

I believe that strong and positive communities thrive because they foster REAL HUMAN CONNECTIONS between their members.

This is a key ingredient:

A strong and healthy community is always built on the connections shared by its members.

The key to making this happen in an ONLINE community is to constantly remind people that there's a human-being on the other end—

And this starts with removing the need for anonymity, pseudonyms, and keeping your guard up perpetually.

Inside PythonistaCafe we encourage the use of real names and avatar photos.

If I can read the thoughts you've shared and feel a human connection to you because I'm seeing your face and your name right next to what you've written—

Then it's MUCH easier to fall into a mode of communication that's close to how we would talk to each other in a 1:1 conversation.

It creates the kind of learning environment that's supportive and "safe." And it fosters the kinds of interactions PythonistaCafe members enjoy participating in.

If you're interested in becoming a PythonistaCafe member you can start the application process by going to the link below:

-> https://www.pythonistacafe.com/apply

— Dan Bader

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