All In Moderation
I am – perhaps unbeknownst to some here – a moderator of both the /r/java and /r/rust subreddits (despite not being part of the Rust moderation team. It’s complicated). This gives me a rather unique perspective on the state of both communities.
The Java sub is obviously bigger and so we get to deal with a lot more spam and trolls. Due to sheer volume, the Java mods take a hard line against spam, going so far as to block links to certain estates by default, so you’ll need to ask us to unblock if you want to post them. On the other hand, bans are quite rare, despite a steady trickle of trolls trying to derail useful discussion. Poor disturbed souls. At least there are a few good ones who make for some morbid entertainment.
At about a third the size, the Rust sub is a good deal smaller (but still one of the medium sized programming language subreddits). The moderators only rarely need to handle disruptions; most folks honor the Code of Conduct. On the other hand, due to a name clash with a fairly popular game, the mods have to deal with the occasional game-related submission, which has become quite the game itself now (for a while we commented crossover-style, calling the type- and borrow checker “end bosses” and confusing the hell out of people who inadvertently posted to the wrong sub).
The Rust subreddit is perhaps an atypical sub because virtually no invective gets flung around, and the mods usually handle any instances quickly and effectively. The CoC drawing a clear line between desired and unwanted behavior makes it mostly easy to decide which is which. This is a clear win here.
The few trolls that remain usually either spell Rust’s doom (because nightly vs. stable, Mozilla intervention or phases of the moon) or denounce the CoC (because CoCs are teh evil, rah rah). Sadly those trolls tend on the low-qualiy side. Quantity seems to correlate with quality here.
Unlike /r/rust, /r/java disallows job postings. Every few weeks the mods receive a complaint about this policy (usually from some head hunter or HR person), but we stay the course. Similarly, pleas for help go to /r/javahelp. This allows people to filter for the news they want, and those who want to help can use a multisub. In the Rust sub, both job and help posts are cherished (though I try to channel help requests with weekly sticky’d “Ask here!” threads).
The tech world has a toxicity problem. As a mod, I see a lot of that. No worries, I have that thick skin business down. Being called a Nazi does nothing to me, and has lost a lot of novelty after a few hundred times. But I wouldn’t wish it on my friends. Or enemies (because if you really are my enemy, you’ve earned my respect. Otherwise, if you think of yourself as my enemy, you’re just a nuisance. Go play somewhere else).
Steering clear of such behavior in the Rust community has led to surprised reactions:
the Rust community is so nice. How did you instill and protect that tone in the community? — M. Verdone on twitter
But why should we be surprised? Most people outside the tech community would instead scoff at the normalization of toxic behavior that our industry has established. The general “consensus” seems to be that the toxic developers are so good that we’re better off allowing their antics for fear they may leave us without their awesome contributions.
This is bullshit for three reasons:
First, most people aren’t really inherently toxic (otherwise society as a whole would look a lot different), they just tend to emulate people they look up to (which unfortunately are the “ninjas”, “rockstars” or “gurus”). This means they are able to drop the antics when asked.
Second, most of those “ninjas”, “rockstars”, “gurus” or whatever have more attitude then aptitude. Statistically speaking, even if most of the geniusses were assholes, there are many more assholes than geniusses, so the chance that an asshole is also a genius is negligible.
Third, and most important, we get to see the myriad small and large contributions of those who are repelled by the ‘tude, and that – not only by sheer volume, but also by a very real quality – makes up at least tenfold for the questionable contributions from the folks who profess being put off by the existence of a code of conduct. The probability that we get the contributions of a few geniusses this way that won’t contribute to the “if you can’t stand the heat” projects is significant.
How To Detox Your Project
So how can you apply the learnings of the Rust community to your project, considering it’s already overrun with toxic people? I wish I could offer you some tried and tested advice. Alas, I have yet to see an example where this was pulled off successfully.
So here’s what I try to do: Be mindful of my communication around projects, learn more about things like sexism, racism and ableism to be able to better avoid them in the future. I reflect on what I say and do and try to improve.
Of course I make mistakes here and there – and I’m glad to have my fellow mods point them out so I can correct them. There will always be trolls trying to get me down, but those are but mosquitos trying to bite me on my path to personal growth.