So this link passed by my desk recently. Go read it; it’s a horrifying look at someone trying to solve a problem and doing it with the knowledge they have. Knowledge that opened massive security holes, leaving the entire server vulnerable.
Commentary around my friends and acquaintances ranged from “Oh dear lord” to “What an idiot.”
The last one pissed me off. Idiot? Stupid?
Yes, the code this person wrote is horrifyingly bad. It’s a massive security hole. The only reason they’re able to write it is because we, as a community, completely dropped the ball.
Your Knowledge Does Not Make You Special
The thing our friend lacks is knowledge; ignorance of good security practise is a sin we have all been guilty of.
You aren’t a special snowflake because you happen to know more about security repercussions; the same is true when you call someone stupid for not having your knowledge. Instead you express that you think your knowledge makes you special, smarter, or more entitled.
You’re a programmer; are you also a brilliant politician? Then clearly you’re stupid. Why? Because you’re ignorant of the skill and time that goes into the political craft, of interacting professionally with other messy, fleshy humans with their own goals and desires.
Are you also a brilliant seafarer? Then you’re clearly stupid, for your ignorance in reading the waves and weather, the life that lives beneath you.
Are you a molecular biologist? Then clearly you’re stupid.
People in these fields all have knowledge, skill and passion for what they do. They’re smart people, and they use what they’ve learned on a daily basis, things that you can’t do.
That they don’t know what we know about computers does not make them stupid.
All saying these things does is make you an elitist asshole.
Cut It The Fuck Out.
It takes a quarter of the page to get to a comment trying to explain that this is okay for a beginner. Why is there so much garbage about making our poor friend feel awful? How much more vitriol was delivered in private? Are we so insecure and petty that we need to make our community like an American high school by driving everyone away who cares enough to learn or is passionate enough to seek us out?
I was given breaks; allowed to have my garbage beginner code checked over by people I trusted and respected, who weren’t assholes to me. People who understood that being a negative influence would only add more toxicity to an already toxic culture.
My friends tell similar tales of finding small groups of trusted friends to give those first steps up without judgement or mockery, with kind, compassionate critiques. They speak of lifelong friendships maintained because those people weren’t toxic, but could be counted on for polite yet frank discourse.
None of us shat on each other for the sport of it.
It was a luxury to have that group. It’s hard to find one. That it’s necessary keeps tech just as misogynist, racist, and toxic as it’s always been.
Adopt a Fucking Student.
Volunteer. Mentor. Help out. Make the community something you want new blood to want to join. Don’t make it as elitist as everything else was, when I was young. Don’t make our passion a walled garden, where only the most hateful and miserable have sway, or the hardiest souls may dare enter to repeat the cycle anew.
Be better than this.
And if you think that this is how tech ought to be, fuck you. Go be a miserably abusive shitstain somewhere else.