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Using Polywork to Break My Unconscious Biases

Michael Jolley
Bald. Bearded. Builder. Microsoft MVP. Auth0 Ambassador. Formerly 🥑 @ Vonage Husband. Dad x 3.
Originally published at baldbeardedbuilder.com ・3 min read

This past year I've been examining the communities I'm a part of. It didn't take long to notice that I was living in a bubble of people who look, act, and think like me. It was one of those unconscious things, that when recognized, seems obvious and repulsive. I have always valued diversity on my teams and I want my social connections to be equally diverse. That's why, when I was offered an invite to join Polywork, I knew this was an opportunity to ensure my "bubble" was diverse.

What is Polywork?

Before I get into what I did, let's talk about what Polywork is. First, I don't work for or represent Polywork, so don't take my explanation as their "official description." I see Polywork as a LinkedIn replacement that better represents technical and artistic communities. Whereas, LinkedIn focuses on what positions you've held and education you've completed, Polywork focuses on what you've done.

Polywork recognizes that for many software developers, some of our most exciting projects take place outside of the office. Things like blog posts, conference & meetup talks, and YouTube/Twitch videos can all be highlighted on your profile. You can also use Polywork to find other individuals who are open to mentoring you, speaking at your event, and more.

They also provide a "follow" feature which is similar to what you would be accustomed to on platforms like Twitter. This is where my journey to expanding my bubble begins.

Polywork Follows: The !== Way

Whenever I see content, regardless of platform, I always follow or subscribe to the creator so I can see more content like that. I normally don't pay attention to who the person is, but I do notice what their role is, what company they work for, etc. But there are so many white guys in the tech space, it's hard not to quickly fill up a "following" list of the same people. This is the first place I changed my habits.

Step one in operation Expand The Bubble was realizing that I have an unconscious inclination to follow content created by white guys, here on referred to as White Guy Creators (WGC). Does that mean I stop following creators who look like me? Nope. Instead, I decided to counteract this disposition by following 3 non-WGCs for every one WGC. So if I see content I enjoy from a WGC, I give them a follow/subscribe. Then I go on the hunt and don't leave the computer until I've identified 3 non-WGCs that had interesting content.

What has been the result? Gold. Absolute gold. There are a plethora of amazing content creators out there that are never recommended to me, or whose content never reached my feed before. I don't know if this is due to the algorithms employed by Twitter/Instagram/TikTok/etc, but by actively counter-balancing who I follow, it appears I've broken through to this wonderland of amazing content that I had never seen before.

For the first time, I actually enjoy logging into the timeline to see what new, amazing stuff I'll find.

Can You Hear Them Now?

I'll admit, step two in my plans has been hampered. Soon after starting this journey, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Within 4 weeks of diagnosis, we had spent 2 weeks in the hospital and now a week at home on hospice trying to make her comfortable as she becomes more confused and less the amazing woman who raised me on her own. I only write this step because it was and still is in my plans moving forward. If anything, it will help me stay accountable.

Back to step two: Amplification. Now that I'm getting to see this awesome content by non-WGC, I want to make a conscious effort to break existing algorithms and expose people who may follow me to these amazing creators. So each time I see content that inspires, teaches, or encourages me, I want to share it with my community.

Break Out of Your Bubble

If you'd like to join Polywork, they've given me a VIP code for anyone reading who'd like to get in on the action. Go to https://polywork.com and use the code baldbeardbuild. Once you're in, I highly recommend using the steps above to expand your bubble and amplify the amazing content you find.

How do you actively combat your unconscious biases? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know.

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