How Can We Keep On A Tech Side

Aleksei Matiushkin on October 29, 2018

Well, sorry for that, it’s me again, with my counter-stream opinion. I have joined dev.to almost two years ago. I had a gut feeling the develope... [Read Full]
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From an objective standpoint, I think that there are a lot more points implied here than directly said, most of which walk a fine line.

Ultimately, I like the fact that you are tossing grievances out into the open. Its that kind of mindset that creates real change. Whining and whispering without coming out and saying anything is for sewing circles, IMHO.

What I'm hearing you suggest are legitimate changes that could benefit the whole community, blacklisting tags is a big one. Then there are others that there could very well be creative solutions for, but are not quite so obvious. Having a "censorship free" environment could, as you've said, scare off newcomers and could do more harm than good. However, perhaps having a switch in your profile that you could toggle similar to the "Show my PG only Memes" on some meme websites could be one way to go about it.

Personally, I love a good, no holds barred debate. But ultimately, as this is a relatively public space, there needs to be an air of respect on the "front page" of things because we are, after all, professionals and should behave as such.

This is not to say that, as professionals, we all need to blow off steam once in awhile using not-so-appropriate language and/or references. But, just like in real life, the spaces and audiences to whom we speak this way should ultimately, have the right to choose to be present. Perhaps needing to explicitly join a certain discussion, and being warned beforehand that some of the content may be "less than savory" could be another way. YouTube has done this for some time with the "Sign in to confirm your age" prompt.

Final thoughts would be to not leave the community. This site is barely in its infancy and will grow with time. With maturity comes wisdom and the ability to use it to accomplish your goals. Growing pains are a part of that, and the decisions you come to may not always be popular, but that's life. I'd stick around for a bit and continue to be respectfully vocal about what you don't like, as you've done here. I've been around for only a short time, but it seems that the people running this joint are really responsive to the community so, we'll see what happens.

 

This site is barely in its infancy and will grow with time. With maturity comes wisdom and the ability to use it to accomplish your goals. Growing pains are a part of that, and the decisions you come to may not always be popular, but that's life.

Thank you!

I think some of Aleksei's points are addressable platform concerns we share. Hard to say if we'll ever be his ideal community. But either way, this kind of project takes forever to reach meaningful product maturity, if ever. Sometimes I feel like we could go back to when nobody cared one way or another.

It's probably good that people care enough to make posts like this.

 

Hard to say if we'll ever be his ideal community.

That’s very easy to say: nope, never. But that fact has zero value.

The thing is I could not care less about myself. I am fine. I care about the community. I naïvely thought the word dev in the name still has both meaning and value.

I believe you do care about the community and I enjoy the content you post but Aleksei, let's be intellectually honest: you do also care about yourself, otherwise your post wouldn't be full of your personal opinions.

Even now you're talking about "the meaning and value of the word dev" like there's only one way to interpret such word or everyone here has the same experience and interests as you.

Personally I've changed my mind at least a couple of times about what we all do for work and passion on here :D The meaning of the word dev for me is not the same now that it was when I was in middle school or when I was super excited at my first job at a financial company.

ps. using the expression "intellectual honesty" I'm not implying you're dishonest on purpose, just that by reading your comments I get the impression that your own view of the world is sometimes packaged as objective fact

you do also care about yourself, otherwise your post wouldn't be full of your personal opinions

I doubt I understand how it makes a deductive reasoning. Everything we share is nothing but personal opinions. Objective facts exist if and only if axiomatics is complete and consistent and that’s not what happens to humanity.

Thanks for the formal explanation :D

What I meant is more nuanced (and your answer confirmed my doubts actually): by saying "I do not care about me, I care about the community" and with your initial post's choice of words added what is coming across is "I know the definition of community, you have to do this, that and also that, otherwise you'll fail because there are no other possible permutations for a thriving community".

I don't think dev.to is perfect but, it seems like you disagree on this, for example the code of conduct is something I really appreciate. You might not, but we can both co-exist on this platform and collaborate.

If you truly, truly couldn't do this you would have already left without sounding the alarm about what bothers you which is a good thing.

Anyhow, since you do not care much about discussing tone or people's feelings: I put forth a possible implementation of the "blacklist" here, we can discuss that in its thread

A possible improvement on a plain "ignore tag" feature could be the following.

Let's say you decide that "react" is something you don't really care about and you tell the platform to ignore the tag.

If you agree, the platform will send you a monthly email of the best React articles and their best comments in the tags you've ignored. Humans aren't perfect, sometimes they forget to add all the relevant tags or instead the post is tagged "react" but it's not about the technology per se but part of a larger discourse on frontend development.

This way you're not totally disconnected to what goes on in that other part of the website. You can still unsubscribe from the digest but maybe this will spark some interest or a conversation if the title captures your attention.

Instead of the email, which I'm sure some would dislike - even if it's the easiest to implement, you might have a new section on the website of such "best of ignored tags".

You don’t hear me: I am fine with whatever exists, and when I am not, I am creating my own implementation of that from the scratch.

That is not about me. I know how to blacklist whatever I want and AdBlock + Greasemonkey do their job for me perfectly.

There are some smart, engaged people here trying to brainstorm solutions to the critiques that you’ve presented. However, this thing you’re doing where you claim you’re not speaking for yourself but for some unseen developer who cannot speak for themselves allows you to dodge any and all ideas. All you have to say is “this isn’t about me!”

Maybe you should make this about you and express your opinions and feelings. Argue the ideas presented on the merits that you see in them. Stop moving the goalpost because no one is correctly engaging the imaginary construct of developer you think you’re arguing for. Rhymes is trying to engage you honestly and I’d love to know what you actually think about these ideas rather than just get snippy and change the subject.

There are some smart, engaged people here trying to brainstorm solutions to the critiques that you’ve presented.

That’s great and I could not wish more. I am not as smart, neither engaged—so I did my best—I threw the critiques for those who are able to handle it. Why should I continue to participate in the discussion in the first place?

 

So Dev.to (like most online platforms) is a site where content creators don't make money for their writing. They create it for either building a profile, because they want to find community, networking, learning, or for some other sort of self-promotion. Even if people aren't explicitly self-promoting, people still need to be getting something from posting, or else they wouldn't post.

I really don't think putting parameters around what people can post is productive, because, again, people are doing free work by posting on here. I agree that unfollowing certain tags could be a good solution so that people who aren't interested won't see it. Beginner stuff appeals to a wider audience so it's upvoted more, I feel like that's pretty much inevitable in most communities, so then relying on the tag pages for things you are interested in becomes more important!

Also, sites like Reddit and HackerNews exist already where most of the content is tailored towards more advanced content -- I've been #1 on HackerNews and at the top of /r/Programming. That experience made me take a break from writing because of the hate I was getting -- I had to change my name on my personal Facebook and make my Instagram private because I was getting awful stuff on my non-code platforms in addition to Twitter which I mostly use professionally and on the platforms themselves. I think censorship is pretty necessary on a professional platform, and I personally wouldn't write here anymore if the code of conduct was taken away (which I know it won't, just speaking hypothetically).

I agree with @rhymes -- I would reach out to the people that write the content you are interested in and see if they would like to post here. That's probably the most productive way to make change!

 

That experience made me take a break from writing because of the hate I was getting -- I had to change my name on my personal Facebook and make my Instagram private because I was getting awful stuff on my non-code platforms in addition to Twitter which I mostly use professionally and on the platforms themselves.

😱😱😱

I'm not surprised though. I end up on HN once a week because of the HighScalability.com digest and some people over there are masters of using this over other people:

(have no idea what's its name in English, sorry 😅)

 
 
 

I think censorship is pretty necessary on a professional platform

Wow. Maybe we should better kill those having a different opinion?

I personally wouldn't write here anymore if the code of conduct was taken away

Well, I do write here to maybe help people to learn something new. I do not get how CoC is connected to my willingness to share knowledge.

 

Some people just want to watch the world burn. But they will settle for burning down an interesting community or person they find. Being able to stop those people (by non-lethal means) seems like a good ability to have.

 

I've seen quite a bit of handwringing across the community about "self promotion" and lack of content that satisfies certain people's particular interests. I get that that can be really frustrating, but at some point I have to wonder why more people aren't creating and modeling the content they want to see. If you'd like to see a deep dive architecture breakdown of a large system, cool. Write that up. People will read it, and if they think it's valuable content, they'll create more things like it! But there's been a lot of back and forth in posts and comments across the site advocating for gatekeeping against beginner content, tutorials, or anything that doesn't meet an arbitrary standard of real tech. It's starting to feel less than constructive.

We all create and exist in the culture of dev.to. There isn't much of a hierarchy here. If there's something you want to see but don't, it's your responsibility to bring it into the community. No one is going to read your mind.

 

I actually don't know who you are or what unpopular opinions you are talking about. I'm not trying to be disrespectful but providing more context would be useful because I think there are other people like me that will see this post and misunderstand what you're trying to say.

Filters can be useful but they can also lead to echo chambers and it's a tricky balance.

For real tech I personally don't like the gatekeeping behavior and elitist attitude that it leads to. Reddit and HN are full of real tech and they're some of the most toxic communities that I'm aware of.

 
Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

Sorry, but I cannot be respectful to the person who thinks that “toxic” might precede “environment” or “community” in English.

 

I'm genuinely confused by this, so I'd appreciate you expanding on this—you don't think there's such a thing as a toxic environment or community?

You don't think there's such a thing as a toxic environment or community?

Exactly. There are people who tend to use the word “toxic” everywhere instead of “I don’t like it.”

Clearly, you've never played Dota, Lol or WoT 😄Some people are just braindead and mean.

Hah, yeah, there's a difference between a term feeling overused and that concept not actually existing, though—and yeah, video games are ground zero for bad community.

Rather than getting hung up on terminology, I do think David makes a good point above that gatekeeping behavior and elitist attitudes re: what is "real tech" do not a good community make. Rather than banning or hiding content that doesn't meet a standard of "technical enough," I think it's maybe a better approach to try and promote more thoughtful content, whether that's by intentionally interacting with what exists or trying to create more of it (either personally, or by reaching out to people who can).

Please note I have never proposed to ban nor hide any content. I voted for providing a possibility for me to hide it in my own feed.

That makes the huge difference, if I may :)

Sure thing! I think that's definitely a nice feature, and I'd probably use it too. I think I've just seen some folks get a little too overexcited about policing what content should be here or not.

 

I agree that you should be able to "ignore" certain tags, if you want.

 

Agreed. Or at least "negative signal".

I also think "primary" tag follows makes sense. I might follow ten tags I sort of care about, but I should probably be able to augment a handful as extra important to me.

 

Someone has to reverse-engineer the algorithm that Quora uses to recommend articles because they send me a daily digest and I find almost every article interesting.

Also, @ben I've been thinking about this and maybe what we need isn't a binary "I like this" vs. "I don't like this" recommendation engine, but rather a net of tags with weightings on a [-1.0, 1.0] continuum. If you "follow" a tag, it's set to 1.0 -- you always see every article with that tag. If you "unfollow" a tag (or haven't yet chosen to follow a tag), it gets a 0.0. If you "block" a tag, it gets a -1.0. A -1.0 shouldn't mean that you see no articles with a certain tag, but maybe only the most exceptional ones (as measured by user interaction or something).

Then the interactions that you give to articles could be factored into this weighting. If you like an article with the tag "scala", maybe your scala "fondness" increases by 10% (or something). We should also have some sort of "I don't want to see this" indicator on articles that would decrease your fondness of all associated tags by the same amount. Tags could also be "related" to each other (for instance, Java and OOP might be closely coupled) and affecting one could have some effect on another.

If implemented correctly, these weightings should slowly converge to your particular set of interests and only show you the things you really want to read.

 

A possible improvement on a plain "ignore tag" feature could be the following.

Let's say you decide that "react" is something you don't really care about and you tell the platform to ignore the tag.

If you agree, the platform will send you a monthly email of the best React articles and their best comments in the tags you've ignored. Humans aren't perfect, sometimes they forget to add all the relevant tags or instead the post is tagged "react" but it's not about the technology per se but part of a larger discourse on frontend development.

This way you're not totally disconnected to what goes on in that other part of the website. You can still unsubscribe from the digest but maybe this will spark some interest or a conversation if the title captures your attention.

Instead of the email, which I'm sure some would dislike - even if it's the easiest to implement, you might have a new section on the website of such "best of ignored tags".

Instead of the email, which I'm sure some would dislike - even if it's the easiest to implement, you might have a new section on the website of such "best of ignored tags".

That's definitely pretty interesting.

Another possibility is making echo chambers explicit.

A feature called "bubble". When you go to the "bubble" you only see content from the tags and people you actively follow but with a sidebar of "what's going on in the rest of website".

Bubbles could only be activated for people who have contributed a certain amount of posts and/or comments, like a powerup.

By default the website is like it is now, instead of having the ignored list activated, the drawback is that people might only use such bubbles and never go back to the rest of the website.

I still haven't thought about an incentive to leave the bubble if activated.

 

I think it would be a positive change for users to have a better way of filtering out content you're not interested in.

From what I've inferred from your posts, you're both technically capable and happily established in your career. Why would you want to read ten different React beginners articles or my ramblings about the non-technical side of development?

However, just because you aren't at a place in your career where you find it interesting or beneficial, I think it's a little insulting to call it crap. We might not be manipulating the memory of running applications on a Boston Dynamics robot with a magnetised needle with some of these posts, but people have a lot of experiences with the human side of being a developer that they enjoy sharing and a lot of us enjoy reading.

Blacklisting tags (or some similar mechanism) is a great idea, though, and I hope it'd go a fair way to keeping everyone happy.

 

Why would you want to read ten different React beginners articles or my ramblings about the non-technical side of development?

Because both seem interesting to me.

just because you aren't at a place in your career where you find it interesting or beneficial, I think it's a little insulting to call it crap

Well, that is not about my career and not about me in general. Everybody has a list of topics to be named “crap” and I just used this word as “virtual reader’s definition of crap.”


I personally prefer to discuss development process itself or developer’s entertainment aka ramblings about the non-technical side of development, and not “42 advises on how to fool the employer,” what basically all the career advises are about. I got to that place in my career by constantly cultivating and refining my skills, not my following internet advises on how to sell myself better. Skillset is what should count, not the ability to produce a good résumé or to answer questions on the interview. I worry about the industry full of imposters knowing nothing but how to pass the interview.

But still, all the above does not matter in this discussion. I never claimed I expect dev.to to make anything for me to feel better. My concern is the future of this site, not my happiness.

 

Perhaps rather than blocking tags, a better solution would be an option to automatically hide any post with a number in the title.

Only half joking.

 

I'm not sure how a real-tech-official-blessing-from-the-founder-tag would accomplish your vision. You can invent a tag and start using it today, no?

People will continue to post all the various topics they have been posting about.

I understand the fact you might not be interested in reading a post titled "Git Tutorial" but some other people might and the fact that dev.to has gone to lengths to avoid echo chambers (me reading only posts about X forever and ever) is one of the features I personally like the most. It's quite easy to ignore those posts and I sometimes do it: I scroll past them.

As others have said, the platform is young, I'm sure if people were to contribute thousands of posts everyday they would have to have a different strategy.

Blacklisting, though valuable in theory, seems an easy win with the aforamentioned ripercussions (echo chambers). How can you know you'll never ever be interested in reading somebody else's opinion on how their career has been evolving? We're not robots, this is part of the ethos of dev.to.

I'm not saying blacklisting is a stupid idea, au contraire, it's just that it might not make sense for the kind of community dev.to is trying to be.

I'm sure the algorithm is not perfect and can still be improved anyhow.

The fact you call it "crap in the feeds" makes me think you're not that much interested in having this discussion though.

expose disrespect to the writing

This I truly didn't get, what you do you mean with "disrespect to the writing" ? You mean the (non) ability to write engaging content? If so, again, if this troubles you so much, why downvoting is better than ignoring?

I feel like you might get the most out of this community by following a subset of tags and ignore the homepage. I don't think there's a right or wrong way to use the website in this sense

If the point is "I'm only interested in reading articles about distributed transactions in globally distributed databases" then allow me to rephrase your argument (I can be wrong obviously):

"I'm getting tired of dev.to because I'm only interested what I perceive is real tech and I'm not interested at all in any other type of conversation"

As I said, I might be wrong, but it's how I perceive your post.

An alternative path to reach your goal (apart from downplaying other people's contributions) is the constructive one:

  • post such content and tag it
  • write engaging content and invite conversation and criticism
  • invite other "real tech" devs on the platform and ask them to do the first two things
  • ignore whatever you're not interested in, in the meantime
 

Well, I do not care about how to make me happy on dev.to. It’s not about me. It’s about how to survive growing popularity.

 

Unfortunately, I am two inches from the threshold to exit the community now.

Please don't. Our exchanges here are part of makes the site interesting for me.

I am not interested in how to pass interviews or how to make my first million.

Neither am I and it's easy enough to ignore those posts. Though as the community grows there's more and more stuff I'm not interested in and some fairly regular posters seem to only write in order to promote their company/product.

I'm not sure what a solution could look like though, as I'm neither a fan of gatekeeping nor filter bubbles. But a good start would be taking the taking a user's followed tags more into consideration, right now my top 3 posts are tagged #meta, #community, #beginners, #help, #changelog and I follow none of these. In fact only 5 out of the first 10 articles contain one of the tags I follow at all. Maybe this part could be a bit more like Reddit, i.e. in the default view one only sees posts for tags they follow, but there's an option to see the full stream too.

 

Our exchanges here are part of makes the site interesting for me.

Me too. OK, that comment costs a hundred of CoCs :) I surely stay.

 

As I read it, your proposal has two core ideas:

  • Enable filtering out content. In your case it would be beginner level and non-technical content.
  • Provide maybe some additional support for content that is a) purely technical and b) considered fairly advanced, or at least probably not for beginners.

This seems reasonable to me. I don’t know what the priorities are at Dev.to but it sounds both doable and not a bad idea.

Content that is more general and easy to digest will tend to be more popular - by definition - so allowing users the ability to curate their content should fix a lot of these issues...

 

ability to expose disrespect to the writing

I guess that you've meant something like downvotes here? I think it's better to just give your opinion in the post comment, and give a reason why would you downvote that post. The key thing here is that if you care enough to give a downvote then you should give a reason to, otherwise, I think that this site will become something like Reddit, SO, HN where there is a ton of users not caring to express their opinions but have fast finger on that downvote button.
So while Reddit and HN can be fun to read, I don't think that Dev.to should follow their example in that direction.

In meantime, I've realized that the users' variety at Dev.to has risen proportionally to the number of new users, so there is no ideal solution for what you've mentioned. Also, DEV.to team clearly expects from their users to use common sense when writing a post, and not just copy a part of documentation and post here, but there is not much anyone can do about it, without something like post review before publishing, and I don't think that would work.

Related to blacklisting, we have here posts that can include up to 4 tags at most (Am I correct?) So if you blacklist one tag, that post will not show in your feed despite you, maybe, having other 3 tags in your favorites, so I'm not sure how that would work either :/

 

I agree that downvote buttons are generally a bad idea. It's hard to even pin down a real meaning to them. Does downvoting mean the post is bad? Maybe it just means you disagree with the post. It's still possible to disagree with a well-researched and reasoned argument. I think something in the user interface whose meaning is "don't show me more articles like this" is better. It doesn't change how other people experience the site.

 

Also I am strictly against any kind of censorship, while it’s the topmost rule here so far ...

Many cultures value politeness. So much so that it is considered intentional disrespect to not engage in politeness. However, other cultures view politeness as a kind of posturing which is offensive and wasteful.

Currently this is a global community -- as in, we haven't yet divided ourselves by these cultural criteria -- so everyone has to make compromises toward the middle to participate meaningfully.

 

Thanks for the link, now I know what politeness is.

The only culture really valuing politeness I am aware of is a Japanese culture. I suspect more Asian cultures to value politeness as well, I shamefully know less about.

But the most pressure on politeness issue I suffer in the internets for my whole life comes from Americans. Even if we agree to call culture what barely exists for five centuries and even has no own language, American culture never valued politeness. Read some urban novels back from the middle of the last century.

What suddenly raises from the ashes in a decade cannot be inspired by culture. There is the only way for it to conquer the minds—propaganda. Since American society is the one most suffering from the propaganda of any kind, and since I have heard the freedom of speech was indeed invented as a rule in US, I expect everybody to stop shifting accents and let other people say whatever they want—there are a lot of civilized tools to react: contempt, scorn, disdain, disgust, ignore after all.

Censorship is what ruins every healthy community. IMHO, of course.

 

There have been various studies/books on the relative politeness (in-directness) vs directness of various cultures. America varies wildly depending on the area where you live. Where I live in the Southern US, politeness is very valued and expected. (Except in sports and politics.)

American freedom of speech famously does not allow anyone to say anything they want. For example, you can go to jail for yelling "Fire!" in a crowded room when there is no fire. Likewise, certain methods of communications online are not profitable. Pushing people's buttons will make them want to avoid you (for example, negative characterizations of their native country). However, expressing disagreement without making it personal can be really productive and informative for everyone involved.

expressing disagreement without making it personal can be really productive and informative for everyone involved

I could not agree more.

pushing people's buttons will make them want to avoid you

That is fully understandable and that is exactly what I said. Avoiding is fine. Blocking what I am trying to share (unless it’s a “fire” roar in a crowded room) is not.

Also, I do respect the penal code. What I disrespect is a tendency to imply onto others rules that were not proven to be, say, correct. And the frames of the freedom of speech in my understanding should be set by something more graved in stone than today’s fashion.

I am still positive that unless I violate the penal code, I should be allowed to say whatever I want wherever I want, save for private territories. And communities are not a private territory by any mean.

The situation with dev.to is rather more complicated: besides community, we have owners. So I am fine if owners decide to ban me, I understand the borders of the private property. I am also fine with the aspiration to create a community based on this platform.

What I am not fine with is that the proclaimed inclusiveness is valid for those who coincide the private club rules only.

Excellent points.

Regarding the last point. Consider that many people do not have your self-confidence to brush aside (even indirect) personally-targeted remarks.

I do not believe an attitude of "being offended" is at all productive. But I do try to consider whether my words will be effective. A wise person once told me to assume that someone who can hear me is acutely hurting (because it is statistically probable). Using careless and hostile words will not reach that person, and in fact may aggravate their hurt. I certainly don't get this right, but I think it is worth the attempt to avoid that.

Anyway, I think the main point is that this community does not seem like it wants to be the place where I should come looking for a fight. It wants to be the place where I should come looking for a supportive voice. Even if that voice happens to be disagreeing with me on the specific details.

The last word is yours.

I could not agree more.

Also, I have to bold this: I am not advocating the willingness to fight. What I am actually advocating is being welcome to the diversity of any kind.

The set of rules is fine, and nobody should have issues following one. People (thank God :) are different and what hurts Jim does not hurt Gem at all, and vice versa. We cannot predict at all what actually hurts Joe. That is exactly why I don’t believe much in rulesets. Immature persons who don’t understand how to behave in a society are always losing without any rules. But the more strict rules are, the more innocent persons who do not fit—let’s call it culture—literally suffer from these rules implications.

I think the attempt to decrease the amount of those who were oppressed by existing strict rules is a good goal. Even better than having one jerk explicitly banned due to the existence of the rules.

 

I appreciate your candor in this post. Especially these days, it’s hard to come by and socially dangerous.

It sounds like you’re looking for some stringent filters for your feed, would you agree this is accurate?

I am with you in as much as the feel-good, socially-oriented posts that are not specifically about technical problems or topics do not interest me. Frankly, I can say that I’m not interested in most “basic” things (music, movies, anything on Pinterest). It has been my experience that most people like basic things, so most environments you will find yourself and are going to be “basic“.

It all comes down to being a part of a community, right? Part of being a member of the community is having tolerance for those that are also members for which don’t care. You’re no #beginner so Ali Spittel’s posts would probably bore you to tears. That said, there’s a lot of dev.to members that are beginners and do get a lot out her work. Our job, as fellow members, is to cut a wide berth for those who have different interests and goals.

How about we team up and make a filter feature for dev.to? It’s OSS after all.

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