The programming language Ruby was created by a developer named Matz. He is arguably the leader of the Ruby community, and he is so nice that that the community has adopted the following expression: “Matz is nice so we are nice.” It’s used so much that it has its own Wikipedia article, and has been abbreviated as MINSWAN.
I’ve been thinking lately about ways the iOS community could improve. One of those ways is the how we treat other members of the community. I’m not saying that the Ruby community is perfect, but they’re far more civil to each other than we are.
The problem seems that the iOS community doesn’t really have a leader like Matz. I mean, I guess we have Apple, but they’re not a person. And they’re certainly not nice in a way that engenders a drive for us to act nicely.
So if the iOS community doesn’t have an analogue to Matz, can we make a MINSWAN for iOS? If not in name, then at least in spirit?
The thing is that Matz isn’t really the reason that the Ruby community is full of nice people. Consider a newcomer to Ruby. They don’t act nice because Matz does – they don’t even know who Matz is yet! People in the Ruby community aren’t nice because Matz is – they’re nice because everyone else is.
The iOS community doesn’t need a Matz just so we can have a “Matz is nice so we are nice.” We need something more like “everyone else is nice so I am nice too.”
In order to get that, we need everyone to be nice.
Is the iOS community a nice enough place that we can make this sentiment become widespread?
Not yet. But it’s close.
I feel like a noticeable shift has occurred over the past 18 months or so. Fewer angry assholes. More collaborators on open source projects. Fewer angry rants. More cat GIFs.
It’s no surprise that this change coincides with Swift’s announcement – the language has precipitated an explosion of open source Swift projects. More iOS open source has meant more iOS developers interacting and empathizing with one another.
MINSWAN for iOS – the sentiment that “everyone else is nice so, I will be nice too” – is achievable. We need a critical mass of iOS developers to adopt this mindset, but we can do it.
There are two important steps:
- Give honest and constructive feedback when you see wanton negativity.
- Graciously accept and reflect on feedback that is given to us.
Both steps are important. We need to be brave enough to question others’ negavitity, and humble enough to confront our own. Negativity happens, but it doesn’t need to be the norm.
I fell into a depressive funk last Summer. As a result, I became a jerk on Twitter. It continued to the point where several people DM’d me asking if I was OK. It was something of a wake-up call – I’m glad they cared enough to reach out.
Let’s look at an example.
Consider Bob. Bob is angry. He says:
I don’t like X because it’s stupid. Anyone who uses X is stupid, too.
Sounds like Bob might be having a bad day.
Carol sees Bob’s comment and replies:
That’s not very kind, Bob.
What does Bob do now? He can accept Carol’s feedback, realize that he said something hurtful, and maybe even apologize. Or he can ignore Carol and keep being an asshole.
If Bob keeps it up – if he won’t stop the wanton negativity – then Carol has a decision to make: is Bob someone she wants to follow?
If someone you follow is being a jerk, let them know. If they don’t change, consider unfollowing them. Or maybe just muting them for a week to see how much better your timeline becomes.
Think about how much happier you could be without a constant stream of negativity flowing into your brain!
For the last months I’ve been muting people who are too negative on Twitter, and it’s been great. Highly recommended.— Chris Eidhof (@chriseidhof) July 23, 2015
Addressing negativity can be hard. It takes courage to tell someone that they’re being hurtful. What’s important is to keep the feedback confined to what was said, and not to the person saying it.
“That’s not very kind.”
“I don’t think that’s as funny as you think it is.”
Things like that. You can follow-up and ask if they’re OK – maybe they just need someone to talk to.
@ashfurrow Negativity is definitely contagious, but a small action can also change somebody’s attitude. You never know :)— Junior B. (@bontoJR) July 23, 2015
If that fails, try muting them for a week. You probably won’t miss them as much as you’d think. If, after a week, you like your timeline better without them, then you know what to do.
We can make this a nicer community – a better place to work and play. Small acts can make a big difference.
Reach out. Empathize. And pay attention to who you pay attention to.