Great software is created to scratch one’s own itch. Being close to a problem provides not only insight for how to solve it, but the motivation to actually follow through.

It’s the better angels of our nature that compel us to share these solutions with one other. And in the open source world, we do so freely, with only a karmic expectation of paying the favor forward.

We naturally want to help one another, to explain ideas, to be generous and patient. However, on the Internet, human nature seems to drop a few packets. Practicing empathy online becomes a feat of moral athleticism. Lacking many of the faculties to humanize and understand one another (facial expressions, voice tonality, non-verbal cues) we can lose sight of who we’re talking to, and become less human ourselves.

Before engaging with someone, take a moment to visualize how that encounter would play out in real life. Would you be proud of how you conducted yourself?

Rather than responding defensively to snark or aggression, stop to consider what could have motivated that reaction. Is there something you could be doing better as a programmer or community member? Or are they just having a bad day? (We’ve all had our bad days).

And let it never be that someone is marginalized for their ability to communicate in English. Be patient and ask questions. Respond simply and clearly.

Everything you need to succeed as a software developer extends from a conscious practice of empathy.


Questions? Corrections? Issues and pull requests are always welcome.

Written by Mattt

Mattt (@mattt) is a writer and developer in Portland, Oregon.

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