I’ll end this poison talk with this final entry. Pylon has been here for 4 years now. Like he said, he’s one of the senior/older developers, so he’s seen a lot of it, too.
I want to clarify that just because infra _does_ control the button does _not_ mean that I think they’re abusive about it. Far from it. The issue is this: trust. Infra’s members have to trust each other. Implicitly. Non-infra developers have to trust infra. Implicitly. Whether we think about it consciously or not, we do place our trust in infra.
But, on to the poison! Another history lesson, this one even more personal than the last (you didn’t even think that was possible, did you?). After I joined, I quickly found my niche in Gentoo (which wasn’t fixing up Gnome packages or cleaning up USE=”-nls” installs). I started off by bug wrangling. That, in turn, gave me a deep handle on where we were understaffed and what our needs were, as a development team. That, in turn, led to recruiting developers to fill those needs. In order to do the recruiting, I had to get to know people, which was basically user-relations. Once recruited, developers (being human) might have issues with others. And that’s where developer relations came in. So, I basically built up this fairly informal structure to handle the flow of developers. My goal was to stay out of developers’ way so that they can concentrate on scratching itches.
And then my ego popped up. All of a sudden, I was the head of devRel, and effectively second in command of Gentoo itself. Power trip? Me? Well, actually, yes. One day, on the -dev mailing list (searching that thing is hard, so if anyone finds the actual post, I’ll be glad to add the link to it), someone asked a question about eclasses or dependencies or something (I don’t even remember). Well, one of the newly recruited developers answered that question. Now, the answer he gave was not completely accurate.
And that day, I turned into the type of manager/boss that I’ve despised. The right thing would have been for me to talk to the newly minted developer in private about the inaccuracy, just to make sure that he knew his facts. In other words, he didn’t do anything wrong. And really, it could have been anything from; not quite knowing some of the subtleties, to not quite expressing himself to convey those subtleties. And as a senior developer, it was for me to gently guide him towards the right knowledge and the right expression of that knowledge.
Instead, yours truly decided to tell him off *on the list.* I not only embarrassed him by doing that, I embarrassed whomever his mentor was, by asking “who mentored you?” And after clicking “Send” I thought “how did this person even make it into Gentoo without knowing this basic stuff??”
UPDATE: Thanks to Bo in the comments, here’s the link to my message. It’s embarrassing to read.
And then reality hit me. This same developer /msg’d me on IRC later to talk with me. Man, he brought my head right out of the clouds. He didn’t fight with me, he just told me the facts. He told me that he’d heard I was a bit of an ass and getting worse. He told me that people were leery to approach me with stuff because of it. He told me that I demotivated him by acting as I did on the list. He didn’t call me stupid, as I had implicitly called him. He didn’t call me dumb, as I had done to him. He just expressed the effect I’d had on him.
I can not even tell you how badly I felt. I mean, my whole life, I’ve always tried to take other people into account. I try not to step on people’s toes or to make anyone feel bad or guilty or dumb or inadequate. I try, above all, to be fair. If someone does something, I try and step into their shoes to try and understand why what happened happened, and to give them the benefit of the doubt. All the early DevRel people probably got sick of hearing me go on about second chances: “everyone,” I used to say, “deserves a second chance.” I think devrel still goes by that these days, actually.
Life’s too short to be a hard ass. Other people’s lives are too short to make them feel like crap. Yeah, you have your standards But they’re your standards. Beating other people with them won’t make anyone jump to adopt your standards. Communicating with them effectively involves showing them why your standards would serve them.
Anyway, I wanted to publicly apologise to Rob for what I did. And to anyone else I’ve made feel that way over the years: my sincerest apologies. I didn’t know it when I did it. If you’d like to vent at me (in public or private), I encourage you to do so. Don’t hold it in (don’t keep that negativity that I caused inside of you: it becomes poisonous); let it out. Give it back to me.
And with this, I’m off my soapbox, people. Thanks for reading along with me. Tomorrow’s entry: an overdue good-bye to the person who brought Gentoo into my life.