Working together as a global community can be fun. It can be rewarding. It can make you feel part of something bigger than yourself. And at times it can be frustrating, tiresome and infuriating because in every community there can be disagreement, misunderstanding and lack of comprehension. The question is: how do you deal with that? Or, better, how do you solve it before it turns into conflict, and keep the fun in working together?
As you know, the word Joomla means all together. This means we work together to make Joomla the best CMS on earth. And what doesn’t it mean?
Working together doesn’t mean everybody does exactly the same thing.
Working together doesn’t mean everybody has the same knowledge level or skills.
Working together doesn’t mean everybody has the same way of thinking.
Because if we were all the same, we wouldn’t need “us”; it would only take one person to solve everything.
It’s the collective that’s effective
We should make good use of the fact that we work in different ways, with different approaches and visions, think differently and know different things. We need to use our differences to create the best Joomla ever. And help each other whenever we can. Disagreeing on something should not be a problem, it encourages us to look at things from a different perspective and use this to create a better solution in the end.
Yet, in the heat of a discussion, what do we do? Tell each other “your code sucks”, without further clues as to what part or where to find more information on, let’s say, coding standards. Respond to good news by pointing out everything that’s not good. Air dirty laundry on social media. Or even worse: call each other names, or shame each other.
Somewhere in ancient history, there used to be something called netiquette. I found a beautiful set of rules, dating from 1994 but still very accurate (well, maybe apart from the bandwidth advise, and does anyone ever use ‘cyberspace’ nowadays, as a word? Anyway, these rules were written by Virginia Shea in Netiquette, Albion Books, San Francisco pages 32-33).
- Remember the human
- Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life
- Know where you are in cyberspace
- Respect other people’s time and bandwidth
- Make yourself look good online
- Share expert knowledge
- Help keep flames under control
- Respect other people’s privacy
- Don’t abuse your power
- Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes
Applying this to how we behave in Joomla is easy. Before you respond to anything, on a forum, social media, GitHub or whatever medium: realise you’re responding to an actual human being. With real feelings. Like you. Treat them like you want to be treated: with respect, kindness and an open mind. Help them whenever you can. Let them know you value their efforts, even if their efforts are nothing but crappy code (in that case: take a deep breath and find a way to educate them. Otherwise you will end up doing everything yourself forever). Do not assume anything, keep asking questions, even if you think you already know the answer.
If someone treats you unfair, try to keep the conversation going, focus on the subject and try not to take it personally.
The most important rule of all is to remember nothing ever leaves the internet. It stays on forever (any celebrity who has tried to make nudie pictures go away will confirm that). In other words: this is your legacy, so you better play nice.
And I’d like to add a golden bonus rule: do not, as in not, as in really, really not, put anything anywhere on the internet when you’re drunk, or stoned (or strunk, for that matter). Nobody wants to be remembered as “that awfully rude person from Joomla”.
Get a room!
If a disagreement becomes a conflict, and if this kind of conflict repeats itself, so often that you start thinking: hey, this might be personal, talk to each other. Find a way to do this in private. Do not fight a war on social media. Don’t send lengthy emails of the ‘are-you-implying-that-I’m-stupid’-kind. Use Skype or something else where you can see each other, or if this is not possible, chat. Have a conversation. Look each other in the eye and talk it over. Keep in mind that you’re both adult human beings. And you share a common goal, and you’re probably both passionate about Joomla. Turn this passion into something positive, and it might even be the start of a friendship.
But what if I’m right?
I guess you have figured out by now that working together can never be about WHO is right, it’s about WHAT is right for the project you’re working on (remember, the best CMS in the world, also known as Joomla). So with everything you do, ask yourself how this is helping Joomla. If this involves you being right: great, for you and for the project. If it involves you being not entirely right or even flat out wrong: still great for the project, and hey, you’ve learned something.
But I never have conflicts
You may, like me, be the type that takes a seat, grabs the popcorn and leans back, watching it all unfold. Nothing like a good fight, right?
Wrong. Because fights seldom end well. One or maybe even both conflicting parties may decide to pull the plug out of whatever they were contributing to, leaving their team with an urgent vacancy. Or they start forcing people to take sides. Or… well, we all know awful stuff can happen where keyboards are present, and apologising is always the hardest part.
So if you happen to be the typical audience-outside-the-ring person, Virginia Shea’s rule number 7 might apply to you. You can help by providing information and/or leading the conversation back to the original topic. That way you can help clear the air and avoid disagreements becoming conflicts.
But what about the Code of Conduct?
We’re not the only ones struggling with this. The obvious way to deal with this is to create a set of rules by which we are all supposed to act: a code of conduct. And like any other organisation that’s active on the internet, we have one. You’ll find it here: https://www.joomla.org/about-joomla/the-project/code-of-conduct.html. Our Code of Conduct is very readable, very logical and very understandable. Pretty much netiquette-plus and actually a no-brainer. Read it!