Seattle.rb Values

Introduction and History

Seattle.rb aims to be a healthy, welcoming, and safe enough environment in which we can all enjoy being ourselves, feeling at home, learning, teaching, sharing, helping others, and having fun. We seek to empower people to be their best. We want to remove as many distractions as possible so everyone can focus on this.

Seattle.rb is the first and oldest Ruby brigade in the world. As such, many people have come and gone over the years. However, we’ve had very little conflict or controversy—in nearly 15 years of existence, only two people have been asked to leave. Not bad!

We’ve had low levels of conflict in large part because we’ve worked by a particular set of values that create an environment that supports learning, creating, and sharing with each other. It’s important that these values endure, and as such, we have created this document. It describes and codifies the core values to which Seattle.rb aspires but never put down on paper.

Values, Not Rules

It would be naïve, but vastly easier to make a list of things we don’t want you to do. “Don’t do this”, “Don’t do that”, and so on. Most of those would be obvious social norms and proscribing them wouldn’t fit with the spirit of this document. Doing so would speak down to our members and treat them as though they were unable to understand and respect the values of Seattle.rb. Laying out rules leads to rule lawyering and power-mongering. It is demeaning, unnecessary, and antithetical to Seattle.rb’s values.

Rules are reactive and punitive. Values are proactive and constructive.

Rather than enumerating all the behaviors you “should” and “should not” do and how you’ll be punished if you do them (it would be a fool’s errand to try!), we’d rather describe the values and types of people we cherish and want to have thrive in our community.

We do not provide a set of rules that dictates how we should behave at Seattle.rb, nor do our values fall in any particular order. Instead, we prefer to assume everyone here is a responsible adult who is willing to and capable of upholding Seattle.rb’s values. For example, differences of opinion will exist between our members. It is important to respect others, assume good intentions, and take context into account when working through these differences.

This document was highly inspired by (read: plagiarized with permission) ”The Recurse Center User’s Manual” and other resources, but these values are our own. We encourage you to read The Recurse Center User’s Manual - it resonates with us.

Safe Enough

Any and every activity naturally has some level of physical, psychological, or emotional risk. We can’t remove all risk, nor do we want to. We don’t want to nerf the entire playground. We at Seattle.rb want everyone to feel welcome, comfortable, and “safe enough”.

We want people to feel:

We want you to feel “safe enough” that you can learn to appreciate that discomfort and explore it. Learning new things is hard and that comes with a certain level of discomfort, but we believe that’s a good thing if you’re open to it.

Learning, Teaching, Fear, and Failure

We welcome new rubyists. We cherish questions, curiosity, and experimentation. We seek to teach. We (probably) won’t give you the answers to your questions, but we’ll help you find the tools, vocabulary, and resources you need to get to the answers yourself. We hope that by teaching you in this way you can, in turn, teach others.

One thing we try to minimize is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of ignorance. Fear of going outside of our comfort zones. Fear of experimentation. Fear of looking the fool. Fear frequently keeps us from asking important questions like “How does that work?” or even just “Why?”. Worse, it keeps us from saying, “I don’t understand”. That means many of us muddle on with a half-baked or entirely incorrect understanding of core concepts, which is an especially bad state to be in when learning programming!

We love our ignorance! We love asking and being asked questions. We love failure. Failure is an opportunity for us all to learn. We love experimentation. This is the purest form of learning. This is why saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand” is a positive thing at Seattle.rb. It’s an opportunity for you to learn something new, and for someone else to help you with it (or vice versa).

“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” —Morihei Ueshiba

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

Clear, Honest Communication

We communicate clearly and honestly. If we want help, we ask. If we don’t want help, at all or from a specific person, we speak up. When we are struggling to communicate clearly we seek out others for clarity.

We foster respectful communication and an environment where everyone can be a nerd no matter their level of experience.

Doing-Focused

We all create Seattle.rb.

The ways we participate and contribute make Seattle.rb what it is and help it thrive.

We are committed to supporting and empowering individuals to learn, grow, and be able to contribute back to the group—whatever that level of participation looks like.

There are many ways to participate: Show up and ask questions, answer a question, write code, help someone, submit a PR, give a talk, do a show and tell, help with setup/cleanup, join a study group, organize your own study group, or just show up if that’s all you have in you that day.

The more you put into it, the more we’ll all get out of it.

Seattle.rb is what you make of it.

To really get a feel for what we mean by “doing-focused”, we highly recommend checking out “The Cult of Done Manifesto”.

Encouragement

Learning programming is hard enough without discouragement. Remember that you were a newb at one point too, so help those who know less than you do. At the same time, remember there is always someone more experienced than you out there. Be humble as well as helpful.

We seek to empower people to be their best. We don’t attack and shame when people slip.

We want you to be good to and for each other. For us this means:

Encourage learning. People understand more when they’re being built up, not when they’re being cut down.

Encourage teaching. If you see someone doing something you don’t know how to do, ask them to teach you.

Encourage sharing. If you or someone learns something new, share it with us. Not everyone else has learned that yet.

Encourage fun. Pair up and write that zombie outbreak simulator with someone. Just ‘cause.

Encourage creativity. Not everything needs to be a rails app. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be Ruby.

Encourage participation. If someone new shows up, introduce yourself. Say hi. Get to know them. Thank them for showing up.

Encourage differences. We all come from different times, places, cultures, and backgrounds. That means we all have different and valuable perspectives to bring to the table. We can all learn and benefit from these differences.

Encourage humility. Nobody is perfect. Not all effort is rewarded. Some code gets thrown away. Hopefully you learned something in the process.

Encourage, realistically. Seek to understand the person as well as their problem before you suggest a “solution” entirely out of their grasp.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” —Arthur Ashe

Transgressions

Transgressions are more about the behavior than the person. We all mess up and say thoughtless, hurtful, or offensive things sometimes.

We’re at Seattle.rb to learn and code, not to bludgeon people for their transgressions. Until proven otherwise, assume good intentions; everyone should have a chance to redeem themselves.

If you hear someone say or do something that is subtly or overtly sexist, racist, homophobic, or just plain grating, please point it out. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, please ask one of the organizers. Then let that person learn from their mistake and move on.

If someone points out something that you’ve said or done then apologize, reflect for a second, and move on. It doesn’t mean you’re a “bad” person. We’ve all done these things before.

You are responsible for your mistakes. You are responsible for respecting other’s boundaries. You are also responsible for enforcing your boundaries. We are absolutely here to help you if you need it, but it is up to you to know and assert your boundaries.

We highly encourage you to watch Ill Doctrine’s “How To Tell People They Sound Racist”.

For more on shaping the environment of our nerd community, we encourage you to read/watch “Occupy Ruby: Why We Need to Moderate the 1%”.

Questions? Feedback?

We welcome any and all questions and feedback. We prefer it in person if possible. Please seek out Ryan or Aja to discuss.