This week, I consider the realization that I only became an open source contributor when I decided to take a second from this enigma, and actually started doing non-code-related things. And this is worthy of reflection.

A blurred screen capture of a popular editor for programmers shown with two high contrast themes, with one focused region.

TL;DR — If you want to get to the point, please feel free to jump down to the bullets at the end (and may be later work your way up) — these bullets are my own way of relating my own thoughts on how we can work as a community “Towards Improving the Odds” for all.

For the Reader

This draft was put together from recent entries in my own personal (shared but not blogged) weekly journal, reposted here due to the compelling and thoughtful nature of the arguments and questions explored and how the original posts were not always accessible for some readers. The entries and article came along while working with Saulo Nunes and the Node.js Community Committee on a new Diversity & Inclusion initiative(#507).

As a reader, you might pick up on a lot of incomplete thoughts, and that is not really by choice. It is due to an incomplete picture in my mind and may be others, begging to become clearer to us as a community, open source at large, and to those who share medical dilemmas of a continuously revised and/or conflicting nature. It is not easy to paint this picture, to reason about the landscapes that are yet to be defined.

If you can appreciate that this will not be easy to read, that you will sometimes feel lost in the words, and that this is secondary to the issues and insights, I hope you will find all my effort to frame things from a more conventional frame of reference worthwhile.

Please feel free to offer 1 clap for the effort, 2 when you feel you read enough and had thought or two, 3 or more if you read it through it and it made you think — because even if we differ, all that matters is that we all genuinely give it some thought, and together we can make them count.

Contributing to Open Source

To think that for the past 5 years, I’ve been immersed in open source code, almost every single minute of any given day, all that sure counts for something, but it is not contribution — see my original entry for this week.

Open source… the chaotic organization of innovation, the processes of many a concord, the structures of many a preference, the output of many a contention… but eventually, there is code worthy of its due… the brilliance of many a fool… the zero sum of all their fears.

If open source was just about contributing your better effort into the folding of lesser fools… you are way off, but welcome anyway.

If open source was about contributing your better effort into the folding of like-minded fools… you are still off, also welcome.

If it was about contributing towards the empowerment of better efforts being contributed by all alike, the folding of many sorts of fools… you have arrived.

You cannot become an open source contributor if you are not walking among the fools; if you hesitate to make open to them your most disturbing issues.

But I am not talking about code that taunts you in your sleep. I am talking about the fears of fools not unlike yourself, that are fools in the eyes of the arrogant, and the ignorant. Fools willing to take a leap of faith, and not be afraid to unleash the fool within.

And so, this fool (below) sees that our open source community has strayed off course, with conventions built on tangible and justified fears, by blindly over-indulging in transparency. Incorporating it in all aspects of collaboration and feedback, where it belongs, and where it practically should not. And in that we failed to take into account any and all matters that are painful to those who need to be able to express them, to force them, to only do, publicly. In the mainstream of like-minded fools, and the rest of society.

The fact that it offsets onto them the tax of opting (or not) into their own humiliation, shaming and unintended plights of ignorance, or an inevitable feeling of familiar seclusion. The one that comes when those left in it are ones who have not found the need for opting, or had to resign to it being more compelling to avoid those costs.

The fact that it does not recognize the bitterness of this one-size-fits condition for hearing of “relevant” issues, not just “conforming” ones.

And how easily they could have… if sharing was not seemingly harder than the continued suffering, the inevitable retreat. A so called opting for self-exclusion, as if it was actually by choice.

This being my contribution (further below) to the open source community, the call to make necessary change to make possible for people to express their issues, in venues sensitive to their due right, to contribute to improving the odds, for all.

The Fool Within

For many years during college, I was that fool, and I disclosed on all things that I don’t much care to be made to feel shameful about. At least not for biases of some unwritten rules. The mainstream of customs and conventions that are somehow entrusted to see our society thrive, in its complete image, that give pause to many like myself, to conform (or align) to the impractical, for reasons hardly articulated, but (to others) strongly conceived.

Truth is liberating, real, not contrived… it can only be misunderstood, misappropriated. For me, it was mostly constantly alienating, by those who are lame and petty, who rest on account of their established social privilege… their ignorance and denial.

During that time, mental illness was the framing preferred by society, not mental health… etc. And certainly not the wellbeing of minds that are different enough to fail their role in perpetuating the stereotypical establishments of this insanity of privilege.

Mental illness by the way, is when the mind succumbs to some establishments of insanity. It not able to conceive beyond such unreasonable falsies of perception and assumptions. Mental wellbeing on the other hand, it is when the mind overcomes such establishments and it is not able to refute other more reasonable truths of observation and conclusion. Truths about its own health, the health of those around them, all our similarities and differences. It can no longer be taunted by shamefulness proclaimed onto it by others. By those who only sometimes try (to fail) to admit to the realities of their own disorder.

Mental wellbeing begins with accepting that social establishments are the cause of suffering with so called mental illnesses, and the failure of conformance merely an affliction of differently ordered minds too uninterested to keep playing along in this madness that is robbing them of the desperate sense of relief they need. To feel accepted, for their difference, not on the presumption of their mental illness. To belong. But the reality for many is that their illness only takes hold over their lives as they begin to suffer from the relentless perpetuation of patronization, the clear imply of avoidance, and of exclusion, with only rare genuine attempts of inclusion.

The fact that more people in a society are too afraid to seek services for mental health, and in so they hammer into the establishment of shaming, and the illness it breeds.

The fact that many who seek it are welcomed enough times by those who seek to fix the malformed and the damaged, on account of social establishments, and only rarely by ones who afford the necessary time and resources to come to see the actual beings, their actual minds and struggles. The struggles of systematic biases and prejudices, or the re-enforced fear of anticipation for suffering them.

The fact that many entrusted professionals are primed to think very little of the views and the role of the patients, with the presumed biases on any input and feedback they are providing, both as patients, and ones that are socially branded as mentally ill. Then to discover that their training was merely up-to-date with the soon to be outdated bad judgement and mischaracterization, along with their opinion — their assumed and perceived frame we’d entrusted.

And, the fact that few who seek it, can still be lucky, to persevere and strive for their own mental wellbeing… to hold onto the hope that sometimes only seems to come from the fool within.

I wrote open source code for 5 years, all that counts for something, not because it is gold, but because without it, I don’t think I could have persevered. I would not have outlasted poorly informed errors made by professionals, not for nothing but their genuine desire to do good.

I would not have been able to remain hopeful, to trust in my gift and training for creative problem solving. To observe, to communicate, to correct. To use the tools at my disposal and finally make it possible for them to see from my perspective what they have somehow missed.

Creative problem solving, it is something I needed not just for code, but to get by in a life where I survived 34 years of chaotic struggle, without having any reasonable explanation for why I always feel misunderstood, even when I succeeded. Because if hard work was the metric, I do it all the time. And while the path of doing towards a success always feels more empowering, it comes without guarantee that it will, at least count for something, to the world.

My experience, hard as it is, it gives me hope. And I hope it also gives others hope, that people can overcome and solve all sorts of problems… for better odds.

Towards Improving the Odds

Creating a safe space for those (passionate but) afraid to do my kind of crazy on-stream means a dialogue can start, and so with the rest of us that are (compassionate — not necessarily affected themselves — and) interested in empowering, we can actually all work collectively, towards improving the odds.

The prior week, at a respective open source venue, we had talked about the notion of the void. The expanse between two parallel point of views around issues of oddly unbalancing frames of reference — see my original entry from that week.

But first, let’s hammer on that opening thought a little more, with it being just the tip of the iceberg, at least from where I’m sitting… and so…

How I struggle to reframe things from a parallel but different perspective is not just difficult for me because of my own bias, but also, in my case specifically, it is because I am blessed to know that this particular aspect of mind’s sight being the blessing of others, a thing for me to continuously have to seek — but only when I am empowered to do so (safely) and not when convention leaves me secluded behind a loneliness of its imply.

My frame of reference only started becoming clear to me at the age of 34, when I finally heard a compelling enough explanation for all my years of failing to struggle more typically with any of the other ones offered from experts. With it, things started falling in place, and a year or so later, at 36, I am now able for the first time to break away from all the perpetuated framings of endless frustration and into a framing of mindful awareness, and empowerment.

It takes time for people to become mindfully aware of the residual and perpetuating effects of being at odds with norms, but that can only happen once they are shown a possibility where they are safely able to consider those odds more accurately. And when they can, they are empowered to see beyond them.

Let’s outline some of the week’s insights begging to be articulated in more structured manner:

  1. Open source conventions dictating issues (and other threads) be put forth in the public domain is a paradox for real but conventionally odd issues not (safely) being put forth into it.
  2. Sensing that there is real issues to be tackled is not the same as being aware of them. Being aware of them is not the same as knowing them. Knowing them is not the same as understanding them. Understanding them is not the same as tackling them. And, tackling them is not the same thing as being able to practically resolve them.
  3. Awareness, knowledge, understanding, tackling, and practical resolution, all this takes time and effort, to offer solutions aimed to align a more inclusive mainstream. And so along with (more representative) feedback, patience (not naïve silence) and perseverance (thru to the finish line), those are the imperatives for this kind of initiative to pan out.
  4. There exists a lot of void, but it is very different from each point of view, and so closing those gaps must come with the mutual efforts of reframing them in common terms that articulate and describe these unbalanced distances but emphasize and inspire our collective resolve.
  5. It all has to come in parallel, ie, from those of a passionate desire of their necessities and those of a compassionate ability for their influence.

And this is why someone like myself found it actually more crazy to worry too much about my odds of finding fair employment under conventions begging for a more sensible silence, than to continue living in denial of those conventions not being at all sensible for actually improving the odds, for everyone of us.

The first steps towards that come from a few survey questions that can reframe each of our perspectives, and that takes solid backing aimed to do away with voids of convention while not breaking away from their intent and communal spirit.

Since Writing This

In the past few weeks, we set out to include questions in the Node.js annual survey, and that was only possible with a lot of collaboration with folks across the Node.js project, GitHub, and in large part, due to the contributed efforts and the strong passion of both Georg Link (Co-founder of CHAOSS) Rachel Romoff (Public Relations Manager at OpenJS Foundation) — Thank you!

I don’t write the words, I splice at ones coming at me, until they resonate with what I found written out in my mind ∞