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Kindness

Kindness is often underrated in tech communities. It's amazing how powerful kindness can be, and how powerful the absense of it can be.

Brief(ish) anecdote:

Many years ago I was on the train to my first in-person meeting with a major new client (probable client, the contract wasn't quite signed yet), a big meeting with the C suite brass and several heads of department. Already nervous, I watched in horror as my station whizzed past at full speed — I'd gotten on the "fast" train! Heaven only knew where it would next stop or how I'd get back to where I was supposed to be! But there was zero chance I'd be there on time.

When I finally had phone service — just ten minutes before the meeting was due to start — I took several deep breaths and called my new project manager, explaining what I'd done and apologizing that I'd be late. His immediate reaction wasn't to be cross or difficult or anything like that. It was:

"Oh! We've all done it!"

I was already incredibly nervous about the meeting, irrespective of being late, and he just completely defused all that tension with that single, kind, sentence. It was a small thing that was a big deal, and has always stuck with me.

I try to remember it when helping people with tech questions on Stack Overflow and such, to help someone who did something silly or stupid feel less silly or stupid about it. There's a lot of power in saying "Hey, we've all done it," perhaps particularly when you're a high-rep member of a tech community. (And trust me, while I may or may not have made any given specific mistake, I can guarantee you I've made mistakes as bad or worse as any I've seen on SO.) I also often fail to use it when I should; I can be a judgemental **** and I don't always catch myself. But I try to think back to that moment, when I was really nervous and worried, and a stranger with cause to be irritated with me instead reached out with kindness.

I think tech could generally do with being a bit more like my old project manager.

After which ramblings I leave you with the words of the 14th Dalai Lama:

Be kind whenever possible.
It is always possible.

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