Made Possible By

  • @Aisha
  • @NickSpelt
  • @mitchellvanw
  • @GuySie

How We Talk
About Tech

Murder This Speaker

How We Talk About Tech
Before we talk

about talking

about talking

about tech

let's talk...

about who we're

talking about

talking about tech to.

  • Web Developer
    • PHP
      • Framework X
        • 2.x
If you label me, you negate me. ‐Kierkegaard
Network Graph
  1. How do we decide what to connect to?
  2. Why are communities separated?
  1. Which things should I learn?
  2. Why can't we all just get along?

Value Systems

What you consider important
The priority of values
People have values
Projects have values


New Features vs Backwards Compatibility


CPU Speed vs Dev Productivity


Cost vs Support
Configuration Pricing Timing
Extensibility Security Openness
UX Friendliness Auditing
Ease of Use Documentation Impact
Value systems are complex
This is how we choose what we learn
This is why we argue
This isn't properly decoupled.
But look how easy the API is!

They are not arguing about:

  • Languages
  • Frameworks
  • Tools
They are arguing about values
Value systems divide communities
Value systems divide communities
...And that's good!





Values are abstract

People are concrete

We simplify our values
"I write unit tests to help decouple my code."
"I write unit tests."
Another common mistake:
We internalize the values of our tools
We work in X, we take on the values of X
Common Goofs
If you do not understand the values of your tools... do not understand your tools.
Communication is hard
Understanding values -> Consensus
Conflict is bad for the broader community
...but it can be good for individual members.

If you're a new project...

  • Gain attention
  • Cast doubt on competitors
  • Invite concessions

If you're an established project...

  • Marginalize competition
  • Cement your base
  • Enforce authority
Conflict doesn't even need to be real
The illusion is enough
But but...values?
  • Self-Preservation
  • Ends Over Means
  • Advertising
"This library makes my CV look better."
We say we contribute to help recruitment

but we don't really so devs won't get hired away.

Folks won't admit to them
But you can't pretend they're not there.
Setting and Transmitting Values
  • Documentation
  • New Projects/Tooling
  • Code of Conduct
  • Celebrities


Someone well-known with influence
Usually a person


Actual things:

  • Recognized in restaurant
  • Asked for autograph
  • Strange fan mail
Celebrities -> Values?
Transmitters and Filters
Vital Roles
They spread insights
They motivate contributors
They build tools
They create stories
They represent something
If DHH did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
They're born from the community
Eventually, they set the community
Tough Job
Average Conference Talk: 40 - 120 hours
User Group: 5 hours per meeting per organizer
Library: 15 - 20 hours per week for most of a year
In exchange for this...
Celebrities === Saints
  • Job Offers
  • Recruitment
  • Client Referral
  • Book Deals
  • Advertisements
  • Workshops
  • Consulting
  • Cross-marketing
  • Endorsements
  • Sponsorships
  • Speaking Fees
  • Conference Tickets
  • Write Code
Developers are the source and the target
So what?
Celebrities can influence your values
Celebrities help you decide what's important
What to read?
Their book
Where to work?
Their recruitment kickback

Friendly Dev

Well-oiled Machine

Quid Pro Quo
Thought Leaders
Not just celebrities
Conference Sponsorships
Not disclosed
If you're not paying for the product, you are the product
Sell The Product and You
Concentration of Power
Yes, but they're experts
Tech Celebrity !== Tech Expert
  • Component X
  • Community Management
  • Educators
  • Diplomacy
  • Design
  • Lacrosse
  • Web Developer
    • PHP
      • Framework X
        • 2.x
Expectation affects business

Twitter War

They are arguing about values
They are arguing about money
Lose Argument
Lose Respect
Lose Fame
Lose Money
+ Pride

+ Fear

+ Greed

Worse Community
You're expected to fight
Accepting advice
Messes with your head
Celebrities are a subculture
Normalizes the abnormal
Even if you stay out of it...
When self-perceptions of expertise increase closed-minded cognition: The earned dogmatism effect

Victor Ottati, Erika D. Price, Chase Wilson, Nathanael Sumaktoyo
Earned Dogmatism Effect
Manipulated Test Scores
Feeling like an expert
...makes you more close-minded
Feel like an expert
Dogmatic "Experts" are Dangerous
Let's assume they are an expert
Expert vs Layperson vs Random
A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one important thing

Hedgehogs specialize

Foxes sample

Hedgehogs get some amazing points
...but they're wrong a lot
They don't learn from it
Foxes are more accurate
More willing to revisit
Both groups score poorly compared to...
Forecasting vs Implementation
What are expert opinions worth?
Aggregating Opinions
Key Lesson
Openmindedness is situational
  • Open Tone
  • Cite our sources
  • Encourage experiments
...And yet...
Celebrities pwn us
New Devs
Less Context = More Vulnerable
50% of devs have less than 5 years of experience
We are awful at teaching


Hero Worship

Hero Worship is Comforting
Hero Worship is Profitable
"Everything else is inferior."
"This has always worked."
"That's not real programming."
"They don't understand us."
"These are the best codes."
Why does it work?
Cognitive Biases

Tricks of the Trade

Concrete Tactics

Social Proof

Mystical Knowledge

Wedge Issues

Burn the Heretic


Way, way more
If you don't believe me

Becoming a Tech Celebrity

...In 10 Easy Steps

Step 1


Step 2


Step 2


Step 3

Get Accepted

Step 4


Step 5

Get Accepted Again

Step 6


Step 7

Grow Your Brand

Step 8


Step 9

Seize Opportunity

Step 10

Love me

Final Thoughts

The Community is Good
  • Have a Say
  • Socially Aware
  • Fun
  • Good for your career
Not an excuse
There are people better than you
There are people worse than you
There are people sideways to you
They can all teach you
Learning fast requires respect