Friday, September 8, 2017

Belligerent Welcoming

"Nerd culture is so unfriendly!" I've heard people say from time to time. "Star Trek posters! Inside jokes from geek TV shows and book! It's so hard to be a programmer when you're not already a part of it!"

To this I say: What?

Here's what happened to me when I started to get into geek culture in late high school and early college. The conversations would go something like this:

"Oh yeah, 'nuclear wessels'! Ha ha!"
"... huh?"
"Oh, have you seen the Voyage Home? The fourth Star Trek movie?"
"No, I haven't seen any Star Trek actually."
"Oh! My friend! You're one of today's lucky 10,000! Come on, let's watch it right now!"

This is an approach I call "belligerent welcoming." It can be tone-deaf, and it can be insular, and it can be socially awkward (how many times have I had things explained to me that I'm not really interested in? Many). But you know what it's not? It's not exclusive. It's not unkind. It comes from a desire to share genuine excitement about your culture. And this, not an elimination of the culture, is the way to make programmer and nerd culture more welcoming.

It's not "You're part of our culture already." It's not "There's nothing for you to learn, or prove." It's "You're not a part of our culture... yet! Growth mindset!"

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