On Advocacy


We’re fierce and protective when we talk about stuff we care about. And as developers, we care a lot about these topics:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Web Performance
  3. CSS
  4. JavaScript
  5. Frameworks
  6. Inclusivity and Equality

There are no problems with voicing your opinion. We all have our opinions and we want them heard. I understand and respect that.

But we should be mindful of the way we say things. If we voice our opinions as complaints, name-calling, and shaming, our opinions don’t get heard. No change would happen. They simply create a vicious cycle of worry, hate, and anxiety.

If we change how we project our voice, we can make real change happen. And our culture will change for the better.

Fear and Change

If you call someone out publicly, how would they feel?

Ashamed. Angry. Misunderstood.

They didn’t agree to get called out. Name calling is almost the same as bullying. You bully them into submission with the peer pressure.

It doesn’t work.

If you want people to listen to you, they need to know you understand them first. This is why name-calling doesn’t help. It puts you in the opposite direction of where you need to be in.

Another problem with name-calling is this.

People who actually want to make the change become afraid to do so. They don’t dare to ask for help, because they may be shamed publicly if they didn’t well!

Our culture takes a hit. The community takes a hit.

Instead of bullying, a better way is to ping people gently, quietly, and ask if they need help. If they don’t want help, so be it.

What advocacy is about

I think advocacy isn’t about complaining or shaming. It is about giving guidance and instructions. It’s about being patient and genuine. It is about helping people move in the direction you advocate for.

Many fine folks are doing a good job of that. To name a few of my heroes:

  1. Rachel Andrew regarding CSS and Layouts
  2. Heydon Pickering, Léonie Watson, and Scott O’Hara on Accessibility and Inclusivity.
  3. Jake Archibald and Addy Osmani on JavaScript/Web Performance.

And of course, special mention to my buddy Chen Hui Jing for talking about CSS and typography all over the world.

(There are a lot of great people out there. I’m sorry I can’t include most people).

To the blatant offenders

Most people want to and seek change. We simply need to help them clear away the barriers they face.

Unfortunately, some giant corporations in the world do abuse their power. These blatant offenders don’t accept genuine help—they don’t think they need help.

And if giant corporations continue to abuse their power, our world will go into ruins before we know. In these cases, it’s up to us to stand up and fight against them. And we have to do it by name-calling. We might even have to organize a boycott (if we have the power to). No way around it as far as I know, which is unfortunate.

But for general public who wants to change, the gentler version is way more effective.

So take note of who you’re talking to and what you perpetuate.

Words have power.

I want to end off with a precept from the movie, Wonder. I love this precept and I try to apply it all the time.

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. And if you really wanna see what people are, all you have to do… is look.

Be kind.

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