The advantages of diversity - Steve Holden

Tags: django, djangocon

Open source is great. It is absolutely amazing.

We live in a multi-dimensional world, though it is often presented otherwise.

Some present a simple line-based worldview. Bad-Good for instance. Where do you want to be on the line? Republican-democrat? Ruby-Python? Foreigner-native? Once you think along those lines (…) you tend to start thinking in opposites.

This is the basis for many invalid world views. Just draw a line, cluster according to your preference and you’re ready. Linear concepts are not useful. The issue is polariation. In a one-dimensional world, there is no room for complexity.

What about a Venn-diagram based worldview? It allows for a bit more subtlety, but there’s still a line on the outside…

The open source world has a lot to teach the rest of the world. It is focused, mostly, on outcomes and results. But it is not representative. It is not even representative of the tech industry generally. In tech, 20% are women, in open source it is more like 2%, for instance.

And… we need diversity! The biggest resource in open source is people. So you’d rather not exclude many people. The most common diversity areas, to give you an idea:

  • Ethnicity

  • Religion

  • Gender

  • Culture

  • Socio-economic background

Diversity is desirable because each individual is limited. We are all good at some things and bad at others. A group can solve a bigger range of problems And you don’t want the group to be too homogeneous.

Typical open source projects will tend to focus on the actual programming and it’ll ignore technical writers, designers, training, etc. Django stands out with its documentation. But Python’s documentation isn’t that good. There’s no real emphasis on it in the current Python team. If we don’t broaden our community with different skill sets and roles, we’ll fall behind. Python is poised to be the #1 language of choice, but we need to improve some things before that can happen.

We ought to involve the community more as open source projects. We should run our projects more professionally. Be more open to involve all of the community more.

We should not accept it anymore to have to read through half-finished documentation and having to fall back to reading source code. “But that takes time to rectify”. Well, yes. So involve more people. Get more people with more diverse skill sets to help. Perhaps you can then focus on what you’re good at.

It is up to us all. The python world does have an awesome community. But we might just be a bit too smug about how wonderful we are. We should not get complacent and we should keep aiming at increasing our diversity. logo

About me

My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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