I thought I would get out ahead of some things, and explain why I made an abrupt exit from the Peterborough Tech (aka PTBO Tech) community this morning. I guess this includes the exit from the Peterborough HackerNest Meetup as well from a while ago. The leading force is surprisingly not my issues with their authenticity and integrity (which is a problem on some levels), but more so about my own available bandwidth and capacity.
Everyone is aware of how outspoken I am about what I call “Fake Tech” (#faketech), and its impact on a community’s ability to innovate and advance. Peterborough has so much potential and amazing people, which I want to see succeed. Yet, it consistently gets held back by people who “snow” decision-makers and the surrounding community. There is a light to this problem, but that’s for another day.
How does my exit relate to fake-ness, PTBO Tech, and all that jazz? Bandwidth. I try to address issues as I see them head-on, only avoiding when there is substantial collateral damage. This aggravates a lot of people, specifically those that are often put under the crosshairs, people in positions they shouldn’t be, selling services they can’t deliver, or preying on those that don’t understand tech, etc.
A story just ran in the local paper about a new tech initiative for domain registration. It is a just a skinned reseller portal for another domain service provider.
The PTBO Tech community in its early days was a productive resource, connecting like-minded people with each other. We were all naïve to the snakes lying in wait in the grass around us, wanting to believe in the goodness of our fellow techie. At a specific point, the HackerNest partnership debacle occurred. It became clearer then it was not so much about the community anymore and developing quality, as it was about the marketable value of it in quantity.
HackerNest HQ later confirmed that one of the organizers of the Peterborough HackerNest Meetup had requested a specific local partnership, despite member protest to stay agnostic. Contrary to what the organizers said publicly to attendees. While I was one the protestors of the alignment, my tipping point was the ability for one of the organizers to lie to the community about the events that had transpired.
After that blow, I stopped going to the local HackerNest Meetup. I just couldn’t reconcile what had happened, and it was a personal choice to stop. I kept, for the most part, my concerns to myself, with only a few people, including some of the organizers, knowing of my issue. At the time, I was trying to forge a way for the PTBO Game Jam and its developing community to succeed in this sort of environment.
By leaving the monthly meetup, the number of productive connections I made dropped significantly but removed a layer of annoyance in my life. My only real touchpoint with new tech people in the community at that point was the Slack server (PTBO Tech). What was once an invite-only stream now had become a revolving door. It has slowly rotted away into a quantity vs. quality situation. I am no stranger to the idea of wanting your community to grow, and being as inclusive as possible. However, the community on there had become ripe with issues, and the further I delved, the more I got frustrated with it.
The frustration of watching what was once a great place of intellectual discussion and discourse, having fallen so low as a place where one its members’ posts sexist articles about women in technology and insists on his authority to talk about internet protocols having never actually worked a day in his life with them. I’m not blaming that one member, just giving an example of what happens when you value quantity over quality. There are plenty of other examples that really grind my gears. Individuals overreaching in their skill set yet still acting as an authority for the topic. When you have to actually work with someone, or deal with their past clients you get an eye-opener to really what they are capable of. This realization was/is scary. Why do I keep saying quantity vs quality? It was the last straw.
A month or so ago, I ran a clean-up of users on the chat server. Slack provides a nice 14-days of inactivity line where they mark people as inactive. Someone would have to log in once in a 2-week period, it is a no-brainer. If you were active in the community, it shouldn’t be hard to meet those criteria. The community’s user list went from 100+ to 24. That number was pretty startling to me. What would cause such a level of exodus?
Why did I purge it?
The simplest answer is the correct data.
I knew that by wiping out the inactive users, those that were truly wanting to take part in the community would contact an admin to get re-added. From what I could tell at the point of leaving the server, 4 people did. A realistic number of 28 active people in the community, is a little better than someone pitching over a hundred. What complicates this, even more, is that at the point of me removing myself from the server, there were another 10 accounts flagged as inactive by Slack.
The PTBO Game Jam’s Discord server is no saint here either, and in no way am I trying to compare or contrast the two communities. I try to purge the jam server once a month, removing anyone over 30 days (Discord works a bit differently). The upcoming purge should be around 17 people falling under the knife. Pruning user lists is an important part of community management. It gives organizers the ability to really know what the community looks like, and track growth patterns. For the PTBO Game Jam, we see exponential growth in the lead up before the event. We see a 10% monthly attrition for the 4 months before the next event boom. This way, should I need to show the stats, I can always know they are correct within 10% or that I’m understating them.
Moving On From PTBO Tech
Anyways, solving the issues of the PTBO Tech community is a deep rabbit hole. There are far too many facets to address and some deeply rooted issues which are not going to get resolved in the foreseeable future. I already have enough on my plate. Recognizing my own limitations, I must walk away because I will stress out about something that too many is a fictitious problem. It is not because I don’t want to try to fix it, I just recognize that it’s too much to deal with now. I must prioritize my bandwidth.
Amputation, I need to cut it off.
Much like a limb amputation, I’m cutting off some wonderful people. The private channels on that server housed some amazing discussions and a collective wealth of knowledge which I will miss. To those legit people who were part of the original #afterdark crew, and the new additions, my deepest apologies. Leaving you so abruptly this morning was not the best approach. You all knew it was coming though, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise.
I’m not going to stop championing for tech in Peterborough. The PTBO Game Jam will continue to make ripples locally, and tidal waves in the provincial pond.