My experiences here

Disclaimer: This is mostly a (non-tech) meta post.

I just learned that the Rust moderation team resigned 3 weeks ago. While I have no insight into what happened there (and don't really want to inquire), I would like to give a short feedback on my personal experience within the Rust community, and within the tech-scene in general.

I marked this as “meta”, and I hope it's okay to post this. If not, I'd kindly ask the moderators to close this thread or remove my post (but I didn't recognize any rule why I shouldn't post it, so I'll just go ahead for now).

First some things about my background: When filling out the Rust survey 2021, I was asked if I belonged to a marginalized or underrepresented group. It's not been easy for me to answer that question. Being a white (cis) male, certainly doesn't qualify me as being marginalized or underrepresented, and a diverse sexual orientation is becoming more and more accepted, at least in the cultural area where I'm living (Germany). I never encountered evidently homophobic conduct, for example (neither in the Rust community, nor elsewhere in a tech-community). Side note: I don't want to imply that other people are same lucky, and I'm happy that there are efforts to maintain a Code of Conduct in that matter. I consider this to be absolutely necessary.

That said, I have often felt really sh*tty in tech-centered communities. I'm not talking about the Rust community in particular now, but more generally the hacking scene and other tech-related communities. You particularly often meet people who show off their (alledged) superiority (nothing wrong with that) while at the same time they are debasing others (and that's the part that's really bad). Sometimes this happens in a blunt fasion, or subtle, which doesn't make it much better (as it makes you feel like you can't even complain about it, or wonder if it's your own fault for being not welcome). Simply not feeling welcome can be a good reason to just leave a community (especially when you're a sensitive person).

When starting to chat here (on the Rust User Forum), it all felt very different, in a positive way! There was this huge number of people who'd be very helpful and interested in either abstract ideas or concrete problems. I sometimes even felt guilty for asking about something where people then spent hours to write well-thought responses to illuminate a certain technical aspect. I would like to express my explicit gratitude to everyone who's helping out on this forum – whether with outstanding expertise, personal encouragement, wild assumptions, creative ideas, bad shots, or painstaking accuracy. I'm trying my best to give something back to the community because you people really helped me out very often! A big thanks again!

Nontheless, I had bad moments on this forum too, and I think that's partially because I've been growing very sensitive from my experiences in the tech-scene, which sometimes might make me overreact when people respond in a harsh way or point out how wrong I am with something I do or attempt to do in Rust.

I think Rust is a very unusual language, and when you're new to Rust (like me), it can be very difficult to adapt to certain concepts. This sometimes leads to situations where you question yourself, “Is Rust just plain stupid, or am I just not getting how things are supposed to work in Rust?” I had more than one situation where I thought “Rust must be buggy, this can't be, Rust is wrong, this must be a compiler error, the standard library is flawed, etc.” Most of the times, I was wrong.

I see a lot of people who post on this forum questioning how things work in Rust, and I think – given how special Rust is in some regards – this isn't really a surprise. I can understand how this sometimes may become annoying to those people who are mastering Rust for many years to hear the same (wrong) ideas over and over again. But I think it's very important to be patient with newcomers and to understand their way of seeing and perceiving the language. Also, sometimes critique is well-founded, and let's admit: Rust isn't perfect! (even though it gets pretty close, IMHO)

Sometimes, wording really matters. I feel less bad when someone tells me “this is not the way it's usually done in Rust, for the following reasons: …” instead of “You're doing it wrong, you're having a wrong understanding in your mind about how Rust works, you should get used to how we do things in Rust!” The first is helpful, the latter makes me feel a bit… “wrong”. Nonetheless, I do believe that most (or even all) comments were well-meant, and I know I can sometimes be a bit sensitive and I'd like to apologize at this point once more if I sometimes overreacted in the past to some responses that made me feel unwelcome.

I would like to encourage everyone to keep an open mind to unusual (or exotic) ideas, to remember the trouble that newcomers go through, to not get mad when people ask “Why?”, and to bear in mind that the particular choice of words may really matter for some recipients.

From what I can see from the outside, the Rust team is doing very good work. Please keep up that good work, and please maintain a Code of Conduct to make everyone feel welcome. Rust is an amazing language!

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I agree with the sentiment here. I certainly sometimes see comments that I think are harsher than necessary.

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Thank you very much for posting this, I think it needed to be said. And thank you for being open about your feelings. You are definitely not the only one who is sensitive to this.

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Strong plus one here. This is subtle, as this is (hopefully) a matter outside of the code-of-conduct. Still, I think it's very important, especially when talking to beginners, to go an extra mile and make the communication friendlier than strictly required. Even if you personally are annoyed to explain for the thousandth time that, eg OOP is not the first tool to reach out for in Rust, it is the first time for whoever asks the question.

There's also a second-order effects in play here that, if everyone is communicating in a friendly way, then new members tend to mimic friendliness.

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Exactly. If someone's asking a question, that's a chance to help them understand better, not to tell them they're wrong or judge them for not already knowing it. They already know there's more to understand, that's literally why they're asking the question


And if you don't want to explain that again, you're not obligated to respond! Chances are, someone else will reply and help them instead. If you're irritated just to see a question, I'd explicitly advise against responding to it. You're more likely to have aggressive wording, or take what they say in a worse light. Either let someone else handle it, or get yourself in a better mindset first. I get the temptation to be the first response, but sometimes it's better to resist that.

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The "muted" option under the bell is great. When I think "oh, it's them again", I go click it and move on.

(If only there were a way to do it from the list of threads, like there is in email or zulip...)

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Good discussion

So true.

And yet. While we encourage everyone to be more civil and understanding in this community, we should take care with our assumptions both ways.

It is worth noting that this is a very international community and many members here do not speak English as first language. And not everyone of those who do, possess equal communication skills.

Yes, wording absolutely does matter and everyone would like to be addressed in a most respectful manner possible, but for whatever reason, this doesn’t come naturally for all, all the time. As a recipient, it is just as important to let go of your ego and try to read into the content of the response without bias as it is for the responders to try to be respectful.

It is difficult as a community member to put your best intentions into a response, make your answer thorough and informative and get back an admonition for being a jerk.

On a personal note, I’ve been lurking at the edges of Rust community for some time now and to be frank, this is the most open and welcoming tech community so far. But whenever people come together there is misunderstanding and friction.

It is not important that we avoid it altogether—it would be impossible. Much more important is that we recognise and embrace the diversity by noticing when those frictions arise and try to defuse those situations earlier rather than later.

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Why do you feel the need to tell us that?

Personally I find this endless talk of race and gender all over the net and the news now a days very distasteful. I don't care what sex you are, or say you are, or prefer to be with. Not my business.

I come here to discuss a programming language and whatever problems I have with it. In return sometimes even I, as a relative Rust beginner, would be happy to help anyone who might be floundering as I did at the beginning.

A agree that we should all be as courteous and helpful as possible. If ones answer to a question is "RTFM" or "your an idiot you're doing it wrong" then better not answer at all.

I find Codes of Conduct some what condescending. I mean, what they say is how I was brought up to behave.

In short, everyone, be nice to everyone.

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This question doesn’t make much sense in my opinion, because the answer is right there. Why do you quote the information without also quoting its context that perfectly explains why the information was provided in the first place:

I understand @jbe’s post as a collection of general feedback to the community. This paragraph was about a specific question of the Rust 2021 survey, and @jbe simply explained his experience with the question and gave the necessary context so that we can understand the experience.

Since either being non-white, non-cis, or non-male each might immediately give sufficient reason for someone to classify themself as “belonged to a marginalized or underrepresented group” (at least in the context of programming/tech), the information in particular is clearly quite relevant to the topic; and it seems hard or almost impossible to keep this feedback just as clear and comprehensible when you’re no longer this concrete about what’s going on.

I would somewhat understand with your assessment of “why do you need to tell us” in many other situations in the internet where quite often the first thing you’ll learn about a person is their gender and ethnicity, even though you didn’t ask for it or wouldn’t really care. However in this particular instance, giving the information @jbe gave makes a lot of sense, and not giving this information would make it impossible to express his point.

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Agreed, but I don't think that the problem I wanted to address with my post can be entirely addressed/explained/excused by/with language skills.

I understand, and that's why we shouldn't always assume bad intentions, especially when having made bad experiences elsewhere. Nonetheless, I would like to encourage people to be more considerate with wording (like I explained in my post).

A Code of Conduct states what a team or community values. What happens when someone isn't raised like you and decides to make subtle (or not so subtle) derogatory remarks and then claim: "I was only joking." when called out? I see this constantly in some communities, including the physical world.

That is the goal. CoC's are a means to achieve it.

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I think that when discussing about the Code of Conduct and "feeling welcome", my personal background in that matter can be of relevance. Besides, perhaps sharing my own background (which goes beyond the cite above) can make other people with a similar background feel more comfortable. Plus, for people who are homo/trans/etc., it can feel liberating to openly talk about it because that way, they can be sure they are actually welcome in a particular environment (and not just welcome as long as they hide that aspect of their personality).

I understand if you don't want to hear about it, and I would like if you could be in an environment where these topics that don't interest you (or maybe even make you feel uncomfortable) don't pop up. But please understand that there are people who need to feel okay talking about it. Even in a tech/math/sport context.

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I think you are jumping to a conclusion. That I feel uncomfortable.

Thing is, I'm not so young anymore. Since I left school in 1976 I have been surrounded by all kind of people, all kind of races, skin tones, sexual orientations and destinations, abilities and disabilities. In university, in work and in social life. We all got along just fine. I was even optimistic that the discriminations of times past were fading.

That is the environment I am still in today and I have no discomfort about it.

What I do feel uncomfortable about is the reversal of all that progress in social equality that dates back to the suffragettes, to the sixties feminists and civil rights movement and others. Seems to me that increasingly ones identity, racially, sexually, whatever is becoming a divisive force.

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Sorry if I have misunderstood something.

I'm a bit afraid this discussion drifts off-topic, but I'd like to give a short response anyway.

It took me years until I even started realizing how some forms of (subtle) discrimination have affected me during my youth. I used to believe that I grew up in a time (the 80's/90's) where homophobia was left behind. But it wasn't until I was much older until I noticed how it really affected me (and maybe still does).

Anyway, by saying I'm "white (cis) male", I wanted to emphasize that I'm coming from a background where I face relatively little discrimination myself and I wanted to emphasize that I want to support those who have more problems than I do (whether coming from the same or a different background).

I hope that made my point a bit more clear.

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I agree with this (and with probably everything you said)! This is one of the things that's attracted me to the community, along with the fact that you can hop on over to the Rust Internals forum and watch or participate in open discussion about the development of the language itself.

On another side of things: as I have some flexibility in what I work on in privacy/security research, I've made an attempt in the past to participate in rustc development itself, but found it difficult to know how to get my foot in the door. For one, the sheer amount and complexity of work to do is daunting, especially without mentorship. It's also hard to know where an outsider would fit in to the org.

I just landed at the Rust community and find this post very encouraging! I've been a techy for a long time and seen all these unwelcoming behaviours in forums for everything, from PhoneGap via Quora to music software.

No need ever to address the person (unless it's to say hello and welcome), only address the problem/question. It's fine to say "this seems like it might be this related common misunderstanding" rather than "you're an idiot clearly you don't understand gespoominfung at all! Have you even read The Clavicule of Solomon? Pftt noobs wastin my time." After all, that's why we have twitter.

See you on the fora!

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While I understand your point of view, the problem with this kind of idea is in many cases the question askers will be new users -- they won't have seen this post, or in general know how the Rust community will respond to them.

Therefore, I think we as a community have to make all reasonable efforts to make sure we are respectful to new members.

There is no-one I am thinking of here in the Rust community, but I have been in other communities where someone kept "welcoming" new users with unhelpful messages -- they did not mean to upset people, but they did. No-one ever stopped them, and in practice a large number of new users left quickly, never to return.

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I 100% agree that you need to be patient and remain positive - sometimes having that one kind person help you work through a problem is enough to spark joy and put you on the path to something really magical. Those are the experiences that make a community great and it's important to stay friendly so we foster the right culture.

However, to avoid this thread turning into an echo chamber I'd like to point out that the door swings both ways...

The nature of this forum means you tend to have less experienced Rustaceans asking questions with more experienced people responding. We put a lot of emphasis on the more experienced members being patient, friendly, and understanding, but I don't really see those same standards being applied to newer members.

As an example, not infrequently[1] you'll run into threads where the OP is trying to use a technique that doesn't really work for Rust (e.g. inheritance) and when you spend 30-60 minutes trying to politely suggest alternative solutions, complete with examples and links to docs or blog posts, you are met with a reply like

No! I want to use inheritance. WHy CAn'T i UsE iNhErItAnCe?! rUsT iS tErRiBlE!! Aarghaarghasdw!@#ge

(exaggerated... but not by much)

These sorts of belligerent newcomers ruin my week.


  1. I'm guessing this happens to me maybe half a dozen times a year? There's actually one of these threads being actively replied to right now. ↩︎

Well, I have this help question coming up... but first I have to think a bit on phrasing before I post. I think I might be "using a technique that doesn't really work for Rust." But I made it work....

I think you'll be fine :slightly_smiling_face:

There's a big difference in thinking/mentality between "I think I'm doing something unidiomatic here and want to know if there's a better way" and "It's Rust's fault because I can't do X".

One accepts that you've still got room to grow, while the other blames the tools for not matching up with your mental model.

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