I went to HackManchester this year, and it was awesome. I bumped into some old chums, got to know a few newer ones better, and met a bunch of interesting people. We worked hard and definitely had fun. I’m also a semi-regular attendee of a number of events around Manchester, and enjoy all of them. What I’d like to do here is take a quick second to examine the event formats, and our community events in general[1].

Programmers have a reputation for being introverted, shy, and a bit nerdy. I do not believe that reputation for a minute; most programmers I know are just normal guys who do an unusual job. One thing that is becoming quickly apparent, however, is that our community has completely blasted past that introverted reputation and developed a taste for masochism and excess.

Do we really want to build our community on events where we propose that we all forego sleep, gorge on junk food, sit down for as long as you can manage, and chug energy drinks (or beer) like they’re nectar of the gods? The global tech community has been slowly developing an image problem, with the casual sexism, the less-casual sexism, and the alcoholism[2]. This doesn’t bode well for us; we need new, smart, people to join us in making the world better, and we’re not necessarily encouraging them to do so by being a drunken rabble. We’re also in danger of losing the older members of our profession. There are a lot of experienced developers who cannot be bothered with an all-night hackathon or drinking session under the guise of a meetup; is no-one worried that we’re neglecting to add their experiences to our group knowledge? Even worse, do we not realise that if we build our community around college-aged activities, we’ll one day have to leave it ourselves?

I love our community events, they’re great fun, generally informative, and the people who attend them are enthusiastic and passionate folks I enjoy interacting with. It’s the event formats I see a problem with; we need some other options. Hackathons and after-work social meetups are great, but let’s seriously think about whether they’re really making us a better community or whether they’re actually keeping some people out. Development is a trying career, and we all need to blow off steam occasionally, but let’s look to get more inclusive and think more about being a productive community.


[1] This entire piece is fairly provocative. I want to stress that I really do love the tech community, I just think we need to recognise that we can do more to be more inclusive, and that’d we’d all benefit from that.

[2] I was going to put in a few links in this section, but I don’t want to. If you’re following the tech community in general you’ll have heard about some of the recent incidents.