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What does it mean to join a community? We talk about casual versus committed membership, and how maintainers and leaders manage expectations around trust and collaboration.


Conversations may be edited for clarity. (edit)

00:00 Nadia: Okay, so today we’re gonna be talking about the concept of membership in a church, what it means to commit or not commit to attending. And, I think that’s it. Right?

00:14 Henry: Yeah. Sounds good. Or how that relates to like, how we might see that in open source, too.

00:18 Nadia: So yeah, I was, I was thinking about this topic because I was reading this book called Call to Commitment, about um, a church that kind of took the approach of, drawing these very clear lines around who was a member of the church and who isn’t.

00:33 Nadia: And the idea being that if you, if you wanna show up and attend, you’re always welcome to attend, you’re welcome to, you know, take part and enjoy the services, but if you really wanna, like, be a part of the church, you kinda have to like, they wanna know that you’re super, super committed. And that means saying no to people that might just sort of be casually committed.

00:54 Nadia: And yeah, just taught me about what it means to have a smaller group of people that are actually at that level of commitment.

01:00 Henry: Yeah, I go to a church that has membership. And, yeah, they’re plenty of churches that don’t. Um, and I think this is something that was, I guess, traditionally implied already, that most churches have it. But then recently it’s more of like a, I think there’s been a, long, there’s a long trend of wanting church to be more friendly and welcoming people, in the sense, but they use the word like seeker-friendly. And what that means is that there’s someone trying to seek God, and it’s like, “Oh, we want to cater to that.”

01:31 Henry: And so, start seeing churches, maybe they’re all the churches like, maybe the majority of people are people that might not actually believe in God, but they’re like looking. Um, and so, maybe they, they think that having membership turns people off. But, it’s more like, with membership, it’s like, oh, you can see what it’s like to be a member, to be committed, to have responsibility, um, to be in a greater community with people.

01:55 Henry: It’s like the depths of community versus just like, oh, I’m there. Or I only go on like, for a lot of people, maybe, they only go on like Christmas or Easter or something like that.

02:05 Nadia: So what does it mean to be a member? What do you get if you are a member? And also what do you have to give to be a member?

02:11 Henry: Yeah, so I think for (laughs) a lot of places, you don’t really, I think the get is not like a material, you don’t like get, well, I mean, maybe they’ll give you like a, you know, a certificate, you’re like, hey, you know, you’re a member now.

02:21 Henry: Um, and that’s, that’s a thing. But it’s, it’s more of a sense of responsibility, and then uh … of, you know, it could be a lot of things. So like maybe it’s like, okay, you’re expected to participate, or, or to, to be there every week for people to join a certain type of ministry to serve people in the, the skills that God is giving you.

02:43 Henry: Or maybe it’s tithing. Or maybe it’s, uh, you know, other kinds of responsibilities in the church. And I think the way a lot of people think about it is that it’s not a, I think like, my old pastor used the word, like, not a, not like a Costco membership. Where you kind of like pay a fee every year, and then you get like these nice benefits or like sales on things.

03:07 Henry: It’s like, no, you’re committed. And I think even the book, you know, it’s like, you’re committed to this local group where you live, um, for the foreseeable future. It’s the, just like, I can come and go whenever I please. Where people wanna know what’s going on. You, you care about what’s going on, and then …

03:29 Nadia: Sounds like it’s almost more of a, like a declaration/affirmation of a level of commitment you already have, versus you sign up, and then kind of like, grow into it.

03:41 Henry: Right, yeah, yeah, exactly. You wouldn’t, not unless you like just feel like, you know, you’ve been to this church like one week, and you’re like, “Oh, this is already for me.” Um, you know, a lot of people, they might like wait a whole year to decide to be a member. Because it is, uh, it’s, and it’s, it’s like, kind of like, um, you could think of it as like a marriage or, or, we would use the word covenant in a way. It’s like you’re signing something to say, “Yeah, I’m committed to this church, and the church is in turn also committed to me in the same way.”

04:12 Nadia: So do you know if anyone ever, have they ever turned down someone who wanted to be a member, but they thought weren’t ready for it?

04:20 Henry: Oh yeah. So you, you might have certain um, I wouldn’t, you wouldn’t call them like hard requirements, but like, a lot of membership, they have like a class you have to take. Um, and so maybe it is like, every week there’s like someone will teach something about like what does this church believe, or what they do, or the history. So anything like that.

04:40 Henry: So you know what you’re getting into, and then at the end, maybe you have the interview with the pastor or the elders there, just to talk about like why you’re doing this and and where you can help out, that kind of thing.

04:55 Henry: So it’s, I, I don’t know if people would like, necessarily reject someone. Because it’s like, if you’re gonna go through all those classes and all that, you get a really good sense of like, why they’re doing this and what they’re um, yeah, what they’re doing it for.

05:13 Nadia: And how many people are members versus how many people would just say, just attend a service and aren’t members?

05:22 Henry: Um, yeah, you know, it might be you know, it could be like half. It kind of depends on the composition of the church. Maybe if it’s you know, a, yeah, I guess it really depends.

05:34 Nadia: But like, for your church.

05:37 Henry: Yeah, I’d say like, half or so. Yeah.

05:40 Nadia: All right.

05:41 Henry: Maybe like, and also it’s like, is it like, does your church have a lot of um, families, or maybe it’s like college students, or um, kids, it’s like, all those things kind of change the composition too.

05:53 Nadia: Interesting. So, we’re talking about this in relation to open source, and the idea of like, casual contributors versus longer term contributors and then maintainers, and how to create an environment where the casual contributor is welcome, or yeah, anyone who wants to participate or wants to do more, can do more. But, um, doesn’t necessarily just sort of, you know just sort of jump and then say, like, I’m gonna be a long-term contributor. You kind of have to do certain things, um, to show a level of dedication, but how do you do that without being like elitist about it, right?

06:29 Henry: Yeah. I, I think it’s weird with churches. You’re not, you don’t have to show anything about like how you know good you are at x, y, z, right? It’s more like, um, so it’s different with open source. Like, our level of trust is like, we actually do wanna see that you, you know, committed code or reviewing pull requests kind of thing. But in church it’s not like, you’re like, “Oh, like read the Bible like five times a day or something,” and then now you’re a member, right. (Laughs) We’re not looking for that kind of-

06:57 Nadia: I think they are like sorta similar, though. Or, just in the sense that like, the goal is to document your, not document, but like, you already are internally committed or interested, and you’re kinda just like doing the thing that you normally would wanna do anyway. Um, it’s not about like a test or proving yourself, it’s just sort of about, you, I think there’s like some way that you used to set up a level of expectation that, if you’re this active or committed, like, you are doing this kind of work already.

07:31 Henry: Yeah, exactly, I think that’s a really good way of putting it. It’s not, you’re not like, taking a test or proving something. It’s like, you’re just, you’ve already done work or you’ve already shown something before, but you’re telling the group of maintainers, or the church, that you are committed now. Like, instead of, it’s kind of like saying like, you might do volunteer work just because, or, and, or something like, but later it’s like, “Oh, I am, I’m committing to this.” Or even like me, where I’m like, “Hey, I was already doing open source, and I’m, it’s fine. But if I quit, and I say I’m doing this full time, I’m telling everybody that I’m committing to this.”

08:10 Henry: And it’s kind of like a declaration to people, in public, in the community as a whole, that I’m doing this. Instead of just personally, or individually.

08:21 Nadia: Has that worked out in practice on Babel, in terms of like how maintainers became maintainers, or more active contributors?

08:33 Henry: So I definitely have not like made a, I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about like what exactly it takes to do that. Or think about, like, we don’t definitely don’t have like classes on it (laughs), being a maintainer. I don’t even have the right thoughts for that right now, which I wanna do.

08:49 Henry: It would be interesting to make that more formal. It’s more of like, it’s a very, like I feel like a lot of open source is very informal, especially if you’re not like a huge project. With, like, a lot company backing and they’re all paid to like, do that. And you have people that are all thinking about organization, right?

09:06 Henry: But in open source, with just volunteers, they’re just, maybe the ones doing it all, or one person’s trying to think about that stuff. So it’s more like, “Hey, I found this person that, you know, has been contributing for awhile, and they seem committed.” You ask the rest of the group, and they’re like, “Oh, that’s cool,” and then you add them. And that’s it. And then you have to figure out what that onboarding looks like. It’s more like, you don’t even have it all I think in most cases. So, it would be, it would be better to make it more explicit.

09:35 Nadia: Yeah. Yeah, and so like how does this play out with the sort of like, more casual or one-off contributors in terms of, I guess making it seem obvious that they can join, but, or they can contribute however they want to contribute, but not necessarily, like, you serve them, I guess in a different way than you would serve a fellow maintainer, right?

10:00 Henry: Yeah, but, I guess it’s almost like, they might not even know they wanna be a maintainer, they don’t know what it looks like. So it’s like, we should write down, like, kind of what are the responsibilities of being a maintainer explicitly. Like, what are the kind of things we, you should care about. And then that way they’ll have a better sense of, “Oh, is this something I wanna move toward?” Same with mentorship. It’s like, you’ll find people, they’re like, “Oh, you’re a member,” and say what does that mean? And you can talk about it, that kind of thing, in the same way. I’m just saying right now, it’s, maybe they don’t even know that it’s a thing, or it’s very vague. It’s like, “Oh, I’m a maintainer.” Everyone has their own definition of what that means.

10:38 Nadia: We were talking about this with church, right, where I was like, yeah, I’d gone to church here and there, but I didn’t even know there was a concept of (laughs) membership. I thought then there was just like, everyone agrees to show up sometimes, and sometimes people were there more often than others. And if I, if that is a thing, then it’s interesting to think about, like, oh, yeah I didn’t even know that was possible, so maybe I, maybe I do.

10:59 Nadia: Um, but I think there’s also like, I guess like what I, also would like is to call out that there are people who are just gonna be casual contributors, right, and there are people who are just gonna attend church every once in a while. And I’ve gotten really, like, very real pleasure out of attending church not as like, I am a member of this congreations or something, but just because it was exactly what I needed at that moment with like, my family or something like that.

11:28 Nadia: And so like, there is like, a separate experience to be had, where there is the expectation that you’re gonna a member, but you still feel welcome just the same. Um, and I guess I’m wondering, like as a maintainer, how do you think about catering to that experience of like, we’re just glad you’re here, we’re glad you’re doing this once, but like the level of maybe like attention I’m gonna give you or level of commitment that I expect is just gonna be different. Um, and how does that play out for you?

11:57 Henry: Yeah, and I guess, even with open source, I, my expectation on people becoming maintainers is a lot lower than like, I feel like at church, there is a, there is a, I guess there’s a goal of making everyone a member. Even though you might not, um, like, it’s not like you have to turn everyone, you’re not you’re forcing people to turn into members or anything. But I feel like with open source, it’s like, it’s even more so, it’s like, “Oh, they’re probably just gonna like, contribute. Maybe they don’t, you know, wanna be on this project, and that’s fine.”

12:27 Henry: But actually, there is another thing that’s interesting, and it’s also like, you know, the goal isn’t just for people to come to your church. Maybe if like, if they, you know, it doesn’t, that doesn’t work for them, then you would, you could recommend other churches. And in the same way, maybe, you know, they’re, they’re just trying to do open source in general. Maybe they don’t actually care that much about the particular project, and then you can, you can lead them on to other projects, or like, “Oh, you might be interested in this as well.”

12:54 Nadia: Have you ever done that with a contributor?

12:56 Henry: Yeah, um, ‘cause maybe they’re like, “Oh, I’m not into like, compilers, or maybe my language isn’t JavaScript,” so I could say like, “Oh, like you should contribute to webpack or React or something else.” Yeah, I’ve never, definitely done that before. And I, other people have done that for me, as well.

13:12 Nadia: I’m curious, has that ever happened like, or does that tend to happen within the context of the projects itself, or is that like a conversation at an event? Like, where does that sort of meta-conversation happen?

13:24 Henry: Yeah, I think um, events definitely I think. ‘Cause you know, people will come up and say, “Oh, I wanna contribute to open source, how do I get involved?” I’m not gonna assume that just ‘cause they’re talking to me that means they wanna contribute to Babel. Maybe it’s just, about open source in general.

13:38 Henry: Um, or if someone recommends someone that they wanna get involved in open source. In the same way, I don’t, there’s no like, you know, straight answer you can give them like, “Oh, how you should get started.” You have to really listen to like what they’re looking for. What is their commitment level, do they just wanna like, try it out, or do they have a specific thing in mind, all that kind of stuff.

14:03 Nadia: Hm. How much, like, and I don’t really know how to ask this question, but, uh, to what extent do you think you should expect them to, to like know and to learn that stuff? Themselves versus you’re being helpful by giving them extra information?

14:24 Henry: Yeah, that is, that’s really hard. I guess, it just, I can’t say we should put all the burden on them, but then at the same time we can’t really put the whole burden on us, too. I don’t know, I think that’s just where you have to work with somebody. And I feel like it’s so much, I feel it’s so much easier in church, where it’s like, they’re coming, and they already have, they usually have a reason for going, right? And you can talk to them about what’s going on in their life, and it’s also in person.

14:50 Henry: Um, and if they, and you, also like, after the service or whatever you can get lunch with them, you can chat, you can talk, you can do activities, but in open source, it’s kind of just like, oh they showed up, you know, and it’s online. You have no idea about them, they have no idea about you either. Unless it’s like at like a conference, and it’s almost like, I find myself not really (laughs) wanting to do all that work online just ‘cause it doesn’t feel effective.

15:17 Nadia: I feel like I’ve heard something like that from other people, that they’ll sign future, future long-term contributors or maintainers by meeting them at an event first, whether it’s like a workshop or a conference or whatever. And I think, my, I guess my theory on that would be that you just have more context for someone who’s like, if you took the time to go to a conference, then you have some level of interest, you’ve already had some level of buy-in that’s higher than someone who just like, put the URL into their browser.

15:46 Henry: Oh I see, yeah.

15:47 Nadia: And yeah, no, I was just trying to think what an extreme version of what would be like with church. I guess if some just sort of like walked into church, and was like, “What’s this all about?” Like, I’m guessing that people would talk to them, just because that would probably be a pretty rare circumstances.

16:02 Nadia: Um, but if you’d had people coming into church like multiple times every few minutes, being like, “Hey, what’s this all about?” You’d probably be like, all right, we need to put up a sign or something so people know what this church is about without disrupting our services.

16:16 Henry: Right, it’s a, well, so for that, we have like, we have a time, I’m on, so I’m on the welcoming team. And we like switch off and all that stuff. And you’ll have people at the front where you can greet people, and the hard part is that sometimes you don’t know who’s new (laughs), and so you have to like learn everyone’s face and all that, and be like, “Oh, are you new?” And they’ll be like, “No, I’ve been here for awhile,” and say, “Oh, I guess this church is a lot bigger than I thought.”

16:39 Henry: Um, but you know, if you notice that they’re kind of like looking around or something, then it’s like, okay, maybe they’re new, and chat with them. Um, I think it’s different because it’s like, when you’re at church, there’s a focused, specific time to be there, right. And then you’re already, you know that they’re coming, maybe, right. Or at least you’re open for it. But in open source it’s funny, it’s like, technically they could show up at any point in time, in any time zone, you might be sleeping, they show up. And that is a very different experience, right?

17:08 Nadia: Yeah, or if they’re like, emailing you or tweeting at you, and it’s like, yeah. (Laughs) It’s much more personal space.

17:19 Nadia: I did wanna talk a little bit about this idea of like, what is a maintainer or like what distinguishes a maintainer’s level of commitment from that of like a regular contributor. Um, and, and like what, if we had to, are there people who contribute in very specific ways to a project, but like, wouldn’t be considered a maintainer, and if so, why?

17:46 Henry: Right, I think you were talking earlier that, we tend to wanna uh broaden the definition of maintainer. ‘Cause I was saying, like, yeah, if there are specific people that only care about those things, whether it’s like, so for Babel, it’s like they care about this package, or this specific implementation, um, and in some sense, they are a maintainer, they just maintain that small thing.

18:10 Henry: And you know, if you made that in another repo, would you call the maintainer of that repo, just ‘cause it’s in the same project? It’s kind of hard to distinguish. But then, it’s like they only care about that one thing, do they have to care about every aspect? Does it depend on like how many people are working on it? Um …

18:26 Nadia: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-. So we were, I mean, we definitely struggle with this at GitHub, of trying to figure out how to define a maintainer, um, in a way that was fair and objective. And I think while I was there, I, I erred more on the side of, like I think the definition I was pretty much trying to work with was, if you’re having to deal with non-code aspects of the project, um, you’re probably a maintainer. Like if you’re thinking about triaging issues, or reviewing people’s codes, then like, you’re probably a maintainer, or you’ve moved into some different realm there.

18:58 Nadia: But I don’t actually think that definition holds, partly because there’s so, such different sizes of projects, um, so that like, there might be a project where you do just kind of mostly write code all day. Um, and there can also be like, on the other spectrum, a really, really big project, where you’re doing like, you just end up focusing on your specific area.

19:21 Nadia: And so we would get maintainers coming to GitHub who would say, “I’m a maintainer because I maintain the documentation of the project.” And I think like, there’s, there is probably some realm where someone could say that, and also be a maintainer, but I don’t think it’s maintaining the documentation that makes them a maintainer, it’s are you kind of like worried about the overall aspect of the project? (Laughs)

19:46 Nadia: If there are like, high level, like, like government decision being made, would you feel like you had a really strong stake in them? Even that’s like not a great definition, but there’s something like, intangible about a maintainer, where I feel like your level of commitment is strong enough that you’re almost like, you’re going up or down with the ship.

20:04 Nadia: Whereas like you could still be a very regular, active, and valuable contributor, but if you’re only concerned about your one area, and like you were saying, you know you might like, paying someone if you had like react questions, like a specific person, and they kind of come in and talk about that, or like work on that, or whatever. And then, they’re otherwise not super involved. Like, I don’t know that I would call that person a maintainer.

20:29 Henry: Right. ‘Cause it’s just the one area, and especially if you’re only paying them for that one thing. I, I, tend to think, it’s like, are they thinking very high level and meta, and it’s like, also maybe do they, when they think, when they see a PR, whatever it is, are they thinking of the greater whole or vision of the project, instead of just like, I wanna get this finished. ‘Cause someone that makes a PR that they just want it to be in there, they might not be thinking, how does this relate to everything else.

20:58 Henry: The maintainer is like, “Oh, I’ve seen every other PR that’s related to this, I’ll even do the research to figure out like, how does this affect X, Y, Z, or even not the project itself, but projects outside of it,” thinking like, way bigger, um, than people can even perceive maybe. I think that, that might be helpful.

21:16 Nadia: Yeah, that, I think that’s useful. The idea that you, you’re someone who’s seeing the big picture or sort of connecting the dots between different parts of the project, or can just sort of like hold that entire vision and all its tradeoffs in your head. Um …

21:33 Henry: Yeah, which is really hard to do (laughs).

21:36 Nadia: (Laughs) I’m like, trying to do that in my head right now. Um, yeah. And I think like, and the reason I think we’re talking about this is just the idea that, like, at least I, I feel like there’s sort of been this historical um, like in the early days of source there was very much this focus on like a BDFL, benevolent dictator for life, and, and, like, the, the maintainer was the authority, and then there was kind of this swing in a different direction more recently around just like going very far to the other side to being super sort of welcoming, and bringing everyone in. Everyone can participate you know, however they wanna participate. And I think like, I’m struggling to find that like happy medium between the two, because there are tradeoffs on both, right?

22:18 Nadia: Like, when you’re too authoritarian, then people are unhappy (laughs). They don’t enjoy working on the project, you find it, you know, everyone’s just very, difficult situation where it’s just like not at all democratic. Um, but then if you go too far on the other side, you find that like, it becomes really overwhelming to cater to the needs to lots and lots of people who might not necessarily be that committed.

22:41 Nadia: And yeah, trying to find that line between um, like, you’re, between keeping the doors open, but also requiring some level of commitment, and that’s why I’m like sort of feeling more recently I guess in favor of, like, can you draw a line around what a maintainer is a little more narrowly to say like, if you’re a maintainer, you are committed to this level. We’re not just gonna kind of like, like, if, if you, if you’re, we don’t want you to say you’re a maintainer and then you just like leave the project and don’t even think twice about it next week. Then, like, then how can I rely on you?

23:18 Henry: Right. And yeah, maybe that’s a good word. Relying on people. Like, expecting that they’re going to show up again. And even when they’re not, ‘cause it’s not like, you know, every day doing open source you’re really excited or happy about it, same with going to church. You know, not every day you’re feeling like devoted or whatever.

23:37 Henry: It’s like, I think I’ve said this before, but like, going, it’s like um, I went to a prayer meeting yesterday and I was talking to my roommate, and he was like, “Oh, wow you’re so devoted for going to church on Wednesday.” And I’m like, it’s not because I’m devoted that I’m going. It’s ‘cause going will make me more devoted as well. And so, same with open source. Continuing to do it will make me continue to want to do it. ‘Cause, I, if I already believe that it’s good, then, so.

24:02 Nadia: I think we like, we talk about how maintainers serve contributors a lot. But I’m also curious to learn like, how do maintainers serve each other in that way. Like, how do you sort of like show up for, if you have other maintainers, like how do you show up for those other maintainers and how do you mentor each other or make each other, strengthen each other’s commitment?

24:26 Henry: Yeah, I feel like in personal experience with Babel, it’s, it’s uh, it’s different then with church. It’s like, well we can tell when people aren’t like involved as much, and you try to encourage them on like, you know, how they’re dealing with stuff in their life, and maybe it’s a little more like, “Hey, um, I appreciate what you’re doing,” and that kind of thing.

24:47 Henry: But it’s still not as personalized as it is in church. It’s like, I’m not like doing video calls with people all the time on like how’s it going. I mean, maybe I’d like to, I don’t know if they’d want to do that.

24:58 Henry: Then with church it’s like, you know, we have whether it’s this prayer meeting thing, or on Friday nights I have Bible study, at the end we, you know, you talk about what’s going on in your life, and you’re sharing, and, you know. Being able to talk about your, the issues that you’re dealing with.

25:13 Henry: And even with open source, we have like the maintainers repo, but you know, that’s just a repo. And it’s kind of like, maybe you don’t really know everyone that well. And, having events, I forgot the name of the event, like Maintainerati or those kind of things. I think those could be, I haven’t been to any of them, but those seem pretty useful. So just be able to like be with people that are, are maybe dealing with the same issues.

25:40 Nadia: Yeah, I mean, with, with other projects too, right. There’s so many maintainers I’ve talked to who’ve like never met their fellow maintainers, which I just think is really funny. Um, it’s just like, internet friends. Um-

25:53 Henry: Yeah, like I just, that just happened to me, right. Like I went to San Francisco, when was it, like a month ago? And I finally met like Sebastian, who’s the creator of the project. And it’s been like, I don’t know, like three years or something, so.

26:06 Nadia: I guess like, then I wonder where like, where does the trust come from when you have, you do have to like trust each other like when you have fellow maintainers that like you’re, everyone’s gonna be showing up and doing the work, that they said they would do, and they’re not just gonna totally disappear on you, and I think that’s much easier when you have like in person contacts. You’re like at the same church or something, you’re seeing each other face to face. And you’re seeing each other regularly.

26:32 Nadia: Do you think it’s like, is that motivation just more internal and assumed with open source, that like, well, if you’re, if you put in this much work already, then I feel like I can trust you. Or is it, like, is, does the trust come from within, or does the trust come from like, is it like a shared bond between people?

26:50 Henry: You know, I almost feel like, yeah I think it’s, maybe it’s both. But there’s also maybe you can really expect that much out of them, either. Um, ‘cause it’s like, maybe you don’t know them that well, and you just trust because they’ve done all this work before. But maybe it’s just, if you don’t have that personal relationship it’s gonna be hard to really understand what’s going on with anyone.

27:13 Henry: Or maybe you’re the only, you almost feel like weird. It’s like, oh, maybe I shouldn’t learn that much about what, who they are. And you know, a lot of people think open source is just about code or like, it’s just whatever. But especially as a maintainer, if you’re gonna have a team of people, whether you’re a company and you like, you learn about what’s going on in people’s lives, you’re gonna have, you’re probably gonna do that too in open source.

27:33 Nadia: Now, you’re - not gonna lie, I’ve found that kind of like refreshing. And I guess like, the, the flip side is maybe then, you just don’t know someone and that’s a problem. But, I’ve been thinking about this in relation to work in general. And I’ve worked in different environments, had different managers where like, in some settings you’re just like, super super candid with each other, you know everything about each other, you’re just like close personal friends on top of working together.

28:01 Nadia: Um, and then there’s like another style that’s much more like (laughs), you show up, you do your work, you talk to each other, and there is a sense of like camaraderie and trust, but you don’t really go like super deep into each other’s personal lives and whatever. And I’ve actually found that I think I prefer the latter. Um, not to the point that like, there is medium where it’s, it’s not like you’re so not connected that you, like, you know, you don’t even really like each other, or you just like, you know, this person means nothing to you.

28:30 Nadia: But I do like the sense that there’s, I guess some level of like, um, I hate to use this term, but I can’t think of a better term, like professionalism, that when you show up, you’re kind of there to do the thing that is bonding you together. Which might be this, like, shared work. But like, when it becomes too personal, then it, uh I don’t know, I just feel like it can kind of like kind of muddy the mission or the purpose.

28:52 Nadia: I guess you can’t really separate out work from personal anymore. And I definitely noticed that working with people in open source. I don’t work on open source projects in the same way, so obviously maybe it’s just different, and I am just more of an outsider. But something I notice that I like about spending time with open source folks versus, I don’t know, even just like the tech industry, um, being in San Francisco where I am now. Like, it is a little more depersonalized, but it doesn’t feel any less close. Like, I feel like there are a lot of people that I really like and trust and enjoy spending time with, but, like, I really don’t know anything about their personal lives and they don’t know anything about mine, and like, I’m kind of okay with that. And, I just feel like it, it makes the, the, it just makes it easier to focus on the stuff that we do care about and we do share.

29:44 Henry: Yeah, and it’s not like, work doesn’t have to be family, or saying that open source, you can totally just … and it works that way.

29:52 Nadia: Yeah, and you can still build a lot of trust, like, it’s, like you’re, you could still like be in the trenches together and work on something really meaningful together. It’s not that there isn’t any level of trust or commitment, but it happens somehow without the like, overly personal touch.

30:10 Nadia: Um, yeah. Do you feel that way about like, church stuff of like, is church like family, or is church like church?

30:19 Henry: Yeah, um, I kind, I guess, maybe that’s something that’s different about it then. Because I almost feel like, if church was just work or, or, yeah, it’s just a thing, like a structure, it’s almost like, what are we doing, what is the purpose?

30:34 Henry: And I guess the purpose in open source and other things is to like, make a good product and all that, but then with church it’s like, how do you, you know, increase your faith in God together? Um, and I don’t, it’s such a personal thing. I don’t see how it would even work without being able to share what’s going on.

30:53 Henry: Because, most of the struggle with faith is about, what happens in your life. And how you deal with that. Um, and if you don’t share any of that, everything is going to be vague. Um, the only way we can really solve these issues is being specific about what’s going on. And being vulnerable. Um, and, doing all those things is hard because you don’t wanna talk about what’s wrong with your life or what’s wrong with you even.

31:17 Henry: So that, that’s the weird part. Because it’s like in tech, we don’t really wanna do that. We don’t even wanna be perceived as being wrong. But then in church, I, some people like to say it’s like a hospital. It’s like for people, that they know that they need help, and that people are there to help each other. But yeah, I can understand why that also is the reason why people don’t wanna go. ‘Cause it’s like, I don’t wanna talk about those things.

31:42 Nadia: I’m trying to think like, hearing that is like, clarifying my own thinking of it. In that, like, I think vulnerability is good and should be encouraged because that’s like the trust. Um, I think the difference that I was trying to identify earlier is, like, does the, like, we’re all trying to shove and bring our best selves, and best self doesn’t mean my most perfect, put together self, but we’re all trying to be constructive in the work that we’re doing. And, doing things with the group in mind, um, versus sort of like making it all about like, ‘cause everyone has problems, right?

32:29 Nadia: But like, how do I know how to respect your journey while also going through my own. And I know, I brought this up last time too, because I’m not religious, I guess like my workout community is the closest thing I have to church, which is sad but true. Um, but there’s I think, so what I really like about that community is um, everyone is kind of doing their, everyone’s trying to improve themselves, everyone’s trying to like become their own personal best, but there’s also kind of a respect that like we’re all trying to do that at the same time, and we’re, we’re there together. There’s like camaraderie that we’re all trying to get there, but, I’m not gonna spend like half an hour talking to my other like workout buddy about like-

33:13 Henry: (Laughs)

33:14 Nadia: How hard it is, or (laughs) how this is so difficult, ‘cause I know that they’re going through the exact same thing. And like, I’m gonna, if something like hurts or is difficult, I will say something, but we’re sort of like sharing that moment without having to like derail the conversation or derail the focus of the group. Does that make any sense?

33:33 Henry: No, yeah, it definitely makes sense. Yeah.

33:36 Nadia: Yeah. ‘Cause it, yeah. I think that’s like a nice thing about, like, like, church being a place where you can bring your truest self, or your problems or whatever. But, but you’re all kind of there, focused on something greater than just yourself, which I think is the nice thing about God being part of that conversation.

34:01 Henry: Yeah, ‘cause it, it’s, and also that you know, it’s not just, maybe we’re all feeling like, that we can’t do anything, but it’s kind of like the whole point, where it’s like, it’s not you internally figuring it all out. But like God, you know you’re learning something about who you are and all that stuff. So, um, it’s like, I don’t know, it’s way more encouraging than just, you know, just like, oh, it’s gonna work out. It’s like where is the specifics and where is it all going?

34:29 Nadia: Yeah.

34:31 Nadia: Thanks for listening. If you’d like to continue the conversation, you can find us on Twitter at @left_pad or @nayafia or on our website hopeinsource.com.


Hosted by Nadia Eghbal and Henry Zhu.
Edited by Henry Zhu.
Cover art by Jessica Han.
Music by Ken Wheeler.

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