There is a lot of talk lately on ‘the Twitter’ about how we need to change/fix the community.
How so? Here are some examples:
Analysis/discussion on gender inclusion in #IronViz spanning several days, twitter rants, blog posts and even went down the path of analyzing the gender split of Twitter follower algorithm…
The gender battle spilled over to the diversity of the community vote for the vizzies…
Questions over quality of blog post content. When it is ok for someone to post? Do they only post when they have a massive value added post or is it ok for them to document their own learning and experiences as it happened for them? This even lead to questioning the speaking language of Tableau bloggers and the diversity of said bloggers…
Race eventually makes it into these long discussions as we attempt to solve the world’s problems.
These are all very valid and important discussions…but, is it really broken?
Sure, any community could benefit from more of something: being more inclusive, more diverse, more accessible, etc. would improve the experience for everyone. But, is the community really broken? I would argue it isn’t broken. The community is what makes this tool so exciting to use because we share, we are accepting, we help others learn, we generally want everyone to have a great experience.
I can’t remember a single example of someone showing an outright bias based on gender, race, ethnicity, etc. within the context of this community. I would be shocked to find out different to be honest. I don’t think that would be tolerated by any means.
I question whether these discussions (perhaps at least the medium on Twitter) are helpful though.
Is this helpful or harmful?
I think people should be comfortable making their opinions heard, but don’t assume you speak for the entire community. I can’t help but wonder if some people just want the community to be more like themselves.
When taking any action, I think about what I expect to change as a result. Since I am down the rabbit-hole, let’s mention the NFL kneeling protest during the national anthem. I don’t agree with it as people fought and died to provide freedom for us. We can do whatever we want with that freedom and if it means kneeling for someone, then OK I will respect that. But, at what point will it stop? What quantifiable measure needs to change before those players will stand? To me it seems like an ideal or feeling vs. this is the outcome I want to change before those players change their behavior.
I see this diversity issue in our community in a very similar light. What number needs to change? What is acceptable? It will never be 50/50 or even so maybe we should embrace what we have as we strive to be better.
We cannot solve the technology industry diversity issue in one fell swoop and certainly not ever on Twitter. There are so many contributing factors that go back to the education system, parenting, culture, environment, opportunity, and we didn’t even get to high school years yet. In fact, I think some of these discussions are off-putting and can have the opposite effect on the community by pushing people away and creating biases that didn’t exist before.
How so? Let me use IronViz as an example. Yes, I agree there is a disconnect between the community perception and Tableau judging. Certainly, there could be some changes, but what happens if Tableau selects a woman as a feeder winner next year? Will you be satisfied that it is based on merit? Will you assume (even a little bit) the selection was made based on gender? Tableau is in a really hard place now because of all these discussions. If they pick a woman, some people will assume the worst. If they don’t, there will be more visualizations and analysis that they picked wrong. I don’t know about you, but if I were a woman, I would want my selection to be clear, based on merit, and without question. I think there are generally 10-12 people that could win any feeder contest. It would be hard to argue against any one of them. I can’t help but wonder if we are doing a disservice to these groups by making it such a big deal. It is a competition after all.
So what should we do?
I actually think Tableau made great strides during Fanalytics at the conference. The competitive part of me certainly missed the vizzing there, but the discussions were great. We had an awesome discussion with Jenny Richards about the judging process. Tableau was certainly available to share their process and listen to our concerns and suggestions for improvement. There were a lot of good concepts stemming from the talks and I hope they continue offline in a productive format.
I think the problem is so much larger than the diversity of the Tableau community, so let’s stay within our sphere of influence. We can suggest data-driven criteria for judging contests. We can suggest processes that allow judging to be done in open-discussion format (instead of a black box) to eliminate perception of bias and to ensure informed judging. We can be patient and give Tableau more time to review the entries. There are more entries than ever and they are increasingly of high quality and complexity, that means quality judging deserves more time. We can all relax a little bit and remember this is supposed to be fun. The more constraints you put on a process, the larger impact it has on participation. It should remain accessible and fun, or what’s the point?
Mostly, I think we need to stop being analysts for a few minutes. We all get an idea, run to get some data, and start telling the world what we need to do. This community is mostly made up of good people. Relax a little and think about is it really broken? There is a lot that this unique community offers. I would be hard pressed thinking I could get more from another community or find to find one that doesn’t have the exact same diversity issues. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without participating in this community. It’s not perfect, but I am proud to be part of this community. It is sad to see it bend every two weeks or so because of social media.
We should all take a step back, think a little about what outcomes we are expecting to change, what a reasonable time-frame is for those changes to occur, how you might be impacting the community, and whether it is worth it. Maybe even take a break from the Twitters from time to time. Ok, my rant is over. How about a GIF?