Codes & Waffles

Day 23: on gatekeeping

Published 15 Feb 2018

A couple days ago, I reflected on my position of privilege, and how it has deeply affected every road I’ve been able to take. I’ve also been thinking for a while that the only use we can give to our privilege, is to use it as a tool to empower others, regardless of their position. And then, today, this happened:

This is a tweet from a notorious member of the tech world. I recommend reading the entire thread and some of the answers from other members of the community to form your own opinion on the matter. For context, he’s discussing the impact of modern tooling and frameworks in Frontend Development and how some people only know how to use frameworks and don’t really know how browsers work. He believes these people should not be part of his craft, whatever that is.

This is elitism and gatekeeping. It’s ivory tower levels of conceit, regardless of position or accomplishments. This kind of language blocks doors and raises barriers. It’s just not helping anyone in any way.

Story time

The first thing I ever did on the web was change the color of a square div when a button was clicked. I was studying Interactive Media Design, and this was our first real exercise in Web Development class. Like literally millions of people before and after me, I used jQuery to do it. My first contact with the web was jQuery and I loved it. I didn’t know there was an alternative. I didn’t need one, I just wanted to play around and make lines of code become interactions on a screen.

Now, imagine that very excited young version of me going online to find the wisdom of the elders, only to read things like:

If people who don’t know Javascript’s DOM Api can call themselves web developers nowadays I’m proud of saying they don’t belong in our craft.

I don’t know about you, but I would’ve been seriously disheartened by that. Fortunately I found welcoming people instead that taught me a bit more about jQuery and eventually led to me study Javascript the language. But that wouldn’t have happened if my first contact had been with an elitist gatekeeper who believes writing jQuery, or React, or Vue isn’t real Frontend Development. Instead of this toxic attitude, we should be embracing the fact that there are tons of bridges between any background and tech. Our community will benefit from people with different knowledge and ideas joining it, so it’s in our best interest to lower entry barriers as much as possible. Some would argue that this would create an influx of bad developers. I say, everyone was a bad developer once.

What I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter how you get into tech. It doesn’t matter what you know at any given point in time, or what others believe you should know. The only thing that matters is how you use the knowledge you have and your desire to know more, to learn more, to improve and get better. Modern tools give us a lot of power, and there’s a lot to be learned from not using them at all. But there’s also nothing wrong with using them if you have yet to find an alternative.

I don’t know what craft that guy is claiming to be a part of. But my craft is not about elitism or gatekeeping. My craft is about empowering others by teaching and sharing what I’m so privileged to know already, improving myself in the process. So if I believe the world would be better off with people knowing how to use a tag, I should write about it. What I shouldn’t do is forget about the time when I knew nothing and belittle others for not being born ready.

P.S: No blog yesterday because I was sick 🤒

Personal Blog of Daniel Bolívar
Writer of Codes for the Webs