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My Thoughts on the Node-Red Forums and Visual Programming

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The Lounge What is on Your Mind? My Thoughts on the Node-Red Forums and Visual Programming
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Old 04-25-2020
My Thoughts on the Node-Red Forums and Visual Programming

First of all, I would like to congratulate the developers of the great Node-Red software and for making programming available to the masses via the visual programming paradigm. I have introduced NR to a number of tech guys I know who were "non-software developer techies" who immediately fell in love with NR and used NR to create workflow applications they would have never created without Node Red. NR is fantastic software for users who like visual programming.

My Thoughts on the Node-Red Forums and Visual Programming-screen-shot-2020-03-05-111320-amjpg

Second, I want to also compliment both @knolleary and @dceejay on Node-Red for such a great job with the NR forums and for helping so many users. Every time they answer a question, they do it without ego and are totally inclusive in the NR community. Actually, this kind of egoless, strong leadership with high tech skills show true tech mastery, because inclusiveness is the hallmark of good leadership, true skills and wisdom. It's easy to learn a new technology and master it; but it is another thing to do this and remain somewhat humble, helpful, inclusive and "egoless"; as both those NR leaders have done. It's good to keep the mind of the beginner as experts. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.

Now let me get to the negative part, unfortunately.

I have noticed that many of the NR "Leaders" or "seniors" in the NR forum do not mirror the excellent skills of the co-founders mentioned above, inclusiveness and top leadership qualities. A number of NR forum long term members operate in a heavy-handed way, with ego, pride and are completely "non inclusive". In fact, a small group at the NR forums have formed a kind of "unwritten tribe" where they completely dominate most every discussion and even work to suppress newcomers who may have even more tech stills than they do or a different approach to the same problem. These "tribal members" suppress alternative solutions over there own favorite solutions and also promote each others solutions, nearly relentlessly. It's not an inclusive place, even though their code of conduct mandates "inclusiveness".

Running unix.com for nearly two decades, from infancy, though the peak years, and into the legacy, post peak years, we all know that I have considerable experience in this area and have seen a lot of egos, come and go. It is human nature, ego, pride, tribal behavior. Over the years, I have seen many very smart technical people fall into the rabbit hole of thinking they must answer every question, dominate all discussions, challenge every approach they are not familiar with and intimidate and soft-bully others (directly, indirectly or privately). I have had to take the painful action more than once of demoting members when their egos and tribal behavior began to surface.

One guy over there even sent me some "hate mail" when I answered a question by our very own moderator, Ravinder Singh. Ravinder send me some messages about some NR code he was working on; and polite as he always is, did not want to keep asking me private questions, so he posted over at the NR forums. I promised him I would post over there when I had a chance. When I finally did, one of the "senior guys" sent me a private message, basically telling me I was interfering with his "teachings style" and he closed the post so I could not reply further. Ravinder and I were in shock. That would never happen at unix.com in 1M years.

NR programming and visual programming (from the user perspective) in general, wiring nodes together of code written by others and creating small code fragments in custom nodes, is not "rocket science". In fact, there are visual programming software packages now available for children to build and automate robots with their parents; where children take nodes and write them together to program and control robots using visual programming software. My point is that just because a adult can wire together visual nodes and write a bit of custom code does not justify having a great big ego. Even children are learning and using visual programming software in 2020. The "real skill" is in the underlying programming that created the visual programing software (like the creators and maintainers of the NR software), not in wiring nodes together or writing small code fragments.

My Thoughts on the Node-Red Forums and Visual Programming-mixly-1jpg

The NR forums have a number of people who, in my view, have way too much "forum power" to edit, dominate, suppress and close topics because of their ego and pride. This small group of people have reasonable technical skills, but because of this, they seem to have lost check of their egos and they dominate the NR forum with heavy handed acquired "forum power" and non-inclusive behavior toward others outside of their "tribal circle" on NR. It find irony in adults having "big egos" because they are skillful in a programming model now available to children as they learn robotics for fun.

Frankly, this is the main reason I have stopped posting at the Node-Red forums. I seriously doubt I will post over at NR again.

For weeks, busy on other projects, I had been thinking about writing to the good guys over there and I remained hesitant to do so; but one day I woke up, had a coffee and decided that I respected those "two good guys over there" too much to be silent and so I thought that I owed both them (good guys) an objective, third party view. I never got a reply back. However, I understand from a lot of experience that when you let a forum get out-of-hand by letting "big egos" dominate the discussions, it is very hard to wrestle back control from the "big egos".

As I said, NR is a great software package for visual programming. However, from my perspective, the NR forums are dominated by a small group of "high ego" people who operate in a heavy-handed, tribal (territorial) way, which is not inclusive and takes most of the fun out of visual programming and node building. We never permit kind of behavior at unix.com because we always think that it is the beginner today who may become the CEO of the world top tech company in a decade. We have seen people grow from rookie to master over the years. There is no place for heavy-handed, tribal dominance in a forum, if you want to bring out the best in people. In my view, the NR forum is failing on that part of the equation.

I was hoping the good guys at NR would find my comments useful. My note is not intended to offend anyone or hurt anyone's feelings. I think NR is top quality visual programming software and the co-founders of NR have shown great leadership skills across-the-board. However, there are a number of dominate posters over in the NR forums who do not show these "across-the-board" skills and they are tribal, petty, territorial, and non-inclusive (in a word, they are juvenile).

This is the reason I have stopped posting over at NR forums and I doubt I will post in the future.

Visual programming is not "rocket science". There are now a number of visual programming tools for children to learn robotics and automation. Children can sit with their parents or their friends and assemble robot kits and use various visual programming tools to wire together nodes and create automation for their kit projects. Node-Red is certainly a step up from that, but it's supposed to be fun; but it's not fun when any forum of users is dominated by a handful of "big egos" who have the "forum power" to suppress, block, delete, and soft-bully others who have alternative solutions or even stronger skill sets.

This kind of "big ego" juvenile, heavy-handed behavior for a narrow set of technical skills in visual programming and code fragment creation, an area now available to children to learn robotics, was surprising to me. However, it is not unique to the NR forums. As some have pointed out to me, including @vbe, this seems to be the trend in forums where software is open sourced and the founders, venture capitalists (the lenders) and the leaders have a business model to make money on hosting and/or selling services.

I guess this an example of the "open source alpha male". It's juvenile behavior and it looks like these kinds of "ego-driven, open source alpha male dominant, tribal business models" are mainstream and here to stay.
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