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I don’t do it for the beer!

This is a rant that might sound silly, but this is one thing that has started to irk me significantly. I’m tired of people that paint all developers out there as beer drinkers, even more so when they actually seem to akin them to drunkards who code under influence.

I do not drink. I can’t, to be precise, but even if I could, I don’t like getting drunk, I never got drunk really but I know enough of what would happen to me because I had, at one point, to use Xanax, and I don’t want to do that anymore. It wasn’t fun! This does not mean that I have a problem with people, or developer, drinking or having fun. Those who know me, know that I’m very socially liberal at heart, I really don’t care what you do with your own free time, as long as it’s not causing trouble to me or others.

When I went to FOSDEM, the pre-conference event is a beer event. I can understand that: it’s Belgium, and the Délirium is on the Guinness Book of Records after all. Last VDD there was a beer event as well, but the place was definitely apt and if you got upstairs (which I didn’t, bad me!) you would have found a number of other things, including non-alcoholic cocktails — me and Luca came back the weekend after VDD, although I didn’t try any because I didn’t have my blood sugar test strips and I didn’t want to risk getting too high for comfort.

But in both cases, this is just a mingling event, and it doesn’t really bother me at all. First you can get other drinks as well (at FOSDEM you usually see me with a Diet Coke or water), and second this stops the moment the conference actually starts… to a point. The VideoLAN people didn’t give us barrels of beer during the conference, but a rather more general refreshment, for which I’m definitely grateful (the croissants were delicious, seriously!) Thanks guys!

But then there are posts like our own Donnie’s that tick me off a bit. Then we got tweets such as the one today from Chad Windnagle of Joomla. Seriously? Donnie actually tooting the (mangled) responses of a survey by one company (Zend) which extrapolates that the majority of developers love beer (compared to what? teachers? teenagers?), and people at GSoC proclaiming that the unifying factor is beer?

I know it’s a tiny minuscule offence in comparison, but to me, this is still a shade of the “brogrammer” stereotype that is also giving us the grief of sexist pigs in our communities, in the bigger picture. Which does not mean that everybody (or anybody) who drink is part of the sexism problem – it is not, and I wouldn’t blame Donnie to be offended if I was to suggest this; he’s the first person who fights against it – but these remark do make me understand how women in tech feel. I do feel shunned every time a point is made across that if I’m a developer I have to enjoy beer; when a major point is made of a conference about the amount of beer available, I do feel less welcome than I should.

To me it still feels like there’s this stereotypical bad example of “the developer” (either opensource or not) that is the pimply overweight sexist who lives in the basement of his parents, and can’t wait for a conference to get drunk. And that’s hurting us, because some developers take this stereotype as a license to indulge in the negative aspects of it, ruining it for everybody.

So let’s start with a simple rule

Developers, open-source or not, are all different from one another. They have different genders, different goals in life, different lifestyles, even different values. Communities are formed when you share some (but not strictly all) of these characteristics. Open-source communities for the vast part are formed by developers (and not) who like to see, and to show, how things work.

And now let’s make sure we shatter that outdated stereotype, as I really really enjoy getting to know the diversity of people I work with.

Comments 8
  1. As someone who doesn’t like beer, too: I couldn’t have put it any better!Thank you for this statement Diego!

  2. Well, at least you’re not German. I get a lot of comments along the lines of “a German who doesn’t drink beer?”.Not that I usually mind it though, sometimes it’s just a lazy way to come up with something to talk about :-)The only case I did get quite irritated was when beer was actually the only beverage available. It was not a big deal – it was just while we were waiting for some 20 minutes or so – but I’d say something must be wrong with you if you rent out some location professionally (for a company event even) and only provide alcoholic beverages…Sometimes I wonder if that’s the kind of thing that will only happen to you in Sweden, scarcity/cost increasing the perceived value of a good and all that. Of course I could just as well mock Germany where it took a law to avoid beer often being the cheapest beverage available in restaurants.

  3. Diego,Certainly understand your frustration at having to deal with being in the minority. But frankly, that’s what it is — a minority, and a pretty small one. Walking around during the day and night at smaller conferences, what I see is that nearly everyone shows up for the nighttime events, and nearly all of those people have beers in their hands.While I absolutely agree with you that we shouldn’t exclude minorities from participating, we should cater primarily to the desires of the vast majority. That’s true regardless of whether we’re discussing social activities or something totally unrelated. This means at social events e.g. having a full drink menu including soda, water, not to mention alternative alcoholic options like wine and hard liquor.At large enough conferences, particularly earlier in the night, it’s possible to run evening BoFs / hackathons — although even then, BoF attendance skyrockets when they hand out beers, because that’s what they’re competing with.To sum things up, what I’m saying is that we should provide options for people in any type of minority group as far as behaviors go, but we shouldn’t let them dictate the activities of everyone else.

  4. Can you please re-read what I said and then re-read your answer? Because it really seems like we’re on two separate worlds here.I have no problem with people drinking to have fun, but at the same time, trying to paint the whole opensource development community as “united in beer” is out of touch enough. Are we a minority? Yes, I don’t doubt that, we’re a minority in the world I’d say, but that’s not a reason to make it feel like we don’t exist.As I said this is definitely on a smaller worrying scale than what women feel in the same community, as beer-drinkers don’t really _threaten_ our well-being, but they do make us feel non-welcome when, e.g., beer is the _only_ drink you can have. Or when the only social occasion is “having a beer”.It doesn’t really take that much to still keep up with the fan and at the same time make people who don’t drink feel quite more at home. As I said FOSDEM has a compelling reason for having a beer event _and_ it provides soft drinks at the same time, so even I can stay around and have fun. At VDD the place had soft cocktails, which Luca sworn are very good, and we also had a dinner on Sunday night.And what about evening BoFs/hackatons? Do you _really_ think that the attendance wouldn’t skyrocket if they handed out beer _and_ soft drinks? Because really the point I’m making is that if your only option when you take part in those is to drink beer or not drink at all… then I’m not taking part again anytime soon!If anything, the only thing I’d ask you not to do is to pass remarks such as “*all* opensource developers drink beer” which is far from being the truth, as, minority or not, it’s not just me! And don’t tell me that it’s taking the fun out of it because the easiness with which you’re discounting my complaint about beer is the same easiness with which many others discount sexism. They are but parts of the same stereotype, now let’s get rid of it, shall we?

  5. I’ve been living in Ireland for the last 8 years (I’m french), and have the same issue, regardless or the group being IT-oriented or not. So I’d say the problem is not specific to FOSS comunities.

  6. Well, I like beer, but I don’t like getting drunk–it’s a matter of knowing when to say when. So, it’s not just the non-beer-drinkers who might come to the drink table for something else.Maybe it’s one of the big similes that we use in the open-source world: “free as in beer.” You could read it “hey! free beer!”, but the important thing is the freedom to drink the beer or not–and not to drink the Kool-Aid.

  7. Looks to me a moon vs finger problem. If somebody points the moon, do not stare at the finger =)Diego point is not about beer. Maybe we could use “black t-shirt” instead of beer: even if the sheer majority of people in the community likes black and loathes yellow on pink, that doesn’t mean that that unify them is the love for black.

  8. Agreed entirely. While I don’t have any condition that prevents me from drinking beer, I just don’t like the stuff. I do drink mixed drinks when out with friends or family sometimes but it’s not uncommon for me to just sit at the bar and drink milk. I am capable of socializing without being under the influence, strangely enough.@Donnie Do you know what a straw man is? Please re-read the post.

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