On Contempt Culture

Posted by Katie McLaughlin on December 16, 2015

Recently Aurynn Shaw wrote about Contempt Culture, and she makes some extremely important points. I implore you to go read the entire thing, and then come back here.


Her post really resonates with me because I’ve seen this first hand across many different IT-related communities. The one’s Aurynn specifically mentions – PHP, JavaScript and Windows – are the major targets I’ve seen that are attacked with this vitriol.

In a past life, I was a Windows system administrator. I was good at it, but the amount of hatred directed towards me and the specialisation I had was demeaning, and it encouraged me to continue this behaviour when I was still working with it, and once I’d stopped working with it.

I am not a PHP developer, but I’m involved in the community by way of speaking and event organisation. I’m in the Faces of PHP compilation. Yet I’m consistently put down by people I know over social media when I attempt to share knowledge from these events. On one occasion I’ve had a senior developer I used to work with publicly devalue my participation in a certain PHP event where I was keynoting. I will admit: that hurt. That hurt a lot.

Because of the amount of conferences I attend, I am forced to repeatedly tweet my Guide to Live Tweeting because I’m constantly ‘corrected’ when I live-tweet what other people are saying. At events, I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard people asking ‘questions’ of speakers where they say “I HAVE A QUESTION. YOU SHOULD HAVE USED SOMETHING THAT DIDNT SUCK AS MUCH AS WHAT YOU ARE USING”.

I know I am a perpetrator of this kind of behaviour. My speaker bio has ended with “… and yelling at JavaScript and its attempt at global variables” for as long as I’ve been a speaker. I took this note from my past self as a challenge to turn this into a positive message, to a point where I hope to be able to share this with a number of peers to a much wider audience.


PHP was created for a reason to solve a problem. Same with JavaScript. PHP 7 and ECMAScript 6 are showing that with a solid base, languages can be expanded and become more powerful and faster and better at solving the problems they were created to solve.

Attacking the language can attack the person. Without clarification, you can implicitly attack the person and their choice of tool by attacking the tool itself.

A lot of the time, you don’t have a choice in the tool. When I did Enterprise work, I inherited Enterprise tools. When I started my first Linux-based development role, I learnt how to use Linux-based development tools and languages. Now that I have some freedom about what I use, I go back to the tools I have a solid basis in. If I had a history of PHP use, I’d use PHP. For web-based scripting, JavaScript is the go-to tool, but if I had a more solid foundation in VBScript, I’d probably use that.

The pack mentality about what tools we use to solve the technical problems we face is toxic. I hope that at least one person reading Aurynn’s post, or seeing my post and/or talks on the subject, is able to at least start to understand and self-identify that they may attribute to this culture, and start making changes to change their ways.