Is the Python Community Becoming Toxic?

The Python community is amazing. I started learning Python over 15 years ago and the community was almost always very supportive in helping me figure things out. However, the past few years there seems to have been a shift. I’m not sure if it’s just because Python has grown so much in popularity or if it’s something more basic, such as people becoming more sensitive about things. Whatever it is, the community seems to be heading away from what it once was.

I first started thinking about this during Brett Cannon’s PyCon keynote about his experiences in the open-source community and how we need to be nice to each other. Too many people think they can be rude when requesting features or bug fixes. But he also mentioned that maintainers also need to have a good attitude and not drive away potential new contributors.

A couple months after this keynote was when Guido Van Rossum, creator of the Python language, suddenly retired as the head of Python. At the time, the reason given was that there was so much acrimony and fighting over PEP 572 that he stepped down early.

This year we saw multiple members of the PyTest team drop out of the project. Also, one of the Python core developers was banned for disagreeing with a politically charged commit message.

While Reddit and StackOverflow remain very popular, in my experience I have found them to be difficult to break into. The Reddit Python community, while very large and diverse, is full of trolls and the moderators don’t seem to follow Reddit’s own rules. I personally have had problems simply posting articles on there while others I know have been harassed because their project wasn’t deemed to be “Pythonic” enough. The PySimpleGUI project has been demonized repeatedly there, for example.

I think we can do better. Python is still my favorite language and its community is still a lot of fun. I think we should take note of what’s been happening in our community and make a conscious effort to be nicer to each other. Be mindful when you are writing a bug report or requesting a feature. Most of these projects are run by volunteers in their spare time for free.

The core developers of these projects also need to be kind too though. I remember when I tried to report a bug one time and received a very terse message in return that it was a duplicate or they already knew about the issue. Even experienced developers don’t always know how to search for the proper keywords, especially if they are a new user of that package or technology.

I just wanted to take a moment to bring this topic to light and encourage my readers to think before they write or speak. There’s a real person on the other end who may be having a bad day. Don’t make it worse. In fact, if you can, make it better!