I didn’t attend JSConf.eu, but I did catch the video of Chris Williams’ speech, An End To Negativity.

At the risk of being such a bearer of negativity, I will admit to disagreeing with some of what was sold in his speech. I am not “trolling”. I am offering my opinion, which also couples as a neutral critique.

I don’t feel that negativity is the problem. I think the real problem is deriving self-worth from validating or invalidating remarks from our peers. But at the same time I recognise this as an unchanging quality of human interaction.

If you say my code is cool, then I feel great. And if you say it’s not, then I feel upset. Whose to say which one of these reactions is the right one? Are we to dispel negativity, full stop, or are we to dispel the deriving of self-worth from such remarks? Is the positive to go as well?

Isn’t feeling pride of one’s own work merely an intellectual dishonesty when at the same time one will condemn both the occurrence of negativity and the feelings it rouses?

And let’s not forget, negativity is undeniably subjective in definition. What’s negative to you isn’t universally negative.

Maybe we should care less about the subjective polarity of the remark (good, bad, nice, mean). We should instead care about the remark’s content, i.e. its intellectual validity in the scene or thread in which it occurs.

Chris references an internet community that craves self-worth and thus derives it from online interactions (commenting, feedback, critique, “trolling”). This is an occurrence across the web, and isn’t something that plagues any particular sub-culture or sub-community uniquely.

We are only human. We are socialised animals, who have, through this socialisation, acquired a supposed weakness that makes us rely on others for validation and equally, condemnation. I know it’s wrong to steal my coworker’s food because I have been socialised to form that empathetic response that tells my mind: “No, that’s wrong.” It is via public condemnation and equally, public praise, that we acquire our values, preferences, and behavioural characteristics. Why shy away from this reality?

Negativity for the sake of itself is probably pointless, and I’m sure a great deal of what Chris refers to is just that — negativity without substance. But negativity (remember — it’s subjectively defined!) for the sake of intellectual or technical critique should be no less welcome than positivity.

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts with me on Twitter. Have a great day!