Daniel Ziltener

Why I Abandoned DEV.to

Daniel Ziltener, 2022-09-09

As I am building a completely-from-scratch blog and also move over my remaining blog posts from dev.to, the question arises why I left that platform in the first place.

To save all of you who just want me to get to the point: a questionable "Code of Conduct" combined with a toxic community that has turned into yet another online echo chamber.

Chapter 1: The Code of Conduct Issue

Codes of conduct have been a target for heavy criticism for almost as long as they exist, and for good reason. They try to nullify the presumption of innocence, and they discourage normal social interaction. A few years ago there were a couple cases where e.g. developer conference speakers have been reported - sometimes with dire consequences - for breaking rules like "make everyone feel welcome", because they dared to criticise something someone in the audience liked. Yes, criticising people or things at a conference is dangerous.

But enough of that, here is a good article about it:

CryptoParty lists being "intimidating" as something that is unacceptable in their CoC. This is where a CoC can get truly absurd. What does "intimidating" mean? I’ve been told I am intimidating. I am intimidated by people who would never guess that someone thinks that they are. Some people are intimidated by people that belong to the opposite gender - and that works in all directions. Some are intimidated by people who, for reasons that are their own, remind them of their mother, father, ex, a teacher, someone who abused them, etc.

"Intimidating" is one of these extremely vague terms that are defined differently by each person, terms that, when used in a CoC, become an absurd tool that can be used achieve everything and nothing. Everything, because the term is so vague that it can potentially be used to paint anyone as a wrongdoer - this is even more dangerous in a society where I feel like the idea that a person might be innocent is rarely accepted as an option. And nothing, because such terms are too vague to actually help anyone be more safe.

It all started with this peak echo-chamber article on dev.to: "Sexism, Racism, Toxic Positivity, and TailwindCSS". Note that you can read comments "hidden by the author" by clicking the timestamp (so, by accessing the permalink). My mistake apparently was that I criticised this comment by a "Forem Content Manager" who heavily sided with the article author and among other things deleted comments on her behalf; and apparently criticising the CoC is, in itself, against the CoC, because they promptly deleted it:

‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’

…​don’t exist, because racism and sexism are always racism and sexism, no matter who they target. Saying otherwise is deeply racist in and of itself.

Daniel Ziltener,

The discussion also contained this absolute gem of a quote:

my understanding of society is that all biases and systemic oppression is always at play in any interaction.


Surely, that is how a "Code of Conduct" is gonna work marvelously: vague rules nullifying the presumption of innocence, paired with the assumption that everyone is constantly either target of, or committing oppression. Yay! That is how you make decent people leave your platform, and make everyone else either walk on eggshells, or accuse the eggshell-walkers (aka doormats) of violating the CoC.

Chapter 2: The Mod Who Broke The Camel’s Back

Shortly thereafter, a user wrote the article "Censorship on DEV Community 😶🤐". Forem (the company/people behind dev.to) got a lot of criticism there - which is also, to their credit, why my comments are accessible again, having gotten "raised from the dead" (although still marked as hidden).

I of course commented that post, and I promptly got banned from the platform. Rightfully even, dare I say, and at that point I just expected it. Handing a proverbial blow to the aforementioned "Forem Content Manager" - which obviously didn’t harm her at all, and I didn’t expect it either; I just wanted to make the community aware of the situation. That comment, alongside its replies, is still available here.

Since I also complained by mail, they offered to un-ban me if I wrote an apology. I politely declined, stating that I have no interest in either partaking or even boosting such a toxic community with my content.

Safe to say that dev.to has by now fully turned into an echo chamber of self-righteous devs who hang out on LinkedIn too much and are astonished to learn that it is possible to make and submit an HTML form without using JavaScript. There are also the daily low-effort posts explaining what NoCode is, and the 1000th "motivational" post. Truly a gleaming example of peak developer culture like no other.

Chapter 3: The Better Alternative to a CoC

Of course people are going to say "well then do it better!". Do I really have to, though, when someone else already did? I can only recommend using something like the GNU Kind Communications Guidelines instead of a questionable Code of Conduct.