Improving Tech with Compassionate Coding

This is the original content I wanted to present at ApexConnect 2019 about compassionate coding – until I did my first dry-run and landed at over 20 minutes instead of the 10 of my lighning-talk slot. Fortunately, Twitter came up with the great suggestion to have a reduced talk and a follow-up blog-post, which goes into the details I had to strip out due to time.

Important Update: Kim Crayton shared this article as an example, how the mindset described here can be harmful to marginalized individuals. She also shared a great article how “good intent” undermines diversity and inclusion. Please read it, it’s very eye-opening.

I wrote this article as a white straight cis man from a rich country, pretty much the upper end of systemic privilege. I wrote it from a very personal perspective and I wrote it especially without taking power imbalances into account.

I don’t know how it is to be marginalized and therefore my take might be just not fitting in that case. I am willing and eager, however, to read up and learn about the experiences of people of color and other marginalized groups.

As for now, I still think compassion as described in this article is a great mindset for other people of high privilege, but there’s one thing I want to make crystal clear:


Compassionate Coding is a tool for yourself, not a weapon used to tone-police others.

The moment you expect others to treat you in a certain way – especially people from marginalized groups – you already did it wrong.

“Compassionate Coding” is a term coined by April Wensel and really a matter close to my heart since I learned about it a bit more than a year ago. If you need more information, go check her website and follow her on Twitter – she’s the real expert and is available for workshops and talks.

So, why compassionate coding? What is it all about

Suffering in Tech

There is a lot of suffering, especially in the tech industry, but also caused by the tech industry. We can witness this suffering on several levels every day:

One of the most prominent recent examples of suffering caused by tech is probably facebook and its immoral treatment of private data, like selling phone numbers to advertisers which were meant for two-factor authentication.

Speaking of social media, studies show that the use of social media and most likely its optimization to keep peoples attention leads to an increased acceptance of racist and other extreme views. One study even suggests a link between the use of social media and hate crime against minorities, in this case refugees in Germany.

Continue reading