Gardening over Gatekeeping

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Early in 2015 I wrote about elitism, something I have been thinking about along with gatekeeping all the way through till the end of the year. I started 2015 launching Web Animation Weekly, a weekly newsletter to help promote work and resources within the web animation community as well as foster cross pollination from other communities with things like coverage from motion design conferences and screencasts dissecting cinematic techniques.

It was an excellent success, gathering over 2000 subscribers in its first year (and that’s with aggressive list pruning). I sometimes get super sweet emails from folks who share the newsletter at their workplace. One reader even attended one of my workshops in person and gave me a unicorn pin she had crocheted!

But this isn’t enough. While the newsletter facilitates a flow of information into the web animation community, that information still goes through me. I learned, after much soul searching and getting advice from some folks whose perspectives I take very seriously, that I do not want to play gatekeeper to this or any community. I’d much rather be a gardener, a person growing the space.

“No duh, Rachel. That’s what we all want to do!”

I thought that, too. At first it seems that we all want to grow our respective spaces. But do our actions reflect that? After careful consideration, I wasn’t so sure.

Running a one-to-many or even few-to-many platform gives us the option to silence people and opinions we don’t agree with, even if their opinions are valid. It is all too easy to shuffle someone out of the picture because we don’t like their ideology or they’re a competitor, and even the best among us are are imperfect.

This year I learned that people many of us look up to and idolize can fall into these fixed mindset traps. For instance, I had to turn down the opportunity to give a UI animation workshop at an event organized by Jared Spool when he refused to adopt a Code of Conduct. I wrote about that decision in You Literally Cannot Pay Me to Speak without a Code of Conduct.

It shifts the makeup of any community when its gatekeepers prune out the voices they don’t want to hear.

Realizing all this, I wanted to give another present to the community this year, something that helped grow and nurture the space and foster many-to-many communication. After working in the field with Salesforce on the motion design portion of their Lightning Design System, talking with FireFox’s dev tools designers, and working on documenting the Web Animation API on MDN (look out, 2016!), it seemed to me that more than ever we need folks coming together and having conversations directly with the people building the tools and frameworks of the future.

And thus, the Web Animation Slack channel is launching in January, 2016. You can sign up for an invite here.

I hear that a major Firefox animation dev tools designer and Web Animation API author will be there among some of my favorite creators and animators! Hope to see you in the garden!


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