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I'm not a programmer. Over the years, I've spent a lot of time on HN.

I do freelance writing and I blog and I've been repeatedly told "Get a real job. Quit expecting writing to pay. It doesn't."

I briefly was interested in trying to contribute to open source as a non programmer. I've seen other non programmers ask about contributing to open source.

It's a really unwelcoming environment for non programmers. Even people who are programmers and wanting to get into open source talk about how difficult it can be to get involved. Now dial that up a few notches for people who don't program, think differently, communicate differently and are frequently looked down upon by programmers because programmers make good money and many of them are openly contemptuous of people who don't make good money and are often openly contemptuous of the kind of work they do, as if what they do takes less smarts, isn't as valuable, etc.

The original author of Org mode is an astrophysicist. The current maintainer is a Philosopher by study. I've found that the Org community seems to come from a wide range of backgrounds, and is generally quite welcoming.

I think OSS projects are a bit like Companies --- each one has its own culture, and attracts different sorts of people.

If you're interested in getting involved, please don't hesitate to introduce yourself on the mailing list :)


You have a typo. First line under Headlines:

Lines that start with and asterisk

Should be an asterisk.

Someone else has suggested you are failing to adequately convey the rich possibilities for people in the know looking for advanced tools:


From my perspective, you also do a poor job of communicating with newcomers. It is not readily clear what this is and why they should be interested and the language is intimidating for an outsider/non-programmer.

If it were my website, I would remove the descriptors under your big links for Features, Install, Quickstart and Contribute. They add no real value and are just visual clutter, which is a problem when delivering information-dense content. In fact, I would remove the giant unicorn head in the very valuable above-the-fold section to make space for those four links, minus the extraneous descriptors. (Edit: By descriptors, I mean the part where you say extra stuff like "Yes. Do this." I don't mean the four one-word labels listed above.)

I would also remove "via" and "or" from your section indicating how people can provide financial support. I would either say "Support:" or "We take" or have no extra words and just post the three payment links.

Random thoughts from someone who knows absolutely nothing about this and has never before looked at your website, so take it with a grain of salt:

I wonder why you don't have a link to the Reddit sub r/orgmode.

In order to be more approachable for newbs without losing any vital info, I would reverse some of the initial info, something like this:

Keep notes, maintain to-do lists, plan projects, author documents, create computational notebooks, write literate programming and do so much more. All in a fast and effective plain text system.

An open-source extensible major mode for Emacs offering convenient plain text markup and more.

Also, if there is already some collection somewhere online of stories about people who have used this, I would link to it somewhere in this sentence:

Nearly every Org user has a story to tell about how Org enables and empowers them

If you wish to use any of the above, please feel free. If you wish to credit me to some degree for some of it, my name is Doreen Traylor and doreentraylor.com redirects to a site that is the closest thing to a business card that I have.

Thanks for the feedback Doreen, you've given me some food for thought :)

I feel like the issue is the management of newbies and bullies “at scale”. The doers/users ratio is incredibly low online, may it be opensource projects, b2c e-commerce, and other online activities. The web allows for that incredible ratio, letting us feel accessibility is the new normal where it is actually just an unsustainable burden that leads to poor users experience.

“Contempt” feels more like a consequence than a cause to me.

As someone who has been on the receiving end of that contempt, I don't happen to agree with you. I don't believe I deserve any of the contempt I've gotten over the years and I absolutely see the contempt with which I am treated as something that actively closes doors in my face and is not a consequence of my "failure" to contribute or something.

Below is something of an explanation as to why I don't think I deserve contempt. It is not a rant, though I imagine it will be interpreted as such by some people. I'm always damned if I do and damned if I don't here.

I appear to be the only openly female member to have ever spent time on the leader board of HN (under a different handle). It's 100 names but it isn't a stable list, so there have been more than 100 people on it over the years. (Edit to add context: HN currently gets around 5 million unique visitors each month.)

If my data is accurate -- and I believe it is -- that means less than one percent of those names is an openly female member and I'm it. That puts me in a "league of my own."

For comparison purposes: I believe six percent of CEOs in the US are female and 17 percent of senior personnel (in the "C suite") are female. Yet I am routinely told it is somehow my fault I don't fit in here, my fault I am treated so badly, my fault I am poor, sexism/classism/etc are not a factor in my intractable poverty, etc. ad nauseum.

Just to be crystal clear: I am not talking trash about HN. I spend so much time here because this forum is so much better than other forums.

The problem is not HN. The problem is far larger than HN and this means you can't escape it anywhere, not even on HN which is generally a bastion of virtue in my eyes.

And before someone leaps up with the oh-so-tired accusation that I am obsessed with meaningless, worthless internet points and having a lot of karma here means nothing: It used to be pretty common on HN for men to say to other men here "You must be smart and competent because you have so much karma on HN!" That seems to have died down a good bit since I began pointing out that men do that here to other men and then do nothing but malign me any time I talk about how much karma I have to try to support some point or other I am trying to make.

In some sense, I don't care about karma points here. I use it as an easily referenced proxy for other things that are even harder to talk about in other ways.

Upvotes suggest I am deemed to be someone who "adds value" here. Yet no amount of adding value here comes back to me as significant professional respect, traction and -- critically -- income. Meanwhile, some of the men on the leader board are self-made millionaires and, in at least some cases, they got wealthy in part due to using HN to network and make professional contacts, something I very much wanted to use HN for but it has mostly been a bust for me.

I also don't care to see someone jump up and volunteer that they, also, have not managed to use HN to network or make money so "obviously" it's not my gender (or some other trait of mine). "Stuff just happens."

Yeah, I've heard it all before. It really doesn't hold water.

Not everyone uses HN that way, but some people do so successfully. It has actively been a goal of mine and I seem to make nearly zero headway on such goals.

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