Go Time – Episode #281

Neurodiverse gophers

with Kaylyn Gibilterra

All Episodes

Kaylyn Gibilterra returns as Natalie & the gang take our diversity conversation one step further. This time we’re talking about neurodiversity as it relates to being a developer, a manager, a conference participant & more.



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1 00:00 It's Go Time! 00:44
2 00:44 Kaylyn Gibilterra 03:02
3 03:46 Neurodiversity, what is that? 03:56
4 07:43 Why the need for labels? 13:06
5 20:48 Relative neurotypicalness 02:23
6 23:11 Johnny's main concern 09:00
7 32:11 Is diagnosing important? 08:48
8 41:00 Sponsor: Changelog News 01:25
9 42:25 What can conferences do? 04:21
10 46:46 Responsibility of the people 04:44
11 51:30 In the context of work... 12:24
12 1:03:54 Unpopular opinions! 00:32
13 1:04:25 Johnny's unpop 01:22
14 1:05:47 Kris's unpop 00:35
15 1:06:22 Kaylyn's unpop 02:01
16 1:08:23 Natalie's unpop 01:48
17 1:10:12 Kris' second unpop?? 01:55
18 1:12:07 Closing 00:22
19 1:12:29 Outro 01:18


📝 Edit Transcript


Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

So how is everyone doing today? And by everyone, I mean Kris and Johnny, who are joining me as co-hosts. Hi, guys.

And Kaylyn, our guest. How are you doing?

Good, good. Does that mean I’m the person – I almost felt like that meant I’m being interrogated…

You’re in a job interview. Tell us about yourself and about your challenges… Tell us about your pros and cons… Tell us a challenge that you had, and how did you overcome that? How do you handle conflict? What else is there? Generic interview questions.

You represent all of neurodiversity.

Yeah. [laughs] I represent handling conflict by that I just like turn my mic off and walk away. I’m like “Oh, technical difficulties. I’m so sorry.” But no, I’m doing really well. The weather’s gotten pretty nice out here in New York City, so I’ve been excited about that, going out a lot more. How’s everyone else been?

I’ve been great.

Good. The weather is getting better in Berlin as well, as we finally approach the middle of the year… Or past that, I guess. Are we past that? No. The end of June is when we pass that, right? Yeah, we’re approaching there.

Yeah. At the end of June, then we’re in the middle.

But 10 days before you’re at the equinox.

Yeah. I’m getting annoyed by New York City traffic, where people think it’s okay to honk your horn at 3am. And I’m just like “Listen… Jail. Immediately to jail.” You’ve gotta be some sort of person to lay into your horn for two minutes straight at 3am in Manhattan.

That is rough.

Wait, wait, Kris, you live in New York, too?

Are you two neighbors?

Okay, friends.

Kaylyn, do you know Kris from New York? [laughs]

I heard that car, too.

It’s like, “Oh, man…”

That’s awesome. We’ll get a drink later.

Johnny, how about you?

I don’t live in New York now.

And how’s your weather? [laughter]

The weather is actually quite nice. It’s making me feel like getting in my car, going to the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and putting my feet up with a Martini, or something; or something with an umbrella.

Oh, okay. Yeah, Martini was not my first guess for Baltimore Harbor drinks. Yeah, I’d be going like a Mango Margarita.

If you haven’t been to Baltimore lately, especially downtown Baltimore, Inner Harbor area… Oh, man. Harbor East? Goodness… It’s a whole different Baltimore. It’s not what it used to be. It’s not how it’s portrayed in English TV shows; nothing like that. It’s a very different atmosphere. A very different atmosphere.

Alright, Kris and I will hitchhike with that person who honks their horn at 3am and we will be there tomorrow.

Let me know, let me know. I’ll be your host, I’ll show you around.

Oh, man… Go Time on the road.

They’ll honk when they arrive. Okay, so we’re here to talk about neurodiversity. What is that?

What is it?

The pause… So the main reason I sort of have pitched some of this I think other people have pitched you, Natalie… I don’t know, maybe all of us have… Is neurodiversity really just around like there’s the so-called neurotypical brain, which is what in the past people would kind of orient their entire lives and society around like “These are the expectations, per se.” Very hypothetical, it was very like “This is your average Joe Smith, Jane Doe type mentality of how we structure and how we expect people to operate in the day to day.” And as time has gone on - I was actually just before this podcast reading a little bit of the research, trying to freshen up… But the DSM has been updating probably every decade or so, but in between, they released minor versions of the DSM. And essentially, we’ve gotten more and more research about what neurodiversity means, and especially that it encompasses a broader group of people than we definitely thought 20 years ago, honestly even 10 years ago; scientists have been learning so much about what makes up different diagnoses criteria… So instead of neurodiversity being a small niche group of people, it’s becoming more and more of a large minority, you could say.

So just kind of the ways that people’s brains operate, and the ways that they go through the world and perceive things, is how I look at neurodiversity. But I don’t know, Kris, and Johnny, what’s been on your mind? Or if it’s literally only me and my opinion, I’m gonna get nervous really fast… If it’s just me talking about it…

Neurodiversity is one of those things I kind of look at and I’m just like – maybe I’m telling on myself and my small group of friends, but I don’t know any of my friends are neurotypical. I don’t really know what neurotypicalness looks like… And I do think it’s because I live in a unique place. It’s kind of one of those weird things about America, I just imagine, where there’s that interesting stat where it’s like a huge number of white people live in places where only other white people live, but people of color, like even the most populated, densely-populated place with black people is only like 50% black. So it’s like, people of color, we don’t live around other people who aren’t – like, we don’t live around people who are only like us. Whereas with white people, there’s a higher chance that you live around people that are only like you. And I feel like maybe that’s what it’s like for neurotypical people, where it’s like, if you’re neurodiverse, you probably interact with some neurotypical people, but mostly neurodiverse people… And if you’re neurotypical - I don’t know, maybe you just only interact with neurotypical people.

[06:27] But I don’t know… I just know for me and my small circle, I’m just kind of like – you know, I think of my friends and I’m like, “I think we all just have spicy brains.” Different flavors, right? All sorts of different flavors… But yeah. And as time goes on, we’re just gonna – I hope, at least to go on, I do agree with the way you’ve kind of framed it, Kaylyn, about what neurodiversity is, and I think over time, we’re just gonna figure out that maybe the framing of neurotypicalness was a bad framing in the first place, and it’s one of those averages that nobody actually fits; it’s that whole story of the Air Force, and they made their cockpit for the average person, and it turned out nobody fit in it, because there was no one that was actually average, so they put an adjustable seat in. I feel that’s probably what we’re gonna wind up with neurodiversity. They’ll be like “Yeah, everybody is a little –” It’s like a spectrum. And maybe the word will get rebranded, so it’s like people on the further ends of the spectrum, it’s like “Okay, well, you’re the more neurodiverse”, and people in the middle would be like “You’re typical, you’re average”, or whatever. I have no idea.

No yeah I think your description is fantastic. But Johnny, I wanna hear what you’re thinking, too.

Well, I don’t have a take on it… So allow me to play devil’s advocate a little bit. If everybody - to use Kris’s scientific term - has a spicy brain, why did we feel the need to come up with a label for this? Like, why the otherness? Why the specialty? Why the branding? Is it because it makes it easier to talk about? Why?

Oh, that’s a good question. So you guys are gonna have to be my buffer around how deep we want to go into some of this… Because like most things, if you go into – especially medical things, if you go into how they started, it gets reasonably dark pretty fast in terms of like the whiteness that maybe came up with certain terms, the colonialism that came up with certain terms… And I am by no means an expert, but that’s certainly a hint where a lot of it came from. Certainly some strands of it come from when lots of women would end up institutionalized for various things that we would now consider perfectly normal behaviors. But at the time, because it was an outspoken woman, who was stating her thoughts, they would come up with terms to institutionalize her and say “She’s different than the others.”

So it does have a less than pleasant origin, and I also think that’s where, to Kris’s point, we might end up at the point where neurotypical ends up being a term that isn’t really describing much of anything… And it is much more the human species evolved to have different ways of brains thinking, for a very intentional reason. Because if we all thought the exact same way, we probably would have been extinct a long time ago. The fact that we have various people who think differently is not an accident, it’s not like a gene mutation and that’s a big issue. It’s just you would have the people who specialized in going and hunting, or going and farming, or keeping track of what’s happening… Even the people who would sit around night after night, tracking stars - there’s a lot around those civilizations thrived more, because they would have those people just tracking the patterns associated with the seasons. And they didn’t necessarily know all of that.

[09:47] So I think neurotypical does kind of come from this place of isolating somebody who might be different from the norm, and finding a way to ostracize them out of society, which is not fun… And that’s where I think a lot of older generations have this fear of being called neurodiverse, fear of being called other, from these past connotations with it. But more and more, not just the DSM, but psychologists and scientists are coming out with more reasonable definitions of neurodiversity, in a way where it absolutely encompasses way more people than we thought in the past. It’s very much a spectrum. And even the things like what doctors used to do, where you would only get diagnosed if you fell so far on the spectrum that you couldn’t operate in your day to day life, that would be when they would diagnose you. Whereas if you could manage to struggle through, they wouldn’t give you that diagnosis, and that can lead to a lot of burnout, a lot of issues for people, and a lot of that stigmatization. So that’s a short-ish answer… There are some darker reasons where neurotypical came about; I’m not an expert in them at all, but it does – some of that stigma comes from places like that, where people got afraid of it.

Yeah, and I would kind of say that I don’t think people who fall under the neurodiverse kind of umbrella, or on the spectrum - I don’t think that we gave ourselves this label. I think it was kind of put upon us. It’s kind of like the same, like the development of sexuality, where it’s like we have this term homosexual, and then we eventually made this term heterosexual, and now this thing kind of sprang into existence that wasn’t there before… And there’s all sorts of reasons why terms like this and labels and identities like this come into existence. But it’s definitely a mixture of things. From knowing history, and having looked into this a bit, Kaylyn - yeah, there is a lot of dark history around this. I mean, there’s a lot of dark history in medicine in general, especially when it comes to women, and how they’ve been treated throughout history… But as we do start to actually kind of – I think the thing about it is that the more that we try and define what neurodiversity is, and even the more we try to define what neurotypicalness is, the more that these things will kind of start to disappear.

I think there are phrases and they are terms that we’ve only kind of had fuzzy definitions for in the past, kind of that “I know it when I see it” thing. And now when we’re kind of doing closer inspection, it’s fading away, and it’s starting to disappear.

So I think it’s kind of on this trajectory, where it’s started off as this thing, as this basically way of othering people, saying “Oh, your brain clearly doesn’t function the rest of us… So you’re way over there.” People that have severe autism, or severe ADD, or severe ADHD, or OCD, or some forms of depression… You’re like way over there, and you can barely function, so we’re gonna give you this label, potentially to help you, but mostly not… And then over time, I think we’ve kind of – we’re in the phase where we’re kind of reclaiming that phrase, and being like “No, we’re not going to see this as a stigma or a bad thing”, but I think in the future it will kind of disappear, and maybe 20 or 30 years from now this won’t be an identity, or something that people are like “Yeah, no, I’m neurodiverse.” I think it’ll just kind of be like “Um, whatever.” We might develop other words.

But I think that – because I’ve got the sense you’re like “Why do people call themselves neurodiverse?” and I think it’s one of those reclaiming and ownership things… Which, you know, there’s always debates in communities about which words do you reclaim, which words do you try and just jettison into the ether, and there’s always arguments from many different angles about what you should do. But I think that’s the phase where we’re in right now, which is just kind of the “Yeah, it’s okay to be neurodiverse. It’s okay to have a brain that’s not typical with whatever typical means.”

So is this a self-diagnosis? Or must you wait for somebody to apply it to you?

[13:50] It depends. I think for a lot of people getting a diagnosis is the helpful thing… Especially when it comes to lots of different types of neurodiversity, sometimes they can present as other things that they’re not… And especially if you want to seek out medication, or treatment, getting a diagnosis there is very helpful. But I don’t think – and this is always a problem with communities of people… I don’t think you have to get a diagnosis to be part of this group of people. I think some people severely disagree with that. I think some people want to say “No, it’s very important that you get a diagnosis”, I think especially when it comes to things like OCD, and the way in the past people have been like “Oh, I’m so OCD about this.” And it’s like, that is not what OCD is being like, and I think to some degree, that’s doing harm to people that have OCD. So I think it’s definitely complex, but I think we’re kind of steering toward the “You don’t have to have a diagnosis unless you’re actually trying to get treatment.” And then it is rather important that you get a diagnosis so that you’re being treated in the right way, for whatever outcome you want to have from that treatment. But I think the more that we – also, another thing, the more that we tie it up with “You have to get a diagnosis, you have to get a treatment”, the more it becomes this kind of negative, bad thing about your life. You generally don’t get diagnosed with good things; you generally get diagnosed with things that are a problem, that we think we should fix, or mitigate, or change about you. And I think by and large people that are neurodiverse don’t think that there’s anything wrong with them.

I don’t know, Kris, I’ve been diagnosed with being good-looking, so… I don’t know. [laughter]

What doctor did that? Maybe we should check… [laughs]

Their credential?

Yeah. Where did they go to school?

Kaylyn, I saw you were nodding your head and kind of agreeing with what Kris was answering… Do you overall agree? Would you add anything else?

Yeah, so I think – so I’m a person who has been formally diagnosed, actually twice in my life. Once when I was around 16, and I thought the doctor was like a crock. I was like “Nah, everybody’s getting diagnosed with ADD. That’s dumb.” So I thought, me and everyone in my life all agreed that I didn’t have it. And then during COVID, in 2022, that winter, after everything started, I was like “Okay, this sucks. Everything sucks. I hate this.” And I went back to the doctor, and they were like “Oh, so you have ADD?” I was like “What?!” and I was totally shocked. I didn’t understand.

Did you forget, or…?

No, no, that was actually always in my head. And I went to the doctor very intentionally, trying to describe anxiety… I was like “That’s what I’ve got, is anxiety.” And at the end of this 90-minute session, they were like “Yeah, anxiety. Yeah. But I want you to think about ADD.” And I remember being stunned. I was like “I didn’t say anything. I didn’t pick it up. I didn’t go there.” It turns out eventually the doctor sort of walked me through it, where it was a lot of anxiety caused by various struggles with ADD.

But when I talked to some of my family members, one of my brothers in particular was like “What do you mean you just got diagnosed?” And I was like “Oh, no…” So it turns out I was maybe one of the only who thought that wasn’t a part of me.

So I’ve definitely gone through that, and it’s been helpful. Really helpful. I guess I’ve gone through apparently all the stages, including denial, all that kind of thing… But I do agree. So I think there’s two points that I’m really keen on. So one is the tech industry – and actually scientists, and even artists tend to have… And I looked this up, and there seems to be some research that supports this… More neurodiversity than other industries. That’s at least a common theory, if not something that might actually be reasonably researched. So what that does mean is that industries like ours have an opportunity to more normalize some of these discussions and some of these ways of thinking, because you would expect that we have more people that think that way.

And it makes a lot of sense when they talk about tech being out of the box thinkers, breaking the mold, trying new things - those all heavily correlate with neurodiversity, rather than neurotypicals being stronger at upholding existing patterns and following what’s going on today, those types of things. So I’m really keen on that. That’s actually a lot of what we’ve discussed a bit with the GopherCon conference, but just something I find potentially neat.

The second part - I’m trying to remember… Kris and Johnny, you were actually bringing it up… What was it? I lost it. It was both tech and – oh, diagnosis. I do think the diagnoses can help, especially like what Kris was mentioning, where there can be a lot of things that seems similar… But frankly, the science behind this, as I kind of mentioned earlier, is growing quickly; they’re coming out with new research, they’re finding new symptoms. ADD, when it started in the ‘60s, was all about kids that moved around a lot. It was a kinetic thing. So they were just tracking like “This person is physically moving in this space a ton. That’s an issue.” Eventually, they realized it was an attention disorder. So they started tracking that. More recently, in the last decade, they’ve really narrowed it down to a dopamine deficiency, which is why they’ve got all these new – they talk about inattentive ADD, ADHD more, because now that they can track the chemicals in your brain that are off. They’re like “Oh, it actually shows up in all these various ways, that are very specific.” That’s really cool. That also makes the diagnosis hard, because if you talked to a doctor a decade ago, and they were like “You don’t have it”, literally the research that came out later might contradict that diagnoses from the past.

And so I think that’s just exhausting, if you’re somebody who’s trying to work through that, to realize that “Maybe I should go get checked again.” And it can be expensive. So I think requiring a diagnosis, not just in money, but also in time, and just that energy, especially if you’re already feeling kind of down… So I’m very pro – like, if you identify with a certain way of thinking, I think you should be included and allowed to partake in sort of discussions about it, and learning more about it. I would certainly shy away from saying, “Oh, ha-ha, that’s so add of me, or so OCD of me”, or “Oh, I’m so autistic.” Those comments, if you don’t have a diagnosis, I probably wouldn’t broadcast all over the place, because that could be a little harmful if you’re not positive about what you’ve got.

[20:22] But overall, I’m really pro if something resonates with you, and as you’re kind of self-discovery, self-learning, if it helps you understand yourself and the world better, I think that’s a big win. But it is, it’s a very confusing space. The doctors could be wrong, or you could be, as I told you with my story, where I just was like “This person’s not telling me good stuff.” So it’s just tricky, and that’s where I think it can be helpful to kind of check out and include.

I have a question… If what we’re saying is that in our space, in tech in particular, we tend to be a magnet for neurodiversity… Does that then mean that amongst our peers we’re neurotypical?

Right… This is like what Kris said, where he’s like “I don’t know, do I have neurotypical friends?”

I mean, once again, it depends on how you scope all of this… I guess in a way you could say, for my friend group, yeah, I’m neurotypical. Or for the people I hang out with, I’m neurotypical. The interesting thing is groups of people will always find a way to differentiate themselves. It’s kind of like how in communities of color there’s usually some level of colorism, where it’s like “Oh, y’all are a group of black people.” And it’s like “Well, those people are less black. These are the black people.” You kind of define into smaller groups of things, and I think that tends to happen with neurodiverse people.

If you’re in a room with all neurodiverse people, then all of a sudden it starts breaking out into “Okay, well, what type of neurodiverse?” Oh, all the ADHD people are over there, and you have all the people with OCD over here, and you have other people that have other dopamine deficiencies over here, and some of the – so you kind of start breaking out into smaller and smaller groups.

So I guess it depends on the group… But I think there is a very strong mix within tech of different types of neurodiversity. There’s a pretty large diversity in within neurodiversity. I would suspect – I haven’t done research on this, but I would suspect there’s probably a higher degree of autism, or people on the autistic spectrum within tech, than perhaps in other spaces. So if you are on the autistic spectrum and you’re hanging out with a bunch of people in tech, that might be more neurotypical than it would be in other spaces. But this is definitely the problem with words - they are very difficult to pin down and be precise about… So I think you bring up a good point there, like “Well, why do we have to peg against society as a whole, or the whole population?” Does it make sense to do the whole population of like – there’s 8 billion people. I don’t know if you could actually find a neurotypical person out of 8 billion people. That’s a very large number. Is there anything that makes a majority, or even a plurality of those people similar, that’s not like a kind of insufficient number?

Here’s where I’m struggling with this… And I don’t want to come off sort of insensitive to this whole notion and branding and labeling. I think giving a name to something and being able to talk about it with others that understand what you’re talking about is useful and important. Because of the sort of nebulous definition – okay, let me give you some context. I’m already atypical wherever I go. I’m a black software engineer. There’s a handful of me in the world. I already don’t fit a particular stereotype, or whatever it is. So to me, when you say that “Okay, well, even within our own peer groups, we seek to differentiate ourselves” - so okay, I’m like “Well, nowhere is safe then for me”, because I think that I think differently wherever I go, and wherever I am, I’m going to behave slightly differently… As we all should, right? …because we’re not copies of each other.

[24:07] Bringing this back - by simply saying “Hey, we now have a name for this thing.” If you wake up Saturday morning, it’s not that your dog died the other day, you just have a mental deficiency of some kind. If you’re angry because somebody cut you off, it’s not like “Oh, this a-hole cut me off because they’re a bad driver, it’s because I have a mental deficiency.” Like, it’s become so easy to just use that label to apply to any and everything, if you don’t require some form of diagnosis from a professional. And that’s the fear that I have. Or not a fear, but that’s the concern I have with coming up with these terms, although useful… People can just be like “I don’t need a diagnosis. I can just say I’m neurodiverse.” How do we deal with that?

So even if you are diagnosed, neurodiversity is not an excuse for being an a-hole. So if you’re like “Oh, I’m gonna be a jerk to someone”, you’re a jerk. I don’t care if it’s because you’re depressed, or you have autism, or you have OCD, or you have ADHD. If you’re being a jerk, you’re being a jerk, and it doesn’t matter where you fall on the spectrum. So I think that’s the first big thing, of like, I very much don’t when people try and roll out with “Oh, I’m sorry I did that thing. I just have this other thing.” That’s not an excuse. And I get it, you have – especially I think sometimes people on the autistic spectrum tend to do this, where they’re like “Oh, well, I just don’t understand.” It’s that’s like, okay, we understand that you don’t understand, but you still need to learn, just like everybody else needs to learn, and we need to be able to kind of exist within society, within each other, and still treat each other well.

So yeah, I think that that problem of people kind of self-diagnosing and then saying, “Oh, it’s just because of this”, that’s not good. And I think too, if it’s just like – I think at the end of the day there are a few different reasons why you might want to identify as within a neurodiverse space. One could be because you do want to find people that are similar to you. So it’s like, if you are on the autism spectrum and you want to have other people that you can discuss it with, so maybe you can learn, improve your social skills, or whatever; or if you do have ADHD or ADD, and you want to have other people that you can lean on, or just kind of talk to and be like “Man, I wanted to get all this stuff done today, and I didn’t” and people would be like “Oh, yeah, I understand it”, instead of a bunch of people that are like “Wow, that’s so weird that you couldn’t do that.” So it’s like, there’s that finding community aspect.

There’s also the – once again, as I said before, the getting treatment aspect of it. So if you are waking up every morning and feeling depressed, and you want to do something about it, then it can help to go and be like “Maybe there’s something wrong or different about my brain, and I should go get diagnosed, and get treatment, and get help.” And I think for a lot of people that fall into the neurodiverse space, sometimes you fall into depression because you’re different and you haven’t recognized that you’re different. And just being able to recognize that you’re different lifts you up in a way that now it’s like “Oh, now I’m not going to wake up every morning feeling bad just because I was all over the place yesterday. That’s just how I live my life, and I just need to adjust to living life that way.”

So I think that’s the way I see it at least… But absolutely, definitely, being a jerk is being a jerk, and don’t do that. I don’t care about your excuse is. Don’t be a jerk to people.

There’s also the hilarious flip of what you brought up Johnny, where it’s almost like if somebody experienced any emotion, any emotion, they’re like “Oh, I must have something.” And that’s actually a hot take on what neurotypical means. [laughter] Because it can be like that, where people feel like in order to – you’re supposed to just never have any feelings. You’re never supposed to react to anything; you’re always supposed to just be like “Every day is the same. I wake up, I have this breakfast, I go to work.”

[28:08] And you could almost liken it to when going gluten-free got really popular, but it wasn’t with people who had the disease coeliacs, because there weren’t as many of them… But it was with people that were saying, “Hey, we don’t want to eat gluten. We think it might have issues.” They didn’t have that disease, but by having that interest in not eating gluten, they ended up creating so many way better foods, way better breads than before. A coeliacs person 15-20 years ago had terrible food choices when they went out. It was just like you’re eating disgusting stuff, because the only things – or vegetables; which is fine. Vegetables are fine. But there just was not a lot of options. By people gaining an interest in this area that they didn’t necessarily medically need to have, it ended up becoming more inclusive for the people that do have coeliacs. And I think that can be the exact same way with neurodivergences where, one, yeah, I think it is very real that if you wake up sad and think “I must be depressed”, that’s a bigger take on how we as a society allow or don’t allow emotions… It does not mean you’re depressed; it could be a very normal emotion to be having. But it probably makes more people relate to somebody with actual depression, and feel more sympathy towards them, even if they don’t realize that they might be sort of co-opting the term… At least that’s what I think I’ve seen happen more often, is that there are some bad actors, there are some people that are out flaunting, like “Pay attention to me, I’ve got this thing”, and they don’t, and they’re just trying to get attention from it… But I think that’s more of a minority, and just the people realizing that you have days where you totally can relate to somebody, where that might be everyday for them. Those feelings might linger all the time. It isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be tricky in between that.

And I think too there is an element of – like, yeah, sometimes, I think everybody, there’s days when you wake up and you’re sad, and being able to give people tools to help deal with that I think is helpful… Even if they don’t want that label, and if they are in every other aspect neurotypical, I think one of the weird things about this space is that there will be times in your life when you get depressed; it doesn’t necessarily mean that your brain is different, it just means you’re processing and dealing with something… And we want to make sure that people have the comfortability to go seek out help if they need it, or have tools if they need them. So it’s kind of like – you know, it doesn’t matter; who cares how you label yourself, as long as you have the resources you need when you need them? If you want to identify as neurotypical, and that’s what you want to do for forever, and you’re like “I don’t think I’m part of that community”, that’s fine. But if you do get sad, you should have resources to help you; or you get depressed, because depression isn’t sadness. But if you wind up getting depressed, or if you’re anxious a lot, it can also be helpful with that sort of thing… Which kind of goes back to that thing I think we were talking about in the beginning of “What even is this?”

I think it’s good for us to separate neurodiversity from the diagnosis and the medical parts, because the tools that are available to people that have these diagnoses are generally useful, I think, for a much wider audience, and it would help people a lot.

I guess straying into some more maybe controversial territory, but it’s kind of the same thing that we’re dealing with and going through with gender right now, where people are like “Well, what is a man? What is a woman?” And it’s like, if you identify as a man or woman, that’s perfectly fine. But also you can identify as a man and then maybe sometimes you have other things; you want to wear something that’s more feminine. Whatever, go do it. It’s fine. We can have that framework and that existence, but the kind of overall structure that we have of allowing people to be themselves - that’s what’s important. And the same thing is true here, where it’s just like, give people the tools so that they can kind of make it through life, at the end of the day, and kind of live and kind of reach their goals that they want to have. That was kind of rambly, but…

[32:10] So the one thing I will add to this is that even if – so to me, there’s a very clear line, in case I wasn’t already clear… There’s a very clear line between somebody who is thinking they’re on the spectrum, versus somebody who has been diagnosed and has sought treatment, and hopefully has overcome, if it’s something that can be overcome. I know some folks who, even within our own community, as Go developers specifically, with a speech impediment. They can’t exactly just flip a switch or go to therapy and just turn that off, and all sudden they’re better. That’s probably a lifelong thing. And I’m not going to even describe it, put an adjective to it and say it’s a good or bad thing. It simply is.

So you have folks that are on that end of the spectrum, where through no fault of their own, this thing is part of their life. And then you have folks on the other side, who basically perhaps haven’t yet developed sort of the mental fortitude, or haven’t put in any work into, or haven’t sought assistance, having the resources, if that is at your disposal.

If you decide that “I am neurodiverse, and that’s just the badge that I walk around with at conferences, a label” - if that’s your thing, then I think you’re doing it wrong, and I think you’re doing an injustice to actually those who actually suffer from some debilitating condition. And I say this not from somebody who’s speaking out of their other end here; I have family members, I literally have a child who has gone through this kind of problem… Be it a combination of being a teenager, to actually being actually diagnosed and seeking treatment… I’ve traveled that spectrum, my friend; so I’ve seen that firsthand. I’ve lived with it.

So to me, I don’t want – I would rather… I don’t say – I don’t control other people; I would rather this didn’t become yet some other flippant thing people just put on their Twitter bios, and stuff, and just walk around like it’s some sort of badge of honor. “I belong to a club of fellow neurodiverse people”, because that’s not a joke. It’s not a joke. To label yourself such a thing is not a joke.

You’re hitting such good points, and difficult ones, that we’ve messed up so many times, where by trying to accommodate some thing, it ends up becoming almost a popularity – yeah, that badge; that badge becomes really big. So I don’t have a strong answer, but it’s on my mind, and just how you worded it was such a great way of expressing it. That’s a concern. That’s a very real concern… When it comes to conferences, because that’s where my mind’s at kind of short-term, and then even at employment places - because I know, Natalie, you brought that up; maybe cover that area, too… Some things we’re considering would be having rooms where conference attendees can go that are lower in stimulation. So maybe the lights are dimmed, or all the way off, and it’s very quiet in there, and there’s no noise. So you’re just gonna go in there and you’re gonna sit, if you want to. And that benefits neurodivergent people who get overstimulated and need some downtime. It also can benefit literally anybody who’s a little tired, which happens all the time at conferences.

So that’s where it could be targeting neurodivergent people, but it doesn’t have to be exclusive, and you don’t need to put on a badge in order to go and use that. You do need to be respectful, you do need to follow the rules. If you’re going in there and having a conversation, that’s not okay; we would need you to leave. But I think trying to find the balance… I love that point around how do we make spaces, both at conferences and at workplaces, more amenable to neurodivergent people, without making it a show, without making it a “You need to say you have this in order to go do it”, and make it just more like you don’t need to out yourself, you don’t need to bring this up, because - while some people might bring it up for attention, other people might bring it up and get retaliation over it.

[36:12] So there’s just a level of it’d be much better to just not need that to be a part of the conversation, and just have it be more of “If this helps you, that would be great.” But I loved your point, and I think that’s where we want to try to find that balance, of bringing accommodations, but not making it a part of the conference, or the workplace, or the show, so to speak.

Yeah, yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think it’d be ridiculous to put something like “I’m neurodivergent” on a conference badge, or something. Like, please don’t… I think that’s kind of the place where I think the bad side of diversity in general comes in… Because I think the solutions – or I guess the things that we do to help people I think, as you pointed out, Kaylyn, are useful to a very broad audience of people. It’s like, yes, have some low-stimulation places for not just people who get overstimulated and need somewhere to go but maybe just for some introverted people that just need a little bit of time to recharge, or someone who just wants to get a quick nap in, because they’re tired from a flight, or because they’re tired, because their kids are there, and they’ve been doing all this stuff, and they just want to rest for a little bit… There’s a whole bunch of reasons why you might want to use that sort of space.

So I think the important thing is we make that space. I don’t think we need to label it as that though. I think when you try – I think I do very much disagree with that thing where people try and get the clout out of it, especially at a conference, where the conference is like “Oh, we are doing all of these things to help out people that are neurodivergent.” Like, no. Stop. That’s not great, because I do think it does start to make that thing into a badge of honor, of like “Oh, look you’re special if you do this.” And I think for a lot of neurodivergent people, we want to be special. We just want to be like everybody else. We’re like “No, we’re just people. We’re a little different, but that’s fine.” Everybody’s – in the most pedantic sense, everybody is different, in some way. There’s no two humans that are exactly the same.

So I think that’s important… And it’s important not just for neurodiversity and being neurodivergent, it’s also important for diversity in general. And that’s, I think, a lesson that especially our industry right now really does need to learn, because I think we are putting too many badges on things, and being like “Look at this, we’re trying to [unintelligible 00:38:30.21] And I think there are extremes to this, where it makes people feel very, very uncomfortable, because it likely starts eating into things that people expressing in the office space. For instance, one of the things that I as a queer person get very annoyed about is when people talk about their fertility journeys, or their pregnancies at work, and I’m just like “I don’t need to hear about that. Please don’t.” But it’s part of I think a lot of workplaces’ culture, is to celebrate that and celebrate parental things, or even give extra benefits to parents that sometimes wind up disadvantaging people that are never going to be parents.

So I think whenever you label or you give something that it targets a specific group, I think you are inviting that kind of thing you were mentioning, Johnny, where people will just do it for clout at the end of the day, and we should avoid that, and we should seek out the things that will be helping a broader audience… And even if we do end up helping out, we’re like “Okay, well, we specifically want quieter spaces, and we’re specifically doing it for this group”, great. You don’t have to say that; you just have to provide the space. So I think that will help with what you’re bringing up, Johnny, of the people or the Rachel Dolezals of the world, the people who are gonna be like “I’m part of this community, because I think it’s cool”, or something like that

Yes, it’s tricky. That’s what’s going through my mind right now, is finding those balances, and –

There’s no clean and easy solution to these problems. It’s messy. Whenever a group does try and take something that was historically bad, and make it a statement of pride, I think that there will always be people around the edges that do nefarious things with that, or do weird things with that, and just try – like, you’re not part of this group, but you really want to try and be part of this group, so you’re going to shove your way into that group. And yeah, I agree with you, Johnny, that that is harmful to people. But also - and this is me personally - I would rather we do that and get the resources that people need, and normalize the things that are non-normal for some reason, and deal with the consequences of having some clout chasers, than deal with the situation that we’ve had historically, where it’s just like “You’re just ostracized. Deal with it.” But that’s, once again, me personally. I understand other people feel differently about the situation.

Break: [41:00]

So I wanted to ask a question from another perspective. As a conference attendee, who is neurotypical? What would you want to know about being better in sharing space with people who are the different types of neurodiversity? So obviously, no stickers to mark anyone, as we said, so you just want to kind of improve your ways to be generally better in this way - what would you do?

I don’t have anything specifically down. I think that’s a really thoughtful question, so I love it, Natalie. I would expect nothing else. But essentially, how to make the place more welcoming and friendly, keeping in mind that there’s people coming in with different ways of processing information… Because that’s a lot of it. And when you’re at a conference, there’s a lot of visual stimulation, of the screens and the lights and kind of like the show of what’s in front of you; there’s also the audio stimulation, and then there’s just a lot of the people.

I think probably the number one that I’ve seen, one like headphones; I’ve been kind of wondering if that would be just a really great gift to give out more, so that if people are feeling overwhelmed, getting those headphones on, so that they can have a little bit of alone space is probably a pretty good signal around just being thoughtful in that direction, and not thinking that if somebody is off on their own, “Oh, do I need to go necessarily engage them?” There’s this weird balance where you don’t want to leave somebody out, because they could be nervous and shy… But they also can be like “I could just use a little space.”

So almost keeping an eye out for that, in a sense of not bombarding them, and then also still asking them if they would want to come and hang out. Like, if you notice somebody that, maybe you just watch and see, are they alone the entire day, that maybe you do want to go say hello and see what’s up? If they’re alone for a little period of time, it might just be helpful for them.

I’ve actually been really keen - if you are a sponsor of a conference, I feel fidget toys could be really fantastic sponsor gifts; little puzzles to play while you’re there, little things that can engage your hands kinetically, or your mind a little bit can sometimes be a real stress reliever, or almost an energy provider. When you feel you’re sitting in one series, a long day of like you’re listening and processing this way, getting a little toy that allows you to process a different manner, via like a Rubik’s cube or whatever, could be a fun gift for people. So that might be a way to just try to think about sponsor gifts that could target neurodivergent populations… And frankly, everybody, because a lot of people like little toys to play with. Those could be some cool ways to integrate and just help make the conference experience more pleasant.

I feel like I misunderstood the question… Natalie, were you asking what – because the way I heard it was “What can someone who is neurotypical that goes to a conference, what can they do to help make the space more comfortable?”

Pretty much, yeah.

Okay. Okay, so I did understand the question. I would say - and I think this applies more widely to diversity as a whole… Is check your own expectations of things, and how you perceive the world. I think what you brought up, Kaylyn, where it’s like if you see someone sitting alone, don’t assume that it’s because “Oh, they’re just nervous, and they don’t want to talk to people.” They might want to just have a little alone time. And I don’t think it’s okay to maybe lightly approach them and be like “Hey, do you just want to be alone right now, or are you looking–” And I will tell you real quick - usually, people are pretty good at being like “No, I just want to be alone right now.” And then “Okay”, then you can just leave.

[45:59] I think for conferences, one of the things I’ve seen at some previous conference was having stoplights, basically, where you have red, yellow, green, and that indicates your desire to communicate, interact with other people… So I think that can definitely help. It’s like a little sticker you can put on your badge, and you just put the red one on, and you’re just like “I would just like to be alone”, and notifying people of that. And then just for neurotypical people, just being mindful of that.

But I think - yeah, I think the biggest thing is just when you’re in this space with people who are different from you, just remember that those people are different from you… I think the best thing people could do is just be kind. Just be kind and be empathetic of how the people around you might be interacting, or might want to be interacted with, or experiencing things.

I’m gonna play devil’s advocate a little bit…

Go for it.

Do self-aware and neurodiverse people also bear some responsibility for the places they find themselves in, or they put themselves in? For example, if I know I get tired of people very quickly, because if I talk to too many people for too long, it starts to affect me, I can’t function properly. Is it then not upon you to manage that in some way? If I’m a conference organizer, do I bear the responsibility for making you feel comfortable beyond what I would normally do to accommodate any other group?

Yeah, so I’ve got a cool example on that. So COVID, actually - the fact that more and more conferences are having live streams of their conference at the same time… Fantastic for if you can’t make it, you can still watch it, you can still be a part. Also really fantastic for if you want to watch from your room for a little bit, because you can’t do eight full hours - that’s a really cool way where making things more accessible for one group of people actually benefits other groups as well… And then it becomes - like, the conference organizers already did something fantastic. You did something that allows people who otherwise would have been so depleted with these 10, 11, 12-hour days to say “I’m just gonna do – I still want to come, I still want to meet people, but maybe it’s just like a halftime.”

And I also thought - so we’ve talked a lot about social battery, if you get drained… There’s a different side; like, some neurodivergence, and especially people at conferences, and especially I think like presenters are the ones that are more keen to getting really excited and wanting to explain everything about their interest, and being like “Here’s this, here’s that, here’s everything I love about what I’m doing, and I really want to share it with other people.” And I think that’s another way that it can be expressed, that can be really fun at a conference. It could also be something where you’re like “Whoa, this person is bombarding me with tons of information about their specific niche, and I have no idea where this is coming from.” That might be someway where you could be surprised by the interaction, probably less in tech. I think we’re all a little accustomed to that… But that can often be like the special interest, hyperfocused, “I’m so excited to share with others like me”, and that’s something that I’m trying to think through how do we enable that. Because for a lot of people maybe at work they have to be more reserved, they have to be more polished in how they communicate, and they feel like they never get that chance to be like “I’m so pumped to talk about this specific spec with a bunch of other people that really care about this, too.”

So if we can find ways for them to share that joy, there’s a lot of positive attributes that come out of some of these different ways of thinking, too. I think that’s a good example of just an alternative to the – and I think a lot of neurodiversity people and everybody could use/have moments of both, where you’re like “I want to be by myself”, and you’re also like “Please, I cannot wait to share every thought I have about this really exciting thing.” But those are just some of the ways it can show up. But yeah, I did want to call out that the live streams just inherently make conferences more accessible to somebody that might not be able to have the stamina for the whole thing, which I love. I find that exciting.

[50:01] Yeah. I do think as well you have a point there, Johnny, that if you are feeling overwhelmed, you should try and remove yourself from the space. And I think for the most part, a lot of people that are – at least the people that are self-aware of this, that they’re neurodiverse in some way, do make efforts to actually “I’m gonna go somewhere remote, so I’m actually away…” But I think there are many a times when - you know, this goes back to the “Be thoughtful in how you approach people.” There have been plenty of times where people that are neurodiverse, that do want to get away, and they are actively trying to get away, and someone’s like “No, come on, come to the bar with us! Come get a drink with us!” So that can happen a lot as well, where it’s just like someone that doesn’t really understand, “Oh, that person just wants to be alone”, and someone’s just trying to like “No, no, no, come, be social! Oh, what’s wrong with you?” That type of stuff. So there’s definitely a balance here. But I do think, at least in my experience, a lot of the people who - especially with that specific thing, where it’s like you tend to get sensory overload and you want to be alone, often, I’d say probably the vast majority of time, those people will seek out spaces that are further away from people and are a little bit more remote. So yeah… But I do agree with you, Johnny, that there is some responsibility; it’s not like we’re not – like, neurodiverse people are not helpless. You do have to take it on yourself a little bit to put yourself into good situations. But there’s an extent to that; there’s kind of, I don’t know if it’s ‘both sides’ but like a spectrum there.

So I want to use the last few minutes that we have to ask the same question in the context of work. Maybe with the people you work that you know a little more than the people you go to conferences with, so maybe you have, even if not knowledge, maybe a hunch if somebody was more likely to at some point tell you that they’re neurodiverse, and so on. But until then, if you have a hunch, or if you don’t know your colleagues, a new person comes in, generally how to manage in space in the context of work.

They have to tell me in what ways I can help. Simply telling me that you’re neurodiverse doesn’t tell me anything. For that matter, I’m neurodiverse, right?

Well, even a few steps back; maybe somebody is not yet comfortable with you, with even starting such a conversation.

I mean, we’ve got to have a starting point, right? You have to be able to articulate what your needs are. I can’t guess them. You have to tell me something, as your colleague. And I’m not talking about as a boss, or as a business owner, or whatever; not as a some corporate hierarchy. As your peer, whom you’re going to be interacting with 99% of the time, I bear the most of the burden of knowing how to – well, I’m mischaracterizing it; not a burden… But I bear a lot of the responsibility, since we’re gonna be interacting a lot… I have to find ways, I have to be cognizant and be caring enough to understand how you communicate, and how you and I can most effectively communicate. But if you don’t tell me anything about how I can do that, then it’s guaranteed that I’m going to be stepping on your toes all the way down.

Are there some signals you can try to gauge?

I mean, I think I sit with Johnny in this, where it’s just kind of like – I think there’s kind of two options. I think there’s one, where if you’re okay and you’re in a safe enough mindset, like you’re in a comfortable enough mindset to be open with your co-workers about the fact that you’re neurodiverse, then I think that you should be communicating with people and being like “Hey, this is too much for me/This isn’t enough for me.” I think the challenge is when it’s not a safe space, and I would say probably in the majority of companies right now it’s not really safe to be super-open being neurodiverse… I think we would like to pretend that it is, but it is not. I think it’s way easier to be one of the other marginalized communities and be out at this point than it is to be in the neurodiverse space.

[54:06] So I think in that case, it’s not just on employers, it’s I think also on other people to realize that – and maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but the professional environment should probably be a bit more, you know, professional, a bit more structured, so that we can actually make it so that people can just kind of be themselves, at the end of the day.

I think one of the things that comes up a lot, especially in tech, especially at a lot of big tech companies, is the drinking culture… Which is not just like – this obviously does not just apply to neurodiverse people, but I think it encourages a higher level of socialization, and we should kind of figure out ways to mitigate the consequences of not being social in that space. I think that’s an important one.

So I think at a conference, if you get all exhausted - okay, no one’s gonna be judging you about your next promotion based on that. But in the workplace, if you’re not being social, then people I can absolutely be judging you and be like “Well, they’re not a team player, so we’re not going to consider them for a promotion”, or whatever. If you’re in that environment, you’re not gonna be like “Oh, my brain is different.” That’s likely going to make things worse, not better. So I think in that case, it’s I think on coworkers and everybody in the organization to start making that environment one where that’s not a requirement, where it’s like, you don’t have to be going out for drinks with the guys in order to get promoted. Once again, there’s tons of reasons why that should not be the way that we make promotions happen in general…

It does happen, right?

That is exactly how it happens. And so I think – and this is my view on the bigger, broader diversity problem, is that I spent way too much time thinking about this, and kind of exploring this, and trying to fix this, at way too many companies… And I think the issue is that having a more inclusive environment means that you have to make the normative kind of a wider thing. If you want to be able to include more people who are more normally different than everybody else, you kind of have to regress down to the mean; you have to go down to the lowest common denominator there… Which I think is tough for a lot of workspaces. Once again, I’ll bring up the whole, like, people talking about their kids, and their family, and all of that, in the office. That’s another thing that is very othering to many people, and causes some of those same problems of like “Oh, that guy just became a dad. Let’s promote him”, and that sort of stuff.

So it’s a complex issue at the end of the day, but I do think as – maybe if you are in the hegemony, as we tend to call someone with a lot of privilege in a workspace, I think it is about, if you want to make the workspace more welcoming, to some degree I think that’s giving up some of the things that make you comfortable. And I think if we’re talking about specifically about neurodiversity, where people that fall under the bucket of neurotypicalness might have to suffer some uncomfortability to make the space more opening, more inclusive of people who are neurodiverse.

Once again, it might be that you don’t go out to drinks with your co-workers as much, or you put in place a rule that says that you don’t do it as much; you’re actively making efforts to make sure that this isn’t affecting people’s career prospects if you do go out for drinks. It’s tough work, but that’s the type of work that I think people should do to help out the neurodiverse people. It’s not just “Oh, don’t bother that person if they have their headphones on.” There’s work we have to do to fix the environment. In fact, I think fixing the environment is the thing that’s more important to do than all of these individual little things that I think we tend to want to do around diversity in general, within companies. It’s the whole individual recycling, versus like “How about we just don’t produce things? How about the companies don’t produce things that are unrecyclable, or that put the onus on the individual?” The onus needs to be on the system. So I think that’s kind of the place where we need to reach… And I think it’s more important than anywhere else to do it in the workplace, because that is where you are day in, day out.

[58:18] Yeah. I guess I’ll end on like a plus one, and… I think what can be surprising – people definitely don’t bring up if they’re neurodiverse at workplaces often. It makes me sweat to bring it up at all. I’m like “Oh, no. This sucks. This is gonna come back.” Someone’s gonna be like “You can’t be trusted with his project because she has this thing, and that means she’s gonna forget a detail” type thing. That does come up, and people start to stereotype really fast.

The thing I’ve thought a lot about when we talk about what neurodiverse people are often asking for… I have noticed - because, I mean, I see it everywhere when I’m working with large groups and teams of engineers… I don’t know for sure, but I feel I can spot it a lot; the people that are often asking “Why are we doing things the way that we’re doing it?” Those people are the ones that really they’re just pushing for more efficient processes, more transparency, really better business management.

And where I’ve noticed the potential retaliation comes in is when management or more senior people say, maybe unconsciously, not directly, but they might say like “Your idea might be better, but I don’t care, because it works for me.” And what I’ve tended to notice is that there’s a lot of broken systems in industry in the United States, period, let alone just in tech, we have a lot of ways of doing business that do not produce value, that are not working well… And I think a lot of times the people questioning that are the ones that we should be elevating more. And I think the thing that could be happening at workplaces to be the most supportive of neurodivergent people is being open to change; not just change for the sake of being inclusive, but change for the sake of your business. Change for making it clearer who’s working on what, so you don’t have six people on one project… That’s not just helpful for people who get really frazzled at the “I want to own my space and be able to create a result, and show it off.” That’s bad, because in some cases you just might end up not delivering anything, because you created such a competitive environment for attention that nothing made it to the end, instead of something more collaborative.

There’s a lot of nuance to that answer, but I think in the workplace setting there’s a lot of value in creating an environment that utilizes neurodivergence, and listens to them, not just because of their neurodivergency, but in fact because they’re actually really pointing out things that if you improved, you would probably just do better as a business. That’s maybe a little overarching, but I’ve seen it enough where I think I’ve noticed that at the minimum, maybe not implementing the change, but going through the exercise of hearing what they’re suggesting, and explaining why you’re not going to do it would almost always result in a better outcome than dismissing the idea, or sort of pushing it down, which I’ve seen happen a lot. But we’ll get there. That’s what I’m hopeful about in tech. I think we’re in a really good spot to have seen some of these challenges… Yes, at conferences - conference are a little bit easier, but even in the workplace… I think we’ve got an industry of workers where there’s a high population of people that are saying “I actually think we could do a better job. I think we could manage it differently, and I think we’d get better results.” And sometimes they’ll be right, sometimes they’ll be wrong, but figuring out how to move in that direction more - I’m pretty optimistic about it. We’ll see

I feel like one of the biggest things that companies could probably do to make things better is throw away – I think lots and lots of people agree with this for lots of reasons, but throw away the rhetoric that we’re all a family. Please stop. Especially since like, yeah, we’re in the layoff times; it’s clear right now that no, this ain’t a family. We will not all be suffering together. No, no, no.

[01:02:06.16] But I think that type of rhetoric is the type of thing that causes the struggles and the harms, especially when it comes to inclusion. And Kaylyn, I think you’re right about the whole diversity point; I think there’s enough evidence right now that we can pretty confidently say “More diversity, more money.” That’s just kind of how the system works. We studied it over the past five decades, and it’s like, yeah, more diversity, you make more money.

Yeah. And that I think really includes neurodiversity, a lot. I believe in that strongly. I don’t think there’s much research on it, but it already points in a good direction, and if you find a way to tap into all the different ways that humans think, you’re going to have more solutions, more things to sell, more ways to sell it. So that’s probably the nice spin about the workplace… But I do agree, actually, with Johnny, what you said around - there’s a responsibility both ways; maybe not to disclose your title or anything, but definitely do disclose “Here’s what would help me do my work better.” I’ve had to learn more about that. It gets hard, especially if you don’t realize – like, it can be hard to realize that other people don’t need the same things you do, because you’re like “This is so obvious. Doesn’t everybody have this issue?” And then eventually you’re like “Oh, no.” And that can be a point of “I just didn’t even realize to tell you that, because I just thought you were being wild, and just not doing something so blatantly obvious to me.”

So there can be a level of that self-reflection, and just observing how others are working, and finding ways to say “Okay, here’s what works for me, and here’s what works for you, and let’s figure out how to work together.” It was definitely successful whenever I’ve done that.

Those are really great tips. Thank you all for the answers. In a very sharp transition…

Jingle: [01:03:55.06]

Okay, so who has one? I know the episode had several sprinkled in…

I do, but I’ll hold off. Mine might be a little controversial…

No, go for it. Go for it.

Okay, fine. You’re not owed a great place to work. That was not promised to you in the job description, or in the interviews, or by whoever you had lunch with, or whatever. You’re not owed that. If you go work someplace and it’s a great place to work, you lucked out. That’s awesome. Good for you. If it’s not, and you can afford to leave, leave. If you can’t afford to leave, grind it out until you can. But you are not owed a great place to work.

10 points for making this very tweetable. It’s very short and very to the point. That’s really good. Anybody else has an unpopular opinion?

Wait, wait, wait… I need like a definition of great here. What do you mean “great”?

This can be something that is very individual to each one.

He’s like basic human rights… [laughter] You’re not owed that…

Shelter, or water…

A bathroom… No, I’m kidding.

That’s a good one. That got everybody moving. That’s an unpopular opinion. Can anybody –

I mean, I still need a little bit more from Johnny there.

We can do this in the after episode.

Okay, fine. Okay, fine. I have one that might be equally – actually… No, I’m gonna phrase this so it’s just as spicy. So I read the “Waterfall” paper, and I will say that the method of doing engineering described in that paper is far superior to anything that we’re doing today.

That’s also very tweetable, also great job.

I heard the Waterfall is superior to all.

[01:06:07.09] That might be what you heard. Is that what I said? That’s what you heard though…

Oh, you’re playing games now. Okay…


Okay… I had a pretty safe one, which I’ll start with, because it’s really safe… But my safe one was that Johnny needs a dog. So that’s my opinion.

We can vote about that.

And Johnny is notoriously against pets, so I just want to stake my flag…

That is an unpopular opinion.

Oh, wow…

That’s my small one. But no, Kris - this whole episode… Don’t tweet this one. Tweet out “Johnny needs a dog.” The second one is – this whole episode I was thinking, “I don’t know when I can pepper this…” But I kept thinking Agile was developed by neurotypicals. I’m not totally serious with that opinion, but it does feel that way. [laughter] The whole episode, I was like “It’s so neurotypical.”

So don’t tweet that one please. Do “Johnny needs a pet.”

But if you listen to this episode, you can hear a slightly hot take from me…


Follow-up, Kris…

Shots fired over here.

It’ll be like a secret unpopular opinion.

In case anybody is confused, that was definitely an insult.

There are moments when I sit around saying “That was very neurotypical”, and it might not always be that.

That’s not meant as a compliment about Agile…

That’s like saying “millennial” but actually mean old people…

Yeah. I don’t really mean that opinion, but I think it regularly. It’s probably where I stand. [laughs]

So you do mean it, you just don’t verbalize it.

Yeah, I put some heavy Asterisk on it… But yeah, there’s a whole hot take that could be a little blog post on that, and why the similarities are there.

I also just translated that into like other privileged groups… It’s like, “You know what [unintelligible 01:08:14.10]

Okay, I have an unpopular opinion as well… I hope it’s an unpopular one. You should hide anybody who is writing more than two or three tweets on using FOMO. This is very from my personal world of context; obviously, lots of AI things, and there’s lots of good, interesting content there, but unfortunately there’s a lot more “You won’t believe what happened this week! AI killed all the world developers.” “If you don’t use this tool, you will lose your job.” Those people, two of those tweets - hide. Don’t think. Hide.

[01:08:56.25] Just mute all of them?

Mute. Anything you do, whatever your choice is.

I would expand that to include anybody who starts with anything AI, “Here’s a thread.” [laughter]

Johnny’s like “I actually already muted them.” He’s like “Do you want my blacklist? I’ve got it.”

I think last year there was a bit of a hype against threads, and I think it’s still legit. There’s very few threads that should be threads.

It’s quite annoying.

I do the “Not interested/Don’t show me anything like this, please.”

Does it work?

As it works as of a certain date, I think.

Yeah… But no, it is easy to start tracking that… It’s like, the irony of the blue checkmark, and that it was a very notable thing in the past, and it’s still a notable thing now… I know when I’m scrolling through those replies which tweets I am not gonna read. And I feel like if it says AI in the first few words of a tweet, that’s a threat I’m not clicking on. So I think we’re getting these good signals. I would just rather it not be in my timeline at all.

Yeah. There’s very little AI content that is good to read, and actually gives you value, rather than give you this feeling of –

Yeah, anxiety.

“I’m missing out! So much!”

Panic. Anxiety.

I guess this is another unpopular opinion –

“Sign up to my newsletter.”

…but I feel like AI is exactly like cryptocurrency. I feel that the underlying technology –

That is an unpopular opinion you can also tweet.

That’s the one.

That’s the one.

But it doesn’t mean they will have to come from different shows. We can space this out; you can have two in one.

But it’s like, I was thinking about this the other day, where I’m like, blockchain as a technology is actually absolutely incredible. From a distributed systems perspective, to nerd out for a second, the thing about Byzantine fault-tolerant distributed system consensus algorithms, which is what blockchain is, is usually you have a lower threshold of the number of nodes that can fail to make it secure… And blockchain as technology has figured out how to effectively get you up to 50%, which is the same tolerance you have for every other type of consensus. You can’t have consensus with more than 50% of your nodes failing. And I’m like, it’s incredible. We actually made some major ground and have proven that this type of system can work and can function, even with adversaries. That is incredible. And it is tragic that it is attached to something that is so horrible. Even if you like cryptocurrency in general, the current state of it, with the scams and the Ponzi schemes and the people losing their life savings - it’s a disaster. And I feel like the same thing about AI. I feel like AI, the underlying technology is really interesting. Really cool. That thing it’s attached to, the name AI, the brand AI - no. I could do without it. Please, just…

That’s why Apple in their announcement only said ML.

Yeah, they did not say AI. They said they said, “We’re using these models. We’re using transformers.” Talking about the tools - tools are cool. I think the AI tools, the tooling, the thing that builds it - that stuff is cool. I don’t like the branding.

So that was three unpopular opinions in one episode. Thank you, Kris. Thanks also Johnny, and thanks also Kaylyn. It was a really interesting conversation. I hope everybody who listened to this learned, and thank you for also being open to talk about this. It’s obviously not very simple. So it’s great and it’s helpful for everybody. And thanks, everybody who joined.

Yeah, thank you.


Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚

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