13 September 2023
I attempted to start a space for remote, flexible, part-time, transparent jobs a few years ago, pre-pandemic. There was overwhelming interest in this from a job-seeker aspect. However, employers proved less than enthusiastic–taking issue with the flexible, part-time, and transparent (pay-wise) aspects of what Wiggle Work was supposed to be all about. After a few months of effort, I gave up on the idea, always clinging to the general concept of their being a safe space for people desiring and needing this type of lifestyle.
More recently, I was inspired to bring this project back through a different approach–as an online community for remote tech (and tech-adjacent) workers. I work from home out of necessity, and the positives far outweigh the BIG negative for me, which is loneliness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. So many of us feel the same way, feeling the loss of those “water cooler” moments when you don’t need a reason to talk to someone about something or nothing of work-related importance. The relationships built from these casual interactions are crucial from a professional and personal growth perspective.
Wiggle Work is an online Discord community for remote tech (and adjacent) workers to feel less isolated by connecting in a genuine, less business-bear space. Be a part of a community where you can chat about hobbies, join a book club, and share your weekend plans without the pressure to be “on” all the time.
Wiggle Work is set for a soft launch on September 13th, followed by the official launch a couple of weeks later on Wednesday the 27th. I wanted to put this post together as a general announcement and express my thoughts on the overall process.
The code of conduct is where I’ve spent the most time–it’s truly the heart of any community. At this point, I suspect we’ve all learned that it’s not enough to assume that we are all adults and things won’t get out of hand and any space will overall be “safe” enough. The problem is that conflict is inevitable, and what’s “safe” for one could be highly hostile for another.
Having been a part of the writing process for a code of conduct before (for Ela Conf), I knew what I wanted to carry over, what needed additional clarity, and what new things needed to be added. First, “harassment” must be defined clearly and not overly specific to exclude many situations–no easy task. Intentional and nonintentional exclusion is harassment: racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, nationalism, homophobia.
“An inclusive design community is one where folks can reckon with a problematic past and take honest actions to amplify marginalized voices. But we must do the work, which entails: seeking out what we don’t know and reflecting on it, questioning–and disrupting–the status quo, actively and continuously fighting against exclusionary practice, and advocating for others.”
–Sameera Kapila in Inclusive Design Communities
The quickest way to kill a community before it starts is to show up to a bunch of people link-bombing their own work relentlessly and without context; this is not genuine and does not foster a deep connection. Adding posting guidelines has been one of the more significant additions as a result.
Additionally, communities are for humans to interact with one another, and companies are not individual humans. Wiggle Work community members are prohibited from having a company logo avatar and name, as there is no quicker way to make a space feel fake and marketing-focused.
I’ve put together what I hope others will find a solid base of channels to choose from. In addition to posting guides within the code of conduct to ease uncertainty, individual channel descriptions and several regularly scheduled events in the works correspond with some of these channels. I miss coffee with coworkers, and this will be a way for more remote workers to get that experience back.
New members are encouraged to introduce themselves as soon as they can, and I’ll reach out to everyone individually. We’ve all joined online spaces just to show up to see nothing at all going on–this will not be Wiggle Work.
Community numbers don’t mean much. I’ve been a part of communities under 500 that were vibrant, warm, engaged, and welcoming and part of 15,000+ that were quiet, lonely, and cold. It’s also easy to get lost in communities of this massive size without a gigantic, thoughtful organizing team. While communities quickly share their numbers, I’m more interested in channel topics, posting guidelines, the onboarding process, and regular events.
Additionally, I’ve mistakenly thought that paid communities would better provide the type of space I was looking for, which is also far from the truth. The kindness and openness of the individual members best measure communities. To truly get a feel for this, I believe it’s best to keep member numbers at or below what organizers can handle to ensure everyone feels truly welcomed and enthusiastic about being there.
Wiggle Work is kicking off with a soft launch and a 300 members cap. As the community grows, I’ll constantly reassess needs and gaps, only expanding when and if ready.
One of the primary takeaways from running a community years ago is understanding the difference between intent and impact. While intent is the idea that what we are doing will help others, impact is the actual effect and how it actually makes people feel. While it’s nice to assume these are the same, that’s not always the case. As a result, it can be a way for certain non-intended consequences to live on since we may be hanging on too tightly to our initial good-willed intent. It’s best to learn from these moments and make the necessary changes, moving forward with a matching intent and impact.
Being on high alert for microaggressions is also incredibly important and tricky. By nature, they are less obvious but not less harmful than more overt aggression. For marginalized individuals, these types of interactions are countless and force them to change who they are in an attempt to be as safe as possible. They present as back-handed compliments, charged stereotypes, denial of someone’s identity, and bias framed as curiosity–microaggressions are harassment and require immediate aciton.
Another issue I’ve experienced as both an organizer and community member: low quality job postings. A job posting within a community is, in a way, vouched for by this community–a reflection of its values. I value transparency in job listings. There needs to be a real contact person, a salary or pay range, and the complete absence of unpaid internships. Anything less than this is disrespectful and wastes people’s time and trust. All jobs posted within Wiggle Work’s job-jabber channel must go through a form first to ensure transparency and cut back on spammy, low-quality postings.
Finally, every community and event is different and worthy of unique codes of conduct tailored to them. Many events borrow from the same open source code of conduct template, and many fail to make the appropriate changes and additions that best reflect their uniqueness. The guidelines must outline specific consequences and include who’s bound to the set rules.
I’m not saying I know everything about this stuff, but I’m open to learning and making changes as needed. Additionally, I’m aware a code of conduct doesn’t guarantee safety. Still, it’s essential to ensure a plan when things go wrong and, when done thoughtfully, reassure members and potential members.
Preparing Wiggle Work for launch has been especially personally significant for me, getting me through one of the darkest times I’ve ever gone through (and am hopefully on the other side of). Years ago, I sustained a spine injury that decided to present itself as an emergency TWICE this summer–as if once wasn’t enough. Working on this so far has kept my mind busy and my spirits high in anticipation of hanging out with so many cool individuals.
Since simply preparing for Wiggle Work has been so rejuvenating, I can’t wait to be fully part of this community with many shared interests and priorities.
I’m so anxious to get to know everyone better, figure out the best days and times for certain gatherings, have people to share weird Reddit links with, and just have a bit more interactions throughout the day–making sure working from home isn’t lonely ever again going forward.