Sasha Romijn

Announcing Happiness Packets

This week I spoke with my friend Mikey Ariel at DjangoCon Europe 2016 on Healthy Minds in a Healthy Community. One of the exciting projects we announced in this talk is Open-source Happiness Packets.

On stroopwafel rain

I’m one of the organisers on Django Under the Hood, an in-depth Django conference in Amsterdam with 300 attendees. My main task is everything which involves dealing with Dutch people.

Organising conferences, especially with a volunteer team, can be incredibly stressful. There’s venues, speakers, sponsors, tickets, budgets, foods, parties, hotels, flights, communication on websites and social media, artwork, posters, attendee support, code of conduct and much more. There are always things that almost go wrong during the conference, that are quickly fixed behind the scenes.

Conferences are fairly short, and I’m doing this with an amazing team. So as stressful as it is, I feel like I can deal with it. And when I can’t, I feel like it’s ok to ask for help, and it’s ok to step back.

But most of all, the stress organising conferences involves and effort it requires, and all the things that almost went horribly wrong, are all worth it for me and probably many other organisers, when I get an email from an attendee like this:

I feel totally overwhelmed, surprised and very, very grateful. Thank you for caring. You are unbelievable. You are a bunch of craziest, the most positive people I’ve met. You inspire me to give back to community even more. I wish I could express properly what I’m feeling right now…

May it always rain stroopwafels on you. But not all the time, that could be inconvenient. Only when you feel like having stroopwafels. Or someone that you like feels like having stroopwafels. Or you just want to make it rain stroopwafels.

Sending hugs, you crazy, amazing people!’

We got this mail from an attendee which we were able to help with a problem they ran into. And this wasn’t the only email or tweet like this. Being able to make people feel like this, is why I love organising Django Under the Hood.

If you’ve ever organised events, or worked in other fast high-stress situations, you might know that the team is everything. It is so important to feel like you can ask for help or step back. Even if you don’t have to. Because even when you need help, when you need to step back, even when you sometimes flake, even when you make mistakes, you are probably much more appreciated than you think. Especially the Django community is full of friends that are loving, caring and supportive. That’s why I am still there. And almost all of us sometimes flake and we all make mistakes. And our community is here to support us when that happens.

Yay, you made it!

In the Django community, we already do great work in that area, by creating a positive atmosphere in which everyone feels great. With posters that make people feel just a bit more welcome. With a slack channel so that attendees can talk even before the conference start and make plans to do things together, which especially makes a difference to people that are more shy and/or come alone. We try hard to make everyone feel like they’re a part of this community, and that we’re delighted to have them with us.

Why it matters

Unfortunately, the reality of contributing is too often still like this:

But the feeling that you made a difference, that your work matters and and has value, and that the people that you work with happy to work with you, is an awesome feeling. And not just an awesome feeling, but an important feeling as well. It helps us feel like we matter, that we’ve made a positive change, and that people care. It gives energy.

Whether it’s code, supporting the DSF, helping to build small or large events or anything else. These feelings can all have substantial effects on people struggling with self-esteem, burnout or anxiety, or anyone leaning towards those. Which applies to so many of us.

I can certainly say that for me, seeing emails and tweets like the one I read out makes a huge difference, and we feel our community would be an even better place if there would be more of that. Because even we don’t always let people know how much we care about them. Therefore, I’m proud to introduce:

Open-source Happiness Packets!

The thing is, openly expressing appreciation, gratitude, or happiness to other people can be difficult. This is especially true when you don’t know them very well. Many of us come from cultures in which people are not open by default about such feelings, and naturally feel uncomfortable or even creepy to share them.

Open-Source Happiness Packets is a very simple platform to anonymously reach out to the people that you appreciate or to whom you are thankful in your open-source community. Your message can be sent anonymously if you prefer, but of course, we encourage you to share your name, but it’s completely optional!

We’re tremendously excited to see where this will go and where we can take this together. We’re fairly sure you have people in your community that you are grateful too or admire, and we’d like to ask you to send a happiness packet to two or more of them right after reading this post. We know it can feel a little awkward at first, but we’re sure you’ll make a big difference to both yourself and who you’re sending it to.

Further reading

We also published all resources we used for this talk, that you might find helpful.