Helping communities & products thrive by fostering empathy
a talk by Erik Romijn

Empathy is a fundamental part of human interaction. When we communicate by email or at conferences, or indirectly, when we create products, events, or do a talk. However, our understanding of other people is full of error, and worse, bias. This can lead us to make communities and products that work poorly for people that are different from ourselves, introduce confusion and misunderstanding, exclude people unintentionally, and sometimes even cause harm.

However, our communities are an opportunity to learn as well. To embrace our diversity, and expand our understanding of other people’s worlds. To gain understanding of other people’s situations, experiences and emotions, which can be dramatically different to ours. And how we can use this to create both products and communities which work great not only for ourselves, but also those that we more easily forget about. As creators in tech we have such tremendous power to create change, but merely our best intentions will not be enough for that.

This talk will explore how and why we sometimes have such difficulty to understand others, and how others can have difficulty to understand us. We’ll talk about why other people’s experiences, emotion and perceptions can be so different. Both for the world as a whole, but also with the speaker’s personal experiences. Finally, we’ll cover specific ways for us to understand others better, and associated pitfalls, to make our communities and products happy, inviting and supportive places.

Erik Romijn


Erik is the co-founder and CTO of a small Django development company in Amsterdam. They are deeply involved in the community around Django, a popular Python web framework, being a Django core team member, chair of the Dutch Django Association and co-organiser of various conferences.

Erik cares about building communities and conferences in which everyone feels welcome, valued and at home, regardless of their background. They have a specific interest in well-being and ethical issues around communities and development. One of their side projects is the Less Obvious Conference Checklist, with many less obvious suggestions for event organisers.

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