Vesna Manojlovic

RIPE Community Resilience: Network and Belonging

Vesna Manojlovic
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The lower the layer on the pyramid of needs is, the more important it is for person’s physical and mental health; however, all layers of the networking stack are equally important for the resilient Internet. In this instalment of the series, Vesna Manojlovic goes to the third layer - network connections and the need for belonging.


In the “hourglass” illustration of the Internet Protocol (IP) Suite, the IP layer is placed at the “waist”, making it central to all the other layers. In the analogy I've drawn between the OSI Stack to the Maslow motivational system, the third networking layer of the former falls into line with the need for love and belonging of the latter, which also mark the mid-point between the basic needs and higher motivations. 

Since the IP networking is the core of the RIPE community and the RIPE NCC’s mission, enough has already been said about the importance of network “health” by my colleagues. I now want to talk about the role that the feelings have in maintaining the resilience of the RIPE Community. 

I will first focus on the aspects of “belonging” that are important for the thriving of the technical communities in general - since we are humans, too - and then on the emotional impact of global COVID-19 epidemic.

Love Connections >>> Network Connections

The smallest computer network is a connection between two nodes; in a larger system, all the connected nodes belong to a network: Local, Wide, Metro….

The smallest “human network” is a connection between two people — and that is also the smallest unit of love and belonging; by creating and maintaining additional connections, people belong to groups of people — Local, Wide and Metro :) 

Humans form social networks: couples, families, groups of friends, music bands, sport teams, hackerspace membership, community of peers, affiliation group (workers, professionals, expats, refugees, fans of a celebrity, migrants, believers, citizens…)…  

However, the “networking” terms have been used and mis-used a lot, creating paradoxes such as “If everything is a network, nothing is a network”, as Mushon Zer-Aviv presented at re:publica in 2016 (and here’s his essay, too)

To paraphrase social scientist Brené Brown, who could have been talking about peering: 

Network connectivity is not something that we give or get;
it is a connection between two
nodes

The original quote is about belonging: 

“love is not something that we give or get; 
it is a connection between two people when it exists within each one of them”
,

These concepts are so fundamental and self-explanatory, yet so complex that they are really hard to define properly. Thats’s why both social scientists and computer scientists (and philosophers, and poets…) have been researching these topics for a long time.

Empathy as a Superpower 

If you've been working in the “technical field” for a while, you might have noticed that there is a tendency to refer to the “soft skills” when it comes to competency in communication, interacting with other humans, team-playing… as if these are somehow inferior to the “hard” skills! I would argue that the former should be called “robust” or “fundamental”, since they are what “makes or breaks” efficient teams and organisations. 

Sometimes technical communities are even struggling with the lack of “social skills”, which tend to make working on “belonging” when it comes to diversity and inclusion an extra hard task. (I will get back to the topic of “cognitive” skills / needs in the article about Layer 5.) 

In order to meet our needs for belonging, we should be able to *feel* the feelings, to value the emotions as part of overall communication, to be able to recognise feelings in ourselves and others, and to express them in constructive, or at least not harmful ways. That super-power is called empathy (or compassion). 

Several technical conferences have included “soft” topics over the years; here are the pointers to the videos from the speakers that also took part in the RIPE Community: 

Here are warmest recommendations for books, articles and courses: 

And there has been whole events dedicated to Open Source and Feelingshttps://www.osfeels.com/   

Here are the YouTube playlists with all the talks from Open Source and Feels 2015 & 2016! With some amazing hits such as:

  • Non-Violent Communication for Fun, Profit, and Self Defense by  Isaac Schlueter
  • Learning to Empathy by Alex Harms
  • Enforcing Your Code of Conduct: Effective Incident Response by  Audrey Eschright
  • Listen to Your (and All) Mothers: How to Create Family-Inclusive Tech Communities by Jen Myers
  • The Ethics and Responsibilities of Open Source in the IoT by Emily Gorcenski
  • When the Worst Happens: Moving Forward After the Unexpected Death of a Core Organizer by Christie Koehler

Love in the Time of Corona

During the Covid-19 pandemic, maintaining connections was difficult. Our needs for belonging were not being met. We couldn't join our usual groups, small or large. We couldn't express our love nor receive the expressions of love from our fellow “nodes”. 

Emotional impact has been noticeable, and most of it negative: sadness, loneliness, grief. 

Here are some studies that try to quantify, measure, and visualise these intangible findings: 

Now, in April 2021, a year into the pandemic, there have been so many lessons learned, and therefore quite some advice is available on the practicalities of working in these distressing times:

Grief: The Silent Emotion

There were many losses during the pandemic - but there is one complex emotion that almost no-one is ready to talk about: grief. Science shows that processing painful emotions helps to heal from them sooner. Here are some helpful recent articles and scientific papers to show you that you are not alone in your grief: 

Technical Communities: Work and Social Belonging  

In the early 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, technical communities came together in their actions against corona:

Calls for Action

If you are looking for more ways to meet your need for love and belonging, here are some possibilities: 

  1. Join an online event: at the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) calendar you can see global events of technical communities:
  2. Even if you are not "a techie", you can join the next "Write The Docs" event: 25-26-27 April 2021 (Virtual) 
  3. Check the COVID risk before you engage in social activities!

MicroCOVID project is "...trying to quantitatively estimate the COVID risk to you from your ordinary daily activities.

We trawled the scientific literature for data about the likelihood of getting COVID from different situations, and combined the data into a model that people can use. We estimate COVID risk in units of microCOVIDs, where 1 microCOVID = a one-in-a-million chance of getting COVID.

We want to help as many people as possible feel more empowered to make decisions around COVID risk by helping them understand how COVID is transmitted. We hope this tool will help hone your intuition, lower your stress levels, and figure out good harm-reduction strategies."

Conclusions

Keep your social connections, feel your feelings, share your emotions. All this will help you to build resilience, both individually and as a part of community. And resilient networkers make a resilient Internet!

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About the author

Vesna Manojlovic is Community Builder at RIPE NCC. Vesna joined the RIPE NCC as a Trainer in 1999. In 2003, she took responsibility for developing and delivering advanced courses, such as RPSL, Routing Registry, DNSSEC and IPv6. In 2008, she lead efforts to establish IPv6 RIPEness as a measure of IPv6 deployment among LIRs. In 2011, she joined the Science Division as Manager of the Measurements Community Building team; in 2015 she moved to Communications Department as Senior Community Builder, with a focus on organising hackathons. Vesna gives presentations at many technical conferences and workshops, and enjoys visiting hackerspaces. Vesna received a Batchelor of Sciences Degree in Computer Science and Informatics from the School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade. She has three children.

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