Entering a new community

Tues 5th Aug 19

Based on when I first started using the Digininja brand, I've been in security for over 15 years and so my memory of getting started is quite hazy. I do remember I was very lucky with it and made some very good friends very quickly which really helped. Over the last few years there has been talk of people trying to get started in the community getting put off by cliques, elitism, and an attitude of "how can you not know that?" when they try to join groups or show interest in topics. I've seen bits of it but obviously not had to go through any of it myself.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm into endurance sports, I've done a handful of marathons and ultra marathons and various other long distance events but the one thing I'd never done, up to last weekend, was a triathlon. I entered one that I'd heard was friendly and a good, flat course, which I assumed would make it easier as there would be no big hills to slog up. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and everyone I spoke to on the day was really friendly but one thing I did find was that on the bike (26 miles) I got bored. That maybe isn't the right word, but 1:20 on a bike, cycling along some very long flat roads with no one to talk (you have to stay at least 10m from other riders to prevent drafting) messed with my head a bit.

My long term plan was to do this shorter event and then step up, through a half iron distance (70.3 miles with 56 miles on the bike) to a full iron distance (140.6 miles with 112 on the bike) event next year. I know I can do the swim and run legs as I've done further than both on many occasions, but after the biking at the weekend I thought I'd ask some peers on a forum that, by reputation, I'd heard was generally quite friendly, for some tips on mentally getting through the 7+ hours I'd likely be spending on my own, on the bike.

To my real shock, the first half dozen or so responses were all along the lines of "man up", "pedal harder and you won't be able to think" and "its not for you, find a different sport". I tried to explain that physically I know I can do the distance, I want to do distance, and I was just looking for tips and coping strategies from people who had been there and done it but more people piled on the negativity. After a while though, positive feedback started coming in and I have had some good replies, some of which I will probably be using. By the end of the day, the positive replies had massively outnumbered the initial negatives.

How does all this relate back to security? This is my first time trying to get into a new online community and the negativity of the first comments nearly made me walk away and not want to go back. The difference between the smiling, friendly people I'd met in person and the initial online macho, elitism of the forum were in stark contrast. If the nicer, helpful, comments hadn't started coming in, I probably would have walked away from at least the forum and I'd still be questioning whether the longer event really is for me (deep down I know it is but little niggles never help).

If you are wanting to get into the security, or the more general hacker community, please persevere. We do have our share of elitists, jerks and people who simply enjoy putting others down so they can feel more superior with their achievements but they are massively outweighed by the nice, friendly people who are more than willing to help, share, listen and welcome newcomers of all abilities. I was thinking of adding a list of some of the people I know regularly help people and give support, but realised that the list would be enormous and I'd probably still end up missing people. So instead I'll just say, if some jerk tries to knock you down, it might be really hard at the time, but please, push through it, this is a great community that is worth the effort of getting into.