Nat Alison's twitter thread, a previous contractor to Gatsby
Nat Alison, a previous internationalisation contractor to Gatsby, has come out to narrate how shitty the company is just moments after Gatsby launched its new unified website.
The new unified website is a project that joins up Gatsby's open-source website [gatsbyjs.com] and its commercial cloud-based offering [gastbyjs.org]. The company believes this to be best for gatsby users, citing how important it is to have one source of truth for everything Gatsby.
Nat Alison worked at Gatsby starting around August 2019 as an internationalisation contractor, working on setting up translations of Gatsbyjs.com YAML docs before leaving in June 2020 after her contract got cancelled by her employers.
Nat Alison also worked on Reactjs.org website doc translation a few months before taking up the project at Gatsby. For her, it was an amazing experience from the beginning, but she did not realise how quickly this amazing experience could turn to one of her most dreadful jobs ever.
What is Gatsby?
Gatsby is a static site generator for React-based projects. It has grown over the years as one of the leading static site generators around the web, especially among React developers and contributing to such a project would be something amazing for most people, including Nat Alison.
Gatsby has a wide open-source community and is largely favoured for its performance, scalability, and SEO enhancements. It has tons of plugins for almost anything you could encounter, including content sourcing plugins.
It can easily integrate with content management systems such as WordPress, Prismic, Contentful, amongst others.
Gatsby announced its new unified website. This new website is a conglomerate of gatsbyjs.com and gatsbyjs.org (its commercial platform)
The beginning of a sad Story
Moments after Gatsby announced the release of its new unified website project on its official twitter handle on the 12th of August 2020, Alison followed up with a thread, narrating her experience working as a contractor at Gatsby for the past one year.
According to her, the thread will serve as a post-mortem on that project, what went wrong, as well as a catalogue of her issues with Gatsby as a company. This would include employee mistreatment, incompetent leadership, hypocrisy regarding diversity and inclusion, in order words racism.
According to Alison, the first thing she discovered about gatsby as a project while working on the internationalisation functionality is that gatsby is not fast enough contrary to what it's marketing implies it can do.
It took her about 30 minutes to compile GitHub docs, blog, plugin list etc., such that even after lodging complaints and suggestions to the upstream team, she got no proper feedback except something in the line:
"This will get better when Gatsby Cloud (the commercial platform) becomes ready."
Nat Alison is a web translation expert who worked on reactjs.org and gatsbyjs.com web documentation and translation projects
The Initial 'Bromance'
She went to narrate how the company treated her very nicely from the beginning, which made her feel like she is part and parcel of the company despite coming in as a contractor, but she did not know that it was all a game from those at the helm.
According to Alison, she was given full access to the company's Slack account and could communicate freely with the company. This she said, was different from her past jobs, including her previous job at reactjs.org.
Gatsby also flew her to London that year for their semi-annual conference where she got to talk to everyone at the company at that time. This made her feel much like a full-time employee and was starting to take the project like her very own.
The optimum decision but for the wrong guys
She could deploy the translations in a different domain, just like what they have at Reactjs.org, which would be the easiest choice for her, but not the best choice because of the overhead cost involved in creating and managing multiple Github repositories.
She opted for a better choice, of setting up a proper React i18n internationalisation solution, that would not only be great in terms of maintenance time but also stress-test gatsby's performance capabilities.
This RFC was signed off by multiple people in the company including the CEO and she began working on it.
Nat Alison, was removed from gatsby slack channel without any proper feedback from the leaders
Unfortunately for Alison, she took ill in November. She had to take a three-month break for surgery and the follow-up recovery period, and as expected, being an hourly contractor, she was not paid for those periods.
Vague Responses and doggy games
In January 2020, she resumed work, the same month that Gatsby released its Cloud service, the commercial platform, and Gatsby's builds moved to it. This is where things started getting complicated for Alison.
Alison requested a raise of salary because the project had taken on more scope than was originally thought. According to her, her point-of-contact signed off the request, but the head of operations, who is the same that created her initial contract denied it.
According to the head of operations, "Alison has to finish her initial contract first before she can renegotiate another". Alison took the whole situation as a challenge and had already planned to join Gatsby on a full-time basis; hence, she started to overwork herself to prove a point.
Suddenly, she was severely hit from the above. One night, According to her, after clocking more than 10 good hours of work, she logged in to Slack only to find out she had been taken off all the channels except a few quest channels.
When she lodged complain to the admin, she was told that it was a security step that had to be taken and nothing more to that.
Gatsby's response to Nat Alison's removal from its slack channels, the response claimed it to be a security step and nothing more.
Indecision, Poor Leadership and Communication
Alison continued despite that the odds are already against her. She thought of quitting, but having seen how her colleagues praised her work and considering how much she has given in for the project, she kept her head straight and continued.
Moreover, it was not the best time to quit a job as most companies were severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic, of which many companies are even retrenching workers.
When Alison had completed the i18n internationalisation feature and was ready to test it out, before acceptance, she talked to the cloud team on how it can be made to run faster, only to get this response "oh, just build it as separate sites.".
Nat Alison is now back to square one, the decision and proposal she made to the gatsby team at the beginning which was signed off by many in the company including the CEO came back to hunt her.
Alison's Determination and Courage
Despite her work getting all but rejected, Alison did not waiver, she ditched out the whole work and started a new project. She said:
"I had to scrap all the integration work I had done so far and start over. The new plan would be to build the website as a Gatsby theme and run separate instances of it for each individual language."
Such a poor lad, trying to be useful even when the odds are clearly against you.
She went on: "This too was an arduous process. It turns out that there were a lot of undocumented differences between gatsby websites and gatsby plugins, and it took me months to figure out all the kinks in order to just get this thing to publish"
Gatsby's official uninspiring response to black lives matter protest. It merely shrugged it off and never took it as important.
Diversity and Inclusion, Gatsby does not care
Gatsby's official community motto is "You Belong Here." It claims to create a supportive open-source environment and welcomes contributors. But those are just mere words according to Alison.
In May, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. The US, and the world, erupted in protest and revolt protesting in support of Black lives against police brutality and anti-Blackness. Many companies came out in superficial support.
Throughout the period, gatsby never for once raised a banner on their website in support of black lives matter, something major companies such as Google, Reactjs.org, Facebook, and others did.
At Gatsby, there is little or no diversity, this also shows up in the newly unified website, where all the people featured in their testimonial section are whites.
According to Alison, gatsby had a creator showcase on their old site where it listed contributors but never tried to acknowledge any black contributors, listing mostly white guys. She even proposed that this section gets removed from the website.
Marketing Strategy and Leadership at Gatsby
According to Alison, the founders of Gatsby are incompetent man-children who don't know how to run a company.
The CEO is a "move-fast break things" cowboy coder who says technical things are "sexy" and spends his time proclaiming new features, creating shoddy implementations that he leaves his lowly engineers to fill in the gaps.
The CEO never cares if things are done properly so far new implementations are getting shipped out.
Gatsby Reputation in Shambles, What is Next?
All eyes are now on Gatsby, to come up with an official statement on this matter, and to make things right. The community are there watching, and this has not gone down well in regards to Gatsby's reputation.
The community is furious, and many are already considering ditching Gatsby in their projects and looking out for alternatives. Also as an open-source project, this project can be forked and maintained separately from the company if care is not taken.
Employees at Gatsby are also not happy after this revelation from Nat Alison, and there are rumours that many will leave the company if reputation is not restored as quickly as possible.
Support Nat Alison today
Alison is now out of job. She is up for anything from you. Follow this link to support Nat Alison as she tries to find a new job and let her voice be heard.
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