Hyprland is a toxic community September 17, 2023 on Drew DeVault's blog

Hyprland is an open source Wayland compositor based on wlroots, a project I started back in 2017 to make it easier to build good Wayland compositors. It’s a project which is loved by its users for its emphasis on customization and “eye candy” – beautiful graphics and animations, each configuration tailored to the unique look and feel imagined by the user who creates it. It’s a very exciting project!

Unfortunately, the effect is spoilt by an incredibly toxic and hateful community. I cannot recommend Hyprland to anyone who is not prepared to steer well clear of its community spaces. Imagine a high school boys’ locker room come to life on Discord and GitHub and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like.

I became aware of the issues with Hyprland’s community after details of numerous hateful incidents on their Discord came to my attention by way of the grapevine. Most of them stem from the community’s tolerance of hate: community members are allowed to express hateful views with impunity, up to and including astonishing views such as endorsements of eugenics and calls for hate-motivated violence. Such comments are treated as another act in the one big inside joke that is the Hyprland community – the community prefers not to take itself “too seriously”. Hate is moderated only if it is “disruptive” (e.g. presents as spam), but hate presented with a veneer of decorum (or sarcasm) is tolerated, and when challenged, it’s laughed off as a joke.

In one particular incident, the moderators of the Discord server engaged in a harassment campaign against a transgender user, including using their moderator privileges to edit the pronouns in their username from “they/she” to “who/cares”. These roles should be held by trusted community leaders, and it’s from their behavior that the community’s culture and norms stem – they set an example for the community and define what behaviors are acceptable or expected. The problem comes from the top down.

Someone recently pitched a code of conduct – something that this project sorely needs – in a GitHub issue. This thread does not have much overt hate, but it does clearly show how callous and just plain mean the community is, including its leadership (Vaxerski is the original author of Hyprland). Everything is a joke and anyone who wants to be “serious” about anything is mercilessly bullied and made fun of. Quoting this discussion:

I think [a Code of Conduct] is pretty discriminatory towards people that prefer a close, hostile, homogeneous, exclusive, and unhealthy community.

First of all, why would I pledge to uphold any values? Seems like just inconveniencing myself. […] If I’d want to moderate, I’d spend 90% of the time reading kids arguing about bullshit instead of coding.

If you don’t know how to behave without a wall of text explaining how to behave online then you shouldn’t be online.

I am not someone who believes all projects need a code of conduct, if there exists a reasonable standard of conduct in its absence – and that means having a community that does not bully and harass others for expressing differing points of view, let alone for simply having a marginalized identity.

I would have preferred to address these matters in private, so I reached out to Vaxry in February. He responded with a lack of critical awareness over how toxicity presents in his community. However, following my email, he put out a poll for the Discord community to see if the community members experienced harassment in the community – apparently 40% of respondents reported such experiences. Vaxry et al implemented new moderation policies as a result. But these changes did not seem to work: the problems are still present, and the community is still a toxic place that facilitates bullying and hate, including from the community leaders.

Following my email conversation with Vaxry, he appeared on a podcast to discuss toxicity in the Hyprland community. This quote from the interview clearly illustrates the attitude of the leadership:

[A trans person] joined the Discord server and made a big deal out of their pronouns [..] because they put their pronouns in their nickname and made a big deal out of them because people were referring to them as “he” [misgendering them], which, on the Internet, let’s be real, is the default. And so, one of the moderators changed the pronouns in their nickname to “who/cares”. […] Let’s be real, this isn’t like, calling someone the N-word or something.

Later he describes a more moderated community (the /r/unixporn discord server) as having an environment in which everyone is going to “lick your butthole just to be nice”. He compared himself to Terry Davis, the late operating system developer whose struggles with mental illness were broadcast for the world to see, citing a video in which he answers a phone call and refers to the person on the phone by the N-word “ten times” – Vaxry compares this to his approach to answering “stupid questions”.

It really disappoints me to see such an exciting project brought low by a horribly mismanaged community of hate and bullying. Part of what makes open source software great is that it’s great for everyone. It’s unfortunate that someone can discover this cool project, install it and play with it and get excited about it, then join the community to find themselves at the wrong end of this behavior. No one deserves that.

I empathise with Vaxry. I remember being young, smart, productive… and mean. I did some cool stuff, but I deeply regret the way I treated people. It wasn’t really my fault – I was a product of my environment – but it was my responsibility. Today, I’m proud to have built many welcoming communities, where people are rewarded for their involvement, rather than coming away from their experience hurt. What motivates us to build and give away free software if not bringing joy to ourselves and others? Can we be proud of a community which brings more suffering into the world?

My advice to the leadership begins with taking a serious look in the mirror. This project needs a “come to Jesus” moment. Ask yourself what kind of community you can be proud of – can you be proud of a community that people walk away from feeling dejected and hurt? Yours is not a community that brings people joy. What are you going to do about it?

A good start will be to consider the code of conduct proposal seriously, but a change of attitude is also required. My inbox is open to any of the leaders in this project (or any other project facing similar problems) if you want to talk. I’m happy to chat with you in good faith and help you understand what’s needed and why it’s important.

To members of the Hyprland community, I want each of you to personally step up to make the community better. If you see hate and bullying, don’t stay silent. This is a community which proclaims to value radical free speech: test it by using your speech to argue against hate. Participate in the community as you think it should be, not as it necessarily is, and change will follow. If you are sensitive to hate, or a member of a marginalized group, however, I would just advise steering clear of Hyprland until the community improves.

If the leadership fails to account for these problems, it will be up to the community to take their activity elsewhere. You could set up adjacent communities which are less toxic, or fork the software, or simply choose to use something else.

To the victims of harassment, I offer my sincere condolences. I know how hard it is to be the subject of this kind of bullying. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. There are many places in the free software community where you are welcome and celebrated – Hyprland is not the norm. If you need support, I’m always available to listen to your struggles.

To everyone else: please share this post throughout the Hyprland community and adjacent communities. This is a serious problem and it’s not going to change unless its clearly brought to light. The Hyprland maintainers need to be made aware that the broader open source community does not appreciate this kind of behavior.

I sincerely hope that this project improves its community. A serious attitude shift is needed from the top-down, and I hope for the sake of Vaxry, the other leaders, and the community as a whole, that such change comes sooner rather than later. When Vaxry is older and wiser, I want him to look back on the project and community that he’s built with pride and joy, not with regret and shame.


Vaxry has published a response to this post.

I was also privately provided some of the enusing discussion from the Hyprland Discord. Consider that this lacks context and apply your grain of salt accordingly.

Screenshot of a Discord channel with the initial reaction to this post. A user
called “slave labor” responds with “no way”, “the computer reddit woke up”

Screenshot of a Discord channel with Vaxry’s initial reaction to this post.
“Really, right as I wanted to take a day off because of health reasons I have to
reply to this?”. Another user responds “wow this is quite… shallow”, “almost
as if it recycles very limited context to get more clicks”

I apologise to Vaxry for interrupting their rest, and wish them a speedy recovery.

Screenshot of a Discord channel. Some notable quotes include “LGBTQ is fucking
trash anyways” (someone else responds “fuck off” to this) and “for reclaiming
polymc from the leftoids”. The discussion as a whole lacks any sembelance of
professionalism.

Here is a plain text log which includes some additional discussion.

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