Diversity in Tech

It’s Wednesday morning, the day after the 2020 US primary election. We wait upon the counting of the votes, the process by which the United States chooses who singularly should represent the people as president and those that represent each state through the house of representatives.

Regardless of what outcome you may desire, there’s one thing abundantly clear. We are a diverse nation. There is no one side. There are differing views on the same issues.

As flawed humans, we may get so impassioned about our views, we are willing to either believe facts, not in evidence, dismiss claims for whatever reason, and buy into a narrative that aligns with our desires. The state of the election is a reminder that we’re passionate and diverse group of humans that make mistakes (bugs) and are known to evolve through learnings and experiences.

I work in the software industry, engaging customers and the OSS community as individuals from around the country and the world. I trust our democratic process to do the right thing for the US election, and I believe we deserve the outcome of our democratic process. But, what should we take away from the election in our day to day lives?

In my first startup in the 90s, we learned a hard lesson about being overly opinionated about which browser our customers choose. We saw an inordinately high rate of technical issues where the users email originated from aol.com. We had some complaints from Netscape and Mozilla customers, but they were different types of issues and we treated them differently. It was only after we learned we lost a huge investor that was using an AOL browser that we even looked into AOL issues. The customers view; the site was unstable. They were right. Only after investigating did we learn the AOL browser had an 83 character url limit that tossed name/value pairs, losing their navigation path through the site.

We didn’t know of the limitation as we dismissed aol users as not knowing enough about the internet in the mid 90s to be worthy of our business. They generally didn’t, but they were paying customers and apparently large investors. Who was the fool?

In tech, we work with a wide diversity of people from varying cultures, backgrounds and those that choose to live in varying parts of the country and the world. These wide diversities bring different perspectives that can shed light on the things we, as individuals don’t see.

Team Rooms & Caves

In a time with so many divergent views to the same issue, we can easily find echo chambers to suit our viewpoints. We can choose to remain divided, and continue to find our circle of friends, colleagues and customers and reduce our circles to those that align with our views. In a time where we’re already socially distanced, is it healthy to ourselves to reduce our circles? Are we crawling back from integrated team rooms of vibrant life and conversation to interconnected caves with filters on what we’ll let in?

Facts & APIs

Facts are facts, and there are many things that are simply right and wrong. Someone’s words may be your first interaction, but we should judge those by their actions and follow-through. There will be people that are mimicking what they see and blindly driving an agenda. We have a choice to equally battle a countering agenda or seek to understand. I’m not talking politics. I’m talking any viewpoint. What is the right way to cook a turkey, or store a certificate for signing? What is the correct way to delete digests and tags from a registry? What makes a registry conformant? What is the right name for that api?

We are a divided nation and world. We choose to live and befriend those that share our beliefs. In an interconnected world of Open Source development and business, it’s an opportunity to practice understanding and listening. Seek to see the other viewpoints. Ask clarifying questions. Not with the intent to scheme the other into seeing your views, but to understand what is influencing their views. Don’t give up, and keep asking questions. If they’re in your OSS circle, your team, your customers; there’s something about them that is valued. Be selfish and seek to understand as we can all learn from each other. We don’t have to agree, but we can seek to understand and that diversity will make for better products, services, communities and perhaps even better humans.

And with that, we have yet another view that must be correct as it’s published on the internet.

In the spirit of diversity, I will now return to cute puppy videos as dogs rule, but I respect your view to believe kittens are equally as cute.