If you seek the world’s most dangerous tech project, look around you.
The world’s most dangerous tech project is the one which believes that it is ready to enter a new era because it has successfully eliminated all of its difficult people.
The troublemakers, the objecters, and the naysayers have all left. Blockers have been removed. The best of the best are now free to rise to the top and show off what they can do.
There might even be a change of tone from the top, the sound of a fresh new breeze blowing through; or there might be a clever new initiative announced to mark the change. And who could question that?
It should be you. Thing is:
The people you called “difficult” were your whistleblowers. They were your critical friends. They were your alarm-ringers. They were your harbingers. Their troublemaking was for the good of the project, and the people who use what you make.
The actual difficult people whose troublemaking was for their own amusement? The toxic people, the shit-stirrers, the abusers? They remain exactly where they are. And they have more freedom to do as they please now that no one is spoiling their fun.
They are supported by a docile assembly of average and unremarkable workers who keep their heads down and write their code.
And that’s who you’ve got. That’s your meritocratic best of the best. Dysfunctional people, yes-men and women, fanboys and fangirls, and abusers and their enablers, all labouring together under the community tone policing of smiley faces and motivational quote gifs.
Is it any wonder your actual best of the best gave up and took their talents elsewhere? Who’d want to work with a team like that?
When you get rid of your “difficult” people – the ones who were raising awkward questions about the gaps in your work and the gaps in your vision and the gaps in your leadership and that issue they spotted which is keeping them up at night – you get rid of the guardrails that protected your project from the worst of itself. They were protecting you from the worst of yourself.
Without them, your worst is all you have left. Your project is made out of the worst of you.
And why would you celebrate that?
We are people of enormous power and influence over the open web. I empower digital professionals to use that power wisely. I advocate for an open web built around international standards of human rights, privacy, accessibility, and freedom of expression. This is my personal site, and does not reflect the work or opinions of my employer.