Tech culture, unions and the blind spot of meritocracy

Some context for this one:

I went to McGill university with Xavier Denis, where we both studied computer science and helped organise McGill’s first major hackathon in 2014. Soon after graduating, Xavier started working for Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify on the Production Engineering team. What follows is an edited transcript of a conversation we had on March 1, 2018, soon before he had quit his job.

in tech in that you don’t actually need that many people to even stop working to grind a whole company to a halt. In a lot of cases you just need like one release engineer to just decide like, I’m not going to do deploys today. And then it’s like, oh we just lost a whole day of productivity, 

Regarding the power of technologists in strikes

The biggest problem, in my view, with open source is that it was really never connected to a larger political movement . It was always like, you know, let’s reimagine property rights when it comes to software, not really realising that property rights aren’t just specific to software, and that we have to reimagine them for everything if we’re going to reimagine them for software, and you have to also understand the entire like social foundation on which property rights rest. 

You can imagine an alternative world where people do startups because the end goal is the opposite—the end goal is to make it into a public service. The end goal is that it becomes nationalised, where the highest form of success is the government saying, well you’ve created a really good tech startup, we will now incorporate this into our public services 

I feel that there’s this broader movement that’s developing within tech, like Tech Solidarity led by Pinboard, and there’s people like Steve Klabnik who also build fairly radical tech communities, which is heartening to see. 

I don’t know! And I think that’s the big problem, there isn’t a very clear path for people who are in tech who are disillusioned by it, to know what should they do. What can they actually do to make things better? 

Join up with my co-op? I dunno.

I did consider a manager-less company, but a little research provided only examples of disaster, because the only available options just replace an explicit power structure with an implicit one. In other words, it’s still hierarchical with the founder on top, but now decision making is opaque and the system is easy to exploit because of the lack of controls 

This is clearly outlined by Jo Freeman in her essay The Tyranny of Structurelessness





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *