People Problems

I wrote about how to not be a jerk the other day and some of my experiences when it comes to making websites faster:

This was definitely shocking to learn when I joined a company a few years ago and found that there was a mountain of performance work that I couldn’t do alone. I started trying to teach folks about performance, as well as holding office hours and hopping onto projects and teams that needed help. But I realized that all this work didn’t help. The website I was working on in my spare time was getting slower, despite my best efforts.

Frustrated and exhausted, one day I sat back in my chair and realized that I couldn’t do all this work alone. The real problem was this: there’s no incentive for folks to care. If performance magically improved by ten thousand percent, no one in the company would have noticed. Customers would have noticed, but we all probably wouldn’t have. Except me, because I’m a nerd.

Every big problem from politics to the climate crisis, to making code better in an organization is not really a technical problem. Instead it’s always a lack of the right incentives. If people don’t care then they won’t do things, regardless of whether it’s just or right or kind. Whatever that thing might be.

And so to make big changes you need to focus on the incentives. I think. But also not be a jerk about it. Maybe.