Subverting Social Bad Behavior with Community Service

Summary: personal aha…spend equal time on your community as you do on social media, and everyone will be better for it.

The Local Buffoonery of Garden Variety

When I woke, it was because of the shouting. That usually doesn’t happen in my neighborhood at two in the morning. I don’t mean like “hey, you forgot your beer on top of your car” kind of shouting, I mean the kind with curses and violence into the darkness of night. When I finally sat up to look down onto the street, between the fuzzy patches I saw a local taxi service driver furiously shaking his fist at something down the street yelling things.

As he used his mobile phone to call the cops, there was time to lite a…non-uniform cigarette…and pace around right in the middle of the blindest corner in town. Four more real cigarettes later and five flashing, silent police vehicles quickly swarmed what’s typically a peaceful daytime intersection that my apartment windows overlook. Two at a time, the tatted-up Ford Explorers sped away in the fisterly direction, leaving the final officer to take what I can only imagine was a confusing deposition and also a flashlight look-around to validate the driver’s story.

Today, Sunday, I drove downtown to ask the daytime taxi dispatcher what happened. I was expecting that I’d also have to stop up at the police station to get their official statement of what happened, but the guy at the desk knew the whole story and was happy enough to spill. Here it is.

After an overly complicated girlfriend-plus-other-friend pickup, some mentally imbalanced passenger, seeing a fare that surprised him as far too high, escalated an argument about the fare to an unexpected roundhouse punch to the driver’s head. That’s right, with two other people in the back, he temporarily disabled someone with the responsibility of driving them all somewhere on Eastern Point.

How doped up or insane does a passenger have to be to attack the driver? Why is this ragtag group of weirdos proceeding to somewhere on Eastern Point (very affluent)? Movie stupid, very upset, either or both. The world is really, truly crawling with crazy, fucked up people at all levels (especially in politics). And, like taxi drivers, sometimes you don’t have the economic luxury of pushing back on psychotic behavior when it comes your way because of what you do.

The Political Buffoonery of Friends and Neighbors

Assault is of course a crime…depending on who you are these days. It should be, it doesn’t work at very large scale in the commons where most of us live. But for some reason, everyone from the well-educated to the god-fearing seem to think that it’s open season on assaulting others who don’t share their beliefs. When it happens verbally on local social media (in particular, Facebook), I step back and ask, “what side of all of this do you want to be on?”

Take this guy I’d hope to call a friend, Jam. Jam is all kinds of good and crazy and well-intentioned. He runs a local blog, or maybe a cemetery where overly opinionated blog posts go to die, I don’t know at this point. Whatever he is, he’s complicated. Sadly, and rightly so, the current political climate has turned him into an-eye-for-an-eye asshole on social media. A counterpoint-liberalist, we’ll call him the Cook, recently said some things in response to Jam and other local liberals’ boycotting a local business for some insensitive things the conservative owner said. This is like Spanky and Our Gang vs. the Little Rascals type bullshit. “Not beef”, as some might call what this is.

This unwelcome display of reverse-perspective outreach sparked a knock-down, drag-out social media war between two individuals that are very reasonable when not provoked. But neither even saw what they were doing: focusing on the meta over the impact. Impact of their meta, more polarization. Opportunity cost of the meta over of useful action. Long-term impact of rejecting others’ views and position on their journey, a.k.a. karma. Acceptance that there is a shared journey. Acknowledgement that they may be wrong, no matter how much they think they’re right. That they are most certainly wrong if they think they’re the only one’s who can see something right. Complete subjectivity instead of focus on objective measures.

The result is that at least one of these parties is regretful and walking around hurt by it all. The worst thing is that I don’t think it’s my friend Jam. He still hasn’t worked his ego problems out before diving headlong into ‘other’ advocacy with women’s movement and anything else the overwhelmingly liberal-biased feeds feed him. All those things are good, but without love and respect, what good does it do for Jam to constantly interject himself?

It’s all buffoonery until we do something useful with others, not flashy or geeky or memorable or unusual. Not something that gets you a group photo with Captain Picard at a fancy inherited wealth house or the following to argue to against Trump multiple times a day instead of showing up to community roundtables about how to improve local education. Speaking from this experience, it was nice to be in a place where everyone practiced listening as much as they practiced having a spine and a heart. This is what I and others did yesterday from 3-5pm downtown. I don’t feel at all that way about the online shouting match Jam and the Cook participated in.

Don’t Let Nationalism Buffoonery Legitimize Local Buffoonery

You may think, “I’m so different than what’s going on politically right now, I need to speak out!” Please find more useful ways to argue with people over social media. Need solid reasons not to? How about that you won’t be permanently quoted in exquisite online conversational detail by an article like the one you’re reading now. How about, instead of counter-trolling, you could be sipping something nice right now. Fuck, anything but arguing with neighbors online.

Instead of escaping from the real world, think about how the way you view things affects those around you. How about that you don’t want your check-in with captured moments of friends and family to be perforated by “what’s trending” bullshit between town neighbors. Sure, share stories and articles that you’ve validated and make sense to you in various forums; but once an online conversation looks like it’s getting nasty, politely move along. Don’t let something as transparent and egotistical as “my blog swings 2,300 local votes” be your hood ornament. If people are being victimized, eject the violator and report their poor behavior.

In short, and to bring it full circle, don’t let a culture precipitated by a talentless, washed-up genital wart of a President and his cargo cult nationalist, supremacy-retrograding base suck you in to the human-capital machines that Jack Doorsey and Mark Zuckerberg built but now take it with their pants on from Russian mafia-state. Find me instead and we’ll identify something far more useful in our town to work on together. I’ve been collecting people’s challenges, many of them just take a little bit of help from others to overcome.

If you can’t be bothered to focus on useful activity over timespend on social media, at least try this: every minute you spend on social media this week, spend equal on something useful for the people who live around you. Can’t think of what that might be? I’ve got some ideas handy:

  • Donate supplies to a program that need it (this week, it was tampons)
  • Walk around your neighborhood (or just your block) and pick up trash
  • Clean up, repair something in, or just post pictures of a great little local park
  • Engage others to write about their local views over just your small clique
  • Prioritize and facilitate actionable community projects needing nothing more than hands and time to complete

When I see people not doing stuff like this, it’s usually the folks that maybe don’t deserve a seat at our community table. They like to bark, but don’t like to dig. They look influential, but are really inconsequential. They are simply taxpayers, not community members.

How to “Hire” into a “DevOps” Market

Let’s be clear. I’m mostly writing this so that I don’t have to have another bullshit conversation with a high-level agency “technical” recruiter that doesn’t really know what the hell DevOps really is. But before you misinterpret what’s to come as a horn-rimmed trash session on recruiters (only a motif, I promise), consider that had you not read to the end, you would never have learned how to hire more efficiently, effectively, and ethically.

Boston, We Have a Big Problem

Aside from the occasional scuffle at a Java meetup, I’m in the Greater Boston Area, and Boston isn’t exactly known as a shining example of the tech boom. Sure, we have Facebook, Amazon, ZipCar, TripAdvisor, Chewy, RaizLabs, and Pivotal amongst others. We also have Oracle, IBM, Salesforce, and a plethora of other institutionalized madness from the Fortune 500 which typically drags our communal technical proficiency rating down year after year. We also have some of the most dedicated, seasoned professionals which you’d be hard-pressed to find in Silicon Valley during a fictional OSCON meets AWS Re:invent meets RSA all rolled into one.

Our problem is hiring. Everyone everywhere does not have the problem quite like we do. Its potency is not diminished in the DevOps space simply because its a generally applicable point to make for any highly skilled market. When something is as culturally intertwined as True DevOps mindset is in high performing teams, traditional recruiting approaches will always fall flat on their face. What people are calling DevOps positions right now are a loose collection of uninformed guesses, buzzwords, poorly crafted hiring pitches, philosophical paradoxes, voodoo, and outright corporate misunderstandings.

Recruiter, Know Thyself

What’s required is simply a sea change in recruiting mindset: the fastest way to qualify people is for you to qualify yourself. I don’t mean credentials, I mean the way you ‘smell’. Not by your morning shower and shave, but by what real practitioners need to hear from your mouths in the first 30 seconds: “I’ve really been thinking about how to right-fit you and a few of my clients,” or something equally real and challenging. How about “I’m interested to know what kind of work you’d like to be doing…” or “Which do you like better, people or code?” (that one is for all you recruiters looking to place the even more elusive ‘DevOps Manager’ position, which as it turns out is just a normal technical manager that’s passionate about coaching and improvement and customers and building future leaders.)

Or you could just leave us really good hires out of it, focus on the email overload flowing from opaque B2B recruiting firms currently choking your inbox (yes, I have recruiter friends and we talk), and then you’d be bidding for the lowest common denominators and margins, not the highest ones. Good luck with that approach, it leads to burnout and we DevOps people know a million ways to get burnt out. But unless you’re ethically fine with placing unqualified people with unqualified teams for a buck, the first option is better for you and for everyone you churn through week after week.

Be Transparent..to a Fault

Recruiters and hiring managers, there is nothing worthwhile to hide from someone like me that isn’t abundantly already transparent through what you don’t know about the organization you represent. I don’t have to ask questions about the org, just about you and your relationship with actual decision-makers, and what you don’t understand or know enough about to hire on behalf of True DevOps teams properly.

To get over cursory technical qualifications, ask people for examples of their work, or better yet look for them first; the simple act of a prospect answering you with examples of their expertise (or simply knowledge to-date) in particular areas is something unqualified people can’t do and unmotivated people simply won’t do. If your candidate hasn’t used any of a dozen or more social platforms (like Stack Overflow, Medium, LinkedIn, etc.) to publish their own stuff, encourage them to so you can pass it along to the real decision makers.

Once these minimum-viable qualification hoops are behind us, bring something to the table. Have a spine and a brain and a perspective about the challenge you’re looking for my help to solve in an org. Understand the broader issues the organization you’re representing is having, then ask us which ones we think we actually have the desire and a real shot at helping to move forward.

Suspend disbelief for a moment…

Drop the bullshit. Tell us who your client is when we ask, how many and which positions they have open, how many other candidates you’re playing off each other for some high-dollar plot of glory, and for god’s sake be prepared to describe your client’s *engineering culture* like it was your own family. Go to a meetup every so often, or better, help to organize one. Sit through and listen, stop emailing from your phone through the presentations. Absorb what’s happening, how people respond to certain topics, and if you don’t find yourself startled awake by clapping, you may just learn something.

Against all corporate recruiting conventional wisdom, when a potential candidate comes at you with such Maslowian questions as “Can you tell me a bit about their culture?” and “What challenges there would I even be interested in?”, definitely don’t talk about benefits packages (that are mostly all the same at a certain level anyway) and please don’t use things like “occupational environment”, “team synergy”, or “interpersonal skills”. Please be real, explain to us what you do so we can understand if you do it better than anyone else we will talk to that week, and leave the qualification script at the door.

You’re selling you to us first, then you earn the right to sell your client to us. If the order of those two things is in reverse, it’s equally transparent where your placement priorities lie.

Hiring Managers: Who’s Doing Things Differently?

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few folks in the local Boston DevOps meetup that are good examples of how to place highly qualified practitioners:

  • Dave Fredricks, Founder, eninjia.io
    This guy is legit. Hard working, constantly advocating, and an early organizer of DevOps Days Boston, amongst other dedicated individuals.
    .
  • Sam Oliver, 3yrs self-employed recruiter, now FTE at PathAI
    This woman really rolls up her sleeves, as a co-organizer of the Boston DevOps meetups, and smartly carved out the “we’re hiring” pitches from the “let’s talk tech” conversation that this crowd is known to like as separate things. #listening
    .
  • Kara Lehman, Principal Recruitment Consultant, Huxley
    Her stock is climbing with me. We first chatted it up in 2017 and when I asked her what she was doing at the nerd-fest of a meetup at Pivotal, she said that she “needs to understand this thing called DevOps better”, which is far more enlightened of a response that about 99% of other local recruiters.

If your name isn’t in the above list, nothing personal, I’m writing this at 10pm on a Monday. Let’s have a conversation where I vet you out and then maybe I’ll write about you too. In the mean time, prepare yourself because it will be me who’s interviewing you.

Apologies and Thanks

If you got this far, my gift to you is my true gratefulness for feedback you may have and maybe a retroactive apology for saying things harshly. We need to cut through bullshit, especially the corporate flavors of it, and this is my personal blog anyway.

Recruiters: if you “can’t do these kinds of things” in the position you’re currently in, consider that you would probably earn far more by taking a new  approach (like the one in this article) on your own and making 100% commission on your own closes instead of a measly 50k/year plus.

Also, you can also reach out to me via LinkedIn and let’s talk about your challenges in hiring, training, managing, or fostering a DevOps-minded team. I’m much nicer in person than in this post.

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