The “-ity” Echo Chamber

What Kicked Off This Rant

I watch a blog at work that lectures about all the reasons why they’re wrong about this blogger’s pet subjects – design, UX, research, many of the secondary aspects of quality of a piece of software (much like security and privacy are secondary quality characteristics of technology projects). Overlong weekly screeds with tons of footnoted research to “prove” the points.

Footnotes.

Like a dozen per post.

No, seriously.

Then the fawning praise comes in from the people in the same field who all already agree with the points being made, and feel like their voice is being amplified and broadcast.

Only it ain’t. When your readership is the Echo Choir, I’m sure the adulation and affirmation that you’re “right” feels great, but does any of that advocacy translate into changing the minds of the folks who actually hold the power to implement (or ignore) your demands?

Echo Chamber

Not that I even do much writing (so what kind of hypocrite am I to point this out), but there’s a real difference between “getting something off your chest” and “changing hearts and minds of the people who control your destiny”.

I Was An “-Ity” Person Too

I’ve written those screeds myself in ages past, and for a while they feel amazing. Just committing those words to a forum outside your own head is exhilarating and scary – what if someone disagrees? What if the powers that be come and take my pen away? What if this finally turns the corner?

Eventually though, without taking any further action except writing self-satisfied conclusions, the effort became impotent. I had a cheap little blog at one time in my 20’s that set out to reduce Disney corporation to its knees. I didn’t like their business model way back when in the 90’s they were best known among my leftie friends for “strip mining their past creations for profit” – sequel upon TV spinoff upon derivative entertainment “property”, each more soulless and formulaic than the last. (Hrm, p’raps there’s still a little scruffy momentum still in that craggy rolling rock…)

Point being, I got tired of talking to myself and a few well-worn commiserators, and seeing no changes in “their” behaviour.

So I made it my problem.

I put myself in a position where I would be able to exercise good judgment.

And I saw the real-world trade-offs that everyone who’s delivering have to make.

The “-ity” Echo Chamber

Everybody’s got an “-ity” bias they’d like everyone to honour and adopt: usability, security, testability, maintainability, accessibility, readability, … Architecture, privacy, “code complexity”, normalization, denormalization (which autocorrect hilariously changed to “demoralization”). You know the drill:

“We have to be involved up front”

“We need to hear it straight from the customer”

“You can’t bolt on [pet ‘-ity’] at the end”

Yes, we’re all special snowflakes, and our concerns are all valid. And that doesn’t change the fact that someone is going to disagree with your value judgment, and might decide against putting the energy you advocate in the area they control.

Sorry. Fact of life. Not your football, not your call.

Not everything fits into a finite timeframe, and sometimes it’s unclear to everyone else why one thing is important enough to bump something else down (or off) the schedule.

You want to change that? Get in the game. Start engaging in solving the whole set of problems, rather than just rolling your grenade in (lobbing your “deliverable”, no matter how pretty it is, over the wall) and leaving the hard work to someone else.

Otherwise, stop taking up my time complaining about why I didn’t just do what’s so obvious to you, and help me find and communicate what isn’t as necessary as your “-ity”.

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