Journal/1 Thermidor CCXIV from Evan Prodromou

Happy 1 Thermidor to everyone -- I'm sure you're all busy meditating on the virtues of epeautre (einkorn wheat), the wild grain to which this day is dedicated on the French Revolutionary Calendar.

Thermidor is best known for Lobster Thermidor, but also for the so-called Thermidorian Reaction, a revolt by moderate revolutionaries during the French Revolution against the bloody excesses of the Committee for Public Safety.

I think about this because I've just been reading Bob Sutton's blog today based on the reference in Ross Mayfield's blog. Sutton is the author of an upcoming book called the No Asshole Rule (pardon my French, but that's just the name of the book). It's about how poisonous, unhealthy personalities can ruin a workplace, and how beneficial it is to support your reasonable, human employees by kicking out the jerks. They're happier, more productive, and more loyal if you show some compassion and get rid of the a-holes.

Coincidentally, I also saw the Top 5 reasons why “The Customer Is Always Right” is wrong on reddit. It also recommends against allowing unpleasant people to ruin your workplace environment -- but here, the culprits are the customer, not other employees. I especially liked the stories from Southwest Airlines. I think I'm going to have to pick up this Nuts! book about SWA business theories.

Why all the thoughtifying about jerks and meanies in business? Because I think the same principles might be applicable to Open Source and Open Content projects. Specifically, with Debian, we've had a few personalities who generate a lot of discussion and attract a lot of attention, causing some real Excedrin headaches. The project as a whole has tended to bend over backwards to respect these individual's rights and personal values and blah blah blah, but maybe it's best to just say, "You're causing more conflict that you are providing value and no matter whose fault it is, we as a group will do our job better if you leave."

In another realm -- that of wikis -- I know that I personally lean on longtime Wikitravel administrators, experienced users, etc. to be "the bigger person" and treat obnoxious personalities with respect and decorum. The theory is that every user counts, and any contribution is worthwhile. But maybe it's better sometimes to show some loyalty to the established contributors with a proven track record, and let the occasional mouth-foaming weirdo go wander off and bother someone else. We've got a real conflict-averse culture at WT, but sometimes it might be good to say, "We welcome everyone's input -- except yours."

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