Teresa Dietrich recently posted regarding her and the company's efforts to restore community trust and repair the recent unpleasant issues.
Now that the company is making at least some meaningful effort to apologize and move on from the late unpleasantness, I thought it was a good time to do a post-mortem or root cause analysis on why things went so spectacularly wrong.
From about September 2019 to early 2020, a few issues hit the network in short succession, including
- The pronouns controversy
- Ads attempting to start audio
- Controversial firings
- The increase in question upvote reputation
- Content licensing changes
The result of this was a lot of counterproductive behavior that escalated as time went on. Different camps circled their wagons and pointed fingers in every direction, and staff retreated from regular, open communication to post occasional legal disclaimers and/or similar low-content or not-the-most-kind messages.
In my experience, poorly-managed systems tend to work okay on a day-to-day basis when everything is awesome, but, like a bridge that stands in good weather but collapses in a thunderstorm, tend to go boom when placed under stress. This is what I think happened last fall - the systems we had in place were robust enough to handle one or two controversies, but not all of them.
At this point, I'm no longer convinced that the problems were the result of a single "problem" employee who could simply be fired to solve the problem, and I recognize that sitting around attempting to assign moral or legal culpability tends to hurt more than help. What I am interested in exploring is why the system failed - not why the underlying issues (e.g. pronouns, firings) happened, but why the "system" so spectacularly failed when those issues proved to be controversial. With this information, we can help prevent the problem in the future. As the old maxim states, those who don't understand history are doomed to repeat it.
- Why did the system fail so spectacularly when placed under stress?
- What can the community and the company do now so that future controversies (which will happen) do not cause a similar collapse?