Anonymous Extremists

People often remark that those who attend an Agile conference, are just drinking the kool-aid. I have never found this to be true, however, anyone expressing this opinion doesn’t bother me. Although this statement implies people can’t think for themselves and is not constructive to having a discussion, they are entitled to their thoughts. Or maybe, I’m just able to shrug this comment off.

In general, I have always been able to ignore extremists type comments. For example, I have never found it worth my time to engage in the SAFe or #noEstimates debate. Seriously, just skim the hashtag and you will see people dedicating serious amounts of time (on both sides) to taking cheap shots. I’m sure they believe they are doing this for a good reason (they have to be heard to prevent kool-aid drinkers or vice versa). And this post is not about where I stand with these topics.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the dangerous path this behavior puts us all on. Recently, an individual that I got to know better in the past year was a target of a hate blog. As I read the content, I found myself having a variety of emotions but the main one I want to focus on is the disbelief that someone would feel it was appropriate to publish a hate post. The post didn’t just indicate disagreement with a point she made or that he doesn’t respect her because of these intellectual reasons. He referred to her hair color, her body, etc. This post wasn’t trying to do anything but cause her pain through lies and extremist trolling.

So I wonder who would write such a post, did this person start off posting the occasional extremist tweet. Did the reactions spur the need to go further? However, did going further mean finding a way to be anonymous? Did becoming an extremist blur the lines of needing to lie to make a point? How does this help anyone? When does it stop?

When someone is standing in front of you, it’s easy to recognize that a discussion is not going to be valuable. You can choose to walk away. When it’s online, this is harder. Not only is it easier to take a quick jab back but it’s online…you feel you want to dispute the sentiments. I wanted to dispute them for her but she asked us not to because she wasn’t the person he depicted. The post was so extremely wrong that it wasn’t worth her time. She acknowledged it because she didn’t want to sweep under the rug that this crap happens; but then she publicly moved on.

Truth is I admire her for that because I haven’t moved on and it wasn’t even written about me. Part of that is because I’m not naive and my turn will likely come. Mostly, because it highlights how far we are from a society that can communicate with each other through differences.

There are more people in the middle on topics vs extremists.  Yet, the loudest voices are on the ends, which is even the basis for the Net Promoter Score. However, I can’t help wondering how to give a bigger voice to the people, who are open to learning,  who are willing to put their name on their thoughts, who can engage in difficult conversations productively, who understand that a point at the personal expense of others is no point at all.

I, Tricia Broderick, say to all anonymous extremists, on sides that I agree or disagree with… go ahead, type it but before you hit send, are you willing to read it directly to your parents, children, etc? Are you really helping your cause or just added fuel to a fire that is already too big? Mostly, remember the shades of gray that makes what we do a craft. Don’t dig your heels in so deep that you end your journey.  

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