The steam roller of life

Some days it really feels like you are the last man standing as the zombie horde rolls in, and sometimes it feels like people just seem to scream stop at every little thing. However, a lot of times it just looks like this to everyone else:

The security guard is doing his job and is the hero of his own story (in fact has an extra on DVD about his family.) He is trying to get the 'villians' to stop. Austin Powers is the hero in his story because he is just trying to get to the other side of the room to stop Doctor Evil. The vast gulf between the two is just how far apart and how little danger there really is. It is also a story about how avoidable the inevitable crunch at the end is.

  1. The guard could have stood to the left or right and let the steamroller go by. [The guard could have also shot Austin or something else.]
  2. Austin could have 'swerved to the left or right' just a little and missed the guard. [Or he could have gotten out and gotten there faster.]
OK so you are thinking "Yes Captain Obvious that is exactly the humour being shown here.. thank you for breaking it down for us..." The point I am looking at is how often this mirrors our online community problems. Someone is trying to accomplish something, and someone for whatever reason yells stop. (Or someone is meant to keep something stable, and someone is ramming through a new paradigm). Those of us in the moment get caught up in all the energy, and  we forget that to most people outside that all they see is how avoidable the whole confrontation was. 
Sometimes we feel that it is better to get run over by the steamroller than take a step left or right. Sometimes we feel that putting the pedal to the metal on the steamroller is going to make this so much faster, and we can't move it to the right or left for a small change. 


Canaries in a coal mine (apropos nothing)

[This post is brought to you by Matthew Inman. Reading http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe made me realize I don't listen enough and Verisatium's https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBVV8pch1dM made me realize why thinking is hard. I am writing this to remind myself when I forget and jump on some phrase.]

Various generations ago, part of my family was coal miners and some of their lore was still passed down many many years later. One of those was about the proverbial canary. A lot of people like to think that they are being a canary when they bring up a problem that they believe will cause great harm.. singing louder because they have run out of air.

That isn't what a canary does. The birds in the mines go silent when the air runs out. They may have died or are on the verge of being dead. They got quieter and quieter and what the miners listened for was the lack of noise from birds versus more noise. Of course it is very very hard to hear the birds in the first place in a mine because they aren't quiet places. There is hammering, and shoveling and footsteps echoing down long tubes.. so you might think.. bring more birds.. that just added more distractions and miners would get into fights because the damn birds never shut up. So the birds were few and far between and people would have to check up on the birds every now and then to see if they were still kicking. Safer mines would have some old fellow stay near the bird and if it died/passed out they would begin ringing a bell which could be heard down the hole.

So if analogies were 1:1, the time to worry is not when people are complaining a lot on a mailing list about some change. In fact if everyone complains, then you could interpret that you have too many birds and not enough miners so go ahead. The time to worry would be when things have changed but no one complains. Then you probably really need to look at getting out of the mine (or most likely you will find it is too late).

However analogies are rarely 1:1 or even 1:20. People are not birds, and you should pay attention to when changes cause a lot of consternation. Listen to why the change is causing problems or pain. Take some time to process it, and see what can be done to either alter the change or find a way for the person who is in pain to get out of pain.