Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

What developers can learn from Anonymous

Andrew Oliver | Aug. 24, 2012
The reason Anonymous has a permanent place in our collective imagination: For a time, its organizational model worked very well

Consider how Anonymous works. It started with a general vision of anarchistic attacks against centers of power. Over time, this has become specific to punishing "bad behavior" and grabbing attention. There is no five-year plan (that we know of). Something happens, folks come together -- in an IRC chat or other medium -- and collaborate on their work. Despite the lack of an overall plan, tactical successes occur.

On the other hand, lack of a plan causes Anonymous to be a slave to the news cycle. While I'm not saying its activities at the height of the Arab Spring didn't contribute, key strategic objectives were not accomplished -- for instance, the repeated calls by freedom fighters to bring down Gadhafi's satellite TV channel. This is where a plan would be helpful. I've seen a lot of organizations function with neither shared vision or a plan. I've yet to see a successful software project without both.

Control has its limits Many managers believe that if they aren't getting the results they want, they can just put pressure on the team. But as a developer who's transitioned to a management role, I can tell you that the more I push that button, the less effective it is.

Consider the misadventures of our hacker anti-heroes. Where Anonymous has had a central nerve, it has been attacked, which has led to arrests. The effects have trickled down and negatively affected the group.

We can also see this in server architecture. There are still clustering platforms managed through a central server -- the weak point in everything from Hadoop to WebSphere. Yet we're watching the evolution of these architectures away from central control. This results in less predictability in some circumstances, but makes them more robust in the long term.

That metaphor is transferrable to the management of software projects. Yes, setting expectations, establishing norms, and spurring motivation can have great positive effect and avert crises. I am not advocating for anarchy. But the loose affiliation model of Anonymous, an organization notorious for wreaking chaos, has more to teach than many of us would like to admit.

 

 

Previous Page  1  2 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.