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OSCON 2007: People Hacks

Matthew Eernisse

Adam Keys is a software developer and writer. His blog is at therealadam.com.

In this talk, Adam presented a number of methods for effective advocacy and for getting along with other developers. In other words, interacting with people is as important as interacting with hardware or software. Problems in this sphere have no technical solution — they require a social one. Thus, the idea of ‘people hacking.’

People hacking is not rooted in nefarious black-hat hacking, but simply in using tools of social jujutsu (sometimes on yourself, even) to gain traction for ideas you’re trying to advocate. Paying more attention to the people side of things can help you build the kind of integrated, smoothly functioning team capable of executing (to borrow a basketball metaphor) the “no-look pass.”

A few sample ideas included:

  • Simply smiling — makes yourself and people around you feel more positive
  • Avoid negativity — try the ABBA Method (see the slides for details)
  • Avoid criticism
  • Compliment before criticizing

Some ideas followed about how to deal with jerks in your organization, including the simple-but-effective “No Asshole Rule” (from the book of the same name) that encourages a zero-tolerance toward asshole behavior in your group — even from so-called superstar programmers.

Adam also encouraged a little self-evaluation to determine if your yourself may be a recovering jerk, and that by focusing on improving your ability to working well with those around you, you can also reform yourself.

Adam has his slides available online here.