Does caring scale?

Does caring scale?

We can’t all care about everything. We have cities without clean water, a criminal justice system full of injustice, and oceans clogged with paper bags. There are too many important causes to catalogue, much less champion. We can only contribute to a few.

We can’t all care about everything. At my house, I care that leftover food is sealed in containers and that the trash can has a bin liner. Eric cares that the counter is clean. Ivy cares that we eat the food before it expires… but she’ll put it in the fridge covered halfheartedly with Cling wrap! when that container has a lid!!

I am filled with righteous fury at the unsealed tupperware. After cursing, I calm down and remember this is not, in fact, a moral issue. We can’t get everything right; this is just the one that I care about.

If I want change, the thing is not to exhort my household to respect the sanctity of lids. They aren’t anti-lid. The thing to do is: make the lid more convenient than Cling-wrap.

See, I used to store my containers separately from their lids. This is efficient for storage, because the containers nest. But! Sealed lids are more important than space efficiency! Other members of the household did not have the lid-container correspondence memorized.

I changed the system. Now we store containers lid-on. Fewer containers, but all of them useful.

The results have been positive; lid usage has increased in my household.

We can’t all care about everything. At work, Clay cares about test coverage. I care about traceability. Rod cares about consistent, clear naming. All important, all a balance when time is limited.

Rod also cares about capitalization of issue titles. And he wants every issue title to have a description.

He tried complaining about my sloppy issues, but I was proud of myself for recording the bug at all. He could have invoked authority — he is the CEO — but instead he added automation. He coded two NewIssueReactions into our software delivery machine. One capitalizes the title of every new issue. It doesn’t complain, it just fixes it. The description is harder, so that reaction sends me a Slack DM: please add a description. A link to the issue makes it easy for me.

We now have 100% issue title capitalization and a higher description rate than before.

Coraline Ehmke wanted good codes of conduct for open source projects, so she made it easier for people.

If you want less litter in the world, put recycle bins around.

People care, but we can’t all care about everything. When you care a lot, work at making it easy for other people to act constructively. A big effort from you and make a small effort from everyone can make a serious impact.