The big question I got in response to a recent blog post of mine is “how could diversity possibly have a cost?” here’s my attempt to answer it in clearer terms…
Change always has a price
There’s no getting around this. It’s near impossible to change something solely for the better. In the end the change may be a net positive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t costs, and that for some people affected the change is a net loss.
Ignorance has a cost
It’s not that I don’t think change isn’t needed, it’s that most people I see talking loudly about women in OS are blindly ignorant or apathetic to the cost of their proposals. Because they are blind, their ideas and solutions have no plan for minimizing the cost while maximizing the benefit. Working simply towards the goal of more women can lead to alienating another group that is dear to my heart.
Many people respond that people engage in sexism even when they think they aren’t, and that this sexism by ignorance is just as damaging. This is basically the flipside of that argument. Enlightenment doesn’t work one way, or it’s not really enlightened.
So what’s the bill?
Like the U.N. club in my high school, the cost of “diversity” without concern for preserving what’s already good about something will no doubt mean that you lose it. There are things about OS that make it better than other projects, and not just in the basic principles of open vs. proprietary.
Some of you probably want a concrete example right now, so here’s one: right now, because of the demands of OS projects, you really have to love it to stick with it. Yes, in some ways that’s bad, and those ways should be changed, but one of the best things about OS is that you get to work with people who love what they’re doing as much as you do. With the wrong tactics and the wrong incentives we might get more diversity, but not because those people love it, too.