We Are Not Neutral: 2016 in Review

OddBird is a small company – a shared vision and brand that transforms seven remote contractors into a Web Software Agency. 2016 was a year of big changes for us, individually and as a company. We can’t distance ourselves from the world we work in, or the lives of our members, colleagues, and clients. Software is never neutral, and neither are we. There’s work to do.

OddBird is a small company – a shared vision and brand that transforms seven remote contractors into a Web Software Agency.

2016 was a year of big changes for us. Carl took a job with Instagram, Sondra came on full-time, and we added David, Stacy, and Kit to the team. We’re writing more, speaking more, taking on more clients, re-designing our website and brand in the open, building a community on Slack, and contributing to more open source projects.

It was hard to lose one of the founders (and a sibling!) from our daily work, but we’re glad that he still drops by – an active outside eye when we need advice. This is the first time our founders have been outnumbered, but I couldn’t ask for a better team. They all have impressive skills, but more importantly: they are all kind, empathetic, thoughtful, and generous. To me, these are not only the most important qualities in a colleague I see every day, but the most important skills for any software developer.

We know that our tools have an effect on the lives of the people we work with, in real and lasting ways. We know that software is never neutral, and assumptions we make as developers can cause real pain if we aren’t thoughtful about every aspect of design and development. We have a responsibility to consider how our products are used by diverse people, long after we move on. We can’t build for the center; we have to build for the edges.

OddBird may not be a political organization, but we can’t distance ourselves from the world we work in, or the lives of our members, colleagues, and clients. 2016 was a hard year for many us, and the people we care about. We expect 2017 to continue that trend – with threats to health insurance, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQAI+ people, muslims, women, native people, and so on.

I don’t have any magic words, but it’s important to all of us here that OddBird double-down on our commitment to people in all their diversity, especially when they are pushed to the margins. We know that we have work to do – that our code of conduct and donations are only a start. We’re here, we’re listening, and we’re not neutral.

Miriam Suzanne is a product manager, user-experience designer, writer, speaker, and open source developer.

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