Reddit and Weep

There’s been a bit of an upset at Reddit, as moderators of the site have staged a bit of a revolt after finding out that one of the administrators of the site was let go without any warning to the community. CEO Ellen Pao, who had been under fire for her leadership of Reddit before this, became a casualty of the situation on Friday when she resigned. There are lessons here to be learned for anyone in the IT space, but they might seem a little far afield of normal IT topics. Instead, this is all about people and how they react to disruption.

Reddit has a strange business model. They effectively are advertising on content created by the users of the site and curated by the moderators of the site. In short, all Reddit does is provide infrastructure. The problem is that for the most part the administration is part of that infrastructure, and when that infrastructure radically and suddenly (from the perspective of the moderators) changed, the result was massive disruption among the user base.

The message wasn’t just about loyalty to the administrator who was fired. The moderators of Reddit also feel that they are major stakeholders in the entire operation of the site and as such, that they should be kept abreast of major changes in policy. Considering that part of the result was a bleeding of traffic to upstart competitors like Voat, there’s powerful evidence that this is the case.

Now, we’re not suggesting that every company is going to have similar problems – Reddit is rather unique. But the point here is that we can use this as a chance to study disruption in the way people work with the network.

Take software defined networking, for example. Widespread adoption of SDN will take a while, and it’s not just because of technical or financial considerations. The stakeholders of your network – the administrators and developers who work within it – are going to be greatly affected by it. SDN is, in every sense of the word, a disruptive technology.

One of the things holding back adoption is the need to train teams used to working in silos – software developers and hardware administrators for example – on how to work together. We conducted two surveys in the last year at SDN conferences, and in both cases more than 70% of the respondents said their teams are not ready to manage SDN. This goes beyond technical training: The IT pros who are going to manage SDN must realize that their roles are going to change and be ready for it. As we said in a blog post last year, SDN will not doom engineers but enable them to focus on higher-level challenges and opportunities if they let it.

Disruption can be handled if you keep your team communicating with each other and with decision makers. Make sure that IT is always abreast of changes far in advance and is well aware of the business goals that your company is trying to achieve. Finally, it is vital to make sure they have the tools they need to maintain visibility into the network as SDN either replaces traditional systems or is used alongside them.