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RailsConf 2019 - Keynote: How we make good by Brady Kriss

Brady Kriss
Founder & Executive Director at Ragtag
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RailsConf 2019
May 2, 2019, Minneapolis, USA
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About speaker

Brady Kriss
Founder & Executive Director at Ragtag

Total nerd for democracy, technology, privacy by design, treating customers like people, treating people like they're important, intellectual property law, software licensing, and a good terms of service.

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RailsConf 2019 - Keynote: How we make good by Brady Kriss


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Yes, so I'm Brady Chris. I run an organization called ragtag. We work with folks who work in Tech and their day jobs and we help them basically find a way to use their skills for nonprofits Progressive organizations activist groups things like that. I'll talk to you in a little bit more about that later. But yeah, so they three for sure. Congratulations for making it this far who did go to this party Z-Trip shenanigan last night. I was so excited when I heard that said he was playing cuz I have

been a fan of his since I want to say. Yeah, so I think the first time I saw a show of his was in late 2005 which makes me feel old, but you know, I've long time ago before there was even a Twitter and Twitter. Everything is terrible who here does the Twitter? Yeah, who hear that everyday? Every morning first thing in the morning before you even get out of bed. What a shit way to start the day. Why do I don't even? I don't know why I do that but I do compulsively

and it's terrible because we really are living in the worst timeline. I did a quick Twitter search of worst timeline and it's like like the words worst Island. It's just intimate. Yeah politics total trash fire. technology garbage heap science world events both literal and figurative fire but you can't even can't even sit with us ports. And domestic events in the US. I left up here the placeholder picture from keynote cuz it was just too much ruin your morning before you fully metabolize. Coffee

grounded for life everyday. yeah, so the whole link worst timeline thing sounds sounds like an overstatement. Sometimes it sounds like total hyperbole. Obviously a lot of us learned a lesson in 2017 and 2018 about how things could always get worse even after you've declared, you know, 2016. We all know that it's it's the the terrible stories that actually the people listen they get us to click. They get us to engage. It's easier to make a quick connection with someone. You don't know over something bad. Then something good. It's it's harder to share Joy

sometimes with people than to complain about things together or lament the days were in. And that's really what lake are media right now. So it's all and not is really counting on it's getting us to engage things to click on that thing getting it to watch. But there's something else going on and the internet in general social media in particular. They really given a broader voice to 2. Who haven't been able to tell their stories outside of their immediate circles.

The internet just in general has has been able to give give that brought her voice and get those personal stories from people to people who are outside of your circle and bring it in. Things like Facebook Twitter Youtube and the whole internet give us a chance to experience what's important in other people's lives. Movements like black lives matter say her name me too and all the other ones we've had in the last few years have brought the realities of sexual assaults institutional

racism and police brutality to the front of our Collective consciousness. And they did it through personal stories and connection and humanizing folks movements. Like these would not have been able to happen without the open internet. It's been really hard for many of us. Maybe most of us to see things like this every day. But it has been hard to hear these stories because we know they're from people we know they're from other humans for real and exists now. But sometimes it can also be easy to pretend that the real

people who are facing. This issues are far away that there are other folks. They're not there people all around you to the people you work with are the people you care about their the people you see walking down the street. This is a hard one, but it's important. I think to never forget that the Injustice you read about in today's Morning News is really the life experience of another human being. and that life experience could be happening to it. Really anyone you interact with and it's important.

to be kind to people and understand that everyone has their own struggle and their own internal things going on and it's affected by the the external things that we all see and face everyday. I'm sorry, definitely getting a little overwhelmed to help him that overwhelming as well. But it is it's important I think for everyone in their daily interactions, especially interactions on Twitter or interactions at work to give people the benefit of the doubt

to assume the best in people to give people space to not maybe not see the best not hacked their best because you don't know what's going on in their life. You don't know how international events are really affecting them personally, so, I don't know. Figure out a way to to share a joy not to share a fear or anxiety but to leave room for other people to have their own. Tell thank you for noticing. That everything's terrible. And yes, even though everything's terrible. It's no

fair fighting. So I have a 5 year old and I am an expert now and what isn't is not fair? But yeah, all of this is is super rough. It's it's really hard. Sometimes it's maybe even seems unbearable to hear about all the horrible Destiny and justices and the tragedy is in the world, but you can't hide your head list and you can't hide under the quilt all the time. You have a moral duty to Bear Witness. And this does not mean that you have to watch every video or read every first hand account. It's absolutely okay and probably a very good idea to set limits

and for the love of everything turn off the auto-play video on the Twitter to bad plan, but what's really is to deny that the terribleness in the world is happening or deny the truth of the people telling you about it because it's more comfortable for you. You have a moral obligation to Bear witness to the truth. Even when it's inconvenient even want to see play traveling. It will be uncomfortable. But that's okay in your personal lives or in your interactions online. When someone tells you something that's hard for

them to say or tells you something tells you that someone's done something to them believe them give them the benefit of the doubt that they're telling the truth. When someone tells you they've been discriminated against or mistreated leave them. When someone tells you they have been harassed or assaulted believe them Even if they're talking about your friends or your boss or someone you hired or someone who vaguely reminds you of yourself in your younger days. Even if it's your beloved activist idle or your Senator or your favorite candidate?

If someone says something like that has happened to them believe them. The first step to making good in this world is bearing witness to the terrible with acknowledging that it exists. But that doesn't mean you have to accept it. In other words via hope who here watched the Beyonce homecoming Netflix shenanigan. The rest of y'all and sure you have Lively jobs and they look like this is a Cornel West quotes that was actually in the the Beyonce special and it really just popped out of me at the time. he's talking here about the

difference between having hope in being a hope that it is hard in the face of all this Injustice in this tragedy and the terrible list to feel like you have hope. But there's something deeper and stronger that you can do and that's to be a hope and it's courageously bearing witness regardless of the circuit of what the circumstance is because you're choosing to be the kind of person of Integrity to the best of your ability before the worms. Get your body.

It's really the embodiment of the idea of Hope. Knowing that things are bad refusing to accept that that is how it has to be. And knowing that it's bad refusing to accept that that that that that is how it has to be is the beginning but then you do have to do something in the face of all of the terrible. Sometimes we can get stuck. We all get stuck. We expect in we keep watching the news looking for some sort of resolution. We keep reading and refreshing or Twitter feed looking for something if no idea what I just know I keep

refreshing it's easy to get stuck in that it's easy to start to feel powerless. It's hard to act. But you have to try you have to care. You can't get fucked down into the swamp of sadness. Sometimes it's really overwhelming and it can be hard to imagine where to start. Some folks think that it has to be big that they have to quit their job and go all in in order to make a difference. You totally can do that will be great actblue is around if you want to. They are but maybe

that's too much. Maybe you're not in a place where you can uproot your entire life and devote your whole self to making good in the world. What so back to the question. What can you do? might be thinking how can I little ol me make any difference when the problems that were facing are so big What's the point of even trying when anything I do would only be a drop in the bucket? Be a drop in the bucket. All the terribleness the problems were facing or big ones, but that doesn't mean the only solution is one big action

many people working together taking small actions can make a real difference. Your actions matter all of your actions matter, even your in accidents matter be a drop in the bucket but choose which bucket you're going to be a drop-in with purpose. The obvious example of the idea of The Importance of Being a drop in the bucket is voting. For the Love of everything please vote I can't stress that enough it is rare, but not entirely unheard of for an election to be determined

by a single book, but does that mean you shouldn't vote? what do you think questions about we should all as PJ O'Rourke said to me once vote like hell we should vote every single chance we get we should vote for our own interests we should vote for the interests of others we should vote for the collective interest we should vote to put one more drop in the bucket we believe is good win or lose you should vote be just one of the millions of people who voted for that saying that you believe in even if that thing

where that person doesn't win Here is a list of great bucket to be a drop-in. Call your call your reps. Call your reps. Don't call other people traps. Local raps State Rep Federal raps call their office is called their home offices call their DC offices. Tell them what you think is good. What you think is important tell them when they're doing something wrong and tell them when they're doing something, right? Boycott things one person making the decision not

to buy something. Is it dropping is it drop the bucket on its own not significant? But as a part of a larger movement, it can be to check out a sleeping Giants. If you're interested. That's one organization doing boycott like things. They've got some kind of gnarly mentioned these days, but they're making the best of it. Walk out walk out our great if your company or your school. Is doing something that you find morally reprehensible. or even just deeply troubling and the other folks

in in your company other workers there feel the same way absolutely do a walkout. It's getting together and taking a stand as a group of people is hugely effective and hugely important. Make a donation. Make a $5 donation to every candidate you like. You can do it through acts blue. Titian some of you might think I'm a little bananas for for suggesting petitions petitions are a great example of when it's important to choose the bucket you're even going to be dropping petitions to me really really effective in getting companies and representatives and other large

organizations to change the way they're doing doing things but you got to think about a couple of things with petitions one. Who are you asking to do something to does that person actually have the power to do that and three do they care at all what you think? And if you can get a good answer for all of those absolutely sign a petition started petition get on it, like doing a petition to the head of HBO to get the change the story line and Game of Thrones like

10 million people sign in it. Being a drop in the bucket is important. It is really important for everybody to recognize the power of being one of a large group of people because it's Misshaku basically, nothing has ever been done solved created or destroyed by one person alone. I hope it's okay to curse, but But this whole mess of the lone genius. it's 4 I'm glad y'all are with you for everything that someone does other folks had to make the time the space the resources available. Everything happens in an ecosystem. Invisible labor

may still be largely invisible, but it is absolutely vital. stop heck is just a tool. But it's great. One of the reasons that I really love working and technology is text power to be a tool for other people to achieve their goals and their purpose. I really love Technologies capacity to make time and space and be a resource for folks doing in person real world work. Once Upon a Time several lifetimes ago. I was an intellectual property attorney and I worked with technologists artists and other folks to help them navigate the legal landscape. I helped them use

the law to create and distribute art and Technology while keeping themselves protected. For example helping people figure out which open source license made the most sense for them and and how to use it, basically. Back in 2011. I made a sharp turn in my career from the law over to the political sphere. I move to Chicago and joins the Obama 2012 Tech Team and Led Tech Support there for all of our consumer-facing Tekken digital tools. And I totally fell in love with both working on a tech team and working in politics and building tools for other people to use to achieve

their goals. Since then I've worked on and off with volunteers and developers and political and social justice organizations really coming together in the winter 2016. So just post-election when I found a ragtag, which is where I spend all of my time and energy these days. Ragtag is a 600 strong community of people who work in the tech sector and who want to make some good in this world. Ragtag provides structure based community and project management that are volunteers needs to take their coding skills and turn them

into drop in buckets that matter. in my final grade overstretched metaphor You can be a drop in the bucket and ragtag will provide the bucket for you to be a drop-in. We the most fun part of what I do is really reaching out and finding other organizations and finding clients for the developer volunteers and ride to work with its it's incredible to be able to find people doing impactful work on the ground in their communities who just need a leg up on the text run. Take for example one of our earlier projects. We worked with spread the vote,

which is an organization that helps initially helps people get the ideas. They needed to vote and they sent expanded to do a lot more things like education around folding back in 2017. Calvin who's the founder of spread the vote quit her job Patrick stuff in a car drove across the country and just got to work getting people IDs. Now if anyone is like trying to get an ID at the DMV as an adult who doesn't already have an ID. It's a mess and it's a different special masks in every state. So is cat was really going to scale her operation.

She was going to need to keep track of what things were needed to get IDs in which states how each client was going to get those things and where they were on the process. For someone who is Just Knee Deep in the work on the ground something like a CRM. Is not something that that they know off the top of their heads is going to work. So this is really where Ragtime was able to help. We set up a system for for cat to be able to track all of the things that are volunteers in the field. We're doing there were tons of different parts to this project there was

I mean It's the same as with building really any Tech project. Is that why did he say? There's a team sport. Are tons of different roles to play so we had some folks doing some coding billing some ATI integration. We had people doing basically Consulting with cat and with her team we had folks writing the coffee that's on the forms things like that. So there's a wide variety of different roles to play in a project like that and a huge group of people came together to make that happen and in the

couple of years since We set up that system cat has been able to greatly expand her team her projects and the amount and the numbers ideas. She's able to get four people. I highly recommend you follow her and follow them on Twitter. I didn't put it up on here, but She post stories of the folks. She's helping and it's really like. really awesome to see Yeah, so every piece of that project was essential for the whole project to come together and be a success with no one part of it. No one

ranked High volunteers contribution was essential. The group came together and made a thing but no one individual would have been able to do on their own and no one other than Cat music with their job. Now maybe you don't want to do coding outside of your job, which is fine. There are other ways that you can make some good being part of a group. One one way to do it is to get involved in your workplace. I highly recommend you check out the work that Tech workers Coalition is doing there. I know they're very active in the Bay Area but they're also active in other Tech

hotspots around the country and they are really working on educating folks who work in the tech industry about the ways they can use their power in their jobs to work for to bring Justice to everyone. One of the things that that they did that really impressed me as they work with folks. We're Developers. In these big companies and get them to basically just show up at Union negotiations between say security workers and management or cafeteria workers in management. So they helped use the power of the well paid skilled labor of the developers and

leverage that power to help folks who don't have the negotiating power that they need. You can do it. Yes you each of you is just one person and you can only do so much. But you can do that much. You can contribute a drop in the bucket and together. We can make a flat bucket that maybe just maybe can put out the trash fire for the timeline. You don't have to be the hero to be a hero. self personal story time I have a personal story that I want to tell you. It's not about tech

or about world events. It's really a parable about. Ben illustrates what I'm thinking about and it's also something that is big in my life and I can't get out of my head. So I'm sharing with you. I am a big fan of the musical Hamilton. I'm not like the biggest fan cuz that far is really high, but I'm a big enough and I know all the words and even the name of my organization ragtag comes from the the musical. So there's a line in there. How does a ragtag ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower and that really spoke to me back in the

summer of 2016. when I was working a lot and not showering and all that. I feel like when faced with the choice of showering or getting one more round of QA done before you go live. The choice is obvious. Sitting rates this year or this passed year for a combo Hanukkah Christmas birthday presents. I got tickets to see Hamilton. I went in February and brought my sister my husband my good friends and we went to see the show in in San Francisco Orpheum. And that is how I made my debut in Rolling Stone.

First things first important lesson to learn the media basically never gets anything 100% right like 80% right and you're lucky. But here's what actually went down. I have no slide for that. There was most likely a medical emergency in the audience someone stood up and was moving around and during the very last song of the show. Someone saw the person and this this age being what it is. They made an assumption that this person standing up looking around was a shooter and that we were all in danger. Someone

said the word gun someone screams. And I with many many other audience members Hit the Floor hid behind our seats. Then as more people screams we got up and started to run. We just wanted to get out of the building. This line seems funny when I wrote it, but maybe laugh. It was around that point when my own heart also decided to leave the building is what was fun yesterday. So the details of what exactly happens are not entirely clear to really anyone. I was not present my

sister and my husband found me lying on the ground in like right inside the lobby. I wasn't breathing had no pulse and my lips were turning blue. I had the absolute incredible Fortune to have been in the same audience that night with a couple who also happened to be ER residents and a nearby hospital. They started CPR and kept my body working while my friend ran to see if anyone had an AED to shock my heart my heart back. She found one. They shocked me the

paramedics took me to the hospital. From falling on the ground in the lobby to being shocked back to life. Talk about 10 minutes. Which is somehow both mind-bogglingly short and mind-bogglingly long. in those 10 minutes a dozen or more people helped me and saved my life and cared for me. the doctors who happened to be in the audience whoever it was the called the ambulance my sister who ran and convince them cops that there was not actually an active shooter, but there was none the

less than emergency say they needed to attend to my friend who went in search of the defibrillator the paramedics that took me to the hospital the doctors who took care of me then and now I've cobbled together all of this knowledge over of what happened over the past few months. I have no memory at all after we started to run from our seats until I woke up in the hospital. I've built up little vignettes in my mind from the stories that other people have told me in all in all of the chaos and Mayhem my sister my little sister who's

always looked up to me and who I've always wanted to take care of and protect. In the midst of all of this chaos and Mayhem at the theater. She started to lose her shit a little bit. She started panicking. Another woman from the audience at this time. Most of the audience had started coming back in to retrieve their things another woman from the audience saw my sister and went and just stood with her talk to her calm her down. I don't know her name, but that was an incredibly kind thing to do and Incredibly important in that moment. My sister remembers

her mentioning her husband at some point in Begley gesturing to a dude standing here by holding her cup. And that's the guy I keep thinking about. Keep thinking about that guy standing a little ways away holding a coat. He's not the hero of the story. He's not the Savior. He's not the center, but he did something that mattered. He held someone's coat. He held her coat to give her space to space she needed to support what she was doing to help a stranger get through a harrowing experience. He made some good in the world in that moment by doing what

he could do, even though it was small. He made good in the world by making space for someone else to make their little bit of good. And that's what I think everybody needs needs to do do what it is that you can do. Don't worry about it being too small. The fear of not being good enough for not being able to make a big enough difference. Don't let that stop you from doing something cuz we all have to do something. Thank you for going on that little journey with me

and I am happy to answer any questions anyone has or if you all just want to go hug yourself or call your sister. That's cool, too.

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