Since the election, Maciej Cegłowski has emerged as one of the leaders of anti-Trump tech organizing. A Polish-American developer and entrepreneur, Cegłowski started working in tech in the late 1990s, during the first dot-com boom. In 2009, he created Pinboard, an ad-free bookmarking site that he once described as the “Bay Area’s slowest-growing unicorn.”
Maciej is also the main force behind Tech Solidarity, a grassroots group that has hosted meetings with hundreds of tech workers across the country to mobilize their technical and financial resources against the administration’s agenda. We talked to Maciej about how tech workers can organize not just to defeat Trump, but to transform their industry as a whole.
What is Tech Solidarity, and how did it get started?
It started by being frustrated on Twitter right after the election, and feeling like we were all just complaining. So I put out a call to see if anyone wanted to meet up in person and have a discussion. Once there was enough interest, I decided we should get a space. And then it seemed like we should get some speakers. So it was very ad hoc.
We had 60 days before the inauguration, and it seemed important to lay the groundwork for whatever was going to happen, rather than just waiting passively and feeling more and more anxious.
How many cities have hosted Tech Solidarity meetings so far?
San Francisco, New York, Boston, DC, Chicago, Seattle, and Portland. Seven cities and 10 or 11 meetings total, ranging from 60 to 100 people each.
How do the people who attend the events in each city hear about it? Do they sign up in advance?
I’ve made it intentionally a little bit difficult, to try to filter out people who don’t like difficult things.
Why make it difficult? What’s the purpose of introducing a bit of low-tech friction into the organizing model?
I think tech people have a tendency to solve problems from first principles, to assume that because we’re really good at controlling the world in our computer that the outside world can be analyzed in a similar way. So there are some bad mental habits that we form as tech people.
Zeynep Tufekci has written about this paradox with online organizing: The Internet makes it easier to organize a giant march, but it also makes it easier for the momentum to fizzle out afterwards. When you had to really work to get people out in the streets, that process of organizing left an infrastructure behind that was valuable.
As tech people, we tend to want to have the maximum effect. So rather than meet someone one-on-one, we want to build a platform, we want to see results quickly, we want to mechanize everything. So part of my struggle is to get tech people not to mechanize everything and to just do the work.