Containers like Docker will not fix the sick politics of your company

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.


Deciding what’s yours and what’s theirs is the basis of every sibling-rivalry détente. In Eric Brewer’s CAP theorem you can pick two of consistency, availability, and partition tolerance as long as one of them is partition tolerance, because, as distributed systems expert Caitie McCaffrey puts it, “physics and math.” In a distributed system that contains humans in multiple time zones, you’re inevitably going to have partitions, and waiting 10 hours for headquarters to wake up and make a decision is nobody’s idea of a good time. But decentralized decision making means distributing power to your human edge nodes (sometimes a hard sell).

Empowering developer choice is facilitated by containers; there’s always a tension between what someone else dictates and what you’re convinced you need. Making thoughtful decisions about tools and architecture can help; well-considered constraints can free us from the decisions that aren’t bringing us distinguishable benefit. Containers can help define scope and reach of a given tool or project, and deconstructing systems to human scale allows us to comprehend their complexity.

Being able to reproduce a build allows for separation of concerns. We want this to be effective and yet not introduce unnecessary barriers. The proverbial wall of confusion is all too real, built on the tension between having incentive to ship changes and being rewarded for stability. Building just the right abstractions that empower independent teams is worth taking the time to iterate on (and, no, nobody gets it right immediately, because “right” will evolve over time).

We want to empower people with as much agency as possible within the constraints that work for our organizations. To determine the right constraints for you, you need to talk to your teams. Think in terms of TCP instead of UDP; you’ll need to SYN/ACK to really understand what other humans want. Nonviolent communication, where you restate what you heard, is an effective way to checksum your human communications. (Bonus: techies will appreciate this logic!)

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