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Cobra Effect 🐍 & Unintended Negative Effects


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Back in colonial India, the British government was worried about the number of venomous cobras in Delhi. To tackle this, they offered a bounty for every dead cobra. At first, it seemed like a brilliant idea—people started killing cobras and bringing them in for the reward. But then, some clever folks realized they could breed cobras and kill them to claim the bounty. When the government caught wind of this, they scrapped the program. The breeders, now stuck with useless cobras, released them into the wild, making the original problem even worse.

cobras.png

This is a classic example of an unintended negative consequence—a well-meaning solution backfiring spectacularly. 

Have you ever introduced a policy or feature to your community, only to have it produce unexpected and undesirable results? For instance, maybe you set up a reward system to encourage posting, but it led to spammy, low-quality contributions. Or perhaps you implemented a strict moderation policy that ended up driving away genuine, valuable members?

What are some examples of the Cobra Effect that you've seen in your own communities? How do you balance the need for new initiatives with the potential for unintended consequences? And most importantly, how do you course-correct when things go wrong?

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