I... I have opinions.

-- @rockbot

There are a lot of opinions out there.

Often, we take the opinions of others as truth instead of doing our homework. Maybe we’re scared that our opinions aren’t worthy, because we’re not “famous.” Maybe we’re nervous that having an opinion requires extra work and effort, which takes up time we don’t have. Or maybe we just don’t know how.

Fortunately, I have created this rather simple guide:

How to Have an Opinion

Step1: Use stuff. Decide if you like it (or not).

Step 2: Ask yourself: why? Why do you (not) like it?

Step 3: Find something similar (but different). Repeat steps 1 and 2 for this stuff as well.

Step 4: Compare the stuff in steps 1 and 3. How do they differ? Why is one better than the other? What are the pros/cons of each?

Step 5: Discuss these findings with others. What have they learned? How does their experience compare to yours?

Here’s where most of us come up short:

  • We don’t ask ourselves “why” enough. The best developers I know ask “why” (at least) twice as often as they ask “how.” Dig deep — what is it about this framework that’s bugging you? Is it just syntax? Is it the inherent way data is being saved which runs counter to the rest of your application?

We also don’t seek out differing opinions enough. Debate team members and politicians do this really well — to win a debate, they consider all opposing positions when forming your arguments. We should strive to do that when we make our opinions as well.

As a roboticist, I get a lot of flak for using JavaScript instead of C++. But I’ve used both. And I don’t actually believe that one should die in a fire; I think they’re both perfectly valid and wonderful, depending on the application.

  • Finally, we don’t discuss enough. I mean real, proper discussion. Conference downtime is great for this — grab some (new) friends and talk about the stuff you’re using. You may discover that opposing view points aren’t necessarily wrong; they may just be indicative of different use-cases.

The internet is, in fact, big enough for all of us. We can all have an opinion, and there’s no reason why everyone should have the same one.


This was originally posted on The Pastry Box Project at https://the-pastry-box-project.net/raquel-velez/2014-May-4.