Strong Opinions, Weakly Held

I seldom pause to answer criticism of my blog. If I did, I'd have time for little else in the course of the day, and no time for constructive work. But occasionally I'll encounter a particularly well written critique that gives me pause, such as Alastair Rankine's Blogging Horror. Since I feel that Alastair wrote it out of genuine good will, and that his criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer his statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Humor and humility from a code blogger! I guess that’s part of the reason why I enjoy reading your posts, sensei. :slight_smile:

You know, until I see that Microsoft, Apple, Google or some other tech leader is sponsoring this blog (and until Jeff becomes a mouthpiece for one of these types of companies) I’m going to keep reading this blog as I do with so many others - with a grain of salt. Jeff writes about his opinions. The comments section is where others agree or disagree. Usually, the comments sections can be more informative than the actual blog post, and if the author was sufficiently compelling there will be plenty of comments to read.

All this BS about Jeff bolding phrases in his posts, etc. has practically devolved the conversation into pure silliness.

Haters man, success breeds hate, online or offline, its all the same. What’s ironic though, is the traffic boost you get from the critique - fuel to the fire, or, money in the bank depending on how you look at it.

The very moment anyone begins to think they are an expert at anything is the very moment they become a douchebag. Experts tend to close doors rather than open them. Experts let in ego. Experts stop running and start reminiscing. Be an amateur and always keep learning, building, excelling, with humility and an open mind. Besides, how can anyone be an expert in a field where the technologies and methodologies continuously change?

Keep on keeping on. I’m one of many who enjoys your blog. There are a lot of big egos in the software industry. To me, you present a balanced opinion.

Looking forward to the new website.

This is why love the podcasts so much from stackoverflow. Reminds me that Jeff is a regular guy just like all of us.

I was just thinking about this earlier: In some areas, I’m still a newbie, but in other areas I have a lot I could teach people. I realized that there aren’t necessarily distinct levels where when you learn everything at one level you move up. But rather you can be at different levels in different programming subjects at the same time.

@LKM: I noticed that my statement was not what I intended. It should have been “The only reason when you HAVE TO learn C”, but i’ve forget to put in that “have to” when editing the post before sending.

Learning new languages and expanding your horizon is certainly a good approach, but there is not a single language that is a “Must” except for the languages you have to work with. Sure, there is a lot that C can teach, but the same can be said about COBOL, Fortran or Ada as well. There are other languages that teach you the same concepts that are considered important (i.e. Delphi) and allow people to tick off the “Must know” points on their list without HAVING to learn C. If you know PHP, you don’t have to learn Python or Ruby or Tcl/Tk, as long as you “get” the concept behind those languages.

Each language has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but I for myself do not have a high opinion about people who say “If you don’t know language X, i do not take you credible”, which is what Alastair said and triggered a “So, who are you then?” reaction from myself.

Hey Now, Jeff

Some looser trash talks my authority on everything
Srsly not Cool.

@Michael Stum: I wouldn’t say that PHP and Ruby have too many things in common :slight_smile:

About C though, it’s not as if C was that hard to learn, so I’m not sure why people have such huge issues with it. Since most modern languages took C’s syntax, you don’t even have to get familiar with a new syntax.

It’s easy to criticize a blog. It’s like me telling you that your shirt sucks. It’s totally subjective. What is more difficult is to read someone’s opinions, digest the point and come to your own conclusions. I read this blog for the content I agree with, but the real value comes from the posts I disagree with. I find myself researching and compiling information to refute your points that I disagree with. How can that be bad.

Jeff, I stopped reading your articles for the same reason, right about the “software development = rock climbing” delusion. Now I drop back about once a month or so, or when I absolutely have nothing else to read or do.

I don’t know you. I’ve never met you. I don’t know what your goals are with this blog. All I know is what image of you I form from reading this blog, and it isn’t the one I want to form. So without further ado, this is what I have to say to the persona writing this blog:

You are the Rush Limbaugh of software development. The Ann Coulter of coding.

The problem isn’t that you’re an amateur. The problem is that you never rise above being one. You post an article about XML that contains exactly what I’d expect from someone who has just seen XML and recoiled in horror. No understanding of why XML is the way it is, and what compromises went into it.

In short, a stunning display of ignorance.

That’s ok, though. We’re all ignorant in the beginning. Nobody is born an expert. But you seem to just stop there.

Like someone who concludes that “ok, I’ve spent five minutes with this thing and I am so smart so now I’m an expert and don’t have to learn any more”. Then you switch to talking about the next thing you dabbled in and got all wrong. You may think you’re widening your horizons, but you never put in enough effort to really widen them. You are the guy who reads “Teach Yourself HTML Programming in 24 Hours”, concludes that it is way too complicated for any conceivable purpose, the only conceivable purpose for you being “lolcats”, and then never bothers to learn more, convinced that you are a CS PhD. Had this been an astronomy blog you would have written an entry about how relativity is too fancy-schmancy complicated and why putting the Earth at the center is the right thing to do, had it been about biology you’d be the ID proponent. In martial arts, you’re the guy who has seen a Seagal movie, gone to one lesson, knows enough to get into a fight and have his ass kicked. You learn enough to kill yourself but not more and think that’s just fine.

You are the blowhard. You are the one shooting his mouth off about everything and getting nothing even remotely right.

Whether your opinions are strongly or weakly held is of no importance - you are below the threshold where you are qualified to hold any opinion whatsoever. I don’t ask that you be an expert, but the motivations for XML, for example, is just a Google away - but you can’t be arsed to do even that, now can you? I mean, you know everything already, don’t you?

When will I see the next article about XML? You know, the one where you tell us about what new things you have learned and how it modified your previous perceptions? Or is ignorance too bliss?

I don’t know if the image I form of you is correct. Maybe I’m “special” in interpreting your writing this way. Maybe the 122k people reading your blog are right and I’m all wrong. I have no idea. But this is my outlier data point for you. Do with it what you want.

Finally, your last two sentences in this article just reminds me of this ad:

Do you have a katana somewhere?


That Alastair has a beef with you because you don’t know C speaks volumes about him, not you. You should pick up the KR book and learn C though. Not because it’s any good (it isn’t), but because it’s ubiquitous, and people still write code in it despite its flaws. Like JavaScript in the Web development world.

I don’t remember any time when you admitted making a mistake for whatever reason. I read blogs like Scott Hanselman’s and if the guy got hacked, he would publicly tell the whole story. You on the flip side, would probably pray no one knew!

Just my personal feeling. However after listening to you on SOF podcasts, I feel a ‘soft’ person.

Think that ScottGu is as amateur as I’m…it make me feel so good.

I’m not sure what to say, but I feel it necessary to show support to your writing and blog.
As a reader, I enjoy your writing, and as a student it helps expose me to a vast array of information within the computing field.
I endeavour to read your posts every day, and wait eagerly to see what you’ll be picking apart. I think the argument of Strong opinions held weakly, is a beautiful phrase, which inspires me to have confidence in my own ideas whilst still being able to listen to the views of others.
From what I’ve read it would appear your critiques resent your popularity. And if you can make money from this blog, which I greatly enjoy, then I completely support it!
Over all, I think it’s important for people to realise that this is a blog that covers topics broadly, as a sort of introduction to different aspects, not as a biblical reference to “Subject of blog post”. (note this is my opinionated summary of the blog)

In closing, it takes bravery to stand up in the face of critics, and I respect you even more for it. Keep Posting Jeff!

(software engineering student, UK)

I wonder how your audience breaks down between professional coders and people who are interested in software and/or need to understand aspects of modern software development.

Be a good survey!

From my perspective, in the latter group, you are a very good writer. Like Cringely, another strong tech writer, you might be off-base sometimes, but I don’t care. I’m not using you as gospel. I’m reading you to learn and be entertained. I don’t insist all I learn be absolutely correct; I trained in medicine, and much of what we learn is waiting to be proven wrong. It need only be useful.

Reading Coding Horror is like a trip to Super Walmart. You stop in because you need milk and bread, but in the end you also pick up that cool Indiglo alarm clock and one of those slingshots with the wrist strap.

I can participate in a discussion on versioning one day… and read about a high-intensity flashlight the next.

The point of Coding Horror is not so much the opinion as the topic. He comes up with an interesting (errr… well for us geeks anyway) and spins it out for comment. Some people are just boring. Others are interesting. Not always right, but interesting.