The 3 Most Dangerous Words in the English Language (as determined by software developers)

What are these words? Oh, I can’t possibly mention them because they will apparently unleash all sorts of evil and toil upon the Earth. Why do I believe this? Because people (at least people in my industry – that is, the IT industry) will NEVER be caught uttering them, no matter how true they may be in any given situation for any given person in said industry.  To speak them, I have to infer, must be so dangerous and so heinous that no one dare even talk about the fact that they cannot be talked about. It’s like Fight Club, except even other Fight Club members can’t talk about Fight Club to other Fight Club members.

You must, under all circumstances do your best to avoid speaking these words.  Some suggestions for things to help you avoid these words might be:

  • Write a book about a subject with which you’re not completely familiar
  • Give a presentation or an entire tour on a subject with which you’re not completely familiar
  • Write articles, blog posts, and other artifacts about this and other similar unfamiliar subjects from a position of authority. Ensure that you frequently reference your (otherwise unrelated) years of experience in the IT field using technologies and practices that are unrelated to these subjects.
  • And finally, my personal favorite: Berate, insult, and chastise those who may point out the fact that you’re not completely familiar with a given subject

But for the love of all that is holy and pure, do NOT speak these words because, I am to assume, the world may end.

Ok, ok… while I must not speak these words in order to maintain my credentials and place in society, I can PRINT them here for you, but you MUST NOT speak them. Ready? Here they go:

I DON’T KNOW

Please, as soon as you HEAR about a subject, immediately run out and represent yourself as an expert. Do not apologize for mistakes, do NOT admit any malfeasance  or neglect in intellectual honesty and definitely, most certainly, do NOT allow anyone to criticize you.  They are likely just bitter, jaded people who live in Ivory Towers, contemplating the nature and depth of their navels while positively avoiding all real-world experience in your new-found area of expertise. This convenient excuse will easily allow you to morally justify your arrogance and ignorance.

What REALLY to do…

Alright, alright, that was a little thick.  I, of course, was being sarcastic.  Unfortunately, however, what I described above is practiced all too often in our line of work. Many people are putting themselves (knowingly or unknowingly, probably with decent, well-meaning intentions) into this situation and, in doing so, setting back an entire industry. Ironically, their effort to put their own self interests ahead of everyone else’s instead only drags everyone down, including themselves.

If you have recently picked up a subject and are interested in it and wish to share this knowledge with someone else, please follow these guidelines:

  • Don’t just rush out and post something UNLESS you have heavily disclaimed yourself as being in the “Learning Phase” and *NOT* an expert on this particular subject.
  • Solicit feedback at every juncture from the community. You don’t have to listen to all of it, but you should listen to some.
  • Present your ideas to some peers and to some people to whom you look up and internalize their feedback. Again, you don’t have to listen to all of it, but you should listen to most.

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About Chad Myers

Chad Myers is the Director of Development for Dovetail Software, in Austin, TX, where he leads a premiere software team building complex enterprise software products. Chad is a .NET software developer specializing in enterprise software designs and architectures. He has over 12 years of software development experience and a proven track record of Agile, test-driven project leadership using both Microsoft and open source tools. He is a community leader who speaks at the Austin .NET User's Group, the ADNUG Code Camp, and participates in various development communities and open source projects.
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