Wrong opinions, loosely held

May 15, 2022

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Brought to you Dave Cooper, a front-end developer in Toronto, Canada who has been building internet things for quite a while now. Say hello on Twitter.

A while ago, I answered a co-worker’s question with information that was completely wrong. They asked me if it was possible to make a site behave a certain way, and I said no. To be more precise, I said it would be difficult and time-consuming to do. I was wrong — it would have been easy to do. Anyway, my little piece of wrong information was added to a big pile of other information that determined how the product would be built. Everyone moved on.

Months later, while researching other things, I stumbled across the right information, and my stomach tightened. I remembered what I had said, and realized that I had been wrong. But by that time, the product had already been built. Happily, it came in ahead of schedule and under budget. It worked fine. Everybody liked it.

I think about this from time to time. It bothers me. Not that I was wrong — I’m wrong sometimes. It bothers me that the wrong information just sat there for so long, uncorrected.

I like being wrong. Actually, that’s not true. I like when I realize that I’m wrong. When I realize that I’m wrong, it feels crappy at first, but it’s never too difficult to reframe it, and find the positive outcome. Maybe I learned a bit, or had an opportunity to dig into something new, or found a new approach to a nagging problem.

I recently stumbled across the phrase “strong opinions, loosely held.” The first part — “strong opinions” — seems to have been co-opted by the tech-bros that value bluster and bravado. That’s too bad, because the second part — “loosely held” — that’s the best part. When I have an opportunity to change my mind, or to form a new opinion, or to be proven wrong, then I’m a little better at my job and I can build better stuff.

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash