Good Advice is Like a Mirror

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This past week, over at Hacker News (where links are promoted based on popularity among its user group), I've noticed a couple of interesting posts regarding etiquette bubble up to the front page. They make similar points, but I was somewhat bemused by them at first: I found myself initially wondering why either post was written at all.

One writer, upset with the ... communication style ... of several prominent software developers, makes the following valid point:

As I grow older, I am starting to realize the people who were idiots when you were younger are likely idiots later in life, just more set in their ways. These people are out there, learn how to deal with them.

That being said, I don't go screaming you are a moron and what you are doing is insanely stupid. That is purely a reflection on me and how I choose to handle those situations.
But then he titles his post, "Stop Calling People Morons".  Whom does he address? If being gratuitously insulting reflects badly on someone, why not let such people go on doing it, as a sort of warning sign to everyone else?

Likewise, another author explains why he thinks that "Smart People Don't Think Others Are Stupid". He, too, makes a good point:
So when someone says "They are so stupid!" - it means they've stopped thinking. They say it to feel finished with that subject, because there's nothing they can do about that. It's appealing and satisfying to jump to that conclusion. [bold in original]
(Of course, I think it is possible to very carefully consider what someone is saying or doing and conclude on better-than-kneejerk grounds that that person is foolish. Perhaps the author would agree.) But again, if someone in the habit of calling others stupid has indeed quit thinking, he won't learn anything from hearing this.

I think each post serves as a way of reaching people (usually young or inexperienced) who might absorb (or continue) the bad behavior because it seems acceptable, but without realizing that it is to their own detriment. That is, appearances to the contrary, neither author is wasting his time offering advice that will not be heard.

-- CAV

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