Most people are clueless

Recently, I read A Mathematician’s Apology from G. H. Hardy. There was one sentence that struck me:

…most people can do nothing at all well. … perhaps five or ten percent of men can do something rather well

He is not alone is this observation, Paul R. Brown called it the Tyranny of the Average. This is not only the case in our progession, but everywhere you look - most people have no clue what they are doing, or why they are doing it a certain way. Most time, they cannot even tell you what they do.

I’m afraid that because of that, most people are doing jobs they cannot do even half-way good (and according to the Dilbert principle, most of them end up in management). Also, these people are victim to the Cargo Cult Programming: they just follow some guidelines or patterns they have seen somewhere. But they do not know why these guidelines have been developed, and how they can be used effectively (and when they should be used). The Daily WTF is full of the code created by these people.

So, what to do? For me, first it means setting higher standards to other people, and to encourage and help them to meeth these standards (like better code style or more powerful ways to do something). The other is, at the same time, to reduce the flexility the developers have within our framework. This does not make the developers any better, but reduces the amount of damage one can do.

Posted by Hendrik Lipka at 2007-11-15 (Google)
Categories: people