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Arne Mertz
Arne Mertz

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The software development filter bubble

Everybody is talking about the filter bubble in social media these days. A similar effect can be seen in developer circles.

In its core, the filter bubble effect is about our desire to be acknowledged. We like to read when others share our beliefs and dislike it when they contradict us. Social networks allow us to select what we read and enable us to filter out the things we don't like to hear. Follow/befriend the people that share our beliefs and unfollow those that don't, and we live in an online world where everything is nice and as we want it.

In software development, things can be quite similar. For example, if you work in web development and are used to deal with JavaScript and its host of frameworks, that's just how it has to be. The world moves fast. You may look with disgust at the developers who work with a dinosaur like C++ or even C and the atrocities they call pointers.

If you are from the other camp like me, and C++ is your home, you may be flabbergasted when you think about how someone in their right mind can use a language that has no static typing and where +[] is 0. I know I had some huge prejudices against JS until I had to work with it a little. (It's not that bad, it's just different).

These examples may be a bit extreme, but there are other ways we build our little bubbles in the dev community. If you are a contractor or consultant like me, you may get some insights into some of those bubbles.

If you read this, you are one of the people who actually does have a look out there beyond their company filter bubble. That probably makes you part of a minority. There are companies and teams where no one or only very few are interested what happens outside in the tech world. For example, I've met a team that used C++ as their only programming language for over a decade, but in 2015 they still did not know that in 2011, a whole new standard with huge changes had come out.

You may think this kind of ignorance can affect only dark matter developers, but that's not true. On the contrary, developers who participate in online communities are likely to disconnect from those who don't.

Those "onliners" are more likely to be hired by companies that have a corresponding culture. I also think that if we are really interested in the current advances in our field, we are less likely to stick too long with a team of "offliners" that don't care as much. Not being able to use those shiny new toys becomes unbearable in the long run.

That effect can make us unaware of that other camp. Like we tend to ignore the supporters of the other political camp, we also happily believe that "almost everyone is using X these days" - forgetting that scores of developers are stuck with an older tech stack or don't even know that there's a newer one.

Don't lock yourself in your bubble. Look beyond your tech stack, maybe even reach out and offer a hand if you have insights that might benefit other fields of development. But be warned, you might learn useful and interesting things! The tech world may be built on ones and zeroes, but it's not black and white.

Top comments (1)

guitarkat profile image

One: Really like the reference to that blog post. I do front end and things move veerryy fast -- some good things... some not! Most things have changed since I just typed this up. Seriously. Don't know how my version of Chrome is functioning right now! lol ;)


I talk to more devs that work on very different things and I just envision myself banging my head against a wall all day and consider it the same thing that they just did.... It's more about me not understanding, however.

I tend to ask for reasons on why a certain stack was chosen. Sometimes it's resources, sometimes it's politics, sometimes it's business, sometimes it's just damnit-I-just-want-to-do-itness... although you want less of the latter in business sometimes depending.

I've heard of some people using really old languages because of prior tech existing and upgrading/changing it would impact so many different things, they'd rather hire the odd programmer, which can lead to other issues down the line, but that's a different conversation. But I don't see anything like... terrible?!... with the person?! I ask about future prospects though if they are specializing.

I try to use curiosity and try to understand to temper this judgement.