re: What is a type of "overconfidence" you have observed in developers? VIEW POST

re: vent incoming I think one big thing I've noticed is people offering unsolicited advice that tends to be there to make the advice giver feel good i...

Giving feedback in a way that is actually helpful is a really hard human communication problem, I think. I think if advice can be framed in a way like, "Oh, we had that same problem and here is how we solved it..." It can be helpful. But yeah, I totally feel you. I catch myself about to give advice and If I ask, is this helpful? The answer could easily be no. That's hard to wrap your head around.

Any tips for improving feedback, advice from your perspective?
Thanks for venting.


I think that online I would only give feedback if it is requested or very obviously needed (like an error or incorrect information in a blog post). In addition, just check out the person's profile real quick to see if the person is brand new or somebody who has done this for years, and don't just judge on their picture! Just cuz I'm a blonde chick who has been told that I look like a teenager, I've still been writing professionally for 5 years (not saying you would of course, but I have had that happen).

Please read again the answers from the perspective of someone who is trying to understand the causes why someone would reject unsolicited feedback.

I will make a non-requested feedback here. I hope it surpass the barrier of previous emotional experiences and reach the practical side:

  • Try to focus on the message, ignore the messenger:

It might be not nice but, in practical terms, you'll get more knowledge from those that criticize your work that from those that are always agree with you.

The people that break paradigms use to question every info that you give. That's their natural behaviour. Even when they are not humble sometimes, you can benefit from them.

  • No one is the ultimate master in anything: Anybody can make mistakes or stop before a paradigm.

Many of the most important stuff that I have learn in my life came from my students. The masters use to be old people with a lot of knowledge, but the new people carry the objections that generate paradigm-breaking ideas.

No matter the level you reach, no matter how good is the result of your work... you come back some years later and think "I could made that better".

So everybody could try to correct anybody. That seems not polite, but think that many people who think the same way could be corrected, once the discussion come to an end.

The commitment should be with the other readers and how they can profit from the discussion.

  • The way matters but, whom?: It should not affect you emotionally.

The others might not be aware of this topic, or they do and they don't matter. At the end, they need to make a tremendous effort trying to decorate the message for the social conventions. And programmers trend to be more nerd than social, because they invest most of the time behind a PC.

In practical terms, there is also a lot of redundancy. Some comments complain about the "Actually", but what about the "I think"? It is not redundant ?

Why should someone say "I think" just to be polite ? All that you say is because you think that. If we would be so strict to differentiate the personal opinions, then other assertions should have a bibliographic reference (like in articles).

Here you can see an example: You both answered with I think, to correspond the super cautious answer from John Bull that uses two consecutive I thinks tanking extra care of not make any insult. Think about making this effort in every POST for 10 years...

At the end that is a matter of education, many people have invested a lot of time on this topic and they have already recorded that in hardware. For them is not an effort, and they would be rewarded for sure with better positions, opportunities, etc. But you should not let that the other comments affect yourself emotionally.

I think that the technical communication works better if everybody strips the social conventions and it is assumed by default that everybody comes with the same intention of learning from the discussion.

Sometimes even happen, than the message is very polite but the idea is not clearly stated. The key is trying to say it in the simplest form, don't put you barriers to ask and do not offend anybody.


There are a few posts here which are actively soliciting critiques (most recently

) and maybe if we get really meta about it, we can all learn how to be better at constructive criticism in threads where it's welcomed.

I think a lot of times you have to ask yourself: Am I giving this advice to help others or for my ego? Then SIT on that for 30 minutes. You probably think you're helping others when really you're just trying to boost your own confidence and ego.

BTW when I say you, I don't mean you directly. Just you in the general sense.

A lot of unsolicited advice comes from the assumption that someone hasn't thought through their code or decisions. Asking someone first what their thoughts are on "X" or what their motivation was for doing "Y" is usually a better way to go about it because then you're not making assumptions and it may lead to learning lessons for the target and/or yourself.

You also have to think about the culture. For example, PRs have are asking for advice by nature.

In 30 minutes you'll able to give a ton of useful advice. Nice that you have 30 minutes spare while coding, but some of us definitely not.

At the same time I see your point, and absolutely agree, but this is only question of professionalism/egoism. Professionalism should be automatic.

As evident by all the CoC drama, I think tech is also plagued by people who have no concept of how to communicate civilly or that people's feelings can get caught in the crossfire so to speak.

"Interesting that you chose solution X. We tried that initially but found out that it caused problem Y when we set up our CI system, so we had to resort to solution Z"


"Why are you doing X? It's going to cause problem Y in CI. You need to do Z instead"

I know all of you have seen plenty of the latter, and not enough of the former. They both say the same thing in wildly different ways.

It doesn't have to be 30 minutes. My point in saying that is because people always give unsolicited advice without thinking about it. If you are forced to give yourself some time to respond, it's less impulsive and can be better phrased or helpful.

This can go for a lot of things too, not just giving others unsolicited advice lol.

As I said, I have understood your point. But I can also understand the human factor (ie when you, as a teamleader, are under pressure and constant stress, and you have to do XXX merges per day, you have 20 incompetent juniors in your team etc. - in situations like these, some people can easily lose nerves, and i totally understand it, although I do not think that this is professional behavior).

In a professional setting, it's a bit more understandable. But I have both gotten it outside of work. It's infuriating :(

Yes in this case it is totally understandable as it is nothing more than bitching. I'm sorry, that it's happening to you, but as Bryan Lunduke said, sometimes programmers_are_evil(). Big egos and so on. In my community (information security people) it is not much better, believe me.

Thank you Lindsey, I'm definitely guilty of both commenting to feed my ego (here on dev.to) and not spending enough time to think about how I want to respond or if I should respond at all

There is also human factor. If you keep repeating version 1. 50x per day, you might just lose nerves and choose version 2. instead. I have understanding for it, especially in cases when person who does the merges has huge incompetent team (which, sadly, often happens).

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