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John Hotterbeekx
John Hotterbeekx

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My solution is the best!

A few days ago I was watching a keynote speaker talk about architecture. It was an interesting talk, he had a good concept and the idea definitely made a lot of sense. I didn't really like the presenter, which can happen, but that usually doesn't remove any credit from the content. Only this time it did, at least for me.

What happened?

Most of the presentation was pretty good, there were great examples in there and he really knew his stuff. But where he went completely wrong for me is the way he talked about other solutions and techniques. Calling them crappy platforms, telling people they should probably quit if they still use this, calling certain ways of doing things for hipsters, calling methodologies that are being used for years 'big mistakes'. You probably catch my drift by now, there were quite a lot of examples of these things during the presentation. So while the content was good, the way he treated other techniques actually made me lose complete respect of it. While this example is a little extreme, it got me thinking, why makes a lot of us treat our solution as the best, while talking bad about other solutions?

Mine is better!

What causes this behavior?

We have a huge choice in techniques we can use for our work, and most of us will probably recognize the feeling of thinking the one we chose is the best. This feeling is completely natural, a part of human nature and it reflects the passion we have for the subject or the choice. While right after you chose a certain technique you might feel somewhat insecure about it, once you are familiar with it, this feeling usually gets replaced by the feeling of passion. If you talk with others and pay attention to yourself, you'll notice that you will be defending this choice quite passionately. So you go from having doubts to thinking it's the best you have ever seen, seems a little weird right? Don't worry, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, you are just human.

Open yourself up

Who hasn't landed in a discussion about Windows being better than Linux, IOS being better than Android, React being better then Angular? We all did, we all still do and probably will do for a long time. While I'm not saying to just give up on these discussions, try and open yourself up a little. Try and place yourself in the shoes of other people, see how this might work for them and try and accept that we don't know everything and other solutions might work just as good and maybe even better. It seems very easy for us to judge something without actually having worked with it, and I think this all comes from that passionate human nature we have. But try and be aware of this nature and maybe next time try something or hear somebody out first before judging. The thought that I find very helpful for this is; "If a lot of people are using it, it has to be good in some way".

There is no best solution

When talking about this subject, one thing that tends to come up is that each language, framework or other technical solution has a purpose for a different situation. I don't think that is true. There is no "best" solution for a situation, at best there are some good solutions. Our possibilities in software engineering are just too big, solutions are too widely used, this makes the situations where there is one real best solution almost extinct. I even think that the more you learn about different technologies, the more you discover that they are a lot more similar at the core then you might think.

Different roads

What can we change?

Now looking back at the presentation, what could he have done differently? It's actually very simple, he could've just not said anything about these things. They added zero value to the presentation. And if his goal was making it funny, just try and add a joke, or at least say something that isn't at the expense of others. Imaging the presentation this way actually sparks a light of enthusiasm and inspiration about the actual subject he was presenting, which I think would be the goal he'd want to reach with it.

When looking at our day to day work,you could start by trying to be aware of this, since awareness is key to bettering yourself. Like I said before, don't be judgmental on techniques and solutions but try and look at it from a more logical or rational standpoint. You'll notice that if you are more accepting to the choices of others and are able to acknowledge your lack of knowledge about the subject, others will tend to open up as well and you'll actually learn a lot more from it.

I'd love to end this article on a positive note and with that I'd like to ask you to try and treat others with respect, you don't need to put others down to add value to your own idea. Your vision, your idea, your opinion is worth sharing and is strong enough to stand on it's own!

Share your ideas!

Top comments (31)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

This is the worst part of some conferences, especially when community leaders in the tech are given free-reign on keynotes and are treated like deities. People get up and talk shit and nobody is better for having been a part of it.

qm3ster profile image
Mihail Malo

No, the "every solution has a matching problem" attitude is the worst.
And there are whole talks dedicated to just that.
Oh, FP and OOP both offer structure, modularity and solve shared mutable state? Whoopty do.
Oh, template rendering and render functions are almost exactly the same from a practical perspective?
For shame.
There are approaches, architectures, patterns, languages and tools that are simply worse than others. That doesn't mean we can instantly stop using them, we probably have to continue almost indefinitely for interop. But we ought to be extra careful to not proliferate the deprecated thing more than strictly necessary, and not let it become our default solution, our golden hammer, just because we get practice with it when wrangling the legacy.

stealthmusic profile image
Jan Wedel

First, there are always trade offs for every set of two given technologies. One has a better compiler, the other a faster start-up, one has a friendlier community, the other a better documentation, one is battle-tested for years, the other has that one great feature.
You never know for what reason people choose a technology.

Second, it’s about how to communicate that. Even if there is some piece of technology that is commonly known to be “a bad choice”, most often, people are well aware of that fact. Telling them again and again will only make them feel bad.

Thread Thread
qm3ster profile image
Mihail Malo

I agree if "always" is replaced by "often" or lesser.

xowap profile image
Rémy 🤖

Well I agree on a lot of what you say. It makes no sense to define things by what they're not or to extensively make fun of other stacks/methods.

There is also an image that I like to give. We developers are pretty concerned with sorting algorithms. However, although there is some edge cases better covered by other algorithms, the quick sort is usually the algorithm that everybody ends up using. Yet if you implement it yourself you'll notice it's 3x slower than the stdlib's implementation. How so? If you look at the code you'll understand that it's a very large assembly of hybrid techniques which are here to cover the weak points of other techniques. In the end no single technique won, it's the combination of all of them that make them strong.

However, there is bad sorting algorithms that are not employed there in any way. Those are bad and should not be used. Nobody uses bogosort. Period.

Not everybody gets a medal for just showing up. Some things are just bad and we need to be able to point it out. Maybe not by spending hours making fun of it but at some point you need to be able to have an hybrid conversation where you don't just shut up and pretend to be nice.

All in all, all things should be balanced.

patricktingen profile image
Patrick Tingen

For some things this holds true, especially for things that can be measured, like sorting algorithms. However, how are you going to compare frameworks or operating systems. My phone runs Windows Mobile. Is that better or worse than iOS or Android? And if so, by how much? Is Windows 10% better than iOS or 0.6kg worse than Android? And is Android 1.3 times as good as iOS? How are you going to compare it and what unit are you going to use?

There is no way to measure the quality for things like this. Windows works for me, the Apple ecosystem does not, but that is personal.

xowap profile image
Rémy 🤖

Like I said, maybe you can't pick the winner but you certainly can say who's not winning. By example Notepad is clearly outside the text editors war or PHP is beyond a doubt not advisable if you want to keep your mental sanity.

Thread Thread
jhotterbeekx profile image
John Hotterbeekx

And still, notepad could be good enough for what you are doing :)

Thread Thread
elmuerte profile image
Michiel Hendriks

I use notepad a shitload of times during the day. Guess for what I use it? To take small, temporary, notes.

It's a quick and small editor to paste some log excerpts, stack traces, primary key values, etc. which I need to have around for a while.

qm3ster profile image
Mihail Malo

When things aren't clear, you have to break them down into smaller components and compare those.
With iOS and Windows Mobile that may be full-stack parts like security, app management, or even the system settings availability/UX, but it might also be more abstract things like "performance" and "developer experience" where there are further subtleties and it's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison.

jhotterbeekx profile image
John Hotterbeekx

Totally agree, there absolutely are things out there that are just plain bad. Still this can be approached with decent arguments instead of making fun of someone for choosing that solution.

I think you make a great point by talking about balance. As with a lot of things this is not a black or white case, there is a lot of gray in between. And like I say with my other posts, I hope people don't blindly follow the things they read, but use them in their own way in their own process.

dbelyaeff profile image
Dmitriy Belyaev

Totally agree with post author.

There is no «best» tool, language or OS. All of them are different, each has it pros and cons.

It's not tolerant to prove everyone that technology that smbdy use is better than others.

thomasjunkos profile image
Thomas Junkツ

I would like to disagree. Not on the whole, because your point is about respect and not choice of solutions. In that respect I fully agree.

But you subtly mixed two points:
From a global point of view there might be no uber-solution which is best in all respects, but given a concrete situation and a fixed set of criteria, there might be a best in that respect, that one solution fits best into your requirements.

Why am I pointing that out? Because one could get the impression that when there is no best solution choice doesn't matter. Not that you are implying this, but you do not exclude this way of reading.

Being long enough in the industry, people realize not only that there is no best, but that there are a lot of crappy solutions mostly differing in the way they are broken. But that doesn't mean that there is never a best fit for your requirements.

jhotterbeekx profile image
John Hotterbeekx

I like the way you look at this and the idea that choice doesn't matter is a different extreme that may even be a lot more dangerous. As with everything the key for these things is balance. I love your additional insight, thanks!

karmacode00 profile image
Andrea Lafertte • Edited

If you want to show the best of a technology, and you are doing it by talking shit about the others, then you are doing it wrong.

I think there's no better solutions, just better approaches.
(and this also means, that no person has a better solution just a different approach)

computersmiths profile image

While some tools are better than others for some tasks (I had a roommate who was trying to build a text editor in Basic) there are a number of ways of performing any task, and most of the time “ the tool I know” is better than “the most optimal solution” because the learning curve is an investment I’ve already made.

spreech profile image
Sam Foot • Edited

This post really resonates with me what I see day to day. The constant attacks from 'pros' trying to tell people what languages and frameworks to use because they have chosen that specific stack.

My opinion: Pick the framework/language you'd prefer that meets the needs of the client and is well supported and you will have made the best decision for everyone.

entrptaher profile image
Md Abu Taher

There is a saying in our country.

(In Bengali: ) বিচার মানি তালগাছ আমার
(Literal English: ) I accept the judgement but own the Palmtree.

... which basically says that he actually doesn't care what the other person is saying and he is right after all no matter what.

That is what is going on with the society right now.

sudiukil profile image
Quentin Sonrel

Yeah but Vim is still the best editor.

(sorry, I had to 😉)

vijaykhatri96 profile image
Vijay Singh Khatri

As per my point, A person who faces the challenges and struggles in those situations have the best solution. Every person have their own perception and own thinking level so we cannot predict that is this the right option or not?

Yes, @John I agree with your point if one who can not get the solution by their own way then he/she can look for other way and what they can, They can change their plan and execution by another way which they think he can get the result.

bennypowers profile image
Benny Powers 🇮🇱🇨🇦

I agree 100%, all solutions should be considered, especially the ones that I'm recommending :D

But seriously, A little light-hearted shop-talk can be nice between friends or friendly coworkers, and when used right can improve the mood at work. When the foreman shows up to the constuction site in the morning and the crew are all joking around, joining in on the fun brings the team together. The wise foreman knows how to bring them back around to serious business though before starting the days work.

It's critical to know when to knock it off. If it's crunch time in the engineering department, or a deadline was passed without shipping, or a bad mystery bug showed up in production, that is NOT the time to start bashing your coworker's favourite language/tool/platform/houseplant. Certainly not on the conference stage.

Thanks for writing about this topic!

jhotterbeekx profile image
John Hotterbeekx • Edited

Absolutely, I'm not talking about having fun with friends or coworkers. The situations that I'm trying to make people aware of is when they are having a technical discussion, and even more when teaching other people. And even then, you shouldn't try and change yourself completely, that passion is a crucial part of liking your work. The one thing I hope to get from this is that you'll be a little more aware of it and find a balance that matches who you want to be as a professional and a person.

milkstarz profile image
malik • Edited

I totally agree on this!

Something that made me appreciate other people's decisions was pairing more with developers at work.

At first I would get slightly irked because it wasn't the exact solution I was thinking of - but after stepping back and understanding why they did it that way, it made more sense.

I definitely think that some people that are "thought leaders" in the community have times where they unintentionally do this.

Love the point you made about human nature - I 100% agree with you there. :)

msbasssinger profile image
Jeff Jones

Actually, there is a "best" solution if there exists a solution to a given problem domain. While there is rarely, if ever, a universally best solution, "best" for a given project is knowable. That is why we have value engineering.

There are 1 to n acceptable solutions based on how much of the ideal value the customer wants. 1 to n solutions may deliver (just to pick some illustrative numbers) 85% to 90% of the ideal value, while the best solution may deliver 95% to 100% of the ideal value. Sometimes 85% is enough. Many times, especially where excellence is one of the goals, nothing short of 95% will be acceptable.

Pardon the pun, but never underestimate the value of value engineering.

mark_nicol profile image
Mark Nicol

You capture very nicely the idea of both respect for other people and their choice and also the distinction between 'best' and a 'rightness of fit'. It was a lovely inspiring morning read.

It makes me want to learn more about the technologies that I don't understand the problems they solve and how that is similar or different to the ones I'm more familiar with.

imben1109 profile image

No best solution, but most suitable solution.

My question is how can we select a suitable solution?

phlash profile image
Phil Ashby • Edited

If possible my team like to 'suck it and see', that is, try a few solutions on the problem for real, especially the difficult bits (eg: hard performance boundaries, working integrations, better UX - measurable things) to the point where the team can identify the crappy bits and how to live with them, the possible gains in our productivity or customer experience, the possible costs and the shape of the learning curve.

Often we end up choosing something less obvious than our original suggestions (pop quiz: choose a static source analysis tool!), as we discover more about our own use case too. A great example of this can be found in the rendering algorithms in Quake - skip down to the end of this chapter and find "an idea that did work" :)

jhotterbeekx profile image
John Hotterbeekx

I think there are many ways to a suitable, and even great solution. Although the greatest ones might experience, this can be the experience you gather during a career, but also trying things out when you are not sure. All in all I think being able to find a suitable solution is one of the most important aspects of being a professional software developer.