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Opinions: Ally or Enemy

Published 12/16/2015

In today’s episode, we discuss when opinions can be helpful, and when they can be harmful.

Mentioned in today's episode

  • When opinions are a good thing:
    • When the evidence for a given topic is inaccessible or doesn't exist
    • When the person with the opinion has significant experiential knowledge
    • When the subject of the work is primarily representative of a person's opinion or expression
  • When are opinions a bad thing?
    • When an opinion is positioned as an objective truth.
    • When the opinion of an individual devalues any other individual's perspective without objective reasoning
    • When opinion is used as a substitute for research.

Today's episode is sponsored by OneMonth.com! One Month is the first ever online school specifically for tech entrepreneurs. Enroll now at onemonth.com/developertea for 25% off your first month.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea my name is Jonathan Cutrell and today we're going to be talking about opinions. We're going to talk about when an opinion will be your ally and when it could be your enemy. Opinions can be a great thing but they can also be a fatal flaw for any person or for really any company. In this episode we'll discuss when your opinion is a good thing and when it can be a bad thing. Today's episode is sponsored by 1month.com. Do you want to be a digital entrepreneur? Well 1month.com is built specifically for you especially if you are a beginner and you want to build a product from the ground up. We will talk more about what 1 month has to offer later on in today's episode but I want to jump straight into this discussion on opinion. We all have opinions. We form our opinions over our lifetimes. We base them on a variety of factors. Our experiences, our personal convictions, inner values for example. Sometimes we base them on evidence and sometimes we base them on hearsay. Maybe we have an old wives tale that we bring into our opinions. Most often our opinions have a complex makeup. Not any one of those things but many of those things can go into building up what our opinions are. And they're difficult to explain in full detail. The opinions of a developer are incredibly important to our job. In fact, it is opinion that drives much of our decision making process. It is opinion that has created so many diverse programming languages and so many different ways of solving similar problems. So many different powerful tools that we use are based on opinions. So let's talk about when opinions can be a really good thing. The first scenario where an opinion is a good thing is when evidence is either inaccessible or it doesn't exist. So let's say for example that you're going to start a company and you have an idea and you want to see whether or not that idea is going to work. Well, you may not have any evidence to push you forward. And therefore, if you were only to work off of evidence, then you may never actually start that company. But if you think you have a good enough idea, that is an opinion. And if you have a good enough idea and you actually build something to test that idea, well, now you have some evidence to pair with your opinion and your opinion can become fluid. It can change over time. So opinions are a good thing when evidence is inaccessible because it is what gives us the ideas that we have. The unique perspectives, the unique positions on different subjects. That's what drives a lot of our innovation is opinions about things. So again, opinions are a good thing when the evidence around a given topic is inaccessible or it doesn't exist. Number two, opinions are a good thing when the person with the opinion is very familiar with the subject matter on an experiential level. So let's say for example that you have taught a lot of young developers how to do something specific. Well, now you have a lot of anecdotal evidence, but a lot of experiential knowledge about how to teach those developers. And the opinions you form as a result of those experiences are valuable. Now the most important thing to take away from today's episode and really the theme of today's episode is that opinions should never be confused with fact. Opinions should never be confused with fact. So we'll talk more about that in the next part of the episode after our sponsor break when we talk about the negative effects of opinions. But opinions are a good thing when the person is familiar with the subject matter because that is information that they have gathered over a period of time. And even though it's subjective information and even though it's filtered through that person's way of thinking and their other opinions about the world, those opinions are still valuable because they are experiential. So they can definitely inform the way that you think your experiences should inform the way that you think and opinions are a good thing in that scenario. And number three, opinions are a good thing when the work is primarily representative of opinion or expression. So if you are working on a project that doesn't have particular business strategy goals, isn't trying to reach a particular audience or encourage a particular action, if it is primarily intended to be an expressive action, if it is artistic in some way, where you aren't trying to necessarily communicate to a target audience, for example, then your opinion is obviously necessary in that scenario. Opinions are a good thing when the work is primarily representative of that opinion or of expression. And there are many other scenarios where opinions are valuable. We obviously cannot go through all of them in today's episode because it's just too complex of a subject. Opinions are such a complex subject, but most importantly, remember that just because we as an industry appreciate data and we appreciate objectivity, that doesn't mean opinions are a bad thing. Opinions can be a good thing in many scenarios. Once again, they are good when evidence is inaccessible. They're good when the person is very familiar with the subject matter on an experiential level and they are good when the work that that person has an opinion about is representative of their opinion or is an expressive work, an artistic work, for example. Opinions are a valuable thing because opinions allow us to diverge on subjective matters. And ultimately, we learn more from each other than if we were to not have an opinion. If everything was cut and drive, everything was obvious and easy to measure, we would never develop taste or have much differentiation of personality between people. Ultimately opinions are an expression of personality and perspective. However, there are times when our opinions can be more harmful than helpful. We'll talk about those right after this quick sponsor break. Today's episode is sponsored by 1month.com. If you've ever had an idea for a product or an app but didn't really have the skills to start it or didn't know where to start, one month can help you do all of that and more. One month is the first ever online school specifically built for tech entrepreneurs. One month students learn how to build and grow real-world products similar to Instagram or Pinterest, for example, while using tools like GitHub, Heroku, Optimizely Mixed Panel, and a ton of other amazing technologies. One month students learn things like programming for non-programmers, growth hacking, iOS development with Swift, HTML and CSS, content marketing, Ruby on Rails, Python, jQuery, and Pliny More. And one month is organized into bite-sized practical video lessons delivered from the best instructors in the world and you do it from the comfort of your own home. Now the best part about 1month is that if you get stuck, there's always someone there to help you out while you're building and growing your product. A real person will help you out. Not just a computer or an automated response, emailing, marketing machine. It's a real person that will help you out if you get stuck. So go in and roll now at 1month.com slash Developer Teato get 25% off your first month. Of course that link will be in the show notes and thanks again to 1month.com for sponsoring Developer Teain 2015. So we've been talking about opinions on today's episode and when your opinion can help you versus when it could hurt you, when can opinions be harmful? Well, as we said before, opinions are an expression of personal taste and perspective. Now there are some scenarios though where opinions can become harmful. Your sharing your personal taste or sharing your perspective can become harmful. The first thing to watch out for is when you try to position your opinion as an objective truth. You know, as children we were taught in grade school, the importance of differentiating fact and opinion. Unfortunately this is really hard to do. This particular issue is incredibly difficult to keep in check because we feel very strongly about our opinions and very often we confuse our opinions with fact. We feel very similarly about our opinions as we feel about facts because we shape our entire worldview around the way that we think, around our perspective on things. So it's difficult to say that we believe something that we don't necessarily believe is fact. It's difficult to say that something is an opinion and to understand how that is differentiated from a fact. So we have to be very careful, especially in work scenarios, especially when we are making decisions for a product or perhaps on behalf of a client, we have to be very careful when we position our opinion as an objective truth versus just an opinion that we have a lot of belief behind or a lot of energy behind or a lot of good reasons for having that opinion. It is very possible to have an opinion where you have a lot of good reasons to have formed that opinion but you don't have the objective facts in front of you. So be careful not to present your opinion as objective truth. A second kind of toxic scenario is when the opinions of an individual devalues any other perspective or any other opinion without objective reasoning to do so. This often ultimately leads to the scenario previously discussed where you present your opinion as objective truth. Once you start devaluing the opinions of other people and devaluing the perspectives of other people, the next step is quite simply to say that your opinion is superior in some way and then the ultimate superiority is wrong versus right. In other words, saying that another person's opinion is objectively incorrect or objectively improper versus your opinion, that is a dangerous scenario to be in. Now not everybody's opinion is well-founded and not everybody's opinion is necessarily equal. But the only way we should be forming opinions about other people's perspectives is to use research, to use objective proven truth that exists outside of opinion that exists in some format that is verifiable. So be certain not to elevate your opinion to the level of devaluing the opinions or the perspectives of other people without any objective reasoning for doing so. And finally, the last point that I have for you today can resums everything else up that I've said in today's episode. And that is that opinion should never be used as a substitute for research. Opinion should never be used as a substitute for research. And this happens all the time, all the time in business. We use our gut to make a determination about what feature we should add before another feature instead of doing some level of research. Instead of gathering information from the people who are using the application, for example, or perhaps gathering statistical information to help us make our decisions in a more informed way, it is very common to simply lean on an opinion, a strongly worded, and reasonable opinion instead of doing the hard work of research. This habit is particularly dangerous when we use the successes of a particular application or product that was built on these gut decisions when we use that as a way of validating the gut decision making as a method of creating a product. The value for that product was not created simply because someone instituted their opinion and that doesn't necessarily mean that their opinion is more valuable than someone else's. Never lean on an opinion as if it is research. Never use an opinion as a substitute for research. This goes right back to what we were talking about earlier. Opinions are a good thing when evidence is inaccessible. But if you have evidence, if you have the ability to perform research, then prefer the research over opinion in as many scenarios as possible. The gut has a much higher percentage of being wrong, the opinions of someone or the intuition that people use to make decisions have much higher percentages of being wrong than do statistics, then does research. So lean on research as often as possible and use opinion where the research is lacking. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Developer Tea. I hope you will continue building your opinions because they are important. But I also hope you will continue to do research when it is appropriate to do so and to understand the perspective and the importance of other people's opinions. Thank you so much to today's sponsor 1month.com. If you are wanting to be a tech entrepreneur, but you haven't learned the hard skills necessary and you don't know where to start, go and check out 1month.com. Remember if you sign up with the code Developer Tea, that's 1month.com slash Developer Tea. You'll get 25% off your first month. Make sure you check the show notes at spec.fm. If you have not yet subscribed, make sure you subscribe in whatever your favorite podcasting app is. Subscribing to Developer Tea ensures that you don't miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.