Opinions aren't wrong, but can be irrelevant

Marcus • May 14, 2020

Five people on a panel, sitting in a circle of white chairs on a slightly-elevated podium.

If you’ve been working with the same people on the same tech stack for long enough, plenty of opportunity to discuss future solutions arise.

Not all opinions may have the same weight and relevance. What criteria should you look at to use them for finding a solution?

Whose opinion is it anyway?

A lot of people have opinions, and many are happy to discuss their strong beliefs with you.

Being heard matters, but a statement doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Is the opinion your own based on experience, or did you form your opinion based on what someone else said? If the source for your opinion is a random blog post (such as this one), knowing what company or person is posting is relevant: If you are recommended approach A, that may be completely irrelevant in the context you are working in.

Additionally, if you’re citing someone completely unknown to everyone else, that doesn’t increase its validity — their knowledge on a certain topic matters. If a team mate who knows nothing about tests wants to rewrite all of them, you’d be suspicious. If someone you never heard of recommends it, does that make them credible?

Relatedly, if the documentation clearly recommends approach A for using a certain framework or application, approach B can still work — and support your use cases better. Knowing two options doesn’t make either of them the better choice by itself, context helps.

Does it help us move forward?

Software is never really done. And as technology evolves, so should your software stack. The feasibility of such a potentially massive undertaking depends on many circumstances, of course, and you’ll have plenty of discussions over the course of time.

How relevant I feel anyone’s non-factual opinion is depends on how much it helps answer any of the following questions. That is just my personal world view, and your own criteria are very likely different:

The baseline for an argument’s impact depends on sources, citations and facts.

I feel everyone should be given a voice and be heard: If you’re willing to explain your reasoning within your own view of the world and are able to convince with your arguments, I’m very open to listen. I’m very happy to be wrong too, if you can convince me why I am.

When your opinion is just to keep the status quo because “things are good as they are”, that’s valid within your own view of the world. Yet I strive to improve things, and I would personally consider such an opinion to need good reasoning for it to matter.

What would it take for anyone to convince you?