I remember when I first read How To Detect Bullshit by Scott Berkun, I was mesmerized that someone was able to articulate this so well. Throughout my career I have referenced this article to my coworkers. Today, more so than ever before, being able to detect bullshit is one of the most important skills you can have working as a programmer.
An endless stream of bullshit
There is an endless stream of bullshit flowing all over social- and traditional media at any given time. Previously it was not so constant and all consuming, but today you will encounter countless situations where the skill of bullshit detection is required.
If you fail to acquire this skill or do not practice it, you will end up making flawed decisions, make bad choices and maybe you even end up loosing your job over it!
Having a finely tuned bullshit filter is something that requires persistence in this day and age. If you do not force the filter to be applied to all information everything you consume, it will wear you down and you will be one of those people who’s only capable of reiterating something somebody else came up with.
I would argue that in all positions bullshit detection is essential. Obviously it is vital when being in involved in hiring processes. However you need to apply the same filter when working as a programmer and sysadmin. We are all bombarded with trends, hypes and promises of a new silver bullet every single day. A finely tuned bullshit filter is essential to be able to pick out the few important pieces that pass before your eyes during a day. Without it you’ll quickly feel exhausted and get a feeling you are not keeping up.
It only takes one question:
One of the first items in Berkun’s article is this, asking the question:
How do you know what you know❓
It sounds pretty easy, but once you focus upon asking this question every single time someone makes a statement, you will be surprised how often the answer will not be satisfactory.
Always be alert 👀
Let’s say you are visited by someone who’s portrayed as a thought leader in innovation. The first question you should ask yourself should be:
How does this person know what it claims to know?
In an argument with a fellow programmers when someone makes a claim that “X is superior to Y”, your first question should be:
How does this person know this?