I want to think I’m better than you

One of the Slack channels I’m in has been getting pretty negative recently.

On the particular day I’m thinking of a member of the WordPress community launched a new service. As with much marketing copy, his promotional announcement made some ‘bold’ claims.

Not inaccurate, but bold given the skills of the developer.

Soon after, the Slack channel of developers started to go through Tweets, Stack Exchange questions, and other online threads, searching for posts where this other developer asked seemingly ‘dumb’ questions — all in an effort to make his new service look bad.

Yup, they wasted time making this developer’s service (and the developer himself) look bad in a community of developers who would never use his new service to begin with.

Dunning-Kruger

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others. – Wikipedia

I’m not going to dispute that the developer in question may have a bit of the Dunning-Kruger effect going on. Having seen some of the code he puts out, it’s the truth.

What I’m going to say is that the more I think about the conversation the more I realize that:

  1. It was simply negative and really, who wants to surround themselves with negative people?
  2. The people participating in the negative discussion were WordPress developers; that is, people who learned to build WordPress sites.

I’ve given my thoughts on the first point in episode 11 of The Smart Business Show, so I’ll leave that one alone today.

I do want to tackle the second item though.

WordPress

I’ve got a counselling degree. I taught myself WordPress. That means I muddled my way through learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript (jQuery really), SASS, PHP, Bash, and a few other things on my way to the place I’m at currently.

I did some Ruby frontend work for a while but I’m doubtful that I could still spin up a Rails application without many trips to Google and some cursing. Possibly lots of cursing.

Outside of the very small niche of WordPress I don’t think I’m one of the ‘highly skilled’ individuals that the Dunning-Kruger effect says ‘undervalues’ their skills. It’s likely that I overvalue my programming knowledge.

I think that many of the people in the WordPress community sit in the same boat. Every time I talk to a friend working at Unbounce, or Lululemon, or on RailsApps I’m continually struck by how far WordPress development practices need to grow to get anywhere near this world my friends play in.

As a whole, the WordPress community suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect and the fact that WordPress powers so many ‘huge’ sites only amplifies the belief that we’re awesome.

The bubble

Too many of us (myself included) sit inside the bubble of WordPress thinking we’re rocking the world with our programming. That we’re on top of the programming heap, and we may well be near the top of the WordPress heap.

Inside that greater pile of ‘development’ that’s language agnostic, WordPress as a whole is pretty low on the totem pole.

Before you start looking around at other developers and getting negative about their efforts, take a step back and really assess where you are in the grande scheme of things.

I believe if we all did this, most of the ‘WordPress’ developers out there would realize they are actually just barely heading into their teens in their programming life.

That realization would, I believe, make us less negative toward others, and prompt us to instead help lift them up using the knowledge we have. As a result, the group as a whole could be better.

How do you put your skills in perspective? How do you use the wider programming community to make yourself a better developer?

photo credit: 27433628@N05 cc

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