Doubt mongering

Doubt mongering. It’s a thing that happens because egos are fragile. Some doubts I’ve heard or uttered myself in the past month:

  • That sounds like building a dependency manager, and look how great those are in JavaScript!
  • Swagger is an IDL and I had bad experiences with IDLs when using SOAP and/or Thrift so we probably shouldn’t use Swagger.
  • Microservices sound like microkernels, and that never took off.

They’re FUD and they work off cognitive biases. When someone’s trying to vent, angle into a conversation, or show how smart they are, doubt mongering can happen.

Some of us are more prone to doubt mongering than others. I’m probably more prone to it than I realize. Writing this is making me cringe inside a little.

What irks me is that I often have to pause to separate the doubt mongering from the little bit of insight inside of it.

Say we’re talking about Swagger, for example. Most human endeavors are flawed. It’s perfectly legitimate to say “not all uses of IDLs have succeeded” and “let’s learn from past experience”. That’s a useful insight!

But it’s not okay to do so in a way that takes the energy out of the conversation. It’s not okay do so in a way makes someone feel less smart for suggesting something. It’s not okay to derail. Don’t be a gumption trap.

I still have to remind myself to Yes, And conversations that need a historical context. This isn’t a silver bullet and has its own nuances of application, but at least it’s not a Hard No. It preserves the energy and gumption in a group, rather than sapping it.

Adam Keys @therealadam