Technically Philosophical


In my mind I am philosophical, perhaps even Socratic, in discussions with other developers. I mention subjects in order for people to refute them, to build upon them, or to otherwise react. My intent is to lead through guidance rather than through dogma.

This approach has problems when meeting reality. Firstly, developers are not students come to seek insight from the master. They are busy people who just want to get back to work. Secondly, I am not the master. I’m not even a master. I’m just a guy who’s been in the business long enough to build a library of recognized patterns. Thirdly, I am a very large man with a congenitally angry physiognomy and a loud voice made overly aggressive by the tension of speaking in public. In other words, I’m a big shouty man.

Also? No toga.

I’ve been trying to frame a solution to address this problem, but I now realize that there are multiple issues that require separate attention. Becoming an effective contributor to discussions isn’t going to happen from a single action but from a succession of smaller changes that will build to that goal.

To start with the last problem, that of being big and angry, there are some things that are impossible or extremely difficult to alter. I am taller than most of my coworkers. I can lose some weight, but I will still be big. When thinking, I frown. That’s just how it is. I can make an effort to soften my expression when not thinking, but I think there are better benefits for the cost right now.

What I can and should do is make an effort to moderate my tone while speaking. That will only add more pressure of course, but hopefully not enough to create a downward spiral of freak-out. Slow down. Calm down. These shall be my watchwords.

For the second point, that I am not the master, there doesn’t seem at first any redress but to keep my ego in check. There’s a more insidious side to the rhetorical pose, though. Assuming a stance of mastery elevates myself, but it also diminishes my coworkers. It assumes that they have nothing to contribute outside of recognizing my brilliance.

Bad Sean. No bagel.

The best thing I can do to redress this is to listen and consider. The two best things…

As to the initial point, that of my coworkers not being my pupils — that last bit about treating them as contributors should help, but here the problem has more to do with what I say and how I say it. That has its roots in how I most effectively learn.

If you give me a formula, I can’t use it. I need to know the context. I need to see how the formula was derived. Only once I understand why it works can I use it. This explains the drastic drop in my math grades when I went to college.

Well, that and my poor attendance.

Anyway, what this means is that when I am in a teaching mode I provide a lot of information that most people neither want nor require. In a technical discussion, this approach is ponderous and probably fairly baffling. It certainly doesn’t help to get my points across.

This has sort of been a long way of saying that I need to work on being succinct.

With that in mind, I should probably wrap this up.

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