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Alex Lohr
Alex Lohr

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About criticism

Everybody is a critic. Every developer has both been on the receiving and the giving end of criticism. It is a vital part of our job, be it as code review, comments on social networks like this one or during a retrospective. So let us have a look at both sides of criticism:

Taking criticism

First, we should distinguish actual criticism from fallacious arguments (reasonings that are logically invalid) like ad hominems (personal attacks instead of making a point about the code/article/argument: "You don't have the experience to understand this") or false dichotomy (presenting a choice of two options when there are actually more: "You can either use Vue or React.") and point them out:

"Please no ad hominems, let us concentrate on the argument/code instead."
"That is a false dichotomy, one could also use a multitude of other frameworks and libraries!"

Next, acknowledge valid criticism, regardless if constructive or not. Even unconstructive criticism can be helpful to sharpen your arguments or provide a new point of view to think about your code. If you feel unjustly criticized, please keep it to yourself - complaining about it merely makes you look insecure; try to keep your ego out of the discussion.

"Thank you for your comment."

There's no shame in admitting being wrong, as long as you don't remain wrong. Telling your critics:

"Thank you for correcting my previously wrong position."

is one of the strongest moves you can make in any discussion.

Lastly, try to find an action to derive from the criticism: how can you use the criticism to improve your code, article or argument? If that doesn't work, directly ask the critic if they could offer actionable advice:

"Do you have any suggestion how I can improve this?".

That will usually either shut them up or may otherwise result in chances for actual improvement. Either way, you win.

That's it. You've handled the criticism in a measured and professional manner. Well done!

Giving criticism

What is there to gain from giving criticism? Is this just satiating your urge to be right? Or the wish to convince others to stand for your cause? Do you expect an insightful and civilized discussion to sharpen your arguments? Do you even want recognition as an expert in the field?

Whatever your goal is, avoid a discussion if it is obvious that you will fail to achieve it. Don't fall for the sunk cost fallacy (throwing away your time because you already started doing so) and continue a discussion after it becomes clear that you will not achieve it. If in doubt, getting out of a discussion is simpler than you think: just say your good-bye and refrain from commenting further. You might feel pressed to answer to comments or even slurs that follow - don't. It is not worth your time and slurs reflect more on those giving them than those targeted.

Otherwise, make it worth the use of your time and the one on the receiving end: constructive criticism is always preferable, but occassionally, destructive criticism may be warranted if starting from scratch is the only way forward. Good criticism fulfils three requirements: it is logically sound, is free from ego and is actionable for the recipient:

Logical soundness

As we already learned when looking at taking criticism, arguments should be logically sound, so refrain from fallacies.

πŸ‘Ž "Everyone is using React and so should you!"

πŸ‘ "React has a large ecosystem that will help you finish your project faster."

Free from ego

Arguments should be objective, not only in content, but also in form:

πŸ‘Ž "I would use recursion for that if I were you."

πŸ‘ "This task lends itself to a recursive approach."

Actionable

The best criticism is one the recipient can act on:

πŸ‘Ž "This is so bad, it can't even be improved!"

πŸ‘ "Instead, you can use the builder pattern if you happen to rewrite this."

External sources to support your point should be included both for strenghtening your point as well as a chance to learn more about the topic.

Have you already made your criticism? Great. Now it may become the subject of other people's criticism itself and you could be on the receiving side again. And that's a good thing.

Final words

πŸ™ "Thank you for the time you took reading this."

You probably knew all that already and are only here to criticise this post. Go for it, it can only become better from your criticism. Or maybe this helps as a small reminder for you to improve? Wonderful. Either way, have a nice day!

Top comments (54)

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

It’s a very nice write up. Now if you could only reject Marxism in favor of Anarchy, I think we’d find a common ground somewhere … πŸ˜‰

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

I'm not even a proponent of Marxism, I just find his works terribly misunderstood by people who never even read it. But yes, anarchy in it's original sense (a society based on everyone's contribution for the common goal of everyone's well-being) I would wish for. Maybe a more modern version as depicted in Cory Doctorow's "Walkaway" (if you haven't already, do yourself a favor and read it, it's really that good!).

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behainguyen profile image
Be Hai Nguyen

Thank you for the article. I like it.

Marx recognised that he was wrong. He abandoned his works. He predicted a class war, the worker class would revoke since they were treated so terrible.

Regarding the situation of the worker class Europe at the time, Marx was right in this respect.

But other intellectual elites of his comtemporary also recognised this, and instead of pushing for a pie-in-they-sky theory, they urged the policy makers to improve the working conditions, the pay etc for the workers.

-- The class war that Marx was hoping for never happened.

Marx was bankrupt!

I've read up on Marx both in English and Vietnamese... the one I like best is by the late Dr. Peter Drucker.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Anarchy isn't about contributing or sharing, it's about freedom from tyranny by avoiding power concentrations. But yes, human nature seems to be hardwired towards sharing, implying once free, we tend to figure out things on our own in these regards. Most sane people don't need the "tyranny of the state or representative politics" to help us give and share our meals with our next of kind ...

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

Please read up on the original anarchists. It might surprise you, but they were quite anti-capitalist and despised hierarchy of any kind.

The shallowness of modern minds rendered this quite interesting philosophy into "freedom from the tyranny of the ruling class".

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Define "original anarchists". There are a lot of people who contribute the original idea to Jesus ... ;)

The word might not have existed 2,000 years ago in Judea, however if you read his words, there is ZERO doubt about his "political affiliations" ...

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author • Edited on

Jesus of Nazareth could also be considered anti-capitalist (remember the cleansing of the temple), but you misunderstand again: "Anarchists" were philosophers who brought forward the concept of anarchy as an answer to the question: "How (much better) would society work without the rule of authority?". The first person to call himself "anarchist" was actually the French philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

I think Cory Doctorow gave that whole concept a great update as open-source version-controlled mini-society without the rule of authority. Seriously, read "Walkaway".

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen • Edited on

I know, but the word Anarchy comes from two Greek words;

  1. An ==> Without
  2. Archy/Archon ==> Leaders

It's got nothing to do with socialism. In fact a pre-requisite for socialism is that "somebody decides" since it's built upon constructs such as tax, government (collecting tax), etc. In a pure anarchy you've got nobody with the authority to tell you what to do, hence you are free to accumulate as much of "whatever" as you wish, including gold and precious things.

There are ultra capitalists today whom proclaims to be Anarchists. Whether or not they're in opposition to Cory or not, I'll leave up to others to decide. However, Anarchy and Marxism is fundamentally incompatible, something Marx himself ensured by proposing the "dictatorship of the proletariat" (or whatever he referred to it as). Anarchy in its pure form is about freedom from slavery, period!

Both Marxism and Fascism are slavery systems, since you are unfree in both systems to decide for yourself ...

Edit - Regarding Jesus being anti-capitalist. Yes, he chased the merchants, but he also said; "Give to the emperor what belongs to the emperor" (coins, money)

He (Jesus) held deep respect for private property, and at his core rejected all (most) notions of others having the right to decide on your behalf. The idea of "bending over only to God", something that's found in Islam and Judaism too, implies having no masters but God - At which point the existence of God becomes irrelevant, since even if God is a fairy tale figure, it still implies you do not bend over (worship, take orders) from other humans ...

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author • Edited on

Again, you completely misunderstood Marx: he found the world to be unfree - "dictatorship of the owners" is an observation and not his goal - and wanted to end the rule of the bourgeoisie by bringing about the rule of the working class. Marx never liked the term Marxism. He was a communist.

But in this regard, anarchy is rather an update to communism by replacing rules with common interest and sharing. The whole philosophy is incompatible with capitalism, as the latter imposes the rule of wealth.

People tend to forget that to a society, systems like democracy or capitalism are not the ends, but the means to manage conflicting interests and the fulfillment of needs.

Edit: Jesus as a historical person was not an anarchist. In any case, "Give unto Cesar" is not an embrace of capitalism, but merely a statement that Christianity should not conflict or interfere with the rule of power. This quote was written into the Bible by the council of Nicea and cannot be attributed to the historical person in any case.

Edit 2: this comic is a surprisingly good representation of anarchy.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Marx dictated the dictatorship of the proletariate. Not sure exactly where in his writing, but he clearly said that to prevent "falling back to old habits", the collective itself would manage the resources. It's basically just a question of ...

  1. Do you want one leader (fascism)
  2. Do you want a billion leaders (communism)

As to democracy, Churchill himself said it's a terrible for of governance. Democracy however, has never been tried at large scale for the record. Representative democracy is not democracy the way the Athenians intended for it to function.

The problem with coerced sharing (communism), is that it inevitably leads to a society where nobody does anything. When people grow their own potatoes, for themselves and their own family, and they get to keep everything they grow, people tend to work harder, assuming there's no "coerced sharing" of resources in the society.

I grew up in Norway (social democracy), and my partner grew up in USSR (Ukraine) - And I can pretty much guarantee you that we know a thing or two about "socialism" that you might not have experienced yet, and I will personally guarantee you that it's all rubbish. In Norway for instance, 33% of the work force is on well fare, and we've got 85% effective taxation levels, to pay for this. The only reason Norway is not a developing nation, on pair with India and Kongo, is because we've got oil, and we're strategically close to the enemy of our friend (Russia). If anyone had tried the Norwegian political model in Kongo for instance, it would have resulted in a famine and human disaster of Biblical proportions ... :/

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author • Edited on

I think you make a logical mistake here when you say that real democracy was never implemented at scale but at the same time assume that socialism or communism would have been implemented correctly by those countries dubbing themselves socialist or communist.

Edit: Also, there was an experiment for an unconditional basic income that showed people would indeed continue to work. Just the menial jobs would finally have to be paid fair wages for anybody to do them. The saying "nobody wants to work anymore" is as old as it is wrong.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Well, fundamentally you can break it down into two options.

  1. I believe in freedom
  2. I believe in tyranny

Socialism, representative democracy, fascism, communism, etc are only mutations of some sort of number 2. Anarchy (in its pure form) is number 1 ...

I see your point about how (in theory) we might never have tried "real communism" - However, everything that starts out with the sentence "you must" is a step in the wrong direction, regardless of the intentions of the ones giving the orders. Fundamentally it could be argued that Hitler just wanted to get rid of racism, by exterminating all humans not of aryan origin. It doesn't make him the good guy. I have one axiom which I try to follow.

Do not push your will unto others

Of course, as the CEO of a company this results in a dilemma for me, but I'm not too uncomfortable with it to be honest with you, since I'm paying people for their time, and it's all based upon voluntary commitment. Try not paying taxes to your government, proclaiming you don't want to be a member of the collective, and notice the difference in these two distinctly different ways of looking at life ... ;)

Facts are, pure capitalism is regardless of how you look at it, a much more pure free form of governance than everything else that's been tried ...

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author • Edited on

In capitalism, you are only as free as you can afford it - and it is controlled much more subtly than you'd think, not only by changing the amount of money in circulation.

I'm not entirely anti-capitalist, but I believe you need to keep capitalism in check lest it stops working due to extreme concentration of wealth.

Edit: That being said, it was you who brought up anarchy. I think no system whatsoever can fix the shortcomings of humans, their ignorance, malice and egotism. We have to better ourselves in order to become a better society. One way to do that is criticism as a way to learn and grow.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen • Edited on

changing the amount of money in circulation

This is fundamentally "hidden tax" and has nothing to do with capitalism, and everything to do with communism actually. Yet again, when the few (or many) controls the supply and flow of things, you have neither capitalism nor Anarchy ...

Central bank authorities are fundamentally incompatible with Anarchy and (pure) Capitalism ...

but I believe you need to keep capitalism in check lest it stops working due to extreme concentration of wealth

Some (common) goods needs to be controlled, to prevent some short term selfish group to empty the sea for fish, burn down all the forrest for profit, etc - But as long as no 3rd man is collateral damage, society has no right to control anything at all. Yet again ...

Do not push your will unto others

I feel a bit Alistair like here when I proclaim the following, but I assume you can see the difference between Crowley and me when I say the following ...

The above is the WHOLE of the law

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

[Changing currency volume has] nothing to do with capitalism, and everything to do with communism actually

Every system based on currency requires taxes for its own upkeep, but taxes have a possible dual use: provide capital to keep the system running and impose a price on unwanted behavior. Increasing the volume of currency means that the central bank imposes a price on keeping money out of circulation; but they could also reduce the volume in order to stabilize the currency.

The problem here is that it is not only a hidden tax, but also a means to keep the value of the currency relatively stable, so it is ultimately a requirement for capitalism (in communism, you can just impose the value of your currency and thus have no need for this hidden tax).

But as long as no 3rd man is collateral damage, society has no right to control anything at all.

An amassment of wealth will always result in a distortion of the distribution of power. Therefore unchecked capitalism is not compatible with a democracy, be it representative or not.

Unfortunately, there is no way to let the government and the markets run in isolation. Thus, you need checks on both levels so that one doesn't influence the other too much.

Do not push your will unto others

Too much concentrated wealth means that your will is pushed unto others by the importance is has within the market, which is rated higher than the needs of the many who are less wealthy.

Again, read "Walkaway", it shows exactly what happens if the checks and balances fail and which way to take out of that dystopia.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Too much concentrated wealth means that your will is pushed unto others

Some of the most altruistic individuals I have ever met, also happens to be some of the richest individuals I have met - Albeit altruistic in a "different" way. The difference between a communist and an anarchist the way I see it, is that the anarchist believes in de-centralised systems, and the individual's empathy, and its role in lubricating society - While the communist believes everything needs to be applied through coercion and force. You can frame this any ways you like, but the facts are as follows ...

ALL tax is theft!

Humanity is a self regulating super organism, on pair with an ant hill or a bee hive. Allowing some (few) to mess with it, turn its knobs, to "optimise it" and create equality, is the "original sin" - Arguably, the belief that you are God ...

In the story of the original sin, there was only one entity that committed this sin, and I think we all know who it is ... :/

Even ignoring the religious and spiritual aspects of things, the belief in that one being, or a group of beings can somehow magically distribute the wealth for the common good of others, is at best delusional, at worst theft ...

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

ALL tax is theft

So is property, if you look at it from an anarchist's point of view (again, see Pierre-Joseph Proudhon).

Humanity is a self regulating super organism

Humanity is amazingly bad at self-regulation. We bring about famine, droughts and climate change, thereby destroying the very biosphere that allows our survival. Markets are always optimizing for wealth and democracy is always optimizing for power rather than survival, happiness or even improvement as a species.

I do not believe in Gods or religion to be anything else than the shared delusional belief in one's own ignorance as deity/-ies. I also don't believe in markets or democracy or any other system to magically fix humans, as I already remarked. So you're attacking a strawman here.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen • Edited on

Humanity is amazingly bad at self-regulation. We bring about famine, droughts and climate change, thereby destroying the very biosphere that allows our survival.

Respectfully, but the above is rubbish. Kingship and concentrations of power brings about the above, not humans as a super organism itself. I can mention dozens of examples in the 20th century alone, such as Mao, Stalin, Hitler, etc, etc, etc. Humans collectively, in their free form, have never brought about famine or any of the things you mention above ...

The "original sin" that the snake tempted us with in the garden was "you can become Gods". In such a manner, communism is nothing else besides a long chain of unbroken false promises, resulting in hell on earth, removing ourselves further and further away from paradise, to impose more suffering unto us collectively as a specie ... :/

Edit - Your lack of belief in God is the central issue here. True Anarchy is the very foundation of spirituality. And I don't mean the fake (anti-christ) type of spirituality you find in Christianity, or other centralised authorities, created to deprive the individual for all individual thought, and or property ... :/

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

But the main contribution to climate change was implemented long after Mao, Stalin and Hitler.

Also, you are entirely mistaken about "True Anarchy" (No true scotsman fallacy here, too). The original philosophers who called themselves anarchists were all atheists and rejected spirituality and religion as childish delusions.

I think your belief in God is the actual issue. Belief in a benevolent higher power invariably leads to irresponsible positions.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen • Edited on

But the main contribution to climate change was implemented long after Mao, Stalin and Hitler.

Yes, and it was applied within a context of the national state, where some few had representative powers over the rest of us, inevitably resulting in temporary dictatorship-like governments, again resulting in super corrupt politicians, allowing for "whatever" to happen as long as they were personally fine themselves ...

The original philosophers who called themselves anarchists were all atheists and rejected spirituality and religion as childish delusions.

Yet again, an == without, archy/archon == leaders. The human brain is physically hardwired to having "a leader". Once you "see God", you're left with the only leader you'll ever need, and you will never again bow down in front of evil of temptations again, such as the lie (antropromorphized as "the snake") tempting you with "everything would be better if only YOU were in charge" ...

Edit - As to childish delusions such as Christianity, etc - Sure, I agree, it's basically rubbish from A to Z. However, ask yourself WHY it's rubbish. Everywhere there's rubbish, there's something to be hidden ...

These ancient stories about God and Angels are there for a purpose. They are our ancestors way of communicating to us, throughout the timeless abyss of the masterpiece of "the Creator" (whatever you want to call it) how to live our lives in Paradise ...

Everybody not taking these stories seriously, and/or not understanding them, are destined to live their lives in hell ... :/

Psst, I suffered a Temporal Lobe seizure in 2011 ... ;)

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

The human brain is physically hardwired to having "a leader"

That's an over-simplification of the fact that the human brain is hard-wired for hierarchical thinking. Also, that is no justification to assume an imaginary leader.

Psst, I suffered a Temporal Lobe seizure in 2011 ... ;)

Glad to hear you have recovered. I myself was frozen to near-death in 2006. Near-death experiences are not a proof for religion. It's just your brain providing whatever information it deems helpful in a very concentrated way. If you are religous, you'll probably have religious visions to help you accept your fate. If you aren't, like me, you may experience 30 minutes of documentations about freezing to death (and how to avoid actually dying) in a few milliseconds. Another reason to avoid religion, if you ask me.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen • Edited on

Glad to hear you have recovered

You never really "recover" from a Temporal Lobe Seizure since it permanently changes your outlook on reality. Go to YouTube and search for "The God syndrome Ramachandran" if you want information about it. It's not a "near death" experience, quite the contrary ... :/

I myself was frozen to near-death in 2006

Happy to see you're still around :)

Another reason to avoid religion

You could not possibly list enough reasons for me to avoid religion. However, there's a very distinct line of difference between religions and spirituality, and/or belief in outer powers. Anyways, we're going sideways here.

The point is you've got two choices, regardless of how you look at it.

  1. Believe in the lie that humans needs to be controlled (very, very, very bad things will happen to you if you follow this path)
  2. Believe in that humans are autonomous beings, with intrinsic values held within, and that they can self manage (very, very, very good things will happen to you)

Number 2 is Anarchy, number 1 is anything but ...

Edit - I just realised, it's the same problem as we're discussing on my articles. Complexity versus simplicity really. Either you believe in that the world is complex, and needs complexity to manage it - Or you believe it's simple, and that little interfering is required ... :/

I'm all for simple :)

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

The point is you've got two choices, regardless of how you look at it.

False dichotomy here. You can also believe in free will and a limited ability to self-manage and that this free will needs to be partially controlled in order to improve society.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen • Edited on

I knew you were going to claim false dichotomy, after having read your other (very good) article about debating and argumentation techniques - However, sometimes things are binary (pun!), and you really have only two choices ...

and that this free will needs to be partially controlled

OK, let's take that statement at face value. Who's to control it? You? Mao? Stalin? Hitler? See where I'm going with this ...? :/

Edit - Facts are, we have tried "controlling free will" in every possible permutation we can imagine over the millenniums, and it always leads to the same place ...

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

There are actual dichotomies and there are false dichotomies. Claiming that just because there are actual dichotomies this one is not false dichotomy is another fallacious argument.

Who's to control it?

Society. You need checks and balances, otherwise it will just be the dictatorship of those in power. For example, the rule of law ensures that you don't get the rule of the strongest, something that we had with those guys you mentioned (also fulfilling Godwin's law by the way).

Facts are

If you have to assert that something is a fact instead of simply factually stating it, in most cases you are wrong.

we have tried "controlling free will" in every possible permutation we can imagine over the millenniums

Attacking another strawman here: I already conceded that no system will make humans better. We have to improve ourselves. Systems can help to prevent degradations.

Also, we have tried a rather minor number of different systems, which is really far from every possible permutation. There may be systems we don't even know of that will be the norm in a few centuries. In any case, despite all odds being against it, the current systems are an actual improvement over the previous ones, unfortunately so much that we became complacent and stopped improving.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Systems can help to prevent degradations

The stronger the system, the worse humanity have been. This is consistently experienced throughout human history, starting from the pure fascism of the Roman Empire, through Adolf Hitler and Il Duce, to Stalin. The less "system" the better we've been ...

Ergo; No "system" no problem - AKA: Anarchy ...

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

Even anarchy is a system, but it gets its strength from the benevolence of its society, which is why it only works on theory.

The main reason capitalism is prevalent in modern society is that it doesn't require benevolence or altruism, but good old simple greed, which mankind provides nearly without limits – even far enough to destroy their own biosphere.

So, as with all philosophical utopias, the issue is the shortcomings of humans.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

The main reason capitalism is prevalent in modern society is that it doesn't require benevolence or altruism, but good old simple greed, which mankind provides nearly without limits

I don't agree with you, but for the sake of argument, let's pretend you're right. So what you're proposing, through a strong or medium strong state is to put people in power, the same type of people who are driven by greed?

Capitalism at least is merit based. Politics and representative democracy again tends to always result in that the best psychopath wins. Psychopaths are good at hiding their true intentions, and great actors, since they're able to simulate the emotions their peers expects of a "good leader". They are also attracted to power concentrations - Resulting in that consistently the best psychopaths wins in a system of concentrated power.

the issue is the shortcomings of humans

And you want to give these same humans more power? Anarchy is about dissolving the very powers you are referring to yourself. Respectfully, but your entire argument is ipso facto an oxymoron (yup, I know debating techniques too ;)

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

Capitalism is merit-based

No. You can also inherit and con others. I don't see a lot of merit in that.

Anarchy is about dissolving the very powers you are referring to yourself

Please, do both of us a favor and read up about the actual concept of anarchy instead of repeating the twisted straw man that its capitalistic adversaries put up instead.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Yet again, Anarchy implies "without leaders", it's not a political system, it's the abolishment of politics ...

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

Who says you need leaders for a system?

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camco profile image
Camco

Walkaway chaged my life for the better

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

I know exactly what you mean.

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miguelmj profile image
MiguelMJ

Nice summary, Alex. Some unsolicited piece of advice to add:

Make the less assumptions possible about the person giving you the criticism.

I have found this very useful, because when I least expected it, the person in question was smarter than I initially thought. I have that kind of bias that makes me think that, if you criticize my point, you must have misunderstood it. However, sometimes the one who misunderstands is you (not always, though).

So before going into a discussion on falacies and logic, first make sure that both of you are using the same terms to refer the same things and give the other person the chance to elaborate on their point until it's clear and you feel you can agree/refute it with a proper understanding of what they are trying to say.

πŸ‘Ž "If you use X framework is just because you haven't tried Y yet."

πŸ‘ "Have you considered Y instead of X? I feel like that would fit better here."

πŸ‘Ž "That architecture doesn't make it more flexible."

πŸ‘ "Could you give me an example of what would be more flexible with that architecture? I can't think of any."

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

If you manage to leave your ego (and thus your opinions) out of the argument and only provide the reasons behind it, it should make no difference. There might be other reasons that you have overlooked, but then you can pull the "Thanks for providing this perspective to improve my position." move.

πŸ‘Ž "Have you considered Y instead of X? I feel like that would fit better here."

Ego again. An objective argument should be about our reasons, not about us. They might be incomplete, but they should be sound.

πŸ‘ "Have you considered Y instead of X? It comes with an API that solves the issue Z for you."

Otherwise, great point here: asking questions to provide indirect criticism is a good way not to look too assertive.

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miguelmj profile image
MiguelMJ

I see why you would want to remove ego, but there's nothing wrong in admitting subjectivity. Unfortunately, it's difficult to be completely objective in every topic one discusses, specially because of biases we are even unaware of, and because not every argument is objective. Sometimes we have opinions that we interpret as facts and sometimes the subject is an inseparable part of the discussed topic.

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

You may make subjective remarks of opinions (especially positive ones, those are good in a code review and may improve team spirit), but don't confuse them with actual criticism.

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miguelmj profile image
MiguelMJ

Yeah, I guess I was thinking of general feedback, more than specifically criticism.

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flgublerergon profile image
flgubler-ergon

Thanks for the interesting article :-)

I kind of disagree with your example for "Free of ego":

I would agree with the title in the sense that you should not write/say something like: "I am such a great developer and know better so please do XYZ..."

However, by saying that it is my opinion that recursion would work better here, I also give the other person the chance to disagree. If I say: "Recursion would be better", I claim it as a universal fact (which the other person is an idiot for not realising). In my opinion, the second option is much more likely in the other person being offended and reacting defensively.

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

The point about freedom from ego is that 1. your assertion is supposed to be as objective as possible and thus you would be doing yourself a disservice by framing it as mere opinion and 2. the answer, even if in disagreement, is then more likely about the assertion instead of being about you.

Also, in an actual code review, I would have included an example code to prove my assertion, like I did here: dev.to/lexlohr/comment/207o0

If someone is offended, please apologize and send them a link to this post and maybe the issue will resolve itself.

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flgublerergon profile image
flgubler-ergon

Of course, it should be as objective as possible, but in the end we are (usually) not talking about the laws of physics, so in the end, it is still an opinion. It should be strongly based on facts, which you can and should explain, but in the end it is not an absolute truth (unless it is made into absolute truth by the authority of your role but that is another topic, I guess).

However, this might actually be a very cultural thing. Like in one culture, too much assertiveness is seen as arrogant while in another, you won't be taken seriously otherwise.

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

Thank you for that insight. Might I inquire which culture you are from and why it sees assertiveness as arrogant?

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flgublerergon profile image
flgubler-ergon

Sure: Switzerland
Hmm now why it is seen as arrogant, is a hard question :D.
It does cause a lot of misunderstandings with our neighbours in Germany, though :D.

I would guess in the end, assertiveness implies that I know XY better than you or that I know some "absolute" truth which you don't which would then again imply that I am worth more than you which would lead us to arrogance. But ofc that would also strongly depend on the relationship between the two people: Like if one is clearly more experienced than the other, they could be much more assertive than if it is not that clear.

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

"Better" is always subjective judgement and therefore wrong in criticism. Omit that and only bring on the reasons why you would believe something is arguably better than other choices.

But yes, if you want to strenghen your criticism, you should not disregard other choices, but again explain the reasons why you would choose otherwise, i.e.

"Angular's inclusion of rx can make it easy to add more complexity than is actually needed, thus providing a dangerous foot-gun that could harm the maintainability of the project if not wielded carefully; since your project is not that complex, its use may be considered unwarranted. Vue could be an alternative, but you'll find more developers already familiar with react, which is also why Svelte or Solid.js, while otherwise viable, might be less interesting than react."

So you do not assert a judgement, you assert your reasons for reaching that judgement - and either the recipient will take it to reach the same conclusion or will provide different reasons to reach another conclusions and the discussion continues.

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dailydevtips1 profile image
Chris Bongers

Thanks a lot for writing this down Alex.

It's an important topic and necessary for once growth.
However so often misunderstood and/or misjudged.

I do find especially the logical soundness a difficult one to adhere to.
Given the example, you could argue vue and angular also have large ecosystems.
(I know it's not really the example's point)

How much "detail" is needed to provide such feedback?

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

Since our knowledge is limited, so is the objectivity of our criticism. That does not mean our arguments are inherently unsound (except if they are), only that they are based on our point of view that we could expand and sharpen by taking more criticism into consideration. It's very much like the scientific process: you never achieve 100% of all possible knowledge and some of the things we currently accept could be proven wrong, but at least it's the closest to the 100% that we can get to at this point.

That being said, about the detail: brevity helps, but don't hesitate to link to resources for further learning.

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natescode profile image
Nathan Hedglin

Well put. I'm definitely guilty of ego and having illogical arguments.

There are a lot of low experience developers here that have the ego of a senior developer. Just because social media likes you, doesn't make you correct. I've seen too many take my feedback personally I.e. being called sexist etc.

Learning to take criticism is crucial. That's how we improve. I know I have a lot to work on myself.

Great post.

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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

Abstractions are also great as the means of giving criticism ...

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figspville profile image
Salli Figler

Good article Alex. It's not easy to write anything since all is critiqued. Keep that sense of humor.

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr Author

Thank you. I hope you'll find it easier to write not in spite of criticism, but in embracing it.

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quantuminformation profile image
Nikos

good one

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shlomif profile image
Shlomi Fish

this reminds me of my shlomifishswiki.branchable.com/Enc... page

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adrvnc profile image
Adrian Carter • Edited on

slurs reflect more on those giving them than those targeted.

Extremely underrated quote πŸ‘

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