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It’s okay to invent unusual things (lessons learned from history of science)

mvoloskov profile image Miloslav Voloskov Updated on ・2 min read

TL;DR: Learn from books or other people but let nobody say that what’s you doing is wrong just because it’s unusual.

Great things happen when people aren’t satisfied with what they have and willing to change it by inventing something new.

Sometimes you meet open-minded people whose reaction is great and they’re always there to help and support you.

But sometimes you don’t.

Fermat and Semmelweis

Pierre de Fermat was a mathematician who lived back in 17th century.

He was into number theory that seemed useless back then. Really, who needs prime numbers when all we need is agricultural calculations?

Nobody understood number theory back then, but after three centuries Fermat’s research paved the way to modern cryptography. We have HTTPS and blockchain because of him.

Okay, this was actually funny, but stubbornness can lead to really tragical things just like the story of Ignaz Semmelweis.

Semmelweis was the doctor who noticed the correlation between keeping hands clean and risk to be infected with fatal diseases.

He pretty much tried to teach doctors of that time to wash their hands.

His approach faced so much stubbornness and straight up hatred that he actually went insane and died in asylum. Sometimes when I read things like this I don’t really believe them but is so hard to argue with the facts.

My personal experience

Here are real quotes from real people I heard through my career. Those had been said to me and other developers I worked with:

Web does not need reactive programming. Nobody does that, so you shouldn’t.

Everybody use PHP now, we don’t need your fancy stuff here (about Clojure and functional programming)

You have to be a moron to write server-side code in JavaScript.

While straight up stubborn reactions to your vision are pretty much unavoidable, you can really push things forward and change the state of art forever.

Just like Quake developers invented the unusual way to calculate the square root unbelievably fast or Dan Abramov wasn’t satisfied with existing solutions and created Redux which later become a de-facto standard, you may be the one who the world needs.

Just carry on.

Discussion (9)

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turnerj profile image
James Turner

Like in most things, there is a balance you want to achieve between pushing things forward and keeping things as they are. If every few months you come across a new process for something and keep replacing what you have, you don't actually progress further forward. I see this more of a problem in business than anything else as if something goes wrong/takes longer/ends up being a worse choice, you end up further back than when you started which you may need to explain to your boss or client.

That being said, you also have the opposite case where you stick with the exact same thing for years and years when there are better/faster/easier approaches. This can affect business just as much as you may no longer be competitive.

I think it comes down to being strategic, measuring problems and seeing if a solution to the problem is worth the time/effort whilst weighing any risks.

In the quotes you've provided from other people in your career though, those are straight up aggressive which don't help anyone. It is unfortunate that you (or whomever else that was on the receiving end) needed to hear that.

mvoloskov profile image
Miloslav Voloskov Author

Great point!

I was talking about feeling like inventing that particular thing is the right thing to do but being afraid of it just because it’s unusual

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited

To me it's always work hard in silence and let your success do the talking.

Knowing your own true north is good and sometimes sticking to something gives you unimaginable consequences.

That you may not know till you had reached that stage in life to look back on things you took a chance to do despite all the obstacles that block you.

mvoloskov profile image
Miloslav Voloskov Author

That's the pure wisdom.

isalevine profile image
Isa Levine

didn't know that detail about the Quake developers and fast inverse square route. thanks for sharing!

yaser profile image
Yaser Al-Najjar

but let nobody say that what’s you doing is wrong just because it’s unusual.

I love that line... the art of not giving a f*** !

papaponmx profile image
Jaime Rios

Just to enrich the conversation. At some point I was proud of using jQuery.

mvoloskov profile image
Miloslav Voloskov Author

It's completely okay!

Once I got the client on freelance who wanted a simple financial CRM in a very short timespan. He also wanted to save money on hosting, so I created everything in vanilla, stateless PHP, storing everything in the database. I finished in just two days, we launched and I got my average monthly salary in those two days.

The right tool is whatever you're sure about.

dimensi0n profile image

I love this post ❤️ Don’t listen to other people 😉