I recently read "The Making of Myths" which alludes to the worrying prevalence of unchallenged myths, stereotypes and social schemas that exist in and around the software industry.

I tried coming up with a few "myths" myself, although I prefer the term "potentially harmful preconceptions". These aren't assuredly harmful but they're all taken-for-granted to an extent that I think we should critically explore them.

With each, consider it as truth, then consider the polar opposite as true. This is a great exercise for uncovering questionable preconceptions.

  • Good code is objectively good: The belief that our perceptions of what constitutes good or desirable forms of code are objectively founded.
  • Code is entirely utilitarian: The belief that code's only value is its ability to solve a problem — i.e. how useful it is. It has no aesthetic value, for example.
  • Productivity is uniform: The belief that assertions made about productivity are generalizable across individuals, projects and situations — that it is an easily reproducible trait.
  • There exists an unbiased form of interviewing: The belief that there are ways of interviewing that avoid subjective biases.
  • Productivity in a team is calculable: The belief that individual productivity can be observed and measured accurately, as if it exists in a vacuum.
  • Expressing discontent is immature: The belief that expressing discontent is undesirable and immature; best channeled towards solving the problem oneself instead of discussing it with others.
  • Inefficiency is bad: The belief that maximal continuous efficiency is inherently good, and that anything less is undesirable.
  • Your ego should be separate from your work: The belief that one should not have pride in one's work; that one's work should be open to critique without affecting one's estimation of oneself.
  • Mistakes are made by individuals: The belief that a mistake or failure has a sole perpetrator; the structures and preconditions that led to the failure needn't be examined because of this.
  • Meritocracy is somehow egalitarian: The belief that everyone is capable of achieving the same merit, regardless of cultural or personal circumstances; the belief that hiring based on merit (i.e. skill) alone is the most egalitarian choice.
  • Popularity equates with virtue: The belief that a person's popularity is a virtue and indicative of intrinsic value.
  • Democratically decided practices are best: The belief that deciding something by equal vote, regardless of participants' skills and knowledge, is the best thing to do, in all situations.
  • Success is mostly self-defined: The belief that a successful person is so off their own back, their own skills and intentional efforts; the belief that, overall, various external advantages are comparatively minimal in impact.
  • Negativity is undesirable: The belief that negativity, pessimism and contrarianism are never a factor in growth and improvement — and that they should be eradicated.

I don't doubt that a couple of these may in-fact hold some water. I'm trying to question the things I think we take for granted. And this is important because such preconceptions may be insidious and can become the norm without us noticing.