Learning A Software Development Lesson From A Children’s Poem

Shut Up

As I was getting ready for work the other day, some children's program was on TV. Normally it's just background noise, but today something made me pay attention. Here is what I heard:

A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke,
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird.

I've recently been on a kick of extracting software development related lessons from everyday situations and events – that little poem immediately made me think of opinions. Software developers are an opinionated bunch, which is fair enough – comes with the territory. The trick with opinions though, is knowing when to shut up and listen to those of others. I could probably stand to follow that particular advice a lot more often :). If you can master that trick you're guaranteed to learn something. Even if all you learn is how to keep your opinion to yourself, once in a while, that's still a skill worth having.

Having said all of that, I do believe that you need to form an opinion about everything that happens, you don't have to defend your opinion to the death, but you do need to have one. There are important decisions to be made in software projects every day, regarding technology, process, requirements etc. You're not always going to be the most qualified person to make a decision, but if you let things slide without expressing your point of view – you deserve everything that happens. In that, software is like government. Having an opinion is the first step towards taking your destiny as a developer into your own hands (this applies equally to teams). And that's all I have to say about that for now.

Image by NuageDeNuit

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  • Hmm, yes good point.

    A related point is that when people aren’t listening/reading properly they are prone to misunderstanding the point of the discussion and instead focusing on irrelevant detail.

    That’s not to say focusing on detail isn’t important it’s just that true understanding derives from seeing the point of the discussion from someone else’s point of view.

    • Hi Steve,

      That is a very good point, I can’t eve say how many discussions I’ve seen bogged down in minutiae when the real problems were essentially staring everyone the face.

    • Leo Giannelli

      I could not agree more about voicing your opinion. This is a characteristic many software developers seem to lack. They will either accept what is told or simply do whatever they chose.

      Keep up the great work.

  • I am not totally agree with this, because some time its required to tell at proper time and with proper explanation, you cant just think your self alone, software is the effort of team not only of yours.. yes, you can give more contribution, but it can’t be complete without considering others..

    So, as per my opition, its wise to watch and come to a decision with full reson of it, and explain to team then discussion will come out great output.

  • Ed

    I agree that opinions held back momentarily can help understanding and add to the weight of your own musings. Doing a Yoda by sitting quietly in the corner until the correct opportunity presents itself (by way of the flow of conversation) can help too. This gives you an opportunity to agree with opinions expressed earlier, pointing out the merits of those arguments in addition to the points you may be raising.

    This kind of communication is vital in teams as I think it causes team members to buy in to the process going on.
    Just a thought.

  • That’s a beautiful poem and even more beautiful is how you interlinked the two :)

  • ashu

    the same feeling i have been going through these days ……………….really trying my level best to keep my opinions to myself and listen to others especially my team mates at my job …………………