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what you don't know

.. it can hurt you, if you are in IT.
Now it seems to me there is an unlimited amount of stuff you could learn. Where I work you cannot ever say "I don't know" and it is a great risk to ask a question because it might turn out to be something they think you ought to have known. I have 10 years of experience, and every time I needed to figure something out alone, I did ... eventually. I managed to get web servers together with Linux and Apache, MySQL, PHP, or on the other hand Windows, MSSQL, ASP, or whatever.  I learned Perl CGI and Sybase back in the 90s, and later I learned DBI, PHP, MySQL, and then mod_perl and Mason, Java, JSP and Tomcat, XML, etc.
Ok, after all those hours with the computer and endless computer books, I still don't know everything. And people still look down their noses at me if I ask a question and they think I should have known it (just  because they happen to know it), or if God forbid I have to say the dreaded "I don't know."
I'm tired of this! How much do you have to know before you can stop worrying? Never mind, I know the answer -- even if it were possible to learn everything, it would all be out of date by the time you learned it.
So the answer is, I guess, just pretend you know everything. You can always find it in Google anyway. Don't talk to people, don't ask questions. Pretend you are all-knowing.

Mauron
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"How much do you have to know before you can stop worrying? "

I don't know.

Mike
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Like our esteemed host (Joel) has mentioned in various writings, there's something about software development that makes you think you know a lot more than you do. Maybe it's knowing lots of arcane commands or the intellectual stigma of the computer field in general, but we all surely remember the thrill when our first program compiled and actually did what it was supposed to. We were suddenly geniuses and masters of our domain. Kind of hard to see through the haze and admit you still don't know all that much, especially in a political environment with other egos floating around.

greim
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Sounds like you work with a bunch of jerks... I'd say a true hacker can pick up what he needs when he needs it, and sounds like you've taken that approach, so good on ya.

I'd say it's more about being smart and knowing how to solve problems well, than knowing the details of whatever the new trendy language/API/web services framework is, inside out. If people hold it against you when you don't immediately know boring/intellectually trivial details that you just need to be told once or look up as and when needed - fuck them. If however you keep asking the same questions, or lack the underlying programming smarts that transcend platforms/languages/APIs, and hence end up asking questions that seem dumb for other reasons, fair enough, but I doubt you do...

Matt
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

It really doesn't sound like you work in a very nice place. If you have any chance to get out of there, I would try if I were you.

One thing I have learned, it is really important to say "I don't know" or "I don't understand that" when you don't know something, and not be shy about it. Nobody ought to hold that against you, they should respect you for being mature and ready to learn.

But it is really important to speak up immediately, the very instant the topic is raised. If you keep quiet and allow things to progress, it will become harder and harder to admit your ignorance, and you will eventually find yourself in a very embarrassing hole. Don't do that.

Ian
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Only a moron would think you stupid for saying 'I don't know'.  Unless you care about the opinions of morons, I wouldn't sweat it.

Maybe you're just being paranoid.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Next time when they look down their noses at you, you can ask them something they don't know.

And after they admit they don't know, you can say something like "A-ha, so you are not all-knowing after all."

S.C.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

This is stupid stuff that I've seen before.  It is shameful to ask questions or admit you don't know something.  My answer to this?  I never asked questions and I acted like I knew everything, this is the simplest route if you like your paycheck which is the only reason I play along with this dumb shit. 

Remember it's all just a game.  The game is more important than the outcome when your a worker bee drone.  He who plays the game best gets the checks coming in on a steady basis.

Of course, I've started my own business so that I don't have to deal with this crap anymore.

howdydoody
Tuesday, May 18, 2004

My rule was if you are in my cubicle more than twice a day youre an idiot (i.e. you need to do a little more reading before coming to me),

I also pay attention to concepts rather than trivia, i.e. I was explaining a program I wrote (to compare LDAP Directories) to another QA today, and I was explaining why I had to store a datasets (from LDAP)  in a map rather than a list (Because Dir's may not be identical), and I saw the light bulb go on in her head, not an idiot! She didn't know the particular API, but at least I didn't have to explain what a MAP was, what a URL was ...

So answer... either you feel insecure (not poking fun, some people are like this, me included) or you work with Assholes

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Say somethin like "I don't know. I don't have to concern myself with such things normally" with a contemptuous tone in your voice.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A couple of the guys are assholes, I have decided. They came to their jobs with lots of knowledge in certain areas and were seen as geniuses and promoted. I came along later, with different experience, and had to learn everything their way. I didn't mind because I wanted to learn all that stuff anyway. But I naturally seemed like a moron  to the geniuses, because I was in their world. They were never in mine.

Mauron
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

"My rule was if you are in my cubicle more than twice a day youre an idiot (i.e. you need to do a little more reading before coming to me),"

Hey Artist, you sound like you are one of those ego maniac pricks this thread was complaining about!!!!!

I don't know what kind of dev env you work in, but the good companies I have worked for have a solid programming TEAM. The sum greater than it's individual members. People come to my cube more than twice a day and I don't view them as idiots.

You sound like a selfish cowboy hack to me. Work on your teamwork and mentoring skills!

Gen'xer
Wednesday, May 19, 2004


"Hey Artist, you sound like you are one of those ego maniac pricks this thread was complaining about!!!!!"

Don't be too hard on Artist. He has a point.

I've been in similiar situations where someone would just keeping to me to ask questions rather than taking the whole 10 minutes to search Google themselves. I'm talking about a consistent pattern of not doing their own research.

While I wouldn't want someone spending all day on a problem that I could help them with, I do want them to at least attempt to think through the problem and make at least one attempt to find the answer on their own.

People that want to be spoonfeed are not the kind of people you want on your development team. People with enormous egos who have a condescending attitude towards those who ask questions aren't good for your team either.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Your reply should NEVER be "I don't know", but rather "I don't know, but I'll find out."

KillYourTV
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

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