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Opinionated people

I've begun to notice more and more conversational/argumentative patterns we use.  I'm starting to get the idea of standard conversation, 'as the rest of the people do it.'  And then I've noticed some unusual patterns. 


Some people (who I cannot stand to be around most of the time) take every opportunity to argue a point.  I call these people the Loud Opinions Man.  You say "I love honey and syrup" and they say "That's nothing, molasses is far superior in quality and taste and texture."  Or you say "I paid twenty dollars for this new CD," and they reply "Ha! I saw that on Overstock for $8.88 yesterday."

Or you say something not even in the frame of an argument, not even close, like "I met Bob yesterday.  He lost fifty pounds on the Atkins diet in the last month, isn't that amazing?"  And they reply with "You know the Atkins diet is unhealthy, right?"


And this goes back to patterns.  You make a statement, and the Loud Opinionated Man interprets this statement as:
1) Support for an argument, which you may or may not be making or even thinking about,
2) Your complete understanding of the subject, period.

So their response includes:
a) Some valid counter-argument or
b) Some 'fresh insight' that they have on the subject.


So with the conversation:
--
"I like honey and syrup."
--
becomes:
-Honey and syrup is a superior product.
-Molasses does not exist.

They then reply with:
--
"That's nothing, molasses is far superior in quality and taste and texture."
--
becomes:
-Molasses indeed exists!
-Molasses is superior in many ways to honey and syrup, and let me tell you why.
-Does not mention that the good molasses is hard to find in stores--because it does not support the above argument.



There are other types of people who have Strong Beliefs.  These people believe that Their Way Is The Correct Way, which is a fine way of living, so long as they are actually correct.  When they're wrong, though--it's not like moving a mule, it's like arguing with the deaf.  They can't hear you, but they can tell when you're done talking so they can begin their side again.  And they don't budge, ever.

Those with Strong Beliefs That Are Wrong are particularly difficult to deal with--you must show them direct and tangible proof that they are wrong, and you must give them at least a day to concede their argument.  Sometimes even this does not work, and you have to use tactics to make them surrender.  A good tactic is to bet money--if they are unwilling to bet money to defend their stand, then they must defer.  If they are willing to bet, then you're in the money, and you have tangible proof that they're wrong, i.e. their money.

Sample argument: "The speed limit is 65 at night."  "No it isn't, I just saw the sign for 70."  "No, you saw the top part of the sign.  The bottom part says -65 night-."  "No, there is no bottom part."  "<show them the next speed limit sign>"  "Oh.  Well, the 65 wasn't there at the last sign."



A third group of people are the Loud Opinionated Man With Strong Beliefs.  No one endures these people in real life, which is why they tend to flock to the Internet.  Here we have messageboards littered with their incomplete, poorly thought out, often completely wrong or at least irresponsible opinions.  And because they are Loud, they are the most frequent and prolific of writers, and you end up reading them more than the Rational Majority.  And because they hold Strong Beliefs, they start flame wars, and because they are Opinionated, they refuse to acknowledge counter-arguments, and because they are Loud, they tend to end every argument, wrong or not.

Slashdot is of course the mecca where the Loud, the Opinionated, the Man With Strong Beliefs, and every mix of these comes to gather and argue.  We hate slashdot because we know that every time an article mentions Microsoft, the Loud Opinionated man will mention "that Linux is a perfectly viable alternative."  Or anytime a security-related article appears, the Man With Strong Beliefs will say something crazy about "strong encryption for the masses"--whatever that means.

Here at Joel's forum there is less of the Loud Opinionated and, thanks to a smaller userbase[1], less of the Strong Beliefs that tend to be wrong.  Here the common belief is in Strong Pragmatism, which is just the attempt to make all decisions based on the economic principle of maximizing utility.  This means that we don't see suggestions that everyone switch to Linux for security reasons.  This means we also don't see the huge amount of flaming going on.  For a good example of this, check the Ask Joel discussion of Offshoring.  A lot of good thinking went into the 200+ posts in that thread:
http://discuss.fogcreek.com/newyork/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=2160


But even in this forum I'm seeing more of the Loud Opinionated Nonsense.  It makes reading the forum less enjoyable--maybe more tedious is a better way to say this.  Maybe I'm just getting bored, but I doubt it. 


Pete
--
[1] - My slashdot theory - "As the userbase grows, ever more marginal opinions become valid."

pds
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

It's a bitch sharing the Earth with people you don't like, isn't it?

muppet
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

What a load of fatuous rubbish.

Loud Opinion Man
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Pete:  you begin by presenting a rational argument, make some very good points, and then conclude with "It makes my life less enjoyable when people disagree with me or offer opposing viewpoints."

How sad.

muppet
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I agree, I was just reading a bunch of posts on JOS today and thinking that, in general, programmers are lacking in humility. They tend to think their way is the best way, and disregard co-workers that don't think like they do as idiots.

Now, I'm not saying there aren't idiot co-workers out there. It's just that there are plenty of times I thought I really knew what I was doing... until I took the time to actually listen to a fellow programmer's opinion and realized there are different ways to get something done.

If more programmers attempted to listen before they spout their opinions, I think we'd have better and more effective development teams, instead of one pissing contest after another.

Natty
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

>But even in this forum I'm seeing more of the Loud Opinionated Nonsense.  It makes reading the forum less enjoyable

That is just your opinion :-)  If it becomes less enjoyable people will stop reading it.

The fact is that no matter how much you rail at slashdot it is precisely  those diverse "opinions" that make it interesting to read.  If you want to have a discussion you should be prepared to accept that there always will be shades of opinion  some of which you might dislike. Learn to accept that -- that is the American way -- or atleast it was till Nov 2000.

Code Monkey
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

"Learn to accept that -- that is the American way -- or atleast it was till Nov 2000"

Good one.

Mr.Analogy (ISV owner)
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

>Or you say something not even in the frame of an argument, not even close, like "I met Bob yesterday.  He lost fifty pounds on the Atkins diet in the last month, isn't that amazing?"

Is too an argument (post or cum hoc).

Derek
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

> lacking in humility

The ones with humility (and possibly fear) are the ones lurking.

Isn't there 1 million unique vistors/month hitting this forum.

Thank {insert higher power here} that <200 of us actually post.

--
ee

eclectic_echidna
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

:[1] - My slashdot theory - "As the userbase grows, ever more marginal opinions become valid."

That's true of the Internet, generally, isn't it?

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Like that dead columnist from San Francisco used to say, "Opinions are like assholes.  Everybody has one, and nobody wants to look at the other guy's".

Seems like an odd quote coming from a guy in San Fran :)

Snotnose
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I agree with the OP.

Diversity of opinion is great, thats not the problem. If you want proof you can go take a look at some of the JOS threads from about two years ago. There was the odd flamewar back then too, but there was also a great deal of discussions were people with vastly different skillsets shared experiences and opinions in a very amicable fashion.
Im not sure we are seeing less of that now actually, its just that the noise floor has climbed upwards.

Eric Debois
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Your comments are bang on.  Muppet is particularly annoying.  It would be nice if there was a kill list nicks could be added to such that any messages from those nicks would not display.

Pete
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Maybe one day you can get a v-chip for your head, and you can filter out particularly annoying people at the workplace, the gym, on the street...

hell, when your wife starts cheating on you, you can v-chip out her boyfriend and keep on keepin' on.

muppet
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

You're really establishing a reputation for yourself with comments like that one, muppet.

Kalani
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

You might enjoy:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0345410033/ref=ase_r5un7ejl-20/102-5529398-0568912?v=glance&s=books

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

muppet is much more insightful than Pete and Kalani. muppet, you stay. Pete and Kalani, go work for an accounting firm.

.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Pete,

Wonderful essay. Top notch. Blog it somewhere so you have a permalink.

Dennis Atkins
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

muppet is basically an immature, insecure, angry, prick.  He knows how to criticize every human being on earth except himself. His response to every post is bitching about how he knows better than anyone else and how stupid everyone else is.   

.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

"hell, when your wife starts cheating on you, you can v-chip out her boyfriend and keep on keepin' on. "

This was the reason for your divorce muppet?
or she can't stand living with a prick like you?

Anthony
Thursday, August 12, 2004

I really don't understand these attacks on muppet. He shows insight. Have we been flooded by students or something, secure in their little orthodoxies?

. (The first one, above)
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Those who are attacking muppet are merely afraid of the truth he speaks. His postings are among the best content I have ever read on the internet.

David _-_ Winston
Thursday, August 12, 2004

YOU DO KNOW THIS IS A SOFTWARE FORUM, RIGHT ?

WoodenTongue
Thursday, August 12, 2004

I think that every post, anywhere on the internet, needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Possibly also some other seasonings.
As a guy once said to his girlfriend: "If something I said can be taken in two ways, and one of them offends or annoys you, I meant the other one."

It is possible to just be amused by comments without being offended. Muppet often says things with insight. It is only the way he says them that bothers people, wjereas I just think he has a really good, amusing, way of making a point.

John Q Tester
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Yes, these Loud Opinion People tend to over-analyze everything.

A super-long post over-analyzing their behavior is quite warranted.

Alex
Thursday, August 12, 2004

One problem is that there is another type: people who, when you say something, attempt to amplify or elucidate your comment, or offer you useful advice -- but this automatically disagrees with you to some extent, so they seem very similar to Loud Argumentitive Man. But I maintain they're different.

Hmm... in fact, I'm doing it right now. I don't mean to imply that you hadn't thought of this, or that you were wrong, but that this was a useful perspective that should be shared whether you've thought of it or not. But how do I avoid being taken like that?

Jack V.
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Good one Pete.
I'm definitely a LOM.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, August 12, 2004

> in general, programmers are lacking in humility

"We will encourage you to develop the three great virtues of a programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris."
-- LarryWall, ProgrammingPerl (1st edition), O'Reilly & Associates


Thursday, August 12, 2004

"Now, I'm not saying there aren't idiot co-workers out there"

Yes, there are. You're one, and I'm another one, and so is everyone else :)

The fact is we're all idiots, at some point, during any day. There are several factors for this - e.g., the ones that affect me the most are the amount of stress I'm enduring, my level of self-esteem, and my tolerance to frustration.

YMMV, but you can be sure you'll act like an idiot every now and then ;)

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, August 12, 2004

What is an acceptable response to a statement such as  "I love honey and syrup"?  "do you?"  That pretty much ends the conversation.

How about "Why?"  response- "I dunno...it tastes good?"

Really when someone says something like this you can either say, essentially, 'how nice for you' and end the conversation, or offer something up of your own related experience such as you too like honey and syrup, or where to get the best honey and syrup, or here's what I prefer to honey and syrup.

It's just conversation to pass some time.  No need to project unflattering interpretations of the other guy's character on things.

name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Sure there is, you have to be able to discredit the other guy on some foundational level, somehow.  Otherwise life would be quite uncomfortable, what with everyone else having different opinions than you.

muppet
Thursday, August 12, 2004

aren't opinionated discussions more fun?

Kenny
Thursday, August 12, 2004

The only way to deal with Opinionated people is to see them for the clowns they are, and NEVER take them seriously.

There are way too many complexities to the actual TRUTH for it to be reflected by someone's opinion, no matter how informed.

MediocreDev
Thursday, August 12, 2004

+++The only way to deal with Opinionated people is to see them for the clowns they are, and NEVER take them seriously.

There are way too many complexities to the actual TRUTH for it to be reflected by someone's opinion, no matter how informed.+++

By your logic, no one should ever have a viewpoint or a working theory on anything because the real truth will never be utterly distilled.  If everyone followed your philosophy, we'd all be living in caves wishing we knew all the complexities of fire when it got cold and dark.

muppet
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Sorry to be a bubble-burster here, but has it occurred to anyone that a fair amount of "Loud, Opinionated" is actually a JOKE, SATIRE, SARCASM, CYNICISM or otherwise intended to be FUNNY???

far fewer /. readers really have left-handed keyboards than will tell the obligatory left-handed keyboard jokes AS IF they had one.  That's what makes it funny.

devinmoore.com
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Muppet:

Having an opinion about something is different for being "Opinionated" as the OP defines it.

Everybody's entitled to their view of the world, but trying to push one's opinion at all costs strikes me as not very humble. An opinion tempered by a bit of modesty is a lot more welcome and thought-provoking than the alternative.

You never hold all the facts about everything, so how can you be so unequivocally sure that your opinion is the Right One?

MediocreDev
Thursday, August 12, 2004

+++Everybody's entitled to their view of the world, but trying to push one's opinion at all costs strikes me as not very humble. An opinion tempered by a bit of modesty is a lot more welcome and thought-provoking than the alternative.+++

Right, everyone's entitled to their opinion, so long as you never try to 'sell' it by, you know, speaking.

muppet
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Nver mind. It is my "opinion" that you don't want to agree with me...  ;o))

MediocreDev
Thursday, August 12, 2004

It's my opinion that you have such a weak personality that the minute you come across someone with a differing opinion, you immediately feel threatened and internally label that person as Opinionated and Pushy.

muppet
Thursday, August 12, 2004

What I thought was funny about the OP was "Strong Beliefs That Are Wrong" that you must "force" them to accept that they are wrong...

Kind of tells us where the OP fits in, doesn't it?

Steamrolla
Thursday, August 12, 2004

I think one of the primary weaknesses of the Loud Opinionated types is that any grains of truth or good points they may make are buried in invective that just annoys the reader and makes it virtually impossible for any real contributions they might make to get through.

On the upside, they sure seem to self-identify...

Jeff Kotula
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Muppet:
+++It's my opinion that you have such a weak personality that the minute you come across someone with a differing opinion, you immediately feel threatened and internally label that person as Opinionated and Pushy. +++

If you feel the need to resort to personal attacks, that must mean I hit a nerve... ;o)

Was it the "clown" comment that stung so bad? Are you afraid of not being taken seriously? In any case, let it all out - I'm having fun!

MediocreDev
Thursday, August 12, 2004

It is my opinion that muppet grew up in a broken home, continued that family trait with his own failed marriage and takes his pent-up anger out on others in the forum, secure in his anonymity.

Dr. Phil
Thursday, August 12, 2004

I'll try to respond to everything, but first, a little self-explanation.

I myself am strongly opinionated and have firm beliefs.  But I'm not a Loud Opinionated Man because I don't speak my mind at every single opportunity.  I have the ability to keep my mouth shut, especially in situations where I have little or no experience.  A distinguishing trait of the Loud Opinionated Man is that he often voices an opinion on subjects for which he has no authority or experience.  I'd like to think I'm better than this.

And I have firm opinions and views, so I can be the Strong Beliefs Man at times.  Hopefully I'm not wrong most of the time, and I don't think I am.  Wrong, that is.


Maybe what's most formative in my character is my belief that people don't change their minds when they are on the defensive.  By extension, then, arguments are worthless, and thus heated discussions are a waste of time.  Now let me clarify these:

One--the Loud Opinionated man puts everyone on the defensive, all the time.  Any valid claims he makes are ignored because I've already stopped crediting everything he says.

Two--you are not going to change anyone's Strong Beliefs.  This is most evident when they are wrong and simply /will not/ admit it.  Another clear example of this is the abortion "debate".

Three--the only way to get someone to change their mind is to figure out what they really believe, and provide counter-evidence or new insight.  An easy (almost too easy) example of this is the American's newly-found discrimination against Indians.  How are you going to deal with this?


So anyway, my style of discussion is what some refer to as 'exhortation'.  I never try to change anyone's mind by figuratively clubbing them, and I see that this forum as a whole shares this trait with me.  In a general sense, anyway.  When I write papers for school, my favorite is the 'expository' essay.  All my position papers and persuasive essays end up being 'expository' because that is my nature.

Anyway, enjoy your day.


Pete

pds
Thursday, August 12, 2004

great troll pete, very subtle how you tossed a few button presses casually into that long, self-contradictory diatribe.

muppet
Thursday, August 12, 2004

point counter-point.  Honest to goodness. The OP bemoans a counter point. I've encountered a lot of people (especially when visiting inlaws) who find 55 ways to say the same thing differently. I personally like people who think differently. I don't like people who don't think. Were it up to me I'd keep all the parrots in the zoo.

me
Thursday, August 12, 2004

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