Debate and Discourse

Code School Book — Morgan Lopes and Tim Whitacre (23/30)

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Lots of opinions and ideas, but no guarantees.

uby on Rails was the first programming language I learned. Early on, I was concerned my chosen programming language was wrong. The internet is flooded with justifications both in favor and in opposition to Rails. With so many options and constant additions, how can we be sure we have chosen correctly? The same unease emerged when I noticed a friend was using a TextMate editor and I was using Sublime Text. What does it mean when your smarter, more experienced friend makes a different choice? What about the person who uses Bitbucket instead of Github to store code and collaborate? You wonder if they know something you don’t. You question if you’ve made the wrong choice.

This cycle continues for web browsers, version control, web hosting, domain providers and more. The pressure is compounded by public argument and endless articles debating the merits of each conceivable alternative. You think the tension subsides when you settle into a handful of tools and immerse yourself into a community. Unfortunately, disagreements rage on as super users push various configurations.

In 2016, I (Morgan) was at a conference listening to Marc Randolph, one of Netflix’s founders.1 He shared where the idea for Netflix came from and the early days of slogging it out. His talk was filled with stories about the ups and downs from their DVD-by-mail business, moments they nearly lost everything, and the insights that unlocked their eventual breakthrough. The most memorable quote from his session was, “Nobody knows anything.”

The quote originated from the playwright of The Princess Bride in reference to Hollywood gatekeepers. Whether a movie would become a blockbuster or a bust, no one knew. The century-old industry is filled with experts, insiders, critics and theorists. No one knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that something would work. In 2017, $300 million was spent to produce Justice League which went on to lose nearly $100 million. Eighteen years earlier, The Blair Witch Project grossed millions with a production budget in the thousands. Nobody knows anything.


CTO at Fast Company’s World Most Innovative Company (x4). Author of “Code School”, a book to help more people transition into tech.