Imposter syndrome & tail -f

So I've been trying to write posts about all the cool things I've learned from all the great conferences I've been to this year. But this is what came out instead:

Lots of people have written lots of excellent things about imposter syndrome over the last few years and how you might realise when you do (or don't) have it. (Crikey, having imposter syndrome about whether or not you have imposter syndrome is a bit meta and definitely a subject for an entirely different post, anyway..)

Melinda just gave an excellent talk at SOTB about how she got over imposter syndrome and how that relates to Futurelearn - watch the talk! It's really good! - and I think it's super important to have people like her out in the forefront of things showing how it's possible. (Like when Victoria Coren Mitchell said: "you can do it too").

I've digressed. So! I think it's very important and valuable that people see "people like them" doing things like writing blog posts and speaking at conferences. It normalises it and makes you think, hey, I'm a guy like me! (That is a joke from the Simpsons episode Last Exit to Springfield. You may laugh now).

BUT I think that people don't always really learn by being told at conferences that this stuff happens, powerful as that is.

You learn from visceral and real things that happen to you or that you see or do in the course of your life. (This is also how I think culture happens, but again, an entire other post!)

So I wanted to share my sort of come to jesus moment about how I am not completely terrible - and neither are you!

SO. I would like to show you this talk.

It's a random lightning talk from some conference that I'd never even heard of as a front end developer. I think my partner Zac was watching the back end of it when I got in from work one day and rewound it saying "hey, you might like this". This is it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm1GJMp0QN4&t=41m5s, it's lightning talks and so you'll have to scrub until 41:05 I made it jump to the right place because I have clever friends.

Go watch it. I'll wait. It's only ten minutes.

It's good, isn't it!? So, it was the first time that I really truly realised that other software developers of important software things like operating systems (not like silly random web sites that I make, right? WRONG!) also had that 'banging your head against the wall' moment. I can almost literally see the wall that Brian is banging his head against in this talk. I have banged my head against that same wall many times, and I bet you have too. And he says a bunch of interesting stuff about the bad assumptions that he made when trying to fix the bug, which I think is again useful and valuable to see other people going through this same process!

Like, I use tail -f. I'm not a complete idiot. But I don't really have a great grasp of the internals of how it actually works (though I am curious about it) - but seeing someone talk about this ubiquitous tool that I use even despite being somewhat of an idiot, and certainly not a developer doing important software developer things. It brought things home to me.

In this case - and in many others I am sure that I have actually come across in the course of my daily work (HELLO browser developers and people at the W3C!) - it's not even a fault in your code, it's a f** browser/OS bug. Apologies for my French. I just wanted to share, that it doesn't matter if it's CSS or C++, we battle against the same problems.

And it happens because these people are developers too, like you and me. Thinking back to Melinda's talk - everyone makes mistakes. It's what you do and what the people around you do AFTER you make the mistake that's interesting and important. Even if it's to make a talk or a blog post about the mistake - that is useful! That is useful to you because you get to reflect upon it and try to find ways to not make it again. And if you make your learning public, potentially other people get to learn from it too.

Anyway! There were a lot more things in the many lovely conferences that I attended this year which I will also post about more soon. This was just the stuff that really struck me right now.

One of the themes that came out of both of them were: don't assume things.

Don't assume capabilities of your users, your tools and most importantly yourself.

nicky thompson

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