Verbal Value Statements

Language is powerful. It's super interesting to discern viewpoints based on language used. We make value statements all the time. Depending on how we view something, we'll describe it differently. This is just as true in software and software dev as anything.

Everyone Has Opinions

We all have opinions. This is natural. We categorize things all the time. We have to sort through a lot of data every day, and we form opinions on everything. We should share our opinions. Our opinions should be honest. We're should steer things in directions that we think are good. But even in those times we're not meaning to share our opinions, often we are.

A Few Examples

Listen for some of these during your next day at work. Depending on what someone thinks of something, you might hear (or yourself say) one or the other of these phrases or any combination of value statements in between -- all while talking about the same subject!

Regarding ___, you might hear:

  • A shared library: "gold-plated" or "bloated" vs. "robust"

  • Non-framework code: "organic" vs. "spaghetti code"

  • MVP: "simple" or "pared down" vs. "missing basic functionality" or "barebones"

  • A process: "organized" vs. "conformity"

  • Decision points: "ad hoc" vs. "unorganized" or "clueless"

  • Decision making: "flexible" vs. "free-for-all"

  • One's position or opinion: "nuanced" vs. "unclear"

  • New tech: "new" or "interesting" vs. "shiney"

  • Changing opinion or practice: "evolve" vs. "flip flop" or "betray"

Trying to Speak Objectively

Sometimes it's best to keep our opinion to ourselves if our goal is not to share our opinion. That might happen if we're trying to be objective. Perhaps we're moderating. This is hard. We are pretty transparent. It's funny to observe supposedly objective journalism. Stories are written. The current events are described. It's hard to not hear the opinions of the journalist in the story.

Another time to try to keep our opinion to ourselves is when we're seeking to understand. We're gathering information. We want it unfettered and raw. We should be careful in any commentary we offer or how we phrase followup questions. We might end up leading our witness, because it's easy to let our opinions flavor all of our conversation. Later we'll have a chance to advocate for our opinions.

We verbalize our values all the time. Sometimes it's not on purpose. What are some other examples you can think of -- subjects where two people, seeing things differently, will use very different value statement phrases?