Last week, DHH, one of the cofounders of Basecamp, tweeted:
You can’t become the I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING dog as a professional identity. Don’t embrace being a copy-pasta programmer whose chief skill is looking up shit on the internet.
DHH, as you may remember, is famous for causing about one-third of his entire company to quit at once because his professional identity is “never admit you’re wrong.”
So I guess that spicy take is very on-brand and expected. It’s also stunningly wrong.
Here’s the thing: I have never actually seen anyone say, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and literally mean I have no idea what I’m doing.
I have seen a lot of very senior people be very open and candid about the fact that they don’t know everything, that fucking up is a regular part of learning new things, and that knowing how to research things is a critical skill for developers to have.
And sometimes they describe that as, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” in a very glib, tongue-in-cheek kind of way. Someone as smart as DHH thinks he is should be able to understand that intent.
Because here’s the thing: you will never know everything. You will never remember all of the little details of every specific thing you have to know for your job. Brains suck. They’re fallible.
But knowing how to research, how to look things up? Knowing how to parse good information from junk, and make effective decisions based on what you’ve learned? That’s a critical skill for modern developers.
That’s not “copy-pasta.” That’s being good at your job.
If you know how to do that, then when one of the founders of the company you work at handles racism badly and refuses to admit they fucked up, you can quit and find work elsewhere, like a third of DHH’s employees did.