"The other one of my guiding principles is that I ask for proof from everyone (yes, it can be annoying, it carries over into my personal life as well. Ask my wife and kids)."
It would be interesting if you can expand on affect of your approach to personal life. In today's interconnected world, most of us are specialized and need to trust other experts (doctors, financial advisors, car mechanic etc.) on their word.
Well, it certainly does spill over. Take doctors for example. (We can pretend for a moment that the developer is instead a physician and the application is the patient). There are many types of MDs
- The emergency room (ER) doctor These physicians do "triage," separating the hopeless patients from those that can be helped, performing quick-fixes along the way to keep patients alive as long as possible. They will take a heart-attack patient with a history of smoking, bad diet, and no exercise and stabilize their condition.
- The operating room (OR) doctor The OR physician gets the patient after they've gone through triage and after the ER doctor has temporarily patched them up. The OR doctor strives for long-term fixes to keep the patient not only alive but functioning as well as possible. They perform the by-pass operation on the heart attack victim, attempting to clear the arteries.
- The physical therapist (PT) The PT gets the patient when the OR doctor is through and begins the long and painful (not to mention expensive) process of rehabilitation.
- The preventative medicine doctor These physicians strive to avoid the preceding three doctors at all costs. They counsel the patient to quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, and exercise, developing a multistep program to get them in shape. If they do their job right, barring unfortunate incidents (like a car accident), the patient will never see the ER, OR, or PT doctors.
In the above list, I would expect to have to "trust" to some degree the ER doctor. It is fast and furious and they are making quick decisions based on experience and limited facts. But the decisions must be made quickly (or they may never be made at all). They do not make big changes - their goal is to stabilize and get the patient ready to be fixed. And -- we try to avoid the situations that necessitate the ER doctor all of the time (don't we?). For example, I avoid trimming my hedges with my lawn mower - it would work but would really increase the change of my needing the ER doctor wouldn't it?
So that ER doctor, we must to some degree trust, but they are doing quick patches, quick fixes. We don't want to use them day to day - to figure out "how to live properly", and we avoid them at all costs. That we need to use them indicates something went wrong in the first place.
The other doctors however, are different. We demand test and proof from them don't we? Before I get an operation, I'll get multiple opinions - I'll have reviewed the test results - I might even have studied the problem myself to some degree. I'll have asked for information from multiple people over time. We would have tested this, we would have gotten some evidence on this. If it was an experimental treatment, we would go into that with eyes wide open. Same with the other doctors. If I was going into physical therapy, I'd want some evidence that what they were doing was the best way to fix what ails me. We'd have test, evidence, facts to see past successes and failures. We'd have a pretty good idea that what we were going to undergo would actually be successful and the degree to which it would be.
Sure, there is a matter of trust there, but really - it is all backed up ultimately by facts, by evidence. Before we get surgery, we have tests performed. We would never let a surgeon just poke around and do stuff because it fixed another patient in the past right?
I think that applies to everything. I tend to research things - when I went to buy my hybrid gas/electric car - way before I went near a dealership, I learned quite a bit about them. I read the opinions of people. I read the technical articles. I read the good and the bad. I knew the dealer would say "50-60 miles/gallon", but I knew the reality would be 40-50 (and it is, 45-47 miles/gallon is my year long average). I understood how they worked (but don't ask me to work on one - I opened the hood and saw not much that I recognized). I understood what the car would and would not do for me. The dealership only had to let me drive one to fill in that last piece of missing information -- would I find the car comfortable to drive.
Sometimes we don't have the time/experience to get in depth in some topic and there we rely on "experts in the field". Take wine for example - I like to drink it (any flavor as long as it is red). I don't know very much about it however. I go to a vintner (we happen to have one close by). I trust him to pick out a case of it for me. I do this because he records what I've had in the past - and remembers what I liked and is able to now make recommendations for me based on past experience. But what he learned about me applies to me and me alone (see correlations to computer systems?) It would not apply to you (maybe it would, but probably not). It is like training an expert system - it needs some feedback to refine the suggestions. The wine we get now is usually pretty much dead on - it has been a long time since we've had some we didn't like. The vintner took our price sensitivity, our personal tastes and based on their past experience - is able to suggest something for us we'll probably be OK with.
But I would not walk in there and let someone else pick it out for me - not without expecting some wine we aren't going to like so much. Even if that person was expert - because we don't have that history yet. I'd have to train them (continuity is a good thing as well - many correlations to computer systems) all over again.
So yes, I'd say I have to either have lots of evidence, or for some things have the knowledge that the person dispensing the advice actually knows my unique circumstances. Maybe that is why I'm down on ROT (rules of thumb). It is not that by finding a single exception they are ruled out - but rather that literally thousands of exceptions exist for each one - for each rule of thumb - and if you try to apply a rule of thumb that has worked for some one else, without understanding "why" you'll do one of three things:
- make things better
- make things not change at all (but have expended a lot of energy in doing so, and perhaps set expectations high)
- make things much much worse
The vintner is full of rules of thumb, but until they get to know me - they are just guessing.