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Ask HN: What were you wrong about?
9 points by ttymck 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments
Professionally or personally.

Maybe you thought something was a red flag in a partner, but it really wasn't. Maybe you made the opposite mistake. Maybe it was about a boss. Maybe you thought Python would never catch on.

Share what you've been wrong about, and why/how you realized you were wrong.






I thought that coding was the most important part of a developer's job. That writing good, elegant, maintainable code was the value I brought.

I was wrong.

The real value is in solving a problem, and that includes the whole problem, not just the part amenable to software.

I learned I was wrong when I joined a startup that was delivering real estate data to phones (this was pre-iphone, so quite a mess in terms of writing code). I wrote some j2me, and we actually had a product that allowed someone to search from the phone for home information.

While we had the tech, we didn't have (oh so many things):

   * distribution
   * a business model
   * full time effort from any of the founders
This showed me that there are many many things that are responsible for the success or failure of a software product/project beyond the code.

The most important part of a developers job is not "create a business model", "figure out distribution" or "motivate founders to work harder". It is great if you can do those, but nobody expects a developer to do any of those things. If you feel the company is lacking in those aspects when you work there as a developer it means the rest of the company isn't pulling their weight and you ought to leave.

Of course if you want to run a business then all of those things are more important than knowing how to code, but for a developer they are not. Instead you should look for a place where those issues are already solved so that your work gets put to good use.


A lot of hiring decisions. I particularly remember being strongly against one candidate for cultural fit reasons because he was quite introverted (well past normal introvert - likely bordering on a condition).

He turned out to be one of the best devops people we had. Just a wizard with infra stuff. He definitely didn't integrate into the culture, but it didn't really matter.

In my defense, it was early in my career and early in the SV years so I thought cultural fit should matter a lot because that's what I was experiencing. It was an eye opening experience to say the least though.


Applications: desktop vs. the browser

In the early 2000s, there was a widespread debate about the browser replacing desktop applications - the term Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) was coined. Could browser applications take on desktop software in features and usability? Well, I was sceptical.

Fast forward today and how wrong I was.

Today, 'cloud' apps running in the browser dominate a whole class of business tasks. I used to believe some types of apps like design and graphics apps would never work in the browser unless extremly limited. But even design and graphics apps have found success in the browser e.g. Figma.

The trend of more and more apps moving to the browser (via the cloud) shows no sign of slowing down, only accerelating.

(Whether browser-based apps are a good thing or not is a different question though.)


I thought Google Glass would kick off a wearable revolution, even if only in workplaces (mostly blue-collar).

Obviously I was very wrong.

I didn't predict that:

1) people would instantly recognize it as a camera that might be recording at any time and be infuriated by that

2) Google would prove itself to be so shockingly bad at product development and marketing


I was wrong about not trusting my first intuitions about people.

Yet at the same time I was wrong about not leaving the door open in my conclusions about a person, once I make up my mind about him.


Are you me ? I have the same exact problem.

I don’t have it anymore so probably im you in near future ))

I thought what I know was much more important than who I know. Just in practical terms, not for Machiavellian purposes.

I thought it was ok to be a bully. And being good at it was even better. Not without reason. I worked at jobs where it was a soft requirement.

I thought it was worth keeping up with technical change. Now I value stable tools.


In highschool I saw a report of the projected fastest growing job fields - computer software was right at the top. I had taken my first programming classes in high school and chose computer engineering as a major in college.

The transformation of our lives and growth of technology that's happened over the subsequent 25 years is something I never could have imagined, it's truly revolutionary.

I also heard Warren Buffet say something rather significant - this revolution catapulted the US to a position of dominance in the world to such a degree, at times it's hard to think of who #2 even was in the information age.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHxRyu8o_mY&t=285s


I thought this generation of VR was the future of gaming.

I thought that bitcoin would crash about the time of the pizza purchase story.

I thought more than ten years ago that GNU/Linux would make it on desktop in the next 10 years.

I thought that single life was better for me than having a loving partner and kids.


I thought I needed to attend a good expensive private college, I was dead wrong.

I thought there was ZERO money to be made as a programmer, so I studied EE instead, in 1981!


I though trading could not be profitable, but found some teenage guy making consistent profit and more money than people who work at FAANG.

Still doesn't change the fact that most people lose money while trading and even those who make some profit, they wouldn't surpass most salaries. There is always an outlier.

Over what time period? Given that he's a teenager he probably just went YOLO in one of the biggest bull market periods in recent history.

I thought ill be a millionaire by 25. Im not lol.

Nothing im always right



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