The 10 Most Common Fallacies That Programmers Make

A guide to separating the signal from the noise

Appeal to Anonymous Authority

Using evidence from an unnamed ‘expert’ or ‘study’ or generalized group (like ‘scientists’) to claim that something is true.

“They say that the future of programming is functional.”

Appeal to Authority
Claiming something is true because an unqualified or untrustworthy ‘expert’ says it is.

“Over 400 prominent companies are now using GraphQL for their APIs.”

Appeal to Common Practice

Claiming something is true because it’s commonly practised.

“React.js is the best — everyone’s using it now.”

Appeal to Ignorance

A claim is true simply because it has not been proven false (or false because it has not been proven true)

“Nobody has proven to me that using Vim is any more productive than using an IDE. So using Vim is a waste of time.

Appeal to Incredulity

Because a claim sounds unbelievable, it must not be true.

“You’re suggesting that if we make our proprietary code open source for anyone to use, we could make more money? That’s rubbish.”

Appeal to Money

Supposing that, if someone is rich or something is expensive, then it affects the truth of the claim.

“If this tool costs more than the open source version, it must be better.”

Appeal to Novelty

Supposing something is better because it is new or newer.

“Awesome! the latest version of this operating system is going to make my computer faster and better…” [think Windows 7]

Appeal to Popular Belief

Claiming something is true because the majority of people believe it.

“If you’re not adhering to agile practices, your team is going to be less productive.”

Appeal to Probability

Assuming because something could happen, it will inevitably happen.

“You must write a description for every function. You might need to read it one day.”

Appeal to Tradition

Claiming something is true because it’s (apparently) always been that way.

“We’ll never use anything but Javascript for client-side code.”


A Week In the Life of Benjamin Franklin: Day #2 Update

This week I’ve challenged myself to one week of improving one virtue per day, Benjamin Franklin style. Angus has joined in too! Read about it here.

Yesterday’s virtue was Abstention. I decided to go 40 hours without food, and I made it! The banana I had to break my fast today was honestly the best tasting banana I’ve ever had.

Today’s virtue was Order.

Here’s how I did:

  • I cleaned up my computer. With reasonable confidence, I can say every file on my computer is in it’s proper place. The Downloads and Desktop folders are completely empty.
  • I cleaned up my belongings. I threw out anything that has less than a 100% chance of being used in the future, and tidied the rest.
  • I cleaned up my email inbox. Inbox Zero was the goal, and I got there.

Tomorrow’s virtue is Industry: Lose no time; cut off all unnecessary actions.

It’s a bit hard to cut off all unnecessary actions, so I’ve set myself a simple goal:

Don’t read any articles on the internet.

That is all.


Fraser McIntosh and Angus Pauley can both grow really awesome beards. I can grow a really awesome face-cactus. This is post #24

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