The Issue of “Just”January 31, 2014
Brad Frost wrote a post about the word “Just” that really resonated with me a couple days ago. Here’s the highlight:
“Just” makes me feel like an idiot. “Just” presumes I come from a specific background, studied certain courses in university, am fluent in certain technologies, and have read all the right books, articles, and resources. “Just” is a dangerous word.
It’s something I’ve thought of in the past. “Just” is a word that really irks me more than most. Usually because it’s in the following forms:
- “Can’t you just…?”
- “Why don’t we just…?”
- “Isn’t that just…?”
- “You should just…”
In Brad’s case, the word “just” is someone implying you should know how to do something easy or basic. In my personal case, the word “just” is used when someone thinks that the work you’re supposed to do is easy, usually because it’s work they’ve never done themselves, but work they’ve handed out to people before that’s just been finished for them without an issue.
In both cases it’s missing the point that software development (and really any work) is hard. It’s not easy. I’m not just filling up a cup of water. I’m not just walking around the block.
Sometimes it’s experienced people forgetting how hard it was to get where they are now. Sometimes it’s people who don’t realize how hard you’ve worked to get where you are. In both cases it’s belittling the work you do and that’s infuriating.
Does an article just paint a picture? Does an author just put a few sentences together?
It’s easy to think another person’s job is easy. The dev ops engineer just spun up a few servers, the project manager just assigned some tasks, the designer just created a few pretty pictures, the app developer just consumed an API, the backend engineer just created a simple API pulling from a database.
Similarly, I hear things about Healthcare.gov being a debacle: “they just needed to make a website.” Or Snapchat: “they just created a simple app.” It’s always “just” when it’s someone else doing the work.
Sometimes it’s from someone who doesn’t understand the work required. Sometimes it’s from someone who doesn’t understand they’re ahead of the game.
“Just” under-appreciates the effort and work required.