How to Win An Argument

The best way to win an argument is to be right. Not to use stronger language. Not to rally a mob. Not to despair. But to be right and prove it in the product.

Let me tell a personal story. Before Facebook had likes we had an internal tool called “ideas” that allowed for upvoting. Facebook was about to unify “the wall” and “minifeed." I had concerns about the change as did many other employees. I wrote a heated post on the ideas tool criticizing the change that garnered massive support. The comments voiced rabid support for my critique. I felt vindicated by the reaction, as if the number of votes and comments was a measure of my rightness. I thought might made right so I rallied a mob.

I was wrong on all counts. First, Facebook isn’t a democracy so Mark Zuckerberg proceeded with the change in spite of the mob. Second, the product was an immediate success. There was no backlash and in retrospect it was an improvement on the user experience. At the end of it all I felt pretty foolish. Might doesn’t make right after all.

The saying we have at Facebook is that Code Wins Arguments. If you are truly confident you are right then you have to trust that the product will prove it. The market is good at weeding out bad products. We have lots of products that people don’t use as much as we want. That’s how we learn and improve over time. That’s the process.