Big Stick Ideology

“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

This proverb instructs its student to not be brash or obnoxious, to not draw undue attention. To not use force when not needed – but to be able to do when needed, and to let that be known.

Famously applied to foreign policy by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, the ideology preaches to negotiate peacefully and respectfully, while having the visible and irrefutable capability of using a powerful military force that would be called upon if push comes to shove.

Importantly, the “big stick” is there but ideally not ever used. It’s really the the flip side withe same meaning of perhaps a more common saying in the dev world:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Big Stick Coding

I like to apply the same philosophy to coding. My ideal coding style is elegant. It works with its ecosystem, not against it. It doesn’t modify data when not needed, it doesn’t change global configurations or hack imported libraries as a lazy shortcut to a short-term goal.

It speaks softly. Until, that is, it doesn’t.

And we’ve all been there. Sometimes the ecosystem fights you every step of the way. Sometimes a library really has a untenable restriction for your use case. It usually speaks to poor design either on your part or of your tools or library, but either way, sometimes you reach for the big stick.


What’s with the dog? Well, apart from carrying a big stick, my dog, Kobe, actually does speak softly – his barks are more like whispers! They say dogs emulate their owners, what can I say?