How DFS, poker, basketball, Starcraft and strong opinions, weakly held (SOWH)can help your startup [Part 1]

Strong Opinions

Having a strong opinion² means that you look at the information given to you and formulate your best hypothesis h₁. You then proceed to act upon h₁ despite uncertainty. Moreover, you act as if your level of confidence c in your hypothesis h is greater than your true confidence level to start to gather evidence to increase . To be clear, in practicing SOWH, you must first acknowledge that uncertainty does indeed exist, and also that it is generally useful to communicate your level of uncertainty or confidence in your hypotheses. Nevertheless, for many endeavors, there simply isn’t enough information for anyone to form any kind of hypothesis in which they have more than a modicum of confidence. If every party involved in the decision-making process expressed their opinions without any conviction, you would often end up in a stalemate without any clear path forward.

Weakly Held

While gathering evidence in support of your hypothesis h₁, it can be tricky to collect and judge evidence objectively— after all, we’re only human, and we tend to prefer to see evidence that confirms our views³. But the trick here is that we’re not looking for evidence to necessarily confirm h₁ — in most cases, proving h₁ right is a long process that requires lots of evidence-gathering. What we’re really looking for is evidence to reject h₁ so that we can backtrack and formulate a new hypothesis with additional data. Backtracking a bit, let’s define what we mean by backtracking in the context of SOWH.

What we’d look like if Sheldon Cooper explained physics to us Source: Gyfcat
First: Breadth-first search and second: Depth-first search Source: Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons


  1. From most sources I could find pertaining to its origin, “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held” was first coined by Paul Saffo.
  2. We’ll use opinion, hypothesis, and bet somewhat interchangeably for the purposes of this essay. They’re not necessarily the same thing in most contexts, but an opinion within SOWH should be akin to your alternative hypothesis. I apologize in advance to anyone from a more scientific or statistical background if I misused any borrowed terminology here. Please do correct me if I’ve done so!
  3. I apologize to every teacher and professor I’ve ever had for all these links to Wikipedia, but as a primer for most of these concepts, I think Wikipedia is a great place to start. Just don’t cite it in your papers 😂
  4. At least none of the algorithms I’ve ever heard of. Although maybe neural networks will someday develop egos as part of their cost functions? Gradient descent into depression and anger



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David Tran

David Tran

Building the best place to get work done at I write about software, startups & running at and occasionally publish here.