I was just thinking the other day about how software development must either attract people who like being right, or that it cultivates being accustomed to being right, and later assuming to be able to be right with similar ease in other domains. Probably both.

In writing, I think you have to be comfortable with being wrong, or at least having no idea for a very long time until you suddenly “get it.”

As I type this I wonder if that’s right, as I’ve often enjoyed the writing of people who act like they’re right. The Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan and typographer Jan Tschichold both come to mind.

Not that there’s never ambiguity in programming, but there’s more certainty than in language: This command does these things, you can look it up in the manual. Here’s how to use it.

In writing, this word is supposed to have this meaning, but it also holds these thousand other meanings, depending upon who is reading and when. It’s always changing. And commas—I’ll never understand commas.

I wonder if this is related to the stereotypical Hacker News commenter who is so certain that they’re right, and so dismissive and condescending about it, that they blind themselves from seeing it any other way, and thus wind up terribly wrong. Such as in poorly-conducted A/B testing.

Of course, not that all software developers are that way. I posit that the truly good ones can’t afford to be that way.

Anyway, just spewing random thoughts that are inappropriately long for your comment.

Oh, and I just remembered that Joanna Wiebe actually did write a writing book for hackers. When I interviewed her on the podcast, she even told me she named it after Design for Hackers. It’s Copy Hackers.

Bestselling author of “Mind Management, Not Time Management” http://kdv.co/mind

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