16 Nov 2005 apenwarr   » (Master)

Weasel Words

Adrian had some interesting comments about how if someone doesn't say something in the simplest possible way, there's probably a reason.

Someone asked me today about a comment I made in one of my papers, and I thought about it in those terms.

Windows, although of course nothing is perfect, makes a great desktop system.

I'm trying to appease two opposite types of people with this sentence: people who like Windows, and people who don't. There are lots of IT people in both categories. I need to bring both of them around to agree that our system is better, at least in this particular case. See all the things I'm doing with only a few words:

- Nothing is perfect. Of course. I've got nothing against Windows, you know, but...

- Windows makes a great desktop system.

- Windows, by implication, doesn't make such a great server system, or I would have said it "Makes a great system" or something.

- Windows' imperfections are less important than its greatness; that's why it's a subordinate clause instead of the main clause or an ending.

- The end of a sentence sticks with people more than the middle (this is what subordinates subordinate clauses in the first place). We end on a positive note.

- The next sentence is about server vs. desktop, not imperfections, so the end of the sentence leads into the next one.

Okay, so maybe I massively overanalyzed this one. But massive overanalysis is what I do, really. The real question is: was I really thinking all that while I was writing, or did I just make it up afterwards and make it sound good? That answer is the key to my personality, I think, so don't expect me to just give it away. :)

Obligatory Correlation to Coding

For the advogato audience, here's how it all ties into programming. I wrote earlier about restructuring to simplify a design not really working, because you lose all those hidden details that deal with the many special cases.

Well, there you go. When you're looking at a program, ask yourself why it's so complicated. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Sure, maybe you can find a better way to do it. But make sure you first know what "it" is.

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