Via Keith Braithwaite, I came across this quote in a discussion of Patterns. Wait, let me make that more dramatic – of PATTERNS. Here's the quote:
In certain programming cultures, people consider Design Patterns to be a core set of practices that must be used to build software. It isn’t a case of when you need to solve a problem best addressed by a design pattern, then use the pattern and refer to it by name. It’s a case of always use design patterns. If your solution doesn’t naturally conform to patterns, refactor it to patterns.
This quote bothered me immensely the first time I read through it; at that point, I had no idea who the quote was from (still don't, actually) nor did I know where Keith was going with his post. I was, however, predisposed against the argument the person was making, and I couldn't figure out why.
Then, I remembered THIS quote, which I had read the day before:
I think it's worth imagining a certain scenario. Imagine the Democrats do rally around Obama. Imagine the media invests as heavily in him as I think we all know they will if he's the nominee -- and then imagine he loses. I seriously think certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged. I can imagine the fear of this social unraveling actually aiding Obama enormously in 2008.
The second quote is from a political pundit named Jonah Goldberg, who is rather clearly and distinctly trying to dance around saying what is really on his mind: that African Americans will riot in the streets unless we elect Barack Obama. Which is ludicrous, absurd, and patronizing at least, and possibly racist at worst.
Hopefully, the parallels between the two quotes is obvious: the speaker is using vague descriptions ("certain programming cultures", "certain segments of American political life") to avoid directly saying what they mean ("Java programmers", "African Americans") while denigrating them to their face. This allows the author a bit of plausible deniability later ("no, I was talking about programmers I used to hang out with in the food court at the mall, not Java programmers!") It is also a tactic I have seen quite a bit of in the language wars of the past couple of years, and in political writing generally. And I've grown quite unfond of it. If you are going to be unpleasant, then be unpleasant. Don't dance around what you are trying to say, and don't use codewords so you can back out of your argument later. I've been guilty of this far too often, so ….
My two part resolution:
Article I) I will, henceforth, not use weasel words when I write/speak/declaim about technology. If I have a problem with a person/company/community/cartel, then I will refer to them directly.
Article II) It would not matter in the least that I resolved Article I unless I was going to do some more bloviating this year. I've been awfully quiet in 2007 (not many conferences, precious few blog posts, only the one book and Stu wrote most of it), but that's what happens when you start trying to grow a company and forget to leave time for anything not-growing-a-company. So, the second part is, I'll be yammering away a lot more on this blog and trying to get out to more conferences in '08.