Words are important 29 Jan 2019
opinion scribd

The first bits I transmitted on the internet were sent through a modem on the end of a old-fashioned copper telephone wire. While I didn’t recognize the complexity at the time, its ingenuity still impresses me. An analog-only medium, the copper wire, could be made to transmit ideas via specially encoded chirps, squeaks, and chimes, to nearly any other destination connected to the web. At their most basic, words are a truly astounding mechanism for encoding and transmitting ideas from one brain to another. Without language, the rest of this wouldn’t be possible. Ideas alone are worthless, ideas in transit are incredibly powerful.

Today I start something new. I am joining Scribd, an organization for whom the written word and its value, is central to the business.

When I started my last job at CloudBees, I joined as an Evangelist and had to re-learn some of my lost appreciation for spoken and written communication skills. As a result, I was re-introduced to the power of descriptive, concise, and structured language. Eventually returning to the Engineering side of the house, with my newfound respect for words, I was surprised to see just how poorly we communicate with one another.

From the outside looking in, it is incredible how adept many developers can be, wielding numerous programming languages at once. Always finding the “most suitable tool for the job” while consistently failing to utilize their most obviously important language: written and spoken English.

Before computers, and I am right on a generational divide to where I can remember “before computers,” I consumed books, wrote stories, and was fortunate to develop a rich inner mental space. That mental space later adapted, became a useful backdrop for software development. It provided me with the necessary tools to construct hypothetical designs, run them, and evaluate their performance.

Language is what weaves together our past, ideas from others, and new observations, providing the necessary raw material for fresh and interesting solutions to the problems we face.

I am excited to have the opportunity at Scribd to draw on much of my recent years of experience along with that of my colleagues, to build a platform engineering team, among the first fully remote in the company. I’m looking forward to helping everybody read words and learn more!