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The Common Folk

I recently joined a mailing list for Aztek owners. It was my first "non-computer" (i.e. not cocoa-dev or macosx-admin or ui-development) in awhile. As the messages began to roll in, one thought struck me:

"Regular people are stupid."

That was the thought, and I'm just being honest in writing it. It's since changed to "Regular people are different." While both are far too simple to be true, what is true is that there remains an odd discordance (did I use that word right?) between us "computer" (and largely programmer or developer) types and these "common people."

These "common folk" have less respect or understanding for grammatical structure or spelling than the computer types. These "common folk" have fewer logical skills. They seem far more easily suckered by hype and are far less cynical.

Show them a picture of an Aztek going through a mud puddle and they claim that it's an "off-road vehicle" (it's not - not with 7.5 inches of clearance). Grammar? Spelling? Most people from foreign countries posting on programmer mailing lists have better grammar and spelling.

My initial reaction, as seen above, was quite negative. I'm never a fan of bad grammar or spelling. My friend Dave says 90% of the world is stupid. Are the other 10% programmers? No. But are programmers smarter than the "common folk?" Not necessarily. But what is a programmer? Someone who can think logically (algorithmically, even). Someone who's very aware of a language's syntax and semantics, the "grammar" and "spelling" of C++, Java, etc. if you will.

So those traits tend to shine through in a mailing list, I guess. The people on the mailing list are all intelligent, passionate folks from whom I've already learned quite a bit. They just don't care as much about sentences in prepositions. 🙂

Anyway, just an observation.

Update: (2003-05-06) There's a lot of misunderstanding going on here. I'm no better than anyone else, I'm different. This post is one that I wrote for myself, as nearly all of my blog entries are, scolding myself for having the initial "people are stupid" thought. It's wrong, and as I say later, they're all very intelligent people from whom I've learned a lot.

I'm no better than anyone. I'm more intelligent than most people (if you care to go by IQ - and I tend not to), but that in no way makes me a "better" person. Heck, my initial reaction in labelling people as "stupid" goes to show I'm not a "better" person by any stretch of the imagination.

I'm real, and I try. I have skills, and this entry is really not a slam on anyone (except myself). I apologize if it's written poorly, and I hope that this note benefits anyone who, for whatever reason, reads this. But mostly I hope that it reminds Future Erik what exactly this post was trying to accomplish.

25 Responses to "The Common Folk"

  1. On the other hand, maybe it's just SUV owners who are stupid. (duck!)

  2. NOT TO MENTION THE ONES THAT TYPE IN ALL CAPS!!!! And use lots of exclamation marks... Ugh.

  3. Programmers aren't necessarily smart, but those who also have the inclination to write (on a mailing list, for example) have a fair bit going on in both the right and left hemispheres, and that's probably what shines through.

    Think for a minute about the greater majority of people who aren't programmers, and don't have the inclination to write, on a mailing list, for example. Living online, you see the world through a lens of literacy and more. Step in to the 'real world' and things get more scary. Try going to the mall to test your next computer interface, and you learn a lot about the necessity of making a blatantly obvious interface...

  4. Kevin, I can literally say that I've done just that, because as some people know, I currently work for a few hours in an Apple store. 🙂

    As for Aaron's comment, well, I wouldn't know. I own an SRV that gets 35 MPG.

  5. I'm not entirely sure what your point here is Erik! Surely you realise that all people are different? 😉 Here are some random thoughts in response to yours:

    Thinking back to school, English teachers were (apparently) the most "illogical" of all teachers.

    It's true "programmers" (whatever they are?) have a reasonable use of English and grammar but it's nothing special; economists and business folk can produce the same quality babble. The difference is probably that programmers are generally "better" educated?

    An aside: I've noticed the em-dash is overused by these computing folk, a semicolon would suffice in most instances! A typical case of people applying a rule where they don't fully understand it! Hmm, what a surprise the same people are often guilty of writing really shabby programs for the same reason.

    In the teaching that I do, many of my students (who are 16/17) use the informal "txt speak" in their emails to me. On one hand it annoys me since there is no ~150 character limit on emails, on the other hand why be so anal about it?

    Anyway, more on the pragmatics of natural language at some later point, since this is a rather long comment .. 🙂 Should have posted an entry, oh well.

    PS Semantics isn't analogous to spelling,meaning would be better perhaps(?).

  6. Wow, 35MPG? I didn't know Aztechs were that efficient. Too bad about the body, though. 😛

  7. 30-35 is not atypical for me, no. As for the body, I love it. Best driving "big-room" automobile on the road. The Buick Rendezvous without the snobbishness and with rubber floormats and a tent. 🙂

  8. Erik, but surely those people frequenting an Apple store are already self-qualifying as being of above-average intelligence. 😉 Try Old Navy...

  9. I didn't say that other professions didn't produce people who could write well. I simply made reference to the fact that programmers deal with "languages" - even if they're computer programming lanugaes - every day, and in my experience, this translates to a respect for other spoken (English, Russian, French, whatever) languages as well.

    Some of the most gifted linguists I know are computer programmers. I may be misusing the term "linguist" there, though.

  10. "Show them a picture of an Aztek going through a mud puddle and they claim that it's an "off-road vehicle" (it's not - not with 7.5 inches of clearance)."

    Well, to be fair, the Aztek home page (which I assume is the mud-flinging picture you 're talking about) says, right next to the picture: "Experience SUV ruggedness" and the picture completely obscures the 7.5" clearance. 🙂

    What bugs me is that the url for the home page, viewed on my state-of-the-art Safari browser, is: Somehow implying that they're showing me 'old' stuff, or that my browser isn't sufficient to run something as sophisticated as, say, Flash. I wish web developers realized that urls are fully visible, and negative words in the url are almost as bad as negative words on the page...

  11. It is as rugged as an SUV. But it's an SRV. Your other point remains valid. 🙂

  12. If you are going to comment upon people's grammar, you may want to reconsider starting a sentence with a conjunctive. 😉

  13. Excuse my igorance, but was it the ui-development list? I can't find it on Google.

  14. Ah, that should teach me to check what I type before I send it. That's supposed to be: "what is the ui-..."

  15. "It's all right to be filled with hate, people are stupid" -- my mantra in life, coming from a tech support background.

  16. People are Stupid

    Erik has realized what I have been saying for years Regular People are Stupid. Welcome to the club dude. I've...

  17. Jamie takes issue with my off-the-cuff entry about the differences between "common folk" (I'm going to continue to put those words in quotes) and "computer...

  18. 9 out of 10

    Whenever I was particularly frustrated with either the state of the world in general, or the type of music...

  19. My previous two entries have touched off a little discussion. However, the piece I found most interesting was this one from Michael Hanscom: Intelligent people...

  20. Well, you may love your Aztek but I don't think GM does. It is selling really poorly and has admitted design problems (not to say it's a bad purchase, but Aztek-haters have a lot of ammo!)

    I think it's cute how you keep INSISTING that it's not an SUV. It shows that you know SUV's are bad... and I hate to break it to you, but as many numbers and facts as you toss at us, the Aztek is designed to sell to people who want an SUV and anyone who really hates SUVs is going to hate on your Aztek. But like the poet said, "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

  21. Mikey, have you got a point, or do you just like to (try to) rain on people's parade?

    I don't care what GM says or thinks, but one thing they have said is that it'll be around at least through 2004.It's not an SUV - it's an SRV. And that having been said, mine gets 30-35 MPG. I hate SUVs that get 12 MPG or so. Mine ain't one of 'em.

    Now go away, because negativity just for the sake of negativity is silly, and that's all you've got here.

  22. One of the primary reasons people with low IQs tend to have more children is that these people often have more free time. This, in conjunction with the appearance that "easy" girls tend to be attracted to guys with flash, leads to a population explosion in the lower SES range (Socio-Economic Standing).

  23. Stupid

    After my 9 out of 10 post, Erik let me know that (a) I misread him and (b) utterly...

  24. putting so much stock in grammar and syntax is a mark of low intelligence. as a previous poster mentioned, in high school the english teachers were the most illogical. this is simply because they were of a lower average logical intelligence than the math or science teachers. computer programmers do tend to be significantly above average when it comes to intelligence. (i would estimate at least one standard deviation) and it just so happens that people with higher intelligence tend to write better constructed sentences. the nuances of grammar are more apparent to anyone in any field who is more intelligent than average. i understand your point was not that this is any phenomenon specific to programmers but to intellectuals in general, but your idea that grammar and syntax relate to intelligence is poorly founded and just flat out wrong. pseudo-intellectuals love to play the "i won't drop the iq-card" card to look modest and yet brag and give themselves a credibility boost at the same time. i don't play that childish game. my iq has never been tested at lower than 174 and i couldn't give two shits about grammar or syntax. i'm aware of every grammatical and spelling error i make and i won't be bothered to waste time correcting it.

    regular people are regular, average even. the average computer literate person is above average and so can look down on regular people, intellectually. i don't mind that people seem stupid compared to me. it's their apathy about it that bugs me.

  25. Well regardless of the quality of their grammar, its a shame computer programmers are so prone to writing the most appalling and abysmal code imaginable.