THE CANARY IN THE MINE
I’ve noticed that many developers (yes, many developers) tend to have spelling problems. It’s got something to do with the verbal system of course, and that verbal system seems to be a rather interesting thing. It’s often like a canary in a coal mine, an indicator of something else going on.
I learned the following at an “intellectual performance test” many years ago. It was a planned event, I was very busy the days before the test and it was a 4 hour drive to the location for the test and I had not been able to sleep the for the last two nights, and the third night I was still not able to get the rest I felt I needed. But half an hour before I had take off and drive by car to the test location I finally fell asleep. About fifteen minutes later I sat in my car and started the trip. I felt bad about the lack of sleep and had no hope of doing good, but to make a long story short, I actually did pretty well.
I was amazed. But before leaving the place we were expected to be interviewed by an psychologists and I asked why I had done… lets say “satisfactory” on most of the tests, but not as well on the parts involving the verbal system (I’m known for being “very verbal” blah, blah) so therefore I was surprised when the results showed a dip in exactly that area. In any area I would have expected “any result”, but not a clearly hampered verbal system.
I told the interviewer I hadn’t slept more than about 15 minutes during the last three nights, and then I learned that the verbal system follows a dead simple pattern for how our brain priorities energy and alertness. The verbal system is one of the first things to “shut down” when were are exhausted, suffer from lack of sleep or otherwise overstrained (people using drugs or alcohol would know that the verbal system doesn’t really improve while being intoxicated, and so on.
And it follows; if a programmer works very hard, lacking sleep or not, it puts strain on the brain, and the slightest weakness in the verbal system which isn’t normally obvious WILL become obvious. You chat with your colleague and you can often tell whether he should go to sleep or not, and the next day he’d start spelling “normally” again, or at least better.
You get the idea. Programmers often have periods when they are overstrained or so “into it” that they periodically suffer from lack of sleep. And it will often show up in bad spelling. And that bad spelling is the “canary in the mine”.
BTW, this time I cheated. I used the spellchecker.
Edit: Not referring to myself here, but want to add that I find it interesting that some of the smartest and most skilled programmers and IT-designers I have been in in contact with have had severe problems with their verbal systems.
[Edit: spelling… ]
You mean its
I actually have no idea because English is not my native language. Perhaps it should have read “It has something to do with…”.
Your English is remarkably good and it is a very common mistake which I make frequently. I just thought it funny because it was the first word after you mentioned poor spelling
“its” aint a word.
I’m really not picky about my poor spelling. I keep omitting words here and there, swap both words and letters, and… (especially after editing, because I just don’t see that the text isn’t what I KNOW it should be and… I just have to accept the fact.
But I have actually used my weakness also to my advantage. I view it as my “verbal finger print”. In periods I’ve been involved in debates on forums, and if someone would have tried to make me look bad by pretending to be me, it wouldn’t be as easy as if I spelled like my spellchecker spells.
It’s (isn’t it weird that you can’t use “it’s” alone as a phrase to say “it is” unless it’s in the context of a sentence.)
Apart from any canaries in the mine, I’m a bit surprised that there are so few misspellings in the documentation and in the code examples.