Like a bird flying toward a window I approach my deadline. So here goes. My apologies to anyone who sustains injury after reading this post.
One of my initial draws to the magical realm of software engineering was the notion that I would not have to talk to anyone to get my job done. I could simply receive my introductions, write up a program that did what was intended, and collect my paycheck. Simple, right?
This happy illusion was shattered in the first few minutes of my first job at a software company. Suddenly there were “meetings,” strange creatures called “customers” who were our overlords, and this mysterious cabal called “management.” Conspiring to thwart every effort at productivity, my position with the company was more than an adventure, it was a job.
One of the greatest chores was talking to this evil organization with many faces. I found that while this cohort was able to thwart my efforts at every turn, they seemed to me…well…stupid. They didn’t seem to grasp the obvious nature of such things as “two factor authentication is more secure than just a password,” ”a web server and a database server are not the same thing” and “why a demo is not a real product.”
I’m not sure when it began to dawn on me, but I began to suspect that my perception that I was dwelling in the land of idiots wasn’t all that accurate. It might have been the four-hour argument with a coworker which concluded with the realization that we were thinking the same thing but in different terms. Or the all day meeting with the consultant that resulted in both of our ideas being modified. In any event I began to suspect that maybe that the intelligence of others was in dispute, but both myself and the other’s inability to communicate effectively.
I am not sure if it was always the case, but our modern culture sucks at communication. In a true sense of cosmic irony, we as a society have the greatest tools known to man to communicate ideas yet lack the skill set to communicate effectively.
Take any political publication today. The assumed knowledge and implied premises are rampant. No real attempt is made to lay out the foundations of a political ideology. Most mainstream publications are designed to point us to who the “good guys” are and inform us that “the other side is wrong AND stupid.” No real attempt is made to argue one’s point, OR intellectually engage the other side.
But this isn’t limited to politics. Education has become so specialized that one PhD cannot talk to another, sometimes even in the same field. In the past, a History PhD could have an intelligent conversation with one another about respective fields. Nowadays I wish you luck getting them in the same room.
A had a pleasant exchange with who I presume was an atheist on the Catholicism subreddit. One of the more striking things was that as the conversation went on was how we had to define basic words such as “good” “suffering” and “God.” This was an enlightening exchange that shows that when worldviews are worlds apart, nothing can be taken as a given.
But it was also work.
The reason why communication is lost is because real communication takes work. Something which our modern world seems allergic to. Communication takes discipline to coherently explain in enough detail the ideas one is trying to communicate. Energy is used, and care must be taken.
I will return to this topic in the future. But I would like to open the floor to discussion about communication in general. Do you find communication difficult? What are some things we can do at a fundamental level to improve communication?