About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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You cannot persuade someone to consider an idea by debating them into submission.

Reg Braithwaite



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 1/20/2020

Totals
Posts - 2597
Comments - 2629
Hits - 2,207,746

Averages
Entries/day - 0.43
Comments/entry - 1.01
Hits/day - 365

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 11:22 AM Pacific


  12:03 PM

One of my writers was writing some code recently to illustrate how to use a check box, and came up with an example that read more-or-less like this:

I believe in Santa Claus

In my edit pass, I suggested that this was not culturally neutral, hence should be changed to something else. He sent me a funny reply:
I admit that Santa is not culturally neutral. I subconsciously knew I was committing a sin as I wrote it. But I thought it was funny. I know our examples aren’t supposed to be funny, but they should at least be somewhat interesting. :-)
It breaks my heart, it really does. Writers do want to inject a little whimsy into what otherwise tends to be some pretty grey text. ("The Index page displays a form that implements the HTML helper methods demonstrated in this topic. When the user submits the form, it is handled by the HandleForm action method, which generates a view that displays the information that the user submitted." ZZzzzzzzz ...)

But it's a ticklish problem. Suppose you're looking at this example and you're, dunno, in China? Egypt? What if you belong to the Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not celebrate Christmas? It might seem a little far-fetched to think that an example that involves Santa is going to confuse or offend someone, even allowing for national, cultural, and religious differences.

But you never know. That's the problem. We cannot predict with certainty how someone will react to an example like this. It's certainly possible that everyone will be fine with it, or at least will be able to write it off as a US-centric example that they understand, even if it isn't one they'd ever use.

Our safe and conservative editorial attitude, tho, is why take a chance? If the possibility even exists that we might put someone off in our attempt to bring a tiny bit of levity to the topic, well, let's just be safe and pick something else.

Boring, yes. Quashing creativity and whimsy, yes. And I make these points to the writer with reluctance, yes. But it's one of the things we're trained to look out for, and the corporation as a whole is uber-paranoid about these types of things. So a different example it shall be. Sorry, Santa.:-(

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