When copywriters code

I’m a hopeless romantic, if I have to say the least about myself. Robert M. Pirsig, in his Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, classifies people into two types: romantics and classics. I’m the romantic. In the bluntest of terms, romantics are creative thinkers and classics are logical thinkers. Of course both types would have interchangeable qualities, but on a macro level, romantics dream up while classics drill down.

Now that I’ve established a basic, arguable nonetheless, definition of the term, let me emphasise. I’m a romantic, and I’m hopeless at that.

Romantics don’t think like machines. We learn to look at nature, to observe what’s around us, and interpret them in the most beautiful way, or in the most natural way. Classics, on the other hand, learn to look at something and analyse why something appears some way. We appreciate how a flower’s stem balances its five petals whereas classics calculate the stem’s ability to bear the petals. It’s a slight difference when you put it that way, but a much more alarming one when you look at it in a real workplace scenario.

I am a copywriter surrounded by software engineers. I’m a romantic in the midst of classics. I write stories, and they write software. We co-exist to help customers do better business. Now that’s a nice picture. But the real problem arises during a conversation, when the programmers talk about parse and encryption and my mind’s thinking about prose and enchantment.

It didn’t take long for me to realise I was out of place, and I had to learn to code to feel in place. I didn’t have to become a developer—I knew I never could—but I had to develop basic knowledge of how programmers use language. And so I began. I sat with a developer while they wrote a piece of program, and I observed in their eyes the frantic whizzing in their mind. They spoke to the screen in front of them, reasoning out the flow of script. The first line of code would run once before moving on to the second. Swapping the order of the lines would disrupt the entire program. Replacing a semicolon, adding an extra colon or an extra space would topple things in the most inconvenient way. (“Yay!” I yelled. “It’s the same with writing,” though the developers weren’t as excited.)

After a few days under development, I concluded that we romantics don’t learn to think the way computers do. Regardless of all technology innovations, computers don’t and won’t think like humans. As a non-developer I could see how I had to alter my way of thinking and approaching a problem to explain it to a computer. For a logical flow that I take for granted, the computer needs a line of script. When I think I’d fetch water, my mind knows I’d drink it. But if I told a computer to fetch water, it’d fetch it and keep it aside until I tell it—again—that it should drink half of it and save the rest.

We romantics don’t condition our minds to think one step at a time. That’s why it’s hard for us to learn programming at a later age. We think in blocks of actions, in phrases, in groups of words, and instructions. We read poetry that distributes one meaning in five lines. We process a poem as a whole to understand its meaning. We’re clustered thinkers because it’s ingrained in our minds. Classics, however, think in a sequence. That’s what a degree in computer science gives them. They take actions one step at a time. They’re more organised thinkers because that’s what’s ingrained in their minds.

My eureka moment: With enough practice, I could start thinking like a programmer, too. It felt like I had opened the door to a whole new world. I could speak to any computer, and tell it what to and when to do. The thought awed me, and terrified me at the same time.

Perhaps classics would feel the same way if they spent a few days reading Shakespeare.

Discovery

I hate mobs. They make me nervous. Even as I think about it, my heart bangs in its cage and my legs start to tremble threatening to give way at any moment. And speaking in front of a gathering is awful. Give me a mike and put me under the spotlight, and I’ll be reduced to a slump.

Or, at least, that’s what I thought it would be like.

In school and at work, I’ve had to explain something to a bunch of people. But every time that happens, I freak out so much that my speech loses all sense. And that’s why I was beyond “just nerves” when I heard I’d have to conduct a session in a workshop at my job.
To complicate things, I already knew a bit about my audience: they were all stay-at-home married women. Some had kids, some had more time. Most of them were single- or double-degree holders on a break after marriage. And all of them were at least 10 years older than I. Talk about intimidation.

I needed several deep breaths. And a few gulps — of air.

How would I explain something to them without coming off as a young and insufferable know-it-all? I had so many doubts; people hated contradictions, and a school kid telling older women what to do, isn’t most people’s idea of an ideal workshop. They would’ve expected somone much older-looking, taller, and experienced to conduct an educational workshop.

And yet, when I stood in front of the audience, the glare from the projector almost blinding me, the uncertainty disappeared from my mind. All of a sudden, I was looking at a bunch of people eager to learn; they didn’t care that my head, while I stood, was at their eye while they sat.

Clutching the mike, I, for the first time, felt confident facing a crowd. I was calm. My legs were steady, my heartbeat didn’t sound like a siren, and my pulse wasn’t racing. I began, and I felt myself smiling. I realised how easy it felt. It felt natural talking to these women who wanted to learn and to listen. And then, out of nowhere, I discovered I had matured so much from the shy and cowering schoolgirl I was until a few years ago.

I had grown up at last. And for once, all was well.

The Itch I Can’t Get Rid Of

itch

For a while now, Gmail has been showing me advertisements in my Social, Promotions, and Updates tabs. And though I’ve been dismissing them at will, I can’t help but freak out when I see something so relevant to what I had been searching a while ago.

I know, Google reading my emails and following my browsing history isn’t a new concept. Google has always done that, and despite a lot of people’s outburst against it, it doesn’t seem like big G would stop anytime soon. On another note, part of my work involves writing ads for Google to show our customers when they search for something relevant. So I don’t even think I have the right to be outraged by the ads.

Still, I am.

I don’t like the fact that Google is messing with my search history. It’s messing with my head. I don’t browse for anything vile but I get cautious even when my boss stands behind me. And to think Google is just right there, inside my system, peeking at me, and pecking at every trail I leave is just a little too much to take.

Then there’s the “Tell us why you dismissed the ad” message. That’s got to be the most sarcastic message that Google can send its users. I mean, what do you expect, Google? I dismiss the ads because they’re masquerading as emails while obscuring my actual emails. Not to mention it’s rude to shove ads in the face of someone who’s logging in first thing in the morning.

As if these weren’t enough, there are people out there who don’t care about Google’s meddling. I met a woman who shrugged off the idea as if she couldn’t care less. She was happy, instead, that Google had found her the curling iron she had tried and failed to find online.

Emails, like letters, are personal — even if I’m just writing to a software support team. I don’t appreciate it when a G product lures me into relying on its technology. The world already depends too much on Google. From my search and routes to documents and email, if I log into one app, a single company can see through me like glass.

To put it in plain speak, no matter where I go, big G follows me, watching me like a hawk. Why does it feel like 1984 again

Pissed off, totally

Workaholics!

Oh, bugger! These people are everywhere! Having newly joined as a trainee in a company, all I see around me is people who refuse to look away from their laptops. I’m surprised to see this though, because this is a place where people are supposed to enjoy working; they play cricket; catch up on latest gossips; get some coffee together. But I still call them workaholics because, honestly, I doubt that they think about anything other than their work, even while playing.

Their laughter doesn’t reach their eyes, the mirth doesn’t last long; they pretend to be sophisticated when all they want to do is have some fun honestly. I have a feeling that these people are not who they seem to be. Like they have two complete faces; one inside and another outside the company of their colleagues. Such a two-faced life!

Alas!

Not everyone is like that though; I’ve met some people who honestly say that they enjoy the job, or not. What annoys me is the pretence and false self-contentment of the  majority. Some are so pathetic. They know that they don’t like their job, yet they stick around, because they know that the money is good for their families. They are the pitiable who convince themselves that their life becomes worthy, when living for others’ pleasures.

Then, there is the other kind who feel that they love their job only when they have little or nothing to do at all. When these people are burdened with a heavy workload, they get so cranky and desperate. Oh, my! The look on their faces when they try hard to concentrate and try to retain the weight of their paycheck!

Are these, people who would listen to some stupid ranting of a youngster and try to change themselves? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t stop me from putting down my thoughts.

I’ve seen people who look up to the software community. I’ve seen the desperate longing in their eyes. Why?

It’s simple. Those who are not part of this elite believe this life to be paradise; that’s what they are forced to believe. All they see from the IT crowd is luxury. They cannot be blamed.

Not until they join this industry, that they realize that the life of a software guy is just disguised luxury.

This “software” industry just pisses me off. Already.