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August 16th, 2007

I could be next...

A friend sent this to me today, and it totally freaked me out. I'm posting it now as a separate entry, because I don't know how long it will stay up.

Instead of just whining about that field on the form in my yesterday's blog entry rant, I decided to do something about it, so I wrote to the guy who runs the website. Here is our e-mail exchange (I'm in yellow; he's in blue):

Hello,

I hope you will take this in the vein in which it is meant. I'm a "technical communicator" for a living, and so a little more anal retentive about words than most folks, I guess. :-)

I cannot for the life of me understand this field in your submission form:

"Please type the number 1 in lowercase letters:"

What does it mean to "type the number 1 in lowercase letters?" I mean there are just so many things obfuscated about this statement from a technical communications perspective:
  1. There's just one character, so why the word "letters" as opposed to the word "letter"? Does it mean to type "one"? If so, it should say, "Spell the word for the number 1 in lowercase letters."

  2. Numbers don't have cases.

  3. Numbers and letters are two different things. So, how can you type a number in any kind of letter—uppercase or lowercase?

  4. On my keyboard, if I press the shift key and press the key with the "1" on it, I get a "!" So it's not like that's an "uppercase 1."

Maybe this has something to do with an international audience, but I'm baffled. I just don't understand what it's asking for.

Also, what is the purpose of this request?

Thanks for any insight you can provide to ease my burdened mind. :-)

BTW—I love your site.

Best regards,
John Martin

Um... wow?

:)

The reason that's there is to prevent spambots from hitting the site and making loads of bogus submissions.

I will take your linguistic analysis into consideration for possible rewording of the request. :)


... Ryan

LOL... thanks for responding!  Why not just say, "Type the numeral 1 in the box below."
-j-

John --

If I saw that I'd interpret it as typing "1," whereas I'm asking for the word (it's slightly more spambot-proof this way).

Kind of a pain, I realize, but it certainly hasn't seemed to slowdown the onslaught of (valid) submissions!  :)

... Ryan

Ah! And I thought that's what you WANTED us to type there, and in fact, in my five previous submissions I HAVE typed the numeral 1! So I guess my submissions have been going into the bit bucket. :-( :-( :-(

I wonder how many other people have been doing the same thing. I'm not going to accept this as my stupidity—it's a communication issue at some level, no matter how minute. Do you have a way of finding out how many people have typed in the numeral 1? Perhaps you've really had double the onslaught of submissions--half mistakenly invalid. :-)

In that case, I would write it as, "Spell out (in lowercase letters) the word for 2 in the box below."

And I suggest two instead of one, because in some cases it's hard to tell if the numeral "1" is a 1 or a lowercase "L." (With my keyboard and font, pressing the 1 key and the lowercase L key both produce the same symbol. (i.e., someone might write "el" instead of "one." :-)

I hope you understand that I'm not being a pain in the ass. I'm acting in the Covey paradigm of, "People who criticize CARE." (Otherwise, they wouldn't put their energy into trying to change/help/fix things; they'd just "leave.") I really do think you have a GREAT thing going here, and since the entire premise of what you're doing is about "conciseness" in language...

I'm going to resubmit my entries now, putting "one" instead of "1" in that box. Again, thanks for the continued dialog. I'm glad we had this discussion, because I've learned that I've been doing it wrong.

Best regards,
John

John --

Hey there...

Believe me, I appreciate thoughtful feedback... it's better than the "Hey d00d, you need to add some ajax to your site" feedback I usually get. :)

Point taken on 1/l and I like your wording. I will make the change.

... Ryan

What a great, positive exchange. And one for Technical Communication! There, I've done my part for the profession today.



Row Thinking vs. Column Thinking
(9 1/2 Minutes, Safe for Work)


I worked from home this morning and from Helios this afternoon.

As I'm composing this entry, the tables out on Helios' patio are all in a line accommodating about 28 people, who are drinking wine and having appetizers. Perhaps a private party? Perhaps a wine-tasting? I don't know.

What I do know is that a couple of them are fanning themselves with their napkins. It's 7:15PM, and it's still 94° out.

A poor guy just came in from out there to get another bottle of wine, and he has a sweat-soaked streak down his back and big sweat rings under his manboobs. Bless his heart.

No they are not serving hot soup to them out there now! This can only get better.



I stayed at Helios all night long, and left at a little after 11:00 to check out the Trailer Park.

The Trailer Park was a bust. "Trixie" was back for a "guest appearance." I still hate her. Hate is such a strong word.

I spoke with Gerald for a little while, and then I left shortly after the show started.

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