Welcome to the 22nd issue of The Catch Block! This past week my kids started their remote schooling, and it turns out that's a full time job, and suddenly one of the reasons why technical communication is so hard makes perfect sense.

10YO: "You can't just shout words and expect them to make sense." Photo by Noah Buscher / Unsplash

Plus, an excellent video on what .NET is anyway, secrets, the haveibeenpwned code is being open sourced, eliminating FOMO, and user stories.

Technical Communication is Hard, Yo

My kids, like many of yours, are beginning their remote schooling. With that comes many challenges, including some that I definitely wasn't expecting.

My middle son (we'll call him A) came downstairs the other day looking concerned. He was still in a virtual class with his teacher and classmates, but as he explained to me, his teacher had sent out a Google Docs link and he had somehow missed it (I'm not exactly sure how).

Lucky for him, his friend re-sent the link over chat. Problem was, as A told me:

"I don't know what to do with it!"

Ctrl+X, C, V, A, S, Y, and Z. Photo by NeONBRAND / Unsplash

In the chat, the link was not clickable, so it wasn't clear to A how to get to that assignment. To me, as someone who has worked professionally on computers for 12+ years and owned them for 20+, the answer was obvious: you copy and paste the link. Naively, I told him exactly that, and he understandably was even more confused.

"What does that mean?"

Which was when it hit me: he hasn't yet had a reason to use copy and paste, so of course he won't know what the phrase "copy and paste" means!

I explained it to him; explained how there is this thing called a "right-click" (which, since he's using a Chromebook, is actually a two-finger click) which brings up something called a context menu, and that one of the options on that menu is called "Copy" which takes whatever you've highlighted and adds it to something named the "clipboard" and you can then take whatever's on the clipboard and put it in something else by right-clicking (or two-finger clicking) somewhere else and selecting "Paste".

This, as you might imagine, did not help matters.

So instead I took his computer, placed it on my lap, and walked him step-by-step through how copy and paste works: highlight what you want, press Ctrl+C, click where you want it to go, press Ctrl+V. When I was done, I gave it back to him, and asked him to show me how to do it. When he did, it clicked, and he understood.

I was reminded yet again that the most critical skill a developer (or, really, any human can have) is the ability to communicate ideas in a way that the other person is going to understand. The trick is figuring out exactly which way that is, and adjusting your teaching style to fit it.

Now if only I could find a way to effectively teach the kids how to take out the trash every day without me breathing down their necks...

Best thrower in london
That is NOT what I meant when I said "throw it away!" Photo by Jay Clark / Unsplash

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Catch Up with the Previous Issue!

The Catch Block #21 - Tips for Blind Code Reviews
Plus TypeScript’s new website, console apps, maintaining vs. building, and translating design into code.

Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next week!