Unintended perspectives

Listen, for alll that you and I talk, you’ve still never been round my house at 5am on a weekday morning, have you?

Producer Rosie Boulton has and you can hear why in Write Brummies on BBC Radio 4 at 11:30 on November 21.

She’s charting writers through a day in my home city of Birmingham and I am first up because, well, I am first up.

I don’t remember what I said when she interviewed me, but of course I know I tried to sound interesting. What I’m most curious to hear, if not a little anxious, is what you make of me. The impression we think we give is of course rarely, if ever, the impression received.

And this has been on my mind all week because of a tweet I saw that just boomed with insight – but into the sender rather than what he was trying to say.

I can’t seem to find it now to show you and I suppose it doesn’t matter, this is maybe a universal rule.

But to use this tweet specifically, it was from some software developer. He stated that he could take 20 such software coders and they could be a fully-functioning newswriting team by the next morning. And that it is impossible to take 20 journalists and make them good coders in the same time.

He’s certainly right about the latter. I’m a writer who is also a journalist and also at times a coder, and I’d say there’s a sliding scale of my ability there. If sliding scales step off a cliff for the last part.

But of course he’s also wrong about the first part. I know software engineers who can write, but I also knew one who – literally, I do mean literally – hid under a desk rather than write something for people to read.

What I’m interested in, though, is that this tweeting coder stated all of this. Didn’t suggest or propose or opine, he stated it. And he did use that laughable justification you regularly hear, the one that goes "well, all my friends agree" line.

By making what he believed was a declarative statement, a statement of utter fact that we should take notice of, he was really telling us a lot about himself.

You already know factual parts such as that he’s a coder, although admittedly I told you that. You’d have got it anyway. You also know that he’s arrogant. I’m afraid it’s not a shock that he’s a man.

In maybe fifteen words, he conveyed so much of himself that I feel I can picture him. If he did that deliberately, if he fashioned that tweet to reveal a character then, yes, oh definitely yes, he is a writer.

But you know he didn’t.

He doesn’t see what he’s done, and that’s why he’s a coder and not a writer.

I’m not saying he needs to be, I am saying I don’t want to know him.