Code As Communication

Why Tech Should Value the Liberal Arts Experience || Part Two

Purpose, Audience, and Context

In the introduction to this blog series, I mused on who my audience might be. This was mostly, like the rest of the introduction, a way of venting about the frustrations of changing careers and consequently seeing the not-insignificant number in front of “years of experience” vanish like a mirage from my resume and applications. It felt good. It might have even resonated with some English majors who like to code. But it was probably not particularly effective communication.

Stakeholders and Accessibility

When thinking about audience, one of our first considerations should be who is impacted. Whether it’s a message, a procedure, or a product, the things we put out in the world are likely to impact different people differently. One of the cardinal sins we can commit as producers of anything is to assume our intended audience is our only audience. There is rarely just one audience.

Context & Conventions

Do you know why college papers are double-spaced? It’s because, once upon a time, your professors needed room for proofreading marks above and below your writing. In a world where most papers are submitted electronically and marked on a computer, do we need double-spacing? No. But it’s how your professors are used to seeing things. It saves them precious time because they recognize the lay of the land.

Readability

When designing a web application, it may be obvious that we need to consider our users. They are the audience that will consume our product. However, just as important and somewhat less obvious, we also need to consider other developers, not as consumers of our product but as readers of our code. In fact, you could say all code has two audiences: machines and developers. Both will need to be able to understand your instructions. Crafting code that considers both audiences requires conscious consideration. This is the main thesis of books like Clean Code. The fact that such books exist suggests it can’t go without saying. And writers who are trained in readability and consideration of audience will need very little convincing.

Full Stack Web Developer//MFA in Creative Nonfiction

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