…if the world of blogging about software had by now developed some kind of a tradition of critical analysis?
Over at Inside Higher Ed, Scott McLemee writes a careful and thoughtful review of Cornel West’s new book. It performs the delicate feat of being at once both generous to its subject and devastating in its analysis:
Legend has it that the blues guitarist Robert Johnson acquired his haunting style by selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads. West, as a â€œbluesman of the life of the mind,â€ has clearly also been to the crossroads. The devil gave him a team of publicists. I don’t think this was a good bargain on West’s part. It left him unable to recognize that self-respect is often the enemy of self-esteem.
Although his prose style is impeccable, what I like even more about McLemee’s piece is the way in which he expresses hope that West might return to fulfilling his early promise. (I suspect that this expression of hope is mainly a form of rhetorical charity, but it’s stylish nonetheless.) This led me to wondering whether it’s even achievable to foster a similar style among people who write about code.
I suspect that many of the awful writing habits of software bloggers come from the fact that they are sometimes actually trying to do things: I tried to use some software; it did something dumb (or nothing at all); I am frustrated; I am going to get splenetic, possibly on a subject where I have no idea what I’m talking about. You can’t take an issue of Social Text out of the university library and do something fun with it after hours (hell, it takes a strong stomach to have fun with critical theory inside the library), so that particular variety of resentment born of ill experience doesn’t arise.
Maybe I’ll actually write up some thoughts on Go at some point, and see if I can live up to my admittedly forlorn hopes.