Kin Lane

Grammar and Spelling Versus Digital Literacy

I do not have an editor for what I write. I edit things myself. There are moments that I am a good editor, and there are moments where I am not. Slowing my brain down for any sustained period of time takes a lot of work. I work hard at editing my work, but after 3-5 passes over a blog post I will stop making changes and just push things out the door. Sure it is my professional blog, but it is a blog that acts as my workbench for ideas I find important across the API space. I generate revenue from the blog, but it is because I am moving ideas forward, not because I am putting words in the right order. With this said, editing is important to me, and I have the skills to accomplish it, and it is something I can deliver on quite often, but while operating in solo mode there are also a lot of things that slip by me.

From 2014 through 2019 API Evangelist was hosted on GitHub using GitHub pages. During that time I had around twenty people who submitted pull requests to fix spelling and grammar mistakes in my writing. These people are my heroes. Unfortunately my blog doesn’t run there anymore, and I am back to being self-hosted, without any collaborative way to edit. So I am always thankful when people email and DM me letting me know when I’ve pushed something out the door with mistakes. I depend on these folks helping me out. There is another class of people who read my blog, find mistakes, and like to email or DM me letting me know, while also letting me know that they think less of my work because of my spelling and grammar. I’d say half of these people are part of a class of technologists who just enjoy being trolls, but there is also another class of them who are more academics and are used to a higher bar when it comes to publishing, and can’t fathom why I would publish with mistakes.

Usually when grammar and spelling criticism is coming from someone on the tech side of the coin. A fellow programmer, architect, or other technologist, it is more about men feeling like they need to get into pissing matches, and they either disagree with my opinion, or don’t understand what I’m talking about and they just need to piss on my work. I’ve learned to not let this type of behavior bother me over the years, and I do not feed these trolls, or let them get under my skin. When it comes from the academic side of things I still have insecurities due my lack of a college degree that makes it something that is harder for me to dismiss, and I tend to let it get under my skin more often. Honestly I think the academic side of things suffer from the same illnesses the technology side suffers from, a sort of protecting the wizard class type of trolling, but it is still a less familiar world for me and it still trips me up regularly. As the world continues to wake up to the fact that APIs are beneath everything more academics are stumbling across my work, resulting in more encounters like this.

I used to try and engage with these folks and explain my position. However, I rarely feed trolls these days. I just don’t have time or emotional bandwidth to go there. When I do engage, the usual argument from them is that my focus on research and the speed at which I move are poor excuses, because when it comes to the English language, something that I use every day, I should have a firm grasp on things. Ok, granted, I do use the English language every day, and I am specifically using the English language to write. I can’t argue that I shouldn’t have a firm grasp–so I work hard at this. I do. However, to use it to dismiss the knowledge I am putting forth is something I can and will argue. To dismiss my work because an idea wasn’t fully fleshed out on my workbench blog, or because I didn’t catch the wrong use of their, there, and they’re in my writing, doesn’t mean my knowledge and understanding of API infrastructure is of no value. I wish I had the time each day to fully polish and edit my writing before it goes out the door, but my work is meant to ensure these concepts are on the tip of my tongue for use across my work, not meant to be perfectly polished for you to consume and use from my blog. Sorry.

One fascinating conundrum in all of this that I have been realizing as I encounter more of these spelling and grammar trolls is that they seem to have this expectation of my writing, but I am not allowed to have any expectation of their digital literacy. Somehow it is perfectly acceptable for them to be completely unaware of how something that they use every day operates. Most have almost no grasp of how URLs, HTTP, DNS, or APIs work. It seems like if you use something every day you should have a grasp of what is going on. Should I have an expectation that you are reading every terms of service of the services you use, each of the thousands of domains you share data with on a daily basis, and that you can crack open developer tools in your browser and reverse engineer how your data and content is being transmitted? I am not asking you to write any code, or program the Internet. I am just asking you to have a baseline awareness of something you do each day. At what point can I start pushing back on my expectation around digital literacy, and for people to understand what it is that I am writing about, without the need to pick apart my spelling and grammar to reduce me in size, because they don’t quite get what is being shared?

I will never reach troll status when it comes to digital literacy. I have learned too much in the last decade and you will never find me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or within someone else’s domain shaming them about what they don’t know. However, you will find me sharing my thoughts on my own domain, and you will find me engaging with the folks who enter my domain. I feel like there is a healthy expectation that people should be able to proficiently use the English language in this country. I’m fine with this expectation. I’ve never been a fan of those who feel they need to troll and shame people instead of actually helping them learn and grow though. I also now feel like there should be a healthy expectation that people should be able to grasp how the Internet and the web works. I also won’t be a fan of trolling and shaming people about digital literacy, and I will be continue being in the business of helping people learn and grow when it comes to understanding how the Internet and the web works. I feel pretty strongly that if we are going to be able to stay afloat in the world today, as well as get ahead in the future, we are going to have to have a healthy dose of digital literacy early on in life, as well as throughout our educational and professional careers, otherwise we will just fall prey to much of the illness that has been spreading across the web in recent years.