Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
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Storytelling and Programming

As I sit in my den busily working on my latest project, a little tuft of hair in ponytails bounds around my desk. By the time the hair has reached the end of my desk, it has grown downward into my little two-year old, "Hi Daddy. You wookin on you com'pootah?"

After telling her that I was indeed quite busy, she stands and stares at me as I go about my business. She then says, "You weeding for wookin'?"

Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess I am reading since at the moment I was reading the Java API documentation for an understanding of an esoteric library call.

She then says, "You weeding a stowy?" Hmm… how does one explain what I do for a living? I mean, I can't even seem to explain it to my wife.

"Yeah, I'm reading a story, but the story isn't finished. I have to find all of the parts of the story and then write a new story. The trick is that I have to write my story in a different language…" It was at this point I lost her, so I explained, "If my story is good, then people will pay me money."

"We can poot money in my pee'gy bank?" she asked.

"Yup. We can then put the money in your piggy bank," I replied.

"Din (then) we buy me peasant (present)?"


"Me wanna wook (work) un dis com'pootah. Me pay (play) game. You pay game?"

I guess I really am just playing a game by telling a story of what happens to characters that I name things like counter and datarec2 and how they interact. Telling my child that I'm a computer storyteller seems a lot more exotic than "programmer."

This got me thinking… are we all just storytellers?

Some of my thoughts have been provoked by Chris in some of his references to storytelling within organizations. Chris makes some pretty interesting points on this meme. For instance:

Human beings use story to represent and understand the patterns of experience.

Granted, he is expanding on our traditional view of stories and storytelling, but couldn't storytelling be at the heart of everything we humans do? All actions involve a story in our heads to initiate the action.

What are you doing? I'm digging a ditch? Why? I want to put a pipe in the ditch and then hook up the ends so I can bring water into the house.

A "computer" story, however, has two points of view: an external and internal one. Most people are familiar with the external computer story, as that is the one we relate to and use. The internal story is for other storytellers, and you often have to go through elaborate temple rituals before you are given the special key to understand that meaning.

But not always. I've noticed a lot of good internal computer stories in the world. One we call "Linux" was began by a kid in Finland. The internal story was so compelling that lots of other geeky storytellers picked up on it and expanded it.

Hmm… still musing on this idea… Maybe I'm just playing with a metaphor and not much more?

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