November 16, 2014
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One of the things I disliked about my early work in picosecond photoacoustic spectroscopy was that, when strangers asked me “what do you do?”, there was no good answer. Either you were self-deprecating, which is a bore, or you try to explain to people, which is annoying, or you oversimplify, which is pretentious. Or you try to find a polite way to say “you wouldn’t understand,” but there is no such way, and so you mutter to yourself that “they aren’t going to understand” and it’s usually true but nobody’s better off.

Nowadays I make software for writers and researchers, software that helps people write articles and books, manage research, plan departments, make investments, design new stuff. But I find that people increasingly assume that all software pretty much exists already and that working on it now is like ditch digging or assembly line work, work that nobody would do unless they had no choice at all. Anyway, all software comes with your computer, except perhaps for those 99¢ app things we don’t let the kids buy.

Maybe I need to find better parties.